We began our day off the shores of Vega and Devil Islands with the intentions of pressing westward and south between the Trinity Peninsula (Continental Antarctica) to the west and James Ross Island to the east in hopes of finding either a suitable place to land, or stable shorefast sea ice to get out on and explore. Strong Northwesterly winds were forecasted, ranging from 20-50 knots, which would ultimately determine where, if at all, we’d be likely to land. The winds also provided a stunning and dramatic environment to take in the scenery around us.
As breakfast concluded, we had rounded the northern entrance to Prince Gustav Channel. Wind speeds had increased to sustained 40 knots with gusts over 70 knots, providing an absolutely awe-inspiring setting of white foamy sea and icebergs encased in sea spray. Much to our delight, we witnessed an impressive aerobatic display of various seabirds such as snow petrels, Cape petrels and storm petrels dancing over the waves.
Having reached the edge of the sea ice still held fast to shore, we parked the ship into the edge of it. After testing it for stability and strength, we set out on a fast ice walk from the ship. Two crabeater seals were lounging in the middle of the ice and were more than comfortable with our presence as groups of our guests made their way there to observe them. Naturalist Dr. Conor Ryan, with help of a few other staff members, had excavated out a hole in the near half-meter thick ice to drop a hydrophone down some 20 meters to get a listen to what was under the ice. Meanwhile, guests enjoyed the overall beauty of the setting as two killer whales surfaced just aft of the ship. Perhaps interested to know what we were doing there, they cruised through the open leads of ice and even spy hopped a few times to get a better look at the mostly orange clad objects strolling about on the ice.
Later after having left the ice edge, we located the killer whales again. This time there were perhaps 10 to 12 of them, including 2 calves. We watched these amazing animals for about a half an hour, at times with them approaching quite close to the vessel. Having to retrace our navigation of earlier in the day, due to the ice edge we encountered, we experienced the same winds. It was a reminder of how harsh and beautiful this place can be. A spectacular sunset concluded the day, making for a perfect finale to a day of exploration.