Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

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The Ancient Ceremony of Land-Diving in Vanuatu

 

National Geographic Orion’s inaugural expedition is quickly approaching—and just last week we made arrangements for a new expedition experience. Guests aboard Cultures of the South Pacific: New Zealand to the Solomons, the first segment of our two-part inaugural expedition, will see the ancient tradition of land-diving, which is still practiced on remote Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. This rite of passage and agricultural fertility ritual is an amazing spectacle to witness, and the islanders will begin their season with a special presentation for our guests. See young men leap headfirst from a high platform with nothing but vines tied to their ankles to arrest their fall, just as their ancestors have done for centuries. There still a few cabins available on both expeditions in our inaugural series: Cultures of the South Pacific: New Zealand to the Solomons (Mar. 19, 2014), where we’ll see land-diving; and on Historic Isles and Undersea Wonders: The Solomons to the Great Barrier Reef (Mar. 30, 2014) where the focus is on exploring the incredible reefs and undersea life.

Our Diver Spots a Leopard Seal in Antarctica

The leopard seal is the Antarctic’s apex predator, a creature that has no reason to fear anything in its environment, so they’ll often show curiosity towards humans and try to determine just what these strange interlopers are doing in their domain.

This week as our guests explored South Georgia Island, a rare opportunity presented itself. A weather window opened that could allow us to land at South Orkney Island, a place we haven’t visited in three years. While on a routine dive, our undersea specialist Justin Hofman saw a leopard seal. He sent this video from the ship. (And this is only a few weeks after he was approached by a southern right whale while diving off Patagonia.)

Diving Patagonia with a Southern Right Whale

 

While sailing along the coast of Argentine Patagonia guests aboard National Geographic Explorer spent a full day in Puerto Madryn in the Chubut Province. A few minutes drive out of town the region remains just as Charles Darwin would have found it when the HMS Beagle landed here over 180 years ago. By midmorning much of the iconic wildlife of the steppes had been checked off the day’s list: Guanacos, maras, elegant-crested tinamou, red-backed hawks, and Magellanic penguins.

But the day’s stars were the mighty southern right whales. Among the sightings included a huge female and her tiny calf, piggy-backing its mum. The curious female whale came right up to our boat and almost rested her chin on the pontoon.

While our guests and naturalists were in the midst of these rare, up-close encounters, Justin Hofman, the undersea specialist aboard Explorer, was diving in the area with the ship’s cold cook, Max Westman. He returned to share a video of his own rare undersea encounter with a southern right whale and her newborn calf.

Darwin for a Day

 

Charles Darwin spent more time on Santiago Island in Galápagos than he did on any other island in the archipelago. He stayed behind here to explore the island on foot over nine days, collecting samples with the ship’s physician while the Beagle sailed without them to San Cristobal to resupply. The story of Darwin’s time in these islands is an integral part of every Lindblad-National Geographic Galápagos expedition. One of our fantastic guests teamed up with National Geographic Endeavour’s video chronicler Steve Ewing to tell the story of Charles Darwin’s time on Santiago Island in Galápagos.

Google Science Fair Grand Prize Winner in Galápagos



Seventeen-year-old Brittany Wenger designed an application that helps accurately diagnose breast cancer through a minimally invasive procedure. Her program filters massive amounts of data to detect complex patterns, and it turned one of the least precise diagnostic tools available to doctors into one that’s 99% accurate. For her feat of science she was awarded, among other prizes, a Galápagos expedition aboard National Geographic Endeavour, where she shot this video.

The Great White Shark: Blue Water, White Death

 

In 1971 the documentary film Blue Water, White Death introduced thousands to the great white shark and famously inspired the film Jaws. Once feared, and still considered a fearsome predator, great whites are now often the subject of ocean conservation. Last year the fantastic film Blue Water, White Death was re-released, and it does just as fantastic a job sharing the story of these incredible creatures.

One of the stars of the film is diver and filmmaker Valerie Taylor. She will join us aboard National Geographic Orion on the ship’s inaugural expedition, Exploring Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, The Solomons & The Great Barrier Reef. If you’d like to travel with her, there are still some cabins available.

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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Bubblenet Feeding: Seeing It Up Close (and Too Close)

 

A video shot by the Central California Coast Divers at Souza Rock shows a couple divers having a rather too-close encounter with some feeding humpback whales. So far over 5 million people have watched it on YouTube (be warned that there’s a bit of unsavory language).

Many of our guests in Alaska have witnessed this whale behavior (from the safety of our expedition ships). It’s called bubblenet feeding—and in the above video one of our guests explains it.

Emmy Nomination for National Geographic’s Untamed Americas

 

Congratulations to National Geographic photographers and filmmakers David Wright and Cotton Coulson for an Emmy nomination on a series they contributed to, Untamed Americas. The episode they helped shoot featured battling bighorn sheep in Canada’s Jasper National Park, where they waited for hours in -30°F weather to get the footage. The Emmy nomination is for Outstanding Cinematography.

This September we look forward to welcoming David and Cotton aboard National Geographic Explorer for our Epic South America expedition. It will be the first time we offer an unprecedented video workshop—in one of the wildest and most cinematic places on the planet. The in-depth workshop will be limited to 25 guests interested in shooting, editing, and producing their own highly personal documentary film. If you’re interested in attending the on-board workshop contact an expedition specialist to reserve you place. 1.800.EXPEDITION (1.800.397.3348).

Wild Baby Whale to Kids: “Play with Me!”


Each year the gray whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the north to their nursery lagoons on the Pacific side of the Baja California where they rear their young—a time when most species exhibit a high degree of protectiveness. In the 30+ years we’ve been leading Baja California expeditions, we’ve found the opposite: mother whales show a great deal of curiosity around us, and a willingness to let their playful calves approach us. While these encounters don’t happen all the time, they do happen a lot in Magdalena Bay during the right time of year.

Sven Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions, shared the video with this note:

There are many things I love in life—being a father, exuberant nature, and moments of pure joy.

My 13-year old son, Eric, filmed this encounter in March with his Christmas present—a GoPro.

I believe lots of people would enjoy this. Feel free to share.

-Sven