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01/11/2009

Cierva Cove, Mikkelsen Harbour and Deception Island

Minerva steamed northwards through the night and anchored in Cierva Cove for a morning's zodiac cruise. The sea was calm and the sun came out to shine on a wonderland of stranded icebergs and ice floes set in a sparkling blue sea with the white cliffs of glacier fronts behind. However, the cruise was made especially memorable by the whales that were feeding near the ship and could be approached, without causing alarm. It is not easy to report on a zodiac cruise because each of the 10 boats has a different experience. Some had close encounters with minke whales while another was visited by an inquisitive leopard seal that craned its neck to peer into the boat.

The next stop on our slow return to civilisation was Mikkelsen Harbour, a sheltered bay where whaling factory ships moored in the 1920s to carry out their grisly business. The shore was littered with a tangle of huge bones which are all that remain of giant blue whales that were slaughtered nearly a century ago. There were also good photo opportunities for Weddell seals and a young elephant seal, as well as the gentoo penguins which are now so familiar.

A brisk four hours steaming brought us to Deception Island after dinner for our last landing. This is the flooded caldera of a volcano that forms a large protected harbour once used by sealers and whalers. It is now the venue for the strange ritual of the Antarctic Hot-tub. Despite the late hour, some hardy souls went ashore to immerse themselves in seawater heated by volcanic activity.
 

   

There was a lot of ice in Cierva Cove during our morning zodiac tour.

There were three Minke Whales in Cierva Cove and most zodiac groups were able to see them!

Historian Bob Burton and Marine Mammologist Sean Todd talk to a group of guests on Mikklesen Island about the days of whaling.

A young elephant seal was resting on Mikklesen Island.

Our last stop in Antarctica was Deception Island where many of the intrepid guests took to the warm waters.


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