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Stromness & Hercules Bay

It is not often that one gets to follow the path of greatness, and yet aboard the National Geographic Orion we have set a course to follow the harrowed journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men. Today we finished that journey by arriving at Stromness, the very whaling station that Shackleton forded the mountains of South Georgia to reach so that his men would be saved from their camp on Elephant Island. Remnants of the bygone industry were still scattered about amongst the myriad of wildlife. Read More>

Mar 1, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Maiviken, Grytviken & Jason Harbor

Summer certainly looks very different than other places here in South Georgia. Something along those lines was what many of the hikers thought this morning, as we landed in Maiviken. This whaling cove, discovered in 1902 by the Swedish South Polar Expedition, was today blanketed by soft and dry snow. As we readied ourselves for the hike over to Grytviken, the snowfall intensified and made for some challenging initial climbing up to the main plateau. The morning was however calm, silent and spectacular, with the occasional break in the clouds providing winter like light over the hills and lakes. After a couple of hours, we descended into Grytviken to join the rest of our group at the cemetery for a toast to honor the ‘Boss’ and his right hand, Frank Wild.   The late part of the morning was spent visiting the many interesting sites and buildings of the whaling station, museum, post office and the shop, before returning onboard for lunch. Read More>

Feb 28, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

St. Andrew’s Bay and Godthul, South Georgia

South Georgia has a moody soul. Isolated in the Southern Ocean at the edge of the polar sea she is lashed by gales of the “furious fifties” and dashed by its crashing waves. Katabatic winds pour off her glaciers as she pushes back against the surf. Snow and sleet pummel the peaks and yet, away from the shore, one can discover her warm and nurturing heart. Abundant wildlife seeking shelter or simply a seasonal home find a safe haven here.  Rain and sleet and snow cannot dampen our enthusiasm. Read More>

Feb 27, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Gold Harbour and Cooper Bay, South Georgia

Early this morning, we sailed around the easternmost point of South Georgia and had to dodge and weave our way through icebergs. Most of these huge grounded bergs had come from a tabular berg known as B-17 that broke off an ice shelf in Antarctica nearly 15 years ago. A large piece of it drifted into this region last year and grounded on the shallow water off Cooper Island. It has since broken into numerous smaller bits, which are still quite huge compared to our ship, and these bits will eventually disintegrate and disappear. But, for the time being these tabular bergs are stuck here at South Georgia.    Our vessel continued around to the northern side of the island and just before sunrise, we anchored off Gold Harbour. Read More>

Feb 26, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Scotia Sea, heading to South Georgia

The expedition staff say that there are only three different days of their week: landing days, sea days, and turn-around days. Today is a full sea day; a day for guests to relax a bit, catch up on reading, take a nap, or attend a lecture. Our journey is following loosely in the path of Shackelton’s epic sail in the James Caird, and this afternoon we had a taste of the kinds of weather and seas they had to endure. Read More>

Feb 25, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Scotia Sea

We are heading WNW for South Georgia across the Scotia Sea with a strong wind of about 25 to 30 kts on our port quarter helping us along. Sea state quite light and the ship very stable. By evening we were out of official Antarctic waters north of 60 S. The sea temperature is still low – at O°C. Twenty different birds sighted during the day, including royal (northern and southern) wandering, light mantled sooty, black browed, and grey headed albatross and many prions and petrels down to the delicate Wilsons petrel. Read More>

Feb 24, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Point Valentine and Point Wild, Elephant Island

As we continue to follow the route of Shackleton’s Endurance journey, some 100 years later, we arrived at Elephant Island before breakfast. Point Valentine, where Shackleton’s party first made landfall after their harrowing row out of the Weddell Sea, was visible through the windows of the dining room as guests finished their breakfast and headed straight out to the back deck for a Zodiac cruise. Chinstrap penguins and fur seals watched us from shore as we marveled at the meager shoreline that served as a blessing one century ago.   As we left the point, to round the corner to the north side of the island, we were greeted by a large group of fin whales—more than five were feeding together off the bow. Read More>

Feb 23, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Antarctic Sound and the Weddell Sea

We thought we had a plan but as the old adage goes, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”  We are learning very quickly to expect the unexpected and when one approaches each day with an open mind, surprises are sure to come along.  Today was a three act show, each isolated by curtains of fog or snow. Read More>

Feb 22, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Port Lockroy, Jougla Point & Bul’s Bay

Today we walked into Antarctic history by visiting the beautifully rebuilt Base ‘A’, Port Lockroy, at Goudier Island. Experiencing the first real Antarctic weather we have had was only a better frame for such a visit. We were able to get a good glimpse at what life in the cold south was over half a century ago. Hundreds of items are on display in the museum: from utensils for the daily chores to the instruments and machines used for science and the equipment for research and exploration. Outside, gentoo penguins didn’t seem to mind the comings and goings of the visitors. They thrive next to this building, the most visited site in the whole of the continent. Right across the channel, a larger rookery and a colony of Antarctic shags also entertained some of us with their chores as they hurry to finish before the summer window closes. An eclectic collection of whalebones, including fin, blue, humpback and probably other smaller species, lies on the beach, as a mute witness of times in which we treated Antarctica’s wildlife in a very different way.   The afternoon showed us some more typical Antarctic weather, snow and wind incremented as we sailed north by the Neumayer Channel and then the Gerlache Strait, searching for whales and other wildlife. Read More>

Feb 21, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Penola Strait & Palmer Strait

Beginning the day in the shadows of the Lemaire Channel, the National Geographic Orion maneuvered through the narrow passage amidst fog and downward leaning glaciers. Scuttling between the ice, our course lead us to a place nicknamed the Graveyard – a geographical squeeze point where mammoth icebergs tend to ground themselves in the shallow water. Launching every Zodiac available, our guests set off in all directions. Read More>

Feb 20, 2015 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

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