After our experience with the whales we continued onwards to the next stop of the day – Paradise Harbour.

The weather stayed beautiful and I was still all mixed up because of the earlier encounter.

Paradise Harbour was a split landing again. I went to shore first and just laid in the sun and digested the last days. It was so warm in the sun that I truly regraded not taking my shorts with me. Broke the first Viking Rule: “Always be prepared”! This should not happen again 😉

Bearded man in sun on ice, photo by Anja

On the way back we cruised through the bay and watched the glaciers calve. The reflections and the ice formations are just mind-blowing. Just a few expressions.

 

Weddel Seal

 

We reached the southernmost point of our journey close to 64 degrees south.

We experienced a very beautiful sunset and went to bed early. Exhausted and happy. The only question of course arose – what more could possibly happen now after the whale encounter?

 

We woke up on the next day and the incredibility just continued. Portal Point was our next stop. The storm system did its thing in the Drake Passage and we got this again. We spent some time on the island enjoying the view. And after that we cruised in the bay in the zodiacs. The bay was basically an iceberg graveyard full with small and big icebergs. The light was just amazing, the sun was out and bright and the blue and white of the ice and water was incredible.

 

 

 

We also had some great animal encounters. The absolute white Snow Petrel.

And then we saw another Leopard Seal. He apparently was in a recent fight and had fresh marks on his belly. But what a beautiful and dangerous animal at the same time. What a beauty.

 

 

And a few more iceberg impressions. And be sure – you only have the highlights. So far I have already filled to 32GB cards with photos – probably about 4,000. So I also sit here almost every evening going through them and trying to sort out the good ones and delete a lot at the same time.

 

The evening was reserved for a zodiac cruise in Foyn Harbour. We approached the bay and there were Humpback Whales everywhere already. Of course expectations were insanely and unrealistically high. Everybody wanted to get close to the giants again. So everybody was early on the gangway to have the most possible time on the zodiacs. We were again so lucky to get close to the whales. Well, it feels wrong to say that it still almost felt like a disappointment that the whales only came up to about 30m and had no interest in us whatsoever. No they were feeding and you could actually see them building up the bubble nets – they dive down and create a net of air bubbles which trap schools of fish or krill and then they dive into the schools from below with their open jaws to catch huge amounts of fish. An incredible spectacle – but still everyone was secretly hoping for them to come closer… Of course, it did not happen.

 

 

Another amazing day ended in this amazing spot. Lenticular clouds showed the existence of high and strong winds – but we still didn’t feel anything. But of course everyone was getting a bit concerned of the Drake Passage. The last cruise got into a big storm with 10-12m waves which apparently was no fun at all. But so far no signs.

 

We left the Antarctic Peninsula and went north. Next stop Shetland Islands, Half Moon Bay. Our second last stop on the journey. We could see more clouds now but with the sun the atmosphere was just stunning. And we were in the middle of a Chinstrap Penguin colony.

 

I went to the other side of the bay and actually sat down to meditate a bit, trying to think about the last three weeks. There were a lot of thoughts around this trip. Why, how, wow and much more and of course the question what next. Life has been easy the last weeks because everything was organised and you just had to follow orders. Now I am back in the uncertainty. I definitely want some time in my tent in the mountains soon. And while I was sitting their trying to clear all of this to have a moment of peace in my head I was first woken up by Dietmar who saved me from a fur seal attack and then we were witnesses of a successful leopard seal hunt. It first caught one Chinstrap Penguin and then a second one. Unfortunately a very bloody game – they strip the penguin from the skin by holding on to parts and then throwing it around until it is “peeled”. Part of nature but still not nice to watch. Especially since the Leopard Seal also played with the penguin for a while after it had caught it. I guess you don’t want a close encounter with one of them when they are hungry.

Next and last stop: Deception Island. It’s a big collapsed volcano crater which has an opening and is accessible by ship. But the most important part of the stop: the polar swim. So we walked around for a bit.

And then it was time to swim! Because of Deception Island still having a bit of volcanic action going on there is hot water flowing into the sea from the beach. So it is very deceptive because after a few meters it gets really cold. Normal water temperature in the area is +2C; so it was probably a bit warmer than that but based on certain “indicators” after the swim not a lot… 😂

So the ones who wanted to do it just stripped down ran in and usually came out very quickly again. But a good fun. And my swimming shorts actually also got some proper usage on the trip!

 

Cooooooooold!

We also had time for some fun – and Nacho, one of the guides, was prepared for the worst.

And after the swim it was time to say good bye. The last stop and the last time foot on Antarctica – for now. We sailed out of Deception Island into the open water and the Drake’s Passage. The last passage was apparently heavy and very stormy. We were just really lucky again and the two days passed by without any major incidents. We had a few further lectures but there was a lot of time to talk to all the “fellow expedition members” (how they were called by David the expedition guide) and try to understand what just had happened. I also tried to work on the pictures and the blog but the time was not enough. It’s really amazing how quickly a day can pass by.

A quick side not when it comes to pictures. We had the pleasure to have Dietmar Denger on board, a professional photographer who takes amazing pictures and was supposed to take pictures for Oceanwide Expedition’s new catalogue. Dietmar openly shared all his knowledge about photography with me, gave me tons of tips, let me glimpse through is lenses, showed me his perspective and also infected me with some photo editing skills. It’s great to experience people who openly share their knowledge and ideas and not making a big secret out of it. Thank you so much again Dietmar for the great inspiration!

Photo by Dietmar Denger

Well and as all of this had not been enough on the second last day we were informed that we would also make a little stop at the Cape Horn. When we approached the Cape we were suddenly surrounded by a pot of dolphins following the ship and just enjoying themselves jumping around and surfing backwards on their flippers. Well, coincidence or destiny but it felt like “nature” was saying “Goodbye” to us.

 

 

We circled around the Cape Horn very closely with the permission of the Chilean military base and made our way back into the Beagle Channel and to Ushuaia where we disembarked the Plancius again. It felt weird to go off board since it also meant we had to take care of our lives again now – no more organised program, meals and entertainment. Comfort zones shift so quickly… 😂

What can I say. It has been again one of the most amazing experiences ever!

A big “Thank You” to the amazing crew who sailed us safely over 6,000km through rough and calm waters. The guides David, Cecilia, Kasper, Katja, Lydie, Moniek, Nacho &Tobias who took care of us on our excursions and also shared a lot of fun with us in between and at the bar. You guys and girls rock! 🤘 Thanks to the entire rest of the crew with a special note to Heidi and Cherry who kept us hydrated during the cruise – mange tak!

 

Thank you to my favourite room mate Andrej, “The Russian”, for being such a great sport and constantly making me laugh over your dry jokes! Will never forget the “Russian-Austrian” connection and will probably always crack up from now on when I hear the word “Bahnhof”. Thank you Anja and Jo for being my little family on board! 😘 I had so much fun with you and I miss you already. Really have to hold on to myself not to slap random people on the street in the penguin style. “Schwimmnudel” forever girls!

Jo, Mr. Beard, Anja and my room mate Andrej

And of course however you can say thank you to nature for what it gives to us. I have always had a very close relationship to animals and nature. To experience these amazingly close encounters were extremely touching and amazing. It’s hard to put in words. But these creatures who usually only experience bad from humans just came up to us to interact, play, encounter and were full of curiosity for nothing more than our admiration and curiosity on the other side as well. Thank you for making this journey such an incredible one. My deepest admiration and love to all of you fascinating beings out there…

The End of an amazing journey. Thank you Antarctica.

Trip details:
Tour Operator: Oceanwide-Expedition
Expedition: Falkland Islands – South Georgia – Antarctic Peninsula, 20 day cruise
Agency: ExpeditionTrips (Ask for Jennifer – she was an amazing help in the short term organisation!)

 

 

 

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