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2013 Daily Expedition Report(s) match your criteria See all Daily Expedition Reports

The Drake Passage

The passage from Antarctica to the rest of the world is shortest along a path towards Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.  This dreaded sea is the only stretch of ocean on earth where wind and storm can travel around the world unfettered by any land.  It has had been growing for 30 million years, when South America was the last continent to break off of a stationary Antarctica.  Our travels so far, once we left Antarctica and headed north, have been without drama.  The National Geographic Explorer was built with these seas in mind.  While there was wind and swell, they were both gentle enough that the ship made good time and it looks as though we may be able to approach the Chilean island of Cape Horn tomorrow and see land’s end in South America.  That is where we will see green again and not realize how much we have missed it.  It is the lack of things familiar as well as the presence of things unfamiliar that make Antarctica unique. It is the dichotomy of extremes that define Antarctica; the highest yet lowest, wettest yet driest and so on.    Aboard ship there were presentations offered and views of some sea birds making their way north as the short Antarctic summer season is winding to a close. Read More>

Feb 16, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Port Lockroy and North

This morning I woke up with the ship already anchored at Port Lockroy.   Try as I might, it was impossible to tell whether or not I was on some high alpine lake in the middle of winter… there was no obvious egress to open water, to the ocean.  But,  having been here before, I know that Port Lockroy is a very protected harbor.  It is almost completely surrounded by Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago, protected from seas but not necessarily katabatic winds.  No place down here really is, after all.  Port Lockroy was used as a protected anchorage by whalers from about 1911 through 1931 and there is an abundance of large bones here both on land and beneath the surface of the water. Read More>

Feb 15, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Valentines Day-Lemaire Channel, Booth and Petermann Islands

It's hard to describe any one portion or aspect of Antarctica as more beautiful or picturesque than another but the Lemaire Channel certainly does hold an exalted place by Antarctic standards.  This narrow passage, first navigated by The Belgica under Adrian de Gerlcahe in 1898 and named for Belgian explorer and captain, Charles Lemaire, when not blocked by ice makes possible a transit between Booth Island and The Graham Peninsula.  From the approach to the north, as we were sailing this morning, there doesn't appear to be a passage at all but rather an icy cut between rocky pinnacles.  The most scenic stretch of the 7km between Booth and the mainland features towering peaks and nearby glaciers.  While making way through the less than ½ km wide channel, we could spot several seals on the ice flows and a few minke whales joining us on the transit.  We made our transit beginning at 0700 and the bridge and decks were full of stunned onlookers as the land, ice and seascape passed by.  Booth and Petermann Islands are home to 1000's of nesting penguins and at least 5 other species of seabirds. Read More>

Feb 14, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Lindblad Cove and Mikkelsen Harbour VIDEO

We woke to diffuse morning light flooding the brash ice and glaciers of Lindblad Cove. This inlet in Charcot Bay provides us with some of the most striking views of ice that can be seen on the Antarctic Peninsula. Several hours were spent here taking in the radiant white spectacle that surrounded us before we finished breakfast and headed onwards towards our next destination. Humpback whales and minke whales were present throughout our transit, much as they had been amongst the ice also. As we travelled along the majestic Antarctic coastline, we listened to talks by some of our expedition team. Jason Kelley, one of our naturalists, gave a talk on ice, appropriately. This helped us to appreciate our surroundings in a way that went beyond the aesthetic. After this, we listened to Global Perspectives Guest Speaker, Peter Hillary, recount stories of some of his own adventures in some of the more hostile regions of Antarctica. By the time this ended, we had arrived in Mikkelsen Harbour. Mikkelsen Harbour is a small, sheltered inlet on Trinity Island. Read More>

Feb 13, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

The Weddell Sea

Dawn in Antarctica is almost mythical, due in part to the fact that it occurs just a handful of short hours after sunset.  This is fantastically described over breakfast to those that slept in, by the dedicated majority that have abandoned all hope of resting on this voyage and truly embraced the expedition mindset. Massive icebergs become blank canvases for the sun, gentle brushstrokes turning cool blue into blushing pink before washing the entire landscape in pure golden light. Rising from the horizon, our celestial artist adds nuances of shadow to this masterpiece, providing even more detail in which to bask.  And then there are days like today that all of this just becomes merely a backdrop for something truly special, a large pod of killer whales.  The black and white colorations are so distinctive that there can be no mistake as to the identity of these marine mammals that are found in every ocean across the globe and considered to be the apex predator of our planet. Read More>

Feb 12, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Gourdin Island (63 12S, 057 18W) and Brown Bluff

Today was full of unexpected treats. It started with a Zodiac cruise to Gourdin Island on the western end of Antarctic Sound. The weather was true North Peninsular stuff, wind and horizontal wet snow. We could see all three Brush-tailed penguins, Adelies, Gentoos and Chinstraps on the rocks that surrounded the bay. Then, as the second wave of Zodiac cruises began, two Leopard seals could be seen attacking and feeding on the young Adelies very close to the boats. Nature can be brutal, but it was fascinating to watch the drama unfolding all around us. Young penguins desperately tried to climb on to small icebergs, but as they lost their footing and slipped back into the water they were picked off by the seals. After all that excitement, the Captain took the ship through the Antarctic sound to Brown Bluff (63 32S, 56 55W) at its eastern entrance. Read More>

Feb 11, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

This morning we woke up officially in Antarctica, having crossed both the political and biological boundaries sometime during the night.  Our morning navigation to the South Shetland Islands held many fine sightings.  Fin whales, the second largest whale on the planet, were seen feeding in these rich waters as were many Antarctic fur seals.  Then once in the South Shetlands and entering English Strait, we were delighted by the sight of more than 1000 penguins all feeding together.  Clearly this is a rich area!  After lunch we split into two groups to explore Half Moon Island and its chinstrap penguin colony. Read More>

Feb 10, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage

As the guests aboard the National Geographic Explorer awoke on the first morning of the expedition, a sense of excitement hung in the air. The vessel was headed to Antarctica, where many passengers would set their eyes on the phenomenal beauty of the southernmost continent for the first time. This place is set apart for many reasons; biologically, geologically and sentimentally. Biologically, Antarctica is an outlier. Read More>

Feb 9, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Drake Passage to Ushuaia, Argentina

Throughout the night our cozy ship bounded along at thirteen knots over storm-tossed, tempestuous seas. We left the Antarctic Peninsula in the company of another vessel which soon fell far behind having had to slow to eight knots in order to comfortably handle the rising swells. The National Geographic Explorer however rides gently along in almost any weather due to her unique hull design and formidable hydraulic stabilizers. Just before dawn the waning moon cast a silvery path on the ocean and the stars of the Southern Cross shown brightly directly overhead.  By breakfast time the seas had begun to flatten out and many of the seabirds we had expected to see yesterday were once again wheeling about the ship. Read More>

Feb 7, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

The Drake Passage

During the night we made our return to one of the world’s more notorious stretches of water. Unlike our passage to Antarctica at the beginning of the voyage, which seems so long ago now, we were met with a more characteristically rough Drake. While far from the worst, it has required a little bit more caution around the ship than we’ve needed so far. It is, however, a good day for collecting thoughts and digesting the overwhelming experience of the past few days. Antarctica is not a destination that you can just get over quickly and move on from. It implants itself into your consciousness permanently, and leaves a feeling that often takes some getting used to. There are worse places than a gently rocking ship to contemplate this. That is not to say that there aren’t things to see and enjoy, of course. Read More>

Feb 6, 2015 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

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