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South Shetland Islands

Yesterday blizzard didn’t allow us to see the spectacular surroundings but this morning the scenic landscape unfolds in front of us. The low glacial moraine that leaves a narrow entrance to the natural harbour is on one of our sides while Glacier Bluff steep slope and ice backdrop guards the opposite side of the area. In front of us basaltic cliffs with countless gentoo penguins at its feet structures the background of our landing.

After breakfast the guides gave a quick briefing on the landing area. Meanwhile outside, the crew prepared the zodiacs to bring us ashore. And then all was ready for our first landfall in Antarctica. Close to our landingsite a solitary Weddell seal snoozes quietly, with many Skuas around and curious Gentoo penguins approaching our group and proposing in the shallow waters of the cobble beach. Our first contact with the Antarctic wildlife. The boulders and rocks on this strand have all been smoothened by the erosion of the sea: most of them are (nearly) round and some had beautiful patterns. Others were covered with bright orange lichen, and we found patches of moss growing in between them - and even a few patches of Antarctic Hairgrass - one of the only two species of vascular Antarctic plants.

Soon it was already time to return to the ship and the zodiacs picked us up. Lunch was served and right afterwards we heave anchor and start our way off this beautiful natural harbour. Our first landing already gave us the chance to see there species of seals and two species of penguins. Next activity was a ship cruise to Edinburgh Hill, a conspicuous volcanic knob forming the N side of the entrance to Moon Bay in the E part of Livingston Island. First photographed and named by Scottish geologist David Ferguson in 1913-14. Edinburgh Hill is a classic columnar basalt formation, standing nearly 150 meters straight out of the sea. The columns are beautifully deformed into a smooth bellied curve, and are of a striking soft grey colour against the bright glaciers, which surround it. Low clouds and mist gave the area a touch of mystery, but at least the light rain that had been with us during the morning stopped, and we can enjoy a drier time on deck admiring this geological singularity.

After a while drifting close to the magnificent cliff, we resume our way under improving weather and clearing skies, towards the spectacular and wild Fort Point. The old name for this site, Castle Rock, is quite descriptive, as the 85m high rocks tower into the sky like a real castle. Those impressive rocks are the head of a peninsula sticking off the East coast of Greenwich Island. After the quiet waters of our morning landing, Fort Point offers a bit more difficulties to step ashore, but once we managed we are all overwhelmed by the rough beauty of the landscape. After enjoying the great scenery created by the rocks and the ice, we all make our way down to the beach to be picked up and return to the ship before 22:00h. While we are ashore another ship, the small “Hans Hanse” approach the bay where the Europa waits for us and drop anchor to spend a quiet evening. What an impressive “tasty” landing we just made to finish our first Antarctic day of the trip!. And then, just before 23:00h, we heave anchor and start making our way towards the Southern shores of Livingston Island, where we plan to do tomorrow’s activities.

Written by:
Jordi | Expedition leader

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