6 Ships Blog

19/01/2015 - Paradise Bay

I hear the familiar sound of cutlery echoing off plates and the murmurs of morning as my fellow guests can’t wait any longer to have breakfast. It was 9.30am and the white morning light was peeking around the corner of the curtains in my cabin. Just a few steps to the dining room and a smorgasbord of fruit, yoghurts, and pastries. Before I can order Jerome’s homemade hollandaise sauce with an egg and bacon topping, Doc Mike joins us with a friendly smile and an offer of humpback whales feeding off Hanse’s bow. A mini pain au chocolat, 5 minute shower and several thermal layers later, I race to join the others in the mudroom where we pull on our boots and lifejackets before jumping into the Zodiac where Martin and Maren wait with their cheerful smiles. Suncream check. Sunglasses check. It’s summer in the Antarctic.

Out on the water, we emerge from the shadow of Hanse and the icy winds bare their teeth, reminding us that we are near 65 degrees South as we scoot over to where the whales were last seen from the bridge. A moment’s silence then whoosh! The sound of a humpback whale exhaling a few metres behind the dinghy. All at once a sense of excitement and in trepidation we greedily reach for our cameras whilst a note of caution sounds somewhere in the back of your mind that these are wild mammals, 40-50 tonnes each when fully grown. A few words of reassurance from Martin and all fears are forgotten as we enjoy a breathtaking display of flukes and bubble net feeding. Totally unperturbed by our presence, a pod of four, maybe five whales gorge on krill, surfacing at regular intervals, three blows, a fluke. A picture perfect moment with Paradise bay looming up in the background before the whales disappear leaving a footprint of bubbles and ripples that leaves you guessing. We collect ourse lves, in silent awe of these formidable mammals, before peering nervously under the water in case our friends are passing beneath. 30 seconds pass, 45, eyes scanning the horizon as gulls play in the whales’ wake, penguins poke their heads up for a different view. Whoosh. The atmosphere electric as 50 yards to starboard the whales re-emerge and we approach again before cutting the engine to enjoy the serenity of the scene, soaking up the scale of Antarctica and its elemental beauty. With almost metronomic regularity the whales’ breathing marks time which sails by; an hour becomes two as if in the land of giants the hands of time grow larger to match.

As the whales move on and we grow hungry, we spy an Argentinian sailing boat, a 47m training vessel with double masts and a silver hull. We power over to catch her, salute and admire from close up. A few waves, smiles and cheers when Celine our resident Argentine admires the captain’s maté, then on to meet up with Hanse which has circled ahead and awaits in Paradise Harbour with hot chocolate and hollandaise sauce.

Andrew T.