We head south overnight, navigating into the Bransfield Strait, wondering about the days of exploration ahead. The coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula provides literally a hundred or more sites for potential shore landings and excursions. The expedition team will be looking forward to showcasing some of the well-known locations, and visiting a few hidden gems we have discovered over the years.
Approaching the South Shetland Islands on our way south, we may aim for a shore landing at Half Moon Island – home to a boisterous colony of nesting chin strap penguins. A short hike brings us to elephant seal haul out. These are fascinating animals to observe as the naturalist guides explain the unique family dynamics and behavior. There are several other nearby locations, including Yankee Harbour or Hannah Point which we may chose as alternative landing sites. A thrill for many will be sailing the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera of Deception Island. At Whalers Bay, the remains of a rusting old whaling station provide a glimpse into history. There are a couple of excellent hiking routes here – one up to a high point overlooking the entire bay. Another to the far end of the black-sand beach where an old aircraft hanger can be viewed. It’s from here, the
very first flight in Antarctica took to the air.
It’s an awe-inspiring site as we approach with glacier covered mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. We enter the maze of islands and waterways and enjoy shore landings, Zodiac cruises and kayak excursions several times per day. Willhelmina Bay is always an impressive location and one we often find large pods of humpack whales. Ship cruising into the Errera Channel, we have a couple of great landing sites to consider including Cuverville Island – with its sizeable Gentoo penguin rookery. Nearby Danco Island, has a fantastic hike to the snow-covered summit, providing staggering views. Neko Harbour is another possibility for a landing and maybe our very first opportunity to step foot on the actual continental landmass of Antarctica. A very active glacier can be heard creaking and groaning, and it is common to observe large slabs of ice calving from the glacier face into the dark waters.