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St. Stephen's Day

Beautiful Antarctica
Beautiful Antarctica
The morning began with the usual cheerful, early morning wake-up call. Snow had fallen throughout the night but by the time we arose blue, cloudless skies and calm waters combined to provide us with an unbelievably stunning inaugural view of Neko Harbour. The snow-covered mountains were reflected in the still waters. The effect was amplified as you could see the reflection of the omnipresent fulmars and petrels as they swooped around the ship.
We landed, for the first time on the actual continent rather than the islands, watched by a nearby Leopard seal. We climbed a steep hill which afforded us spectacular views across the harbour and of teh nearby Gentoos. It was difficult to choose where to look as a plethora of events were happening simultaneously on all fronts. As the sun heated up we were treated to the sight of glacier calvings and several impressive powder avalanches. Orcas swam by, followed by a few Minke sightings and the penguins were practically ignored as the other sights were more remarkable. We tried to slide back down but the powder snow thwarted our efforts and we ended up rolling over the deep snow as it was easier than walking. The tables were turned and I’m sure the penguins were laughing at our efforts.
We returned to the ship for lunch nad to head for Paradise Bay. Nature continued to stun us. Several humpbacks were sighted with a pair coming right up to the ship. They rolled and waved their long fins in greeting. At one point there were humpbacks on starboard and a Minke on portside, all within 200m of the ship. It seemed that this was to be a day of choices.
We arrived into the appropriately named Paradise Bay – the setting for a cruise in the Zodiacs and our second continental landing. We cruised slowly through the thick, brash ice passing Leopard Seals and watched Shags and Snowy Sheathbills nesting in recesses in the rockface. We landed at the abandoned Argentine base, Almirante Brown. Abandoned by humans that is – nesting Gentoos were abundant. We hiked up a very steep hill to enjoy expansive views of the bay. If anything it was more alluring than Neko Harbour. Again we slid down, this time much faster. The snow was deep here off the beaten track and many people found their wellies stuck as they plunged in up to their hips.
When we returned to the ship we enjoyed a massive barbeque on the foredeck. As we were anchored, the crew were free to join us and a night of merriment was had by all. By this stage, the staff and passengers all knew each other well and the sounds of chatting and laughter almost, but unfortunately not altogether, drowned out the sounds of Russian pop music. To finish off this marvellous day, the setting sun gave off beautiful pastels which only bettered the captivating panorama.

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