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Crossing the Timor Sea

At last a day of rest! Well, not quite.

Perhaps a rest for the body, but not for the mind, for there was a series of stimulating lectures all throughout this day at sea.

Jul 29, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Pavlof Harbor and Freshwater Bay

There is no such thing as a typical schedule aboard an expedition ship; almost by definition it is a constantly evolving itinerary that is subject to change. There is always a plan, but it is a plan to deviate from the moment the unplanned, sometimes literally, appears on the horizon. Today was a day that couldn’t have been imagined, let alone planned, and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that we are truly on an expedition. 

A mother bear and a pair of “roly-poly” cubs in the morning mist before breakfast gave way to almost a dozen huge humpback whales cooperatively feeding as a group.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

George Island & the Inians

We woke up this morning to some delicious true Alaska weather with a light rain falling over  the temperate rain forest and low clouds intertwining with the ghostly shapes of Sitka spruces and western hemlocks. Only the occasional harbor porpoise or a solitary Steller sea lion broke the calm waters ahead of the National Geographic Sea Bird as we sailed towards our morning destination at George Island. Located to the north of the much larger Chichagof Island, George Island is a small but very interesting place, and we explored it using kayaks, expedition landing craft, and our own legs. Many of us went hiking looking for the many natural beauties of George Island as well as for the historical remains on it, as this is the place where a small group of soldiers guarded the entrance of the Inside Passage during WWII.  

After leaving George Island, we headed to Elfin Cove, which is a very small and picturesque fishing settlement nearby; we had the chance to walk around this boardwalk community, talk to its friendly residents, and learn about their unique lifestyle.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Bartolome and Rabida Islands

We started our day with an optional wake-up call to get to the top of Bartolome Island and see one of the most spectacular views in Galapagos. This Island is relatively small compared with the main ones, but its geological formations along the way are really impressive. As we were gaining altitude the view was better and better with every step up. At some point we had the impression of being inside the volcano, able to study and understand how these oceanic islands were formed.  

Once at the top of Bartolome Island we got our price.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Heimaey & Surtsey Vestmannaeyar, Iceland

We spent the morning at sea, making our way toward Vestmannaeyar, an archipelago of 15 small islands lying off the southwestern coast of Iceland. Named after slaves taken from the British Isles by the Vikings, the main island Heimaey has been inhabited since the 10th century. Tim Severin, our Global Perspectives guest speaker, captivated us with the second part of the account of his voyage across the North Atlantic from Iceland to Newfoundland in a small skin-hulled boat, following in the fabled wake of the Irish saint known as St. Brendan the Navigator.

Shortly before lunch the small island of Surtsey was spotted.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Fernandina and Isabela Islands

Continuing with our expedition aboard National Geographic Endeavour navigating through Galápagos National Park, today we visited the two geologically youngest islands in the western realms of the archipelago. 

Not many ships are fortunate enough to come this far west to visit one of the volcanically most active places on earth.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Wyndham, Ord River, Bungle Bungle, Western Australia

Sunrise found National Geographic Orion secured to the dock in Wyndham. Wyndham was established in 1886 when gold was found in Halls Creek. It is the oldest and northernmost town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It lies at one end of the Great Northern Highway that stretches over 2000 miles southwest to the city of Perth.

Today is our last full day in the Kimberley region and our exploration takes us further inland than any previous day.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Pavlof Harbor, Chicagof Island

Running in circles, getting packed for your big trip to Alaska, airports, airlines, endless sitting, and where did it get you? Floating in calm waters off of Admiralty Island with a humpback whale bobbing next to the good ship National Geographic Sea Bird. Miss the bustle and hurry? Then how about the calf humpback whale that was splashing about as we navigated back into Chatham Strait.

Congratulations, you have arrived for a trip of a lifetime in Southeast Alaska.

Jul 27, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

King George River

The King George River was one of the highlights of the Kimberley voyage aboard National Geographic Orion. What a pity that explorer Philip Parker King completely overlooked this incredible river, because he missed one of the jewels of the Kimberley, a stunning gorge cut from 1.8 billion year old King Leopold sandstone that ends (in navigational terms at least) in an 80 metre (260 ft.) twin waterfall that is breathtaking to behold.

After making a brief diversion to see a very large mound of sticks, an inadequate description for the rather impressive nest of a white-bellied sea eagle (heliaeetus leucogaster), with both parents attending to the carnivorous needs of their young, our group of trusty Zodiacs had far less trouble finding the entrance to King George River than P.

Jul 27, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

North Seymour and Rabida Islands

We began our first full day into our expedition into the Galapagos Islands with great excitement. Our morning destination today was to a small island just north of Baltra called North Seymour, which is known to be one of the highlights of the archipelago, due to the number of seabirds that inhabit it. We set foot ashore only to be greeted by one of the “locals,” a friendly juvenile Galapagos sea lion. North Seymour is located in an area of high productivity, and therefore has been chosen by various marine birds as their breeding grounds. Numerous magnificent and great frigates flew around us, showing of their fantastic aerial skills. We discovered that the more we moved inland the greater the number of frigate bird nests we could find. Many nesters were actually the juvenile, inexperienced frigates that were simply waiting to be fed by their returning parents, while a few male frigates had already puffed up their bright red pouches and were trying to attract a mate in the new breeding season. One of the most charismatic species of the islands is the blue-footed booby. Today we were very fortunate to have found several couples that seemed to be in the process of bonding in preparation to breed. North Seymour is also inhabited by a number of swallow-tailed gulls, many of which were having a rest along the shore. It was a well-earned daytime rest, as one has to remember that this species is a nocturnal hunter.

In the afternoon, after a short navigation, we moved on to Rabida Island, further north.

Jul 27, 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.