Astrolabe Island and Iceberg A57a, Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

Feb 21, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


A sunny morning welcomed National Geographic Orion to the north-eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The destination was Astrolabe Island, a rocky island about three miles long, which was first discovered by the French naval expedition led by Jules-Sebastien Cesar Dumont d’Urville in 1837 and named after his flagship. The triangular-shaped cliffs that formed the coastline of this rugged island, aptly named “Dragon’s Teeth”, were a great environment for finding nesting skuas, Wilson’s storm petrels, and Antarctic fulmars.

Curious Antarctic fur seals occupied the landing beach. Their antics of practice and pretend fights with each other, as well as their barks, growls, and cries, provided for much entertainment to all. A stroll on an icy patch of fresh snow guided us to the slopes filled with chinstrap penguins, who continued on with their busy lives, ignoring all visitors. The symmetry of their faces were an attractive target to photographers. A Zodiac cruise complemented our visit to this wildlife-filled island: there were leopard seals in the water, Weddell seals basking on the beach, and Antarctic fur seals playing in shallow pools.

And yet the wildlife sightings were not finished for the day. A call from the bridge brought us all to the bow and decks to see humpback whales. These 50-plus feet marine creatures were feeding very close to the ship—we could see clearly their distinctive dorsal fins, blows, and tail flukes surfacing everywhere we looked.

Then we sighted the largest tabular iceberg floating in this part of Antarctica: A57a. This is the remnant of a larger iceberg that broke off Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2008. It’s approximately 11 miles long by five miles wide, and that’s just a rough calculation of only what is floating above the surface! We launched Zodiacs with intrepid guests that wanted to see this wall of ice up close, while our ship sailed parallel to the face of the iceberg, providing an excellent sense of scale for this icy giant.

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About the Author

Gabriela Roldan

Naturalist

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.

About the Videographer

Mark Coger

Video Chronicler

Growing up in a military family, Mark Coger has been traveling most of his life.  While living in Japan, he developed his passion for videography.  He began his venture in the field of video production by filming numerous events for a local high school and the military community before moving to Southern California, where he obtained his degree in filmmaking at California State University Northridge.  From there, he went on to produce and direct his first major short film, An American Journalist which was screened at the Method Film Festival.

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