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Dili: Timor Leste

We were full of excited anticipation as National Geographic Orion approached the capital city of East Timor, Dili. Many of us were on the outer decks to witness the berthing procedure, as we came alongside the Port of Dili. Dili lies on the northern coast of Timor Island, the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is the seat of the administration of the district of Dili, which is the administrative entity of the area and includes the island of Atauro and some cities close to Dili city. Dili is a melting pot of the different ethnic groups of East Timor, due partly to the internal migration of young men from around the country in search of work.

Dili was settled about 1520 by the Portuguese, who made it the capital of Portuguese Timor in 1769.

Aug 20, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

LeConte Glacier & Petersburg

Finally, at long last, the weather is changing! After weeks of record-breaking rain, Southeast Alaska's weather has taken a turn towards the sun. This morning we awoke to thick fog, the kind of dense white in which you can't differentiate between water and sky and cloud. Shreds of blue sucker holes drifted by above, giving us hope for the remainder of the day. A few humpback whales made a brief appearance as we belted our foghorn into the echoing quiet of the morning.

After breakfast we hopped into our inflatable landing crafts and experienced a wild paradise of floating ice.

Aug 19, 2014 National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

Jaco Island

After missing our snorkel stop at Rowley Shoals we couldn’t wait for our scheduled snorkel stop at Jaco Island, and we weren’t disappointed, with what could be best described as the perfect day. After a leisurely breakfast we packed our snorkel gear and headed for the beach. It was a sunny day with light winds and as we approached the white sandy beach we could see the coral reef beneath the crystal clear water. The island was shaded by huge cassarina trees, a great place to put on the snorkel gear and get in clear cool water.

There was an abundance of fish in all sorts of colors, we even saw Nemo hiding amongst a sea anemone, there was also plenty of hard and soft corals to keep us amused as we snaked our way in between them, but careful not to touch them as some are poisonous and others are very sharp.

Aug 19, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Resolute, Nunavut, Canadian Arctic

We began this expedition in Iceland and now end it in the Ice. This three-week expedition has let us experience both the youngest rocks on earth (Iceland) and some of the oldest geology ever found (Southern Greenland). We have seen land animals, whales, seals, birds, plants, and cultural artifacts. We have learned about how this part of the world was “discovered” and explored by people from both the west, Asia, and the east, Europe. We have experienced and seen the landscape as the first peoples saw it. We may only visit for a short time, and they continue to make their living off the land but there is an appreciation of its beauty by both groups.

Today we made our way west towards Resolute in Nunavut on Cornwallis Island.

Aug 19, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Philpot Island (which really isn't an island), Devon Island, Nunavut

What sets an "expedition" apart from a "cruise" (a word that is rarely heard on National Geographic Explorer)? Is it not the activation of our sense of adventure, and the quest for the unexpected? We have certainly had both adventure and the unexpected on this voyage into the Canadian High Arctic.  

Philpot Island lies off the eastern side of Devon Island.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Santa Cruz Island

Today we were on Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the archipelago and the home of “Fausto Llerena” giant tortoise breeding center. We landed in the main dock in town and took buses to the entrance of the breeding center. Along the way we observed some land birds such as Galapagos mockingbirds, ground and cactus finches, warblers, and Galapagos flycatchers. This area is very lush and green and has a great variety of plants like the giant prickly pear cactus, candelabra cactus and mangroves.

As we arrived to the breeding center we found Galapagos giant tortoises in different life stages and learned about the great efforts done to rescue and restore these animals to their natural habitat.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Loch Ness, Culloden & Clava Cairns

Sailing across Loch Ness is something rather special. The loch has a greater water volume than any other in Britain, in fact all the lakes and reservoirs of England wouldn’t fill it! Steve gave us some in-depth information on the referendum, after which we sailed slowly and closely to Urquhart Castle, dating back to the 13th century. This spectacular ruin is best viewed from the water, showing how imposing the structure was before it was blown up in 1692.

After a short photo talk by David, who was also busy collecting the photos for the voyage portfolio, we spotted an osprey! It was sitting on top of its nest, now long deserted as all the chicks had fledged, surveying its kingdom.

Aug 18, 2014 Lord of the Glens in Scotland

Williams Cove and Tracy Arm

At 6:30 a.m. our ship “crossed the bar,’” meaning we went over a terminal moraine where a glacier had deposited a ridge of rock material on the sea floor. The glacier has receded more than 30 miles, and it left behind a dramatic, narrow fjord called Tracy Arm. During the morning we explored a forested area that has been free of ice for hundreds of years, and in the afternoon we observed the glacier at close range from small boats.

We stepped ashore on a cobble beach in Williams Cove, and investigated coastal temperate rain forest.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

Ideal Cove & Petersburg

The fishing town of Petersburg is nestled into the sheltered northern edge of Mitkof Island near the junction of a narrow channel known as Wrangell Narrows and the broader reaches of Frederick Sound. This island is just over 200 square miles, and is blanketed with two major ecosystems that are widespread in Southeast Alaska, the temperate rain forest and muskeg, or peat bog. Our day’s activities focused around this fascinating place, first with a morning hike along the Three Lakes Trail from Ideal Cove, and then with time in Petersburg for the entire afternoon. Aerobic hikers strode briskly along a lakeshore trail that wound through majestic forest and meadow-like landscapes. Others spent more time along the route to enjoy the multi-layered canopy of spruces and hemlocks, and the lush understory dotted with brightly colored bunchberries, blueberries, huckleberries, and highbush cranberries (pictured). Another option was to see the shoreline by boat, skirting the rocky intertidal area to see crab pots used for Dungeness crabs and find a kingfisher surveying its domain.

In Petersburg everyone scattered in different directions for all sorts of activities.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Day at Sea

The open ocean has a unique effect. In a way it is a no man’s land, just space between where you have been and where you are going, but it is so much more than that. For the countless species, big and small, deep and shallow, that call it home, our destinations we travel between represent the boundaries of their world that we are merely passing through. As we leave the sunburned rocks and marsupials of Western Australia for the welcoming (and swimmable!) waters and coral reefs of the Spice Islands, flying fish streak out like silver darts in front of our bow. Very briefly a solitary cloud contemplates peaking over the horizon but is dissuaded by the severe lack of company that it would find. In a way we are travelling back in time, retracing the reverse voyage of the people that first crossed this significant gap of water to populate the isolated island continent. Albeit in considerably more lavish style than was available those tens of thousands of years ago.

After the sun has set on a full day of presentations, rejuvenating naps, and delicious meals, the evening program billions of years in the making is out on the darkened top deck.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

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Please note: All Daily Expedition Reports (DER's) are posted Monday-Friday, during normal business hours.