Monday, September 23, 2013

8. Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay 64.83° S, 62.55° W Colour On A Grey Day

Today would be the first day that we would actually set foot on the Antarctica mainland, all our other landing spots had been islands, not part of the mainland.
The day started out grey and would remain so, but the ice all around us had such deep colors that the grey weather actually enhanced the magic of this place.

Before setting foot on land we were warned about the very active glacier here, it is not uncommon for ice to crash into the water and we were advised to look for higher ground as soon as we heard or saw a piece of the glacier crashing into the water, and if we left our backpack that we would leave it at higher ground as well.

That turned out to be a good advice. When a piece of the glacier calved off, the resulting flood wave did not seem to be that big, but the force behind it cannot be underestimated. So I did run to higher ground and just remained watching, seeing the wave rocking the Bark Europa and the ice chunks in the bay.

Penguins (of course) where around us minding their own business and I got some insight into penguin psychology: A Gentoo was walking towards the shoreline when he suddenly saw me and our guide. He stopped at about 3 meters from us, apparently being puzzled what to do next. The guide told us to step one meter back, because a penguin is very one track minded and cannot factor in an unexpected huge two feeted animal standing in its route to his destination. So we stepped a meter back, which was enough for the penguin to continue.

After our landing here we continued to go to Paradise Bay. At Paradise Bay we made a zodiac tour marveling at the blue ice and the almost unbelievable reflecting water. When the first group was on our way I was filming from the Europa and had the incredible luck to see a part of the icewall crashing down just when I was filming.

We also encountered our first Leopard seal, resting on an icefloe. Leopard seals command respect, not only are they a top predator, they air a kind of confidence that you better not get too close. When it was our turn in the zodiac we decided to visit a remarkably blue iceberg.

When we were approaching suddenly we saw another Leopard seal swimming and that one showed a keen interest in us, approaching the zodiac and swimming around and under us. Though the temptation to get underwater shots was high, I had some doubts about the safety of doing that and did not try that.

After our tour we made short visit to the Argentinian base Almirante Brown, which seemed to be more a station built for political purposes than a proper reach station and remained at anchor overnight.
When we were anchored at night volunteers were always called for anchor watch, to check if the ship remains at its position, but in these places we also had to watch out for floating icebergs that might be on a collision course. This night I had volunteered and we had a busy night keeping the icebergs in check, there were a lot of them. Once we had to  wake up the captain to steer us away from an approaching iceberg the size of a few basketball fields. The night was cold but again an experience I will never forget.

This album here has pictures of Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay, Icebergs, Glaciers, Leopard Seals, Gentoo Penguins, the Bark Europa, Antarctic Shags and two scientific stations.
It has 99 pictures.

click here for the album

Some of the seals in this video where shot here:

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