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First Landing: Eden Rocks

Hiking in Antarctica
Hiking in Antarctica (Anna Zlotnicki)

After two days at sea, we were all restless and eager to get off the Ocean Nova. We didn’t know until that morning exactly where we were, or where we were going: in lieu of a strict itinerary, our expedition leader worked with the captain to chart our course hour by hour, looking for the best landing sites with ideal weather windows as they came up. This is why flexibility and trust in the expedition team is so vital to enjoy a trip to Antarctica - if you get too attached to specific islands or have too-rigid expectations of what Antarctica should be like, you can easily lose sight of the true spirit of exploration, which takes the fun out of the trip. This is a region best left to surrendering control and relishing what comes!

Our first landing site was determined to be Eden Rocks, a pair of tiny, rocky islands just off the coast of Dundee Island at the northeastern end of the Antarctic peninsula. We all suited up in waterproof pants and jackets and donned the provided lifejackets and insulated, waterproof boots, then made our way to the lower deck to access the gangway to board zodiacs. Then we were off!
Finding a leopard seal snoozing on ice
Finding a leopard seal snoozing on ice (Anna Zlotnicki)

Our guide, Zibo, drove us around some floating ice before heading to the landing site, giving us a chance to look for wildlife while we waited our turn to disembark on shore. We found a colony of Antarctic Shags, and cruised around looking at incredible ice formations before coming across a leopard seal stretched out on an ice floe. I was so excited to see one - they’re the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic (after elephant seals) and are striking animals, with their large mouths and spotted coats. It checked us out before returning to its nap - and then word came over Zibo’s radio that they were ready for us at shore.
A leopard seal peeks at us over ice
A leopard seal peeks at us over ice (Anna Zlotnicki)

Onshore, the guides helped us out of the zodiacs and pointed out the hiking route, which they had set and marked with flags to ensure that we didn’t wander into any nesting sites or unstable land. The route involved a steep climb, but they anchored ropes for us to use for balance. At the top, we had a stunning view of the rest of the island, surrounded by glassy blue water dotted with ice. 
Hiking in Antarctica
Hiking in Antarctica (Anna Zlotnicki)

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