Westside Stories— Lemaire Channel

We leave the incredibly beautiful but restless anchorage early in the morning. Just around the corner, the spectacular entrance to the Lemaire Channel awaits us. This six-kilometre-long strait between the peninsula and the offshore Booth Island is very narrow, measuring just 720 m wide at its narrowest point. Plenty of room for us small yachts, even if we have to slalom through the ice. Large cruisers approaching announce their passage on the radio, as only one ship at a time can pass through the canal. On both sides of the canal, the mountains rise up to 1,000 meters above sea level. Coupled with numerous glaciers, this is a spectacular backdrop that makes the passage an impressive experience.

Numerous blue icebergs await us on the south side, and Hovgaard Island – a larger island in the middle of an archipelago of numerous small, mostly flat islands that stretches out to the west and south. The anchor drops at around nine o’clock. The island is covered by a gently rounded, snow-white glacier cap. Most of us want to climb its 368-metre-high peak. Meanwhile, Unda and Ursula prefer a short kayak tour to the neighboring penguins.

We put our snowshoes in the Zodiac and are accompanied and followed by a curious leopard seal during the crossing to the island, just like on Astrolabe Island. A little too curious for our liking, after a while it starts to repeatedly graze the side walls of the dinghy with its head and body, dives under us, swims at us again … It is easy to see in the crystal-clear water, its strength and elegance are impressive, as are its huge head and suddenly open mouth from close up. Once again we have the image of those pointed teeth in the orange rubber before our eyes and accelerate. So does the leopard seal. And it is fast – of course, after all it loves to chase penguins as fast as an arrow. But we can’t really shake it off. We are glad when we scramble ashore, wish Voj a safe return journey, put on our snowshoes and are ready to go.

It takes us just under an hour and a half to climb the hill, which looks so inconspicuous from below. Small black dots in the white, vast landscape. The glacier is covered in snow. The higher we get, the more beautiful the view of the archipelago, the countless blue-white icebergs floating like ice cubes in the sea, the southern portal of the Lemaire Channel and the peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula, which unfortunately remain largely hidden in higher layers of cloud. And very small down there, between all this splendor, lies our red Selma.

It’s good to get our legs moving again and we really enjoy the variety of this snowshoe tour. Back on the coast, a skua takes an interest in our snowshoes and we discover an old depot, still full of supplies and emergency equipment. Alan identifies it as clearly British due to its contents and the color coding. On the way back we remain unmolested this time, Voj and we take a different route with the Zodiac so as not to dispute the leopard seal’s territory again.

After some refreshments, we weigh anchor and set off, heading south. It’s about two hours to the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station. This is our next destination. We want to pay a visit to Piotr’s friends here and take a two-day break to find some peace and quiet and avoid the strong winds forecast for the next few days. We are excited.

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