Our field staff made memorable cultural connections in Colombia, explored coastlines from the Galápagos to Washington State, and even witnessed a guest wedding aboard the National Geographic Endurance!
The Pacific Northwest harbors a diversity of habitats ideal for birdlife like the rhinoceros auklet, Steller’s jay, and red-breasted sapsucker. These are just a few of the species to spot on expeditions in the region.
The sea calmed down over night, and we enjoyed breakfast together. David kicked off the day with a presentation about ocean acidification in the Ice Lounge. It was slightly disconcerting to see the predictions about what might happen to our world’s oceans in the near future if we don’t manage to get a grip on global warming. Next in line, Tiffany gave a presentation about her home, the Falkland Islands. It was really interesting to hear details about this remote corner of the world, and all of us are surely tempted to visit these remote islands one day. Just as Tiffany finished her presentation, the first dolphins were spotted outside the vessel. We headed to the outside decks before making our way to lunch. As the ship continued sailing north during the afternoon, we soon saw our first glimpse of land on the horizon. The coast of Argentina and the Beagle Channel came into sight. Fitting to the occasion, we watched the black and white movie Around Cape Horn before we headed to Tupaia for a special “Welcome to Argentina” afternoon tea. As we entered the Beagle Channel and approached the pilot station, Captain Martin came down to the Ice Lounge to tell us all there is to know about National Geographic Resolution . What a beast of a ship, tailor-made for expedition cruising in polar regions. Once the presentation finished, we all remained in the lounge for the final Captain’s cocktail hour. We toasted a successful voyage and then enjoyed our final dinner. After yet another delightful meal, we took the chance to explore Ushuaia at night. When else do you get to visit the southernmost Irish pub in the world? What a great end to a successful voyage.
The frozen air of Antarctica is like a wave in the Drake Passage. It hits you with all its strength: you feel it on your skin, then inside your nose, all the way to your lungs. You never make peace with this feeling. On cold winter days, it will come back to remind us of our time spent at the bottom of the world. We left the White Continent, but the adventure is far from over. The Drake Passage is ahead. It’s going to be rough. As we go out on deck, the wind is ferocious, the air still frozen. We are still below the Antarctic Convergence, and the temperature remains the same as the one we experienced farther south. The black-browed albatrosses and the cape petrels soaring near the ship are completely untouched by the force of these elements. The wind is their close ally, and they use it in the best possible way to accomplish their endless journeys above the Southern Seas. On board National Geographic Resolution , we cope with the pitch and rolling. Some of us engage in some reading in the library, others simply look at the horizon and imagine Cape Horn appearing in the distance. We also have some interesting lectures by our incredible Expedition Staff. Andreas tells us the always amazing story of Ernest Shackleton and the fate of the Endurance . Then it is time for David to talk about, “Adaptations of Antarctic Wildlife to the Extreme Cold.” The afternoon passes, and Nicole Bransome, our IAATO observer, tells us about “Antarctic Krill Fisheries Management and ANT Ocean Conservation.” While these lectures take place, our distance from Antarctica increases. The movements of the ship become more noticeable. We cross the Convergence. The air feels warm, wet. A voice within us says, “Turn back! Turn back!” We might well do so, one day. But for now, we head north. Another continent will soon appear on the horizon.
Blue skies! After successfully chasing small but rewarding weather pockets around the peninsula all week, the skies opened up today to reveal the loveliest blue-atop-white-atop-blue. As we arrived in Neko Harbour during breakfast, the bright white continent of Antarctica glowed brilliantly in the full sunshine above clear, calm, blue waters. The sea reflected the skies, and gentoo penguins went about their business. Although several avalanches from on high in the white cliffs caught our attention, none were close enough to pose a danger. The bright sun and clear water got the better of over half of our expedition group, and they decided to take the polar plunge! Amid the perfect weather, one guest after another quickly leapt in the 31F/-1C degree seawater. This rite of passage is as venerable as crossing the Drake Passage was seven days ago. Refreshed and ready for one final off-ship adventure, the ship headed towards Paradise Harbour, a suitably named place given today’s lovely weather! Along the way, we encountered humpback whales fluking and gallivanting in our path. Always a treat to encounter, these whales showed off their Antarctic acrobatics before heading along their way. Upon arrival to Paradise, we observed the Videla Chilean Research Station. The station was receiving supplies by ship and by helicopter, which is important business here in Antarctica. Farther in, we found the Argentina Research Station also receiving supplies. Massive tidewater glaciers tumbled into the sea around Brown Station and Paradise Harbour. Our Zodiac tours revealed ice sculptures, penguins, and lounging crabeater seals in the high-cliffed white amphitheater. After yet another incredible dinner at both of the ship’s delectable venues, the crew and guests gathered in the Ice Lounge for a lively evening of music, dancing, and the best good cheer to be found on these cold seas. As we wrapped up another day of our incredible journey to the Antarctic Peninsula, we reflected on the creatures, memories, new friends, and awe of the past eight days.
The Guna Yala is a group of natives that live along the Caribbean Coast of Panama. They have land farther into the continent, but the paradisiac islands are their most important asset. The Guna Yala archipelago is composed of more than 400 islands; the vast majority are uninhabited. About 35 islands have a village. In the morning, we visited one of the villages. We learned about the culture and looked at the art and souvenirs the people sell to visitors, especially the Molas. We also enjoyed the beach on one little island. With crystal clear water and white sand, snorkeling was amazing.
Entering the notorious Lemaire Channel shortly after sunrise this morning was a treat for early risers who enjoyed the dramatic, ice-covered peaks rising up from the sea only to see them vanish into the clouds above. Snow fell and mist swirled as the naturalist staff regaled guests with tales of legend, lore, and even facts! After passing through safely, we began our morning operations of iceberg explorations. Hundreds of gentoo penguins made their way up Petermann Island as we watched from Zodiacs. In the afternoon, nearly every guest braved the breezy and snowy conditions to embrace the true Antarctica in Gerard Bay. One lone chinstrap penguin was spotted, but perhaps the highlight for many paddlers was the appearance of a leopard seal that seemed to be playing in the propwash of National Geographic Resolution’s starboard azipod.