At Sea, Toward the South Orkney Islands

Nov 17, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

The Southern Ocean is notorious for its weather, and we had our first, real encounter with it. Our expedition leader and bridge team made the decision, based on years of experience in the region, to leave South Georgia in the early afternoon to try to skirt the edge of a large weather system making its way east-northeast. The winds were sustained at around 60 knots and the ocean swells building.


Overnight, the seas calmed slightly and made for a relatively mild morning filled with lectures and a viewing of March of the Penguins. But by afternoon, the seas began to build again. National Geographic Explorer sailed ahead into oncoming swells. Several guests were up and about, gathering on the bridge to ask questions about wind speed and swell height but also to watch the green water roll up over the bow. The occasional whale blow was seen off in the distance, but it was almost impossible to discern the species. The only constant animal presence was the entourage of cape petrels gliding along with the ship.


The day progressed without much change in the weather and passengers looked forward to a protected harbor and dry land. Conditions are predicted to improve for our arrival into the South Orkney Islands where we hope to be greeted with calming winds, settling swell, and lots of wildlife. Tomorrow, we cross 60° south, and we will be in the Antarctic.

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About the Author

Jessica Farrer


Jessica is a research associate with SR3, SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research ( in Seattle, WA. She is currently working on several projects that monitor the health of the critically endangered southern resident killer whale population in the Salish Sea and humpback, minke and killer whales around the Antarctic Peninsula. Her main research interests are the predator prey dynamics of the Southern Ocean and she will be starting a PhD in fall 2020 to investigate the effects of climate change and fishing pressure on the diet of killer whales and Weddell seals in both the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ross Sea.

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