Northern Drake Passage & Beagle Channel to Ushuaia

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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About the Author

Doug Gualtieri


Doug’s passion for the natural world started at an early age in his home state of Michigan. He received two biology degrees from Central Michigan University, and later went on to get a master’s degree in conservation biology. His education led him to study a diverse range of natural sciences, with an emphasis on ecology, animal behavior, and migratory birds. Shortly after leaving the academic world, Doug migrated north to Alaska with his trusty Siberian husky, Koda. He began working as a naturalist in Denali National Park in 1999. For over seven years he has shared his love of Alaska and Denali’s six million acres with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests, as trip leader for the Denali Land Extension based at the North Face Lodge deep within the park.

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