Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Cape Horn, Chile

    Cape Horn is a small island at the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. This notorious point marks the southernmost point of South America, a graveyard for many mariners of wooden sailing ships. “I am the albatross who awaits you at the end of the world,” wrote Sara Vial in 1992. Today the poem, written in a marble slab by the monument, that reveals the silhouette of a wandering albatross, honors all those fearless souls, that unsuccessfully tried to round the cape.

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  • Garibaldi Fjord, Chile

    Today was a truly fantastic day for our expedition. After arriving in the morning to the Garibaldi Glacier we left National Geographic Orion to explore the ice face and the fjord in the Zodiacs. It did not take us long to realize that this is a remarkable place not only due to the advancing glacier that calves into the fjord, but also to the surrounding forest of nothofagus or southern beech trees that grow all the way to the edge of the ice and snow. Along the steep walls of the fjord, a large number of waterfalls cascade into the water, contributing to the presence of glacial flour or finely ground stone that gives the water almost a milky appearance. We were not only taken aback by the imposing glacier wall and its stunning blue colour, but driving through the brash ice of the fjord allowed us to experience this place with all our senses: the sound of the ice being pushed by the Zodiacs, the water falling from the heights of the stone walls into the fjord, and the thundery sound of the calving glacier really added a new dimension to the whole experience.

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  • Jackson Bay and Parry bay | Tierra del Fuego

    Jackson Bay of Karukinka’s Natural Reserve was where we started our day. Slowly approaching the beach on very shallow waters we could see the reflection of the bended Lengas, southern beech trees. The water falling from high in the mountains surrounded us and a big elephant seal at a distances raised it’s head pronouncing a strong trumpet like sound that echoed all around the mountains.

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  • At Sea Exploring Fjords | Patagonia

    Traveling at sea aboard National Geographic Orion, the passing landscape was nothing short of spectacular this morning. The grey skies against the towering snow-capped fjord walls set the scene for a beautifully moody day. We spent some time sipping lattes in the cozy lounge while watching black-browed albatross glide effortlessly behind our ship. Now that we’ve unpacked and settled-in a bit, our time aboard the ship was a good opportunity to get to know our naturalists, photographers, officers, and crew. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers the unique opportunity to see how navigation occurs with the open bridge policy. We watched the bridge team hard at work and were able to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on transiting these narrow and shallow fjords. It is a given in almost any expedition that wildlife will appear at inopportune times – and without fail, our photography lecture was cut short due to the presence of feeding humpback whales and various bird species. Despite the eight-foot wingspan of the black-browed albatrosses, the surrounding landscape dwarfed them to mere specks on the water.

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  • San Juan de Salvamaneto, Staten Island

    Waking in the protected harbor of San Juan de Salvamento, we began our operations for the day in true Patagonia weather: a bit cloudy with strong winds. We took our Zodiacs to the landing to visit the “Lighthouse at the End of the World.” After a winding hike through low southern beech trees, we crested the top and were treated to a view of the cliffs below and an ever-present fog hanging just above our heads. After lunch, we sailed back to pick up a few researchers we had dropped off in Isla de los Estados a few days prior. The conditions looked favorable, so we were able to make a short Zodiac cruise to see steep cliffs with nesting rockhopper penguins.

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  • Cánepa Bay, Staten Island, Argentina

    Franklin Bay, our first stop in the morning, proved to be too much for us to make a landing. Winds gusting to 50 knots are regular in these latitudes and we had to go to plan B. Cánepa Bay proved to be well-protected from the “furious fifties” and we explored this magnificent fjord system for several hours. In the afternoon our plans to visit another location were interrupted by a group of killer whales that was prowling the rocky coasts where several hundred South American fur seals were resting, afraid of getting into the water. After an hour of quiet observation, the whales finally decided to catch one of the seals, right under our bow! The day ended on the sheltered waters of Puerto Cook, our intended destination for tomorrow morning.

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  • Cape Horn

    The road signs in Ushuaia proudly declared the town to be the southernmost in the world: Fin del Mundo. Chileans may choose to disagree but this lively township (at least in the summer season) on the Beagle Channel has an interesting history. When Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle surveyed this passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the south of Tierra del Fuego, he had captured some members of the native population to take back to England between voyages. Jemmy Button, York Minster, Fuegia Basket, and Boat Memory were dressed in contemporary English costumes, taught English table manners, and even presented to the royal family before being returned to Tierra del Fuego in the company of Charles Darwin on the voyage that departed from Plymouth in 1831. (Boat Memory sadly died while in England, as a consequence of a well-intentioned smallpox inoculation.) What ensued was a fascinating case study in the relative strengths of nature versus nurture, with the released Fuegians (as FitzRoy called them) quickly reverting to their former habits, an occurrence noted with horror by Darwin.

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  • Garibaldi Glacier and Bahia Pia

    This morning we awoke deep in the fjords of Cordillera Darwin. There were tall, sheer walls around and finally a bluish tidewater glacier, the Garibaldi Glacier, with its snout in the sea. The sky was overcast, yet bright enough—a perfect morning for a Zodiac cruise at the glacier’s face. There was plenty of ice in the water: brash, growler, and bergy bits. The accumulated remains of larger ice, the small brash ice makes snap, crackle, and pop noises as pressurized air escapes the weakened brash. Brash is the technical term, but I call it bash ice, which is what I do when driving through it. Despite being a navigational hazard, the much larger growlers (ice chunks rising no more than a meter above the water’s surface) are often quite beautiful, from white to blue to clear. The biggest and rarest ice in the water here is the bergy bit. While bergy bits sound small, they can be the size of a modest house, rising one to five meters above the water’s surface. It is not a true iceberg unless it rises more than five meters above the water.

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  • Karukinka Private Reserve | Patagonia

    A morning at sea after what seems to have been weeks of exploration was a welcome rest today. We filled the hours with interesting talks from the natural history staff, punctuated by delicious meals from our galley team. We were heading in the direction of Karukinka Private Reserve. The park is a well-protected area managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which received the land from Goldman Sachs after mining investors failed to meet the terms of their lease, and the land was seized. Now Chile and the WCS jointly manage the massive private park. It was our privilege to get to visit the area in the afternoon and make a landing amongst scores of Andean condors and southern elephant seals. In the evening, we set sail for the southern reaches of the Darwin range on Tierra Del Fuego.

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  • Underway, Strait of Magellan, Chile

    After a wonderful day at Torres del Paine National Park yesterday, we got underway this morning from Puerto Natales at 5 A.M. We needed to time our departure carefully in order to arrive at Kirke Narrows, the third narrows through which we need to pass on this voyage, at slack tide at 7:30 A.M. Kirke Narrows is a beautiful setting with snow-covered mountains all around and a glassy sea in the channel. We again sent a Zodiac ahead of the ship to confirm that the tidal current had stopped completely before we proceeded through. A South American sea lion escorted us, and we then entered the west end of the Strait of Magellan. This long, narrow passage through the southern end of South America was first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 when he was searching for a passage to the Pacific.

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