Journey to Antartica Aboard the National Geographic Explorer – Day 5

We were still feeling exhilarated from the penguins galore and sea ice walk from the day before.  We thought that nothing could top the beauty and excitement of that day, but to our delight it got better each day.

Zodiac Cruising on Cierva Cove
We experienced more of Antartica’s sublime beauty on this lovely sunny, windless day. We boarded the Zodiac boat for a leisurely cruise on Cierva Cove, a protected bay bordered by breathtaking ice landscape.

We were mesmerized by the staggering beauty and serenity that surrounded us.

Zodiac Cruising, Cierva Cove, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Lindblad Expeditions

Ice covered mountains in Ciera Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Exploere, Lindblad Expeditions

Ice covered mountains in Ciera Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Exploere, Lindblad Expeditions

Icebergs and Ice covered mountains in Cierva Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Explorer, Lindblad Expedition

Glaciers in Cierva Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Exploere, Lindblad Expeditions

Glaciers in Ciera Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Exploere, Lindblad Expedition

Icebergs and Ice covered mountains in Cierva Cove, Antartica, National Geographic Exploere, Lindblad ExpeditionsWhile we were cruising the bay, an ice expert from our expedition was climbing one of these mountains to retrieve films from one of the 16 time-lapse cameras installed in the Antarctic Peninsula. The cameras are part of the Extreme Ice Survey and shoot photos every hour of each day. The goal is to create visual records to help experts understand the changes in these landscapes.

Hot Chocolate Boat by crew of National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, Lindblad ExpeditionsWe were deeply immersed in the silence and exceptional beauty of the bay when a boat carrying men dressed as Vikings seemed to appear from nowhere.  We realized that it was our ship’s hotel manager with couple of crew aboard the “hot chocolate boat!”

Hot Chocolate Boat by crew of National Geographic Explorer, Cierva Cove Antarctica Expedition, Lindblad ExpeditionsYes, they came to meet us to serve us hot chocolate – with a kick! I had mine with a dash of coconut rum and Keith had his with peppermint schnapp! It definitely kept us warmer. It was such a great treat and we felt well-taken cared of.

National Geographic Explorer in Cierva Cove, Antarctica, Lindblad ExpeditionsThe view of our vessel and the spectacular Antarctic sky as we were cruising back onboard. It was a beautiful morning!

Killer Whales on a Hunt in Gerlache Strait
“There’s a sighting of a pod of killer whales on the port side of the ship!” The excited announcement on the PA system by the expedition leader came as we were listening to the afternoon’s lecture about hypothermia. We all grabbed our parkas and cameras and ran to the deck.

The pod of Killer whales was seen active and swimming in circle. Our vessel deviated from its course to get closer to the scene.Killer Whales, Antarctica Expedition aboard National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsAs we approached, we saw that the Killer whales were surrounding a Minke whale. The Killers jumped on the poor Minke and all disappeared from the surface. The next thing we saw were blood and scraps of blubbers surfacing on the water.

Killer Whale biting a blubber, Antarctica Expedition aboard National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsOne of the killer whales surfaced with a big piece of Minke whale’s blubber on its mouth. We were in shock and awe to have witnessed part of the circle of life in the marine world.

Shortly after the kill, the group disappeared for awhile. The experts explained that they probably submerged to send vocal signals to other groups to announce their successful hunt.

Interestingly, another group of killer whales arrived shortly and the first group shared the remains of their prey with the new arrivals – their form of reciprocal altruism we were told.

Scientists tagging killer whales, Antarctica Expedition aboard National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionAnother interesting scene during this time was witnessing the scientists at work. Two whale biologists and a naturalist boarded the Zodiac and approched the whales.  With a used of a crossbow, they attached satellite tags on the dorsal fins of several whales (we were told that the whales don’t feel it).

The signals that the tags send to satellites aide the scientist in studying the movements and foraging behavior of the killer whales in the region, as well as in determining their possible ecological impacts.

The scientists also took biopsy from some whales by shooting an arrow-like tool on them.  Once the tools prick the skin they bounced and floated on water and were retrieved. The specimens were later sent to a lab for genetic analysis.

What an awesome afternoon! The whale sighting more than made up for the disappointment of the cancelled sea kayaking this afternoon due to suddenly strong wind (we were able to go out on the kayak two days later).

Presentations and Recap
Each night before dinner we had nightly recap and presentations before dinner. That evening, we had an inspiring photography presentation from two of National Geographic Photographers.
Lectures and Presentation, Antarctica Expedition aboard National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsThe ice expert also showed us a preview of the photos retrieved from the time-lapse camera earlier in the morning.

The whale experts had already downloaded the information on the movement of the whales and shared them with us. Each night thereafter, they gave us updates on the whereabouts and feeding activities of “our” whales.  It was interesting to take part in the activities and studies of the advancing Antarctic science.

Night Hike and Penguin Colony on Danco Island 
Just when we thought that the day couldn’t get any better, our expedition leader announced during the recap that we were going for an after-dinner hike!

Hiking in Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsOur fellow hikers making their way to the top of the island.

We were excited to make an evening landing on Danco Island.  It was about 9 pm and the sky was still bright.  The summer sun in Antartica does not set until 11:30pm and it then quickly rises at around 2:30 am. There’s no complete darkness even in between those hours.

enguin Colony in Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad Expeditions Danco Island is home to about 2,000 pairs of Gentoo penguins. They settle high on the hills of the island and we encountered them as we were hiking up. Maybe because it was night time, the penguins here were not as active as the penguins we saw in Brown Bluff,

Penguin Colony in Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsThe penguin colony of Danco Island sits on prime real estate!  The view of  Errara Channel from here is spectacular.

View from Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsAn incredible view of the neighboring island and a lone penguins climbing up to the peak.

Penguins in Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsPenguins in Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsLove birds on the slope.

View from Danco Island, Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Linblad ExpeditionsThe evening light was softening at around 10:30 pm as we were making our way down.  It was a wonderful evening.

During the recap, our expedition leader told us to prepare for a very early wake up call the next morning – at 6:15 am! She said that we should not miss the vessel’s entry into Lamaire Channel, the most beautiful passageway in Antarctic Peninsula. We were sure glad we got up early.  We can’t wait to share with you this beautiful part of Antarctica plus more.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

58 responses to “Antarctica: Icescapes, Killer Whales & Night Hiking

  1. Mike

    Hi Marisol and Keith! I’m so jazzed for this next post in your Antartica series. The guys with the Viking hats and hot chocolate was so funny…and awesome. I like that you included a pic from inside the boat with the presentation from the Nat Geo photographers. Looking at that blows me away that you were actually out in the ocean in one of the most faraway destinations. I saw my first killer whale at Marine World in the Bay Area. I became an instant fan. To be able to see a pod in the wild would take my breath away! Looking forward to the Lamaire Channel! Have a great week you two! :)
    Mike recently posted..Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, WashingtonMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, thanks. We did love our awesome Viking crew and their hot choco! To see the killer whales and their activities in the wild was pretty incredible. I can just imagine the look of great awe in your face when you seen them, Mike.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Alex. Huh, I’ll remember to use the photo next Valentine’s day:)

  2. Laura

    Your photos are amazing! I’d love to visit Antarctica one day – gorgeous scenery, whales, penguins, midnight sun – what’s not to like? Might take me a few years to save up though!

    Laura
    Laura recently posted..Hotel review: Hotel Marincanto, PositanoMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Laura, thanks! True, there’s nothing not to like. I keep my fingers crossed for you that you get there sometime soon.

  3. Anda

    Another interesting post about Antarctica. You really make me jealous, Marisol, I hope you know that. You caught some extraordinary photos on this trip. Did you have any overcast days while you were there, or you were lucky and the sun was shining every day?
    Anda recently posted..The Weekly Postcard: Canyon de Chelly National MonumentMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thank you Anda! Glad you liked the photos. We were lucky to have sunny skies most of the time. We did have couple of overcast days but it wasn’t too bad – it made the scenes more atmospheric.

    • Marisol

      Hi Katrina, it truly is. Glad you enjoyed the photos..

  4. Corinne

    Marisol, I find myself looking forward to your next installment. This is sooooo high on my bucket list. Your photos are stunning (which doesn’t help). Love, love, love it!

    • I’m glad, Corinne:) I can’t wait for you to get there someday.

    • Hi Rhonda, it really was! Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  5. It doesn’t compute . . . how I dislike the cold yet have wanted to visit Antarctica for many years. Now these images of ice, snow, and partying penguins remind me again of the trip I still hope to take. Luv, luv, luv your photographs! So many beautiful shades of gray captured in this place .
    Melodie K. recently posted..Good Eats Review: Saenz GorditasMy Profile

    • Hi Melodie, don’t worry once you get there everything will tally up{) I hope you can take this trip soon. It will be worth your while. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  6. Stunning photographs. I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford to travel to Antarctica so it’s great to see and read about your experiences.

    • HI Chirstine, thanks. Hey, you”ll never know. I’ll keep my fingers cross for you.

  7. How incredible this journey is. I bet it is much more than you ever imagined it would be. Were you able to come near the penguins?
    Photo Cache recently posted..One Foggy DayMy Profile

    • Hi Maria, Yes, it much much more incredible that we had imagined. We were not supposed to come too close to the penguins but they came close to us:)

  8. Bryna

    I’m so jealous! This looks like such an amazing adventure! I’m also really jealous that you got to capture such beautiful scenery. I’ll definitely be following along on your journey!
    Bryna recently posted..Travel Quote of the MonthMy Profile

    • Hi Bryna, thanks. I hope you get a chance to capture these amazing sceneries yourself someday.

  9. I think I keep saying the same thing every single time I comment. Your trip sounds AMAZING. You’ve definitely changed my mind about wanting to visit Antarctica. It was not on the radar before but it is now.
    Rachael@safari254 recently posted..Kapsimotwa Gardens – Serene & SublimeMy Profile

    • Hi Rachel, no problem because it truly was AMAZING! I’m glad we have convinced you. I can’t wait for you to see the AMAZING yourself.

    • Thanks SJ. Yes, it truly was. Thanks for hosting

  10. Adelina

    Wow! Your photos are stunning, particularly the ones at the beginning. I would love to see this in person. The evening presentations sound particularly interesting though. It must be fascinating to get a behinds the scenes glimpse into how scientists study the animals in the area. Looking forward to reading more!
    Adelina recently posted..Who Am I? Searching for My Roots in Hong KongMy Profile

    • Thanks Adelina! I keep my fingers cross that you can see this in person soon. Yes, all the presentations and lectures were amazing as well as seeing the scientists in action.

  11. Kira S.

    Hi guys, I’ve been enjoying your Antarctic series. The icescapes are so mesmerizing indeed. It must be meditative to cruise around the bay. And oh–that hot chocolate in the middle of the bay — what a luxury. You guys were spoiled! Wow, witnessing killer whales on kill must be incredible. I think its great that you got to witness the works of the scientists and their presentations must be very interesting. Night hike during white night looks great! And of,c purse, those penguins are always adorable. I envy their real estate! Looking forward to the next.

  12. ladyfi

    This is my dream trip – I*d love to see the pristine beauty for myself. Your shots are just wonderful.
    ladyfi recently posted..The elegance of winterMy Profile

    • Thank you Fiona. I hope you get there soon so I can see your amazing photos!

  13. I am just loving following along on your Antarctic adventure, and once again your photos are magnificent. They look like they could be out of the pages of National Geographic. Watching the killer whales do their stuff and live up to their name must have been fascinating.
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted..The exotic hanging gardens of EzeMy Profile

    • Aww. thanks Phoebe I’m tickled that your thought they were out of NG! Glad you’re enjoying the series. Yes, seeing the killer whales in action was fascinating.

    • Hi Jackie, glad to hear that. It truly was fabulous.

  14. While I realize that there probably aren’t a lot of companies offering tours of Antarctica, it does seem that National Geographic really offers a top notch experience. It’s wonderful that you had the chance to be in that environment with so many experts available to share their knowledge. Those biologists are so brave in that small boat next to those powerful whales. Who would have thought that crossbow marksmanship would be a handy skill? The photos make me feel like I”m there (but much warmer).
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..The Wet Market Chicken StallMy Profile

    • Hi Michelle, we chose Nat Geo because we knew we were going to get top notch experiences. Traveling with wide array of experts who shared their knowledge was truly incredible and rewarding. We were happy with our choice and would’t do it any other way.

    • Hi Agness, it truly was. I hope you and Cez get there someday.

  15. Bama

    Marisol, your hot chocolate sounds really nice, especially with that kick the rum gave to it. :) Such an amazing experience to witness those killer whales feeding on a poor Minke. It’s sad but that’s how natural life works. Oh Marisol, following your Antarctica journey is such a torture, but the one I don’t want to get away from.
    Bama recently posted..Paris of Java, Past and PresentMy Profile

    • HI Bama, yes the hot choco with kick was really a great treat. I know the killer whales on a kill was a bit shocking but such is the cycle of life in the marine world. Glad you’re enjoying the series.

  16. I have loved virtually following you along to Antarctica while I’m snuggling indoors. How cool to have hot chocolate with a kick while watching the whales. What an incredible experience to see that! the idea of night hiking in Antarctica doesn’t sound so appealing at first but with scenery like that and the penguins – wow! M
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Snapshots from Sigatoka River Safari FijiMy Profile

    • Hi Mary, glad you enjoyed following the series. Having that hot choco while cursing the bay was really awesome. Loved our thoughtful crew! The night hiking was spectacular and one of our favorite excursions during the whole expedition.
      Marisol recently posted..Antarctica: Icescapes, Killer Whales & Night HikingMy Profile

  17. Nancie

    Your Antarctic adventures never cease to amaze. Whoever came up with the idea for a hot chocolate boat should get a medal! What an experience to see the killer whales in action. Sad to see the poor minke whale go to its demise, but it’s the circle of like in action. I’m surprised that the killers share their bounty with others outside the group.

    All your shots are gorgeous. My favorite here is the last one. I love the serene atmosphere you captured.

    • Hi Nancie, I’m glad you’re enjoying this adventure and the photos. Yes, that hot choco boat was an awesome treat. It was truly incredible witnessing the circle of life in the ocean world.

  18. Anna

    Wow! Your experience of seeing the killer whales is so incredible! I I would love to see them in the wild someday! can’t believe you guys were lucky enough to catch them hunting. I’m in awe just from reading this post and looking at the pictures.

    As always, your pictures are amazing. Like other commenters said, they’re National Geographic material!! I love the picture of the two penguins snuggled up on the slope!
    Anna recently posted..In photos: crazy, colorful Hanoi Old QuarterMy Profile

    • Hi Anna, seeing the killer whales in action was pretty incredible experience. I hope you get to witness them in the wild someday. Aww…so glad you that you enjoyed the photos. It’s such a compliment that that you think that it’s a Nat Geo material.

  19. Such a fascinating experience – it’s like Nat Geo reality TV! Your pictures are stunning as always. I would’ve LOVED to watch the whole killer whale scene. They’re such intelligent animals and fierce hunters. It’s so amazing that you got to witness them in action firsthand!

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