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Glenfinnan

A perfect day dawned at Fort Augustus, with streaks of low mist below a watery blue sky with a backdrop of purple heather, now in full bloom, to root us in the Scottish Highlands, the emblematic pyramid of Ben Tighe beckoning to westward. We slipped our mooring at the start of breakfast, continuing upward via Kytra and Cullochy Locks until we passed through Laggan Avenue, the only real cutting on the Caledonian Canal, a narrow tree-planted channel that had us all out on deck, captivated by the close proximity of Scottish nature. Then one last lift upwards at Laggan Locks before entering the highest point of the canal, Loch Oich, a long, narrow and shallow loch where a winding channel has been dredged, marked with buoys. There followed our descent in a section of canal that contains the only surviving manually-operated road bridge at Moy, where the operator gave us a friendly wave. Read More>

Aug 24, 2016 Lord of the Glens in Scotland

Baranof Island & Frederick Sound

Throughout the night National Geographic Sea Bird motored briskly towards a morning anchorage at Takatz Bay, which is deeply incised into the mountains of Baranof Island. Cottony layers of fog enveloped the ship as we entered the sheltered waterway to explore the shorelines by kayak and our trusty inflatable boats. Wisps of fog laced the steep hillsides clothed with Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and Alaskan yellow cedar. Kayaking is a marvelous means of silently gliding along at one’s own pace to enjoy the pristine beauty of this wild place. Those who cruised with naturalists traveled farther towards the mouth of the bay as the fog reluctantly lifted. Eagles and kingfishers perched in the lichen-festooned trees, and a mink and playful family of river otters appeared for a few lucky observers. Everyone returned to the ship by late morning when Andy Szabo, Director of the Alaska Whale Foundation, joined us to provide insight into the natural history and current research on humpback whales in the region. Read More>

Aug 24, 2016 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Olympia

After a lovely morning at sea when we had the opportunity to do our ‘photographic safari’ snapping photos of Sea Cloud, we arrived at the picturesque port of Katakolo on the west coast of the Peloponnese. Our buses drove us directly through a rich agricultural area to the site of Ancient Olympia, a beautiful and peaceful place surrounded by hundreds of olive and pine trees. We started exploring the site and we had a chance to see ruins of the most important buildings that once decorated the sanctuary of Zeus. Read More>

Aug 24, 2016 Sea Cloud in Mediterranean

George Island, Elfin Cove and Inian Islands

We awoke as the National Geographic Sea Lion was on approach to George Island which is as far west as this Alaskan itinerary heads. This is always an interesting destination because it allows a look out into the open ocean, where in a land of fjords and Islands, is quite rare. The most unique feature of George Island is the naval pedestal gun that weighs 18 tons, has a 6 inch barrel and at one time discharged 105 pound shells. It was put in place August of 1942 along with some 20mm anti-aircraft guns. It was decommissioned soon after, but the rusty colossal weapon still stands to remind us of WWII. A protected pebble beach served as a perfect launching point for hikes and kayak adventures. The hike to the canon meanders through a stunningly beautiful forest with various mosses, fungus, plant life and curious geological features. The second half of the morning provided an opportunity to land two expedition landing crafts at the float dock of Elfin Cove, a shockingly small fishing community. Read More>

Aug 24, 2016 National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

Culloden & Clava Cairns, Sailing the Caledonian Canal to Fort Augustus

In the morning we explored two very important and interesting sites near Inverness. The battle of Culloden was the end of the Jacobite rising, when loyal supporters of the house of Stewart tried to get their king back onto the throne of Britain but failed. What was particularly horrid about this battle was the fact that some families were divided into two–some of the men fought on the government side, others for the Jacobites. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 Lord of the Glens in Scotland

Visby, Gotland, Sweden

Over days, years, and centuries, uncountable moments and intersections of time and place come and go across the face of the globe, each leaving echoes that slowly fade away until memories of even the most dramatic events become abstractions and finally vanish. World travelers, exposed to many historic sites and re-creations of long ago days, know this lesson of impermanence very well. Traveling consciously and thoughtfully, looking through the surface of today into the past events that created our time, always opens a rich new level of experience, insight, and understanding. This is travel in new directions, in four dimensions, which adds immeasurably to the number of destinations open to us. As dawn broke this morning over the glassy calm waters of the Baltic we could just make out the low hills of Gotland on the horizon. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

At Sea

The first day on Sea Cloud is hard to describe. One boards in the busy port of Piraeus, Greece. Tired after long flights, terminals, delays, and baggage carousels, we walk up the gangway with the dust of airplanes on our clothes and tasteless airline food in our bellies. In so many ways, we are simply ready for a rest, a vacation from the first days of our vacation. Stepping aboard, one can’t help but notice that this is different. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 Sea Cloud in Mediterranean

Isabela Island

Isabela is one of the youngest and most volcanic islands in the archipelago. Its back bone is made of six volcanoes, out which five seem to be active, and this island alone represents 50 percent of the total land mass of the archipelago. It boasts large populations of both land iguanas and giant tortoises. We started our morning with an excellent hike to the visitor site known as Urbina Bay. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Philpots Island, Bethune Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

It might seem strange to say that water has many moods but it could be looked at in just that way. Water, the miraculous molecule that makes us what we are. We replenish ourselves with its liquid form and sail upon its masses. Its surface might be as smooth as glass or as crumpled as crushed satin. It can be deep dark navy blue with silver streaks dancing from crest to trough as it was for us this morning. Or it could be gray loaded with glacial flour or maybe even turquoise blue with light scattered from those same fine particles. Earlier we met one of its frozen phases; platters of drifting sea ice where polar bears and walrus resided. Today, another face, another mood left us marveling at its beauty. The sun shone down upon us from a clear blue sky. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Isabela and Fernandina Islands

As the National Geographic Islander rounded Cape Albemarle having just crossed the equator a few minutes before, the eastern sky started to reveal an orange tinge announcing that sunrise was imminent. Cape Albermarle is the most northern point of Isabela Island and just south of it lies an enormous sleeping giant. Read More>

Aug 23, 2016 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

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

 

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