Useful Island & Lemaire Channel

Dec 31, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer spent a calm morning at Portal Point on Charlotte Bay fjord. We hiked on the snow-covered peninsula with several steep ice cliffs and, much to our delight, had the opportunity to slide down a snow slope. We had incredible views across the fjord at the glaciated mountains in all directions and spotted humpback whales and seals during a Zodiac cruise around the fjord. One iceberg we saw had a huge ice arch, which collapsed as we watched.

In the afternoon, we experienced Useful Island, a low granite island in the middle of a channel filled with icebergs. Zodiacs cruised around the calm waters to various icebergs and shorelines, searching for different types of seals. The hikers went up the island’s hill to get a 360-degree view. We observed gentoo and chinstrap penguins walking up their “penguin highways” to get to their hilltop rookeries and watched them as they sat on their eggs in their pebble nests, guarding against ever-present skuas.

The ship cruised south through Lemaire Channel after dinner. Everyone came out to see this magnificent ice-filled channel with 3,000-foot-high cliffs soaring above the ship, as well as icebergs of every size all around. All the guests posed for a rare group photo on the bow, with the gorgeous sun-lit Lemaire Channel in the background.

Later in the evening, the ship cruised through pack ice to our southernmost point (latitude 65 ͦ 15’S) in Pinola Strait. We had a New Year’s Eve party in the lounge with music, hors-d'oeuvres, and drinks. The captain conducted the countdown to midnight and the oldest passenger—age 90—and the youngest—age 10—rang the ship’s bell, polished and mounted in the middle of the lounge. What a way to ring in the new year! 
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About the Author

Joe Holliday


Joe Holliday has been a nature fanatic all of his life.  He was raised near the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, where he enjoyed nature while camping with family and the Boy Scouts.  He earned a B.S. in biology at Hamilton College, an M.S. in geology at Oregon State University, and his final degree in education administration from California State University.  For twenty years, Joe has been a geology and oceanography professor at El Camino College in Torrance, California.  He has been the director of the honors program there for several years as well.  However, the best part of this job is leading week-long geology trips to the mountains and national parks of southwest United States.

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