Lemaire Channel & Penola Strait

Dec 11, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

Rays of sunshine rolled in off the snow-kissed mountains this morning as we headed down the famed Lemaire Channel, so named by Belgian explorer, Gerlache. The channel is a tapering seven-mile stretch, reaching on average only a mile wide and lined on either side by a series of panoramic and magnificent peaks. At its end, the Channel opens out into the wide sweeping Penola Strait, with Girard Bay off to one side. The whole area was filled with beautiful glistening clusters of brash ice, interspersed with burgs and crystal clear growlers. Penguins porpoised in between the chunks of ice and Crabeater seals were hauled out and sunning themselves on burgs.

We jumped into Zodiacs to explore our new surroundings. The calving faces of huge glaciers watched us career around the bay, occasionally letting out deep groans and plumes of snow into the mirror-calm sea. On one side we were bordered by Booth Island, where French explorer Charcot once overwintered. On the other, we were surrounded by the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Our cruises yielded intimate views of gentoo penguins, blue-eyed shags, crabeater seals, Weddell seals and a myriad of incredible ice structures. Massive pillars of ice, all pock-marked with golf ball pattern and strange irregular arches refracted the light, creating strange blue glows.

After lunch, we were back to the water again, this time by kayak. From the quiet of a kayak, our icy world seemed to take on a different quality. From sea level, the constant crackling of the brash ice could be heard, along with the rushing of the odd wave against the underside of the huge impressive burgs.

After we returned to the ship, we heard recaps from several of our naturalist team covering topics from killer whales to bird photography. All in all a fantastic day!

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About the Author

Ella Potts


Ella’s passion has always been in marine conservation, with a childhood spent swimming, kayaking or boating in the chilly waters of the UK, or surveying the marine life of those waters from windswept headlands. She has numerous, distinct early memories of shivering adults, wrapped up in jumpers and cagoules, looking down at her with slight horror through sheets of rain and commenting on her short sleeves. A phenomena that persists to this day.  She graduated with a Masters degree in Marine Biology: Conservation and Resource Management from Swansea University, setting her up for a career protecting those marine ecosystems that she so loves. 

Ella has worked for several British whale conservancy charities, including ORCA and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) and is a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine mammal medic. She has a real passion for lecturing, and during her time in these different organizations has presented to vastly ranging audiences; from groups of young children right up to filled auditoriums at the headquarters of HWDT partner, WWF. 

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