South Shetland Islands

Ben Collen

The trip down to the South Shetland Islands and peninsular Antarctica has been spectacular.  In one day's travel, we came across upwards of 60 humpbacks, including mother and calves, some breaching, others feeding among the broken ice.  We have had to abandon a couple of potential landing sites due to high winds – with gusting winds over 40 knots, it’s just not safe to take a zodiac in. However, about 6 yesterday evening, as we started to move the ship to a sheltered spot to spend the night, we came across a pod of Orca.  The Captain turned the ship between the ice flows, and after about 5 minutes, the pod started coming to us. I scanned across the pod that I was watching (there were a couple close by) and in one scan counted 26 different blows – we estimated more than 50 Orca,
Iceberg seals
perhaps even higher.  Part of the pod came right at the boat, including a mother and calf.  They were Antarctic B type Orca; they have a rusty yellow/brown coloration due to a diatom that imbeds in them.  Phenomenal sight, just as the sun was going down.  Breathtaking. We are now travelling down Iceberg Alley (Antarctic Sound), having set up another camera today on the continent itself.  These are massive icebergs, many several hundred metres in length, which have broken off the ice shelf.

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