Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field


  • Puerto Chacabuco

    Driving through the pampas in the foothills of the Andes, we were greeted by beautiful views of the snow-covered mountain peaks and the flowing river of the valley below. We spotted many different species of birds on our bus ride, including turkey vulture, striated caracara, and Chilean flamingos. Arriving at the Coyhaique National Reserve, we led several hikes which gave us the opportunity to experience the transition in landscape from the temperate rainforest we saw earlier in the trip to the beginning of Patagonia’s high desert steppe region. After working up an appetite we were rewarded with a meal of carne asada, an amazing Patagonian lamb barbecue, which was accompanied by plenty food, local drinks, and wonderful music.

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  • Pumalín Park

    Pumalín Park is an enormous area of limited development and active conservation in Chile’s center. Its designation in 2005 as a nature sanctuary has granted it additional protection to secure its ecological values and prevent development. It effectively serves as a nature belt, allowing birds, animals, and plants to spread in all directions and access the sea uninterrupted. We went ashore at this beautiful reserve in the morning, going on both short and long walks to discover some of the endemic species. Afterwards we stopped briefly at the small coffee shop nestled in the shoreline and then went back on board for a fantastic lunch and afternoon at sea. Regaled with a lecture from the photography team on board and our Global Perspectives guest speaker, we sailed south, towards tomorrow’s adventure.

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  • Chiloé, Chile

    Our first full day of this Patagonian expedition saw us disembarking on the “Greater Island of Chiloé,” a name that means “place of seagulls” in the Mapuche language. It’s a destination still delightfully lost in time, at least for now, as plans for a road bridge to the mainland are under active consideration and the current stream of tourism may turn into a full flood in a few years’ time. Those who visit Chiloé today do so for its unspoilt scenery and rustic charm—we saw a field being cultivated with an ox-drawn plough as we drove along—and for its remarkable collection of wooden churches, some dating back to the time of the early Jesuit missions to the area. These churches of Chiloé were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 2000. We divided into two groups, one group concentrating on cultural heritage, the other on natural history.

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  • Bernal Glacier and White Narrows

    Today we were greeted by the first sun rays illuminating the ice of Bernal Glacier. National Geographic Orion has sailed into the Montañas Fiord, in which this glacier is located. After breakfast we started our operations to land and hike to the glacier’s terminus, where we could get face to face with ice that is several thousand years in age. We all had a memorable experience by spending the morning in front of this glacier.

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  • Cape Horn, Chile

    Our “bumpy” day on National Geographic Orion began promptly at 7:30 this morning when our expedition leader Doug announced that we have reached the southernmost tip of the South American continent. This destination is known formally as Cape Horn, but more familiarly as the island at end of the world.

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  • Bahía Franklin and Bahía Canepa

    Bahía Franklin or “Franklin Bay” is as much a picturesque anchorage as it is a wellspring for wildlife on this part of the globe. After a night cruising down the Beagle Channel and into the South Atlantic, we arrived just as the sun broke from a scattering of clouds. Because of the generally torrential conditions, National Geographic Orion has only succeeded in landing twice before at this location. Our natural history staff led hikes through the tussock grass to a nearby rockhopper penguin colony. This is the largest and southernmost colony in South America, with approximately 127,000 nesting pairs. Slightly less plentiful are the charming burrowing Magellanic penguins, who also favor the island’s temperate climes. Recent counts show their numbers up by 50% in the last 10 years, with approximately 1,600 nesting pairs.

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  • Cook’s Bay, Staten Island, Argentina

    After a comfortable night at anchor along the shores of Staten Island, we repositioned before breakfast to the narrow and sheltered Cook’s Bay.  This was the location of the second prison on the island, although it was only in operation for a few years around 1900.  Here, we were able to walk completely across the island, enjoying the fantastic scenery of this very special place.

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  • Argentina, Staten Island

    Out of the rough and windy ocean, beyond the curved tip of South America (more precisely – the large island of Tierra del Fuego), the mountains of Staten Island emerge from the sea.  It is as if the Andes are surfacing for a final breath of refreshing air before disappearing beneath the ocean.  In the age of sail, most ships rounding Cape Horn sailed by Staten Island, and many of them wrecked on its shores.  Aside from shipwrecked sailors who made it ashore, about the only people here have been a few sealers, prisoners, Antarctic explorers, scientists, and since 1976 - a very small outpost of the Argentinian Navy.  It is protected as a nature preserve, and we are now among the lucky few to experience the beauty of its wild and rugged landscape.  We explored Hoppner Bay via Zodiac, cruising into a hidden and magical inner bay, where calm waters were surrounded by lush, green vegetation.  Later in the day, we landed near the eastern end of the island to visit ‘the lighthouse at the end of the world,’ then took a short Zodiac cruise to see a rockhopper penguin colony above the wave-swept shore. 

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  • Cape Horn, Chile

    We have reached the southernmost tip of the American continent - the end of the world, Cape Horn!  This is where the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic meet, giving way to the Drake Passage in the south. Here, prevailing westerly winds flow off the Pacific, the famous Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties, winds and waves, between 40ºC and 60º C latitude which blows almost freely around the globe. The mixing of the waters from the two oceans combined with the strong winds creates very challenging conditions to sail in this region. If there are two words to describe where we were, they are water and wind. Water in all its shapes and forms, flavors and quantities, and winds so powerful that it almost seemed like a symphony from the gods playing in high volume and intensity.

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