January 3, 2019. Thur.Snow Hill Island/Devil Island

We are now in the Waddell Sea above 65”S.  Partly cloudy with sun pushing through.  Beautiful bay with backdrop of volcanic mountains.  We are the first visitors for the season as December 2017 was the last group able to navigate the ice floes often blocking entry.

On shore is the  hut where part of the Nordenskjold  exploration group of 1901-04  carried a pre-fab hut for use during their winters on the island.  Climbing up to an overlook we had a glorious view of the bay.  We then hiked down the shoreline – a combination of snow, rock and mud -silt, with treasures of ancient fossils popping up to the delight of our naturalist guides.  As we move along the edge we realize there is some tidal flow taking place and our zodiac landing spot has lost it water and is now in the mud.   Our hike grows longer as we continue around a hillside through quicksand like mud to another accessible bay.  We experienced a little more exercise and felt like true explorers.

Following lunch, we arrive  north at Devil Island, our afternoon playground.  Wasting no time we are whisked to the island to view another major  Adelie penguin rookery.   For these adult and babies is was a very warm 41.  A climb to the top of the island reveals views of the entire bay and the sea.

After spending time with chicks, we motor back to the ship for an immediate turnaround to kayak.  Jumping into our boats we enjoy being on the water at the same level as the penguins who are leaping all around us.   We are using double sit on top kayaks wearing emergency beacons in case an unexpected dip occurs in the water.  The ship is equipped with at least 12 kayaks so a substantial chunk of us are on the water at the same time.  Nevertheless it takes rotating groups to launch 80-90 of us during the afternoon.

Having a little time after kayaking,  I jump on a zodiac back to the rookery for some last minute photos of the funny birds.  If this wasn’t enough excitement, today is Plunge Day.  All who wish to jump in the ocean are encouraged to do so under the observation and safety of the crew.  Amazingly there were a number of those who made the choice including Jon.  After a quick dip, the brave jumpers are pulled immediately up onto the outdoor platform for a dry towel, brandy and hot chocolate.  The hot showers afterward took the water pressure down to a trickle.

Late dinner with Rob, one of the naturalist.

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