National Geographic Explorer awoke to another bluebird morning on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. An otherworldly landscape of snow and ice, the majestic mountains of the peninsula are a continuation of the Andes and were joined to Patagonia for most of their geologic history. When the Drake Passage opened up about 30 million years ago, the continent moved into its current position over the South Pole, and the Andean chain broke into two. As the climate cooled, ice sheets started to appear, and the icy continent that we have today began to evolve. Today, glaciers ooze down the steep walls of the peninsula’s dramatic coast, making for incredible scenery.
Cruising into Andvord Bay after breakfast, the captain practically parked the ship on the beach at Neko Harbour for our morning activity. On shore, we visited our last gentoo penguin colony and observed two Weddell seals hauled out on the snow and one on a piece of ice. Hiking up the hill, we had an incredible view of the surroundings and Mount Français, the tallest mountain (9,168’) on the peninsula. After lunch, we cruised up the Gerlache Strait and entered Dallmann Bay, where we had wonderful encounters with humpback whales. What an incredible end to an extraordinary trip around the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula.