I went to bed at about 11.30 last night as there was no sunset to observe but didn’t sleep very well as alarm was set for 2.50am for a possible sunrise. Unfortunately that didn’t materialise either, although it was lovely to stand alone on the deck for 30 minutes with a cup of tea, soaking up the solitude of Antarctica on a flat, calm sea, while watching the sun rise over the mountain range which surrounded the bay in which we were anchored. Sadly the sky was boring! So will have to try again tonight and tomorrow morning.
In fact in some ways I could say that I have now gone backwards, because yesterday I felt I was in heaven, whereas today quite literally I am in Paradise, as I woke up and we were anchored in Paradise Bay. This place is aptly named and with a beautiful blue sky and water like a mill pond, I decided that when I die I really don’t mind if I end up in Paradise or Heaven.
Today’s first landing promised to be really boring for me as we were heading to a Chilean research station (Gonzalez Videla). The only potential positive note was that I would be standing in Antarctica for the first time since I did the Antarctic Marathon in 2006, and thus was fulfilling my desire to return and see the icebergs, the scenery and the wildlife.
I took a couple of rather non descript photos of a Gentoo Penguin, although the main point of interest is that it was white - a leucistic Gentoo Penguin. I turned around and David was beckoning me and within 5 minutes we were back in our own private zodiac and heading off to explore icebergs. That may also sound boring as it was a repeat of yesterday, but it wasn’t as all of the icebergs are so different with a variety of shapes, sizes, patterns, colours and weather sculpturing. The real bonus today was that it was incredibly calm and so we were able to get amazing reflection shots.
Nearly lunchtime, and today it’s time to get out the shorts and Hawaiian T-shirt (OK - not literally), as we are about to have an Antarctic BBQ. There is then a 5 hour cruise to Hydrurga Rocks, with the possibility of seeing seals swimming or resting on the shore.
It was quite surreal to stand on the deck of M/V Ushuaia in Paradise Bay and eat a “hot dog”, while just wearing a shirt, fleece and a thin pair of trousers. After that I could not face any more food so went to my cabin to sort photos and rest. At 4pm we were advised that humpback whales had been seen and we then watched 10 whales circling the ship, although at a distance, and blowing, although not breaching.
The second landing of the day was at 6.30pm and we landed on Hydrurga Rocks to find Weddell seals and Chinstrap penguins. The seals were sleeping, and a peculiar characteristic, which no other seals show, is that they can “sing” in their sleep. We were privileged to hear this and Valeria, one of the guides who has been coming to Antarctica for 4 years, heard it for the first time. We also sadly watched a Skua attack a Chinstrap penguins nest and successfully extract an egg.
By the time I got back to the ship it was 9.10pm, so just time to download photos and have a shower before dinner at 9.30. And what a meal, with a huge piece of salmon. A briefing in the bar has just finished at 11.15. Don’t think I can expect a sunset tonight so now it’s time to decide if I have enough energy left to get up and check for a sunrise.
A few more pictures, not necessarily the best as have not looked at most of them, but to illustrate what I have been seeing today.