Jan 16, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
The nearly 600 miles of open ocean separating the Antarctic Peninsula and Tierra del Fuego carries with it a certain reputation; one of tumultuous seas and epic gales. There’s something else about the Drake Passage that provides one with a sense of solitude and reflection, perfect considering there’s so much we all have to process and absorb from our explorations in Antarctica. This, our second day at sea, began as we approached the continental shelf and all around there were ever increasing signs of life, thriving off the rich and productive waters crashing into the rising seafloor. Literally thousands of seabirds, mostly sooty shearwaters and black-browed albatross worked the pockets of productivity, sailing back and forth as opportunity mandated. Occasionally pods of Peale’s dolphins and even the striking hourglass dolphins splashed about the churning waters surrounded by the feverishly feeding seabirds.
Making our way towards the entrance to the Beagle Channel by late morning we were still under constant escort from the masses of seabirds, while in the distance sei whales could be seen feeding. The waters of the Beagle are often swelled with wildlife and today was no different, over 20 species of seabirds and five species of marine mammals were observed as we made way towards Ushuaia. A big thrill for those on the bridge and a few off the back deck watching seabirds, was when a dwarf minke whale began surging through our stern wake, crashing through the rolling waves repeatedly, and as we slowed to allow the pilot boat to approach the whale broke off and performed a few breaches, almost as if to say, “Keep going, I was having fun!”
With hundreds of miles between us and Antarctica, and now safely alongside at our summer home port of Ushuaia, Argentina the memories can begin to be cemented in more firmly, and celebrations hosted by Captain Leif Skog tonight will help ease the farewell we have to make as this wonderful expedition comes to an end.
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