Stunning glaciated scenery, enormous Adelie penguin rookeries and the flat-topped ‘tabular’ icebergs are characteristic for the Weddell Sea.
Heading towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea – we notice a significant increase in the number of huge tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. These massive icebergs break from the huge ice shelves to the south and drift north on the currents. This always makes for exciting navigation – and stunning photographic opportunities in the soft Antarctic twilight. This is wild and remote Antarctica.
The Weddell Sea region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of staggering size – some contain more than 100,000 nesting birds. Such colonies dwarf the rookeries we have visited so far. Weather permitting, excursions may include Hope Bay, Paulet Island and Brown Bluff. All eyes will be trained on the ice floes through which we navigate the ship. We have enjoyed successful sightings of emperor penguins in this area in recent years. Based on the size and plumage, our naturalists believe them to be juveniles out exploring and fishing – and possible residents of the known emperor colony on the southern side of Snow Hill Island. The history of exploration in this region is incredibly rich. Remnants of Nordenskjöld’s Swedish expedition of 1901-1904 are found in several locations in this area. The epic century-old story of Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition has strong links to the region. It was here that he and his men drifted north on the ice after their ship had been lost in the ice months earlier. As we head north and out of the Weddell Sea, the lavender pink sunset off the port quarter of the ship will make some of us pause to consider the bravery (or foolhardiness) of those early explorers who travelled these waters a hundred years before us.