“It’s hard to leave it, isn’t is”, I heard Lonan whisper to Gry.
I had just crawled inside my tent and snuggled into my sleeping bag for the night but my tent is still unzipped and I gaze out the door at a dozen dark fur seals curled up on the rocks 50 metres away, then glance to the sea where 40 white crab eater seals lay slumped on ice floes within spitting distance of the shore. A few gentoo penguins stand on the snow, or swim about around the bay looking for krill. Behind them, the jagged black peaks of Booth island rise impressively towards the sky. Crevassed glaciers lay on top of and around all of the rock, covering every inch of rock that isn’t near vertical.
It’s hard to stop gazing at the view or watching the animals go about their daily business. They aren’t bothered by us at all. The fur seals break into spontaneous play fighting at regular intervals and occasionally a crab eater seal will slide into the water, or shoot up onto a floe. At one point, 2 penguins lept out of the water in a hurry and Dave spots the reason why. The powerful, prehistoric head of a leopard seal breaks the surface a few metres behind them. The predatory seal cruises around the bay for a while, looking for any less careful penguins.
We spent 2 nights camping on Booth island. On the beautiful sunny day in between, we wander from our campsite up a small hill, then past thousands of nesting Gentoo penguins. The chicks are losing their fluffy down and are nearly in their swimming plumage. Soon they will be ready to go to sea. We climb 250 meters up a rocky hill, past more penguin nests. The parents carry food up to their hungry chicks to a height of nearly 200 meters, presumably every day.
Our beautiful day on Booth island is one of only 2 days where we don’t paddle in the 2 weeks we have been in Antarctica so far. One other day 30 knot winds changed our plans and instead of kayaking, we visited the historic hut and museum at Port Lockroy and went for a walk amongst penguins and whale bones. Every other day we have paddled past incredible carving glaciers, crossed through brash ice to remote rugged islands and weaved through rocky islands in the mist. Humpback whales occasionally join us, as did a couple of minke whales. The weather has been mostly fairly good with mostly light winds. We had a few days of rain and a couple of days where snow settled on our kayaks and veiled the mountains. We threw snowballs at each other using the snow that settled on brash ice.
In my tent, I smile at Lonan’s comment. It certainly is hard to leave but I’m tired and I reluctantly zip away the view and shut my eyes. I fall asleep listening to penguins chattering in the distance.