Friday – December 14, 2012 –
How do you beat yesterday seeing a humpback whale only feet away from you? We were looking forward to finding out. Today was going to be our last day at the Antarctic peninsula. This morning after breakfast, we were excited about two kayaking sessions.
During the morning session, Jeff and I both went kayaking at Cierva Cove. It was great to be kayaking again and I was surprised how much I missed it after not going on Thursday. During this kayak tour, we wouldn’t be able to land our kayaks at Cierva Cove because of the fragile ecosystem and moss.
While we saw large sea ice yesterday, today we saw a lot of monumental icebergs. Some appeared brilliantly white while others gleamed blue or gray as the light above them constantly changed. Even more beautiful were the glacier-lined mountains of the peninsula rising behind them as the sun appeared.
As we paddled along the bay, we saw a number of chinstrap penguins swim up to check us out. They really made us feel welcome at Cierva Cove, our last stop on the Antarctic peninsula itself.
After heading back to the Akademik Sergei Vavilov, we ate lunch as the ship cruised across the Gerlache Strait to Mikkelsen Harbor. I had read quite a bit about this beautiful harbor, so I expected it to be spectacular.
The scenery at Mikkelsen Harbor, located on the south end of Trinity Island, was absolutely stunning. I couldn’t believe how deep the glaciers and icefields were here. I have seen deep glaciers in Alaska, Alberta, Norway and Argentina, but these were a entirely different ballgame. Some of them were probably a couple of thousand feet deep!
This was our longest kayak session of the trip – about three hours long. We launched on a small island and peered up at the massive glaciers which seemed to go on forever as we kayaked along the shore of the bay. We watched several glaciers surrounding Mikkelsen Harbor calve as we paddled around a lot of floating ice.
Then the sun came out, and suddenly the glacier-covered bay turned extremely bright. Jeff became a little hot because he had overdressed under his wetsuit, so he was toasty. It’s always a delicate balance. We finished our kayaking by beaching at a penguin colony with arctic terns and penguins diving around us for food. A couple of our Aussie friends were celebrating their honeymoon and the crew surprised them with champagne on a private table and island to celebrate.
After having fun with the gentoo penguins, we took the Zodiac boats back to the Akademik Sergei Vavilov. On board we had a great four-course dinner in the dining room to satisfy our huge appetites. Tonight it was goodbye to the Antarctic continent as we sailed across the Bransfield Strait to the South Shetland Islands.