This morning, mist and snow swirled around the peaks surrounding the Lemaire Channel, making for a beautiful but photographically challenging passage. By midmorning, we were in the shadow of Booth Island, the site of the First French Antarctic Expedition, led by Jean-Baptiste Charcot. Buried in the snow somewhere is the magnetometry hut built by the expedition, but all that was visible to us was a cairn atop a distant hill, reminding us of those who had been there before. The place names on the map, such as Français Cove and Port Charcot, echo the history of exploration. Gentoo and chinstrap penguins walked alongside our own trails on their busy highways.
The afternoon’s excursion brought us to Petermann Island and the footsteps of the Second French Antarctic Expedition. While one group landed, the other attended a lecture by Karin on the Charcot expeditions and the scientific and geographical achievements they reached during their Antarctic sojourns. Like us, they were charmed by the penguins.
The Lemaire Channel was still misty and snowy when we returned, but we had better visibility than in the morning. We were able to enjoy the view of the looming rock towers and whales meandering through, and plenty of penguins, skuas, and storm petrels whirled about. The atmosphere was dreamlike and quiet, the sort of atmosphere that snow alone can create.
As we made our way past islands and icebergs, the evening light lent a bright clarity to the surroundings. With the blows of humpback whales and orcas in the distance, it was difficult to turn away from the scene through which the ship glided slowly.