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Yampi Sound, the Kimberley, Australia

National Geographic Orion anchored in the scenic Yampi Sound, amid the 800+ islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.  Three of those islands, including the rich and famous Cockatoo and Koolan have substantial iron ore mines.  Laid down as a series of sedimentary deposits over a billion years ago, the sandstone is sometimes interspersed by a layer of much softer, gray siltstone.  This entire rock formation has been bent and buckled over great spans of time, forming synclines, anticlines and Calvin Klines.  Because this area may have been along an orogenous zone between two landmasses that were smooched together, much of the rock has been turned on its side, and stands vertically.   

Our morning started leisurely, with ‘breakkie’ and a briefing.

Jul 22, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Le Conte Bay & Petersburg

When do you start out blue and end up black and white? In Le Conte Bay we started our morning cruising amongst the sapphire burgs calved by Le Conte glacier, then we received a radio call from our ship that killer whales had just crossed the terminal moraine and were heading towards us. Awesome.

Our focus went from sculpted ice bobbing in the bay to a pod of at least five killer whales swimming up the fjord.

Jul 21, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Española Island

It is our second day in paradise and Mother Nature has delighted us with many species that are unique to the Galapagos and Española Island itself. Our guests appreciated the perspective that came from seeing the oldest island in the Galapagos. 

Our morning started early with a kayak outing, the rocky coastline of Gardner Bay was treasured gracefully.

Jul 21, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Floreana Island

It is our third day of exploration around the enchanted islands of Galapagos. Today we got up early for a walk on Cormorant Point. The walk was for avid nature lovers as well as those interested in photography. Our adventure started at a greenish inorganic beach with coarse sand made of olivine, a crystal common in basalt formation and some other pieces of basalt, cinders and shells. After a medium-short walk along a smooth path winding through a dry landscape we spotted many land birds like flycatchers and finches. We ended at a completely different beach, here the sand is fine, almost flowery and white. The primary material here is calcium carbonate; the left-over product of coral colonies and ground shells. Just behind the highest tide mark, embedded in low dunes we see few tracks made by some female green sea turtles. This beach is an important nesting site for green pacific marine turtles in the archipelago. 

We headed back to the beach and we took another path that took us to a pretty big brackish water lagoon.

Jul 21, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Tracy Arm Fjord & Williams Cove

They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Here in Southeast Alaska that is all we need. Setting the tone of the expedition we began by exploring Williams Cove by foot or paddle, after the first of many delicious breakfasts on board.

For those that had never kayaked before it would be hard to even design a more ideal location, calm serene waters, gently rising forested slopes and lots of wide open space with nothing to bump into! Hikers were able to begin to introduce themselves to the wonders of the temperate rain forest that we will be surrounded by all week, immersing ourselves into a vibrant world of deep glowing green.

Jul 20, 2014 National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska

Yampi Sound, the Kimberley, Australia

National Geographic Orion anchored in Yampi Sound, amid the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Two islands, Cockatoo and Koolan, have substantial iron mines, from which they extract rich ore. Evidence of the iron is readily evident when looking at the ancient sandstone, much of which has a patina of rust. Laid down as a series of sedimentary deposits, the sandstone is sometimes replaced by a layer of much softer, gray siltstone. This entire rock formation has been bent and buckled over great spans of time, forming synclines and anticlines.  Much of the rock has been turned on its side, and stands vertically.   

Our morning started early, so after a quick breakfast and coffee, it was back on the Zodiacs, as we poked into inlets and scoured the shoreline for wildlife, scenic surprises, and photo opportunities.

Jul 20, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Vestmannaeyjar (Westmen Islands), Iceland VIDEO

There are not many countries in Europe where academics can debate the country’s origin to within a few years of a given date. But this is Iceland, a country first settled at the close of the first millennium from Norway which has a rich written record in the sagas of its early settlement. Late origins and a remote, isolated location have given Iceland a homogenous population that has proved particularly attractive to researchers of the human genome, the so-called “Viking gene” showing up here in good measure.

There is one other element in the DNA make-up of Iceland that has attracted attention, however, and that is the rich vein of Irish blood that would appear to course through Icelandic veins.

Jul 20, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Arctic

Española Island

This is the first full day of our expedition in the Enchanted Islands. As the sun rises, our ship is already anchored in beautiful Gardner Bay, located northeast of Española Island. There are a few islets in the middle of this bay and Gardner Islet will be our snorkeling site this morning. Amid schools of razor surgeon, parrotfish and salemas, we encounter a bunch of playful Galapagos sea lions. Right in the center of the bay there is a wide beach of fine white sand and turquoise waters, the perfect location for snorkeling. Once again, we have close encounters with the many fearless young sea lions of the local colony. There is also time to relax and take abundant pictures of the many sea lion harems of Gardner Beach. Another interesting creature here is the endemic Española mockingbird. Several of them inspected every backpack left unattended on the sand.

By midday, we all returned to National Geographic Endeavour.

Jul 20, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Tracy Arm

Ice. Pure, beautiful, blue ice. As we awoke this morning, we were once again in the presence of floating icebergs, indicating our proximity to tidewater glaciers. National Geographic Sea Lion had entered Tracy Arm in the early morning by crossing the fjord’s shallow terminal moraine, which is a pile of debris that was produced during the Ice Age when the glacier was at its furthest extent.

Tracy Arm is a narrow and spectacular fjord that averages only a mile in width along its entire 26-mile length.

Jul 19, 2014 National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

Talbot Bay

The National Geographic Orion has now reached the Buccaneer Archipelago, a particularly stunning part of the Kimberley coastline that provides some of the best examples of the power of tectonic movement seen on the trip so far. Around 1.8 billion years ago, the Kimberley continent rammed into the land mass of Australia. An almost inexorable force collided slowly but surely with an almost immovable object, the Earth's crust crumpling and folding with the impact, heating the rock and "welding" the two landmasses together. And so did the Kimberley region become an essential part of Australia.

Our trusty group of Zodiacs departed the National Geographic Orion early in the morning to visit the famous Horizontal Waterfall in Talbot Bay.

Jul 19, 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.