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03/07/2007

It was early morning expedition day on the 'Explorer II'. Ignacio gently woke us up at 6:00 am to call us out on deck to see 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. The Captain guided the ship through the bits of icebergs as the sun rose to shine a pink and yellow glow to the snow capped mountain peaks. 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 as we also had great looks at crabeater and leopard seals resting on the ice. We sailed the length of the seven-mile channel and then waited for two other small cruise ships to make their transit. While we waited we saw a humpback whale dive just off the ship's bow and then sailed back through the beautiful channel.

In the mid-morning we continued to sail through amazing scenery as we sailed through another narrow channel to have a ship cruise through aptly named Paradise Bay. We were surrounded by a blue sky, majestic mountain scenery and warm sunshine. We saw the Argentine station Almirante Brown where there was a maintenance crew worked on the buildings. We also viewed the amazingly contorted strata and colorful lichens, with nesting Antarctic terns, cape petrels and blue-eyed shags.

As the ship sailed towards our afternoon destination we enjoyed a special BBQ for lunch. Under ideal conditions we feasted out on the open decks while the 'Explorer II' Quartet played many old favorites and there was lots of dancing around the pool deck.

In the afternoon we had a landing at Neko Harbor which was our second continental landing of the trip. Once ashore we had the option of simply beach-combing near the landing site or walking slightly further along a well- marked trail up to an old Argentine refuge hut that was surrounded by molting gentoo penguin adults and chicks. Later on we wandered along the coast's edge towards the end of the beach where the glacier rests. It was such a still and peaceful afternoon and we could have stared at the beauty of the glacier for hours.

In the evening we had another lively dinner and then enjoyed the entertainment of the crew show. All and all a really fantastic way to end our time in this amazing part of the world!

   

Mt. Francais comes into sight with the rosy tint of an Antarctic dawn

We make an early morning passage of the famous Lemaire Channel

The promenade deck is wall-to-wall red parkas as we tour Paradise Bay

Our last landing is at Neko Harbor in Andvord Bay where a blue glacier tumbles down the mountain periodically dropping great chunks of brash into the bay

It has been a good year for the gentoo penguins and many young chicks line the shore exploring the shallow waters with unbounded enthusiasm


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