Curverville Island and Orne Harbour

Polar plunge and whales in the Antarctic

After a long Zodiac ride on our fifth day in the Antarctic with the Sea Spirit, we reach our first landing site for today. (Zum deutschen Blog.)

on a Zodiac to Curverville Island
It is Curverville Island

There is one of the largest Gentoo penguin colonies. There are high mountains that look as though they are covered with grass. It is usually a type of algae, very rarely also a kind of moss and a lot of snow, traversed by deep penguin highways.

Penguin Highway on Curverville Island

What a shouting and bustle awaits us here, when we go ashore! On each rock that is already freed from snow, Gentoo penguins are breeding. Always sharp-eyed by the skuas, the scoundrels. They move between the penguins, always looking for an egg that is not well enough guarded by the penguin parents. Then it is captured and cracked.

cracked penguin egg

We can walk a long way to the left or right, always at least 5 m distance to the animals and, of course, without walking on the penguin highways, which the small animals laboriously stamped into the snow. They are partly so deep that the birds disappear in them with half their bodies.

Curverville Island

The fact that when we leave Curverville Island, they continue to use our downhill path through the snow is self-evident.

Icebergs in front of Curverville Island

Some passengers of the ship do not remain close to the shore, but trudging somewhat laborious up the slope to get a better view of the bay with the bizarrely shaped icebergs in front of us. Even at the top of the slope, penguins have built nests. I am always amazed at the hardships these small animals take to find the most beautiful nesting places for themselves. Day by day they waddle up and down the mountains to catch fish and bring them to their young.

gentoo penguins on Curverville Island

After a few hours we unfortunately have to get on board again. While we eat our delicious lunch, captain Oleg Tikhvisky brings us safely to our afternoon landing.

Orne Harbour

Today it is Orne Harbor and there we enter the Antarctic mainland for the second time.

We drive past high mountains that are covered with snow and glaciers, before our ship throttles the engine in a huge bay, actually a dead end, and gets the zodiacs into the water.

Orne Harbour landing site

The panorama is just incredible! Around us only high mountains and glaciers. Blue sky and barely a few clouds let the snow shine and glisten.

The ride with the Zodiac is fast. The ascent is zigzagging uphill and goes less quickly to a point where the crossed flags deny us to go further. Still much further up, on the crest of the mountain, penguins have settled for breeding. Unbelievable, what these little guys take on themselves!

view over Orne Harbour

The view over the bay is simply stunning! In the distance we can hear a glacier calving with a loud pounding and see how the new iceberg dips in a large wave into the sea.

Who wants is allowed to slide on the butt a part of the way back to the shore. Nobody tells me twice to do so. I do it!

When everyone is back on board, it is decided to take the polar plunge here for the brave passengers and the crew. The weather can´t get any better, the sea is very quiet here in Orne Harbor and we got time enough.

To start with, I do not have the courage to jump into the cold water at -1 ° C and do the polar plunge. But my husband surprises me with the message and actually does it with 50 others. All are secured with a waist belt and are immediately pulled out again after the more or less successful jump into the extremely salty sea water.

Polar plunge!

For some, the first steps lead them to the now seemingly hot pool on Deck 5. If someone falls into the water, he has got about 3 minutes before extreme hypothermia starts, which can easily be followed by death.

Whales

After dinner, when we have already left the bay for a long time, we get a special visit. A humpback family is swimming with the ship for a while. Everyone is totally enthusiastic. Even when the temperature is very low, many of us go on deck just before 11pm. Since the sun is still very high, it does not go down at this time of the year here, all can take great photos.

Some are lucky and catch the tail fin, whit that every whale can be recognized. The tail fin is as individual as with us the fingerprint. Scientists can, for example follow the migration of the whales when they are leaving warmer waters, where the young are born, for the colder waters, where there is much more food.

Gentoo penguin with egg


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mountain on Curverville Island
glacier at Curverville Island

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