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Isabela Island

We dropped anchor early this morning at Urbina Bay. After breakfast, we embarked our Zodiacs for the next adventure. Calm waters and a clear blue sky were welcomed the guests of the National Geographic Endeavour. We landed at a black sandy beach and headed inland for a hike through the cotton and poison apple forest. There were many Darwin finches singing and flying around us, as well as a friendly Galapagos flycatcher that posed for the photographers! However, the most surprising part of the morning was our encounter with giant tortoises from Alcedo Volcano! A young female giant tortoise was spotted first, then a young male appeared, followed by a very young one! One of the giant tortoises decided to show us the path, and we slowly followed until it took a turn and went into the lush vegetation of this visitor site. Due to the lack of clouds, the sun was intense, and there was little shade available—we really experienced the tropics in all its grandeur! The Galapagos land iguanas were looking for the best shady spots, and after this great experience we were very happy to go back to the beach and refresh in the water. Today the water was cooler, 71 degrees Fahrenheit! The upwelling from the Crownwell Current brings nutrients, plankton and a lot of oxygen to the area, and because of this, the waters between the islands of Isabela and Fernandina are considered the most productive in the Galapagos Archipelago. Read More>

Feb 9, 2016 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Fernandina and Isabela Islands

Today exploration took us to the youngest area of the archipelago, Isabela and Fernandina Islands.  The best way to begin our Galapagos Islands adventure was in a pre-breakfast activity in order to find marine mammals along the coast of Volcan Wolf. It is a splendid landscape decorated by big shield volcanoes which dominate the view. While navigating, the ocean had a big surprise ready for us- dozens of common dolphins swimming to the north. Read More>

Feb 9, 2016 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Stromness and Prion Island

Just as breakfast was ending, National Geographic Orion cautiously entered Stromness Bay in a heavy fog. The gloom added a sense of foreboding to the scene as the ruined, crumbling buildings of the Stromness whaling station appeared as ghosts from an abandoned age. Giant, rusting propellers were scattered on the beach next to all manner of pipes and gantries and masts and boilers, twisted metal and links of chain: the legacy of the industrial revolution. Rather than risk fouling our anchor on the submerged junkyard at the bottom of the bay, our captain chooses to simply push the ship’s bow right up to the landing beach! When the hunting of whales in the southern ocean became economically unfeasible, the humans moved on, leaving places like this for the locals to inherit. Read More>

Feb 9, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Isla Magdalena

When someone says “Good morning,” it usually means, “Hello,” or, “I hope you have a pleasant day.” Today’s morning for us was much more of a special good morning than that—it was fabulous! The pre-dawn sky revealed a glorious string of planets, all five that can be seen with the naked eye. Pelicans and cormorants flew past, backlit by the sunlight as it glinted above a shoreline of mangroves and then gently crept across the immense dunes to the west. Eager whale watchers boarded the rubber boats for our final outing to watch these magnificent mammals from water level. Read More>

Feb 9, 2016 National Geographic Sea Bird in Baja California

Fernandina Island

After a night of navigation, we awoke in the western realm of the Galapagos, anchored in front of one of the most beautiful and pristine islands in the world, Fernandina. There is nothing quite as fascinating, at least in my opinion, as an island. In biogeographical terms, an island can be defined as an area of habitat suitable for a specific ecosystem, surrounded by an expanse of unsuitable habitat. These can be terrestrial islands, like mountain tops, oases, woody patches surrounded by cultivated land etc.  These can be pieces of continental land mass that become isolated from the mainland by tectonic movements or rising water levels, starting life with a full complement of flora and fauna which gradually becomes impoverished. Or they can be true oceanic islands, remote pieces of land surrounded by large stretches of ocean, that rise up from below as the tips of huge submarine volcanoes, for example, starting life as barren stretches of lava that gradually become colonized from afar. Their inherent isolation means that the species making up these insular ecosystems receive no gene flow from external sources, and they tend to depart along their very own, often peculiar, evolutionary pathways. The more isolated an island, the less important the role of immigration becomes in contributing to its biodiversity and the greater the role of speciation.  Williamson (1981) defined this concept as follows: “oceanic islands are where evolution is faster than immigration; continental islands are where immigration faster than evolution.” The colonization potential of different plant and animal groups is directly proportional to their dispersal abilities – islands can be “continental” to some animal and plant groups and “oceanic” to others, and remote island groups are colonized by “sweepstake” dispersal. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Drake Passage

We gathered from all corners of the world to the farthest southern town in the world, Ushuaia, and then onto National Geographic Explorer. Excitement was high as we pulled away from the dock and into the Beagle Channel. We heard how unusual the day’s weather was—calm, warm, and only wisps of clouds. Normally the Beagle Channel at Ushuaia is rather nasty with wind, rain, and low clouds. What would the next few hours bring as we entered the infamous Drake Passage? Because of long travels many were sound asleep as the ship turned to the south and set a course directly across this 600-mile-long body of Southern Ocean separating the tip of South America with the Antarctic Continent. This morning people began emerging early due to various time zones where they had originated. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Bartolome & Rabida Islands

Here we are, in the middle of the Pacific, hundreds of miles off the coast of South America in the Galapagos Islands. We woke up anchored next to the famous and iconic Island of Bartolome. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Tonle Sap (Kampong Tralach & Kampong Chhnang)

When you're standing on the river bank watching the sunrise, you know that you got up early. Standing with us was the entire guest complement of the Jahan (well, nearly everyone). They were looking with some anticipation at the row of ox-drawn carts that stood before them. The oxen were looking somewhat ambivalent. One by one, our guests climbed into the back of the cart, before declaring in most cases how surprisingly comfortable it was. And then we were off, trundling along the dusty track bathed in the golden rays of the rising sun, experiencing a mode of transport that has not changed for thousands of years (indeed the design of the carts is identical to those depicted in the carvings in Angkor Wat). If it ain't broke... The light was beautiful, and before long we chanced upon extensive fields of lotus lilies. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 Jahan in Vietnam & Cambodia

Royal Bay, St. Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia

We awoke this morning to the gentle radio voice of our fearless expedition leader, Shaun Powell, convincing us to witness the pre-dawn light as it turned the clouds red and the snow dusted mountains of Royal Bay orange.  Once the sleep was rubbed out of our eyes it was obvious why we were here.  Our trusted Zodiacs and drivers carried us bravely over the moraine and through the surf to the calm waters inside the bay. Juvenile fur seals escorted us to shore, where we would find a shoreline littered with king penguins. It was hard to believe that this colony of 30,000 pairs is one of the smaller colonies on South Georgia. No amount of photos can capture the magnificence of this scene, with mountains, glaciers and penguins in every direction we looked. Some of us just sat down amongst the penguins and soaked it all in.  We then braved the seas yet again, and made it back to the ship for lunch and a brief siesta, only to be awed into silence at our next destination. This ride on the Zodiacs proved to be a bit more exciting as we stormed the shore break at St. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Boca de Soledad

Today we spent the entire day in the Boca de Soledad. We awakened aboard National Geographic Sea Bird to 61 degrees Fahrenheit, blue skies with high patchy clouds, and a light breeze. It was perfect weather to climb into our inflatable boats and get a closer look at the gray whales. And boy did we get closer looks!  The boats sped along the water and there were blows in all directions, near and far. Read More>

Feb 8, 2016 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.