Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica - Roff Smith, National Geographic
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From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica

Feb 24, 2006 - National Geographic Endeavour

Abandoned Whaling Station of Stromness
Stromness & Prion Island, South Georgia

We were up at dawn this morning, enjoying the sunshine as it filtered through the haze and illuminated the mountains surrounding Fortuna Bay. It was in the hills above the bay that some of us planned to pick up the tracks of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s party and walk the final four miles of their legendary trek across the island in April of 1916 – a sort of pilgrimage and tribute to ‘The Boss,’ as Shackleton was affectionately known to his men.

And while we hikers made our way over the ridge to the old Norwegian whaling outpost of Stromness, where Shackleton’s odyssey finally ended, the National Geographic Endeavour made its way there by sea. Once at Stromness, the rest of the guests came ashore to hike to the famous waterfall – the final obstacle Shackleton & Co had to overcome – where they’d meet those of us coming across the ridge and all would amble back to the abandoned outpost, there to enjoy the seals and reindeer and picturesque ruins.

It was a beautiful morning for it, and the hiking party made good time up and over the thousand-foot ridge, its steepness and challenges providing us with only the vaguest hint of the hardships endured by Shackleton and his men ninety years ago. Shackleton’s hike to Stromness ended, of course, with a hearty meal in the house of the whaling station manager while ours ended with a hearty lunch aboard the ship.

Afterwards, we sailed northward to the Bay of Isles and an afternoon on Prion Island, a hidden jewel of a place where the wandering albatross comes to earth to nest and breed. Here was a rare chance to see these magnificent birds up close, watch them courting each other with elaborate displays known as gamming and observe them settled on their nests, incubating eggs which will hatch in another fortnight or so. Some of them wheeled overhead, swooping low and awing us to silence with their grace and the elegance of their ten-foot wingspans. We lingered there on the grassy hilltops of Prion Island for the rest of the afternoon, returning to the ship as dusk approached bringing an end to a magical day on this most magical of islands.

About the Author

Roff Smith·National Geographic Staff

Australian writer and adventurer Roff Smith began his career in journalism more than 20 years ago, covering the mining rounds with the Sydney Morning Herald. It was a beat that took him from the rough-and-tumble iron-ore ports in Western Australia, to uranium mines in the South Australian desert, to oil rigs in the Timor Sea, a gold rush in the Papua New Guinea highlands and a civil war on Bougainville, in the North Solomon Islands. After a stint as a feature writer for the Melbourne Age, he joined Time Magazine where he became an award-winning senior writer covering the South Pacific. A keen expedition cyclist, he left Time in 1996, and embarked on a solo 10,000 mile bicycle journey through outback Australia, the story of which appeared as a three-part series in National Geographic Magazine, and later in book form - Cold Beer & Crocodiles - published by National Geographic Adventure Press. For the past ten years he has been a freelance writer, writing for numerous international publications and travel magazines, and a regular contributor to National Geographic, with assignments taking him to places as diverse as the South Pole, French Polynesia and the Sand Hills of Nebraska. His August 2004 story for the magazine on Banjo Paterson, Australia's national poet, won the North American Travel Journalist Association award for best feature in 2004. He has written National Geographic Traveler's guidebook to Australia, as well as a 'coffee table' book on Australia (Australia: Journey Through Time), and an account of his extensive travels in Antarctica - Life on The Ice. He has cycled extensively in Europe and Britain, made solo treks across America, from London to Istanbul, through East Africa and Zanzibar and once in a light hearted moment, 'around the world' in fifteen seconds at the South Pole. He now lives in Sussex, England with his wife and children, where he is presently working on his first novel and a book on Panama hats.