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Santa Maria Island, Azores

Santa Maria, home to the smallest bird in Europe, Santa Maria Goldcrest (Regulus regulus sanctaemariae), was the first island to be discovered by the Portuguese, and its main town, Vila do Porto, the oldest village in the Azores, dating back to the 15th century. Welcomed by a local folklore music group, we started our day dancing the Azorean traditional songs. Read More>

Mar 30, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Azores, Madeira & Beyond

Faial, Azores, Portugal

This morning the National Geographic Explorer arrived in the port of Horta, on the southern coast of Faial, one of the five islands that constitute the central area of the Azores. The people of these islands have had a long tradition of whale hunting and the original factory where these animals were processed has been transformed into a museum. Here local guides explained about the history of whaling and the various processes that were involved in the rendering of the carcases into oil. The building complex is still intact and includes much of the original equipment and adjacent slipway up which the dead whales were pulled in preparation for sectioning. Read More>

Mar 29, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Azores, Madeira & Beyond

En route to Ushuaia, Argentina

Last night’s pub-style quiz revealed how much we learned about the people we have travelled with in these past three weeks, and to what extent some teams will go to win! Mischievous plots, cheeky accusations of cheating and overall laughter were heard in the lounge until the late hours of the night. The proud winning team shared the prize with all, toasting with Shackleton’s replica whisky. Planning is a crucial component in all expeditions. Read More>

Mar 9, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Carcass Island and New Island

The western Falklands are the wild side of this South Atlantic archipelago.  Black-browed Albatross walk carefully over wide ledges of grey rock and spread the tips of their wings to catch the wind with great care, then open them wide and suddenly they are gone.  They are perfect spirits of the air and the sea, again soaring above and beyond the cliffs where we stand watching them.  Rockhopper penguins make their little jumps, one rock at a time, up steep gullies and stony slopes to reach their nesting sites where they squabble and call to each other, impatient to return to the ocean that is their true home.  Striated Caracaras are everywhere.  Riding the wind with a different style, they hover over us and drop to investigate anything left on the ground for even a moment.  The small islands which are home to all of these creatures are the fringe, the edge of the archipelago - the sea is always in view, covered in whitecaps, defining the islands and opening wide to the west.  Of course, this rugged edge of the Falklands has its gentle side as well. Read More>

Mar 8, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Stanley, Falkland Islands

We left our anchorage in Berkeley Sound before sunrise, heading towards our first stop in the Falkland Islands at Stanley.  In the faint light proceeding sunup from the bridge, we could see 1000's of Sooty Shearwaters heading out to sea from their nesting colonies. Their characteristic forms slipped by just above the water’s surface in loosely organized flocks, the purple-black water shimmering in the predawn light.  Just as the sun crested the horizon, the green flash, only visible under ideal conditions, revealed itself to all those whose eyes were trained on the rising orb.  As the dawn’s light shown more and more, signs of life were visible:  distant whale blows back lit by daybreak, Blue-eyed shags making their way to sea, 100's of Magellanic Penguins on the opposite beach, and Falkland Steamer Ducks charging over the water as we approached.  By all accounts it was a beautiful start to our first full day in The Falklands.  Stanley being the largest and most populated city on the islands, it's fitting to begin our visit here. Read More>

Mar 7, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Approaching the Falkland Islands

Morning on the bridge of the National Geographic Explorer is my favorite time.  Arrive early and you find a bright full moon shining off the water in front of us, and then fading as the sun rises in the east behind us.  Night turns into day, and we begin to see seabirds coursing over the waves.  Clear the whiteboard of yesterday's sightings and begin anew: white-chinned petrels, soft-plumaged petrels, sooty shearwaters, and great shearwaters - all of the group of tube-nosed seabirds, using the energy of the wind to soar gracefully over the waves.  Yesterday was a seven-albatross-species day; can we possibly match it?  We can only try.  By ones and twos, guests join us on the bridge, still wiping sleep from their eyes, with steaming mugs of coffee in hand. Read More>

Mar 6, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

At sea, South Georgia to the Falkland Islands

This day began pleasantly enough, sunny with a fresh wind from the west, more or less from our direction of travel.  The moderate swell and wind waves were easily navigated by our ship, the National Geographic Explorer with just enough motion to convince us we were in the open ocean.  Days at sea, particularly toward the end of a voyage have been a time for catching up, reflection and perhaps some photography and bird watching. Read More>

Mar 5, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

At Sea

The only thing that one can truly expect when embarking on an expedition is that not everything will happen according to plan. Weather changes and wildlife always appear right as lunch is being served. Onboard the National Geographic Explorer “the plan” starts as more of an outline, something of a rough draft with text that is constantly shifting. The only option is to remain flexible and schedule the day around what is happening at that moment, not what sounded like a nice idea several days ago. For example, when it is your turn to write the Daily Expedition Report one must think of what kind of photo to take to accompany it. This can be more challenging during a day at sea because sea birds can’t be counted on to cooperate and hover picturesquely within camera reach, although they very frequently do. Still being very southerly, sunsets and sunrises aren’t as reliably dramatic either, though once again they can be. So when the course for the ship guarantees us passing by the only bit of rock out of several hundred miles of wide-open ocean, aiming to capture an image of what is literally a solid sure thing.  Planning or pre-visualizing photography is an important skill and, as with planning an expedition, usually means that what you set out to do is rarely what ends up happening. Read More>

Mar 4, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Gold Harbour and St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia

South Georgia surprises any visitor with its many incredibly beautiful spots and the overwhelming wildlife. We have certainly had numerous wonderful experiences on this voyage, but this last day of exploring the wonders of South Georgia will most likely be remembered particularly well. We got the first wake-up call at 04:15. We were offered an early landing at one of the island´s most spectacular landing spots: Gold Harbour. The early risers were set ashore just before 5 a.m. Although the sun was mostly hidden behind clouds, the morning light was soft and warm. Gold Harbour is a truly contained place – reminiscent of an amphitheater - with a wide, flat beach, framed by lush slopes and steep rocks with a glacier on top. The beach is home to a colony of King penguins as well as fur seals and elephant seals. Most of those who got up at the normal wake-up time went ashore just after breakfast and spent the whole morning ashore. A group of hikers went uphill and walked on a carpet of lush, soft vegetation towards Gold Head. The views were stunning, and a few light-mantled sooty albatrosses were seen as they were soaring under the steep cliffs.  After a good lunch and a quick lie-down, St. Read More>

Mar 3, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Stromness & Grytviken

As the guests aboard the National Geographic Explorer arose on March 2nd, 2015, hustle and bustle began right away with a promise of visiting Stromness, an iconic South Georgia landing site. The afternoon would be no less exciting, with an invigorating hike from Maiviken to Grytviken and a visit to the gravesite of The Boss, Ernest Shackleton. Stromness was the first sight of civilization the men of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition were granted after over a year of intense survival in Antarctica. Read More>

Mar 2, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

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