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At Sea Approaching Easter Island

Our final day at sea before arriving at Easter Island dawned with the familiar gentle rolling of the ship. The past few days have seen us travel many hundreds of miles east through the midst of the South Pacific and despite this area of ocean being vulnerable to rough seas, we have been fortunate to experience only a little of what the South Pacific can generate. A relatively steady swell coupled with a stabilized ship makes long stretches at sea on board National Geographic Orion quite comfortable. Having enjoyed our breakfast and the cooling morning breeze in the outdoor café we were eager to hear more about our final destination. Read More>

Dec 18, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

At Sea towards Easter Island

We continue on our way from Pitcairn to Easter Island. It is a long way, through some deep seas with an average depth of nearly 10,000 feet. The water is deep azure blue, similar to the crayon situated all the way at the end in the line of blues. This color of blue tells us how incredibly clear the water is, thus meaning there is very little here in the way of planktonic life. There is no land anywhere nearby. We have left the closest place, Ducie Island, and are headed towards the next one, Easter Island. This is a harsh environment for life, being so far from land in a deep sea with poor nutrients. However, there are signs of life, not only of birds and fish, but of the human migrations that have happened here. A few sea birds were spotted today with some probably coming from behind us while others are more tied to where we are going. Read More>

Dec 17, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Passing Ducie Atoll, Pitcairn Islands, South Pacific

Last Sunday, after a most interesting full day exploration of Pitcairn Island, the National Geographic Orion left Bounty Bay heading towards the uplifted coral island of Henderson and Ducie Atoll. Sea conditions were changing very rapidly and embarking and disembarking Zodiacs was rough but all of us returned safely.   On our way to to Ducie Atoll weather forecasts indicated that landing at Ducie would be unlikely. Read More>

Dec 16, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Henderson Island

Like a siren’s song, Henderson Island’s wind-swept sand beaches, swaths of verdant forest, and towering limestone cliffs beckoned us to explore, but the ocean’s tumultuous waves held us firmly at bay. We had hoped to be able to possibly land by Zodiac, or at least to lower our snorkeling platform from which we could peer at her coral-laden flanks beneath the waves. Yet the powerful, heaving ocean swells and wind-whipped waves made folly of any such ideas. So we sailed along her leeward side as the morning sun lit the bursting waves dashing high against the cliffs.   Offshore we found ample delight in the myriad numbers of tropical seabirds returning upwind to their island home. Read More>

Dec 15, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Pitcairn Island

«Nous avons fait l'histoire d'une croyance. Elle s'établit: la société humaine se constitue. Elle se modifie: la société traverse une série de révolutions. Elle disparaît: la société change de face.»                — Fustel De Coulanges, La Cité Antique, 1864 Last evening, the National Geographic Orion dropped anchor in Bounty Bay and we boarded Zodiacs to explore the coast for our first close-up view of one of the most isolated, yet inhabited islands in the world. Read More>

Dec 14, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Approaching Pitcairn Island, South Pacific

Yesterday evening we departed French Polynesia and set a course for a remnant of the British Empire: the Pitcairn Islands. While making the transition from French to British territory, we also made another significant transition as the National Geographic Orion crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and left the tropics. Whether psychologically or actually, it did seem cooler out on deck this morning, and a few people sporting fleeces suggested that the chill was not all in the mind.  Those enjoying the cooler weather out on deck in the afternoon were treated to a changing impression of our island destination from the first hazy glimpse at 25 miles range. Read More>

Dec 13, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Mangareva, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia

The islands of French Polynesia present a wonderful variety of landscapes and scenery, from the steep green mountainsides of Tahiti to the enormous turquoise lagoons of the Tuamotus. Within this broad territory, the Gambier Islands are unique in being the smallest of the five major archipelagos and the remnants of a single huge volcano. A few fragments of that great mountain still rise above the waves, most notably the central island of Mangareva. The lagoon around these high islands is a picture perfect blue, sprinkled with small coral reefs and woven with pearl farms. Surrounding it all is the barrier reef, 15 miles across, with only three navigable entrances. The outer reef, home to an enormous variety of fish and corals, is often pounded by surf and drops off very steeply into the deep blue. All together, the Gambier Islands are roughly halfway in the long process that transforms a high island like Mo’orea into an atoll like Fakarava.  After entering the lagoon through the southwest pass, we launched our Zodiacs and landed on Mangareva at the outskirts of the main town, Rikitea. Read More>

Dec 12, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

The Acteon Group and At Sea

This morning found the National Geographic Orion sailing further afield, in the far southeastern part of the Tuamotu atoll cluster. With a few extra hours in our pocket, our Expedition Leader, Tim, had hoped to make an expedition stop in the isolated and very rarely visited Acteon Group. These four small atolls — Matureivavao, Tenararo, Tenarunga and Vahanga — are not inhabited, and access to the shore or inner lagoon areas is close to impossible in these seas. Our goal had been a platform snorkel and dive outings along the outer reef, yet the day presented us with the challenges of wind and waves wrapping around the atolls. As the sun shimmered across the water we watched the surf crashing against the reef beyond, the wind carrying the spray in powerful brushstrokes, the turquoise waters of the inner lagoons beyond. We sadly had to relinquish our plans to the ultimate power of nature.  And so we had a lovely day at sea exploring various subjects of interest. Read More>

Dec 11, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Pukarua Atoll, French Polynesia

We spent a leisurely morning at sea sailing farther southeastward out the sprawling archipelago of the Tuamotu Islands. By midday we reached the remote atoll of Pukarua, our destination for the afternoon. We found good shelter on the leeward side of the island, just off of the small town of Marautagaroa. The divers headed out to explore the underwater world of the surrounding reef where they found plentiful healthy coral rich with tropical fishes, and many giant clams. It was a vibrant site that few other people ever have the opportunity to dive.  The rest of us headed ashore by Zodiac through a cut in the fringing reef allowing easy access to the town’s cement pier. Read More>

Dec 10, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

At Sea passing Raroia, French Polynesia

Today was our first full day at sea having spent the previous five days actively immersed in the South Pacific and its idyllic islands. Hikes and tours, snorkelling and diving, kayaking and Zodiac cruising - it is hard to believe we have only been on the ship for a matter of days considering everything we have experienced thus far. Today was an opportunity to spend time on board and to learn more from our expert guides about the natural history and cultural history of the South Pacific. Our day at sea also offered us the time to become more acquainted with our wonderful vessel: whether enjoying the observation lounge and its extensive library, spending time out on deck with guides and binoculars looking for wildlife, enjoying a relaxing massage with Katrina our wellness specialist or burning some energy in the gym – there is no shortage of experiences during a day at sea on board National Geographic Orion.   It wasn’t long into the morning that we had our first memorable experience of the day. Read More>

Dec 9, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

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