[DAY 7] - Port Charcot / Pleneau & Damoy Point / Dorian Bay

March 14, 2018

Antarctica, you beauty! Out on deck pre-breakfast, the landscape is, yet again, a sight to behold. Passengers discuss the much anticipated Port Charcot.

As we make our way up the Peltier Channel, steep glaciated peaks rise off the starboard side and massive icebergs make up the landscape off the port. We make our way to the anchorage in Salpetriere Bay, surrounded by a frozen garden of icebergs.

Iceberg Garden
Iceberg Garden

We are back in our Zodiacs, zooming in on a formation of Gentoos hunting for krill and squid in the crystal clear waters. The snowy hill of Port Charcot is a colorful pallet of red and green as the snow algae had photosynthesized this late in the summer. Penguin antics amuse many as our brush-tail friends waded into the water off the rocky shore splashing and diving en masse.

Some of us stayed in the Zodiacs to cruise around the iceberg kingdom. Intricately sculpted bergs, each more beautiful than the next consume our cameras' viewfinders. We gaze in wonder at the blue striations, dramatic gutters and impressive designs created by snow, water, and wind. One Zodiac had found a leopard seal lolling while a cheeky crab-eater seal entertains another group. Then, just as we head back to the ship, the sun pokes out from behind Booth Island sending a dramatic light across the water.

Iceber Garden
Iceberg Garden

Back onboard we enjoy yet another delicious lunch as we sail through the Lemaire Channel onto our next adventure. Our playground for this afternoon is Damoy Point, within a calm and sheltered Dorian Bay. Liz leads a merry band of hikers up Tombstone Hill and then onto a high, snowy vantage point above nearby Port Lockroy. Far below us, curious Gentoo penguins inspect our fellow beachcomber expeditioners; tiny kayaks cruise across the waters; and scuba-divers release bubbles to the mirror calm water’s surface. By now, we feel like a large family of humans visiting another planet.

Port Charcot 1
The Plancius among Icebergs

Some of us take the opportunity to inspect the old British shack – once home to a resupply base for British bases located beyond the Antarctic Circle, complete with an iced runway for the planes that acted as a substitute for the ships when ice prevented a southward journey by sea.

As we head back towards the shore, we spot a majestic piece of transparent ice. I’m debating with my French and Russian friends Thierry and Yaroslav, if we should try and bring it back with us onboard. We lift it off the ground and carry it a few meters over to our Zodiac with the help of a few smiling crew members. They clearly seem to know already what we have in mind.

Once we’re back on the Plancius, we carry it back to the bar, where we borrow an ice axe from to shape little ice-cubes. I am now sipping the most incredible drink I will ever prepare in life. As I sip this ice-cold gin-tonic, million-year-old oxygen bubbles are released in my glass. I’m inhaling the history of this planet, and it tastes just great.

Later that night, we are having more time-shifting drinks in the main lobby, chatting about our lives and what brought us here. It’s quite late, and most passengers have already gone to sleep.

As I’m chatting about our day around 23.00, a powerful light bright up a gigantic iceberg outside the lobby windows. I am terrified and feel we are about to relive a Titanic experience. I start breathing again as I realize our boat is sailing a few meters away from this gargantuan mountain of floating ice. Our boat is well equipped to navigate using sonar technology in the pitch black night, but for safety reasons, it lights up certain detected objects that are close enough to spark safety concerns. At the end of the austral summer, ice blocks are still melting unevenly and can break and flip on themselves, creating considerable damage to ships sailing by.