Crystal Sound & Detaille Island

Jan 22, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


After, possibly, one of the most spectacular days imaginable, National Geographic Orion sailed north during the night. Navigating around Adelaide Island and into Crystal Sound, we made our way to our morning destination and final stop below the Antarctic Circle. Waking up to the sounds of growlers crunching past the hull, countless crabeater seals darted around their ice floes and the glass calm waters stretched out to where the horizon disappeared into the grey sky.

Arriving at Detaille Island, our staff team set ashore to prepare for an exciting morning exploring the abandoned British Base W. Operating only for three years and abandoned in 1959, Lindblad Expeditions (and the one and only Tom Ritchie, of course) was instrumental many years later in reestablishing the base to be able to be visited. This made our morning visit here all the more exciting when we discovered that the last entry in the visitor book was March, 2018 (another National Geographic Orion record for this trip!). Exploring inside, it was fascinating to see such a well-preserved example of a 1950s polar base, including clothing, supplies and equipment for geological and meteorological research.

Meanwhile, Zodiac cruises ventured out to explore the incredible labyrinth of dense pack ice surrounding the island, giving us a real appreciation for why the station was abandoned in such a hurry all those years ago. Small colonies of Adelie penguins lined the striking basalt shores and rocky outcrops, while blue-eyed shags dove into the water and kelp gulls flew overhead. Indentations in the snowy tops of the low-profile sea ice floes suggested seals were taking advantage of this habitat. Glass calm and crystal clear water provided perfect conditions to see the impressive structures of the glacial icebergs extending below the surface. Naturally, no Zodiac cruise is complete without a visit from the world-famous Cocoa Boat. It’s a Lindblad tradition to be served hot chocolate from our amazing bar and hotel crew while out on the water – in reusable cups of course (no single-use plastic here!).

Continuing to cruise after lunch, we said farewell to the white wonderland below the Antarctic Circle and headed north. We spent our afternoon enjoying presentations about Seals of the Southern Ocean and Breaking the Rules of Photography hosted by myself and National Geographic photographer Jonathan Irish. With cocktails in hand for our evening recap, the skies began to clear and we were graced with sightings of several groups of humpback whales through the windows of the lounge. As spectacular tabular and sculpted icebergs continued to pass by, we tucked in to an extraordinary gourmet dinner before a wonderful evening of entertainment with the world-famous National Geographic Orion Crew Show.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

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