As this was our last morning in Antarctica, we knew it would be the last chance to get an interview with Robert Swan and Rebecca up on deck with the beautiful view of Antarctica in the background, so we set our alarms for 6.30am and headed out onto deck. We were not disappointed by the view as we got beautiful blue skies and snowy mountains on either side of the channel we were sailing through. There were a few groups in front of us waiting to interview Robert so we got in line and waited our turn. A fellow 2041 traveller came over and asked to interview Rebecca for her company’s video to get the perspective from a younger person. Rebecca was very happy to do so and talked passionately about the SEC environmental work she was involved with at school. Back in line, it was fascinating to listen to Robert and see how he adapted depending on which company or nationality with which he was speaking. When it was Rebecca’s turn, she nailed the questions she had prepared, discussing with Robert what the younger generation can do and the importance of renewable energy; we can’t wait to share the video with you all.
We grabbed a very quick breakfast before boarding our zodiac. We had another great hour or so out on the flat waters under beautiful clear blue skies. It was incredibly peaceful, even the Humpbacks were taking it easy, just chilling out and logging at the surface in pairs. The icebergs around the area were crazy in terms of how blue and curved they were – one looked like the back of a dinosaur with all of its grooves. Once more, we turned the engine off and just listened to the breathing of the whales and the moving of the brackish ice.
It was then time to land on Danco Island where we had two hours giving us plenty of time to hike up to the highest point (about 200m up) for great views over the area. Danco Island is a mile long in the southern part of the Ereara Channel. Walking up the peak was fun as we tried to avoid the penguins and not slip on the ice. Every few steps the view changed making us just stop and stare. The team from the boat had positioned themselves out along the route and now that we know them all, we stopped and had a quick chat with each team member. All of them kept saying what a beautiful day it was and we could not agree more. In fact, we started to get rather warm walking up so we had to stop to take off some layers!
About three quarters of the way up there was a mud pool that a group of penguins were in, having a ball playing. They looked so funny and soon had an audience watching them. We continued up to the top a little easier now as we were back on rock and penguin poo, rather than snow and ice. The view from the top was great – the Ocean Endeavour looked so small down below us and we could still make out some Humpbacks logging in the water. With the blue skies and great scenery, we once more got out the Bangkok Patana banner and got a few more pictures taken! Going down we needed to keep our wits about us, if it wasn’t keeping an eye out for ice patches, it was trying to avoid sleeping penguins that were so well camouflaged on the black rocks you almost stepped on them!
In the afternoon, after a quick lunch back on the boat, we were lucky enough to be first out again! We headed in the zodiacs to Neko Harbour. Carving was happening on the ice mountains to the side of us which caused a great boom sound and then a wave as it landed in the water. This meant our guides were even more cautious and safety conscious than usual and wanted us off the boat straight away and up to higher land in case of large waves – we did not want to get caught in a tsunami in Antarctica. We followed their advice and headed straight up the snowy hill. Once more watching the penguins either trying to get up or down the slope was sure comedy value – but they probably thought the same about us! This was our last landing on Antarctica so at the top of the hill, the whole of the 2041 group just sat and tried to take it all in. We put our cameras down and just sat and looked, absorbing what lay before us. Rebecca had found herself a good spot on a rock and sat watching the carving from the mountainside. All too soon (time goes weirdly fast but feels like a long time here) we were asked to start our descent so that the other people could come ashore. They have very strict rules here that only 100 guests are allowed on a landing site at any one time.
We lucked out as our last zodiac ride was with marine biologist, Nick. A fur seal high up on the cliff face spot us and then made its way down into the water, swimming right over to our boat to say hello. It circled us a few times popping its head up to take a good look at us! We were glad it was not a leopard seal as penguins were entering the water 30m away and we had already seen a leopard seal grab a Gentoo and eat it earlier in in the day. After that, every ice flow had a Crabeater seal on it so we really were spoilt for choice as to which one to look at. We went to an ice flow with two swimming crab eater seals in the water as well as six resting on the ice. Nick explained how the algae grows under the ice attracting the krill which provide food for the Crabeater seals making them the most abundant type of seal in the area as they have access to so much food.
Rebecca has discovered a secret gift for whale spotting, pointing out two Minke whales off to the side of us. Other boats were already with Humpback whales so we stuck with the Minke whales. Again, they circled our zodiac circling before coming up close to the boat – Minke whales are considered a ‘small whale’ but at 10m long, they look huge! Nick was great at keeping us out for as long as possible until we were called back in by the captain of the Ocean Endeavour. We sped back to the boat with all ten of us waving goodbye and thanking Antarctica for truly allowing us to see it at its best.
That afternoon all the passengers gathered on the bow for one huge group photo. There was also the bell ceremony to thank the captain, the boat, Antarctica and 2041! The whole 2041 team gathered up on deck to watch the sun set together and to have a last talk with Robert. He got us all to imagine a large hotel behind us or lots of machinery digging for fossil fuels or minerals and then asked how would we feel? It was an obvious answer and gave Robert and the team the opportunity to ask us to keep the momentum we have created here going when we all get back to our own lives – it was such a powerful and thought provoking last speech to end on. Feeling inspired, over dinner the staff from Pace Academy, Gemma from a Primary School in the UK and I sat and discussed what our schools currently do and what we plan to so, sharing ideas between us. We hope to continue this process and 2041 network when we are back.
As we begin the long journey back to Argentina, there was a lovely buzz on the boat as no one could have wanted for anymore on this trip! We’ve been told that we will enter Drake’s Passage in the next few hours and to not expect the same smooth crossing back! They’re not sure how high the waves are but the rumour is 4-6m. Considering they were less than 1m crossing, I think we might feel it more! The last crossing the Ocean Endeavour did before picking us up in Ushuaia had waves reaching 11m so if they stay under 6m, I guess we can’t complain! We’ll will keep you posted tomorrow as to how we get on!
Helen & Rebecca
Disclaimer: Images from 2041.com and are a representation of what Rebecca and Helen will be seeing.