Tuesday 30 December 2014

December 30 - King George Island, Bransfield and Gerlache Strait

We arrived off Frei base about 4:30 AM and Iggy, Robin and Chris took care of the medivac, with the plan arriving as scheduled at 6:30 AM. We were soon on our way back south.  It was extremely lucky that the weather was so good, there were no visibility problems for the plane and everything went very smoothly.  
Chilean base Frei on King George Island.
Scheduled lectures went ahead and the recap from last night was given at 11. Passengers were told the plan for today was to head straight down the Bransfield Strait, through the Gerlache with the expectation of being off Paradise Bay early tomorrow morning for zodiac operations starting at 5 AM!  (for us that means a wake-up time of 4:30, but the zodiac drivers will be up around 3 AM).

Rory Martin (one of the zodiac drivers) in the zodiac storage area.
In the meantime... we headed south to spectacular views, including views of the 2000 m peaks of the peninsula.  We passed a few hump back whales, then more, then more....   then we went dead slow near a group of about 6 - 8 humpbacks that were bubble netting.   We watched them for about 30 minutes, then headed on-ward.  
Two of the numerous hump backs around the ship.
 Those of us on deck headed back to our rooms only to be called back to the deck half and hour later as a large iceberg with penguins was spotted and the captain brought us very close.  We watched the penguins shoot out of the water, as they clawed their way to the upper surface of the iceberg.

Chin Strap Penguins on an iceberg that had rolled - not mountains of the peninsula in the sunshine.

We then headed back to our cabins.  Maria now has enough paintings completed and formatted for sale that they were put on display in the shop and she will have a little "opening" tomorrow afternoon. We headed up to take a picture or two. 

Maria with her paintings.

We then headed out on deck and we were surrounded by whales.  I counted at least 14 at the surface around the rear of the ship.  It was very surreal. The ship is going fairly slowly, there is virtually no wind, the peaks rise precipitously out of the sea blanketed in massive amounts of ice - and there are all these whales, breaching, blowing, and swimming through the landscape. Amazing!!

Although not very visible in the photo, the foreground has more than a dozen whales surfacing.

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