February 17th – Zodiac Cruise and Petermann Island
Very Early Morning Cruise (pre-breakfast)
-Today`s wake up call was at the early hour of 5:30am as we were planning to sail through the Lemaire Channel at 6:00am. This area is one of the most photographed area and was worth the early rise.
– This morning was one of the first days I really felt like I was in Antarctica as there were 40-50 knot winds, much colder temperatures and it was quite gray outside. We really had to bundle up to go outside and even then it was so cold. How could it be such different weather than the other days, we all thought, but that´s normal. That said, it was nice to have the contrast as we have been more than lucky with our weather.
– After a couple of hours of cruising the channel and enjoying the icebergs and scenery, we went in for breakfast, but our breakfast was interrupted by the spotting of a humpback whale. Not a bad way to end your breakfast. So when we went outside to look on the port side (per the spotting), my friend Jasmine and I stopped short on the starboard side as the humpback came under our big boat and was about five feet away from where we were standing. It was out of this world!
– We continued to follow the whale to the back of the boat as we were traveling in the other direction and we saw his partner and then saw two more humpbacks near by. Four humpbacks were entertaining us and waving flippers and fins at us for about ten minutes. So exciting!
– As the weather suddenly (within about ten minutes) turned from windy and cold to really windy, we had to tie our hats down under out hoods as they were flying off. The boat was really on a slide.
– The captain decided we had to turn around and not go to our originally planned excursion as the weather was so bad. With any Antarctic adventure, the leader always has about 10 more landing sites as a back up. We ended up finding a great protected bay that is known for iceberg art (as I called it). So the plan was for us to do more zodiac cruises.
Zodiac Cruise around icebergs (Morning Excursion)
– As we are walking down the gangway to board our zodiac, we were greeted by a leopard seal that was swimming right by our big boat, under our boat and just kept popping his head up all around us. It was a very flirty and fun seal to welcome us out. We just wanted to get in our zodiac and see what he would do around us. We stayed around him for about 10 minutes as he just popped up on both sides of our boat and bopping around.
– We lucked out as the weather turned out to be perfect for the ice berg cruise. We had some overcast grays, which made the icebergs glow even more. The colors…were breathtaking and the size and scope of the icebergs is indescribable. I had to take photos of other zodiacs to try to get some sense of the size.
-We soon came upon a herd of crab eater seals, about 20 of them, swimming around in the water. I was able to get a photo with about seven heads poking out and just loved to see the faces with all the different blues.
-The more we continue to drive around the ice bergs, the more and more amazed I was. Words can`t do justice and I just have to remember what I saw and all the photos. Unfortunately we weren`t able to boat through any of the iceberg arches as it`s too dangerous. Our driver said if a piece falls, we all die, so we decided better not test fate!
Petermann Island (Afternoon Excursion)
– This was another island of penguins with some very curious penguins. They were more friendly and just kept coming up to me and looking at me, sniffing me, nipping at my finger and even pecking at my butt. It was fun to just sit there watching them check me out!
-After a trek up the snow covered mountain, I was rewarded with a view of the whole harbour, and we were able to spot whales from up there and take in the beauty of the icebergs, island and surrounding area.
-I sat for a good fifteen minutes and watched penguins playing in a slush pond. It was like a water ballet as the penguins were swimming, splashing around and then got somewhat territorial and would chase one another out of the pond and all around the ice. Deanna and I watched for a while and just kept laughing as they would skid out.
– Heading back to the big boat, we were able to cruise in our zodiac for a little bit and we were so lucky to have a sleeping whale surface right by our boat. Liz hadn`t seen a whale in a zodiac yet. I had been lucky and already seen this twice, so Liz thought I had great whale karma and wanted to ride back with me. My whale karma came through again and Liz got to see her first whale up close. So this is my third whale sighting from up close and it still is just as exciting!
Russian Dinner Celebration
– Since most of the boat`s crew is Russian, we got to celebrate with a traditional Russian dinner and were told there would be a few surprises.
So we all tried to guess what they would be and I had three guesses.
1. Vodka shots would be served.
2. Traditional Russian dancing or singing.
3. The waitresses would dress in traditional customs for dinner.
As it ends up, I was right on all three and my friends were surprised. I just guessed based on my time in Russian.
-The night started off with a show of singing, dancing and fun. Then on our way to dinner, we all got a vodka shot, and since one of our friends didn´t drink, I was encouraged to take her shot so it didn´t go wasted. I was a good friend and did. Then at dinner all the waitresses did dress up in attire and we got a great Russian dinner with a tasty Borsch soup which I loved!