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The Drake Passage

Days at sea in the Southern Ocean can be surprisingly pleasant, especially if you have been dreading the Drake Passage, this fabled section of water extending between the Antarctic Peninsula and the end of South America. Today we might call it the “Drake Lake” if not for the fear of jinxing ourselves as we have one more day until we are in the protection of the Beagle Channel. So let us suffice to say we are all up and about, catching up on photos, enjoying the presentations, and gazing at the incredible birdlife trailing us across the passage. At some point tonight we will cross the convergence—or Polar Front—the ecological boundary of Antarctica, and leave behind an amazing ecosystem, where 99. Read More>

Jan 26, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Port Lockroy & Dallmann Bay

Early risers up to greet the morning were treated to a spectacular view of Mount Français, rising to almost 10,000 feet on nearby Anvers Island. As the dining room doors were being opened for breakfast, the National Geographic Explorer eased into the snug little harbor that is Port Lockroy and anchored a stone’s throw from tiny Goudier Island. Aside from a nesting colony of gentoo penguins, Goudier Island is home to a small museum/UK post office that is operated each year for several months during the Antarctic tourist season by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust. Originally built by the British in the 1940’s during WWII to monitor enemy activities, it later served as a scientific base until it was abandoned in the 1960s. In the 1990s it received a new life when it was restored to its original condition and opened by the trust. All proceeds from the sale of items in the shop there go to restoring and maintaining that, and other heritage sites around the continent. After a brief introduction to Port Lockroy by the four museum staff, we commenced our morning activities ashore. Read More>

Jan 25, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Petermann and Booth Islands & The Lemaire Channel

We woke up to another magical icescape under gray skies. Pieces of ice in wondrous shapes silently floated in the quiet, still conditions. It invited one to speak in hushed tones. During the morning we landed on the island of Petermann. Read More>

Jan 24, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Lallemand Fjord VIDEO

Fifty years ago Lars-Eric Lindblad first fulfilled his dream of bringing intrepid travelers to the White Continent we know as Antarctica beginning what is now known as expedition-style travel. Today we celebrated that auspicious occasion by exploring the icy world below the Antarctic Circle. Our evening’s navigation brought us to this fabled line and below where we were graced with flat calm waters strewn with magnificent icebergs and dramatic ice-capped peaks towering over the horizon. With an eager group of staff and some early rising guests we began our morning scanning the edge of the fast ice searching for any and all creatures that call this environment home. Read More>

Jan 23, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Neko Harbour & South

Our wake-up call came just in time to pull on a coat, head up on deck, and enjoy the scenery of Errera Chanel. We had a few minutes to squeeze in breakfast before getting our gear on to head ashore at Neko Harbour. The conditions this morning altered between low cloud, sun, and light snow, which made for gorgeous light on Neko’s glaciers. Read More>

Jan 22, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island & Cierva Cove VIDEO

We were jolted awake this morning by the tannoy: our expedition leader Lucho exhorting us to leave the warmth of our bunks for the freezing winds on deck. At 0630 eagle-eyed watchman Edgar had espied killer whales ahead. In no time folks in pajamas and polar jackets were manning the railings, for we had closed with a pod of type a killer whales, which are, literally, “killers of whales.” They specialize in hunting minke whales here in the northern channels of the Antarctic peninsula. At times we had them crisscrossing right under the bow, allowing time for all to take unrivalled photos of these, the most powerful predators in the ocean. They set off after a minke whale in the distance but after a brief chase it managed to escape. Meanwhile, a small humpback whale panic-stricken by their proximity, sought shelter next to our ship, turning repeatedly toward us for reassurance. And all this before breakfast! Revitalized and now thoroughly awake, we were ready for a morning landing in Mikkelsen Harbour at the southern tip of Trinity Island. Read More>

Jan 21, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

The Drake Passage & South Shetland Islands VIDEO

In 19 February 1819 Captain William Smith on the British ship Williams plied the waters of the Drake Passage southward. On his passage from Montevideo to Valparaiso he had diverted his course far to the south by chance. Through this inadvertent course he discovered new territory but some disbelieved him. After a failure attempting to reach it again, the third time was a charm in late 1819 he was able to sail along mountainous lands covered in snow and ice. Originally he called the land New South Britain but did not know the extent of the land and whether it was actually part of a larger land mass. Smith’s reports of abundant whales and seals immediately intrigued the British government. The British Naval officer Edward Bransfield was then ordered to take command of the Williams and have Smith guide him to the New Britain location. Subsequently they charted the islands later called South Shetland Islands and their work then attracted soon-to-follow ships with commercial ventures. This morning we were also destined to make a similar discovery and approach Antarctica at the South Shetland Islands. Read More>

Jan 20, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

The Drake Passage

Having left the shelter of South America, we awoke to gentle pitching and rolling as National Geographic Explorer made swift headway towards the Antarctic continent. Despite the near constant presence of fog, we were still able to observe the wildlife that calls this notorious stretch of water home. Albatrosses, petrels, and even penguins, amongst others, made appearances throughout the day. These animals are true seabirds, in that they only ever go to shore to breed. Solid ground has no other use to them. People often wonder what they are doing so far from land. However, it is really just we who are the ones out of our natural environment. In between watching the inhabitants of this little-understood world we began to prepare for the coming days with a number of talks, to help us to gain a sense of context and understanding of what we were about to see. Read More>

Jan 19, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage, Cape Horn & The Beagle Channel

As we approach the Beagle Channel after a relatively mild crossing of the Drake Passage, people are divided into groups that are wondering how they can possibly fit all those clothes plus a Parka into such a small suitcase, and those who are eagerly watching for any signs of life in the gray waters that surround the National Geographic Explorer. Captain Skog treated us to a close up view of the impressive Cape Horn, with its dark, forbidding cliffs. Read More>

Jan 17, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

At Sea Crossing The Drake Passage

There are some places on Earth that demand a great effort to be able to visit and Antarctica is right at the top of the list. No matter which approach you take a vast expanse of Southern Ocean distances the rest of the world from the Antarctic continent. So, after an exceptional expedition we now find ourselves taking the reverse journey across The Drake Passage heading north to Ushuaia, Argentina. It's that distance of roughly 600 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina that will give us the time to reflect on our experiences of the past week. Read More>

Jan 16, 2016 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

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