Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • At sea, South America in sight!

    We have enjoyed amazing ocean crossings during this expedition to the Falklands and South Georgia.  And ocean crossings aboard National Geographic Explorer are not about downtime. They are filled with interesting presentations that inform us about what we will see or give us more details about what we have been experiencing. It is also a time to go over some of the amazing photographic opportunities that we have enjoyed on this expedition. Our last passage of the trip from West Falkland to the southern part of Tierra del Fuego was no different, we awoke to views of Southern Argentina and Staten Island or Isla de los Estados. Albatrosses and other seabirds flew around the ship as we quickly made our way towards the protected Beagle Channel where we would turn west and skirt the border between Chile and Argentina—the channel is both a natural and geographic boundary of the two countries. There were a few presentations and a briefing about disembarkation from the ship and all the logistics involved.  We didn’t want to necessarily think about leaving the ship or the end of the trip, but all great things must come to an end. This expedition has been an amazing experience for us all as we explored the Falkland Islands and then on to South Georgia, one of the premiere wildlife destinations in the world. We have now closed the loop and returned to where we began. Many of us thought about that as we packed our belongings and our memories from this incredible expedition.

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  • West Point and New Island, Falkland Islands

    Today we completed the last landings of our voyage. Just after an early breakfast we set foot on a dry dock near a farm at West Point Island, located on the truly wild side of the Falkland Islands. The seas were calm, the skies were blue, and the temperature allowed for light clothing. The main attraction here is a colony of black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins. Some guests chose to walk a good mile across the island, whereas others preferred a ride in sturdy Land Rovers to get to the colony. The colony is surrounded by dense tussac vegetation, and we zig-zagged the last hundred meters through tall stools of tussock grass to get close enough to see the nesting birds. Our first encounter was a group of rockhoppers. Some of them kept quiet, whereas others were constantly calling and squabbling to each other. A few also demonstrated their jumping skills. A great number of individual downy albatross chicks were sitting on bowl-like nests of soil, grass, and roots. Striated caracaras were hovering over us everywhere. As we left the island through the Westpoint Pass, hundreds of terns, albatrosses, and shags were swarming in the air or in a feeding frenzy on the water.

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  • Keppel and Saunders Islands, West Falklands

    Today we visited two unique islands in the West Falklands. Keppel Island, once an early missionary to Christianize Tierra del Fuego Indians in the 1850s and later, as most places here, an active sheep farm, it now lies vacant since 1992 when the last occupants shuddered up the stone and timber buildings. Very few visitors ever step foot here, and this morning we had time to explore the ruins of the old settlement and trek over 6 km across the island in hopes of spotting birdlife utilizing the several insular ponds. For the afternoon’s attraction we crossed over to neighboring Saunders Islands to once again cast our eyes on both a thriving black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguin colony.  Later on the ship repositioned to the other side of Saunders where we had a special champagne reception on the historic site of Port Egmont, the first settlement in the Falklands dating back to 1766.  

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  • Stanley-Capital of the Falklands

    Happy Equinox!  March 20th is significant for a few reasons. In the southern hemisphere it tones the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.  For the expedition companies that have ships along the Antarctic Peninsula, South America as well as the islands off shore, such as South Georgia and the Falklands, it means it is time to head north.  Expedition ships tend to follow the sun in order to escape the heat. Today the sun was squarely above the equator, which means everywhere on earth has roughly the same 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.  The poles, the midlatitudes and the tropics.  This of course can only happen on two days a year, the March and September equinox.

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  • At sea from South Georgia to the Falklands

    It is our second and last day crossing from South Georgia to the Falklands and we are experiencing ‘holiday’ weather… the sea is gentle and the sky is mostly blue!  There are some birds about, from gigantic wandering albatrosses to diminutive diving petrels.  At one point the bird-watch gang become particularly excited with a fly-by from a cattle egret and the radios began to crackle.  For some, a cattle egret hundreds of miles from land in the South Atlantic is as unexpected as a UFO, but cattle egrets are well known for their vagabond ways and seeing it is much better than just reading about it.

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  • At Sea, Toward the Falklands

    With the wind at our stern, the National Geographic Explorer continued westward toward the Falkland Islands. With calm seas, but enough wind to make it worth the while of seabirds in the area, our guests enjoyed views of the wandering albatross circling our vessel showing off its record holding wingspan. Taking advantage of the downtime, presentations were given on topics as diverse as plankton, seabird conservation, and how to better process the many images collected from our time on South Georgia. 

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  • Godthul & Nordenskjold Glacier

    “Wind gusts of 45 knots and a steady wind speed of 40 knots…” When a 6:45 a.m. morning announcement in South Georgia sounds like this, you had better hope to find a “Good Cove” to take shelter within. Fortunately for all of us on board the National Geographic Explorer, Godthul is exactly that. This sheltered inlet offers some of the best protection in South Georgia when the infamous frontal systems of the Southern Ocean begin their assault on this remote island, as happened this morning.  

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  • South Georgia

    Over the night the ship was at anchor in Fortuna Bay, to be able to get the keen hikers ashore in the early morning. Soon 24 hikers were at the beach about to repeat the last leg of that is named ‘the Shackleton hike’, made by Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean after they had arrived to King Håkan Bay. The hike they performed, crossing island, was regarded by the whalers here at the time as impossible.

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  • Salisbury Plain, Prion Island & Hercules Bay, South Georgia

    With its overwhelming wildlife, South Georgia well deserves to be called “The Serengeti of the Southern Ocean.” Today we had the fortune to walk amongst tens of thousands of colorful king penguins—literally “a field of gold!” We thought that yesterday´s encounter with the kings in Right Whale Bay might have been hard to exceed, but today we realized that yesterday´s landing was just a taste of what was to come. Today we heard expedition leader Russ´ voice already at 5:30 a.m., calling out for a landing at Salisbury Plain; not only the second largest colony of king penguins on South Georgia, but also rich in other birds and marine mammals: skuas, petrels, the South Georgia pipit, the South Georgia pintail and seals. Holding an estimated 60,000 breeding king penguin pairs plus chicks, this site is truly one of the most spectacular places to visit on South Georgia. Although the sun was hidden behind clouds, the light was soft and great for photography. Many a guest reluctantly finished watching and clicking their cameras before they had to pack their gear and jump on the last Zodiac left to leave the beach.

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  • South Georgia, Right Whale Bay

    After quite a lovely crossing east from the Falkland Islands, guests aboard National Geographic Explorer first spotted the high mountains of South Georgia a few hours before lunch. Unmistakably, the sheer peaks of the island’s remote wilderness greeted our guests as we edged ever closer, slowed only by the visitation of southern right whales just off our bow. The afternoon fulfilled what everyone had come to see–a beach full of 20,000 penguins, more fur seals than any individual could count, and a strewn line of whale bones which spoke to the history of the industry that once visited this remote location. 

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