We woke up to cold snowy weather! It had snowed several inches overnight, so the deckhands were clearing the snow off the decks for us. The high winds prevented us from our original landing at Neko Harbor, so National Geographic Endurance moved over to nearby Paradise Harbor for our morning activities. We went on Zodiac tours in two rounds, launching into very wavy conditions. We rode the Zodiacs into a surprisingly calm bay at the base of a huge tidewater glacier. It had a 100-foot glacial face, with blue crevasses and white serracs. All around us were dozens of large blue and white icebergs, most of which had calved off the glacier recently.
There was a raft of Gentoo penguins swimming around, diving down to feed, and then resting on the surface. The craziest phenomenon was the formation of grease ice, where frazil ice crystals were forming as the sea started to freeze overnight.
In the afternoon, the ship cruised west across the Gerlache Strait, where we spotted several killer whales. We spent an hour observing the beautiful creatures from the luxury of our new ship with several levels of forward viewing. There were about a dozen killer whales in two different pods swimming and diving down to eat fish. We were in awe that we could see them swim underwater through the clear ocean water, which allowed us to aim our cameras precisely before they surfaced for air. After that excitement, we stopped next to our sister ship, the National Geographic Explorer, to exchange some supplies. It was fun waving at the folks on one of only a handful of ships in Antarctica this week as the travel season starts up after a two-year absence.
The ship cruised down the beautiful Neumayer Channel during late afternoon. We saw the huge ice cliffs along both shores, with steep glaciated slopes rising up the 5,000-foot mountains. We got magnificent photos of the ice-covered peaks now that the wind calmed down and the sun came out. When we got down to the deserted Port Lockroy, the ship turned around and cruised back through the channel, which gave us even more spectacular views during our evening recap and dinner. What a beautiful and relaxing way to end the eventful day.