Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Approaching South America

    What a day! The full sea experience of the Southern Ocean started somewhere around 1:00 a.m. as conditions in the Drake Passage grew increasingly more turbulent. By mid-morning, there were gusty winds up of up to 50 knots. This did not keep us from getting out on the bridge to find nearby wildlife. We were rewarded with the occasional black-browed albatross and sooty shearwater, but the abundance of seabirds was noticeably low at this time. Our first break came around 9:00 a.m. when we spotted a pod of hourglass dolphins riding the port-side waves coming off the vessel. These were a treat to see, and there was still quite a way to go before entering the Beagle Channel!

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  • The Drake Passage

    Leaving the sheltered waters off the western Antarctic Peninsula, National Geographic Explorer fared the Drake Passage once again. Valentine’s Day celebrations took on a range of forms today—for some it was savoring eggs Benedict or sending sweet treats from across the globe, while others spent the day in bed in a much less romantic way (coping with the motion of the ocean). Despite the rolling waves, we prepared for arriving in Ushuaia, shared photos from a spectacular trip, and attended presentations given throughout the day. One of our naturalists, Dr. Rodolfo Werner, spoke about his efforts working to establish marine protected areas throughout Antarctic waters. In the afternoon, two of our globetrotting naturalists discussed exploration in Antarctica: Carl Eric Kilander highlighted the adventures of Roald Amundsen’s career as a polar explorer and Tom Ritchie shared some noteworthy tales of Lindblad’s own trailblazing endeavors.

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  • Sailing the Drake Passage

    The last day of a great expedition always feels a bit melancholy. But as our ship makes its way back through the tumultuous Drake Passage, one is reminded in such conditions of the unparalleled starkness and beauty of the Antarctic expanse. Perhaps the significance underpinning this experience comes in having endeavored across the mightiest ocean on Earth. Or perhaps instead the value lies in the fortune of having a vessel as capable as National Geographic Orion take us into such a visceral wilderness, and just over 100 years after Shackleton and his crew famously set out to traverse across the same seas.

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  • Palmer Station

    Some days on expedition are more challenging than others for the staff and crew. Today’s visit to Palmer Station was one of those days. Palmer Station is the smallest of the three United States Antarctic Program scientific research bases and located in Arthur Harbor on Anvers Island. When we arrived last night, we already had a sense of the difficulties we might face getting everyone ashore. The harbor was full of closely packed brash ice which swirled around the ship and jostled against the hull all night. In the morning, the ship was surrounded by jumbles of ice chunks recently calved off the nearby glacier. The ice crackled and rolled as our Zodiacs inched toward the shore slipway, which had to be cleared constantly by running the outboard motors of several boats. Our expedition leader waded in up to his waist to help keep the slipway clear with a shovel. He looked as if he was enjoying himself immensely.

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  • Paulet Island and Antarctic Sound

    Today was our final day of expedition here at the Antarctic Peninsula. We were still exploring territory surrounding the Antarctic Sound. This water body extends approximately 30 nautical miles long and between seven and 12 nautical miles wide, separating the Joinville Island group from the peninsula.

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  • Lemaire Channel, Booth Island & Palmer Base

    Early this morning, we entered the north entrance to the Lemaire Channel. It was named by Adrian de Gerlache in 1898 in honor of the famous Belgian explorer Charles Lemaire who worked in the Congo. Some would say, including many of the staff members, that this is the most beautiful stretch of water in the Antarctic Peninsula. Located between the peninsular mainland and Booth Island, the channel measures about seven miles in length by about one mile wide. It was formed by a geological fault that has been scraped out by glacial action, and the steep mountains on either side (igneous and metamorphic rocks to port and intrusive igneous rocks to starboard) presented wonderful displays of both geology and glaciology. It was moderately choked with ice, including some nice icebergs, and the low cloud cover and light snow made it even a bit eerie.

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  • Orléans and Gerlache Straits

    This expedition day was one of ice and whales—masses of ice and a great number of whales! When our expedition leader Jimmy gave his wake-up call, National Geographic Explorer was parked at the head of Charcot Bay. We were in the very scenic Lindblad Cove, named after Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered expedition cruise tourism in Antarctica beginning in 1966. The slopes around the cove are mostly covered in snow, with numerous glaciers. We spent the whole morning there. Calm, sunny weather finally allowed for kayaking! Some guests preferred a Zodiac cruise, and some guests took advantage of both options. We zig-zagged our Zodiacs and kayaks through lots of brash ice and were captivated by sculptural icebergs and bergy bits in various forms and sizes.

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  • Brown Bluff and the Weddell Sea

    Today was yet again a fabulous Antarctic day marked by stunning blue-sky weather, plenty of penguins, and an exciting range of marine life. After breakfast, we zipped to shore at Brown Bluff, a fascinating geologic area where we found hundreds of penguins. This is a colony which supported 100,000 pairs of Adelie penguins earlier in the season, but is now reaching the season's end. There were a handful of Adelie chicks and many gentoo chicks testing the waters and exercising their wings. The beach shallows were kiddy pools filled with fluffy chicks sticking their heads into the water, wading in, and being pushed around by small incoming waves. We enjoyed watching their antics for a couple of hours, as well as finding a solitary fur seal, and taking a hike onto the edge of a glacier.

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  • Gourdin Island, Tabarin Peninsula

    In an attempt to outpace a sinister looking low-pressure system coming in from the southwest, we sped north to the top of the Tabarin Peninsula where, to our delight, the sun still shines. Gourdin Island is our destination: a dramatic volcanic tricorn slab of basalt peppered with a penguin trio of gentoos, chinstraps, and Adelies. A majority of the latter are juveniles, and ones which nearby leopard seals waste no time pursuing for a next meal when an unsuspecting chick ventures to closely. Our Zodiac weaves in and out of ice floes and rolling icebergs in an area packed with wildlife, wonder, and wilderness. This is Antarctica.

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  • The Weddell Sea

    If one heeds the warnings of Shackleton’s adventures, then the Weddell Sea is something to be feared. To explore its vastness is a challenge fraught with shifting ice, but National Geographic Explorer took on that challenge with great success. In the early hours, we navigated the ice in search of marine mammals, of which we found a multitude. Setting off in our Zodiacs, guests experienced lunge-feeding humpback and minke whales at eye level. In the afternoon, we were rewarded with killer whales, specifically Type B2s, which are found only in the Antarctic peninsula. Guests spent the afternoon enjoying the vistas of ice and wildlife, and the evening presented the kind of sunset that lasts in one’s memory for a lifetime.

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