Orléans and Gerlache Straits

Feb 11, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

This expedition day was one of ice and whales—masses of ice and a great number of whales! When our expedition leader Jimmy gave his wake-up call, National Geographic Explorer was parked at the head of Charcot Bay. We were in the very scenic Lindblad Cove, named after Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered expedition cruise tourism in Antarctica beginning in 1966. The slopes around the cove are mostly covered in snow, with numerous glaciers. We spent the whole morning there. Calm, sunny weather finally allowed for kayaking! Some guests preferred a Zodiac cruise, and some guests took advantage of both options. We zig-zagged our Zodiacs and kayaks through lots of brash ice and were captivated by sculptural icebergs and bergy bits in various forms and sizes.

In the afternoon our diving specialist Paul North gave a presentation on the importance of small things. However, his talk was interrupted midway, as a group of type A killer whales had been spotted from the bridge. This is the largest of the five Antarctic types of killer whales, and are increasingly spotted in these waters. A number of humpback whales were also seen, and they seemed to actively “mob” the killer whales. According to the whale scientists who are on the ship for research purposes, a patch of oil on the water indicated that the killer whales might have just killed a marine mammal, maybe an elephant seal or other seal. The humpbacks—there were maybe ten at the most—showed exceptionally active behavior, probably to disturb the orcas from feeding. Much of the whale acrobatics happened very close to the bow of the ship. The magnificent show went on for a couple of hours, and the initial plan for the rest of the afternoon was naturally called off. At Recap, two of the whale scientists talked about what we had seen and presented on the largest creature that has ever lived on the planet, the blue whale. During dinner, we nosed into Charlotte Bay in the Gerlache Strait. After dinner, Captain Leif Skog expertly maneuvered the ship around spectacular icebergs in the interior of the bay. What a great finale of an expedition day “extraordinaire!”

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About the Author

Carl Erik Kilander


Carl was born in Norway and received a master’s degree in forestry and nature conservation from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 1973. His professional experience is mainly connected to environmental issues and natural resource management on the Norway mainland and in Svalbard. A major part of his professional experience comprises planning and management of protected areas, particularly in the southern parts of Norway and Svalbard. During the period 1999-2001 Carl was Head of the Environmental Department at the Governor of Svalbard´s office. He has also been District Manager (southwestern Norway) followed by the position of Senior Environmental Adviser at the Norwegian State Forest Service.

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