Here it is, the final expedition of the Antarctica trip! Definitely not the last bit of excitement (more about that later), but the final time we were out on the zodiacs and setting foot on the Antarctic Peninsula. It was the afternoon of 8 March and we’d spent the morning at Paradise Bay, taking in all the beauty Antarctica had to offer.
That experience was going to be hard to top, but we were in luck as the weather was good enough in the afternoon for a zodiac cruise and landing at Damoy Point.
Damoy Point is a headland at the northern entrance point to the harbour of Port Lockroy, in the Palmer Archipelago of Antarctica. It was discovered and named by the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903–05, under Jean-Baptiste Charco.
The final zodiac cruise
We were in the Zodiacs at around 2.30pm, again the photographers were out first. By now getting our gear on in the mud room, was a well-oiled process. It was a bit bittersweet though, knowing that for most of us this was the last time we’d be out.
I was still going to enjoy every second of this last zodiac cruise. I was in Simon’s zodiac for this outing and off we motored. First taking in the brightly coloured hut up on the landing site. Of course we could already see there were penguins everywhere!
The Damoy Hut is a feature of this site. The well-preserved hut contains scientific equipment and other artifacts stands at the point. It was built in 1973 and used for several years as a British summer air facility and transit station for scientific personnel. It was last occupied in 1993. It has been designated a Historic Site or Monument by the United Kingdom. In 2023, Damoy Hut was repainted in its original bright orange after a conservation team spent nearly four weeks camping and working on the continent.
The bright orange with the Argentinian flag on the side certainly stood out.
We started out with a cruise through the ice, checking out the unique formations around Damoy Point.
We were again hanging close to our fellow photographers in the other photo group zodiac, captained by Bruno.
The ice in every location is a little different, so it was always amazing to float around, taking in the landscape.
There were plenty of Gentoo penguin colonies, so we spent some time watching our penguin friends hanging out on the rocks.
We again were lucky enough to find Weddell seals, just hanging out on some rocks. Despite having probably several hundred seal photos by now, I was more than happy to try and get some more good ones. Weddell seals were definitely my favourite, with their puppy-dog faces and beautiful coloured coats.
This guy was more than happy to say hello to us, although we was probably wondering why we were interrupting his nap! Two seals and some penguins meant we had plenty of options for shots. After several days, I was also much more used to bumping up and down in the zodiac while trying to take photos around 10 or 12 other people and a lot of bags.
Leaving our seal friends to resume their napping, we spent some time watching some Gentoo colonies. Damoy Point has a large number of baby penguins. We were lucky enough to see several of them feeding, the babies sitting under their parents beaks, waiting for lunch.
The little penguin heads can go an awful long way into their mummies beak!
While it looks like we were standing right next to our penguin friends, all these shots were indeed taken from a bobbing zodiac in the water. Simon and Bruno were great at getting us into good spots to observe the wildlife, without being any closer than allowed.
It was hilarious watching the penguins taking themselves off for walks or to play. This older baby was quite amusing to watch…
We’d also spy penguins wandering to the edge of the water, ready to head off for a swim….
Then, something I hadn’t seen before, some albatross sitting in the snow!
The icy landscape…
We may not have had the beautiful soft light and glassy ocean of the morning at Paradise Bay, but Damoy Point did give us some stormy skies and pretty icebergs to point our cameras at.
We had a bit of time left cruising, while waiting for our turn to head to the landing site. We were lucky enough to see plenty of seabirds in the area and a few Antarctic terns were in the area.
The terns were hovering around our zodiac and doing laps of the nearby ice. The colour gradient on their feathers is beautiful as they zipped past the zodiacs.
The final landing….
As we approached the landing site, I spied Di already on land (she was easy to spot with her bright green ski pants). She’d been doing her landing first while I was cruising. Being in different mudroom groups we hadn’t had much luck being on land together, aside from one expedition early in trip. She had seen our zodiac coming in, as she was ready to board for her cruise so we had a brief chance to catch up for an Antarctic selfie!
Huts and plains….
The landing site for Damoy Point was near the hut. Like the Argentinian base we’d seen that morning in Paradise Bay, after many days of snow, ice and vast landscapes, it was a little strange seeing a physical structure dominating the landscape.
The marked trails extended past the hut and towards several penguin colonies. There was the familiar sight of blue and yellow expeditioners heading off to explore.
After the earlier albatross in snow, we happened across some more Skua in the snow. There were plenty in this area, as there were plenty of baby penguins they were trying to snack on.
The vast landscape….
I had not tired of the amazing vastness of the Antarctic landscape. The giant icebergs, snow plains, or towering mountains, really did make you feel like you were at the end of the earth. Damoy Point, surrounded by mountains and our ship anchored in the bay again reminded us we were somewhere special.
The tiny dots of fellow staff and guests, snaking around the bay make you realise how vast this area is.
Never enough penguins…
The landscape might be amazing, but the penguins regularly steal the show. I don’t think there was a single person on that ship that wasn’t charmed by the cute (but smelly) creatures.
Most expeditioners made a beeline for penguin colonies on every landing. They were endlessly fascinating to watch. I did have to admire the fellow guest wearing a penguin on her head too!
I definitely spent more time taking photos of penguins than I did getting my photo with penguins! I did ask a fellow photographer on this final expedition to take a photo of me with the penguins, so yes I was really there with them, and yes it was this much fun!
After lucking out watching a baby penguin feed, while on our zodiac cruise. I was stoked to see some more feeding action in a nearby colony. We’d learnt that the baby taps the parent on the beak when they want food. When you see the tap, it’s camera at the ready.
The head really does go all the way in, it’s fascinating to watch!
The penguins of Damoy Point really did have everything. So many babies of various sizes, moulting penguins and cheeky penguins. Unfortunately, being late in the season it was already past the time most babies, particularly the younger ones, were likely to survive. This last expedition I saw more than one person sobbing about the baby penguins. It was definitely a harsh lesson in looking after our environment. Climate change down here is real, and we were getting a first hand lesson on the impact.
How could you not love these adorable penguin faces!!!
I had to laugh at the mummy penguins sitting on their babies. A stack of penguins!
If you aren’t sitting on your offspring, dancing in the snow and eating it, is the next best thing…..
It might have been my last penguin encounter of the trip, but they certainly put on a show for me…..
Ah, these guys are too cute! It really was like being part of ‘Happy Feet’ at times….
Here are some of the penguin antics from Damoy Point……
It was now after 5.30pm and we were getting the call to head back to the zodiacs. As we walked back down towards the landing site, there was plenty of filling in of boot holes. The squishy snow had meant there were plenty of large boot holes that small penguins can fall into, and no one wants that!
This snow really is pink! It’s all penguin poo. Yep their poo makes pink snow. More than a few penguins had been here….
Expeditions done, but the fun wasn’t over….
It had been an amazing last expedition day. After we were all back on the ship and back in warm and dry clothes, it was off to the lounge for the nightly briefing. Eight expeditions done, and the landscape, wildlife and amazing vistas in each were totally different. Here is where we went over the preceding 4 days of expeditions.
That was about where the happy news ended. We were heading away from the Antarctic Peninsula and back into the Drake Passage, due to dock in Ushuaia, Argentina in a bit over 2 days time. The weather forecast for the next couple of days was not favourable. The wind chart looked horrendous and we heard mention a 3,000km storm front.
At this point, I wasn’t worried. Dinner that night was full of excitement and everyone’s stories of the past few days. I did chat to a few of the crew who mentioned it had been downplayed at the briefing and it wasn’t looking great. How bad could it be we all thought? Well we had plenty of Drake Shake and a very interesting trip back, but more about that in the next blog.
For now, what a day and what an amazing trip so far. We’d had a ship group photo earlier that day. A great group of people to experience this amazing place with!
You thought I’d finally finished all the Antarctica photos? Not quite. There will be one last post with all the amusing videos and stories from our very memorable trip back across the Drake Passage. Then it was off to South America and a couple of day in Chile!