No more ice for us today! We left mainland Antarctica and made our way to the South Shetland Islands where wildlife and history awaited us. Our first stop was Snowy Island, full of ellies (aka southern elephant seals) and their pups, lichen and grasses, and the nesting sites of southern giant petrels. After enjoying the antics of the ellies, we made our way to Deception Island where we sailed into the heart of the caldera of an active volcano. Steam rose from the beach, enshrouding the remains of a whaling station in an aura of solemn mystery.
National Geographic Endurance
We woke up to the most beautiful sunny day we have had yet this trip. The ship slowly and carefully made its way towards the ice edge so we could enjoy an ice walk. The captain deftly “parked” the ship next to the edge, being careful not to break any ice, and lowered the penguin gangway. Our expedition team went out first to check that the ice was safe. They excitedly reported back that a leopard seal and pup had been found, an extremely rare sight. We bundled up in our outer layers and headed onto the ice. The ice crunched beneath our feet as we wandered around the vast space. While we were checking out the leopard seal, two emperor penguins came sliding across the ice. They even chased some of the guests briefly before settling down on the ice close to the leopard seal and engaging in courting behavior. It was the most magical experience, but it wasn’t over. Next, three crabeater seals crawled out on the ice and took a nap in front of the bow of the ship. We couldn’t believe our luck. All too soon, it was time to board National Geographic Endurance again. We started steaming north to our final landing of the trip at Brown Bluff. Whilst the ship repositioned, we enjoyed a delicious and well-earned lunch followed by a Q&A session with Mensun Bound. In the late afternoon, we disembarked the ship for the final time in Antarctica. Brown Bluff didn’t disappoint with its amazing geology, gentoo and Adelie penguins, and beautiful ice. We said goodbye to the White Continent whilst loading into the Zodiacs for the final time. It was a truly wonderful day, and it still wasn’t over. The galley team treated us to a delicious, traditional Filipino dinner followed by an evening of music and talents in the Ice Lounge. We danced the night away as the ship headed for the Drake.