Day 4. Sunrise, Brown Bluff and Whales.
What a start into the day! At 6am Marna gets up and although I intended to sleep longer, a glimpse out of the window makes me jump up, get dressed in one minute and run out to see this beautiful rosy light just before the sun comes out. And it’s illuminating real ice bergs, snowy white huge bergs in the sea just next to our ship.
After the first highlight of the day we join the yoga class, it’s so good for my body. We have then just 20 minutes for breakfast as the zodiac cruise needs to start earlier than scheduled. We dress quickly in our warmest clothes, it’s much colder today, and down we go to the mud room and are rushed through again into a zodiac. We start cruising into the ice and it’s just incredible. This is now real Antarctica and we see our first white, blue, turquoise growlers (ice bergs are by definition more than 5m high; bergy bits are somewhat smaller; growlers are small ones that make a growling noise when ships get through ; brash finally are very small bits).
We are brought onshore and I am for the first time of my life on the Antarctic continent! Wow! We landed on Brown Bluff and get to take a picture with our crew member Jonathan Shackleton, cousin of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
We see Gentoo penguins again and one Adelie penguin. The light and colours are amazing, the sun is shining and we are very lucky again, there’s ice but not too much so we could actually get through.
There’s only 15 minutes for everyone to stay on Brown Bluff, but we have plenty of time afterwards on the zodiac. Getting close to ice bergs, bergy bits, growlers and brash, seeing cormorants on the way, a leopard seal and a little chinstrap penguin all on its own on some brash. He’s doing well posing for us with the jaw dropping background of the flat plateau ice bergs.
I can’t believe how lucky I am, in just 2 days we had the best conditions and the most incredible experiences already, so come what may this journey was already worth every penny. I can’t stop smiling, I am so happy. Antarctica is different from anything I’ve ever experienced and there’s something so special about it in addition to just the impressive scenery. It’s the atmosphere of complete isolation and quietness irradiated from the white landscape that makes you feel that you are not only witnessing spectacular landscape and wildlife unique in the world but also you find yourself at peace with the nature and yourself in this pristine place.
Around 11am we are back on board the Ocean Endeavour, relaxing a little but although I am so tired I would like to take a nap, I don’t want to miss out on anything. So I walk outside to the deck again as the ship starts moving. Just before lunch a few whales are sighted and everyone heads outside. Lunch is interrupted by us heading out from time to time to see more whales and then the ship even turns when Orcas, Killerwhales, are sighted. It’s freezing cold in the wind outside but there are so many Orcas that it’s worth every moment outside. It’s a type B orca and I hear later how lucky we are again to see them! The crew has been taking turns since the early morning to watch out for the Orcas as they knew they could be around. So far I can only recommend Quark Expeditions, the team is extremely dedicated, love what they do and try to make us see as much as possible.
It’s impossible to take a rest, always something to see and discover! Due to the wind we cannot go outside on zodiacs this afternoon, but we get to see the amazing scenery of the Antarctic Sound from the ship. There’s also a lecture on Orcas. They are so intelligent, the best example for their intelligence was for me the wave hunting. They organise themselves to create a big wave to make a seal fall down from an ice brash so they can have dinner 😉
We have a nice afternoon, being outside the deck, seeing more whales, chatting, attending the recap with more information, dinner and finally a very interesting movie about Ernest Shackleton, introduced by his cousin Jonathan, a historian here on board.
Day 5. Mikkelsen Harbour, Cierva Cove.
This morning it’s a wake up call at 5.30am for Marna and me. It’s her birthday and she wanted to be early for sunrise. The only problem, there are far too many clouds to actually see it. So we just have a tea and sit inside before going to the Yoga class. After breakfast it’s time to get into the zodiacs. This morning we are at Mikkelsen Harbour on D’Hainaut Island. We are first cruising on the zodiacs while the other half of the ship passengers are on the island, we change after 90 minutes.
Just some 10 minutes after being on the zodiac we have a big fur seal playing in the water just next to our zodiacs. It’s great to see it so close, pushing one of the zodiacs around until it actually bits in ours – making a small hole! Even though the puncture is small, we need to go back to our ship and go into another zodiac.
While we are changing, another zodiac arrives, also punctured by the seal! Our today’s zodiac driver tells us that this is happening for the first time in the 5 years he is doing this job!
After the zodiac cruise we land on D’hainaut Island and can walk around a bit, discovering old whale bones, plenty of penguins, some seals and an Argentinian station which is just now being refurbished.
Back on the ship it’s almost time for lunch and I take a desperately needed nap afterwards before our afternoon zodiac cruise in Cierva Cove. When you think it cannot get better, it actually does. We get out in the water, seeing already our first whales, a mother and her calf.
We continue to cruise after a while to not too much disturb them, seeing some unique endemic plant, penguins, Primavera Station and beautiful white and blue ice bergs.
The water landscape is stunning as we break through thin ice, brash towards the next ice bergs and some leopard seal hanging out. Antarctica is such a pristine place where you can still get close to wildlife which is not afraid of you.
And then more whales, this time just right next to us. It’s the most touching experience of my trip so far, hearing the whales, blowing out water and communicating somehow, coming in and out, these huge animals so close to us!
Too soon we have to go back, we’ve been out for at least 3h and I didn’t even realise how time went by. I take a quick shower and then it’s already dinner time, earlier than usually because today… it’s a barbecue outside!!! There’s music, hot wine, barbecue with tuna steak which I love and plenty of other nice food, great company and, woe, what an amazing view. After all the clouds today the sky finally cleared up and we can see this stunning icy and snowy landscape while the sun is slowly setting down. It’s a perfect birthday for Marna who gets also a birthday cake from the crew which we all share. Later she invites us to some champagne and we spend some more great time before the evening finishes with the first starlit sky on this cruise. This Antarctica cruise was the most expensive trip in my life and I almost didn’t do it because it’s so expensive, but it’s worth everything I paid. It already was worth everything yesterday and today was even better. I cannot believe how lucky I am, to have enough money to afford this journey, to be here, now, with such an incredible luck regarding the weather and the wildlife, sharing these moments with new friends. I can only tell you: go, go, go if anyhow you can afford it…