Two of Peregrine’s most popular leaders, Woody and Annie, have been helping our passengers make the most of their journeys for 10 years. Here, Woody takes time out of the pair’s current Galapagos excursion to give us an update on the recently finished 2012-13 Antarctic season, and if you're interested in heading to Antarctica, have a peruse of our 2013-14 excursions.
“Every Antarctic trip is a trip of a lifetime. To cross the Drake Passage and experience the south touches all. Every day creates special memories. For some, it is the grand, icy scenery on a stunning scale, impossible to imagine unless you see it yourself. For others, the delightful penguin inhabitants are a key aspect of a trip down south.”
Minke and blue whales
“On a trip late in February, we met some strong winds on the final day of our expedition. We sailed through the Lemaire channel and marveled at the magnitude of the icy scene. The wind was howling and whipping water into the air – it looked like the water was smoking.
“Our captain sailed toward Booth Island seeking a protected anchorage. The anchorage was achieved but the wind was fierce and was whipping across and around the islands. We observed the ferocity of the wind and enjoyed this aspect of Antarctica but we all wanted to get out on the zodiacs and explore the ice gallery which lay between our position and Pleneau Island. We were patient and sure enough, the wind eventually dropped. The conditions were still bumpy (and would prove to be wet!) but deemed safe. Soon, we were boarding the zodiacs in preparation for the adventure. The icy towers were like artworks, with each one a different set of textures, colours and stories. Conditions were still challenging and wind squalls kept rolling through. Some even washed across us, which helped ensure we were truly at one with Antarctic waters.
“As we explored, we bounced and jets of spray descended over us as the most affected in the bow of the zodiac shrieked delightedly. As we enjoyed the ice, the penguins and the sinuous seals, a fin was spotted. Despite the buffeting winds, we managed to hold position as a pair of minke whales inspected us. Emerging beside the boats, we could see the minke glance at us. Our cheers may have been heard even over the howling wind! Our zodiac pair enjoyed the minke whales as they came past us and even though it was a close encounter, it was all on the whale’s terms. As the creatures moved away, a guest, having seen so many whales on our voyage, asked if there’d be much chance of us seeing blue whales. I told them it was very unlikely and that the minkes were a fitting finale to our excursion program.
“The next day, we turned north and the seas settled. Our staff was always on the bridge for wildlife spotting and interpretation. Suddenly, our radios crackled. ‘Big whales on the starboard side....very big whales’, said the voice. We scrambled to the bridge as the Captain slowed and turned the ship to better our view. And there they were: two Blue whales. We all enjoyed the unusual and exceptional privilege of seeing these majestic mammals. The question of the previous day, like a special wish, had come to fruition. The whales swam beside us and drew close to the bow. We lined the rail in awe of the largest animal in the world. The scale of blue whales is hard to fathom, but here before our eyes were whales, thirty metres plus!”
Zodiac cruise and kayak with orcas
“We are always looking for whales. On the hierarchy of interest, the fascination with whales trumps almost everything else for most people in Antarctica. One morning we found ourselves cruising ice south of the Lemaire channel. There was plenty to see and conditions were good. There were gentoo and adelie penguins and seals adorning the ice floes. Meanwhile, our kayak team was installed in their colourful boats and paddling and exploring peacefully.
“A radio call alerted us to orca. Then, a further alert said that they may be hunting! Zodiacs converged careful to not disturb what was unfolding. The orca spy-hopped to establish a seal’s position and then, using their tail, manufactured a wave to wash the seal from the floe as other orca swam in to feed.
“The kayakers paddled in the orca direction and then the orca left the ice floes and headed to the colourful boats. Skirting the boats they examined them, swam beside them, and then dived under and moved off. All had experienced a very special event and it was truly breathtaking.”
“Annie and I are once again enjoying the Galapagos islands, escorting and guiding groups on Peregine's wonderful catamaran, the Queen Beatriz. The landscapes are diverse and the inhabitants seem untroubled by our presence. Combining wonderful landings and frequent snorkeling excursions, the experience is unforgettable.
“Opportunities to swim with penguins, see reef sharks and rays, be inspected by sea lions and be immersed in the schools of tropical fish are a wonderful part of the Galapagos experience, and a nice difference to the Polar Regions.
“We have seen Pacific green turtles descending the beach after laying eggs and then later snorkelled beside one as it swam effortlessly. The birdlife is very special and connections to the Antractic include penguins, albatross, sea lions and a landscape which is beyond normal expectation and preparation. We’re only a few days into our month on the Queen Beatriz but have experienced many magic moments that we’ve tried to capture (with varying success) photographically.”