After lunch we entered Cierva Cove. The Vavilov moored in the bay.
We lined up eagerly on the gangway. The northern sky was a foreboding grey yet filled with texture.
Humpback whales were swimming in front of giant icebergs.
Nothing can prepare you for the beauty and peace of this land at the bottom of the world. The ice masses intrigue. From steel blue to pure white, geometric and haphazard, the shapes appear in front of your eyes and fall away as the next more beautiful piece appears.
Near a giant iceberg we slowed the zodiac and had humpback whales diving in front of us. Their deep sigh near us as they breathed out resonated somewhere in my soul. I have felt their breath before in False Bay in the Cape, but here in this wilderness I was truly honoured.
We followed another whale, then another, trying to frame the big tail as it dripped water first against a glacier face, then an iceberg and finally a black cliff. Taking pictures in the freezing cold and poor light from a kneeling position in a zodiac is not easy, but the experience was worth just being there, even without a camera.
We left the whales and made our way to the western edge of the bay, to look at giant icebergs. Along the way we saw smaller more interesting shapes and shades. We had penguins on the ice, a small group on a massive slab. Then two on a smaller block. Suddenly they became three as one flew onto the ice from the water. Penguins transform in water as pure swimming machines to land on ice as clumsy clowns. The transition is instant.
It started snowing and we headed back. We were far from the ship and were thinking up excuses for Boris, the expedition leader, to explain the delay:
“Tell him we had a puncture” piped up one voice.
“No, tell him a whale breached right next to us and we nearly sank” said another.
As we joked and squinted through the sea spray and snow three Minke whales breached right next to us a few times, feeding. It was a beautiful and inspiring sight.
Back on board the Vavilov we celebrated with a whisky on glacier ice. As we steamed out of Cierva Cove we had humpback whales circle feeding on either side of the ship. The lounge erupted like a rowdy football crowd, with each side cheering as their whales breached.
Truly, a spectacular sight.
I have no idea why we still hunt whales. Nor do I understand why we are systematically destroying our fragile earth?