Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Extreme Ice Survey: Success on South Georgia Island

There is a particular moment in the mountains, when the clouds part and mysterious summits are revealed, that I find especially appealing. Often, muted gray skies and low clouds obscure the world above, leaving steep ridges disappearing into an atmospheric abyss. This veil of mystery allows my imagination to run wild trying to envision this hidden world. But on rare occasion when the clouds vanish, I find nothing more spectacular than that first complete glimpse of the surrounding snow-covered spires and airy peaks.

On this day, more than 9,000 feet above us and completely hidden by clouds, the highest peak on South Georgia Island, Mount Paget (9626 ft/2934 m), is collecting snow that many years later will reach the terminus of the Nordenskjöld Glacier. We’ve worked feverishly for the past four hours to secure two time-lapse cameras near the dramatic calving front of this glacier. The 2-mile (3.2 km) wide face of teetering seracs appears still, however the frequent sounds of calving chunks of ice tell otherwise. The size of this glacier is a testament to the amount of precipitation that blankets this island, a small rugged thumb protruding from one of the stormiest reaches of ocean anywhere on the planet.

Nordenskjöld Glacier was named for Otto Nordenskjöld, the leader of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, whose members charted this area in the early 20th century. This glacier, like the vast majority of glaciers on this island, has retreated in recent decades, reflecting changes in precipitation and temperature on the island. Our cameras will tirelessly capture images of Nordenskjöld, creating a visual record that will contribute to our understanding of how the glaciers on South Georgia Island are responding to a changing climate.

Racing back to our landing site, the cameras secured in place, grins stretch across our faces as we stare into the low light of the setting sun.  We set out in our ~19-foot (5.9 m) boat, bobbing in the large ocean swell of East Cumberland Bay. Eric Guth, EIS team member and seasoned Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic naturalist and photo instructor, masterfully steers us through the deep troughs and cresting waves. The bow of the boat emphatically slaps down on the backside of each wave, sending wind-whipped water across the entire boat, drenching us with frigid 29° F (-1° C) seawater. Our hands grip tightly to the side of the boat, knowing that a swim in these waters would last only a few minutes before succumbing to the numbing cold of the sea.

Through the parting clouds, we can make out the distant shape of the National Geographic Explorer, while in the foreground, the faint outlines of two ship-wrecked rusting vessels can be seen; a not-so-subtle reminder of the potential hazards of South Georgia Island.

Despite these concerns, we’re fixated on the scene before us. The dull grey clouds that limited our view all day are clearing away, presenting the snow-covered mountains, each painted in different shades of pink, orange and purple.  Above it all, Mount Paget remains engulfed in an imposing lenticular cloud, retaining its mystery for another day. The first images our time-lapse cameras capture will be spectacular and I can’t wait to return to see the rest. I know at some point over the next year Mount Paget will be revealed, although given the weather we’ve experienced on South Georgia Island, I imagine it won’t be all that often.

By Dan McGrath

Extreme Ice Survey Returns South

Extreme Ice Survey, the team featured in the Emmy award-winning film Chasing Ice, is aboard our ship, National Geographic Explorer, sailing towards South Georgia Island and Antarctica. Over the next two weeks, they’ll be installing time-lapse cameras that will shoot photos every hour of every day, creating visual records of these changing landscapes. 

During February 2014, our team traveled aboard Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer (www.expeditions.com) to install time-lapse cameras on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia Island. The camera systems include a Nikon D3200 digital camera, a custom waterproof case and timer, and are completely powered by a solar panel and battery. We typically install cameras on bedrock outcrops above the glacier to ensure sufficient perspective to monitor the glacier’s flow and extent. Last year, we installed nine cameras at five different sites, including Cierva Cove and Neko Harbor on the peninsula. We were graced with sunny skies and warm temperatures, and often, friendly visits from the neighborhood welcoming committee, staffed by penguins, and seals.

You can see why authors have long struggled to describe these visually stunning landscapes with words alone. The sharpness of the peaks, the contrasts between ice and ocean, the way the mountains are draped in globs of snow and ice; verbose descriptions of their grandeur fail and that’s even before considering the charismatic penguins bathed in soft multi-colored alpenglow. However, despite the idyllic and distant nature of this location, it is one of the fastest changing landscapes on the planet. Atmospheric temperatures have increased by more than 5° F since the 1950s, the majority of glaciers are flowing faster and have thinned and numerous ice shelves (floating extensions of glaciers as large as Rhode Island), have completely collapsed. In short, these landscapes look very different from what they did 50 or in some cases, even 10 years ago.

Over the next month, we’ll be returning to remove and replace the memory cards of these cameras and install additional cameras at new sites—including the Marr Ice Piedmont near the US Antarctic Program’s Palmer Station and South Georgia Island’s magnificent Nordenskjöld Glacier.

We’re currently in the Falkland Islands and will be departing for South Georgia Island this evening. We’re taking this opportunity to finish building the camera systems prior to the crossing. Stay tuned over the next month as we download our Antarctica images for the first time and install new time-lapse cameras, all in an effort to create visual records of some of the most rapidly changing landscapes on the planet.

Penguins & Antarctica Onstage?

A guest who traveled to Antarctica with us last season pinged us with an excited note on Facebook: “Great to see Lindblad featured in a music video at the Jason Mraz concert in Portland tonight! Our family has been on several Lindblad trips so were so psyched to see the familiar logo!” A quick search revealed that he’s been showing video he shot as the backdrop to some of his shows. Keep an eye out for us!

Darwin Returns to Galápagos

A new statue of young Charles Darwin landed on the campus of the Charles Darwin Foundation’s research center on the island of Santa Cruz in Galápagos. Guests on all of our Galápagos expeditions visit the Foundation to tour the grounds and see the important ongoing work, and you can bet that getting your Darwin selfie will become a regular stop on the walk. The Foundation chose to depict a young Darwin, notebook and magnifying glass close at hand, as he looked when he landed on the islands. Ecuadorian sculptor Patricio Ruales (on the right) created the statue over the course of about a year. Renowned Galápagos scientist and life-long Darwin scholar, Godfrey Merlen (left), wrote about the project, Darwin’s Right Hand Man.

Freediving Fun in the Canary Islands


 

Right now the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer is underway, sailing from Madeira to the Canary Islands in the mid-Atlantic. She’ll call at the the island of La Palma tomorrow, very close to El Hiero where this freediving video was made. The video is remarkable, not only for its beauty, but in that it was made without any computer manipulation and only a few simple camera tricks.

Pristine Seas Honored at the Clinton Global Initiative

On Monday in New York former President Bill Clinton announced National Geographic’s plans to expand Pristine Seas, the effort to save the ocean’s last wild places. The Society’s goal is to work with world leaders and governments to protect more than 770,000 square miles of ocean from fishing.

Some forward-thinking world leaders have already made great strides in conserving the ocean, including Palau’s president Tommy Remengesea, Jr. He has collaborated on the effort to protect 193,000 square miles of ocean in his country’s exclusive economic zone, representing 80% of the ocean under Palau’s jurisdiction.

At the close of Monday’s plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton invited representatives of Pristine Seas on stage to share their story and recognize their commitment. The honorees were Former President of Costa Rica José María Figueres, Lindblad Expeditions President & Founder Sven Lindblad, Co-founder and Former Chairman and CEO of Gateway, Inc Ted Waitt, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enrique Sala.

Galápagos Mixology

One of the finest ways to immerse yourself in local cultures while traveling is through dining—sampling regional fare and wine: mixing, drinking, and eating with the locals. In Galápagos, where wilderness reigns, we still find ways to mix the local flavors into our dining experience. One night we host an Ecuadorian buffet, complete with a whole roast pig, that our guests often cite on comment cards as their favorite meal of the expedition. And beginning soon, our Galápagos cocktail list will include tastes of the islands. The San Cristobal cocktail is finished with fresh Galápagos guanabana juice; and the Fernandina cocktail is blended with tamarind, a pod-like fruit found in abundance on the cocktail’s namesake island.

Sven Lindblad: Orangutan Care Center in Borneo

“At the Orangutan Care Center in Pangkalan Bun Borneo. Spent a day and a half amongst juvenile and infants with Dr. Galdikas, who has spent the last 43 years studying and developing strategies to save orangutans from going extinct. I will post many pictures of this remarkable place and these enchanting animals during the next days.” —Sven Lindblad

Sven’s recon mission to scout new expeditions for National Geographic Orion has moved from Indonesia to Borneo. He spent the last couple days with Dr Biruté Galdikas, one of Louis Leakey’s three proteges, the others being Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. While Fossey studied mountain gorillas and Goodall chimpanzes, Dr. Galdikas came to Borneo to study orangutans. She is widely recognized as a world authority on orangutans and is responsible for conducting some of the longest running research on the primates. Since 1971 she’s run Camp Leakey, an orangutan reserve and rescue center for primates displaced by the growing palm oil trade in Borneo. Sven visited with her for the last day and a half.

“Dr. Galdikas, the worlds foremost researcher and protector of Orangutan’s in the world at her Care Center. These lovely animals really relate to her in a profound way.” —Sven Lindblad

“Camp Leakey orangutans feeding on the porch of Dr. Galdikas’ house. Evidently a bunch had gotten inside while she was gone and ransacked the place. All in good fun as they can be quite rambunctious.” —Sven Lindblad

 

 

Dispatch from Sven Lindblad in Indonesia

Sven’s recon mission to Borneo and Indonesia continues. He’s been able to email us a few images to share from this scouting expedition despite some Internet connectivity issues (one more thing our guests aboard National Geographic Orion won’t have to endure when we sail here).

“Walking amongst rice paddies in Bali is somehow one of the most peaceful of activities.”

“This is the culmination of a remarkable day leading up to several cremations in Bali.”

“Mutiara Laut. Forty-five meters of pure bliss. Our home for the next week to explore Komodo National Park and beyond.”

“Isabella’s first real dive off of Komodo Island. She’s a natural. Can’t wait to share some of the underwater photography. It’s been spectacular in so many ways.”

“One of the many manta rays at Manta Alley off of #Komodo Island. Incredible experience where we saw up to 6 at a time.”

“Children from the village of Kodi on the Island of Sumba. Scattered throughout the island are traditional villages mixed up with concrete modern structures. The beaches on Sumba are clearly some of the most beautiful in the world.”

“Looking out from Flores to surrounding islands.”

“Evening off of Flores Island. Lots of small boat traffic, many of which look like they could too over with a whisper of wind.”

“Last night on our boat. Now heading to great adventure in Borneo, so the cushy life is definitely behind us.”

 

 

Sven is in Indonesia — Follow Along!

Sven Lindblad is on a recon mission in Indonesia & Borneo scouting potential locations for new expeditions. He’s dragging his camera, video, and scuba gear on 11 flights over three weeks (something our future guests aboard National Geographic Orion won’t have to endure).

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“Heading off on a recon to #Indonesia and #Borneo tomorrow after a hiatus of 21 years. I’ll keep you posted as we go along.” -Sven Lindblad

Right now he’s in Bali, where we currently offer our guests completing their Borneo expeditions a 2-day extension to explore the island’s picturesque beaches, verdant countryside, and rain forest trails.

Follow Sven’s adventure in real-time on Instagram.

And check back here, we’ll be sharing his photos, too!

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“Gear, gear, gear — sometimes I’m just photographing stills or video or scuba diving — this time all of the above. Have no idea yet where all of this stuff will fit but fortunately few clothes are necessary. Thanks B&H Photo Video for getting me kitted out.”

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“July 19 – the first of 11 flights on this journey. New York /Stockholm to pick up kids in Uppsala. We then continue, same day.”

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“Day 2. About to leave Stockholm for leg 2 of 11. Picked up Isabella and Eric this morning. Next stop Bangkok. Here Isabella has last shot at two favorites. Spaghetti pomodoro and Facebook. Both will be gone soon.”

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“Eric begins to get very curious about the diversity of people about to board Thai Airways bound for Bangkok.”

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“Flight #3of 11. Bangkok to Bali. Long day long layover. Bangkok airport Is an enormous mall where Art of Hindu Deities mix it up with Gucci and Hermes.”

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“Bali. Finally here. Exhausted.”

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“Just arrived at our house in Ubud. Very nice simple, peaceful, but most importantly no more airplanes for four days.”

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“Isabella/ first of four check out dives before her #PADI certification. With #CrystalDivers of Sanur Bali. A Scandinavian outfit. This is a big exciting step.”

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“See you in 45 Isabella. Learn and be safe.”

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“Balinese doorways –old, mysterious. It’s so great being back here.”