Antarctica Journal – Day Seven, Part I

My apologies for the delay in getting this next post up –I’ve been down for the count with pneumonia for the past few weeks (and will explain why in a future post)…

January 4, 2011
Noon location weighing anchor at Cierva Cove
Position 64° 07.2′ S, 060° 58.9′ W
Air temperature 7º C/45° F

Our last day in the Antarctic, and as usual, I found myself wide awake until 3am.   I finally gave in and closed my eyes, only to wake up to another round of ship’s bells and….

“Good morning, everyone. It’s six thirty. Breakfast will be served at seven.”

I groaned, rolled over with the decision to skip breakfast, and–

“Good morning again, everyone.” This time from Hannah, our expedition leader.

Which meant there was something to see. Something worth bolting out of my warm, cozy bed so that I could rush up on deck, camera in hand, snapping photos… (This round of thoughts rattled through my sleepy mind with equal parts of cynicism and fatigue).

I didn’t budge — I’m sorry, but there comes a point where a person needs sleep!

“IMMEDIATELY off our bow are a pair of humpback whales–”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” I shouted to my ceiling. Realizing just how ridiculous I was for even weighing the possibility of staying in bed with such an opportunity merely yards away from my cabin door, I jumped up. Threw on fleece pants and jacket, hat, gloves, and yes – grabbed the camera.

I took a few stills at first (note above), but then switched to video mode — this was way too magical to waste on still shots you could see anywhere and any-when. Below you’ll see four videos. The first two were taken directly off the starboard bow (that’s the right front end of the boat for you landlubbers) and then the whales swam back toward the stern (the rear). They seemed to be in no particular hurry to leave. In fact, it should be quite clear from these videos that the whales were as entertained by us as we were by them. From their body language (which included rolling over on their stomachs, flipper waves, dropping down and then popping right back up again), it was clear these magnificent beasts wanted to communicate.

A few things to look/listen for:
1) The water was so clear and clean that you can repeatedly see the whales UNDER water before they would surface.
2) The audio will repeatedly sound like a bunch of people whose hearts became mush.  Including mine.  We collectively realized just how very blessed we were to have this moment of connection with these mastodons of the sea.  I won’t apologize for the gushing you’ll hear from myself, the other passengers, and yes, the expedition staff and crew as well.  All 100 of us were in awe that morning.  The reason should be obvious:

Day Seven, Part II to come including:
Leopoard Seals On the Hunt
Iceberg Graveyards
Goodbye to Antarctica


Penguin Preview
Gentoo penguins at Port Lockrey

Day One – December 29, 2010
Ushuia, The Beagle Channel

Day Two – December 30, 2010
The Drake Passage & Its Avian Escorts

Day Three – December 31, 2010
Arctowksi Station – Icebergs, Penguins, Seals

Day Four – January 1, 2011
Aitcho & Deception Island – Chinstrap Penguins and Volcanoes

Day Five – January 2, 2011
The Antarctic Peninsula: The Errera Channel, Alimante Brown Station, Port Lockroy
(Blue Bergs & Glaciers. Penguin Squabbles. Crabeater, Weddell & Leopard Seals.)

Day Six – January 3, 2011
Part I: LeMaire Channel, Vernadsky Research Base, Wordie House
(Breaking Ice, Ozone Research and Vodka!)

Part II: Adelie Penguins, Yalour & Pleneau Islands, Sunset over LeMaire Channel

Day Seven – January 4, 2011
Part I: Humpback Whales Ahoy!

Part II: We Almost Became Leopard Seal Bait

Day Eight – January 5, 2011

Part I: The Drake Passage Home


More to come…