Chiriguano Bay, Freud Passage

Dec 13, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

The sky was overcast and the winds were soft but with strengthening gusts. Small icebergs called growlers, bobbed on the waves. The announcement quieted our breakfast conversations. Captain Martin Graser and expedition leader Doug Gould decided that we had better options than to stay in Wilhelmina Bay with winds pushing larger ice in our direction. Our bow turned into the wind and we crossed the Gerlache Strait and into true expedition mode. The plan was perfect. We would go where no other ship had recorded tracks. The hotel department surprised us with a special treat. On the back deck we were presented Fruschoppen, which includes sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels with hot mustard and Bloody Marys. This traditional Bavarian meal added a spicy flavor to our morning.

A depth sounder on a Zodiac was launched as we reached Chiriguano Bay. In 1948 an Argentine tugboat, The Chiriguano, helped an Argentine Antarctic Expedition survey the region. Here, our ship got us out of the wind and surrounded us with glaciers. Zodiacs quickly filled with guests ready to see a special place that no other ships go to. The blue glacier ice towered in broken pieces seeming to defy gravity as they held their upright positions over the sea. Meanwhile, guests wanting to stay onboard learned all about euphausia superba in a presentation by naturalist, Marylou Blakeslee. This is Antarctica’s extra large krill species and the cornerstone to Antarctic animal’s ecosystem.

The afternoon provided our last Zodiac touring possibilities. In a passage near Brabant Island we headed out again amidst towering ice sculptures. Weddell seals slept comfortably atop flat icebergs while sky scraper sized icebergs bumped and rolled. Then we heard a crash. It was the glacier that previously seemed to be just a beautiful backdrop. The crash continued and radios came to life as the bridge officers called the glacier calving to the attention of the Zodiac drivers. All Zodiacs were at a safe distance when the displacement wave moved across the passage. Soon our time was spent and back to National Geographic Orion we went.

A special dinner awaited us. And then, after all else they have done for us, the crew put on a show not to be missed. Singing, dancing, and enjoying the evening as much as we did, the crew out did themselves. The day ended with a crew band, “The Dead Penguins,” getting us all dancing to their beat.

  • Send

About the Author

Marylou Blakeslee


For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy