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South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands

After breakfast, we started our day with a dry landing on a concrete dock covered by young sea lions. The island we visited was quite small and flat, with small coral pieces located on several spots of the island. These are very common details found on the uplifted island called South Plaza. The place was flat, a bit barren and covered with yellow land iguanas.  These cold blooded reptiles have established and colonized these island millions of years ago. When it comes to land iguanas, there are three species found in the archipelago. One species is located only in Santa Fe Island, the other one inhabits the low lands or arid zone of six different islands and the recently discovered pink land iguana only on one volcano within the largest island called Isabela. These yellow dragons are the major herbivores on small uplifted islands and their color helps them camouflage with the dry prickly pears which have fallen on the basaltic lava rocks. The terrain on this island is covered with red Galapagos carpet weed. Read More>

Nov 27, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Port Lockroy and Dallmann Bay, Antarctica

It was an Antarctic Day!  After our days of bright sunshine, brilliant vistas, and sunburned noses, we were lucky enough to see and experience another side of Antarctica.  A short run from the site of last night's festivities at the U.S. Antarctic Research Program's Palmer Station brought us to Port Lockroy, a well-protected harbor tucked into Wienke Island.  Since its discovery by the French Antarctic explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1903, it has been used by Antarctic explorers to repair their ships and by whalers to process their catch.  In 1944, the British established Base A here as part of a wartime effort under the name of Operation Tabarin (the code name Tabarin taken from a bawdy bar in Paris.)  The purpose is not altogether clear.  Following the war it became a science base used largely for atmospheric studies.  Base A was abandoned in 1962 and left to fall into ruins, but then was taken over by the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust and turned into an Antarctic museum and the almost-farthest-south gift shop.  Proceeds from the gift shop support the preservation of historic huts in this sector of the Antarctic.  We did our best to advance that cause! The National Geographic Explorer was docked in the shorefast ice of Port Lockroy - that is, sea ice left over from last winter and still contiguous with the land. Read More>

Nov 27, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Bartolomé & Sombrero Chino

Today’s adventure is taking place in another different location. By the morning all explorers on board are packing their gear to disembark early on Bartolomé Island. This small island is a great example of young volcanic locations where age has not changed the beauty of volcanism—it’s a great example of how the islands look when they are just formed. We walk first along an ashen path, protected with a boardwalk to avoid erosion, taking us to the summit of the island where the exceptional view enables us to see the surroundings of the place. The magnificent natural composition impresses each of the explorers as they make their way up to the top of the island. After the walk, on the way back to the ship, we are surprised by a large pod of bottlenose dolphins willing to play close to the Zodiacs. Read More>

Nov 27, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Manihiki, Northern Cook Islands

In this part of the world, the International Date Line is a bit open for interpretation, so last night we “crossed it.”  Once again, it was November 26th, and I loved it, again!  We spent the entire day (whatever day it was) enjoying the stunning atoll of Manihiki in the northern Cook Islands. This is an isolated spot, with expensive flights once every two weeks and a supply boat every few months. Early in the morning saw us being greeted with an incredible warm welcome at the largest settlement on the island. Read More>

Nov 26, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Santa Cruz Island

We have had yet another very busy and very fulfilling day in Las Islas Encantadas! This morning we awoke to find we were anchored among yachts and ships of all sizes in Academy Bay off Santa Cruz Island. Along the shore were the houses, hotels and buildings of the town of Puerto Ayora, home of over 20,000 inhabitants.  It is also the headquarters of both the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park. After a delicious buffet breakfast we boarded our fleet of Zodiacs and motored into the main town dock. A short bus ride took us to the entrance of the station and park and we followed our naturalists inland along a winding cobbled road. We visited the captive tortoise breeding center where our guides Jonathan, Gaby and Fernando told us about the extremely successful breeding and repatriation project that has saved several species of giant tortoises from the brink of extinction. Read More>

Nov 26, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Dorian Bay, Damoy Point and Palmer Station, Antarctica

There’s a party in Antarctic tonight and everyone has been invited.  Personnel from US Antarctic Program’s Palmer Station and UK Heritage Trust’s Port Lockroy join with a visiting film crew and the guests of the National Geographic Explorer for a regional get-together.  Music fills the lounge and camaraderie abounds.  This really is the whole neighborhood.  There is no one else.  The entire population of Anvers, Weincke and Goudier Island is less than the number of inhabitants of our floating village.  All in all, it’s a pretty nice neighborhood in which to live.  The narrow Neumayer Channel weaves its way between the glacier-clad shoulders of Anvers and Weincke Island. Read More>

Nov 26, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Santa Cruz Island

This morning we arrived at the northwestern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where we went ashore to have a hike on Dragon Hill. This is a very special place as it is part of a restoration program for Galapagos land iguanas. These reptiles almost disappeared when feral dogs were introduced here many years ago as pets. As the population of land iguanas declined, the efforts to save them increased; dogs were removed from this area and iguanas were raised in semi-captivity and later returned to Dragon Hill. This morning we saw some of the adults sunbathing while others were resting under the shade. During our walk we also encountered a lonely greater flamingo feeding on brine shrimp from a small brackish water lagoon. After our walk on Dragon Hill we went snorkeling. Read More>

Nov 26, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

At Sea

The dawn welcomed us with calm seas and blue skies dappled with clouds, lovely conditions for a day at sea. At some point during the night, a white-tailed tropicbird crash landed on the ship, but it was a simple rescue, and Richard gave everyone a close-up lesson about the bird before he released it from the aft deck. Eagle eyes were on deck scanning the waters throughout the day, but sightings were limited to the occasional lone seabird.   Back inside the lounge we had a great series of presentations. Read More>

Nov 25, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Floreana Island

Floreana Island used to be one of the most visited places in the Galápagos Archipelago by whalers, pirates and buccaneers.  After traveling for several years in these waters, they found Floreana which served as good shelter and a good supply of water and food. Cormorant Point, Champion Islet and Post Office bay were the national park sites we visited today. Read More>

Nov 25, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Santa Cruz Island

The rhythm of Puerto Ayora, the biggest city in the Galapagos with some 20,000 inhabitants, is colorful and busy. The city is the economical center of the islands and hosts the headquarters of the National Park Service, and one can perceive firsthand a constant influx of conservationist and protectionist messages and actions in an educational train.  The city lives out of tourism and as such, it has much to offer to its visitors. Read More>

Nov 25, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

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