Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Day 11 - Icebergs and whales

It's day's like today that define the entire Antarctic visitor experience. After breakfast we pulled anchor at Commonwealth Bay and set off in search of the world's largest iceberg. Twelve months ago, two massive ice bodies the size of small European republics squared off. The 2500 sq km iceberg, B98, bore down on the similarly sized Mertz ice tongue, a floating extension of the mighty glacier of the same name. The resulting collision snapped off the tongue creating two ice masses that contained billions of tons of frozen water. Now breaking up, huge tabular bergs the size of Pacific islands are now adrift along the coast. Towering as high as 30m with sheer white cliff faces, they look like monstrous polystyrene carvings with escorting fragments and 'bergie bits' ranging in size from office blocks to station wagons. We set out in Zodiacs to cruise among them when a young fin whale is attracted to our noisy outboards. He circles and dives, surfacing occasionally for a close look and even showering the passengers from his blow hole. The encounter lasts almost an hour before he tires and retreats, leaving us with plenty to gloat about over dinner.