After the campers returned to the ship, we began a short sail to Neko Harbor, which is named after a Norwegian whaling ship that spent thirteen years working here. The water is filled with much more substantial icebergs than we have seen previously. If you didn’t know about climate change, you would think there’s plenty more where that came from. We’ve been warned that the calving icebergs can cause tsunamis. Once we land on the beach we should quickly move inland just in case. Unfortunately, the weather has deteriorated and it is windy and drizzly. An uncomfortable combination. We were scheduled to take a special photography tour today with extra time ashore, but with the poor weather it was cancelled and we’ll go another day. Reports from the campers indicate that it rained most of the night as well. A good traveller is always flexible.
In the morning we did a zodiac cruise around the bay. It was not cold, and the drizzle was annoying, but easy to ignore. Once we got away from the ship the entertainment began. Humpback whales were circling the area. Their big breaths and blows gave their location away and every so often their massive backs arched through the water. We even saw a few breech; the ultimate whale watcher’s delight. More and more zodiacs gathered as if in some huge amphitheater and the whales came up right in the midst of us. Even though they were nearby, it was challenging to photograph them. You can’t tell when they are going to break the water’s surface until they do and I was shielding my camera from the rain with one hand. I hope my camera will forgive me for the abuse it got today.
The icebergs didn’t look that big from the deck of the ship, but once we got amidst them, it felt like we were in some sort of frosty monument valley. Some are smooth and glossy; others rough and craggy. And wherever the ice had split enough so you could see inside, that deep eerie blue color glowed from within. Occasionally we could hear a massive boom, but since sound travels so much slower than light, we could only guess where the latest chunk had fallen into the sea.
We are sharing the harbor with two ships. One large orange rust bucket belongs to the US and is doing research. A rather romantic-looking sailboat is from Belgium and is doing the same. Since this entire harbor freezes over in the winter, they better not linger too long.
By the time our afternoon landing took place, the rain stopped. We visited a penguin colony, which involved a little walking and a lot of laughing. They are so cute and clumsy until they belly flop into the water where they can strut their stuff. Most of the baby chicks are teenagers now who are learning to fend for themselves, but we watched one beleaguered mom who was being chased around by two chicks almost as big as she was until she stopped to pump some krill down their throats from wherever it is in her digestive system that she keeps it.
If you have more than two penguins in one spot, you have an indescribable stench. We’ve been told that it will on all our clothing by the time we get home. They have spent the entire summer here and as the snow has melted it has piled up big time. Since penguins try to keep their nest which is a pile of stones clean, they have a tremendous ability to projectile poop vast distances. I’m not sure how helpful this skill is when you live in close proximity and everyone is projectile pooping at everyone else. You never know if our presence is upsetting the penguins, but they seem fine with it. The crew marks areas which we forbidden to enter, but the penguins often wander much closer to us. They are free to come and go as they wish. For the most part they hang around and entertain us.
As we leave this beautiful spot, we are keeping an eye on the wifi. It has been amazing how well connected we have been, but the high mountains around here have blocked the signal altogether. CNN is still working so we still feel somewhat connected to what’s going on in the world.