Aitcho Island & South Shetland Islands

Feb 07, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

We woke up to another day of big swells and an expansive gray horizon. The forces of the Drake Passage continued showing their strength throughout the morning, but National Geographic Orion and her superior crew carried us though the area’s torrential winds and erratic waves.

Just after midday, we spotted our first iceberg! Excitement went on mounting while prions and pintado petrels followed our path. Anticipation to visit Antarctica grew more and more as guests viewed the magnificent photo work of National Geographic’s Krystle Wright. Wright’s tips on light, composition, and depth of field would come in handy in the hours ahead.

A thin contour of land eventually appeared. The South Shetland Archipelago marks the northwestern boundary of the Antarctic Peninsula. These are rugged islands with towering cliffs and snow-covered coastline. Between the Robert and Greenwich Islands, Captain Aaron steered the ship through the English Passage, to find a shelter spot for a surprise landing on one of the Barrientos Island groups.

We were welcomed to Aitcho Island by an entire swath of gentoo and chinstrap penguins! There were hundreds of penguin chicks eager to feed. Watching these penguin chicks made for plenty of entertainment. The penguin chick in need of feeding has but one objective: trail any adult penguin they think might provide! Meanwhile, chinstrap penguins looked from visitor to visitor, and guests took pictures and marveled at the visceral terrain and the wildlife inhabiting it. No doubt this afternoon was one to be remembered, and dearly!

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About the Author

Gabriela Roldan


A native of Argentina, Gabriela has lived and worked for more than a decade in Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. Her interest for travelling and a degree in tourism management from the Universidad de la Patagonia, led Gabriela to serve as a guide in all corners of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as lecturing widely on South America and Antarctica sharing her first-hand experiences and enthusiasm for the region.

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