: It was a gorgeous morning as guests departed the ship by zodiac for their first landing in Antarctica!
Guests were able to observe and photograph thousands of Adelie penguins on Paulet Island.
Undisturbed by the Le Boreal, three Adelies rest on an ice floe.
A Weddell seal looks curiously at us as we pass by on our zodiac tour.
A beautiful blue iceberg is a dramatic backdrop to a lone Adelie penguin on ice.
Paulet Island, Erebus and Terror Gulf
Quite a few hardy souls set their alarms for the 3am sunrise, and awoke to a peaceful and beautiful scene in the western reaches of the ice-choked Weddell Sea. After breakfast, we found ourselves skirting across calm seas on a zodiac towards the landing at Paulet Island, where Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs briefed us on our first landing here in Antarctica.
Before we even stepped off the zodiac, we became well aware of what 100,000 pairs of nesting Adelie penguins means. A sometimes faint (sometimes not) smell of guano was in the air, and the penguin traffic on the beach was like rush hour in most 21st century cities. The feeling of Antarctic solitude was broken only by the courtship calls of penguins, and the click of cameras.
We stood and admired the remains the hut used by Carl Anton Larson and his men, whose ship (Antarctic) was crushed in the ice 40 km to the east, forcing them to overwinter here in 1903. The walls of the hut now serve as nesting platforms for a few pairs of Adelie penguins. Perhaps these raised nesting sites are prime real estate, their extra height serving to keep the snow from piling up and melt water from flooding the nests.
Along the beach we encountered a Weddell seal, lounging away the day in preparation for a night of feeding. Up past the ruins of Larson's hut, we came to a crater lake with penguins nesting on all slopes around it. Many of us spent time just sitting on a rock, watching this magnificent penguin colony unfold before our eyes.
During lunch, Captain Jean-Philippe Lemaire took the ship southwest through Erebus and Terror Gulf. It was a sight to behold, and no more quintessential an Antarctic scene could be imagined! Sea ice peppered with giant icebergs loomed ahead of the ship, all contrasting with a deep blue sky. Many of us ate outside in the glorious sunshine where, out of the wind, the temperature was quite warm.
During the late afternoon, Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs made the call that we would be lowering the zodiacs for a tour through the ice. We layered up and, before we knew it, we were out in the thick of it. The zodiac drivers wove in and out of the ice, and we stopped to look at the magnificent shapes, colors and textures. The surreal scenery was interrupted only by the occasional flash of white from a snow petrel careening in front of the zodiac.
We arrived back on the ship and prepared ourselves for Recap, where Geologist Colin Summerhayes spoke about the ocean currents in this area, and Ornithologist Patricia Silva spoke about the character of the day: the Adelie Penguin. Over dinner, the ship proceeded back north into Antarctic Sound, and we kept an eye out the windows so we wouldn't miss a single iceberg or the ever-changing light. By the time we climbed into bed, Le Boreal was approaching the open water of the Bransfield Strait, en route to tomorrow's stops in the South Shetland Islands.