||64° 56’ S, 062° 32’ W
||SSE, Force 4
||bright but high overcast
Under a full moon the campers were collected from their snow bank behind Port Lockroy; all were accounted for! Ortelius then re-traced its course, northbound up the Neumayer Channel, eastbound across the Gerlache Strait and then into Andvoord Bay for Neko Harbour. Once again we were blessed with good weather, although variable wind prevented the kayakers from going out. The divers went off diving and the rest of us made another landing on the continent and saw some more penguins. However, at least one lucky person saw a single, moulting Chinstrap Penguin among the gentoos. We were all hoping for a big calving from the nearby glacier but nothing bigger than a small piece fell off.
Once on the beach we had the chance to walk up a snow slope to the top of the penguin colony. Beyond that was an even steeper trail that led to a high, rocky vantage point. Rainer led the way and, yet again, we had extraordinary views. Andvoord Bay was surrounded by high, snowy mountains, there were spectacular glaciers everywhere and the sea was full of ice. The sun even attempted to come out! It was with great reluctance that we returned to the ship for lunch.
Orne Harbor and pointed Spigot Peak were close by so it wasn’t long before the zodiacs were being lowered to the water. This would be another continental landing and on the way we saw some very obliging Humpback Whales. However, the weather had other plans and the gusty wind caused the cancellation of operations and the retrieval of the boats. Every cloud has a silver lining though and ours came very soon afterwards in the form of Pack Ice Killer Whales (large type ‘B’) – lots of them! They were on a converging course and we had them in sight for a long time. There was at least one, possibly two tiny calves, females and at least one big male. Rather than the expected shades of black-and-white these whales were mostly grey and cream. The distinctive orange colouration of many of the animals was caused by a microscopic organism called a diatom. Although the killers were all around two or three humpbacks there was no sign that the much larger animals were being actively hunted.
This was a very exciting and prolonged encounter and eventually, with the whales heading southwest to the Errera Channel, Ortelius turned around and continued in a north-easterly direction. Our destination for the early evening was Wilhelmina Bay and here there were more humpbacks. The big attraction though was the sunlit landscape. Words cannot do it justice but the elements included ice in the sea, a ferocious wind taking spray off the water, icy mountains, monstrous glaciers, blue sky and dramatic and ever-changing clouds. Many of them were of the lenticular kind – that is, lens-shaped, like flying saucers. They are formed by strong wind being deflected upwards by mountains. Elsewhere the peaks wore a white, wooly cap, which seemed to be cascading down the slope. Then, after sunset, the clouds and even a mountain-top turned bright pink and a Humpback Whale swam by!