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Antarctica - Day 9: National Geographic Content & Paddling

We got to “sleep in” this morning to 7:00 AM for a zodiac cruise of Cierva Cove, which was named after the inventor of the autogiro (think the vehicle that came before the first helicopter). Once again, the scenery was stunning.

Our zodiac driver was Grigory, the ship’s marine biologist, who is super knowledgeable and fun as he gets as close as possible to the wildlife. The cove has a rock island in the middle of it which is home to hundreds of chinstrap penguins, so that was our first stop. The zodiac was rocking as the swell was quite pronounced close to the island, so we only stayed there for a few minutes to grab some pictures before moving on.

We then came across a few glaciers including one with two holes in it, one small and one large. It was beautiful to just look at for a few minutes.

Then, we got some intel that a leopard seal captured a penguin for lunch and we high tailed it close to the island once again. Over the course of 15 minutes, we watched the penguin try to escape away from the seal as it was dragged hundreds of feet before the seal was eventually successful at killing its prey. The seal then spent a while devouring the penguin’s carcass – we learned that the seal literally tries to turn the penguin inside out as it doesn’t eat the feathers, so the seal was aggressively shaking the penguin from side to side to try to do exactly that. Grigory said that it was a younger leopard seal as it took a very long time to kill the penguin and then it was trying to figure out how to eat it.

The penguin was struggling to get away for a long, long time. It was still trying in this picture, even when we had thought it was dead.

Eventually, the leopard seal prevailed.

Once the seal disappeared below water, it was time to head back to the boat. After the excitement and looking at the water for so long, it was nice to pick my head up and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounded me.

While we ate lunch, the boat sailed to to our next destination, Mikkelsen Harbour, where my Dad and I had the opportunity to paddle instead of take the zodiac around. The harbour was discovered during a Swedish Antarctic Expedition and was then used for whaling.

I had been paddling before, but obviously never did it in the Antarctic! We went around a few icebergs before seeing a few seals on a distant beach and heading back towards the boat. My Dad and I learned that we are both pretty good paddlers, but not good together, so we both took turns paddling by ourselves.

The group then had an opportunity to go ashore and I likely could have made it, but decided not to as it was a water landing. We did get an opportunity to see some awesome whale bones ashore and a siphonophore in the water which is an animal that clones itself and can get quite long.

Once back onboard, we had an hour to relax before heading to our “Daily Briefing” where the person that runs the operations of the boat shared behind the scenes photos of everything from the kitchen to the officer and crew members mess halls to reviewing projected food, alcohol and toilet paper consumption for our voyage. We are on pace to use over one million inches of toilet paper!

After dinner, we hit the sack to make sure we had ample rest for the following day – our last day in Antarctica.

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