Danco Island & Dallmann Bay

Feb 06, 2020 - National Geographic Orion

We wake up crossing the Errera Channel, through ice of all sizes and varieties adrift with the area’s tidal current. Weather: foggy visibility with rain, but free of wind. The islands around us disappear in the mist, before reappearing again after a while. We land on Danco Island, named after the geophysicist who died from heart trouble during his winter aboard Belgica led by Adrien De Gerlache in 1898.

We walk following a scree slope that leads to the top of the small island. We pass by a few rookeries of gentoo penguins and stop to watch their interactions. That one is feeding its chicks, quite big already, around 1.5 months old on this island. Another one still maintains its nest by bringing some pebbles. Once on top, the silence takes over the excitement of the rookery. The views of the surrounding glaciers come and go with the mist. As it is raining, the ice cracks in the glaciers weaken, and we can hear them roaring and calving in the distance.


Early in the afternoon, we attend a presentation of Tom Ritchie about the famous explorers of the area: De Gerlache, Charcot and Nordenskjold. Then, we approach Dallman Bay and immediately we observe two humpback whales. The light is fantastic, the visibility excellent, we even have blue skies! We start Zodiac cruising around the Melchior Island group, beginning with whale watching around the feeding humpbacks for a while.

We are surrounded by rocky islands that are permanently covered by ice cliffs. Some surprises wait for us around each corner of the islands. A few chinstrap penguins here, there some Antarctic fur seals, a leopard seal on an ice floe, some shags and gulls nesting, some Weddell seals hauling out. We arrive back aboard late for our recap, one ultimately interrupted because of humpback whale breaching and orcas spotted from the bridge!

This is how our last day of activity ends in Antarctica! And now, we take on the Drake…

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About the Author

Jonathan Zaccaria

Expedition Leader

At age 24 Jonathan had his first experience in Antarctica as a scientist at the coastal French Dumont d'Urville Station. Located on the windiest place on Earth (regularly around 200km/h, maximum up to 320 km/h), and bounded by sea ice eight months a year, this is the closest station to an Emperor penguin colony, worldwide advertised by the documentary movie The March of the Penguins. During his time there, he was taking measurements of the ozone layer and UV rate.

About the Videographer

James Napoli

Video Chronicler

Jim was born in rural New England where he quickly developed an appreciation for the outdoors and a love of exploration.  Four years with the U.S. Navy further enhanced his appetite for travel. Always interested in the visual arts, he studied Television at Boston University and Northeast College of Communications, landing his first job in the industry working as an editor at a Boston television station. His wanderlust drew him to a job with two major cruise lines; installing and managing broadcast centers onboard a total of over a dozen ships. He has since moved on to specialize in expedition travel and wildlife productions.  

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