We awoke to the voice of Expedition Leader Andy Wolff wishing us a good morning and giving us some general information for the day. We had arrived overnight at our next landing site called Danco Island. Here we would have the opportunity to hike amongst gentoo penguins. From the ship, we watched the little penguins climbing the 450-meter, snow-covered hill like ants all in a row. The staff went ashore to prepare the landing site by digging in some snow stairs, and it was time to disembark by 9:00 am. We loaded into our Zodiacs for the quick transit to shore. The landing was slightly complicated with lots of ice, rocks, and a huge snowbank to contend with, but we all landed safely on the shore. We split into two groups: those who wished to enjoy the colony on the lower regions of the hill and those who wanted to stretch their legs and climb to the top. A few who did not wish to tackle the deep snow went for a short Zodiac cruise amongst the many grounded icebergs. On the hillside, we enjoyed the antics of the gentoo penguins as they hustled and bustled along their “penguin highways.” Before long, it was time to come down from the hill and load back into our Zodiacs. We returned to the ship with thousands of penguin photos and beautiful memories. We returned in time for lunch and enjoyed watching the views of Antarctica around us as we repositioned for the afternoon’s activity.
Our next stop was a place called Etienne, where we hoped to enjoy a Zodiac cruise. As we approached the area, we were surprised to come up against a thick layer of broken ice. The ice was no match for National Geographic Resolution, and the ship glided through like it was nothing; however, our hopes for a Zodiac cruise looked bleak. We traveled farther into the ice, and most guests took to the decks to enjoy the incredible atmosphere created by the surrounding and thickening ice. Upon reaching Etienne, it looked like all hope was lost for the cruise. The ice was broken but extremely thick and slushy, which would make it hard for the Zodiacs to operate. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the glaciers around us. However, some of us noticed that Expedition Leader Andy Wolff had gathered his staff on the bridge, and it looked like they were cooking up a plan. Shortly after, Andy announced that a different sort of Zodiac cruise would occur. The snow and ice were too thick for the Zodiacs, but National Geographic Resolution could pass through easily and leave behind a trail of open water for a few moments before the ice closed again. Andy offered us an opportunity to board the Zodiacs and ride in the wake of National Geographic Resolution! We would race behind the ship as the displaced ice closed in behind us. If we were too slow, we would get stuck in the slushy new ice. We thought this sounded like great fun, so we loaded up into our Zodiacs and our drivers prepared for the run. Once all were boarded, the ship started to pull forward and the race against the ice was on. We followed behind the ship at a reasonable pace to see the ice and snow building up around us, but we traveled quickly enough to keep from getting trapped. The Zodiac drivers were enjoying it just as much as we were. They weaved in and out of stray pieces of ice, chasing the ship with much excitement. The snow started falling heavier, and we could see it thickening on top of the ice and all over our Zodiacs. Some of the Zodiacs started gaining new features, such as “bow box snowmen,” and we can’t be sure who threw the first snowball, but pretty soon, small skirmishes broke out amongst the convoy. After about an hour, it was time to rejoin the ship. The ship stopped and blew away the ice with the azipods to allow us to come alongside and disembark our Zodiacs. We were just in time for a wonderful dinner, and we were still buzzing from our experience.