Hugh icebergs and small islands
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As I have written in one of my last blogs, it does not always work out how the expedition team has made the plan for the next day. Sometimes it doesn´t work because the wind is too strong or the current is too heavy or too much pack ice is in the way, which could quickly enclose our ship.
That´s how it is today, plan A does not work, but there is a plan B or C…
In Wilhelmina Bay
Our captain carefully maneuvers the ship into Wilhelmina Bay. Plenty of ice and many icebergs swim here. The exploration zodiac with some people from the expeditions team sets off before the guests to test whether we can perhaps walk on the frozen sea ice. We would not be the only ones there, some seals are already resting there from the nocturnal hunt for food.
Unfortunately, we are not lucky, it might not carry us, of course security is more important.
As we drive to the edge with our Zodiak, we find a place that looks like a small harbor in the ice. From here we can observe the sleeping crap eater seals quite well. And a little further away lies a sea leopard. With the binoculars, I can even see the pointed teeth in his mouth when he yawns heartily.
We all get quiet, the surrounding mountains with their massive glaciers make us seem small and insignificant.
Then something ripples and a curious crab eater seal puts its head out of the water. Then it dives under the ice right under our boat. Quickly I try to make an underwater photo of it with my GoPro, but unfortunately it does not work. Instead I get a lot of krill on the film. No wonder the seal has submerged here. This must be a feast for it.
Christian, one of the German guides from the expeditions team drives on with us. We have managed to be only German-speaking guests in this Zodiac. So Christian does not need to translate and we have more time to ask questions.
Icebergs and shelf ice
Once again, we get an explanation about the differences between glacier ice and frozen sea ice. The floating icebergs are aborted by calving glaciers and might have huge dimensions. They can contain many thousands of years old air in small entrapped vesicles, which are extremely exciting for scientists.
So they can explore how the air was composed long ago. By the way, it is splendid when you have a piece of glacier ice in your drink, it slowly defrosts and these air bubbles escape with a little “plop”.
So that we might hear this sound once and learn how ancient ice tastes, Christian looks for a very small iceberg and heaves a little chunk out of the water for us. Since glacier ice is heavier than water, he has to lift off a heavy weight, as you can see in this short video.
When his contract is finished, he goes back to Spitzbergen where he has lived for several years. Since he enjoys working with tourists, he has set up his own company. The best time to observe the polar bears that do not exist here in the Antarctic is in the winter from February to May. Then there is still a lot of snow, but daylight returns. Just the opposite of the seasons here.
It is summer now in Antarctica, most often we got approx. around 0 ° C, when the sun is shining it is even warmer, but when the wind blows it can be much colder. Therefore, we are neatly dressed. This is noticeable at this 2 hour Zodiac tour. To be cold would be a pity and would take away much pleasure on this tour. (Packing is sufficient for 10 nights aboard an expedition cruise ship.)
Today there is a very special atmosphere here in the ice as the sky is gray, while the partial blue glacier ice is very good visible.
Christian turns off the engine of the Zodiac to give us the opportunity of absolute quietness. It takes a moment for the last one in our boat to stop moving, because even the rustling of the clothing appears loud in this calm and solitude.
At this moment I see no other Zodiac, not even the ship. The mountains seem to encircle our boat completely. Quietness, a soft rippling of the water on our boat, the cracking of the ice. A very special moment, I close my eyes and enjoy.
In the afternoon we land at Orne Island. Here the adventurous passengers will camp overnight. No, not in tents, but under the open sky. Stars they will not see, as it never gets dark, but those who really could not sleep, but wanted to hear the sounds of the animals and the ice, they could also watch whales.
We are now climbing up a mountain on Orne Island. Of course again along the pinned flags to disturb the breeding penguins as little as possible.
We sink deeply into the snow. Some have to be pulled out by helping hands, because to free yourself from the snow, is quite laborious if you are hip deep sunken in it .
From above, we can observe the kayaks as they slowly glide over the calm waters.
All together we later enjoy the always very good dinner. Then the campers leave the ship. I envy them a little bit already, because of this unique experience, but then I cuddle myself into my soft, warm bed and wake up again when the campers are long back on board.