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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

Jar Island and Vansittart, Kimberly

The sun rose this morning just as National Geographic Orion anchored off Jar Island. Excitement over our morning destination to see a style of rock art endemic to the Kimberly, called Gwion Gwion, or Bradshaw Art, was the talk around the breakfast tables.

Joseph Bradshaw was the first to record the art type that bears his name when he encountered these figures near the Roe River in 1891.

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

Genovesa Island

It is the last day of our voyage in the Galapagos archipelago and we are still constantly amazed by the wildlife of this astonishing place. During the night we crossed the equatorial line, heading toward Genovesa (also known as Tower Island). This place is an ancient dormant volcano and its submerged caldera serves as an anchorage for ships visiting the Galapagos. 

This morning we awoke to an overwhelming number of seabirds leaving the island heading offshore to their fishing grounds.

Jul 26, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Langanes

Remote Langanes, Iceland’s “long peninsula,” stabs northeastward in cold Icelandic waters toward the Norwegian Sea. This morning we cruise along the north shore of Langanes, looking for a safe Zodiac landing on the rocky shore. Rounding Fontur headland and lighthouse, we turn southwest toward Skálar and the ruins of a tiny fishing village. Residents abandoned this harsh and isolated region more than 50 years ago and only a few sheep graze here during the long Arctic days. The beach is too rocky for a landing, but Zodiac cruising is just right along these precipitous cliffs of layered basalt flows.

We follow the coastline and find a weather-beaten shore with boulders rounded by the crashing surf that eats away at the Iceland coast.

Jul 26, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Zapote River & Supay Caño

At sunrise this morning we enter the small river known as Zapote. Gray river dolphins are feeding at the mouth as fish are jumping high into the air, some landing inside our boats!  We pass through the narrow entrance, and the stream is lined with egrets, much like channel markers. Adding into the color pattern are wood storks, jabirus, jacanas, and cocoi herons. Once we enter, a whole other world is revealed. The current drops away, and we slowly make our way, searching for wildlife. Some of us paddle by kayak, while others relax on the skiffs, coffee in hand.

Soon, we are spotting more wildlife.

Jul 26, 2014 Delfin II in Amazon

Hunter River

It was a bright and early start for the adventurous guests onboard National Geographic Orion as the ship pulled into York Sound, with the first of a series of helicopter tours to the Mitchell Plateau for a brisk walk to see the magnificent series of Mitchell Falls. Meanwhile, another group of Zodiacs scudded across the morning waves, along the coast towards Thor's Hammer, a remarkable rocky "Hoodoo" that resembles its namesake in a most surprising manner. With a sandstone boulder teetering atop a sandstone and quartz stack, the Hammer towered above our tiny Zodiacs while black-faced wood swallows (artamus cinereus) wheeled overhead. We were also treated to the sight of not one, but two active osprey (pandion haliaetus) nests with attendant parents delivering morsels of much-needed food to demanding mouths, hidden from sight within their nests of stacked twigs balanced on rusty orange sandstone pillars. Sooty oystercatchers (haematopus fuliginosus), eastern reef egrets (ardea sacra), white-quilled rock pigeons (petrophassa albipennis) and a brief sighting of a white-faced heron (ardea novaehollandiae) completed the morning.

After lunch it was time for a Zodiac tour up the Hunter River and, within it, the appropriately-named Porosus Creek.

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

Sombrero Chino & Sullivan Bay

On our expedition onboard the National Geographic Islander, we have benefited from charts first made by Captains Fitzroy and James Bartholomew Sullivan, who piloted Charles Darwin around the Galapagos onboard the Beagle in 1835. The able captains managed to capture the cartography of this central part of the Galapagos. The applied precision of their efforts was appreciated into the 1960s, when the era of tourism began and their charts were often used on these shallow seas. 

Our morning adventure began with a Zodiac ride in search of the unique Galapagos penguin.

Jul 25, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Myvatn, Husavik, Grimsey Island, Iceland

“I feel emotional landscapes.” Bjork “Joga” Homogenic

After several days exploring sights close to the sea, we spent much of today further inland.

Jul 25, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Genovesa Island

Today we started our day in the northern hemisphere.  After a long navigation we ended at a very special place in the archipelago, Genovesa Island, the “bird Island.”  In the morning we visited Darwin’s Bay in the caldera of Genovesa.  We landed for a hike on a white sandy beach formed by eroded pieces of broken coral.  The landscape was incredible and the island had an explosion of wildlife: red footed boobies, Nazca Boobies, frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, herons and finches were everywhere. Genovesa holds the larger density of birds per island in the Galapagos. It was a real privilege to visit this place surrounded by mangroves and spectacular cliffs made of basaltic lava rocks.

Later in the morning we got the chance to get in the water for our last contact with the marine environment of the Galapagos.

Jul 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.