Bright and early this morning, the sun greeted us with glorious morning light on incredible icebergs as National Geographic Resolution sailed through the Antarctic Sound towards our morning destination. We spent the first part of the day in and around Paulet Island, a historic spot for the Swedish Antarctic Expedition in 1903, led by Nordenskjold, where his men overwintered in a small stone hut, having collected 1100 penguins for their winter food supply. Our split operation meant that we could both spend time visiting the island to see the historic hut, the creches of Adelie penguin chicks and the fur seals covering the beach, as well as have a Zodiac cruise, where repugnant carnage ensued! A leopard seal was taking great advantage of the Adelie penguin chicks that were just in the water for the first time, learning how to swim and bath. Unfortunately, not all chicks were unscathed. The leopard seal is a 12-foot killing machine and some of us witnessed the brutal take down of an Adelie chick.
After lunch, Captain Heidi and the bridge team slightly diverted their course so that we could spend some time observing killer whales. These large type B whales are pack ice animals that had a yellowish tint, meaning they were covered in diatoms. We watched them for quite some time before continuing on to our afternoon destination of the Danger Islands! We had one of the most memorable Zodiac cruises, circumnavigating Heroina Island, home to 300,000 pairs of Adelie penguins. It was penguin soup with penguins coming and going, launching their bodies onto the slippery rocks, trying to get up and out of the surf zone, only to be swept back into the swell. It truly felt like a penguin circus, complete with leopard seals snoozing on ice with small groups of Adelie chicks on the same ice floe. Either the penguins were young and dumb, or the leopard seals had such a big food coma that they didn’t even notice the tasty snacks standing right behind them.
We got back on board and had a short briefing and recap. Meanwhile, the bridge team had prepared a tasty appetizer for us before dinner. Outside, it was now time for whale soup! We were surrounded by humpback whales. They were logging on the surface, fluking, and some were even curious enough to come alongside to check us out. Their loud, audible breaths alerted us to their incredible proximity to the ship. All day we had constant reminders of how wild and wonderful this place is and how lucky we are to witness such magic. Truly a most memorable day that we won’t soon forget. What a time to be alive!