||064°45’ S / 063°18’ W
The day started snowy and wet, with not much visibility and a light but biting wind. The campers were sleeping - apparently comfortably! - through all of this, and the Bridge had to blow the ship’s horn to wake them up and get them packing. We got everyone back on the ship not long after 05:00, and were soon under way for Damoy Point and Dorian Bay. The sailing through the fog, snow and choppy waters full of ice was very atmospheric, those of us that were not in a hot shower or warm, soft bed enjoyed the steely grey views and glimpses of the Gerlache Strait as we navigated westward towards Wiencke Island and our proposed landing site of Damoy Point. The weather cleared a bit while sailing, and the Neumayer Channel was a glorious sight, with glaciers coming down around us and icebergs floating on mirror-flat waters. The reflections in blue and grey were stunning, and a good chance to practice some landscape photography.
As soon as we arrived at Damoy Point and Dorian Bay, the Captain dropped the anchor between the point and the bay, and Expedition Leader David set off in a zodiac to find a place to get us on shore. There was no chance of landing on Damoy Point, but the landing team dug a set of stairs through a couple of metres of snow, and we finally landed at Dorian Bay. Or, at least some of us did. A few of us also decided to stay on the ship and rest up after camping! But a small group of hearty explorers set off with Michael to check out the ice and then the Gentoo penguins on shore. Our runners started a bit later than usual today, as the course took quite some time to set up. Mountaineering Guide Tim made good time on a single lap, and checked the whole route, ensuring the glaciers were safe, and the end result was a long track in quite deep snow, sloping upwards to a ridgeline with spectacular views.
After lunch, the ship began to reposition a nautical mile from Dorian Bay around Damoy Point to Port Lockroy, but before we even got there, we turned around and returned to Dorian Bay to end the running due to ice and wind. Wind was blowing sea ice towards the landing site, and so we had to get everybody off Dorian Bay while it was still safe to do so. We put a few extra boats in the water, and quickly packed up the race, loading up the zodiacs with racers, then all the paraphernalia of flags, toilets, garbage bins, sledges, snowshoes and water. Once everybody and everything was back on board, we put our nose around the corner again, but the sea ice was also coming in on the Port Lockroy side, and all potential landing sites were fully blocked by sea ice. While we were sad to miss out on a shopping opportunity on shore, Johnny provided a great range of goods on the ship - he and Katie suddenly had a whole selection of clothing, books, and cute stuffed penguins on display, and we took advantage of that and added to our souvenir collections.
We were sailing the beautiful Neumayer Channel, the narrow waterway between Anvers and Wiencke Islands and the views could only be described as spectacular. Our ice-experienced Russian Captain took the ship into heavy mixed brash and sea ice, and we crunched and bumped our way through what looked like solid ice. Surprisingly blue glacial icebergs stood above the white sea ice, seals and penguins rested on the ice, looking up as we sailed past. All of us were out on deck, then warming our hands in the lounge, then back out again. Beau called out when he spotted Leopard seals on the ice, these huge-mouthed predators hardly noticing the ship as we sailed past. A little after the Leopard seal call, we heard Nacho's voice over the speakers, announcing "Orcas ahead!" Orcas, or Killer Whales, had been spotted. Everybody inside went back out, and we hung over the rails of the ship for about an hour, while a spread-out pod of Orcas cruised the Neumayer Channel with us. The first animals we saw were huge males, with big triangular dorsal fins reaching almost 2 metres out of the water. They swam alongside the ship, checking us out and showing off their beautiful black and white pattern when they surfaced. Cameras clicked, videos recorded, and everybody bounced about from port to starboard as the different individuals surfaced around the vessel. Captain Evgeny, Chief Officer Jaanus and Helmsman Teresito ("June") did a brilliant job of staying close to the Orcas but not bothering them, and we had over half an hour of quality time, with amazing close up viewing of at least three males and a small calf in light ice. After a good look, and many, many photos, we left the whales in peace, and turned back to our original course. After the Orcas, many of us came in for a coffee or hot chocolate to warm our hands and tummies, but it was such an amazing day we all went back out again, too. Finally, we crossed the Gerlache, and entered the Errera Channel from the south, with the taller mountains of the continental peninsula looming over us on the right and the Captain holding the ship tight against Ronge Island to our left, in the deep part of the narrow channel. We sailed past our destination for tomorrow, dodging giant icebergs and shallow water, and finally put the anchor down between Danco and Cuverville Islands. Everything was still, the light was soft, the weather had improved, and it was a glorious evening.
While everybody wanted to hear from David about our plans for tomorrow, everybody really paid attention when Beau did his part of Recap, telling us about the amazing Orca sighting. He explained about the different types of Orcas in Antarctica, all about little Bs and big Bs, as well as how to tell male from female, identifying individuals by their dorsal fin, and other fascinating facts on these marvelous mammals.
24th November Damoy Point Glacier
We hike up an easy angled glacier on the old runway where they used to land planes on skis and continue up to a col just below Jabet Peak. The views from here down into Port Lockroy and beyond are exceptional.
24th November 2016 – Dorian Bay / Damoy Point – Team B
As we got ourselves ready on aft Deck 3 & began lowering the kayaks, ice floes came in & engulfed the ship, which presented us with a few problems. A number of the ABs came to our rescue and we continued lowering. Within 10 minutes the ice floe had gone again & we were able to get onto our zodiac. We headed out to a safe point, jumped into our kayaks and headed along the shoreline towards Damoy Point, taking in the many Gentoo Penguins as we went. Stopping briefly at Damoy Point we retraced our steps before venturing off between the icebergs and around the island close by. Picking our way through the ice floes, we headed back into Dorian Bay to find some shelter, before jumping back on the zodiac & heading back to the ship to get warm. The weather may have been mixed but the journey was wonderful.