Wilhelmina Bay – Irony, and the way it should be

13th January 2019

Awoke this morning in my floating hotel to the ship already anchored in Paradise Bay, with the crew lowering the zodiacs in preparation for our morning cruise through our icy wonderland.  The water here is so still it has the appearance of glass with the zodiacs looking as though they are floating in mid-air, with the opposing zodiac (their reflection) beneath them.

Dressed in all our warm clothes once again and went down to the marina to board our zodiac.  Paradise Bay is home to the “Brown” Argentine research station.  Apparently at one-point Argentina was attempting to claim Antarctica, even going to such lengths as to bring a pregnant woman from Argentina to give birth on the white continent.

Wildlife was abundant this morning, in the cliffs around the research station there were flocks of blue-eyed shags, nesting with their chicks and a few gentoo penguins nesting around the base.  In a cove in another part of the bay were anchored two small yachts, which we were told had crossed the Drake Passage to get here.  I was already dreading the return journey in our sturdy ship, I could not imagine what it must have been like in tiny crafts such as these ones, in fact I couldn’t even imagine wanting to cross the Drake in one of these just for achievements sake.

The glaciers around Paradise Bay were simply immense, making the other zodiacs running around look like ants skirting across the glassy surface of the water.  The glaciers did not look stable and looked as if they might come down at any moment, which would no doubt be disastrous for us and even the ship as a calving glacier can cause a wave of tsunamic proportions.

Just before we were due to head back to the ship a group of humpback whales surfaced way over to our right in some sludgy ice.  Needless to say, our zodiac was a little delayed as we watched the group at play and enjoyed the excitement of seeing their spray or a giant tail emerge from the water.

Got back on board the ship and enjoyed an Italian lunch after which we spent some more time on deck watching another group of humpbacks and a Minke whale on the way to Wilhelmina Bay.

In Wilhelmina Bay, apparently renowned for spotting whales, there was only the wreck of an old whaling factory ship, which had been wrecked due to a fire on board.  It was interesting to think I had spent the morning watching and admiring these beautiful creatures, when not even a hundred years ago men had been killing whales in the very area I was now enjoying them. 

We sailed right around the ship, there was another small yacht moored to it and the captain lifted the line up and gave us a wave so we could sail right around it.

As we were rounding the whaling ship another zodiac came up to ours with some of the crew who handed us French champagne to drink while we had our little adventure. 

Brown Research Station

I’ll bet the likes of Nordenskiöld and Shackleton never dreamed that one day people would come to this fantastic but inhospitable environment to watch the whales that people in their day killed and that the drink of choice would be expensive champagne and not hoosh.

Tragedy did strike me today while I was trying to take a picture of some Weddell seals, my camera suddenly and with out warning gave out!  Perfect timing! Out of all my wonderful adventures, it decides to give out in the middle of my Antarctic expedition!

We sailed around a few more bergs, including some impressive arch types before heading back to the ship for the night (what there is of it anyway).

Spent some time on our balcony and was just standing there minding my own business when a humpback whale surfaced right in front of me, showing me and his face and flipper.  It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life and best of all, it as mine alone.

Darren and I had dinner and then enjoyed a latte in the main lounge before bed.  The yeti of L’Austral continues to make appearances.

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