Today we cruised around Paradise Bay and anchored at Neko Harbor, which was to be our last expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. We spent a few hours on the inlet checking out its gentoo penguin colony. It was fun filming the penguin highway, although a few of the more inquisitive penguins kept coming over to peck at our cameras to see if they were edible! After lunch we had a few hours of zodiac cruising around Neko Harbor which was fantastic, with glaciers, icebergs, crabeater seals, humpback and minke whales! In the evening, enroute to the South Shetland Islands, our captain reported that humpback whales were having a feeding frenzy just off the front bow of the Polar Star, so we got to check out all the action. Another superb day with the Cheesemans!
20 JAN: (Wednesday: Paradise Bay and Neko Harbor): Even though we got a wake up call later than normal (0630), it felt way too early. After breakfast, we started cruising through Paradise Harbor, so named by the enchanted early twentieth century whalers. Three channels run through the bay, and the currents are strong enough to move icebergs, as we saw from the bow of the ship. The captain navigated our vessel through Paradise Harbor into Andvord Bay, and we anchored at Neko Harbor. Neko harbor is located on the eastern side of Andvord Bay, and was our second and last stop to the Antarctic Peninsula. We had a quick group photo (taken by Bruce) at the bow of the Polar Star in front of Neko Harbor. Afterwards, we had about 2 hours with the option of landing or zodiac cruising. We opted to land and cruise after lunch, while the majority of the passengers fought their way onto the zodiacs for cruising. It really is way too competitive to fight for who gets into which zodiac and with what driver, and we didn’t want any part of it. Instead, we landed and made our way up Neko where there was a Gentoo colony. We hiked up to the hill behind the colony and Robby along with a few others decided to hike upward and slide down the very steep hill. Becky opted to watch the penguin highway, and we ended up making video recordings of the penguins making their way to and from the water. They are very cute and fun to watch. We were having so much fun watching them that we were almost late to the last zodiac for lunch (noon)…Gail had to come police us up and asked that we fill in our footsteps so that no penguins would fall head first into them, get stuck and die. A smiling and very happy Doug picked us up and cheerfully deposited us back to the Polar Star in time for lunch. We ate with Andrea and Mike and heard about their life story. At 24, she is one of the youngest passengers on our trip. She works as a property manager, while Mike is a day trader. He is fifteen years her senior, but the two of them appear to get along remarkably together. It was neat to hear that they are avid travelers too, focusing primarily on Europe but soon to include Asia.
After lunch, we had a 1400 zodiac cruise session, with Dave as our driver. The weather was stunning (no rain and finally some peeks of blue sky and the sun’s rays), and we saw crabeater seals, humpback and minke whales, and icebergs against a mirrored reflection of the water’s surface. We hung out in the observation lounge for some hot chocolate and cookies and looked over Ed Krempel’s amazing Alaska photos (he was hired to create 2009 and 2010 calendars). Dinner was interesting…we chatted with Jackie and Jay Gould and found out Jay actually is an American! He fascinated Becky…obnoxious, intelligent, opinionated, abrasive, but quite amazing in his view of the world…he has zero materialistic belongings. Everything he owns is in storage in a mobile home, he has no address, no bills, no debt and his long term goal is to live from one country to the next. Born an American, he just recently obtained his Australian citizenship in July 09. It was an extremely revolutionary concept on how to live life, and we were glad to have chatted with both of them. Our dinner conversation was interrupted by the announcement of humpback whale viewing galore on the upper deck. Even though it was freezing out, we all dutifully bundled up and trotted out and were amazed at the show put on during the feeding frenzy. It was an amazing show, and now we are totally get the Cheesemans’ logo.