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EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

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The Strange Travels of Tortoise #21

Super Diego, 91 years old, has been a resident at the Charles Darwin Research Station since 1977. He was taken from his homeland on Española Island during the scientific voyage of Allan Hancock aboard his yacht Velero III in 1933. Brought to the San Diego Zoo (hence his name), he became  #21 in their collection of 100 Galápagos tortoises.

In the 1960’s the director of the nascent Charles Darwin Research Station found that the Española tortoises, slaughtered by the thousands by 18th-century whalers, were on the verge of extinction. To save this unique species two males and 12 females, the total number found, were brought to Research Station as a hopeful breeding colony, and a search for extant members of the species was launched.

The one male left of the tortoises from the Velero III expedition was identified as the only remaining source of fresh genes, and was sent to the Darwin Station by the Zoo. He arrived in Galápagos on August 8, 1977, 43 years after he was taken, and has proved to be a potent contributor to the successful breeding program returning his subspecies from the brink of extinction. It is estimated he has sired about 1,700 Española tortoises. Super Diego remains active and healthy.

Want to see Super Diego in person? Join us in Galápagos.

National Geographic Explorer Makes History in Harlingen

On Tuesday the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer once again made history when it became the first passenger vessel to call at Harlingen in the Netherlands. A large crowd of onlookers and the mayor, Roel Sluiter, turned out to watch the ship arrive and greet Captain Ben Lyons. He was presented with a port of call placard to commemorate the first visit by an expedition ship in the medieval port. About two-thirds of our guests chose to enter the town by Zodiac and explore its historic canals, while those who stayed aboard were met by a local news crew. See the footage here (the action starts at about 2:00 with the local pilot coming aboard Explorer).

Mysterious “Ocean Quack” Solved

For five decades scientists and submariners have reported odd quacking sounds in the Southern Ocean, nicknaming the phenomenon “the bio-duck.” New recordings created by NOAA researchers have attributed the sound to minke whales. The researchers say they’ll be able to use this knowledge to help track the migrations of the minkes, of which little is known, though our guests have found them to be curious enough to approach our Zodiacs around the Antarctic Peninsula. See the BBC story on minke vocalizations, and if you’d like to hear them for yourself, join us in Antarctica next season.

Journey of Giants, Exhibit in Mexico City & Miami

The Journey of Giants (“Ruta de Gigantes”) is an exhibition that features a series of large format photographs and videos telling the story of whales and their annual migrations from places like Alaska to Baja California, Panama, and more. Initially installed along a busy foot-trafficked avenue in Mexico City, the exhibit was adapted for the halls of the Miami International Airport. For the next six months it will share the story of sustainable whale tourism to travelers passing through Miami Airport’s South Terminal. Directed by Alejandro Balaguer (Albatros Media Foundation), the bilingual exhibition is sponsored in part by Lindblad Expeditions. Additional funding comes from Copa Airlines, Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature), Ecosolar, and Intinetwork.

Next time you find yourself in the Miami airport bound for – or returning from – a new adventure, we hope you’ll discover a bit of inspiration as you transit through the South Terminal. And, if your travels don’t take you to Miami, catch a glimpse of the video exhibition.

Welcome Aboard Teachers!

Meet the Grosvenor Teacher Fellows for 2014! From a pool of 1,300, these 25 Fellows were selected to travel in groups of 2 and 3 aboard National Geographic Explorer in Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, the Canadian High Arctic, the Canadian Maritimes, and Antarctica. Thanks to generous support from Fund for Teachers, Google, and individual donors, we were able to more than double the size of the program from last year. These K-12 educators will enhance their geographic learning through direct, hands-on field experience and bring that knowledge back to their classrooms and communities.

Welcome Aboard National Geographic Orion

Under bright blue skies on Friday in Auckland we inaugurated the newest ship in the Lindblad-National Geographic fleet, the National Geographic Orion. Jeremy Lindblad, Captain Mike Taylor, and underwater filmmaking legend Valerie Taylor shared a few words from the bow of the ship, as guests watched with champagne in hand on the quayside. Valerie tossed the champagne bottle, as we all snapped our photos and raised our glasses for a toast to the National Geographic Orion and all who sail on her.

Our inaugural expedition is underway right now. You can see the photos and read the reports online.

 

So, What’s Sven-Olof Lindblad Up To?

Are you on Instagram? Follow Sven-Olof Lindblad. Today he’s in Reykjavik, Iceland attending the first Arctic Circle Conference. See what he sees—in New York City and beyond.

Killer Whale Research Aboard National Geographic Explorer

Killer whales are instantly recognizable and live in all the world’s oceans, but relatively little is known about their habits in the wild, especially in remote locations such as Antarctica. Scientists Dr. Bob Pitman and Dr. John Durban have been supported by the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund since 2011, to facilitate their ongoing killer whale research in Antarctica.

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Afar Magazine Seeks Your Exceptional Travel Experiences

Afar Magazine is offering a path to publication through their Exceptional Travel Experiences 2013 Contest. They ask travelers to share an Afar Highlight—a photo and brief, detailed description—of a peak experience while traveling. It could be a morning spent wandering among a colony of King penguins on South Georgia Island, a close encounter with a Minke whale in Antarctica, or a day among the dolphins of Baja. Winners of the contest will be featured in the August/September issue of Afar.

The deadline to submit an Afar Highlight is May 20.

Teachers in the Arctic: The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program

Photo by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic Staff Photographer

Last week 14 teachers from around the country gathered at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a three-day professional development workshop in preparation to be Teacher Fellows this summer. In groups of two and three they’ll sail aboard National Geographic Explorer to Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, and the Canadian High Arctic over their summer breaks.

The teachers were selected to participate in the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program, named in honor of Gilbert M. Grosvenor, Chairman Emeritus, National Geographic Society and Education Foundation. The program is designed to give teachers and educators the opportunity to extend Grosvenor’s legacy of excellence in geographic education, in this case through firsthand experience that they can bring back to their classroom and beyond.

The workshop, sponsored by Google Education and hosted by National Geographic Education Programs, included a host of Lindblad-National Geographic naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, a screening of James Balog’s film Chasing Ice, and a question-and-answer session with Gil Grosvenor. The group also found creative uses for technology, using iPads for a FaceTime session with last year’s Grosvenor Fellows, plus hands on data collection activities with Vernier probes, GPS units, and other tools for exploration.

Meet fellows Bill Schmoker, Joe Super, Sue Pike, and the rest of the group. We look forward to following their adventures in the high Arctic and their innovations in education upon their return.