Drake Passage and Beagle Channel

Jan 09, 2020 - National Geographic Orion

Black-browed albatross have found us. They swirl and dip in the wind and over the waves. Their dramatic eyes searching the seas for that next morsel of food.

The winds are pushing National Geographic Orion. Fair winds and following seas are with us today. Our arrival into the Beagle Channel is exciting and nostalgic. Through the wind and fog, we remember these hills and the growing town of Ushuaia, Argentina. It seems so long ago. We also remember with deep satisfaction the white world of whales and penguins we left behind.

Peale’s dolphin bound through waves and rain as we traverse Beagle Channel. Giant petrels work the waves, the winds gush, and Beagle Channel points us toward our destination.

The hillside’s green is the first extent of vegetation we have seen since we left for these shores. The color lingers in our eyes, and something inside rejoices at the sight of it. The land holds the same shapes as the Antarctic Peninsula without the ice. U-shaped valleys left behind by the carving glacial ice are everywhere. We notice them more now. They seem more familiar.

Cars and shops and pizza are here. Pubs and locals and travelers from all over the world are here. There is an excitement in this town, not because of what you find here but because of what you will experience from here. The stories shared in this town are different from stories told elsewhere. We return to civilization to join the ranks of those with remarkable stories to tell. Days surrounded by glacier-clad hills and small funny birds busy at raising their young. Whales blow bubbles, feed beside one another. New friends, new experiences and new parts of ourselves, bright and shining, giving to the rise to tales ready for sharing with those who will listen.

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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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