Marguerite Bay, 68º 41.4’S 067º56.1’W, Johnston Passage, Bellinghausen Sea

Jan 21, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

After a quiet night in the northern part of Marguerite Bay and on the stroke of 06.00 hours the National Geographic Explorer, pointed her bow south and headed into the record books. Our Captain had carefully thought out a plan the day before as there are very few soundings in the waters we were now navigating through. The scenery surrounding us was spellbinding. The myriad shaped icebergs, the continent on our port side glowing in the backlight and off on the starboard side Alexander I Island resplendent in the morning pastel shades. It was astonishing to be experiencing this unique adventure and every mile gained meant more and more excitement on the ship. When we reached our furthest south the ship stopped, the Terra Firma Islands off in the distance and ahead of us the gorgeous lattice of loose pack ice. The waters were oily calm, the wind almost non-existent; so it was decided to offer kayaking and Zodiac cruises. In no time at all the Zodiacs headed for the pack ice, many of the ice floes had slumbering crabeater seals on them. Some of them had the tell tale signs of pink around their mouths, which comes from the krill that make up almost all of their diet.

At the same time the little yellow kayaks were also heading out in more open waters to enjoy the silence and be able to soak in the surroundings, all the time trying to avoid being drawn in too close to the surrounding ice.

In the middle of our time out on the waters, ominous clouds could be seen to form, mushroom-like off in the distance. After a while the clouds began to slowly descend over the glaciers and with it came stronger winds.

This event unfortunately meant that we had to cut short out time spent at this stop. But it was also a healthy reminder of just how quickly situations can change and why it is important to always be respectful and vigilant.

However the change in the wind conditions were not enough to deter a moment of true madness, for 62 guests, staff and crew opted to take the polar plunge into the frigid waters of Marguerite Bay. The majority, still of sound mind, opted to enjoy the spectacle unfolding from the kayak platform from the comfort of the upper open decks.

Throughout lunch we headed north again elated at having reached a new record for any expedition cruise ship other that an ice-breaker. It had been a memorable morning.

Throughout the afternoon we headed north and nostalgically passed Red Rock Ridge and Stonington, where we had been the previous day. The winds picked up strongly for the early afternoon and then subsided again, which was most convenient as our galley team had prepared sausages and beer on the aft deck. Many of us partook of this great chance to chat over the amazing experiences from the last couple of days, whilst eating some good food.

Late in the afternoon we were rounding the impressive southern portion of Adelaide Island and into Johnston Passage. The weather outside was warm and sunny. The many-shaped icebergs glistened all around the ship and into the distance.

Our evening recap was out of the top drawer, no doubt all the naturalists who had things to share were much inspired by the very special day we had just experienced.

But the day was far from over for after dinner there was a presentation on The Imperial Antarctic Expedition, a remarkable story of survival as Shackleton was able to rescue all his men after losing their ship in the Weddell Sea.

Following that a good number who, bit hard and summoned up some extra energy, were treated to a memorably beautiful evening with indescribably lovely colors as we re-crossed the Antarctic Circle and then saw the sun set, complete with a green flash, as the National Geographic Orion passed us by on her way south to Marguerite Bay. There was some lovely radio exchanges with our sister ship, wishing each other well, by this time we were already into a new day and so headed shortly afterwards for some welcome shuteye. Being record breakers is after all an exhausting matter!

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About the Author

Edward Shaw


Edward Shaw has travelled widely as a naturalist and guide. For the past 29 years he has lived with his family in northwestern Patagonia, initially working as a teacher and subsequently working in community projects before returning to expedition ships. Edward is deeply committed to the principles behind sustainable development. He is happily married and the father of five children.

About the Videographer

Mark Clement

Video Chronicler

Mark Clement grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, where he developed a deep appreciation for wild places at a young age. Now living in the Green Mountains of Vermont, he has made a career out of capturing the beauty of wild places at home and around the world.

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