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After a great New Year’s party and only a few hours of sleep, we were ready for our second day of adventures down in Antarctica.
We jump in the Zodiacs to go to Neko Harbour, our first continental landing.
Kayakers joined Shelly for a great session around the bay, mountaineers went ashore first to start climbing up with Cube and Andreas, and snowshoers started their journey with Tobias as a leader.
The weather was perfect and the view from the vantage point spectacular. Gentoo penguins and Skuas were the kings of the place. Once we got to the top, we came back to the landing site to go back to the ship, have lunch and start a new excursion to the continent.
In the afternoon, we landed at Stoney Point, another continental spot. When we arrived, a group of Weddell Seals welcomed us and we slowly started our way up the hill. Those who were interested in photography joined Bruce for a shore excursion and focused specially on landscapes.
It was a busy day but it wasn’t over yet. Campers had a quick dinner and prepared for the second night ashore. The place we selected is called Leith Cove, a small little island that, during low tide, can be seen attached to the continent. The night was just starting.
Kayaking, Neko Harbour
The morning came early for some of the kayakers as a many of them had spent the night out camping, or celebrating the New Year late into the night. The day proved perfect for paddling, with glassy calm waters and a myriad of icebergs dotting the waters of Andvord Bay. Thus, finding a second or third wind, many of them rallied and headed out to the kayaks. Navigating along the coast we passed the landing site and headed east deeper into the bay. The scenery became even more dramatic with towering glaciers in the back of the bay; patches of blue sky and aside from the distant hum of a zodiac the deafening silence of Antarctica dominated. In search of seals or whales we ventured into the brash ice looping around towards the ship eventually. One Minke whale was briefly spotted by several of the paddlers before we headed back to prepare for the afternoon’s excursion.
Stony Pt./Ferguson Channel
As the ship entered Paradise Bay and Ferguson Channel we were met with calm waters, slightly overcast skies and a wonderful spectacle of icebergs. The entire kayak team headed out in these pristine conditions. We launched into the kayaks and headed towards Skontorp cove, away from the main landing site and into the ice. The rumble of the surrounding glaciers provided the soundtrack to our paddle. We continued to explore the bay, and were very lucky to spot a Leopard seal on the ice, the first of the voyage! Continuing north we passed by the landing site, only to be distracted by a Minke whale surfacing behind us. With patience we waited, but the whale was headed off to other activities and so were we. Some kayakers headed to shore to view the continental landscape, while the rest of us continued to explore the northern islands. A truly amazing afternoon.
Our first outing on the Antarctic Continent was climbing up the glacier apron above Neko Harbour. The overnight temperatures had been quite warm and there had been some rain and as a result the snow was pretty soft. It is always prudent to rope up on a glacier and so it proved here as Cube fell in one and then Makhail fell in two. Fortunately on all occasions the people concerned only fell in to their waist and easily got out. We climbed higher up to get some great views of the Plancius in a dramatic setting below. Everybody had time at the end of the trip to check out the Gentoo Penguin colony just above the beach.
After lunch it was decided to attempt an ascent of a peak adjacent to Stoney Point. As with a lot of the smaller features in this part of the world it doesn’t have a name. The ascent was pretty steep and snow conditions were very poor. However the team made pretty good progress but it was becoming apparent we would never make the summit so we returned to our start point. This was problematic in itself as it was more awkward coming downhill in the soft snow.
Spot the mountaineers!
Today was the big day: we had a continental landing! We stepped ashore at on the Antarctic continent at Neko Harbour. Equipped with snowshoes, we walked along the Gentoo penguin rookeries up the steep slope to a nice view point overlooking the landing site and fjord system. Occasional rumbles and thunders indicated avalanches, ice falls and calving at the nearby glacier.
In the afternoon, we did a split landing. While half of us went zodiac cruising in Ferguson Channel, the other half of us snowshoed up the snow dome above Stoney Point. The view was fantastic and we were able to watch the kayakers below us paddle between icebergs, while the mountaineers made an impressive ascent on a nearby glaciated slope. At halftime, we swapped with the zodiac cruisers and at the very end, the last brave ones among us had a chance to do their polar plunge or even go for a second round.
The second group of campers heard the announcement at 8 o’clock to get ready to go ashore. We went to the Boot Room to look for our sleeping kit and then to the gangway.
We boarded the Zodiacs and soon we were at the camping site were the Expedition Team had set up the tents.
After putting our sleeping kit together, we enjoyed the landscape as one of the glaciers kept calving once and again. We shared a nice time all together until a heavy rain sent us to bed.
We had a quiet and warm night in Antarctica.
At 5 am Kasper and Mariela woke us up and we started to pack back all out gear to come back to the ship where Robert and André had prepare a lovely breakfast.