We have begun our journey to Antarctica. We set across the Drake Passage last night, leaving from our starting port of Ushuaia, Argentina. The Drake has been quiet for us, an unusual state for this waterway known and feared by even the most experienced sailors. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come, of a journey that we will remember for smooth waters and a welcome to an inhospitable land. We shall find out.
National Geographic Explorer
After an overnight transit from Brown Bluff, we awoke in Cierva Cove to cloudy but absolutely calm conditions. We were surrounded by surreal sculptures of ice, both floating and on land. Two large glaciers, Breguet and Gregory, provide the numerous icebergs, bergy bits, growlers, and brash ice that floated serenely in the cove. Morning operations had half of us on Zodiac cruises with the other half remaining on board for an excursion through the dense brash ice (which cannot be entered by Zodiacs) near the two glaciers. The roles were reversed midmorning. The most enthralling aspect of both ops was the silent majesty of ice and snow. Two small calving events of a floating iceberg were observed while we enjoyed Zodiac cruising, along with one small leopard seal, a few gentoo penguins, and an assortment of terns and petrels. But the most exciting aspect of the morning was just reinforcing and appreciating our sense of place as we cruised among icebergs in an absolutely calm Antarctic cove. Following lunch, several guests ventured into the cove with double kayaks, while the rest enjoyed the scenery (or a good book) on board. As it happened, the calm and warmish conditions that existed all morning changed to brisk and blustery winds that fueled choppy waves and an accumulation of brash ice as we got into the kayaks. An hour in a kayak under these conditions is challenging, but it is an exciting part of the Antarctic experience, one that will be remembered and relived often to family and friends. Just before cocktail hour, a pair of humpback whales surfaced within 30 yards of National Geographic Explorer . The ship stopped, and the whales peacefully dove and surfaced in front of numerous cameras for about twenty minutes. Several photos of the underside of the flukes were taken, perhaps allowing the whales to be identified. And so ended another unique day in Antarctica. More adventures tomorrow!