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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

Española Island

This morning we are on Española Island, which is about five millions years old and considered the oldest one of the seventeen major islands forming the Galapagos. Precisely we are at Gardner Bay, a beautiful turquoise blue water cove surrounded by a few islets. Our exploration started at 6:30 a.m. when the kayakers went to see the coast of Gardner Bay. The first impressive thing they saw was the carcass of a baby whale that beached against the rocks and died few days ago. Sea birds were seen as early feeders on the ocean, and some marine iguanas started to bask under the sun to warm up. Kayaking is one of the several activities one can do here, and it is so exciting because it gets you so close to the shoreline from the water level, giving a different perspective of the Galapagos world. It is very quiet, calm, and exciting.

After that, we had breakfast, and then we suited up for water activities.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Floreana Island

Following Charles Darwin’s footsteps, today we visited Floreana Island.

Before breakfast, we went ashore on Punta Cormorant, on a fascinating beach of olivine sand.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

The Caledonian Canal

We spent our day making a truly remarkable passage, through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, by water. The Caledonian Canal is among the greatest engineering feats of the early 19th century, built for a war that was over before the canal was completed, and still important for merchant and military shipping today. The canal follows the Great Glen, a tremendous geologic suture formed in Scotland’s deep past when two ancient continents collided, leaving a fault that has been cut into a deep valley by the glaciers of the ice ages. With a series of lock chambers and manmade channels, the canal connects the four freshwater lochs that lay in the Glen into a chain that reaches across the breadth of the nation, from sea to stormy sea. 

Although the hand-cranked lock gates have been replaced by hydraulics, much of the canal still appears exactly as it did when it first entered service in 1822.

Aug 17, 2014 Lord of the Glens in Scotland

Tracy Arm & Williams Cove

We awoke cruising through the photographs and drawings of textbooks on glacial geology. Our ship passed truncated spurs of ridges that long ago were hewn through to make room for the glacier that once filled this channel. Perfectly U-shaped valleys hung on the canyon walls above us, and horn-like peaks towered high in the distance having been sculpted by other glaciers tearing their slopes away. Cascading waterfalls dropped off the high canyon walls and stepped their way downward to spill into the seawater within Tracy Arm.

A fjord that has been cut in extremely hard and resistant rock later becomes an oracle for anyone who chooses to read it.

Aug 17, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Wyndham, Kimberley

This year marks the 130th anniversary of the port town of Wyndham that was first established in 1884.  The town was named after Lady Broome’s son, George Wyndham.  The town blossomed when gold was discovered in Halls Creek.

In 1885 the first track opened and approximately 5,000 gold miners passed through Wyndham during the gold rush.

Aug 17, 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.