Today, Christmas Eve, nature gifted us with an incredibly blue sky and mirror-still water. We had a day full of adventures.
Early in the morning, we approached Devil Island, a small, volcanic island featuring two volcanic cones with a saddle between them, resembling the horns of the devil. Three activities were offered to guests, including a strenuous hike, a moderate hike, and a Zodiac cruise. The most difficult part of both hikes was a very steep ascent to the high marine terrace along a gully with loose stones lubricated by trickling water. The long hike went up one of the volcanic cones and crossed the island, where hikers observed a giant colony of Adelie penguins on the opposite shore. The moderate hike went directly along the saddle between two volcanic cones to visit the same colony. A magnificent view opened before us from the higher points of the island. On the opposite side of a channel dividing Devil and Vega Islands, we observed high cliffs composed of layer upon layer of volcanic cinder. Thousand of birds nested below us. Hundreds of icebergs sparkled on the calm surface of the blue water. Behind this water, we could see – for the first time – a long stretch of the Antarctic continent, mostly covered by glaciers. Boarding the Zodiacs again, guests had to wade through a few meters of very shallow water as the tide went to the lowest point. This gave guests the opportunity to see a regiment of red amphipods scurrying about their boots.
On the way to our second destination, as we were sailing along Prince Gustav Channel, naturalists spotted a pod of about a dozen orcas. Guests enjoyed observing the behavior of these impressive animals in perfectly still waters. Our destination for the afternoon was a continental landing in Antarctica. On the Weddell Sea side of the Antarctic Peninsula, there are very few spots available for landing, as most of the coastline is a glacial cliff. Pitt Point is one of the few landing spots. It is very rarely visited by expedition ships, as no known wildlife was previously recorded there. Guests were offered a fifteen-minute landing to set foot on the Antarctic continent followed by a Zodiac cruise. However, a pleasant surprise waited for us – two elephant seals, a male and a female, rested on the gravel very close to the landing point. We spotted a crabeater seal nearby. During the Zodiac cruise, guests enjoyed observing a variety of icebergs, some enormous and dissected by crevasses, along the waterfront of a tidal glacier. In the evening, as we sailed along Prince Gustav Channel, guests observed perfect reflections of numerous volcanic and glacial cliffs in the turquoise-colored water.
After dinner, a traditional Christmas movie awaited guests in the Ice Lounge, complete with popcorn and eggnog.