An overcast, snowy start
The ship left the protection of the narrow Neumayer channel and crossed the open water at the entrance to Bismark Strait. The nearest land to starboard was now the Aleutian Islands in Alaska across 8,500 nautical miles of Pacific Ocean. We did that for an hour or so before entering the very narrow Lemaire Channel, a steep fjord lined by black mountains.
Variable visibility, low cloud and overcast Wind: W F4; Sea: slight; Air Temp: 2°C
Icebergs and Scenery - this is what we came for!
When we first arrived, it looked as though the Lemaire might be too choked with ice to allow us through. Expedition slowed way down and after a little examination, the bridge crew were able to find a narrow gap right up against one side where the wind had blown the ice clear. Huge cliffs and walls of ice towered above the ship as we slid by.
Finding a path through the ice
Once through, Expedition turned into Pleneau Bay. Here, a shallow bar at the entrance caused many of the icebergs to run aground until melting sufficiently, giving us the opportunity to get up close to some impressive ice with the zodiacs. Bergs bigger than the ship were everywhere.
The wind inside the bay was really screaming. The bridge crew went as far as they dared, but just couldn’t find a safe spot to drop anchor. Expedition abandoned the stop and continued to our next planned stop at Peterman Island.
It was still quite windy when we arrived, but Expedition was able to find a protected spot in the lee of the island to anchor and begin offloading. Maryanne and I had signed up the night before for an extended zodiac cruise on the way to landing on the island. We were taken past some pretty amazing ice. The bergs seem to be getting bigger the further south we go. The highlight was one berg where we found three Weddell Seals lounging while digesting their breakfast of krill. We spotted another one in the water and then another and then another. We ended up spending several minutes watching up to eight seals jumping onto the ice, jockeying for position and then either giving up and going back in or shoving the one next to them in.
Ahhh the scenery!
We then landed on the island, where the cliffs and ice on the other side of the channel provided a dramatic backdrop for the remains of a French base and several groups of Gentoos. Rumor was that there was a single member of new penguin to us, the Adelie, hanging out with a group of Gentoos over the hill. Most Adelies live further south, so we were keen to find the little guy with his all-black head and his pale blue eyes.
He was still there when we arrived, having a nap as the snow pelted him. We couldn’t get very close because of an intervening crevasse, so I reached into my dry bag, dug out our telephoto lens and sat in the snow waiting for him to wake up. I wanted a picture with the eye visible.
Adelie Penguin - check! Oh and more seals behaving well.
We stayed until we were told it was time to get back to the zodiacs. On the way back to the ship, we spotted a floe with a whole bunch of Crabeater seals vying for space like the Weddells had earlier and we just had to stop. We were the last ones aboard and once again, Expedition started pulling up anchor at the same time the last zodiac was hauled aboard.
Icebergs and Mountains
Good visibility, partly cloudy, atmospheric sky Wind: NE F6; Sea: slight; Air Temp: 3° C