Our main visit today was at Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands, just off the tip of the Antarctic peninsula. Elephant Island has a number of different penguin colonies and groups of seals, but the reason it is visited is more historical than natural. Elephant Island is where Shackleton's party wound up after their ship, the Endurance, sunk when crushed by the ice. Shackleton and his men took to their three sailboats and hit land here at Elephant Island - the last land of any type before the Drake Passage and South America, hundreds of miles away. They landed their boats on a tiny rock outcrop and beach. Shackleton himself and 5 of the men then took one of the boats and set sail for South Georgia, 800 miles away, to get help - leaving 22 men camped on this tiny rock outcrop for over 4 months. Their only shelter was the two boats they kept, and their only food was the thousands of penguins and seals they killed for meat and blubber. They were finally rescued after Shackleton returned (after 3 attempts to return were turned back by sea ice)
Since this all happened in 1916, the beach has eroded away, so it was not possible to land, but we cruised the area in our Zodiac boats. The location of their camp was marked by a small cross, memorializing the captain of the Chilean navy vessel that finally rescued them. The seas were quite rough during this cruise, with 4-8 foot swells, but the Zodiacs rode these swells with no trouble at all.
Our dinner this evening was a bit of a change. The cooks on the ship are Swedish (like the Captain and many of the other ship's crew), but the stewards are all Philippine. Tonight, their cook prepared a Philippine buffet for us, the centerpiece of which was a roasted suckling pig, presented with head on and an apple stuffed in it's mouth. Visually, it was a bit shocking, but it tasted great.