Gerlache Strait

Today I had the best day. To recount the events of this morning genuinely feels like rewinding a week. I rolled out of bed at 6:15 for an early shower to be on the bridge at 6:30 for sunrise. Overnight the ship had been covered in a blanket of snow which made for magnificent viewing against the white backdrop of the islands and bergs. Another grand breakfast and a group “reflection” session, then back to the top deck for a spot of whale watching. First whale sighting of the trip within a few minutes of standing there – a humpback broke the surface fully emerged. Several fin sightings followed.

During the remainder of the morning we offloaded onto Zodiacs and motored around the islands and bergs for a couple of hours. We encountered at least three pods of humpback whales including an enormous lone whale that came very close to the boat. Other sightings of fur seals, a leopard seal and some beautiful iceberg formations. White mountains on the horizon blended seamlessly into the clouds, juxtaposed against a radiant blue from the rarefaction of the bergs. Incredible scenery to be zipping around in a Zodiac.

Lunch on the boat and more time on deck, followed by a swift attack of the mud room to be on the gangway ready for the first Zodiac launch of the afternoon. The ship anchored off the Gerlache Strait and we taxied out in the Zodiacs to disembark on Cuverville Island. We were given all afternoon to explore the beach, awash with Gentoo penguin colonies, and a snow slope immediately behind. Again, the scenery was stunning. The sun was out to share in the glory too. I spent a good period of time just sitting on the slope staring out into the bay, absorbing my surroundings. Ample time for some snow sliding on the slope and a good deal of penguin observing.

We were all wearing big smiles onboard this evening. One of the crew had taken it upon themselves to bring a large chunk of ten thousand year old ice back to the ship for the barman. Scotch promptly became the order of the day. I am in total awe of this place. It’s beauty, its “untouchableness,” its remoteness, its aura. To think we are the last ship this far south, the place is ours. I cannot wait to see what is in store for tomorrow.

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