A Day of Basecamp in Antarctica – Paradise Harbour
After another early morning picking up our camping group we arrived at the entrance to Lemaire Channel. Snow and some mist around the top of the mountains made the view very atmospheric as we began our cruise to Paradise Bay. Impressive icebergs all along the channel and a few sleeping humpback whales gave us plenty to photograph.
From the Lemaire Channel we travelled to Ferguson Channel that would lead us into Paradise Harbour, a wide bay formed by islands close to the Antarctic Peninsula. It was an easy landing at Base Brown, the Argentinean summer station that sits on a rock outcropping overlooking the bay. This landing saw us go ashore on the mainland! No personnel were there at this time of year, only the resident Gentoo penguins. A short, steep climb top of the peak gave stunning panoramic views around the whole of Paradise Harbour.
After lunch the kayakers headed out from Base Brown and made their way into Skontorp Cove where they had sightings of both Minke & Humpback whales. They then made their way through the ice as they headed for Stony Point. The conditions were perfect – flat calm, no wind and the sun bursting through every now and again. Their seal sightings included Crabeater, Leopard, Weddell & a grumpy Fur Seal – they were spoilt for choice. The dive team explored a steep wall that was festooned with colourful life, including corals, sponges and tunicates. Large seastars and nudibranchs grazed over the rock wall in waters at near-freezing temperatures.
Kayaking © Anjali Pande | Oceanwide Expeditions
The mountaineers headed off to climb the 730 metre-high peak Mount Banck, overlooking Ferguson Channel. They roped up and set out climbing up the first slope. Conditions weren’t optimal with flat light and fog obstructing their views and making the mountain leader’s job of safely navigating the first two crevassed areas quite difficult.
After making their way over a visually interesting ice step they gained the eastern shoulder of Mount Banck and carefully made their way upwards. They stopped briefly to investigate a very impressive and deep crevasse which they had to follow until it eventually closed enough to allow a safe traverse.
After negotiating more crevassed areas the team soon reached the summit! The cloud dispersed enough to let the sun through and reveal the ice strewn waters below. What a rewarding panorama after two and a half hours of effort! They spent a short while taking victory photos before roping up and commencing the return journey.
Mountaineering © Christoph Höbenreich | Oceanwide Expeditions
The rest of the group split their afternoon between zodiac cruising and landing on Stony Point. Here we put on our snow shoes for the short walk up to the top of the snow field. It was an easy climb and the views from the top were spectacular with a glacier directly ahead of us and the bay behind us. We had some minutes of ‘Antarctic Silence’, listening to the terns, gulls and the cracking of the glacier. It was a lovely visit and we still had time for some exploration along the shoreline with Gentoo penguins and Weddell seals.
Polar Plunge © Richard Wadey | Oceanwide Expeditions
Back at the landing site at Stony Point preparations were underway for the polar plunge, a chilly swim from the shores of the Antarctic continent. There were around 25 willing participants and many more who classed this as a spectator sport only! It was a fantastic and entertaining experience for everyone and there were a few very cold fingers and toes by the end of the afternoon. Everyone was shuttled back to the ship as quickly as possible for a hot shower and hot drink.