This was the earliest start yet, as I was asleep dreaming of a day soon when I can update my Facebook status I heard a voice in my room. I didnt know what was going on and was a bit disorientated but it turned out that the voice was coming over the interval ship announcement system At first i was like shit we have hit an iceberg (I mean they are everywhere) and now we have to abandon ship and I totally did not pay attention during the safety briefing or the end of the film Titanic. It turned out that it was nothing to worry about though, apparently Orca whales had been spotted and the ship had stopped so that people could get a look at them. At this point I kinda wished I had paid the extra few hundred pounds and got a cabin with a window but alas I hadn’t so I quickly put on some clothes and grabbed my camera then headed to the deck.
I will be honest I was expecting a free willy style picture but by the time I got to the deck there was a partial view of 3 orca fins. Apparently they had been a lot closer to the ship earlier but I had foolishly been asleep at 3.30am! I stayed for half an hour but it was freezing outside and i had not put on nearly enough clothes for the conditions so I headed back inside.
After a few hours sleep I got up again and had a pancake breakfast from the buffet before heading to the observation deck where I found a postcard perfect scene. There was huge glaciers and icebergs all around and the water was perfectly still, the weather was a bit cloudy with rays of sunshine reflecting off the ice. As the ship passed through this area the scenery constantly changed with glaciers of various shapes and sizes creating some magnificent views.
Todays original landing site of Neko harbour but although the numerous icebergs and glaciers floating on the water made for great viewing it did get to the stage that there was too much of it which made the entrance to Neko unreachable and thus we needed to turn back and head to an alternative landing site. This is something that can be common in Antarctica the unpredictability and extreme variance in weather can often lead to plans needing to be changed but most tour companies will always have a plan B and that was the case with Hurtigruten. This was not a problem though as I stayed in the observation deck enjoyed as much of the spectacular scenery as possible. I found myself constantly grabbing my camera running outside and trying to capture the images I was seeing but the pictures I got really didn’t do justice to the surroundings.
After a few hours we arrived at our new destination Paradise bay which was part of the mainland and this was to be our first snow landing which meant I got to break out my thermal snow pants. The zodiac boat zipped through the floating ice and after a few minutes made it to land. There were then a few options of what to do there, I chose the option of going to the top of the highest peak of the island where a great vantage point was to be found.
It was perfect weather to explore, the sun was out and the temperature was also only 0c which was ideal for exploring. I climbed to the highest point on the landing site which was straight up in the snow. As I was making my way up the mountain I was interrupted by a group of penguins who were looking to see what the fuss was about and then after about half an hour i was at the top. I have to say that by the time I made it to the top I was sweating quite a bit and i was soon shedding layers. The view at the top did befit the name of the island it was amazing and well worth the effort to get there. I spent about 20 minutes taking in the surroundings and getting some good pictures before heading back down. For the decent the guides had decided on a more novel way to get down by creating an area to slide down (they assured me it was safe). I am not sure how but I ended up being the first person to test out the slide and it worked pretty well apart from the couple of inches of snow that I got jammed up my back which certainly cooled me down instantly.
The next viewpoint was a Gentoo penguin colony and I just spent about half an hour sitting a few feet away from them taking pictures and just enjoying the surroundings. There were a few hundred penguins and it was fun just to spend some time observing them in their natural habitat. Afterwards it was back onto the Zodiac then back aboard the ship to review the hundred or so pictures I had taken and enjoy a well earned beer.