We woke up on Monday morning in the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula. The snow covered islands were all the more beautiful after the previous couple of days at sea, with not much else but ocean and more ocean to look at. It was a cloudy morning but this just made the snow covered peaks all the more spectacular. After a quick breakfast I went up to the bridge and spent the morning watching the islands roll by.
The ship's mates had a quiet time up in the bridge during the crossing, but as soon as we hit Antarctica, the mate on watch had constant company and had a hard time answering all the questions- "where are we?" "what island is that", "what kind of bird/whale/penguin is that", "when will we arrive at Palmer" etc. Many of the passengers on the LMG were either up in the bridge or out on deck with cameras and binoculars for much of the day. Throughout the day, as we sailed through the Gerlache Strait, we were treated to many sightings of rafts of penguins sailing through the water and humpback whales frolicking. We were also lucky enough to see a pod of Orcas and a pod of Minke whales!
Late in the afternoon we came to the part of our journey that was most anticipated- the beautiful Neumayer Channel. I dashed down to have some dinner so as to not miss any of the stunning views. As I mentioned above, the weather had not been perfect throughout the day, but it had been mostly dry. Sadly, by the time I went back up to the bridge after dinner this had all changed. We were in the middle of a snow storm and could not se more than a few hundred feet- certainly not far enough to see the sides of the channel.
It was actually quite pleasant being up there watching the ship sail through the snow. It also became more interesting for the ship's mates to navigate! I did keep hoping it would let up while we were still in the channel- but it pretty much stopped snowing as soon as we exited. So we will just have to hope that we will get a chance to sail through the Neumayer in daylight on the way north in May.
We still had a couple of hours before we arrived at Palmer and the weather had cleared to give us good views of the surroundings. After leaving the Neumayer Channel we rounded Cape Lancaster and headed west into the Bismark Strait. After passing Biscoe Bay we began to see the familiar islands south of Palmer Station.
Our dive sites are all located within 2 miles of Palmer Station, as that is the boating limit we are restricted to. So the islands in that limit become very familiar throughout the season! We sailed past these islands (trying to remember all the names as we past them) and as we came around Bonaparte Point we had a clear view of Palmer Station. By the time we reached the dock in Hero Inlet the station personnel were out getting ready to tie up the ship and to welcome us home!