Antarctica Season Highlights
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The serene silence while kayaking amongst whales, the spectacular breach of a massive humpback, the rare sight of a white penguin chick, colossal prismatic ice and so much more have made this an exceptional season to visit the White Continent. Expedition leaders and guests share some of their favorite moments from this past season.
As the summer changes to an “autumn” of sorts in the peninsula, the adult penguins undergo molt, the chicks begin to fledge and the humpback whales are putting on tons of fat so they can return north to warmer waters in the polar night! Those waters are not so rich and feeding in Antarctica allows them the weight gain to get through the lean times.
On a kayak outing towards the end of our season - we were so over the moon with our whale experience that we saw the kayak guide himself choke up and was unable to speak as this whale silently fed around us for 45 minutes. Within about one mile of us were 9 other whales all feeding, but this one surfaced over and over again while passing under us silently, as if in stealth mode. Not interested in us, but not moving away from us. Within all that silence - us without motors, them just whales - we were surrounded by a wilderness that is beyond belief.
Shane Envoy, Expedition Leader of the Sea Spirit, shares this incredible experience from February.
We started our cruise at 1430 in Wilhelmina and we had about ten humpback whales in the bay. In two hours, that number went to 15 – 20, by the time we hit 3 hours we had over 50 whales within sight and driving distance. They were breaching, tail slapping and flanking almost all the time. At one point, two humpbacks breached at about the same time (one was hitting the water and the other was in the air) and about 10 meters from two Zodiacs. Then it got better. A pod of orcas came into the bay, so all the Zodiacs had orcas around them, swimming up to and under them.
The weather was 5 knots of wind and blue sky for the entire 4.5 hour cruise, with not one person wanting off the Zodiacs.
I have been working in Antarctica for 19 seasons and I have never had this encounter with so many and active wildlife. It was such a spiritual day. I will never forget it and I will share it for the rest of my life.
In February, the guests of the Ushuaia were lucky to experience this rare wildlife encounter.
There was an almost white penguin chick waiting for us behind the buildings of Brown Station this morning. The scientists call this variation in color “leucistic”. Once in a while a penguin, seal or whale is born with this light, almost blond coloring. The friendly base personnel was available right next to the small rookery and gave us some insights about the Gentoo Penguins and also about life at their little base. Back from our continental landing, we were spoiled by our crew with a fantastic, Argentinean style Barbecue.
Passengers and crew aboard the National Geographic Explorer experienced amazing scenery in December.
We set anchor at Cuverville Island in the Errera Channel this morning just in time to finish one more cup of coffee and enjoy an extra pastry. Peering out the window it looked to be another amazing day of weather. The calm water in the Errara mirrored the surrounding peaks and glaciers. The icebergs appeared superimposed against a reflection of mountain and sky. Water this calm just begged for a day of kayaking. The kayak platform was assembled as everyone geared up for another day off the West Antarctic Peninsula. Several souls braved the icy clear waters to paddle through this serene peaceful landscape. Others ventured ashore to mingle with the gentoo penguins and climb the ridge for a better vantage point. The views were stunning in absolutely every direction, including down.
As the last kayaks glided onto the platform and the shore party returned from the penguin colony we sat down to lunch and a slow cruise out Errara Channel.
Most guests and staff who have returned to the White Continent multiple times realize that while it might be the animal life that lures curious adventurers to Antarctica, it is the ice and all of its iterations that keeps us coming back! Today all on board National Geographic Explorer were privy to the wonders of ice, and all of its glorious forms!
If you haven't yet visited this singular destination, or are looking to visit again, we look forward to planning your adventure for the season ahead, your opportunity for once in a lifetime experiences!
Photos: © Doug Gould: Kayakers and Whale, © Steven White: Humpback Breach