Sunday, December 27, 2009

Neko & Paradise Harbours

Monday 7 December, Neko & Paradise Harbours
  • 04h00: 64°40.9 South / 062°38.0 West
  • 08h00: 64°49.2 South / 062°37.5 West
  • 12h00: 64°50.6 South / 062°32.0 West
  • 16h00: 64°53.6 South / 062°52.0 West
  • 24h00: 64°54.5 South / 062°52.8 West

Today we arrived at Neko Harbour – our first continental Antarctic landfall! The harbour is named after a whaling ship which used this area as its base. We landed on one shore of the Harbour close to another large penguin colony, mostly chinstrap this time.

On the other side of the harbour glaciers swept down the mountains to reach the lake like sea. From time to time, we heard cracking sounds and noticed small parts of ice and snow coming off the glaciers, but no large pieces were to calve off. In any event, we had received the all important instruction to get clear from the beach area as quickly as possible if any were to fall. More hiking was on the agenda as most of the group set out for a nearby hilltop.

After enjoying the magnificent views at the top and the obligatory snowball fight, we sledged down to the bottom. Many of us, myself included, had brought plastic bags to aid the process. I lost mine however with seconds of starting down the slope: going headfirst it was probably best I had lost this extra speed aid as the slope was very steep – and a bit hair-raising! Fortunately I came through unscathed, but some others suffered scratches and bruises. I decided, given my injury record, not to risk another run! And the plastic bag was recovered...!

Over lunch we moved around to another area, the Argentine base of Admiral Brown.

This brought more of the same, extended long snowball fights, hiking to the top of the local summit and many attempts at sledging down.

Some of the permanent crew seemingly risked life and limb going down the steep slope backwards.

It took the group I was with us some considerable time to make the summit as I had to rescue Joan from a hole in the snow! Having managed to get stuck practically all the way up her leg I spent several minutes digging and kicking her out! Surely she didn’t really need the leg?!

In the evening we moved around to the appropriately named Paradise Harbour. A wonderfully calm bay, surrounded by the most majestic mountains and sweeping glaciers.

We spent an hour or so on the zodiacs cruising around and taking it all in. It was a lovely sight, watching as the sun slowly set behind the mountains – and this was at around 22h00!

Finishing off another good day, we retired to the bar for a glass of wine.

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