Drake Passage, Beagle Channel

Feb 04, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Today was a birder’s paradise. The sun is plenty warm, and the winds of Drake Passage have calmed. The beautiful albatrosses welcomed us back to more temperate waters.

We started the day with a lecture by Naturalist John Pailthorpe about polar navigation. It is hard to fathom how the first explorers of the Antarctic continent managed to navigate through Drake Passage using only the most rudimentary equipment. Imagine our passage today being directed using little more than a standard compass! Onboard National Geographic Orion, we are lucky to have an open bridge policy, so curious or boat-savvy guests have the chance to get familiarized with modern navigation technology as well.

In the afternoon undersea specialist Maya Santangelo led a discussion on krill—a keystone species—upon which the entire food chain occupying the Southern Ocean depends. Penguins, whales, seals, and many more species all arrive here to feed on krill. Antarctic krill don't occur randomly but aggregate in swarms or schools. For context, the density of the animal can be as high as 30,000 individuals per cubic meter!

We ended the afternoon with a quiz, arranged by our expedition diver Brett Garner, before the captain’s charming farewell dinner in the dining room that evening.

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About the Author

Andreas Madsen


Andreas was born in the village of Ebeltoft on the central east coast of Denmark and has spent his childhood years with the sea and open fields as neighbours. For a child of the North, fishing, bicycling, skiing, and hiking come along with your first steps and nature has always had a self-explanatory role in Andreas’ life. Between studies he left Denmark to travel and it was during his months in South America he discovered his curiosity and interest for geology. 

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