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Land’s End & San Jose del Cabo

Having sailed south all night long in the open Pacific from Magdalena Bay, we arrived to the southern part of the peninsula of Baja California before sunrise. Our captain’s expert hand maneuvered the National Geographic Sea Bird in front of the iconic granite arch at Land’s End that has become the identifying image of Cabo San Lucas around the world; we admired the beautiful rock formation and watched the numerous seabirds and sea lions, as well as the early morning commute of the local sport fishing fleet. Cabo San Lucas is renowned as favorite place for those who like to pursue big game fish like marlin, tuna, and sailfish. Many other people like Cabo as well, as the two huge cruise ships anchored in the bay and some late spring-breakers showed. But we were interested in other kind of creatures, and right there off the arch we encountered the first humpback whales of the day. We sailed a few miles to the east and entered the Puerto Los Cabos marina to visit the town of San José del Cabo. Read More>

Mar 26, 2015 National Geographic Sea Bird in Baja California

At Sea

Sailing from Mossel Bay past Port Elizabeth to Durban on the National Geographic Orion the past two days prompts a lot of thinking about history -- global, regional and personal. Empires and individuals have sailed these waters since the indigenous people of southern Africa boarded rafts for coastline fishing. Vasco de Gama and other European explorers combed these waters, as evidenced by the wonderful exhibits at the Maritime Museum we visited in Mossel Bay two days ago. Later, spice traders, Arab commercial dhows, American and British whalers, passenger liners and warships, all passed through these channels. On one of those vessels in 1896, the British Union Castle mail steamer HMS Saxon, my grandfather Bernhard immigrated to Port Elizabeth as part of the great Russian Jewish diaspora to the Cape Colony from the pogrom-ridden Czarist Empire. Building a new life in this extraordinary country, he became the leader of the Port Elizabeth Police Band and a concert master in this coastal city. Sailing through the foggy morning waters here and looking at the misty green hills, I feel like I am joining his voyage, and all the other eons of maritime travels, with ours. At sea today, we had a fine breakfast on the outer deck, and were treated to a superb talk on the spice trade by naturalist Tom Ritchie. Read More>

Mar 26, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Southern Africa & the Indian Ocean

Santiago Island

Located on the east of Isabela, Santiago Island is unique due to its highlands with fresh water but no inhabitants.  There were many attempts to colonize it, but all of them failed.  The last one was at James Bay or Puerto Egas, where there was a base for a salt mining operation up until the 1960’s. A small abandoned house and some water tanks remind us of the small group of people that lived here for many years. Much earlier, Santiago Island was well known by ancient visitors such as pirates and buccaneers, and was visited by Charles Darwin in 1835.  After many hours sailing from Isabela, our arrival to Santiago early this morning was upon calm seas and under cloudy skies. Read More>

Mar 26, 2015 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Santa Cruz Island

As the sun rises over the southern shores of Santa Cruz Island, the National Geographic Endeavour gently rides its anchor chain in Academy Bay, as a southern swell touches bottom as it enters the sandy bay. Our plan is to leave the comfort of our ship for the whole day to explore Santa Cruz Island, as we seek the most famous inhabitants of the Galapagos archipelago. Read More>

Mar 26, 2015 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Isla Magdalena & at Sea

After a night of smooth sailing south on the open Pacific, the National Geographic Sea Bird changed course to enter Magdalena Bay for a morning ashore at Punta Belcher. On our approach, thousands of elegant terns called and wheeled overhead and in the distance. This was a surprise, as we usually expect to encounter these birds at or near their primary breeding grounds on Isla Rasa in the Sea of Cortez. It was a spectacular sight.   After anchoring, we headed for shore to investigate. Read More>

Mar 25, 2015 National Geographic Sea Bird in Baja California

At Sea

Our day at sea began with two talks. I gave the first talk, entitled “Revolution in Song: Music & Resistance in Apartheid South Africa.” This presentation used songs to illustrate the role music played in resisting apartheid from 1948 through 1994 and beyond. Music communicated news during a time when it was very difficult for black journalists to write openly about apartheid in South Africa. It was also a way to create a feeling of solidarity and emotional bonds among South African people. Songs are a powerful way to communicate, because we can understand the sentiment even if we do not speak the language of the lyrics. Today, music continues to play an important cultural role in South Africa, as the country faces new challenges. The 46664 concerts, named after Nelson Mandela’s prison number, raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the country and spread hope for treatment and cure.  Following this was a talk by Chris Rainier, National Geographic photographer and Fellow, entitled “Cultures on the Edge: Documenting the 21st Century. Read More>

Mar 25, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Southern Africa & the Indian Ocean

Isabela Island

We navigated just a short distance during the early morning hours from our calm anchorage at Fernandina to Urbina Bay at the base of Volcan Alcedo, Isabela Island. Following a hearty breakfast we disembarked on a small, steep black sand beach and had a choice of taking a nature/photo walk or a longer/2 mile exercise excursion. Everyone put on their walking shoes and we headed inland following a sandy trail.   Urbina is especially interesting because this area was uplifted several meters in 1953-1954. Read More>

Mar 25, 2015 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Santiago Island

The Galapagos expedition brought us to the center of the archipelago today. Santiago Island was our destination, and in order to begin our journey, we disembarked at Espumilla Beach. After a comfortable wet landing on a brown colored beach, we started exploring the mangrove forest found in the area.  The presence of yellow warblers and Galapagos mockingbirds surprised us for a delightful photo opportunity.  Farther into the trail, an impressive incense tree forest decorated our path with exuberant vegetation. Read More>

Mar 25, 2015 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Urbina Bay & Tagus Cove

Heading south along the western coast of the island of Isabela, we come across a really special visitor site, where the idea is to spend the morning close to the most iconic organism on land you find in this archipelago. All explorers on board are excited to explore Urbina Bay, and the path that we are exploring this morning is located at the foot of Alcedo volcano, one of five large volcanos in the largest island. Read More>

Mar 24, 2015 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

San Ignacio Lagoon

Our second day at San Ignacio Lagoon began with more blue skies, sunshine, and plenty of excited anticipation. We returned to the mouth of the broad lagoon with our inflatable boats to search for gray whales. This morning we found an even greater numbers of whales. The ocean tides were flooding into the lagoon as we arrived at an area where groups of mother whales, each with their calf beside them, were swimming along in the tidal rip currents. Like side-by-side runners on treadmills at a gym, this appeared to be mothers exercising their calves to build their muscles for the long journey ahead. These young calves and their mothers would soon be departing the protected waters of San Ignacio Lagoon to begin their 5,000 mile journey northward to arctic waters. With our boats we were able cruise slowly alongside them as they swam in place into the current, with multiple whales continually popping up around us in every direction.   In addition to plenty of close spectacular sightings, there was a lot of spy-hopping behavior, as well as occasional head-slapping, fluking, and some friendly behavior with whales coming to visit within arm’s reach to be petted. Read More>

Mar 24, 2015 National Geographic Sea Bird in Baja California

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