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At Sea to Tonga

As National Geographic Orion continues her voyage east through the South Pacific, today we were at sea between Fiji and our next island group of Tonga. It is a journey of about 400 miles, and in doing so we are leaving Melanesia behind us and heading out into the many islands of Polynesia. International boundaries and labels such as Melanesia and Polynesia are, to a certain extent, arbitrary, and the island groups are perhaps better thought of in terms of a continuum from west to east. However, in many respects the transitions between island groups are very real and we will encounter, and are looking forward to experiencing, some distinct cultural changes.  The day at sea was a great chance to watch for passing seabirds. Read More>

Nov 21, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Taveuni Island and Ringgold Islets, Fiji

After a quiet night at anchor off the northwestern coast of Taveuni Island, we began our day heading ashore in various directions. Departing at first light were those interested in a birding walk on Des Voeux Peak. They were rewarded with sightings of 12 endemic bird species, most exciting being the beautiful silktail. The higher rainforest was lovely, loaded with epiphytes, and the rare tagimoucia, the Fijian national flower, in bloom.  The morning was brilliant with color, the rich cobalt blue sea complimenting the deep and bright greens onshore. Read More>

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

Santiago Island

Today we explored the northwestern region of Santiago Island and followed in Charles Darwin’s footsteps. We visited areas similar in description to those he noted back in 1835 when he stepped off the H.M.S. Beagle and started documenting important observations and collecting data for nine days.   Espumilla beach and Egas Port were the national park sites we visited today. Read More>

Nov 20, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Gold Harbor & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia

There is a certain apprehension when your expedition leader tells you that for a second day in a row you will be starting your visit ashore at 4.30 a.m. (thanks for Lisa Standard Time!). Add to that the fact that we had been incredible lucky with the weather and sunrise the previous day and certainly we couldn’t count on topping that on a consecutive day, knowing the famous inclement weather conditions of South Georgia. Off to bed early and full of hope we went anyways, since the day had been long and intensive. Seemingly only a few minutes later, the voice on the PA system woke us up announcing that conditions were good for us to land at Gold Harbor, but it was wrong… Conditions were in fact outstanding! Even the soon-to-die wind was from the ‘right’ direction, smothering the small breaking waves and allowing for an extremely easy landing. Read More>

Nov 20, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

St. Andrews Bay & Ocean Harbour

Long before the sun rose, the one and only early morning wake-up call for those willing to brave a first light landing came from our expedition leader, Lisa Kelley. We landed on the beach just before the break of dawn and watched and photographed in amazement as the sun painted the 6,000 plus foot summits of Mount Roots, Mount Kling, Mount Brooker, and Nordenskjold Peak with soft pastel pinks and yellows. Combined these snow-covered mountains make for an incredible backdrop for the largest king penguin and elephant seal colonies in all of South Georgia.  Dear reader, there is no way we can possibly convey to you in any words, in any language, or in any photograph or video the absolute spectacle that nature has on display here at St. Read More>

Nov 19, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Isabela Island

Isabela is the biggest Island in the Galápagos Archipelago with an area of nearly 3000 thousand miles and was explored by whalers, buccaneers, pirates and the famous naturalist, Charles Darwin. Today we followed in their footsteps at this site visiting two different famous national park’s sites: Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove. Our day started after breakfast with a hike at Urbina Bay. Read More>

Nov 19, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Espumilla & Puerto Egas

National Geographic Endeavour is anchored at the western coast of the island of Santiago early this morning. This island is the fourth largest in the archipelago, and named after King James by English speaking visitors, as well as San Salvador by the Spanish who discovered the Islands in 1535. The history written by the people who came before us suggests that this is the island where young naturalist Charles Darwin performed the largest of his collections in this archipelago—something understandable once we know he camped on this island for nine days during his time here.  Today, almost at sunrise, our explorers planned a walk into a giant Palo Santo tree forest. Read More>

Nov 19, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Taveuni Island, Fiji

We awoke to a beautiful morning at sea and although we were in open ocean waters, we could at all times see land somewhere far in the distance. The winds were strong, but that was to be expected with the Southeast Trade Winds in this part of the world. In fact, the dependable trades are what makes it all work here, or at least did in the distant past when the Pacific islanders travelled about in huge sailing canoes. This relaxing time at sea gave most of our guests time to recover from their long travels, jet lag, etc. It was also a time to get to know the ship and give some briefings on Zodiac, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving operations, as well as an introduction to life in Fiji, its customs, our expectations, and proper behavior with the locals.  During lunch, we entered the much calmer waters in the lee of Taveuni Island and found a good anchorage. Read More>

Nov 19, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Isabela and Fernandina Islands

We woke early while navigating in the northern hemisphere along the north coast of Isabela Island. In the distance we could see the volcanoes of Wolf and Ecuador and later we could see Fernandina, the youngest Island in the archipelago. No cetaceans were sighted but we enjoyed seeing several species of sea birds including storm petrels, shearwaters, dark-rumped petrels and frigate birds.  We also saw a mola sun fish, a few leaping mobula rays, a flying fish and fur seals returning from a night of fishing. After a hearty breakfast we gathered in the bridge and watched the GPS tick down to 0.00 as we crossed the equator and travelled back into the southern hemisphere. Soon the captain dropped the anchor of the National Geographic Islander at the base of dramatic cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca.  We boarded the Zodiacs for a cruise along the rocky shoreline and found much wildlife this morning! We saw huge marine iguanas, penguins, flightless cormorants, sally light foot crabs and many noddy terns. Read More>

Nov 18, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

Fortuna Bay, Stromness Harbour & Grytviken, South Georgia

South Georgia echoes with voices from the past. If one stops to listen, the bellows and wails of fur seals, of elephant seals and whales reverberate as they did when sealers and whalers stole their lives. The spirits of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, and Tom Crean still stand on the ridge above Stromness, listening for the whalers’ call to work. Two such extremes in our minds, yet each were striving for their own prize. One set sought fortune through exploitation and the other sought fame through exploration. What would we choose as our “set prize”? Would it be the ultimate goal, a legacy left behind? Or would it simply be seeking pleasure each and every day? “I hold…that a man should strive to the uttermost  for his life’s set prize”  Robert Browning  Diversity abounds here in South Georgia, a tiny land in the great southern sea. Read More>

Nov 18, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

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