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Drake Passage, Half Moon Island & Bransfield Strait

The seas throughout the night had steadily improved and by morning we were sailing through calm and foggy conditions. However there was a stiff wind about and notably cooler air. The Antarctic Convergence had been crossed, which meant that from a biological standpoint we had crossed into Antarctica. From a political perspective we had also made it, as that boundary is 60 degrees south. Many seabirds were still with us, most notably a good number of light-mantled sooty albatrosses, sometimes likened to the Ferrari of the seas. Read More>

Jan 10, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage

Yesterday was full of excitement and anticipation. We began early at the lovely hotel in downtown Buenos Aires so that everyone could have a hearty breakfast before boarding the coaches to drive the short distance to the domestic airport. After a small delay due to other flights leaving and the air traffic congestion, we were off heading southward to the Beagle Channel, which forms the south side of Tierra del Fuego. For the last 30 min of the flight we could see the shoreline and the landscape of large island. The pilot of our flight made a gentle landing at the Ushuaia airport helped by a strong westerly wind. Stepping out of the plane we were immediately struck by the reputation of Patagonia—wind.  Whisked onto buses we then drove past the town of Ushuaia and to the west to the end of the road where we walked a short distance to a waiting catamaran. Read More>

Jan 9, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage, Beagle Channel & Ushuaia

Outside it is dark and one can only imagine the conditions outside as we topsy turvied in our beds. We had been told during the last Recap that conditions would get worse and it certainly felt that way. At daybreak we stumbled out of beds, collected our thoughts, got dressed, and carefully ventured out of our cabins our worst fears were realized. Read More>

Jan 7, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage

Today was a day of transition for us aboard National Geographic Explorer. Late last night we said goodbye to Antarctica and the protection peninsula provided. We entered the open waters of the Drake Passage, setting out for the southern tip of South America. The views outside quickly changed from glacier-dominate mountains and ice-filled waters to 360 degree views of open, rolling seas. After days filled with hiking and Zodiac excursions, awe-inspiring scenery, and the fear of missing any of the splendor of Antarctica, today provided many of us with time to rest, reflect, and prepare for our transition away from ship-life and back to home-life. Although the westerlies were strong and created long, rolling waves that rocked the ship, we were well prepared by and cared for by the officers and crew of the ship. Read More>

Jan 6, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

From Port Lockroy North

I woke to the sound of sea ice crunching along our hull. I looked out the porthole to discover we were parked in it. This gave us the chance for a sea ice walk, as well as a penguin colony visit, and a tour of Port Lockroy, all before lunch. After a blustery day yesterday, we welcomed the bright sun and calm. Read More>

Jan 5, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Neko Harbour & Skontorp Cove VIDEO

The early-risers on National Geographic Explorer were rewarded with an atmospheric view of the Errera Channel this morning. Sailing through just before breakfast, our guests were greeted with snow-capped mountains looming out of the mist and the light from the early morning sun peeking through the clouds. After enjoying this small moment of calm there was just time for breakfast before we began our action-packed day. Our first landing of the day was at Neko Harbour, a breathtaking bay named for a whale factory ship which had operated there in the 1900s, but which is now known for its spectacular glacier. Read More>

Jan 4, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Cierva Cove & Enterprise Islands

Mornings aboard National Geographic Explorer are unpredictable! Weather, ice, and other natural factors play a part in how the day’s activities go. This morning was no exception, but with luck on our side, the windy conditions subsided once we entered Cierva Cove. Before entering the cove, winds were a cool 50 knots. Cierva Cove is home to Primavera, an Argentine Base, which opened in 1977. Read More>

Jan 3, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Paulet Island VIDEO

What do 100,000 breeding Adélie penguins look like?  This morning at Paulet Island, we encountered a great biological truth of Antarctica: low diversity, high abundance. Read More>

Jan 2, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Brown Bluff and Erebus & Terror Gulf

Beginnings are exciting! There's always the potential for the unknown, for the unexpected, and for new experiences. Today was a beginning, the first day of a new year. Getting out of bed on the first day of January is much easier when you know there are penguins waiting for you, and what penguins! The National Geographic Explorer set its anchor off the shore of Brown Bluff, and our relatively tiny Zodiacs skimmed across the benign waves to a pebble beach beset with tens of thousands of Adélie penguins with several hundred gentoos for good measure. Like little wind-up toys, endless groups of penguins ungainly patrolled the shores looking for the best spot to take to the waves and convert into streamlined aquanauts, porpoising across the waves in search of krill to eat and bring back to their partners. Their partners, it turned out, were dutifully guarding and feeding their prides and joys, fluffy gray penguin chicks alternatively flat out sleeping as though they too had partaken too heavily in New Year festivities, and begging insistently for another morsel of regurgitated stomach contents, which probably tastes much better than it sounds. When not feeding, guarding, or hunting, small groups of penguins amused our guests by trying to dominate a small block of ice that remained on the beach. With surprising agility, penguins would hop up the slippery ice, shave off several mouthfuls to eat, peck at a nearby rival for having the audacity to do the same, and then jump back down and face-plant into the pebbles. After another lunch of calorific proportions, the National Geographic Explorer headed south deeper into the Weddell Sea in search of the holy grail; the emperor penguin. Read More>

Jan 1, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Barrientos Island (62’’24’S, 59’’47’W), South Shetland Islands

The Drake Passage, once again, did not live up to its fearful reputation. In fact, the sea conditions continued to become calmer and calmer as we approached our first landfall in Antarctica. Unfortunately, the calm conditions brought with them fog, and the poor visibility made animal spotting very difficult for those on the bridge. The morning was spent listening to the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of how to behave whilst ashore and in the Zodiacs. Read More>

Dec 31, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

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