The sunny finale – our last day in Antarctica – 23 March 2017

Saturday 25 March 2017

This morning we woke up at the Melchior Islands. The towering mountains that surrounded us rose steeply from the Antarctic waters, to glisten brightly against the clear blue sky creating breath-taking views of the southern continent. This awe-inspiring backdrop ticked one of the last boxes on our expedition wish list; to see this ice-covered continent in all its glory on a blue sky day. One couldn’t wish for more to round-off our last day in Antarctica.

Morning sun (photo Niamh Ryan)

With eager anticipation, we once again embarked on a zodiac cruise around the islands. Shags swooped in low overhead as we lowered the Secchi-disc and CTD for one last time to take our environmental measurements of these polar waters. Enormous icebergs dwarfed teams of polar explorers in their zodiacs as they eagerly criss-crossed the bay to explore the myriad of rocks and island outcrops harbouring many fur seals and the occasional gentoo penguin lapping up the morning sun. A sighting of a Weddell seal brought a satisfying end to our morning zodiac cruise.

Secchi disk measurement (photo Niamh Ryan)

Back on board, we indulged our insatiable photo-happy tendencies to take a piece of the continent home with us while warming up with hot chocolate drinks on the upper deck. As we set sail for the Drake Passage after lunch, with the great continent slowly fading into the distance, one could only feel deep gratitude for all the wonders we had seen and the many life-changing memories we were taking with us.

Icebergs (photo Niamh Ryan)

We once again enthusiastically embraced our familiar routine of marine mammal observations and seabird surveys from the bridge, hoping to possibly tick any residual boxes on our Antarctic expedition bucket list. We were swiftly rewarded with a rare sighting of a snow petrel. The unusually calm waters of the Drake Passage brought relief to those of us relying on patches and pills for the crossing. As the peninsula dropped from view and Smith Island appeared on the horizon, the blows from two groups of fin whales encouraged us all back on deck, reminding us that our journey had some adventures left in it yet.

Fin whales (photo Sonja Heinrich)

Written by Niamh Ryan


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One reply to "The sunny finale – our last day in Antarctica – 23 March 2017"

  • Karen and Stephen Herbison
    Karen and Stephen Herbison
    Sunday 26 March 2017, 12.12am

    What an amazing experience you have had! It all sounds and looks absolutely wonderful. We have enjoyed sharing this awe inspiring journey with you all and so much look forward to reading this blog to see what you have experienced each day. Make the most of your last days in the Southern Hemisphere and hope it's a calm journey through Drakes Passage! Well done, Polar Explorers!!


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