Due to inadequate wifi service, we weren’t able to share our expedition in real time, so here’s a quick re-cap of each day. We loved this unique trip, and hope you enjoy this summary.
FOURNIER BAY: Sailing into Fournier Bay, we had our first look at Antarctica, and what a breathtaking experience it was! During the night, we heard some noise coming from our window, so we investigated and found that if we opened the window ever so slightly, the noise was reduced. In our sleepiness, we forgot to lower the room darkening shades, so our “wake up call” was a VERY EARLY sunrise. The silver lining was that we awoke to the sight of some magnificent islands and glaciers!
As the day went on, the bright sun gave everything a bluish cast, and we couldn’t resist spending a good amount of time outside on the various decks. The temperature hovered around 30°, so we were quite comfortable.
I don’t have words to describe the beauty of this bay. We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity of spending an idyllic day in the midst of such unspoiled, magical vistas; crystal blue waters; icy glaciers; and snow-covered islands.
NEKO HARBOR: Neko Harbor is an inlet on the Antarctic Peninsula on Alvord Bay, situated on the west coast of Graham Land. There is a very active volcano in this area, and the remains of an old Argentine refuge built in 1949, as well as a very large Gentoo penguin rookery. It was discovered by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache in the early 20th century, and named for a Norwegian whaling boat, the Neko, which operated in the area for about 15 years. This was our first Continental Landing, checking a 6th continent off our bucket list. After a wet landing on a pebbled beach, we trekked up a steep hill to see the penguins. They’re SO CUTE, but we were warned not to get too close!
DANCO ISLAND: Danco is a 1 mile long island that lies in the southern part of the Errera Channel, off the west coast of Graham Island. Gentoo penguins nest right up to the summit of the island’s peak, which is also popular with a variety of Antarctic birds. After landing on a gravelly beach, we made the hike over ice and snow up approximately 410 feet for some breathtaking views of the surroundings.
HIDDEN BAY: Hidden Bay sits between Cape Renard and Aguda Point on the northeast coast of the Kiev Peninsula. It was named Hidden Bay because from the entrance, the bay is hidden by the Screen Islands. Quietly riding around in the zodiacs for about two hours, we had some incredible views of the bay and the Octantis, and our knowledgeable guide pointed out some very interesting wildlife and beautiful scenery.
PARADISE BAY: Being an early riser definitely has its rewards in terms of magnificent sunrises all to myself! First light near Paradise Bay cast a peach-colored shadow over the mountains that provided a very special moment. A little while later, we enjoyed our second Continental Landing where we visited Base Brown, a small Argentine station on Antarctica’s mainland. We also saw even more penguins during our hike up the snow-covered slope.
ENTERPRISE ISLAND: Enterprise Island was a popular site for whalers from 1915-1930, and several artifacts remain scattered along its coastline. During our two-hour zodiac exploration of this area, the waves picked up and it started snowing. We saw the remains of a shipwreck, to which several large sailboats were tied, one of which had sailed from Sydney, Australia! We also saw seals and cormorants, which at first glance look like penguins.
On our way to Half Moon Island, we sailed through a very large area of tabular icebergs, which are icebergs that have broken off from an ice shelf. Newly formed tabular icebergs have nearly vertical sides and flat tops. In the Antarctic, they can be tens of kilometers wide, and as much as 1,000 ft thick, but only about 10% is exposed above the sea surface.
We were also greeted by some Adelie Penguins that were trying to get out of our way.
HALF MOON ISLAND: Situated on the western shore of Livingston Island, Half Moon Island is part of the South Shetland Islands. Its name comes from the characteristic crescent shape. Here we met up with some fur seals as well as our first colony of Chinstrap Penguins, appropriately named for the black line at the bottom of their chins.
After crossing the no-less-shaking Drake Passage once again, we ended our journey where we began, in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world! We spent a leisurely day there, visiting various points of interest and enjoying some warm Argentine hospitality.
This brief re-cap doesn’t do justice to this adventure of a lifetime, but we wanted to share the highlights with you. Missing are details about our beautiful ship, the Viking Octantis, as well as a description of the many research partnerships Viking has made as part of their commitment to science. We learned so much from our wonderful guides from all over the world, and we were humbled by their knowledge and commitment to leaving this world a bit better than we found it.