Drake Passage

Jan 08, 2020 - National Geographic Orion

The roll of the sea carries us farther and farther from the adventures we shared along the Antarctic Peninsula. Today we are sharing our photos with each other and reliving the penguin antics and mannerisms. There are images of huge icebergs towering above the orange jackets and hats visible in the other Zodiac.  We count how many whale flukes were captured in each image.

Maya Santangelo, our undersea specialist, presented a lecture on the lives of seals in the Antarctic. Beautiful images and answers to questions not yet thought of peaked our interest in these creatures we encountered.

Silently and mysteriously, the largest bird of flight glides alongside our ship: the wandering albatross, perhaps on a circumnavigation of the entire continent, might be watching our wake for a morsel of krill or small fish. Ever reminding us that we are deep at sea, this magnificent bird glides on the wind with seemingly effortless grace. Now we are drawn outside to the outer decks. Cameras once again are aimed at the seabirds. Their watchful eye is in focus while the waves beneath them blur into the motion filled images that we see.

National Geographic photographer Phil Schermeister taught us the finer points of composition and focal points in his presentation. So many beautiful images inspired us to look at the world from a slightly different perspective. Geologist Andreas Madson followed to complete our understanding of the ice we had seen with his presentation, “Glaciers, The Story of the Blue Giant.”

The fog quiets the world. We look out at it, remembering the stories of sailors from long ago. It isn’t exactly a nostalgia – more a keening sense of what those stories conveyed: a seemingly impossible distance from any land, the world in motion and effortless flight of the albatross, the decks wet from rain and salt spray. We feel what a sailor’s life may have felt like. We are at sea.

Dark wings of giant petrels against the blue sea reminded us of our first time seeing these birds. Now they feel like old friends come to guide us home.

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About the Author

Marylou Blakeslee


For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.

About the Photographer

Rich Kirchner

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland, along with other destinations. His 33 years as a professional wildlife photographer has granted him international publication credits included in magazines such as Geo Germany, Geo France, Natural History, Audubon, National Wildlife and Ranger Rick, as well as more than a hundred books.

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