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 graduated with a degree in evolutionary biology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Since graduation she has worked in fisheries management on commercial fishing vessels in the Bering Sea, counted Steller sea lions from cliffs in the Aleutian Islands, tagged sea lions in the Galápagos and monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and for four austral springs she lived in a retrofitted refrigerator container on the Antarctic sea ice near McMurdo Station. In Antarctica she worked on a long-term population study of Weddell seals and hopes to continue working in this ecosystem on predator-prey dynamics of the Ross Sea. 

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