Each day in Antarctica offers new and unexpected experiences to guests, whether it’s gazing out over otherworldly landscapes for the first time, encountering penguins busily tending to the task of nesting, or simply finding ourselves at the bottom of the world without any signs of human activity. Guests met the day with anticipation for the pending and momentous occasion of crossing the Antarctic Circle for the very first time. The Antarctic Circle is not as easily crossed as the Arctic Circle in the Northern Hemisphere. Both imaginary lines on the Earth’s surface mark the latitude at which for one day in the summer the sun never sets and for one day in the winter the sun never rises. By 0900 this morning, our ship crossed this line surrounded by magnificent icebergs, pans of sea ice, and distant ice-covered peaks and valleys on the eastern horizon. To mark the occasion, our hotel department brought out champagne, and we toasted as the ship’s captain blew the horn. The outer decks were packed with thrilled guests, crew, and staff alike. We all embraced as we celebrated this remarkable event.
As we continued to sail farther south in Crystal Sound, still pinching ourselves that we were here in this wild, surreal, and stunning setting, we took in the sights and made the very most of the experience as it unfolded. Of note was the near constant presence of a unique seabird endemic to Antarctica. Antarctic petrels flew over the waters, soared effortlessly over towering icebergs, and occasionally accompanied the ship. These sleek, black and white seabirds are one of the most abundant birds in Antarctica, but they are rarely seen in the numbers we encountered. Throughout the day, we observed several thousand birds in large flocks.
To conclude the day’s events, our expedition leader and captain thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to offer a wholly unique activity: setting foot on one of the numerous large floes of sea ice in the area. We brought guests by Zodiac to three carefully selected ice floes, and we spent a little time experiencing what life might feel like for a penguin.
As we traveled by Zodiac, we observed millions of tiny ice krill foraging and swimming along the edges of the ice floes. We were also able to observe Antarctic petrels, terns, and snow petrels as they foraged on the tiny but vital cornerstone species of the Antarctic. The entire day was truly spectacular. All on board felt immersed in this environment, like no one else in the world existed.