Our senior travel advisor is reflecting on the imminent end of their remarkable Antarctic trip, but the fun wasn’t over just yet. In their latest journal entries on their Antarctica holidays, WILDFOOT’s intrepid traveller looks back on their final landing site and some highly inspiring lectures.
I woke to the startling fact that this was going to be a last full day of activities as tonight we would head north to start our return journey over Drake Passage. This morning’s landing was at Yankee Harbour, on the south-western side of Greenwich Island which is known for its nesting gentoo penguins. It is thought that over 4,000 pairs now call its well developed, raised–beach terraces home and as was becoming habit with this trip, we struck lucky again with many chicks already on display. Previously we had only seen very young chicks (a couple of days old) however here they seemed much further advanced with our ornithologist estimating that some might be almost a month old, which was quite surprising considering how early in the season it was. There were also some juvenile elephant seals to be seen wallowing near the water’s edge.
During lunch we sailed a short distance to Half Moon Island, which was sadly to be our last landing site. As the name suggests it is a crescent shaped island and offers wonderful views of the picturesque mountains and glaciers of nearby Livingstone Island. It is a favoured site amongst the expedition vessels as it has a large chinstrap rookery and the serrated and crevassed cliffs are also home to Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills and Wilson’s storm petrels, all of which we managed to get good looks of. As the afternoon lingered to a close and we were ushered back to the zodiacs for the last time, there was a definite sadness amongst us all. It was hard to comprehend that this wonderful adventure was rapidly drawing to a close and that we would shortly be waving this magical white continent goodbye.
By the time we woke we were well into the Drake and there was a light swell and a little wind. Much of today was spent flittering between the various lectures that were being offered and spending time out on deck looking for seabirds and cetaceans. I strongly recommend going to as many lectures as possible, the expedition teams are always a fountain of knowledge on these sorts of voyages and some of them will even do talks about their personal experiences which are just awe inspiring. For example, our assistant expedition leader, Marta, joined a sailing expedition across Drake Passage to Antarctica in 2013 whilst Jonathan overwintered in Antarctica at two different research stations. In terms of birdlife, we had an escort of Wilson’s storm petrels, black-browed albatrosses and sooty shearwaters for much of the day, on occasion they were joined by an imperial shag or a wandering albatross.
As the day progressed the waves increased and consequently the numbers at meal times decreased, but this is all a part of the experience. I genuinely believe that without a bit of ‘rock and roll’ on Drake Passage you haven’t earnt the splendour that is Antarctica, it goes hand in hand!