I remember (from the 1990s) a book* of stunning Antarctic watercolours by NZ Artist David Barker and it seems we woke up in one. The clear water and muted light, thanks to that cloud, created a watercolour palette, absent of harsh sun glare, as we glided into the first landing spot of the day. My only rostered activity was not until after dinner, but there was plenty to see and do before then.
Neko Harbour Landing
The morning ashore at Neko Harbour was a chance to see more penguins, you can never see too many!, don snowshoes again or just enjoy the calm.
I didn't know, until researching this post, Neko is not from Japanese** but a Scottish whaling boat, the Neko, which operated in the area between 1911 and 1924. I'm sure we were probably told this but it had escaped my memory!
If you tired of looking at the bay, a 90° turn revealed rush hour commuters on the penguin highway against a background of bergs and towering ice cliffs.
After you, no, after you, no, after you...
The rookeries are busy, parenting, rock stealing for nests and (it seems) lots of pooing.
Lost, just a feather, not a buried penguin!
The Zodiaks were taking the long way back to the ship, touring and exploring the coast and ice flows.
And we're off, the ship repositioned for the afternoon landing while we had lunch.
The cruises between landings are spectacular. No wind and mirror calm sea under high cloud cover on the way to our afternoon stop; Danco Island.
There is a lot of work and skill supporting the excursions. The ship has ten Zodiaks which makes landings very efficient.
Launching the Zodiaks sometimes means dodging passing icebergs which do their own thing even in seas as calm as this. The tides are modest (~1m) but there is still a lot of water on the move, carrying with it tonnes of ice.
Several boat loads of gear are taken ashore including Survival Kits. They have short term essentials, gear, nutrition etc in case we can not get back to the ship.
So far, thankfully, they have only been used as snowshoe fitting seats.
Bags of 'guidance poles' to mark safe walk routes and no-go areas.
Finally, the people. Zodiaks and outboards get a tough time; sometimes driving through broken ice (hard as rock) and enduring rocky shore landings. Was told of, but didn't see, a chrome 'broken prop trophy' awarded to the Zodiak skipper if they damage a propeller.
You have to wear a life jacket on the Zodiak and must put it in a big bag when you land. It means if, on departure, there is a jacket left in the bag someone is still ashore. Another subtle way, in addition to the ship swipe in/out, of checking nobody is left behind. Below 'Clouds' and the ever present observer penguins supervise a landing.
I headed up the hill to capture another amazing view.
Even with snow shoes walking in soft snow was an effort
But these little fellows do it too
Coming up this far evades hunting seals but not all predators.
Skua are constantly on the lookout for eggs, chicks or sick adults/carcases for their dinner.
It is hard to convey the scale of these landscapes; capturing our climbers trekking my best attempt.
This is taken from the same spot, camera zoomed out, and that row of dots mid-frame is them!
Time to head back to the ship for a rather special dinner.
Barbeque on the heli-deck
While we had fun the hotel crew had been busy cooking a lovely BBQ dinner. It was great but, unfortunately, I had to rush to be ready for a very special activity; overnight camping on ice departing at 20:00. Because everyone had made the most of the day (late back) campers got priority in the dinner line, an upgrade!, but I still only had about 30 minutes to dine and run.
Day 5 – 28th November 2019 | Neko Harbour and Danco Island (Kerr Point, Camping)
GPS position at 0800: 64°50.7 S 62°32.4 W | Air Temp: 8°C | Wind: NW1 | Sea state: Calm
* In 'Antarctica: An artist's logbook' (published 1991) New Zealand (British born) artist David Barker joined a 1988 Pelagic Antarctic Expedition to the Antarctic Peninsular as the official expedition artist. Best known for superb maritime landscape paintings he was also a talented yacht designer who built large (up to 18m) advanced race/cruise catamarans in the 1980s. I can't recall where I saw this book, probably a library, but found a second hand copy in a Wanganui Bookshop (Biblio is a wonderful thing!)
** Once had an adopted stray cat called Neko (Japanese word for cat), suggested by a Japanese friend as I was just calling him 'Cat'.