Names of places here in Antarctica are often quizzical, relating back to stories of explorers and their antics. Some names are obvious and well documented, and others made it onto a map at some point in the past with no story attached.

Paradise Harbour is a perfect name. This morning, Captain Heidi held the ship with our wonderful direct positioning system. The technology on the ship means we don’t need to anchor anymore. Our merry band of Zodiacs headed out to explore. Zodiac cruising in Paradise Harbour is always a delight. The bay is surrounded by high peaks and glaciers flowing down to the ocean’s surface, and the water is speckled with icebergs of every shape and size. The high mountain walls protect these waters from wind, and we enjoyed perfect stillness for stunning photography and reflections. Many Zodiac groups managed close encounters with leopard seals resting on icebergs around the bay, and it was nice to see folks from the Argentinian Base (Brown Base) out and about.

In the afternoon, we stopped at Useful Island. “Useful Island” is a name with a lost history. On board, we have a big book of place names, but even that book doesn’t have an explanation for Useful Island’s name. If I had some say, I would rename it Wondrous Island, as we were treated to some wondrous wildlife here. We spotted two southern fur seals (another new species for us) goofing around beside the water. As we watched, a scarcely seen white morph giant petrel came swooping down from the skies and landed right beside our little group on the beach. All of this in addition to the antics of the nesting gentoos and an occasional chinstrap penguin made the last Antarctic landing of our voyage truly wondrous indeed. Tonight, we head into the Drake Passage!