Steaming south along the Antarctic Peninsula towards uncertain adventure is a thrilling experience. We were entertained by the natural history staff and pampered by the hotel crew while the bridge and engine team safely maneuvered us past an ever-growing number of large tabular icebergs.
National Geographic Endurance
Blue skies grew heavy with clouds as we spotted land. Light-mantled albatrosses, white morph southern giant petrels, and many other seabirds flew by the windows of the bridge. Macquarie Island appeared out of the mist and the endless seas. It was covered in greenery. This is the first green we have seen in four weeks of travel. Zodiacs were dropped carefully and slowly to the water, which was filled with thousands of king penguins swimming up to the ship out of curiosity. They followed us on our cruise, coming right up to the side of the Zodiacs. Their bright orange patches beamed out color in the dark water. The steep slopes of Macquarie Island held hundreds of thousands of penguins. King penguins strutted in their regal attire. Colonies of penguins spilled from upper terraces into pools of penguins at the shore. Out of nowhere, a loud call from a king penguin directly beside our Zodiac startled us. We watched in amazement. To our surprise, the air was warm. We have grown accustomed to bundling up in our warm clothes and wearing less felt strange. Macquarie cormorants popped up from the water’s surface after diving. Royal penguins mixed in with the king penguins swimming about. New Zealand fur seals slept on the beaches while southern elephant seals cozied up to each other in their wallows. Sandy Beach was a delightful place full of royal penguins. Hundreds stood in groups on the shores while others bathed in clusters around our Zodiacs. Their flamboyant yellow-orange plumage stuck fast to their wet heads. While we were outside enjoying Macquarie Island, the crew was busy preparing a Filipino dinner, which was followed by the crew show. The food was fabulous, and the talent and creativity of the crew made it worth staying up late, even at the end of this long and memorable day.