Charlotte Bay & Portal Point, Antarctic Peninsula, our last landing on this driest continent in the world

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February 18th 2019
Published: February 21st 2019
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7 Charlotte Bay, Antarctica

Today was a 7.00am wakeup call as we had become used to, with wonderful smoothies served in the bar at 7.15am for those who got up early and breakfast served at 7.30am. During the Antarctic section of our expedition, the zodiacs were craned into the water from the ship’s deck by 9.00am.

This morning we were going for a cruise around the Bay looking for whales. We were astounded. It was a feeding frenzy of whales for over 2 hours. They were all humpbacks. Many times we had whales all around us. We constantly looked for the bubbles coming up, which indicated that they were below that surface.

On one occasion, surrounding our zodiac was bubbles everywhere. We didn’t know when and where they were going to surface. All we knew was that they were going to surface next to our zodiac. We all sat down waiting to see where they were going to ‘blow’. They were so close when they came up, giving us a display of their different sized, coloured and patterned flukes. The whole experience was moving. We had seen many whales in Australia, but with mountains and glaciers surrounding us, a temperature of 2C degrees, the experience was different.

We thought there were at least a dozen whales around us. Our zodiac driver, Suzie (a member of the One Ocean team) became so emotional, particularly when the whales began to snort/moo/bark (I’m not sure what you would call their noise) and on top of that, their ‘blow’ sounds which were all around us.

In addition, the weather and water were beautiful. The water was like glass. The sun was shining through the greyish sky. We saw the most unusual shaped iceberg which made spectacular back drops for our 100s of photos of fins, flukes and massive bodies of the whales. The kayakers also had a wonderful viewing of the whales. They too, made a wonderful addition to the photos.

After 3 hours on the water, we had to return to the ship for lunch, which none of us were really interested in. Some of the blokes urgently had to return to the ship (!!) so it was back to the gang-plank and lunch was served soon after.

8. Portal Point, Antarctic Peninsula, our last landing on this driest continent in the world

At 2.30pm the zodiacs were once again lowered into the water. This time the weather had change. I was lightly snowing and was overcast. This did not deter us from going on our next excursion.

Portal Point was a rocky beach landing, met by fur seals and several Weddell Seals. The One Ocean staff had done a reconnaissance as usual, to mark out a safe path for a hike up the hill and over to the opposite side of the island. As soon as we got there, we saw 2 whales (mother and calf) having a wonderful time feeding close to the shore.

We then made our way up to the top of the heavily snow-covered hill for yet another spectacular view. We continued saying ‘can it get better than this’. It wasn’t a difficult or long trek in comparison to others we had made on this expedition. A few of us had a snow-ball fight which was great fun. There was plenty of soft snow around.

John our historian told us a story of the old building foundations on site which was really interesting.

After a good look around, we hopped back in the zodiac. We were going to go straight back to the ship even though the snow had stopped falling, but on the way back, the 2 whales that were feeding along the shore when we arrived, decided to show up again in the open waters. We stayed with the mother and calf for over 30 minute then the cold and time beat us, so we returned to the ship.

That night there was a charity auction for several of the environmental research NGOs associated with the Antarctic. There was a good mixture of items for sale, including a beautifully decorated nautical map of Antarctica, decorated by one of the hospitality staff. It was beautiful and went for $1,000. We bought a beautiful photograph (way cheaper than that!). The ship provided Champaign and cheese all of which was before dinner was served.

After dinner, one of the staff did a presentation on her research into guerrillas in Gabon which was very interesting. It was then the end of another packed day and an evening we were slept very well.

Additional photos below
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