|64°37.3’S / 062°4.6’W
This is what we came for, our first day in Antarctica!
Pippa woke us up, but many of us got up already much earlier. The scenery was stunning. We had sun and some clouds. The changing light was incredible on the endless glaciers and mountains. We could not believe how this landscape looked. We felt like we were in a nature documentary.
The first landing is Orne Harbour, a nice bay surrounded by ice with a characteristic mountain on the edge. The top of the mountain, “Spigot,” was the goal for our mountaineers. The expeditions team used the Zodiacs for the transfer to the landing site, and we all used snowshoes to get up to the little saddle overseeing the Bay and Gerlache Strait on the other side.
The penguins were lovely and the view stunning. We enjoyed the time. During the landing, the weather condition changed quickly, and the expedition team told us to leave a bit earlier than planned. The bay got full of ice, and it took the drivers quite some time to get through the layer of ice to pick us up from our continental landing.
Interesting to see how the weather situation could change so quickly. After a delicious lunch, we got to land at Cuverville Island, and island on the northern entrance of Ererra Channel. Again the conditions changed, and instead of a short ride during a small gap on the west side of the island, we needed to drive around it. It was a true adventure driving through the icebergs and the rougher and more exposed east side of the island. Some of us even saw a leopard seal on an ice floe.
The colony of gentoo penguins was lovely, and the view from the higher viewpoint was breathtaking. In front of the island were many grounded icebergs that made the view just amazing. And when we were heading back to the ship, we saw a Humpback whale.
For the evening, Pippa planned the next highlight: our first camping night in Antarctica. We sailed into Paradise Harbour, and our home for the night was a small bay with a small island called “Leith Cove”. The place was surrounded by glaciers and steep mountains. What a lovely place for our exclusive camping night. Thirty-six of us headed out.
What a fantastic day we had! We still could not believe where we were and how privileged we were to visit a place like this. We slept surrounded by icebergs and light snow.
AM 14TH DEC - ORNE HARBOUR
Wow, what a first morning in Antarctica. Blue sky and light winds. Us kayakers took a Zodiac upwind of the ship. Just as we set off on our journey, it became a little snowy and somewhat blustery. After navigating through some brash ice, we headed downwind towards the towering cliffs. Nestled beneath the cliffs we found a small colony of chin strap penguins, and another further around the headland. We watched them toboggan down the slopes to the sea. As the wind picked up and became more gusty, we hoped back into our Zodiac and back to the ship.
PM 14TH DEC - COUVERVILLE ISLAND
Tucked away on the south side of the island we found a sheltered bay to enjoy. We started our journey upwind, which took a little strength. We found a pebble beach with many gentoo penguins, some swimming, some sleeping, and a few marching up and down the steep hill to their nests. We also spotted a gap between two large icebergs, a great opportunity to explore an ice graveyard.
14 December 2023 – Spigot Peak
Standing proudly at the entrance to Orne Harbour, Spigot Peak is a sight to behold, with sheer cliff faces tumbling into the Antarctic waters. Once inside Orne Harbour, Spigot Peak reveals a line of ascent less intimidating than originally suspected. Despite this, successful ascents are still rare, with several factors all playing their part. Brash ice can stop us even landing ashore, high winds can stop us literally in our tracks, and the upper slopes can sometimes hold unstable snow. Today the weather gods were on our side.
Camping 14 December 2023 - Location: Leith Cove, Paradise Harbour
After dinner we prepared ourselves for our first overnight stay. At around 21:15 we got on shore with the Zodiacs, welcomed by Marco and Brian our camping guides. We received our sleeping kit and a shovel and got ready to dig the snow pit, which was going to be our shelter for the night.
A northeasterly breeze was blowing from the amphitheater of glaciated mountains that surrounds Leith Cove. Luckily our bivy bags and sleeping bags kept us cozy and warm, and we could finally enjoy the truth silence of Antarctica, interrupted every once and a while by the roaring thunder of a nearby calving glacier. Everyone was excited to camp outside in Antarctica.
The following morning, we got an early wake-up call, around 5am. When we came back to the ship, we got a small breakfast and a short sleep in our cabins before moving to our next location for the morning.