Today we woke up moored next to Danco Island - lying as it does in the southern end of the Errera Channel. It is relatively small, 1 mile long, but quite high at 180m.
The call went out soon enough after we woke though - “Humpbacks off the port side.” What a way to wake up!
After breakfast we took to the Zodiacs, landed on the island, and got to climb up it, albeit gingerly. It was covered in snow and ice, and a tough climb.
The view from the top was spectacular though due to the heavily crevassed glaciers in the surrounding mountains. There were also beautiful rolled icebergs in this area of the channel.
Danco Island is home to approximately 3,500 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins which breed quite high up on the slopes.
The place was charted by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under de Gerlache, 1897-99. Surveyed by the British (FIDS) and named after Émile Danco, Belgian geophysicist and member of the BelgAE, who died on board the Belgica in the Antarctic. Danco Island was also home to the British Antarctic Survey’s Station O, which closed in 1959 and was removed in 2004.
Once back down the mountain we took a cruise around the channel where we saw numerous more humpback whales amongst the icebergs. Such a delight.
After lunch back on board we steamed around to Neko Harbour. It is named after the floating whale factory ship, Neko, which often used this bay. Neko operated between 1911-12 and 1923-24 in the South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula.
This site was actually a continental landing too (did someone say mainland Antarctica?!) and home to approximately 250 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins.
Neko Harbour is also notorious for its calving glaciers. The beach is prone to large and unpredictable waves following such a calving so we had to stay off the beach throughout our landing where we climbed up one of the nearby mountains.
We also got to cruise around the harbour later where we saw snoozing crab-eater seals, a feeding pod of crab-eater seals, and yes, a couple of humpback whales too.
Once back on board we were foolhardy enough to volunteer to take part in the Antarctic Plunge! We both had ropes tied around us and, watched by the rest of the passengers, we dived into the icy sea.
Needless to day we survived. Just! But boy, it was a fresh shade of cold in that water!
Once warmed up, the ship’s company held a BBQ for us in the evening. And right on cue, mid-meal, a humpback whale appeared and breached with its tail flying high into the air. I joked that the ship must have bribed the whale with a couple of tons of krill for such perfect timing.
The evening was then topped off by drinks in the bar and a talk by one of the guides on English expressions derived from nautical terms. It got a bit fruity too!
We headed to bed early as we were tired. Another amazing day.