After our adventures at Devil Island and Brown Bluff, we went for a long boat ride up and around the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula towards Mikkelsen Harbor which is on the south side of Trinity Island on the northwest side of the peninsula.
The originl of the name Mikkelsen Harbor comes from Peder Michelsen who as a whaling manager who was lost in 1910. The harbor was discovered by a Swedish expedition in 1901-1904.
We were still on our way early in the morning but had a nice view of the sun coming up. As you can see in the map above, Mikkelsen is a protected harbor and we had plans to dive. Little did we realize that we would witness nature at work and Becky would get to fulfill a longtime goal….
By mid-morning, the sun had broken through as we approached our destination
By the time we got to our destination, it was after lunch and the sun was out and it was a beautiful day. We loaded up the RIBs on the back deck in anticipation of a dive and land tour.
We split into two groups of two RIBs for the divers while the other passengers went ashore. We went to a location by a gently sloping seabed and conducted our dive. It reminded me quite a bit of a California dive with a lot of kelp. However, there were some really big “tree trunk” kelp. They also had salps which we sometimes see here as well.
Below are some of the pictures from the dive
Little did we realize that the “real action” was about to get started.
Leopard Seals & Penguins
We were finished with our dive and headed to the landing to go explore the area around the island. The radios started to go wild and we heard that some divers were snorkeling in the water with leopard seals and that the seals were attacking penguins! We abandoned plans (for the moment) to go ashore and headed over to where they were.
On the way, we saw some penguins swimming and jumping in and out of the water.
We then went over and saw Becky in the water, snorkeling, and filming the leopard seal mauling a penguin. I still kick myself for not getting into the water. I kept thinking “by the time I get my dry gloves back on and my camera ready, my snorkel out, etc.” it will be too late. Becky got some incredible stills and video of this natural predatory behavior. I got some above water footage on my phone and you can how close she was to the action.
Definitely amazing to witness. We then went ashore to see some of the wildlife.
Mikkelsen Harbor Shore Visit
After the excitement with the leopard seals, we landed on the site and explored around. I had left my “real” camera in the boat and only had my iPhone but got some cool pictures of this area. It has a hut for travelers and you can see some old boats and whale bones.
As if that weren’t enough excitement for the day, we were leaving Mikkelsen and headed south to our next stop and ran across a TON of humpback whales! Not only did we see them, but it was about 6pm and the sun was going down and the light was perfect for pictures.
At first, when they said that the whales were around, I thought “jeez, I have to go take my camera out of the waterproof housing, change the lens to the 100-400, get back on the deck and how long will they be around?” I’m very glad I decided to do it. The message is the same as with the leopard seals: when there is opportunity – seize it!
Below is a sequence of 4-5 seconds of a humpback breaching before a dive to feed:
So many great photos:
Truly an incredible day. The sun was setting and we had to move on to our next location. We said good bye to the whales and started steaming south.
Up Next…Lemaire Channel
Our plan was to get to the mouth of the Lemaire Channel and wait for daylight to transit through this narrow, iceberg filled channel since you cannot traverse it at night.