Kayaking with Whales in Neko Bay

We’re on a tight schedule, as camping on the ice is planned for tonight. Two nights of camping are possible, and I think we’ll only do one, but as yet, we don’t know which. So, it’s a quick lunch and back out into Neko Bay for kayaking.

Photos Neko Bay Kayaking

Neko Bay is the most Antarctic we’ve seen so far. We are surrounded on three side by the most powerful glaciers and towering mountains. The glaciers are practically bursting into the sea with deep slots splaying their blue ice contents. Frequent ice falls be heard if not seen, and this makes the Captain nervous, says Lynn. As we clamber down the gang plank and into the zodiacs we see a bay full of wind-driven growlers and icebergs of varying size and stability, which are driven by the currents, all capable of doing damage even to our ice-strengthened ship, if we are not careful.

The bay is flat calm for the kayaks; we must be sheletered from the wind by the mountains. The cloud patterns shift frequently, so the wind must be there. I’d say it was tranquil because that’s the sense I get as we paddle. I’m confident enough now on the water to get the camera out, but really, I just want to glide across the mirror surface and bash through some slush.

Then we are graced by the company of a Minke whale. It doesn’t show itself much, being content to play under the surface and just keep an eye on us. I’m torn between wanting to get a good photo of it to prove I was there, and just being there with the whale. It breaches the surface in front of us briefly before diving right under our kayak. The instant I saw it and the bow wave coming towards us I thought we had trouble, but she knew what she was doing, and just headed off. We waited and hoped for it’s return. Our first close encounter was short and no reason to call National Geographic with our photos, just the impact of her presence. You can see Mathiska is quite taken by what we are in the midst of, almost to the point of forgetting her duties as kayak leader.

I look around as we float and see our zodiac driver Rupert – a marine biologist on the staff of Oceanwide. He is patrolling in the mist behind us. There is nothing beyond him but the bay, the mountains and the wilderness. It’s odd to see such mountains and not really know what or where they are. If you go to the Alps you know that one is Mont Blanc, or behind there is Val d’Isere. Here all you know is behind this range is some unkown ice-shelf or some vast plain leading southwards and to the pole.

At dinner, and before we set out to camp, Rupert tells of his encounter: the Minke had a calf with her. She must have seen the zodiac and wondered what it was. She poked her head out of the water right in front of him, eyeball to eyeball. The Japanese whalers still hunt Minkes, justifying their killing by calling the Minkes “rodents of the seas” – their population, relative to other species, is high. But it’s clear to me what the real vermin is.

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