We were woken up at about 4:45am from our camping grave, packed up our gear and made our way back to the ship. I was able to get a solid five hours of sleep so stayed up in the morning getting caught up on some writing and photo editing. By the time breakfast had finished we had arrived at our destination… Damoy Bay. It was another stunningly beautiful location and this time we were gifted with seeing lots of sea ice floating around us. This was, in many ways, the image I had had of Antarctica prior to coming down and a good indication that we were indeed heading further south.
Kayaking… Part II
My group was called for our second kayaking trip and we got off to a rough start. The sea ice came crashing into the ship, making lowering the kayaks into the water not only difficult, but dangerous. We eventually got the job done, and after patiently waiting for the ice to leave we boarded the Zodiac and began the trip.
The water was nicer than the previous kayak trip and it snowed a bit, which was cool. I borrowed a dry bag from my kayak partner, Pete, and I chanced bringing my camera with me, and I’m glad that I did. The first part of the trip we stayed close to the shore, spotting penguin rookeries along the way. It was nice seeing the penguins from a different angle as seeing them from land was starting to get repetitive. On land they are boring, but in the water they are truly in their element. Aside from seeing them collecting stones for their nests, the highlight was watching as they jumped from the rocks into the water and as they jumped from the water onto the rocks! It was amazing. They literally shot themselves from the water and landed (mostly) upright and directly into their waddling stride. Very impressive.
Afterwards, we paddled away from the shore and towards a number of icebergs floating all around us. Their size and varied shapes were stunning, and the different shades of whites and blues that could be seen were wonderful. To this point this kayak trip has been the highlight of the trip for me, and while I normally fancy myself a hiker, I have enjoyed all of the water activities much more. I think it is time to buy a kayak and live on the beach!!!
Lackroy Station and Sea Ice
After lunch we set sail again, this time a little earlier than expected. The ice conditions near the boat were making it too dangerous for the 4 Dessert runners to continue as there would be no way to get them back to the boat if they had continued. So, the running was cancelled early, everyone made it safely to the boat, and we set off on Neumayer Channel towards our next destination at Lackroy Station, a British post office on Antarctica. They also have a nice museum and a gift shop, as the penguins in this area were meant to be the most used to people and therefore the most likely to come up very close to you. The guides on the ship said that between 70,000 and 80,000 people visited this post office per year.
On the way there, however, we hit a ton of sea ice. It was literally everywhere. So much so that when you looked outside all you could see was white… white in the water… white on the shore… white clouds above us… white everywhere. It was awesome, and one of the experiences I had hoped to see in the trip. On the ice we saw a number of seals taking a rest and avoiding other predators in the water.
The ice, while incredible to see, did prevent us from making it to Lackroy Station. To this point it has been the only activity which has been cancelled due to poor weather conditions, which is actually not bad. So, we took the safe route and went to Plan B.
The decision to not continue the race was one which respected nature. The decision not to try and make it to Lackroy Station was one which respected nature. In return, nature gifted us with a pack of Killer Whales (Orcas) which came and swam around our boat for at least an hour! We saw multiple Killer Whales all over the place and some got very close to the boat. They came up for air and I even saw on come way out of the water near an iceberg. In our evening briefing one of the scientists on board explained that Killer Whales do this to look for seals on the ice. If they find a seal they work as a team to try and knock it off the ice and into their waiting mouths. It was a privilege to have seen these amazing animals. I knew it was special because this was one of the few times when not only did the entire crew stop working to grab their cameras and snap pictures, but the captain of the ship even turned this whole ship around to follow the whales a little bit and give everyone an opportunity to whale-watch even longer. This was truly a wonderful experience : )