Drake Passage, Beagle Channel, Ushuaia

Feb 08, 2020 - National Geographic Orion

National Geographic Orion is a steady ship, but we lucked out today and never had to truly see what she was made of. We had a most angelic sail today through the Drake Passage: hardly a wave was to be seen! In the morning the hotel team put on a festive Fruschoppen event, with traditional sausages, pretzels, beverages and German music! We made incredible time and rounded Cape Horn in the calmest conditions imaginable. So calm, in fact, that it was hard to imagine what all the historical fuss must have been about.  So calm, in fact, that we could almost read the poem engraved on the plaque near the albatross sculpture.

I am the albatross that awaits you

At the end of the world.

I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners

Who passed Cape Horn

From all the oceans of the world.

But they did not die

In the furious waves.

Today they sail on my wings

Toward eternity,

In the last crack

Of the Antarctic winds.


Sara Vial, 1992


Jonathan Zaccaria gave a thought provoking talk about the Ozone Layer in the Antarctic. As the ship meandered her way through the Beagle Channel, we were treated with stunning views of black-browed albatross, giant petrels, imperial shags and even the occasional Magellanic penguin!

Tom Ritchie gave an entertaining presentation about sailor superstitions as we indulged ourselves during teatime!  And then, just like that, all of a sudden, it was time for the captain’s farewell cocktails. It is hard to believe the journey is over. Saying goodbye to the ice, to the penguins, to the whales, to the Antarctic light is not an easy task, but I have a feeling that some of us have already started daydreaming about a return trip. I know that I am not the only one that is addicted to the magical great white continent of Antarctica!

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About the Author

Karen Velas


Karen Velas cares deeply about protecting the environment and its wildlife.  Over the last 15 years, she has been involved with numerous conservation projects, including working as the Lead Project Coordinator on the California Condor Project with The National Audubon Society, managing projects in the flooded rice fields of California’s Central Valley with The Nature Conservancy and surveying the distant cliffs of Iceland to aid in puffin recovery with the South Iceland Research Centre.

About the Photographer

Colby Brokvist

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Colby’s love of exploration and adventure is infectious and immediately evident to those around him. His passion for guiding lies at the intersection where people, wildlife, and wilderness collide. “These are the extraordinary places just beyond one’s usual comfort zone, where we can at the same time discover things about the world around us as well as our own selves.” It’s no surprise then that Colby has developed a special affinity for the remote Polar Regions.

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