An Amazing Antarctic Day!

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 338 We had one of the best days of our lives on Saturday down here in Antarctica. From start to finish, it was completely unforgettable. I’ll cover the other aspects of our visit to the Antarctica area on my next blog, but will focus here on this astounding Saturday, the day we set foot on our sixth continent.

Antarctic Peninsula 174 Although our trip lasts seventeen days, we spend remarkably little time on the Antarctic Continent. We spend two+ days at sea getting to the Falklands, two days there, two more days at sea to the South Georgia Islands, two days there, two more days at sea to Antarctica, three days there (but two on islands), and then two+ days back to Ushuaia.

On Saturday morning, we were off in the early Zodiac group to the Antarctica Continent. Our boat left at 9:00, and we would have a grand total of about an hour and a half on the Continent itself. The pressure was sky high on Gibson :-) , who has a chance to lose teeth in all seven continents. He had been wiggling his loosest tooth, but it was still not all that close to coming out when we hopped on the Zodiac to head to Antarctica.

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 112 We had a great time on the Continent itself, landing at a place called Paradise Harbour. We ran into a bunch of Gentoo Penguins. We hiked up a hill and were all able to zip down a snow bank in our snow pants. The kids repeated it several times before we were off to our hike around this landing spot. Gibson, by now, was wiggling aggressively, but we were starting to talk about how one of the islands we’d go to later in the trip probably should count.

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 126 We waited it out for the last Zodiac departure, and, with the clock ticking and less than a minute to go, Gibson got a baby incisor out!! We took some quick pictures, celebrated with some congratulatory yells, and were off to a quick boat tour of the harbor before returning to the Explorer II. It was pretty amazing that Gibson could hit this 90 minute window, and he may well be the first person in the history of the world to lose a baby tooth on Antarctica proper. He has another tooth that looks like it could come out in Africa, so Europe may well be his last big challenge!

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 145 Our Zodiac trip brought a second surprise — a close encounter with a Leopard Seal. Leopard Seals are at the top of the South Polar food chain. They are afraid of no other animal, and all other animals fear them, even the Orcas (Killer Whales). One came up to our Zodiac boat and put on quite a show. It circled our boat, popped up out of the water regularly, and at times tried to bite off a chunk of our ZodiacAntarctic Peninsula by Gibson 139 (which it quite possibly could do). It left for a period of time to chase a Gentoo Penguin for its lunch, but the penguin escaped. The penguins evasive action looked a bit like a random piece of grease on a scalding hot griddle, as it popped out of the water furiously, and changed directions frantically. The Leopard Seal returned for another bite at the Zodiac, and eventually turned its attention elsewhere as we returned to the ship.

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 414 After a great barbecue lunch, we cruised through Antarctic waters, Lemaire Channel to be precise, to our next destination, but not without seeing several whales. We didn’t get any good views during our morning outing (the second group out did, though), but we got some great views of Killer Whales, a Minke (left), and some distant Humpbacks. It was just so exciting to see these incredibly creatures, which are a great link to pre-history. At this point, we thought the day had reached its pinnacle.

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 525 We were in the last group out on Saturday to take a Zodiac tour of the waters around Pleneau Island (just south of 65 degrees latitude, our southernmost point of the trip). The area is known as an iceberg graveyard, with many large and spectacular icebergs floating through the area. Our trip was challenged by some frigid winds and snow, and being out on the water on a fast Zodiac only amplified our shivering. We saw some great icebergs, an Adelie Penguin (above right), another Leopard Seal, and we chased (largely futilely) a Minke Whale.

Antarctic Peninsula by Gibson 608We were about to pack it in and head back to the Explorer when we spotted to large, still objects on the horizon. Since we had been last in line, we were on a Zodiac with just the four of us and our great naturalist, Juan. Well, we made a beeline for the objects, hoping that we’d encountered a couple of large whales. And, boy, did we!! We came up to two giant Humpbacks, and spent almostAntarctica Peninsula 002 a half an hour (a very cold half an hour!) in our tiny Zodiac with the whales circling us, popping up for air, and putting on a great show. Being within twenty feet of these Humpbacks (which are some 60 feet in length), hearing them come up for air and blow their spouts, seeing them spyhop, and watching them play together, and dive, well, we were completely mesmerized. Another passenger, Daniela from Germany, kindly providing us with this great photo of the Humpback next to our Zodiac, with Gibson closest to the whale taking the photo above!

As we left our Humpback buddies, I said to my family, “Other than the day I married Elizabeth, and the day each of you were born, this may well be the best day of my life.”

Check out our Antarctica Peninsula photos.

One Response to “An Amazing Antarctic Day!”

  1. Sam Says:

    Fascinating take on a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Your blog was a wonderful reprieve from the sordid saga of Elliot Spitzer, who’s managed to knock both Barack and Hillary off the front page!

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