Useful Island & the Lemaire Channel

Feb 02, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


It was another full and fabulous day as we continued south along the western side of the Antarctic peninsula. Our first stop of the morning was at the small, dome-shaped rock of Cuverville Island. This site has a large colony of gentoo penguins in a variety of stages of molting but we were delighted to spot Antarctic fur seals and a crabeater seal as well. We’ve seen so many whales on this voyage but many of us hadn’t yet spotted seal, so this was a treat!

The hike uphill was a great opportunity to burn a few calories and (more importantly) get sweeping views of the incredibly scenic strait named after the leader of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-99, Adrien de Gerlache.

We moved just a short distance south in the Gerlache Strait to a very small island called Useful Island, named by one of the members of the Belgian expedition. The island is home to more gentoo penguins, but our Zodiac cruises were focused on viewing more seals and enormous, fortress-like tabular icebergs. Rafting groups of gentoos swam around our boats, darting through the clear water like small torpedoes. One particularly lucky group of Zodiac cruisers had a surprise visit when a gentoo, looking quite confused, hopped up onto the pontoon of their boat. It found its own way back into the water, bringing wide grins to all aboard.

After the fantastic Argentinian asado dinner (complete with Falkland Islands lamb, malbec wine, and empanadas), we entered the stunning Lemaire Channel for an evening transit through the seven-mile-long passage lined with rugged peaks more than 3,000 feet high. The channel is only half a mile at its narrowest point, and there was quite a bit of ice beyond. Our captain and the bridge team deftly spun the ship around at our most southerly point of this trip and headed north for another big day tomorrow!

  • Send

About the Author

Sheri Bluestein

Expedition Leader

Sheri has over 12 years of experience sharing the wonders of Alaska as a hiking guide, expedition leader, cultural interpreter, and naturalist. For 10 of those years, she made her home on the Kenai Peninsula where she spent her free time hiking, growing enormous vegetables, and successfully avoiding bears and moose on her way to the outhouse at night. 

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in the foothills of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon. After childhood careers in ski racing, equestrian sports, classical piano, and summer jobs on a dude ranch, she emerged as a unique hybrid of adventuress, hobby farmer, and storyteller. 

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy