A slight technical problem with the blog. The Internet via satellite is a bit hit and miss. Although not as hit and miss as my attempts to upload my missives.
The problem is that having written the blog in Word, I open my blog page – except it doesn’t always work – the signals died. When I get a signal and the page open I copy and paste the piece in Word onto the blog page. And hit the “Publish” button. Nothing happens and I’m told there been an error and the page hasn’t been uploaded. So I try again, and again, and again ……until the blog is posted. Then I find that actually it has been posted again, and again, and again…. Hence the multi-postings in the past.
Today was our last day in Antarctica. We were scheduled to go back to the South Shetland Islands but because the seas were so calm it was decided to hang around the Paradise Bay area. At 6 am it was snowing very hard, the skies pretty dark and icebergs all around us. After breakfast the ship hauled up its anchor and we headed for Cuverville Island a few miles up the coast and through an iceberg-strewn channel. There we dropped anchor.
The morning programme was a Zodiac ferry to another penguin colony or kayaking. Except the kayaking was cancelled. Although the surface of the water was calm there was enough of a swell to make the boat pitch from side to side. Launching kayaks in such circumstances was deemed to be unsafe as there was a risk of falling between the boat and the kayak. So it was off to another poo splattered stink hole (I am seriously out of love with penguins). Anyway the trip was worth it, because from a penguin surrounded headland you could see whales diving as they swam out to sea. You then had a choice of going back to the boat or taking a Zodiac ride around the bay.
I chose the trip. We ended up being surrounded by three hump back whales. They slowly circled, getting closer and closer to the Zodiac. They’d open their blowholes and a spray of water would spurt out and then they’d dive tails out of the water. They’d disappear and then resurface even closer to us. People were beside themselves with excitement. All I could think of was Indians circling a wagon train and the description in “Moby Dick” of the white whale rising out of the water and smashing the whaling boat. It was a brilliant experience.
After lunch we again raised anchor and headed for Wilhelmina Bay a large glaciated bay. Again the afternoon’s kayaking session was cancelled because of the swell. To be replaced by a Zodiac cruise of the bay. Mountains surround the bay and the glaciers formed between the mountains went down to the water. There was a strip of white all the way around, with black rock and mountains rising up into the clouds. Icebergs of all sizes were there, all carved into curious shapes – one was so large that it had its own covering of clouds.
We went right up close to the shoreline and islands to watch fur seals dozing, fighting or just showing off their wonderful profiles. One followed us – or was he herding us out of his territory? There were loads of unidentifiable flying objects (birds) all around. We made a detour to an old metal wreak - the victim of a fire – it was a whaling factory ship so it burnt brightly as the blubber oil ignited. Amazingly no one died although $20 millions worth of oil was lost. In 1913 that was a tidy sum.
Our driver heard over his intercom that more whales had been sighted further out in the bay so we hammered out there. Travelling fast on a Zodiac can be hairy. He then shut off the engine as a couple of whales swam by. We hung around for a while before returning to M/S Expedition.
Once on board we headed out to sea, in the company of at least six seals. As we moved away from the shore I felt as if Antarctica having seen us off withdrew into herself, lowering a curtain of mist between us, the mountains and the immenseness of the Continent.
We are well and truly on our way home. We’re in open seas and heading for Drake’s Passage and the tip of Argentina and so to good old Blighty.