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Scotia Sea

We spent the day sailing across the Scotia Sea as National Geographic Orion kept on her northeasterly course towards South Georgia. The seas were pretty much as we expected, knowing this can be among the roughest waters in the world. Actually, it wasn’t bad. Yes, it was quite windy, and there were many whitecaps in evidence, but our great ship with her big stabilizers made for a comfortable ride in two to three-meter (seven to ten-foot) seas. Ernest Shackleton’s astonishing 1,200-km (almost 800-mile) small boat voyage through these waters from Elephant Island to South Georgia during the winter (April) of 1916 was very much on our minds today. Read More>

Feb 4, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Coronation Island

Mist shrouded our arrival at Coronation Island this evening. Part of the South Orkney Island chain, Coronation was a new destination for many of the staff and crew on board, the majority of us having never visited during previous voyages. Our plans upon arrival were unspecified, and for good reason: weather and wildlife will always dictate our operations in the Southern Ocean. Coronation Island has a lot of both! As the dive team on board we are at the mercy of the same two factors when it comes to our operation and tonight was no exception. Read More>

Feb 3, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Duse Bay – Antarctic Peninsula

This early morning at 4 a.m., while all of us were peacefully asleep, the soft and gentle voice of our expedition leader Shaun Powell awoke us with the announcement that the atmosphere and scenery outside was outstandingly beautiful—golden sunlight across the mountains and ice! He invited us out on deck to watch our captain navigate slowly towards the pack ice where we hoped to land before breakfast. Within just 20 minutes most of us were dressed and geared up with cameras and binoculars on the outer decks to admire this magic morning here in Duse Bay. Read More>

Feb 2, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Lindblad Cove and Antarctic Sound

Early this morning, National Geographic Orion sailed within the Bransfield Strait as she made her way to Charcot Bay on the Trinity Peninsula. The entrance to the bay was shrouded in fog, which worried us a bit, but when we sailed into the bay a few miles, we passed into sunshine and brilliant conditions. We came here to visit Lindblad Cove, which was named to honor the memory of Lars Eric Lindblad…the man who pioneered expedition travel. Lindblad Cove (63º 51′ S, 59º 27′ W) is located near the head of Charcot Bay, between Almond Point and Auster Point. This beautiful site is a fitting tribute to Lars-Eric, because it is surrounded by spectacular mountains and three immense glaciers that produce lots of icebergs. As expected, it was filled with ice of all sizes and shapes. The waters here are uncharted, so the ship entered the cove very slowly. Close to Lindblad Cove, we set off in the Zodiacs and had lots of fun pushing our way through brash ice and cruising around bergy bits and icebergs. The weather was near perfect, with blue skies and blue and white ice, calms seas, and great reflections. This water here is so rich at this time of year, it has taken on a strong greenish tint from the summer phytoplankton bloom. During our morning in Charcot Bay, we were amused to see all three species of brushtail penguins (gentoo, Adélie, and chinstrap) standing on a single bergy bit, as well as several snow petrels circling overhead, a huge flock of fulmars on the surface that took to the wing as the ship approached them, a humpback whale feeding in open water, and Weddell, leopard, and several Antarctic fur seals lounging about on ice floes and bergy bits.     The afternoon was spent sailing northward along the Antarctic Peninsula as we made our way to the northern-most tip of the Antarctic continent. Read More>

Feb 1, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Peterman Island

Sometimes to really have an adventure you need to get off the beaten track. As if travelling to Antarctica wasn’t far enough off, today we truly went off the map in a sense. Unperturbed by a morning snow falling heavily our Zodiac fleet took off into the fog, strung out in a line like some sort of orange and black parade. Early stages of sea ice were starting to form on the surface due to the lack of wind, along with a brisk air temperature. Greasy, almost viscous-looking water was congealing and freezing into disks, or “pancakes”, that if conditions continued would connect into continuous sheets of ice. Our trusty Zodiacs have no problem silently slicing through this still somewhat slushy sea. The fog starts to lift as we pass along the steep shore lines, towering peaks above, so laden with snow that the new addition of precipitation causes gentle cascades that can be seen pouring down from afar. As pleasant and serene as it is out here, the fact that the National Geographic Orion seemed to depart, leaving us quickly behind was mildly concerning. Read More>

Jan 31, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Neko Harbour and Port Lockroy

A gloomy, foggy morning in the Gerlache Strait was our opening to the day. Antarctica wasn’t quite ready to show us all her colors and glory just yet, but we got a taste as we approached the first towering mountains. We marveled at charms that we began to glimpse; icebergs and glaciers scared with deep blue gashes. Read More>

Jan 30, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

Drake Passage

Waking slowly this morning, gratefully rocked by a gently moving Drake Passage, we woke with much expectation of the day ahead—today promised our first chance to sight the outlying islands of the Antarctic Peninsula as the unusually calm conditions at sea were assisting an early arrival at the white continent. Our wellness specialist Kim shared her morning stretch class in the lounge with some new friends and a hearty breakfast prepared by our great galley team was eagerly enjoyed by all of us. Read More>

Jan 29, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

The Drake Passage

Exploration.  A word that means different things to everyone, but has been known to infect some people to their very core.  They live it, breathe it, and are defined by it.  It takes a certain person to step out of their own comfort zone and venture out into the unknown.  But for those people, that’s what makes life an adventure.  Today felt like the official beginning of our adventure as we were so generously blessed with good weather for our crossing of The Drake Passage. Read More>

Jan 28, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

At Sea

Anyone that thinks the last day of a voyage is just for resting hasn’t been taking enough pictures. Thankfully our crossing of the Drake Passage as we make our way back to the mainland is comfortable, gently rocking us to and fro. It seems so long ago that we were coming across from the other side, venturing into the unknown. Now as veteran polar explorers with sturdy sea legs there is time to walk about our trusty vessel, reminisce about our adventures and begin the arduous task of photo editing. Even if you arrived to the ship thinking you weren’t a photographer, the scenery, wildlife and team of photo instructors onboard have ensured you are leaving as one. Honestly it’s rather difficult to not capture an engaging image here in Antarctica, playful penguins and sleepy seals with blue ice backdrops and sunsets that last for hours. If the camera settings weren’t just right for that first Gentoo coming down the penguin highway, there is a veritable queue of models right behind her. Missed that last whale tail fluke? Judging by the sonar there is such a mass of krill beneath us they’ll be here for hours, as will we, thanks to our Captain’s enthusiasm. It is astonishing how fast one develops a critical eye, distinguishing between hundreds of shots, any one of which just a few weeks ago would be the best photo we’d ever made. Read More>

Jan 26, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

At Sea

The quiet dining room at breakfast was a good indication that we were once again crossing the Drake Passage. After 6 busy days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, the choppy seas were a good excuse to sleep-in and get some rest from our adventurous week. Since conditions were not ideal to be out on the decks, today was a good day to visit the bridge and chat to our Captain and Officers about the logistics of such a journey. It was intriguing to see the route map of travels and many members traced our path on their own maps-a great souvenir to take home! Though we were leaving Antarctica, we were not finished learning about its unique ecosystem. Read More>

Jan 25, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Antarctica

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