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02/05/2009

Neko Harbour and Cuverville

A fine day in Paradise! The weather could not have been better for our exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula. The sun shone out of blue skies and the strong winds of yesterday are a memory. The snow-covered mountains and glaciers of the mainland and the surrounding islands are breath-taking beautiful.

Our first destination was Neko Harbour, named after a whaling ship that anchored there in the 1920s. A sort run in the zodiacs took us to a pebble beach. This is the Antarctic mainland so it was a special landing for those who sought to claim their seventh continent. We were met by a swarm of gentoo penguins and a somnolent Weddell seal. For many of us the landing was simply a chance to take in the scenery and antics of the wildlife. For others the object was to climb a steep snow slope for a stunning view of the neighbourhood, looking across the sea to distant Mt. Françis the highest mountain in this region.

While we enjoyed a barbecue lunch on deck, Minerva relocated to Cuverville Island, a small island nestling among larger, ice-capped islands. It is notable for the profusion of green vegetation, notably extensive banks of mosses. The situation was much the same for the landing here except the hike to the 275 m / 815 ft top of the island was for the fitter and more adventurous. This was quite arduous as it involved ascending a steep snow slope. The rest of us spent the time watching gentoo penguins going about their business. Now we are more familiar with them, it is easier to appreciate the different aspects of their behaviour. On the way back to Minerva, the zodiacs deviated to cruise among the small icebergs stranded in the bay and spot leopard seals. And there was a surprise! Hiding behind a berg was another zodiac from which glasses of champagne were dispensed to celebrate the success of our Antarctic experience.

 

   

Neko Harbor, the tide water glacier in Andvord bay.

Snow algae on the slopes of Cuverville Island, this microscopic plant is what gives the pink hue to many snowfields during the Antarctic summer.

Cuverville is home to a large colony of Gentoo penguins.

It is also a very good place for that: 'I was there photograph'.

A surprise 'boat bar' was waiting for us in the middle of the icebergs for a champagne toast to Antarctica.


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