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!

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About the Author

Sheri Bluestein

Expedition Leader

Native New Yorker, Sheri Bluestein has lived, worked, volunteered, and traveled on all seven continents including 3.5 years in Amsterdam, where she learned to speak Dutch fluently and became a citizen of the Netherlands. She currently resides in the French Pyrenees, living in a restored cow barn with her Dutch husband, whom she met while riding an elephant in Thailand (before learning how cruel this type of tourism activity can be).

When not enjoying the pleasures of French rural life, Sheri works on a variety of Lindblad ships and itineraries as an Expedition Leader, Cultural Specialist and Naturalist in geographies ranging from Europe to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to Antarctica and the South Atlantic.Though fascinated with almost everything on our amazing planet, she is particularly interested in the human story and how it intersects with the natural world.

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in Central Oregon where she spent her childhood ski racing, riding horses, playing classical piano, and working summer jobs on a dude ranch. She then attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles earning degrees in cinema-television, history, and international relations. Although immersed in the studies of narrative filmmaking, she gravitated toward the process, deeper on-camera conversations, and scientific and human themes explored in documentary production.

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