Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

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Epic South America Expedition Aboard National Geographic Explorer Offers Rare Chance to Rub Elbows with Giants of Science and Anthropology

Whether the words “theme cruise” pique your interest or turn your stomach, you’re probably familiar with the concept. For decades cruise companies have filled ships by organizing departures around specific areas of interest: jazz, golf, motorcycles, and more recently, mid-90s alt-rock bands and Kid Rock, both featured in a New York Times profile. Part of the appeal is sharing the experience with like-minded people, and usually there are a couple of traveling celebrities thrown into the mix—people you might see walking around the 3,000-person cruise ship.

A Lindblad-National Geographic expedition is about as far as you can get from a theme cruise. Though, the argument could be made that all of their expeditions encompass certain themes: research, photography, history, and engagement with the wild world. And certainly every cruise aboard their 24- to 148-guest expedition ships attract like-minded guests.

In 2009, they took it a step further by adding their own type of onboard celebrities with the Global Perspectives guest speaker program aboard their flagship National Geographic Explorer. They began inviting individuals from the top tiers of science and journalism, or experts with rare experiences to add layers of interest to the already lively onboard expedition atmosphere. Travelers to the Baltics, steeped in the history surrounding the fall of communism got the added resonance of meeting Mikhail Gorbachev. Guests on a circumnavigation of the British and Irish Isles got a historical perspective from journalist Ted Koppel. And while exploring Antarctica, Buzz Aldrin has shared stories of exploring the moon with spellbound guests. Within a few years, the roster of past Global Perspectives guest speakers read like a list of adjunct professors at a top university.

While every National Geographic Explorer expedition includes guest speakers, one is nothing less than a complete debrief on a continent. This expedition would be the dream of biology lovers, filmmakers, photographers, and international music lovers. It is called Epic South America: an ambitious 38-day voyage along the east coast of the continent—from Trinidad along Brazil’s tropical and human history-rich eastern coast, to finish with a flourish in Buenos Aires. Along the way, the expedition will explore a trio of legendary rivers, visit seldom-seen wildness like Fernando de Noronha, multiple UNESCO World Heritage cities and vibrant colonial cities.

The list of Global Perspectives guest speakers for this expedition is so extensive that as long as you’re interested in something, you’ll find someone very interesting to talk to.

Cesar Gaviria, former Colombian president, will be aboard. He guided Colombia through turbulent years, and even saw Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror to an end. Some of his work was documented in the popular book, Killing Pablo.

Bio-nerds and anthro-geeks will be in ecstasy with some of their field’s historic leaders, including Thomas Lovejoy, the man who coined the term “biological diversity.” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis will join a portion of the trip. An ethno-botanist and anthropologist, Davis wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, among other books, and has been called “the explorer of the millennium” by National Geographic.

Students of the nature documentary will even have their own clique. National Geographic photographers and filmmakers Cotton Coulson and David Wright will be aboard, offering a video workshop to enable nature-film lovers to shoot and produce their own documentaries during the voyage. Photojournalist Tyrone Turner, whose Brazil portfolio appeared in National Geographic’s April 2012 issue, will offer field shooting tips and inspiration.

Given the importance of music to the region, music will be a theme, too. Jacob Edgar, an ethnomusicologist, researcher for Putumayo World Music, and record label owner will be aboard to arrange concerts and explain the diverse musical styles the voyage will encounter.

Also aboard: author of New York Times bestseller, How to Be a Carioca, Priscilla Ann Goslin; Suzana Machado D’Oliveira, an expedition pioneer and expert on the region; and Mark Curran, who taught Spanish and Portuguese at Arizona State University for 34 years and whose research has n Brazil’s folk-popular poetry and its relation to Brazilian erudite literature and history has resulted in 11 books published on the topic. And perhaps best of all, the guest speakers who’ve opted to join the expedition do so as fellow travelers, so among only 148 travelers, you’re ensured opportunities to share one-to-one conversation over dinner or drinks.

Get up to date on Brazil, a country and an economy on fire, and have the time of your life exploring a new destination. Some cabins are still available and there’s an enticing airfare offer too; Epic South America expedition sails September 18, 2013.

Galápagos Islands’ Datazone Gets a Digital Upgrade

The Charles Darwin Foundation has been a tremendous boon to biologists, researchers, and nature lovers interested in the Galápagos Islands. Besides their numerous conservation projects, the foundation also documents natural history, distribution and threats of Galápagos species, and meteorological conditions. They also publish a scientific journal on the ongoing research in the archipelago.

Since 2010, much of this information has been moved online onto part of the foundation’s site called Datazone. Recently the site received a major upgrade. New features have been added to the Collections, Checklists, the Metrological Database, and the Galápagos Research sections. All of the scientific journals they’ve published over the years have been archived online, and future journals are now available as downloads. Now, for the first time, anyone with an Internet connection can visit the website and search across the entire Datazone to download hundreds of scientific publications for free.

Whether you’re a citizen scientist, a lover of Galápagos, or getting excited for an upcoming trip to the islands—you’ll find it’s a fantastic resource.

Financial support from the Lindblad/National Geographic Joint Fund helped the Charles Darwin Foundation upgrade and maintain Datazone.

Ethnomusicologist Joins Epic South America Expedition

World music tastemaker and founder of the record label Cumbancha, Jacob Edgar travels in the globe searching for—in his words—the next Bob Marley. Last summer he sailed up the entire coast of West Africa aboard National Geographic Explorer.

He talked about the experience in a recent profile in Afar magazine: “We stopped at São Tomé and Príncipe, two islands that make up one nation. I’d heard of only one musical group, Africa Negra, from that country. My local contact took me to a “record store”—basically a man with a computer who burns CDs for you—and I found gem after gem of amazing artists and songs. The musicians I spoke with rattled off the names of about 20 or 30 rhythms, reflecting all the various cultural forces that have converged on those islands.”

This year he’ll again join us aboard Explorer on another extraordinary journey—Celebrating 125 Years of National Geographic: Epic South America. He’ll join our already expert staff bringing his unique talents as we explore the dazzling cities and quaint villages from Trinidad all the way south to Buenos Aires—a 4,000-mile journey we’ll undertake over 38 days.

Rare White Penguin Spotted in Antarctica

White penguin

Guests aboard National Geographic Explorer had an exceedingly rare wildlife sighting the other day in Antarctica when they spotted an isabelline Gentoo penguin. This individual has a rare mutation that’s found in about 1-in-100,000 penguins lending it a grayish yellow-blond color instead of traditional black-and-white.

The name of the color, isabelline, comes to us from a story about the Archduchess of Austria’s underwear, believe it or not.

Our undersea specialist David Cothran tells the story: “The color itself is named isabelline, from the story of Isabella, the Archduchess of Austria who pledged that she would not change her undergarments until her husband the Archduke returned victorious from the Siege of Ostend. Unfortunately, the siege lasted not a few days but over three years and by the end of that time, so the story goes, the Archduchess’ undies had taken on the yellow-grey color that now bears her name. Despite the off-color (!) story, it was very exciting to encounter this rare and really quite beautiful bird.”

Antarctic Quilting

Our past guest aboard National Geographic Explorer, Judy Warner created an Antarctic-inspired quilt from her expedition. She shares the story behind its creation on her blog (where you’ll also find more Antarctic-inspired designs).

“A year ago, I was on the National Geographic Explorer voyaging in Antarctica. On Christmas Eve, we traveled down an icy bay and sent out two zodiacs to pick up two volunteers and transport them to Port Lockroy for Christmas dinner. The volunteers had been repairing huts used by scientists studying in Antarctica.

My art quilt, Journey, captures the zodiacs journeying through an icy channel to pick up the volunteers. It was an amazing way to spend a Christmas and last night I hung Journey in our dining room to remind us of how fortunate we were to have the experience.”

 

Join Author Jared Diamond in Arctic Svalbard

Jared Diamond, author of the widely acclaimed book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is on the road promoting his new book, The World Until Yesterday. His latest work follows the story of a young boy in Papua New Guinea killed in a traffic accident by an attentive driver who was simply unable to stop in time. Within five days of that accident, the driver and the family of the child had made peace.

On NPR, Diamond says, “They ate together. They cried together. They said how sad it was to lose the dead boy. And they reached emotional reconciliation.”

An expert on Papua New Guinea, Diamond cautions us not to romanticize traditional societies, for they have much to teach us. His story of conflict resolution is one example.

Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer Prize winner, professor at UCLA, and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He’s currently engaged on a speaking tour promoting his new book. In June, he’ll join us aboard National Geographic Explorer on the expedition Land of the Ice Bears as a Global Perspectives guest speaker. A few cabins are still available.

Join Us in the Arctic as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow

Are you an educator? Once again National Geographic Education Programs and Lindblad Expeditions are offering current K-12 teachers and informal educators the opportunity to travel aboard National Geographic Explorer over part of their summer break. The educators selected for the fellowship will meet in Washington, D.C. on April 25-28th for a pre-trip workshop sponsored by Google, National Geographic, and Lindblad Expeditions. Then in June, July, or August 2013 they’ll venture to Norway, Arctic Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland or the Canadian High Arctic on a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition.

Apply for the fellowship at National Geographic education.

An Unplanned Amazon Adventure

Last month we received this thoughtful letter from one of our Amazon guests, and we asked if we could share it here. His story, while atypical in terms of his unnerving experience in Peru’s airport, is a thrilling example of expedition travel and the high level of service our guests receive. Racing downriver aboard a skiff at night, slicing through the dark, calm water to catch the ship is, I’m sure, an adventure our guest will never forget. Thanks very much for sharing your experience, Gerald.

Antarctica Day 2012

December 1st is Antarctica Day, commemorating the 1959 signing of the international treaty that set aside 10% of the Earth for research and peaceful purposes. Our company’s history in Antarctica began seven years after the treaty was signed, when Lars-Eric Lindblad brought the first travelers to Antarctica aboard Lapataia in 1966. Then, as today, Antarctica is a land of superlatives—stunningly beautiful in a very big way. Its seas teem with life—humpback and killer whales, five different kinds of seals—and shorelines studded with thousands of penguins.

A star of international cooperation, conservation, and advancement of science, Antarctica remains one of the planet’s wildest places. We’re proud to have shared the place with so many adventurous travelers, and we hope we’ve inspired many of them to advocate for its protection. Happy Antarctica Day.

Study: Lonesome George May Not Be Last of His Kind

When the Galápagos tortoise Lonesome George died at the Charles Darwin Research Station earlier this year, it was thought that his subspecies had gone extinct. Researchers at the Darwin Station had hoped Lonesome George would breed with tortoises from neighboring islands, but he died never having sired progeny in captivity. He was the last of his line.

But a new study conducted by Yale University researchers has found that tortoises living in the wild near Wolf Volcano share much of the same DNA as George. And they agree that it’s possible more of his kind could still be living in the wild. A survey of 1,667 wild tortoises identified 17 descendants of the same ancestors of George. Of the 17, five were juveniles suggesting that a purebred tortoise, the same as George, may still live on the island. If one does exist, it wouldn’t be the first time this subspecies has made a startling appearance.

George’s subspecies, Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, was wiped out by human settlers in the early 1900s and declared extinct—until a George was discovered in 1972.