Feb 23, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer
A menagerie of seabirds and fin whales guided National Geographic Explorer to the infamous Point Wild on Elephant Island this morning. Anticipation built as fog hid the steep cliffs that long ago sheltered Shackleton and his men after their expedition ship, Endurance, sank. Finally, the island and glacier’s face were revealed and we anchored within the icy bay.
Hopping chinstrap penguins and fur seals lined the shore near a commemorative bust of Shackleton. A few of us managed to land on the island before conditions deteriorated, with waves sloshing and piercing winds whipping off the glacier. Our morning consisted of Zodiac cruises watching leopard seals hunting, Antarctic fur seals porpoising through the water, and icebergs crunching along the coastline. We were all too happy to seek refuge from Point Wild’s harsh weather aboard our comfortable ship, as opposed to Shackleton’s lifeboat shelter.
We set sail and were astounded to find one of the largest aggregations of fin whales and seabirds that anyone on board had ever seen! The water was practically bubbling with whale blows and penguins bursting through the surface. Albatross glided above, Wilson’s storm petrels danced below, and certainly more than 70 fin whales swam in the shallow waters near the continental shelf. Likely, this collective had formed due to a super swarm of krill, but we can’t know for sure. Left in awe, we dedicated our afternoon to an assortment of lectures on subjects such as plankton, explorers, and Antarctic research bases. The Antarctic never ceases to amaze!
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