65° 50' 55 S 62° 32' 23 W
An early start landed us on Neko Harbour, discovered by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache, and named for a Scottish whaling boat; the harbour is the site of a Gentoo penguin colony and a beautiful viewpoint over the waters.
Filling the entire landing area and much of the flat land were penguins. There were so many penguins every step required a certain amount of caution. They were incredibly curious about us as visitors and extremely friendly.
Many were playing in the water in front of us, a few feet away from where our zodiacs were landing, and others decided to investigate these strange tall visitors with bright red coats more closely.
The penguins climbed up onto peoples chests and laps, gently bit at their hands or straps. My penguin came up and nibbled my gloved hand, my lens hood, and then moved behind me to attempt to eat my camera straps.
It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, to be so trusted by a wild creature.
One man laid on his back and a penguin climbed him and nestled down to rest and occasionally chew on something.
Even our guides were not immune; two left their backpacks on the ground which rapidly became the new nesting sites for a pair of penguins. The waterproof dry bag of our Photographer in residence was one of the desirable spots and keeping him limited to shooting with whatever he already had in hand.
The highest point on the island, with the best view, was "closed" due to the amount of ice and so we had a shorter hike which still provided great views over the harbour and back to our ship. Even at the top, penguins nested, their carefully crafted nests of tiny stones carried up from the shoreline a testament to the effort they are willing to expend to attract a mate.
As we took the zodiac back, we marvelled at the Alpenglow, a phenomenon of light reflecting off the clouds and snow giving an indirect light, quite incredible, and typically red. In the Antarctic, it is a compelling blue.
The water was full of sea ice, making our journey back to the ship challenging. We had to ram through the ice on several occasions.