November 14, 2011
Picture Perfect Day
Cuverville Island, Antarctic Peninsula
This morning, my knee is the size of a baseball and I keep ice on it constantly. I'm able to walk, so I ask Boris, our Expedition Leader, if I can switch from skiing to kayaking. There is an extra kayak to spare, so I'm given the thumbs up.
This morning, we head out to Ronge Island, a high rugged piece of land 5 miles long, the largest island in the Errera Channel. This is probably the most spectacular of our excursions. The weather is perfect, sunny blue skies and warmish temperatures. As we kayak closer to the island, we see gentoo penguins popping out of the water to fly through the air for a few seconds before returning to their swimming. Pods of them travel like this together and at one point, a penguin flies right over the bow of my kayak on its way to land. When they arrive, they shoot straight out of the water and come to a skidding stop on land, preening themselves and waddling about. A large leopard seal keeps an eye on them from shore - lazing about and not looking at all like the predator he is.
On shore, we are greeted by thousands of curious gentoo, macaroni and adelies. They are arriving en masse now and hungry seals cruise the shoreline looking for their next meal. I leave my backpack on the ground to get a better shot of a penguin. When I turn back around to grab my pack, there's a little gentoo standing right next to it and starting, trying to discern what the bright yellow thing on the ground is. He pokes at it with his beak for a bit, but then gets bored when it doesn't poke back and waddles off.
The ship is cruising the Gerlache Strait this afternoon, which ends up turning into one of the best afternoons of the trip. We see a pod of Orcas that have a Weddell Seal cornered on a piece of ice in the straight. The Orcas crash into the ice, trying to get the seal to fall into the water. Over and over again, they hit the ice, but the seal stays firmly in place. We watch this spectacle as the ship cuts her engine for a good hour until the Orcas give up and go in pursuit of easier prey. I'm sure the seal was relieved!