Wednesday 8 January 2014

“LARGE” is the word for the day!

Humpback Whales bubble net feeding.

En route to Cuverville Island we went ship cruising in Wilhelmina Bay in the hopes of spotting some whales. Since the early days of whaling in Antarctica, Wilhelmina has been known to be a rich feeding ground that attracts whales in the Austral summer. Deep in the bay we encountered three pairs of humpback Whales. Four of the whales were very obviously feeding. We were able to observe the whales blowing perfect circles of bubbles and then they would surface in the centre of the ring, mouths agape. It was really amazing to watch the bubble-net feeding as time after time, one pair in particular, blew a perfect circle of bubbles to entrap their prey. We assumed they were feeding on krill as we could observe large amounts of krill on the ship’s sonar and many sea birds feeding on krill alongside the whales. Later in the morning we landed at Cuverville Island, the site of the largest Gentoo Colony in the Antarctic Peninsula area. In contrast to Joinville and the Adelie Penguin colony, the Gentoos here were still sitting on eggs. Very few chicks were in evidence. The conditions were great to permit an easy walk to either end of the colony. On the far left of the landing site a leucistic Gentoo Penguin was spotted. It was also possible to hike up to a lofty view point where the “alpine” Gentoos were nesting. From here there was a terrific view of the Gerlache Strait, the landing site far below, the ship and lots of icebergs. At 12:30 it was time to say good bye to Cuverville Island and the raucous penguins. Fram turned her bow to the north and we set a course for King George Island in the South Shetland Islands. We enjoyed excellent conditions to cruise across Bransfield Strait. In the evening we attended briefings which informed us about the activities for the following day.
Crabeater Seals Wilhelmina Bay
Gentoo Penguins Neko Harbor