Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wilhelmina Bay (a.k.a. Whale-helmina Bay)

Every morning after breakfast the Expedition Leader on the ship gives the passengers their itinerary for the day. Some days it sounds so fantastic that I just want to ditch counting penguins and be a tourist! After three long days of counting penguins, my wishes finally came true…we were heading for Wilhelmina Bay for a morning of zodiac cruising. I happen to love zodiac cruising; sitting in the boat, weaving through icebergs and hunting for whales, what’s not to love? There are no nesting colonies of penguins in this region and since we were all caught up on data entry, I grabbed my camera and got in line to cruise.

Within half an hour of cruising through the ice we came across a leopard seal lounging on an iceberg. Leopard seals are one of the top predators in the Antarctic marine food web.  [insert photo] Leopard seals primarily feed on penguins, but their back molars are shaped like a sieve (when they come together) to filter krill out of the water as well. Krill can make up half of their diet. While photographing the leopard seal we heard the one sound that gets everyone’s heart racing “pooooft”—a whale spout! For the next hour we all enjoyed spending time with two very accommodating humpback whales. Humpbacks are quite curious and often approached the zodiacs to “check us out”. One of the kayakers got quite the surprise when one of the humpbacks surfaced right next to his kayak! It was really nice to have the morning to relax and take in the breathtaking vistas in Wilhelmina Bay.

Humpback whale in Wilhelmina Bay 

Leopard seal on ice in Wilhelmina Bay

The water was so calm in Wilhelmina Bay, it gave us a great chance to checkout
the ice below the surface!

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