Mar 08, 2019 - National Geographic Orion
Bahía Franklin or “Franklin Bay” is as much a picturesque anchorage as it is a wellspring for wildlife on this part of the globe. After a night cruising down the Beagle Channel and into the South Atlantic, we arrived just as the sun broke from a scattering of clouds. Because of the generally torrential conditions, National Geographic Orion has only succeeded in landing twice before at this location. Our natural history staff led hikes through the tussock grass to a nearby rockhopper penguin colony. This is the largest and southernmost colony in South America, with approximately 127,000 nesting pairs. Slightly less plentiful are the charming burrowing Magellanic penguins, who also favor the island’s temperate climes. Recent counts show their numbers up by 50% in the last 10 years, with approximately 1,600 nesting pairs.
This is not a place one would visit casually. However, what is not gained in the way of leisurely enjoyment is made up five-fold from the stark majesty of geography and abundant wildlife one is sure to witness. Following a difficult wet-landing, everyone was rewarded by up-close encounters with these penguins, caracaras, and views of some introduced terrestrial mammals like red deer and farm goats.
A fierce rainstorm followed us to our second anchorage in Bahía Canepa. This is a sweeping fjord with massive granite walls and several notable waterfalls. In our fleet of zodiacs we followed close to the coastline and tested our raingear for leaks. Interpretation on the geology, bird life, and marine mammals were highlights of these cruises, as Staten Island’s remote nature makes it a unique ecosystem and refuge for many seabirds. Many cruisers were greeted by incredible numbers of South American sea lions investigating the Zodiacs as they passed by. All came home thoroughly drenched and smiling with a great deal of enthusiasm and kinship to these lands.
For those onboard, our Hotel Manager Tracy hosted a “behind the scenes” look at National Geographic Orion’s hotel operations. She played a short informal film tour of the ship and then fielded questions from curious fellow seafarers on everything from lightbulbs to caviar.
After long hours of travel yesterday and a full day of excursions, our Bridge team found us a sleepy anchorage for the evening. Toasting to calm waters and fair winds, Captain Tim Cashman officially welcomed the New York Yacht Club onboard with a cocktail party and specialty dinner in the evening.
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