Neko Harbour & Melchior Islands: We spent the morning of our last full day in Antarctica at Neko Harbor in Andvord Bay. A large colony of Gentoo penguins were there to greet us as the expedition team struggled through the thick ice near shore to find a decent landing spot. After they had found the right spot, the captain used the ships propellers to push much of the ice out of the way.
Then the expedition team used the Zodiacs to push smaller icebergs (up to the size of a truck) out of the way to make a channel to bring us guests to shore through the ice. Since the ice continuously floats around, it kept about four zodiac drivers busy all morning just keeping the icebergs out of the way.
The snowbanks, measuring about 15 feet high, came the whole way down to water. So, the expedition team needed to carve out steps up the bank and then stomp out a trail with snowshoes in the deep snow. This allowed us access to several groups of the Gentoo colony. There was a large group down nearer the edge and then several groups higher up on the hills.
When our trek was over and the expedition team had pulled everything back to the ship, we noticed the penguins also appreciated the hard work of the expedition team. From the ship we could see a lot of the penguins using the slope that the team had carved out as a nice slide down to the water. Then, as we turned seaward, we were greeted by some whales showing off in the Antarctic waters.
The rest of the day we made our way north through partly sunny skies, and after a polar plunge in the frigid 28-degree water, we turned towards Cape Horn and entered the waters of the Drake Passage.