One of our kayaking guides on a recent expedition to Antarctica on board the MV Plancius was lucky enough to be taking a group kayaking near Cuverville Island when some humpback whales paid a visit. Here she relates what happened:
“We stood quietly at the rail on the stern with gear in hand, ready to begin dropping kayaks to the water on long carabineer-clad lines when we heard the unmistakable blow of a whale. Then another - two whales!
We watched as they slowly bobbed at the surface and ever so slowly propelled themselves forward. I let the kayakers know we were witnessing sleeping whales! I have to assume they were sleeping off a heavy feed from the night before - whales tend to feed heaviest and best at night. We made quick work of getting the kayaks in the water.
Here we were in one of the most amazing locations on earth - glaciers as far as the eye could see, impossibly tall mountain peaks rising straight up out of the water to a height of 1,500 meters, glistening white, dazzling the air with an intense electricity of light, the air cold in our lungs but somehow dry and forgiving - and now we were watching slow moving whales! They didn’t appear to know or bother that we were there. We all secretly wished the whales would stay close by; it might give us a chance to view them from the water.
Several paddlers snuck sideways glances and kept up a steady report of their course and distance from us. “...appear to be circling, not in any hurry; they’re still with us...” were words we all heard. I gave instructions to the paddlers to advance slowly ahead of where we thought they might be going, then raft up and wait. With any luck we’d get a visit from them but it required patience and absolute quiet on the water.
We saw them go under in a deep dive, slow and easy. We’d waited about two minutes when suddenly one then the other burst out of the water with huge blows, practically inches in front of us! Humpbacks - male humpbacks, judging from their size. Both had huge black glistening backs and sunk below the surface as quickly as they’d appeared, leaving 11 very excited and happy paddlers exclaiming the details that would stay with them forever.
We set ourselves up again for another pass about 5-10 minutes later as we watched them continue their slow, lazy circle. And it happened again! Luckily they’re as curious about us as we are of them. We didn’t want to press our luck however and disturb them from their restful digestion nor stress them, so we paddled off and away, leaving them to their feeding grounds and quiet stillness of the ocean that welcomes them back each year from the north. It really was the thrill of a lifetime.”
Louise Adie, Kayak Master, MV Plancius
Kayaking is an optional activity on selected departures of the following polar expedition cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic.
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