Today we 30 odd trainees were given the opportunity to glide amongst the icebergs surrounding Trinity Island.
We divided into 3 groups and boarded “Blackie”, “Grey”, and “Sloopy”, guided by Lex, Skinner, and Annukka respectively. After a few minutes, we were reminded to look back. The view of the mother ship framed by two beautiful icebergs is one that will stay with me for a very long time. Soon we came to a protected cove with a large number of small icebergs, one conveniently flat and the perfect place for two crab-eater seals to rest. Lex turned off the motor and we paddled quietly closer so as not to disturb the sleeping seals. What a treat!
Shortly afterwards we 3 little vessels slowly cruised between towering rocky crags, the home to many different Antarctic birds. Skua’s flashed past, diving and swooping playfully with each other, and there were several white terns and Atlantic gulls. Another unusual bird was spotted resting on a rock – fortunately we had Lex in our boat. He identified it without hesitation as the southern ice petrel; distinctive because of its rainbow-coloured tail, and yellow eyes. Rarely sighted in these parts, but greatly sought after (especially by those who also enjoy a single malt whisky).
I realised a childhood dream today when I was able to see close-up with my own eyes the superb shades of aquamarine and turquoise blue that glow within the hollows and crevasses of the surrounding icebergs. In the evening the Bark Europa nosed quietly into Cierva Cove, a bay full of floating ice of all descriptions, and surrounded by glaciers. It was a surreal experience, totally silent except for the occasional thrum of the diesel engine at low revs, and the intermittent sound the ship’s bow crunching into growlers. With about 40 people all on the foredeck festooned with cameras, it was standing room only. Yet no one seemed to want to make a sound.
One giant iceberg floated by, with a cave in it worthy of a James Bond movie. Then another flat piece of ice appeared, this time graced with a large leopard seal on top, not at all perturbed by the appearance of a large white ship. Suddenly it was 11pm. Time for a single malt whisky chilled with a piece of impossibly old ice, and then some iceberg dreaming.