Gerlache Strait and Charlotte Bay

Dec 14, 2017 - National Geographic Orion

We spent the day exploring the northwest Antarctic Peninsular region.  The morning found us in the Gerlache Strait, named for the famous Belgian explorer Baron Adrian Victor de Gerlache de Gomery, who worked here from 1897 into 1898.  In fact, many of the place names for this part of Antarctica came from members of the de Gerlache expedition.  We cruised along the western side of the peninsula, enjoying plenty of very beautiful scenery, including ice-filled waters.  The entire length of the Gerlache Strait measures nearly 200 miles (320 km) and is surrounded by tall, rugged mountains, numerous islands, passes and bays, and countless glaciers. 

After breakfast, we sighted several humpback whales feeding in open water, so we approached them for a closer view.  There was a lot of activity and we were able to observe different feeding strategies and behaviorisms.  At least two individuals were cooperating in bubble net feeding, an amazing technique used to herd krill into tightly packed masses through which the feeding whales surge up to the surface.  The whales were interested in us, too, and several spy hops occurred briefly as they looked at us.  Obviously, there is a lot of production in these waters, as the whales ceaselessly continued to feed during our encounter.

Satellite information indicated there might be some fast ice in some of the bays along the peninsula, so we decided to take a look inside Charlotte Bay.  The fast ice was pretty rotten, so to speak, and had already begun to break up into ice floes.  There was no way we could walk on it.  However, the place was filled with floes, growlers, bergy bits, and icebergs, so it was decided to offer Zodiac cruises for an opportunity to get up close and personal with real icebergs. 

Everyone noted that icebergs seem much bigger when approached by little Zodiacs, as opposed to viewing them from the ship.  One of them looked very much like a sculpture at Mount Rushmore or perhaps a moai on Easter Island.  And, as an extra treat, we saw more humpback whales from the Zodiacs.  The divers took the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) out for a quick run just before dinner to check out the waters of Charlotte Bay.  Afterwards, we set sail to continue on our way southwards for more exploring tomorrow.

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About the Author

Tom Ritchie


Tom is a zoologist and naturalist who has worked in the field of expedition cruising almost since its inception by Lars Lindblad.  Growing up near the Everglades allowed him to spend his youth exploring the swamps, marshes, forests, and reef systems of South Florida, a perfect training ground for his life with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

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