Landing on the Antarctic Peninsula
Woke to poor visibility and the 5:30am announcement that helicopter flights to Snow Hill were delayed. An hour went by and another announcement came regarding further weather delay. Then, another announcement later in the morning that we had missed our daylight window.
No worries, however, as we backed out of the ice and headed over to Paulette Island for our first landing via zodiac. Thousands of Adeli penguins covered the island. Walking along the frozen beach, I watched them swimming like dolphins and leaping out of the water and onto icebergs, then waddling back to the edge and diving in again. They genuinely seemed to be playing, although I suspect they were fishing.
I also saw two Weddell Seals - the first from this trip.
In the evening, the kitchen treats us all to an improvised Thanksgiving Day dinner. Turkey, stuffing of sorts, cranberries, and good wine and conversation makes for a wonderful and Thanks-filled day.
Today's plan - clear weather, cruise back to Snow Hill. Foul weather, head to Brown Bluff. Poor weather has us dodging icebergs to arrive at our anchorage for another land visit. Unfortunately, the Khlebnikov has trouble getting the anchor to hold and the wind is blowing so hard that it's not safe to board the zodiacs. Thus, we head to plan B for the afternoon - a visit to Devil Island. The afternoon is glorious and again thousands of Adelie penguins treat us to their antics. Several of the most adventurous head up two different ridge lines for spectacular views of mountains, sea, and ice on all sides.
This evening we returned to our anchorage off Snow Hill in hopes of a visit tomorrow. The return journey was probably the most spectacular iceberg landscape to date. The sun was setting as we wove our way through giant tabular 'bergs and towering jagged 'bergs. Our previous cut in the ice had filled in with debris, including icebergs too large to go through, so we cut a second channel in the ice. Watching the ice split, crack, and be shoved away by the Khlebnikov memorized me and other passengers were alternatively giddy with excitement and awestruck.
5:30 am wake up call: white out conditions prevail with 30 knot winds. No Snow Hill again this morning. Some passengers were a bit disappointed, but I'm so delighted to just be in Antarctica. I take the bad weather news as just part of the challenge and experience of visiting such an inaccessible place. Fingers are still crossed for better weather later this morning. Otherwise, I'm sure we'll pull out and find another site to visit.