At Sea, South Atlantic Ocean

Mar 09, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer

The quiet night mostly spent sailing through the Beagle Channel was most welcome. By daybreak we were sailing between the main island of Tierra del Fuego and Isla de los Estados (Staten Island) through the Lemaire Strait.

The sunrise that greeted us was beautiful; every few minutes the scene would be completely different. It brings to mind just how quickly things change and how important it is to be fully in the moment and to be well-prepared for any surprises that may be around the corner. Sure enough, we were soon surprised during breakfast with an announcement that a southern right whale had been spotted. The calm sea conditions allowed us to slow down and spend some time with this remarkable whale. For a while we were able to get good views of this rotund cetacean with no dorsal fin, which at times provoked us with fleeting looks at its fluke. The screams of excitement had to be held back. But our patience paid off with some views of the very unique fluke; of course, this did elicit lots of noisy, excited sounds from us all, spread liberally out on the open decks and Bridge.

Throughout the day we continued to enjoy calm sea conditions and identified many species of birds resting on the water. Among the birds seen were shearwaters, storm petrels, diving petrels, pintado petrels, the giant petrels, and black-browed albatross and from there up to the largest flying birds on the planet—the royal and wandering albatross, with their almost 12-foot wingspan. More difficult for us to comprehend is the fact that all these birds have made this ocean their home and most of their lives are spent here. They come to land only to breed.

We were kept busy throughout the day with a series of presentations that will better prepare us for the places that we hope to visit on this expedition. There are opportunities to learn more about the seabirds and photography tips that will enable us to capture some of those moments. We also heard about life on the Falkland Islands and some of its history. Before the presentations the expedition staff introduced themselves to us, telling us where they came from and what their area of expertise is, and always encouraging us to make use of that knowledge with questions.

Another important aspect to shipboard life is mealtime—the food on offer is varied and invariably delicious and way too tempting. This means that conversations often come back to the difficulties we face making choices among the desserts!

It has been a very good first day and we all returned to our cabins after dinner. Hope that these calm conditions bode well for the rest of our journey together!

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About the Author

Edward Shaw


Edward Shaw has travelled widely as a naturalist and guide. For the past 29 years he has lived with his family in northwestern Patagonia, initially working as a teacher and subsequently working in community projects before returning to expedition ships. Edward is deeply committed to the principles behind sustainable development. He is happily married and the father of five children.

About the Photographer

Jimmy White

Expedition Leader

Jimmy has been coordinating education and research teams for national universities, international non-government organizations, and documentary companies for more than 10 years. Jimmy’s expertise lies in the coordination and implementation of field education and remote area research.

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