The fog and mist of a soft Antarctic sky cleared to reveal the spectacular cliffs and glaciers of the Lemaire Channel early this morning. The pack ice and icebergs have recently cleared. This allowed us to pass through with only minor maneuvering, and we entered Penola Strait with Pleneau Island nearby. The island was draped in a white blanket of snow, such that the gentoo penguins vibrantly stood out. Dressed in their formal suits with red beaks and distinctive white earmuffs, the penguins gathered in their rookeries and hustled to and fro. Some of us enjoyed observing their activities near our rocky landing site, while others took a longer hike up and over the hill for views of the dark Southern Ocean and the contrasting white ice all around. A fresh spring snowfall swirled around as we returned to the comfort of National Geographic Endurance for lunch.

A short repositioning of the ship brought us to Petermann Island with more gentoos in addition to Adelie penguins and blue-eyed shags (cormorants). As we landed, brown skuas and kelp gulls wheeled over the colony in acrobatic flying maneuvers. The important business at hand was apparent in the elaborate courting and mating displays exhibited by all the inhabitants. By the end of the afternoon, we began our transit through the French Passage and then northeast toward another exciting expedition day.