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12/31/2008

Paradise Bay, Lemaire Channel and Pleneau Island


In the morning the Minerva sailed into Paradise Bay and we landed at the unmanned Argentine station Almirante Brown, named for a man who founded the Argentine navy during the war of independence from Spain. This was our continental landing and we trudged up a steep snow slope to get an amazing view of the glaciers, mountains and icebergs of Paradise Bay. There were some gentoos nesting around the buildings and it was great fun to observe their comical behaviour.

Before heading back tot the ship we had a zodiac cruise along the coast which revealed cliffs of amazingly contorted strata and colourful lichens, with nesting Antarctic terns, cape petrels and blue-eyed shags. There were leopard seals resting on bits of ice and we cruised along the edge of incredible glaciers.

After lunch we enjoyed the spectacular scenery as we cruised through the Lemaire Channel. This area is nicknamed Kodiak gap because of its sheer beauty of immense rocky cliffs surrounding a very narrow channel. It was flat calm and the mountains reflection on the waters surface was breathtaking. Everyone was out on deck trying to take it all in.

The last outing of the day was a zodiac cruise around Pleneau Island. This area is known as an iceberg graveyard because it is so shallow and we saw many different shapes and sizes of bergs. We also saw a crabeater resting on a small iceberg and another leopard seal.

The zodiacs raced back to the ship just in time for the special New Year’s Eve dinner and the evening’s festivities. After dinner we were treated to a wonderful classical piano recital by the Chief Purser Peter Burkhard in the Shackleton’s Bar. Then fellow guest Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, who is the star of Animal Planet’s Emergency Vets, performed a hysterical comedy routine in the Darwin Lounge. Kevin had everyone in stitches when he was interrupted by someone shouting out “killer whales”. We raced out on deck for a quick look at a small pod of killer whales just off the ship. Whales pretty much trump everything on this expedition!

Just before midnight we gathered back in the lounge, which was wonderfully decorated by our Chief Housekeeper Ann and our nurse Helen, to enjoy the end of Kevin’s show and to countdown to the New Year. The party lasted into the wee hours of the morning as the Minerva continued to sail through fantastic scenery.

   

We first landed on the actual continent of Antarctica at an Argentinean base called Almirante Brown.

While on a zodiac tour of Paradise Bay, a leopard seal was seen resting on an ice floe.

The weather was absolutely perfect for our transit of the stunningly picturesque Lemaire Channel.

During our zodiac tour of Pleneau Bay, many icebergs of amazing shapes and sizes were seen.

Guests rang in the New Year with a dance party in the Darwin Lounge!


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