Antarctic Peninsula – Update #3

My Antarctic adventure has come to an end and what as adventure it’s been. Since returning to sea to cross the Drake Passage and return to the Antarctic Peninsula, the weather has been unbelievably nice. The wind has died and the sun has been high in the sky rapidly accelerating the growth of the sea born algae turning the ocean from what had been clear blue waters, to a soupy green.

But it’s this change that partly brings the wildlife here and the whales have been a dominant part of our story. We’ve been privileged to kayak next to several humpback whales and witness pods of 20-25 of them breaching and feeding. We’ve also briefly seen the elusive orcas and minke whales and looked into the eyes of a massive adult male leopard seal as he charged us. The changes to the young animals has been amazing to witness especially the penguins and cormorants that now have chicks almost as tall as their parents but still covered in their fledgling coats and reliant on their parents for food.

The kayaking has also become very interesting. We managed to complete a circumnavigation of an island in the Melchior’s we’ve been eyeing. Still frozen with fast ice on the narrow back side of the island, we decided to drag our kayaks across the ice in an exposed glacial canyon and make our way around the 30 or so seals in our way, including at least one leopard seal, one of the primary predators down here. The Lamaire Channel has also remained blocked by several icebergs the size of city blocks, which has jammed the less than kilometer wide channel to create fast moving dynamic conditions for the ice. When you can no longer move forwards and can’t put your paddle in the water due to the density of ice, you are at its mercy and these conditions created by the massive jam at Lamaire have been the most difficult we’ve encountered as we tried several times to push south thru it.

We also celebrated the Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year at these lower latitudes, with a magnificent midnight exploration of Cierva Cove. The sun just grazed the horizon creating a vivid sunset that lasted for hours and sent the light playing across the ice that had taken up residence in the bay.

But now my adventure has sadly come to a close and I must head home. This place has had a massive impact on me and I can only think of a handful of other places that have made such an impression. Its crazy to think that we’ve only really been exploring the Antarctic for a little over 100 years, and yet this is such an incredible point in the history of the largely untouched 7th continent for us to get intimately close to everything it has to offer by paddling our kayaks in this harsh yet beautiful environment.

I’d also like take this final opportunity to thank the Nantahala Outdoor Center for supporting my itch to explore Antarctica and for Aurora Expeditions, Al Bakker and Bob Powell for making it happen, along with the very long list of others that have played their part. Sincerely, thank you!

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