Last night I went back to my cabin and got ready for sleep. Then I looked out our window and noticed that the mountain peaks were reflected in the perfectly still water. So I had to get dressed again to go on deck and take a couple of photos before I could go to sleep.
Today has been another incredible day. We began our morning with an announcement from the staff to go out on the deck because we were going to be going through the Lemaire Channel. I think it only took me 2 minutes to put on all of my clothes.
The were telling us a story about these two peaks as we passed them, but I was too busy rushing to really hear it.
So I looked up the story on the web. Una Peaks, formerly known as Cape Renard Towers, are two towers of basalt, each topped by a cap of ice, guarding the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel on the Antarctic Peninsula. The were renamed, “Una’s Peakes” by UK Antarctic Place-names Committee in 2008 after Una Spivey, staff member of Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) at Stanley, Falkland Islands. With the highest summit at 747 meters (2,451 ft), the formation has been long colloquially known as “Una’s Tits.” Remind you of the Tetons?
Some facts about Lemaire Channel.
- The Lemaire Channel was first sighted by Eduardo Dallman in 1873 and then charted and traversed by Adrien de Gerlache in 1898.
- He named it for Charles Lemaire, a fellow Belgian, who explored the Congo for King Leopoldo III.
- Given the right weather, this eleven kilometer and 1.6 kilometer-wide channel is so strikingly beautiful that they call it “Kodak Crack.”
- The steep cliffs and glaciers of Booth Island to one side mirror the opposite shores of the Antarctic Peninsula.
- The clear waters gave extraordinary reflections of the mountains.
- It appears that four different mountain peaks are touching each other.
It was awe-inspiring to watch (and photograph) the skill of the captain as he maneuvered the ship through the icebergs.
I learned from the staff photographer to take photos from eye level. So I was on the floor of the deck holding my camera out through the rails of the deck. Both Morten and Fred took photos of me taking the video.
The sounds of ice crackling and crushing beneath us was amazing. The captain had to maneuver the ship towards one side and then the other in order to navigate through the narrow opening you can see in this 2 min 45 second video. Perhaps it will give you a feel for it.
As we got closer to the end of the channel, I was still video taping. People were talking so I turned off the sound. It looked like we were just going to drop off the earth when got to the end. My camera battery died before we finished going through the channel.
Sue, Wendy, Andy, Dorene and I had our photo taken on the deck in the channel.
The plan was to go through the channel and then do a landing on Petermann Island. But after we made it through the channel, they announced that Petermann Island was blocked by ice. So they turned the ship around and went back through the channel. They stopped the ship between Graham Land (which is actual continent) and Booth Island.
We saw this sailboat (a Ketch) named Ocean Tramp sailing through in the floating ice. I wondered if they had attempted Lemaire Channel.
It is hard to imagine they managed the Drake Passage in a ketch.
Then each group was taken on a 30 minute Polar Cruise rides. Andy, Sondra, Sue, and Dorene were having fun on their PolarCirkel boat.
Tessa, our expedition guide showed us how to tell the difference between glacier ice and ice that is formed on the water. Sea ice is frozen ocean water that grows and melts in the ocean. Icebergs, glaciers, and ice shelves float in the ocean but originate on land. Some have bubbles and some do not. There is also clear ice which is the most dangerous for ships because they cannot see it. We all took photos as Tessa showed us the samples.
See-through ice chunks are made from compressed glacier basal ice and are clean and pure enough to drink. The compressed air present in the ice bubbles away as it melts. This clear ice called a “Growler” and can be the size of a truck or a grand piano. They can extend t less than three feet above the sea surface and occupy an area of about 215 square feet. They are difficult to see and can be hazardous to ships.
Tessa gave a piece of this ice to Ann and she used it in her drink tonight. Ann said it was ice she had ever tasted.
We watched penguins swimming and a beautiful Seals resting on a sheet of ice. I think these are the Weddells.
We also saw a Crabeater Seal resting on some ice.
You can see in this photo how close they took our PolarCirkel boats to the icebergs.
We returned to the ship and Fred, Dawn, Rich, Bill, and I sat on a protected corner on the deck in the sun talking with another couple. It was so warm that we had to take our jackets off. Those four people have been so much fun. I am continually laughing when I am around them. When I look at the photo of Fred and me, I am stunned by the beauty of the mountain behind us.
We then traveled to Danko Island. We arrived at about 18:00. The expedition team went out to scout out and set up the hike for those of us who wanted to do it. While we were waiting in the observation room one of the icebergs calved. It sent waves across the water to the next iceberg. Searching for a word to describe this spot we finally came up with “Etherial.” It was all so magical.
Those of us who wanted to hike up to the viewpoint signed up on the list. Fred, Dawn, Rich, Bill, & I were the first ones to sign up on the list. The expedition staff went out first to set up out pathways for us to walk up through the snow and mush. We had to very, very carefully make our way over some rocks and boulders to get to the snow-covered paths.
It was a pretty steep hike up through the scree, snow, and slippery slopes to the top.
The staff members were there to help people up a slippery spot.
I had to stop many times to catch my breath. Fred continued to encourage me. I have walked on some difficult trails and this one was right up there.
It was so worth the effort. We could see Cuverville Island from the top. Both of these islands are pretty small.
It was hard to believe I was sitting at the top with the penguins behind me.
The views from the top were so incredibly spectacular.
I cannot resist posting more photos of penguins, especially with those peaks in the background.
How adorable are these two chicks with the adult and the one still sitting on the nest.
Then one of the chicks gets fed.
And getting a video of an ecstatic display was an extra bonus.
Everything was so very peaceful. It was just the penguins, birds, and the views.
Eventually we had to go back down. Going downhill is usually easier for me, but this downhill was a bit more difficult. I turned around to photograph the people behind me.
The expedition team that sets up our hikes are extraordinary. They work so hard to make every day’s experience a peak experience.
What an unbelievable incredibly outstanding day. This trip has exceeded any expectations I ever had.