January 1, 2013 – Neko Harbor, Cuverville Island
Posted on January 2nd, 2013
Temperature: 34° F
Wind speed: 10 knots
Cloud cover: 100%
Precipitation: Mostly clear, with occasional snow
We had a reasonably civilized start time this morning, considering that some of us were still in the pool in the early morning hours celebrating New Years Eve. The cold air greatly helped the wake up process, and soon we found ourselves speeding ashore in a Zodiac bound for Cuverville Island.
The gentoo penguins at Cuverville have received a lot of visitors over the years, so the nearly 5,000 breeding pairs tend to be downright welcoming and quite the opposite of skittish. We watched their behavior closely, noticing how the gentoos constantly add stones to their rock pile nests while attempting to steal stones from the nests of others.
Naturalist Russ Manning led a hike up to the top of the island to get a view over the iceberg-scattered sea to the mountains and glaciers beyond. It was quite strenuous walking up the steep snow covered slope, and by the time we reached the top most of us had shed our red parkas to cool off. Being at the top of the 800-foot cliff was exhilarating, and we felt as though we were on top of the world!
Before heading back to the ship, we took a short Zodiac ride around the bay where water-sculpted icebergs and penguins darted back and forth under the boat. Back on ‘Le Boreal,’ we warmed up over a barbeque lunch as Captain Etienne Garcia took the ship through the very scenic Errera Channel en route to our afternoon stop at Neko Harbor.
Once ashore, many of us decided to make the hike to the ridgeline above, but were pleasantly distracted by the charismatic gentoo penguins nesting in small clusters along the way. Once past the penguins, we ascended a steep snow-covered hill and cut back to a rock outcropping from which we could see Anvord Bay in its entirety. It was a sight to behold! Many of the hikers rested their legs on the way back to the shore by sliding down the snow-covered slope.
Down below, we sat and watched the penguins, and absorbed the scene in its entirety. A massive glacier with cerulean blue crevasses cascaded down to the sea adjacent to the boulder-strewn beach. Gentoo penguins loafed along the shoreline and made the perfect subjects for photography.
Back on board ‘Le Boreal,’ we met up for the evening recap, during which historian Bob Burton spoke about the discovery of Antarctica, and ornithologist Patricia Silva had us laughing with her study of Red Jacket Albies.
After dinner, a call came from the bridge that a mother and calf humpback whale were just in front of the ship. We grabbed cameras and headed outside to have a look. The calf frequently rolled over onto its back, and its white belly glowed green in the phytoplankton rich water.
The swell picked up slightly as we entered the open waters of Bransfield Strait, which we would cross during the night en route to the Drake Passage. We secured our cabins for open water and headed off for a good night’s rest.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist