Once more I set my alarm for 6am so I could be up on the bridge for the 6.34am sunrise. But alas there was no sunrise this morning and the scenery looked like it had forgotten to put its colour on! Everything was grey or white! However, as the water was so calm it made whale spotting very easy and soon we saw some low bushy blowouts happening. We had a few close up sightings of the humpback whales including great fluke moments. As a fellow traveller from the Netherlands said we might not have had a beautiful sunrise but we got humpback whales so you really cannot complain!
After breakfast the boat had arrived in the sheltered cove of Mikkelsen Harbour, which used to be home to whalers – we were the first group off the boat this morning so Rebecca actually had the honour of being the first passenger off the boat and into a zodiac. We cruised over to the shoreline giving the advantage of being the first people also onto land and having the penguins and seals initially to ourselves. Lying on the shore were lots of whale bones left over from the time it was a whaling harbour, it was impressive how big they are. After taking a good look at the bones we headed up the snowy bank. On route we took in plenty of penguins. Rebecca and I sat down to watch the gentoos and they got curious of us, after a while a couple of Gentoos decided to walk over to us to check us out! The penguins were completely in charge and we just sat and had an incredibly experience with nature. It was a very special moment that we experienced together. The penguins must have stayed with us by our feet for a good five minutes – an experience neither of us will ever forget. We walked up to the highest point on the island and had a lovely 360 degree view looking over the ice, penguins and seals. There was a great rock to sit on to get a wide angle view of the specular view.
Back on the zodiac we went for our cruise around the harbour. We had a great trip getting close encounters with seals, porpoising penguins and humpback whales. What a great morning.
Back on the boat we once more returned to listening to the stories of our different 2041 travelers. Again it was very inspirational to listen to the life stories and what had each brought each person to Antarctica. All too soon the lunch call was made and we had to adjourn. As soon as we had eaten lunch we went back to listening to each other’s stories. This session was when Rebecca and I would get to tell our stories. I went first and all was going well until my 9th photo came up, I got really emotional looking at this lovely photo of my family and did need a moment before I could say how special and important my family are to me. Afterwards people told me how moving that moment had been! Rebecca was a complete pro and nailed her story and talked about her family with real passion and why she was here. I was so proud of her!
That afternoon we were back in the zodiacs for a two hour cruise around Cierva Cove. Ourselves and one other zodiac went out to this stunning iceberg which had a lovely blue colour to it. The ice looked like it had been carved out which was basically the air escaping and creating dents in the ice. At the same moment Rebecca spotted a whale…sure enough there was a humpback whale. Soon one humpback whale became three who decided that our two zodiac boats were really interesting and just circled us! They were very polite whales sharing their time between both of our boats and giving us our closest ever encounter with a whale. When you are sitting in a zodiac you are very low to the water and when you watch a huge whale coming straight towards you and then pass right under your boat or surface within touching distance from the zodiac you really do feel the power of nature. As the whales come up they let out a breathe of air which sounds so loud in such a quiet environment. It was a great experience where once more nature was in charge – we just sat still in the zodiac and the whales kept coming back to us. Eventually we felt we needed to let others know and we moved away to explore more of the cove. Over the radio we heard that minke whales were in the area. Once again it was Rebecca’s excellent spotting that saw the first minke whale out in the distance – we were pleased by that but when we saw what was happening we were blown away! Nine minke whales came through together as a small pod and again were curious about us and came right up by our zodiacs. Seeing five or so of them line up facing us and swimming straight towards us was an incredibly exhilarating moment. At no time did you feel in any danger these animals, they were just coming to say hello to us. Even Laurie, our guide who is in her third season, said that our zodiac cruise had been one of the best whale encounters that she had ever had! What an incredibly animal day we had had.
The day ended on a beautiful note eating dinner sitting outside in what has to be the most impressive ice surroundings with humpbacks also having their dinner just off the back of the boat. I cannot imagine any restaurant could beat our views tonight! With the sun finally showing through the clouds and lighting up the ice I don’t think it could get any better. Robert Swan gave the second part of his talk about going to the North Pole and his adventures ahead when Barney (his son who is also on board) and Rob will walk to the South Pole using renewable energy only. You could have heard a pin drop in the room throughout Rob’s speech. It is safe to say that Antarctica is truly capturing my heart. I think I will dream ice, seals, penguins and whales tonight!
Disclaimer: Images from 2041.com and are a representation of what Rebecca and Helen will be seeing.