Whales, penguins, and seals – oh my!

Last week, the Antarctica expedition went through the Drake passage and reached Antarctica. Sid, an AC from Delhi, writes about what he’s seen so far.

penguins1

Penguins sighted last week during the 2041 expedition

Hi everyone!

I was initially supposed to write this post on Wednesday. However, I spent most of Monday and Tuesday MIA due to the effects of the Drake Passage (a rather medieval torture device). I decided to write on Friday instead, so my entry would reflect something other than my newfound friendship with the bed in cabin 335.

The last couple of days have been absolutely surreal. The moment the waters calmed down, the sun shone through and the wildlife emerged. (I’d like to believe this was all in preparation for my return to the deck). Five minutes after I walked onto the deck, we had a whale sighting. And what a sighting it was – the whales seemed to love the attention and kept on reappearing above the surface. We also got to see one of the whales perform a “breach” (a pretty crazy 180° turn while jumping out of the water).

Soon after the whales, we came across a couple of seals just chilling on the icy rocks, and then a few penguins swimming around. We thought that we had probably exhausted our good luck for the day. We were ready to head inside when we passed two large penguin colonies. All in all, it was a pretty good way to get back into the swing of things.

When we woke up bright and early the next morning, we were treated to some wonderful views as we entered the Antarctic Peninsula. However, due to the storms that had earlier made the Drake Passage pretty rough, a large amount of ice was choking up the Lemaire Channel that we needed to cross through. Thanks to the awesome skills of the ship’s Captain, we made it through without too much of a problem. But I won’t lie – there were a couple of discussions regarding a ship that had been stuck in the ice for a month earlier this year.

A view of ice from the ship

A view of ice from the ship

We all then trooped out into the Zodiacs (inflatable rubber boats) and cruised around in the adjacent areas. We encountered a leopard seal within minutes that repeatedly swam up really close to our Zodiacs and presented us with some great photo ops. We then moved on and passed some crab-eater seals, as well as a Weddell seal (which is apparently rarely sighted). Through all this, the icebergs and glaciers provided a beautiful and imposing backdrop.

Cruising in a Zodiac

Cruising in a Zodiac

After lunch on the ship, we returned to the Zodiacs and made our way to Port Charcot (which has an interesting history, look it up!). The weather was incredible. I was literally wearing fewer clothes than I would in the typical Delhi winter. We got an incredible view from the top of the hill. On the way down, we spent some time near a few flocks of penguins and got some great close up views.

While the wildlife and the scenery has been great, we need to give a shout out to the other expedition members as well – they’ve been absolutely awesome, and it’s an amazing mix across fields, ages, and geographies. We’ve got a pretty packed day tomorrow, and we will head out in the evening to camp out on the ice. That promises to be pretty epic, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot to tell about that!

– Sid

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