Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field


  • Salisbury Plain & Prion Island

    As the fog lifted off the shoreline, the awesome sight and sound of South Georgia’s second-largest king penguin colony at Salisbury Plain came into view. At the height of the season, 60,000 pairs of penguins may raise their young here, with the total colony estimated at 250,000 individuals. Zodiacs zipped us ashore to the abundant welcoming committee that seemed pleased to see us arrive. The king penguins raced rings around the Zodiacs, chirping their welcome. Nearer shore, fur seal pups played in the surf, testing their bravado in the waters, ducking, diving, leaping, and swerving as the Zodiacs landed on the steep, pebbly beach.

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  • Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

    During the night, National Geographic Explorer slowly made her way along the South Georgia coastline and entered Fortuna Bay just before daybreak. The wind conditions were better than forecast, but it was still a little murky outside—rainy with low clouds. Only the highest mountain peaks were visible, stark against the gray skies. Promising weather for us to retrace the last few miles of the Shackleton hike!

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  • Gold Harbour & Drygalski Fjord

    Today began early, with a sunrise landing at Gold Harbour. The beach there was a buzzing metropolis of king penguins, southern elephant seals, Antarctic fur seals, and a plethora of other, less-conspicuous residents—South Georgia pintails and pipets, gentoo penguins, snowy sheathbills, and of course, the ever-present giant petrels and skuas.

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  • St Andrews Bay & Ocean Harbour

    After an early breakfast, we began our landing at St Andrews Bay to visit the largest king penguin colony—home to approximately 150,000 pairs—on South Georgia Island. For some reason, king penguins prefer high-energy beaches. That is, beaches with remarkably strong surf. Today we were amazed. We just drove straight in, like we were parking a car at a convenience store! We typically made stern-first landings, with four to six people to catch and hold the boat

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  • Hercules Bay, Maiviken, and Grytviken

    When we pulled into Hercules Bay early this morning, the 40-knot winds pounding out at sea came to an immediate halt. Out came the kayaks and zodiacs, then, and the guests that boarded them. Such watercraft are ideal for capturing the most intimate vantages of the stark terrain surrounding us. Four species of penguins later, we left the area for afternoon activities. Half of our group landed at Maiviken for an overland hike. A couple hours later, they met the rest of the group at Grytviken whaling station. Here we visited the now-famous whaling museum, a life-size replica of the James Caird, and capped the afternoon visiting the cemetery, where we toasted the famed Antarctic voyager Sir Ernest Shackleton.

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  • South Georgia

    Morning sunshine poured over the silhouetted outlines of Bird Island as we powered toward our destination. The dappled light, like the eyes of god, enhanced and highlighted macaroni penguin rookeries nestled into the hillside. Wandering, black-browed, and grey-headed albatross soared around the ship like paragliders. But it was the hundreds of Antarctic prions, flying around the bow of the vessel, that really captured the imaginations of those on the bridge.

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  • Bahia Almejas, Magdalena Bay

    Our first day exploring Magdalena Bay was a fantastic success. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the seas were calm—all the things we hoped for as we headed out in small, local boats to observe gray whales in their natural habitat. Within just a few minutes of leaving the ship, we spotted whales in abundance. It was truly good fortune to see such a great variety of whale surface behaviors—breaching, spy-hopping, body-rolling, and more. What a week we’re going to have!

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  • Exploring Patagonia

    Wednesday morning, guests aboard National Geographic Orion woke to a gorgeous, still day in Puerto Profundo, Argentina. This is an exceptionally wild segment of Patagonia, one largely uncharted and untouched by humans.

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  • Scotia Sea Toward South Georgia

    The sea state began to moderate early in the day and improved with each passing hour as we made good time across the often-tumultuous Scotia Sea. The near-constant presence of wandering albatross, soaring alongside the ship, added to the relaxed feeling of our passage.  These magnificent birds call this ocean home and make landfall only to breed. With wingspans reaching more than 3.5 meters, wandering albatross have the longest wingspans in the world.

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  • Bahia Jackson & Bahia Ainsworth

    Karukinka Natural Park is in the Chilean portion of Patagonia. This area amounts to almost 700,000 acres of wildness south of Tierra del Fuego, and is one full of waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, and streams.

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