Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field


  • Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

    Having the opportunity to visit this icon of Patagonia for the day is one of the many highlights of our expedition, and it didn’t disappoint. This landscape has been shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago with the vestiges of that era still clinging to the surrounding peaks. Winds and water have been putting the finishing touches on it since the last Ice Age ended, and one can only expect that when exploring the Patagonia steppe, or Pampa, you’ll be touched by both. At just under 500,000 acres or 700 square miles, Paine (blue) sees almost a quarter million visitors each year. The Paine Cordillera is the central feature with its torres (towers) of granite reaching over 2,500 meters. Not part of the Andes Mountains, the Paine massif is only 80 million years old and is a distinctive geologic formation. Today we set out to get the most of our time here. Half set out on a near 5 mile hike through the steppe, where guanaco roamed along the trail, Andean condors soared overhead, and even an elusive puma was spotted rested under a granite cliff face observing its domain. The remainder of our guests set out to see more of the park, stopping at the various points of interest to take it all in.  

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  • Seno Montanas, Chile

    Early this morning the National Geographic Explorer navigated its way through the narrow channels and between the many picturesque islands toward the spectacular fjord known as Seno Montanas – the fjord of mountains.

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  • English Narrows & Estero Eyre

    We awoke to beauty. The National Geographic Explorer floated calmly in front of a glacier chosen specially by our Chilean navigation pilots on board, a holding area to await the daylight needed for us to safely traverse the English Narrows. All hands were on deck for the weaving passageways of the narrows, a spot that must have been quite a nervous endeavour when the likes of Magellan were first passing through. The afternoon was full of ice once again, this time in front of the longest glacier in the whole of South America: Pio XI – named after none other than the Pope himself. 

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  • Tortel and Martinez Channel

    Today we were able to explore the small fishing village of Tortel. This small town of approximately 500 people sits in the beautiful setting of the Patagonian fjords and is perched on the hillside above a small cove. Fishing boats dot the coast and an intricate system of boardwalks connects the houses and businesses found here. I was lucky enough to lead a photo walk with an enthusiastic group of guests into the town. It was great fun to wander this sleepy little town, as was evident on the smiles on everyone’s faces as we made our way back to the ship. It’s such fun to look for interesting photos in places like these. The board walks, old fishing boats, and people of the town made for great subject matter for our photography. 

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  • Estero Slight

    Traversing 250 miles south-west allotted some time on the ship for briefings and presentations this morning. Naturalist and ornithology expert, Doug Gualteri gave an in depth presentation on not only the local avian species seen on the trip, but demonstrated some key insights of how to bird watch properly. Binoculars at the ready, our ship glided into the foggy fjord of Estero Slight by the afternoon. From the ship we could see some of the endangered marine otters splashing in the water. Majestic waterfalls and lush greenery covered the steep, surrounding walls of mountains. Once we reached our landing, deep within the fjord, our hikers set out to tackle the muddy path towards Cabo Raper’s historic lighthouse. A few avid hikers even made it all the way to the lighthouse, seven miles roundtrip, and were able to meet Sergeant Carrillo and his nephew. Sergeant Carrillo has manned the naval station of the lighthouse for the past five months, and said that it had been the hardest winter he can remember- the roof of the building blew off in July. He noted that sometimes the wind was so bad while trying to repair the roof that he could only put in one nail before having to retreat back into shelter.

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  • Aisén; Coyhaique, Chilean Fjords

    Early this morning the ship made its way through the channels and between the islands toward the small port town of Chacabuco and Aisén. This is the last main town along the coast southward from Puerto Montt. It is also the last port facility until the very southern part of the fjords. It is also one of the only places in the Chilean fjords where one can have road access inland to the mountains. During early breakfast the bridge anchored off the port and Zodiacs were prepared to shuttle us ashore. The morning threatened rain but with luck it would hold off for our activities - which it did!

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  • Parque Pumalín, Chile

    Early this morning, the National Geographic Explorer made her way into a long narrow fjord, deep into the coastal mountains of Chile. As the light came up we could see that we were surrounded by beautiful snow covered peaks and, wonder of wonders in a temperate rainforest, bright sunshine and blue skies.  Our destination was Parque Pumalín, one of the beautiful reserves created by the American conservationist, Douglas Thompkins.

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  • Chiloé Island, Southern Chilean Coast

    Darkness still engulfed the ship as we approached the lights of Castro, the largest town on Chiloé Island. Quietly the captain and local pilots brought the ship alongside the pier in the center of the town. A slight drizzle, cool temperatures, and overcast skies with light wind started the day. Disembarking right after breakfast we had two options for the morning’s activities. One group headed to the south of the island before crossing to the outer coast to visit the Chiloé National Park. The other group went to the north of the town for a more cultural experience, and to see some of the island’s landscapes. Both groups would return for a slightly late lunch in the early afternoon.

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  • Observatorio Island, Staten Island

    Our final day of exploration on Staten Island began with a Zodiac cruise along the shores of Observatorio Island. Here, wildlife was abundant! As we made our way to shore, various species of birds lined the rocks. Gulls, geese, ducks, cormorants, and penguins were everywhere we looked. One prominent point appeared to have a buzz cut, when in reality it was thousands of nests of blue-eyed or imperial cormorants. Many Magellanic penguins were running up and down the slopes. It was comical to watch them gather in their groups and react to various creatures passing by.  

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  • Isla de los Estados, Argentina

    On our second day exploring Staten Island, Argentina, we went ashore at San Juan de Salvamento bay to visit the famous ‘lighthouse at the end of the world’, which inspired Jules Verne’s eponymous novel. We walked into the Magellanic subpolar forest on a sunny warm morning, and at the top of the hill we were able to enter the lighthouse and explore its surroundings. Up there, under the cloudless sky, several striated caracara were flying close to us.

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