Drake Passage

Jan 19, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


We woke from the gentle rocking of the ship that helped us sleep our first night on board the National Geographic Orion.

A gray sky and light rain surrounded us as we headed further and further south. Most of us have never been this far south or to such high latitudes. The anticipation and excitement grew with each passing hour.

The Drake Passage had been a concern for many travelers. Sometimes ships adjust their courses to avoid the storms that swirl around the Antarctic continent. We were fortunate to have smooth sailing as we gained our balance and achieved our “sea legs.”

The morning was punctuated by an occasional wandering albatross that glided by with effortless grace. Just as we were lulled into thoughts of our first landing, a gray-headed albatross appeared right outside the window and a scramble for cameras ensued.

National Geographic Photographer Rich Reid and our Photo Instructor Rich Kirchner (the Riches of photography) peered into cameras and cell phones helping to adjust settings and explain the many complexities of our various equipment. Sarah Culler, the video chronicler, recorded the day to slice into her complete video of our trip.

Lucho Verdesoto, our Expedition Leader, taught us about the code of conduct for the Antarctic and the safest way to embark and disembark Zodiacs during briefings held in the lounge. “Will we really be able to see penguins as close as 15 feet?” people asked in anticipation.

Guests got to know each other and friendships began that may last a lifetime. All of these encounters and moments build upon each other to create the unforgettable journey we have embarked upon.

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About the Author

Rich Kirchner

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland. His 25 years as a professional wildlife photographer has granted him international publication credits included in magazines such as Geo Germany, Geo France, Natural History, Audubon, National Wildlife and Ranger Rick, as well as more than a hundred books.

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