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Published: March 1st 2018
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in the water… Its substance reaches everywhere; it touches the past, and prepares the future.” Lorne Eisley
There was a partial eclipse of the sun visible from the outer decks. Although the event was nowhere near as dramatic as a total solar eclipse, it was still quite the spectacle as half the sun vanished behind our lonely moon. A hundred folk came outside to brave the winds of the wild southern seas to witness this Antarctic eclipse. After a few moments it was over, the sun returned to its normal splendour and shone unimpeded until it set. Most folk went back inside to the comforts of a warm ship, but some did not. Many guests stand out on the decks for hours every day searching for the ever elusive marine mammals that inhabit these southern extremes. I find myself out on the decks as much as I can. Wind, rain, snow - it doesn’t matter. I search for whale blows and seabirds as we venture across the water. I love the wind in my face, I love the salt spray from the swells, I love the rewards.
There were Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Sei Whales, Minkes and Orca, and a decent sighting of a Blue Whale and its towering column-like blow.
The whales are everywhere - but you have be out in the elements to see these amazing creatures that live in our mighty oceans…
It was 05:50 and gloomy. Standing on the deck I saw a black body fairly close to the ship - there was no dorsal fin. I had to second guess myself - could it really be. It rose again, this time I noticed the massive V-shaped blow. “It has to be”, I thought to myself. I announced to the few guests that were out and about. It surfaced one last time only a few metres from the ship, its unmistakeable rostrum and rotund body was revealed to us an fine fashion. I was ecstatic!
My first ever Southern Right Whale! Like many whales, we know relatively little about these giants, there are no estimates of their population, but it is likely to be only a few thousand, restricted only to the southern seas. This sighting was hundreds of nautical miles south of the normal range. Amazing animal…
I still have that mental image of the barnacled rostrum (the upper jaw) emerging from the deeps, that arched lower jaw with slightly visible baleen
plates, and that massive dark back without a dorsal. A classic, text book image of these seldom seen marine mammals…
South of the Antarctic Circle (or ‘Antarctic Line’ for Flat-Earth believers) we ran into a pretty impenetrable blanket of sea-ice covering the entirety of Hanusse Bay. We skirted the edge and explored. Again the richness of sea creatures was overwhelming - this time they were our feathered friends. Adelies, Gentoos, Chinstraps, and an abundance of the lesser-known birds, Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Antarctic Skuas. Life clings to these remarkable regions - this is an utterly inhospitable land to us.
It is incredible…
Each season, I delve deeper and deeper into this ‘last continent’, an uninhabited landmass at the end of the planet. I have the luxury of seeing many of the same sights again and again, allowing me to explore different parts of those places. I love the Melchior Islands in Dallmann Bay. They’re are all named after Greek letters, there’s even ‘Alphabet Passage’ that separates Eta and Omega. Each time we go to the Melchiors I explore a different Island - Omicron and Pi are my favourites. We also take
the expedition into uncharted territory, new surroundings and new sites for all of us. This is the real Antarctica…
“Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion. And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore…” Apsley Cherry-Gerrard.
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