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Española Island

Located in the southeastern corner of the Galapagos Archipelago, Española is one of the oldest islands. From the distance, it looks rather flat and very, very dry. The early morning was cloudy and breezy, but the air temperature was rather mild—we are near the equator after all!   A group of early risers set off before breakfast to practice some kayaking along the rocky coast of Gardner Bay. Read More>

Nov 24, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Floreana Island

Today we have calm sea conditions as we head out for an early morning walk at Punta Cormorant. Right at the landing spot, we have a small welcome committee of sea lions, while blue footed boobies perch on the cliffs of volcanic sand and tuff stone. The walk leads along a shallow salt water pond and through an incense tree forest, to a sea turtle nesting site. In the lagoon we spot a few flamingoes, resident to these islands. This time of the year, the female turtles start nesting, and we see about a dozen turtles in the light surf. Frigate birds are higher up riding the thermals.   And yet, after yesterdays’ visit, we notice that this island has a lot less wildlife. Read More>

Nov 24, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Apia, Samoa

The Samoan Archipelago is a cohesive group of islands--geologically, culturally, and linguistically—that has been divided through world events into two political units. In the late 19th century, several colonial powers struggled against one another in order to gain control over these beautiful Polynesian islands—like they had with all the other major island groups in the South Pacific. As it developed, Germany gained control over the western Samoan islands and the Americans got control of the eastern Samoan islands. With end of World War I, New Zealand took over the administration of the German region, and then oversaw its independence in 1962, first as Western Samoa, and now officially as Samoa.   The Samoan islands used to be known to European explorers as the “Navigator Islands” because the Samoans exhibited phenomenal seafaring skills. Read More>

Nov 24, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Niuatoputapu, Tonga

Today we were in the farthest northern realm of the Kingdom of Tonga where two isolated islands are seldom visited. Our hope for the morning was to go ashore on the island of Niuatoputapu. Today was Sunday, and this morning we anticipated finding most of the island’s population attending church. The Tongan people are well known for their joyful and harmonious singing at such weekly functions. In Tonga, Sundays are mandated as a day of rest with strictly no work, to go to church, and for family feasts.   We headed in by Zodiac across the open ocean, eventually reaching a narrow entrance through the fringing reef into the island’s inner lagoon. Read More>

Nov 23, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Point Wild, Elephant Island & into the Bransfield Strait

Point Wild, Elephant Island: a good place to spend an expedition morning in the early Antarctic summer, but four months, through an Antarctic winter??! Maybe not, but the men of Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance had no choice.  April 16, 1916: The three lifeboats from Endurance, newly named after the expedition's main sponsors James B. Read More>

Nov 23, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Española Island

We started our trip by visiting the oldest Island of the archipelago: Española or Hood Island. This little landmass is situated at the easternmost point of the Galapagos Map. Our first stop was Gardner Bay and Gardner Islet. Read More>

Nov 23, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Vava’u and Nuku Island, Tonga

The islands of Tonga lie at the northern end of the Tonga-Kermadec trench, a great rift in the Earth’s crust deep beneath the Pacific.  It was a calm, sunny day on Vava’u, but far below us titanic forces were at work, melting the lower crust into magma and forcing it upward to burst free in a chain of volcanoes that stretches from Tonga more than a thousand miles south to the North Island of New Zealand. Where these volcanoes break the surface they form volcanic islands and provide a new habitat for tiny coral animals. And in turn the corals build extensive and exquisitely beautiful reefs, eventually adding a thick layer of their limestone skeletons atop the lava and ash of the volcano. As the pulses of heat and pressure from deep below come and go the islands rise and fall, creating new mountains, lifting reefs out of the sea and then drowning them again.  Visiting Vava’u this morning we walked on an island formed completely from an ancient reef, raised more than 400 feet above the sea at its highest point. Read More>

Nov 22, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

San Cristobal Island

Today we are visiting the easternmost island in the Galapagos: San Cristobal Island. This is the most beautiful island in the archipelago and the one that has yielded the most famous naturalists of all time, Charles Darwin included. The place is full of sea lions, and sea birds such as the red-footed booby, red-billed tropic birds, brown noddy terns, frigates, Nazca boobies, and the always original blue-footed boobies. All enclosed in a magical, beautiful beach, and surrounded by rocky cliffs and blue waters.  In the morning, we started exploring a small offshore island which is home to a diversity of seabirds and many sea lions. Read More>

Nov 22, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

At sea bound for Antarctica

Despite having all the potential for providing us with “just another day at sea,” 22 November actually delivered a plethora of excitement and education. Read More>

Nov 22, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Santa Cruz Island

It was time for the National Geographic Islander to visit civilization. Although we had pristine wildlife on our previous days, this was the day to learn about projects and all the efforts currently happening for the conservation of the Galapagos species. The town of Puerto Ayora holds the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station, both of which work together for the conservation of the enchanted archipelago. We started our day by visiting the breeding center of the National Park. Read More>

Nov 21, 2014 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.