As we steamed into Dusky Sound from our anchoring position, we were greeted by cloudy and quite cold conditions. However, the scenery was spectacular as we cruised into Dusky Sound. We spotted a few rare Fiordland crested penguins porpoising adjacent to the ship. Our main activity today was a Zodiac cruise around this stunning area. Conditions were kind to us. The rain held off, and the mountains and tree-lined islands appeared quite moody with misty light and low cloud cover. After our cruise, we returned to National Geographic Orion to head further south to commence our journey to the sub-Antarctic islands.
Calm seas and clear skies granted us a smooth day on the Drake Passage, or, as naturalist Maria Intxaustegi taught guests, the Mar de Hoces. Amongst other seabirds, petrels, skuas, wandering albatrosses, royal albatrosses, and black-browed albatrosses all graced us with their presence today. Naturalist Eric Guth gave an in-depth presentation on “Southern Ocean Seabirds,” including some of the unique adaptations that allow them to survive in such a challenging environment. Throughout the day, guests familiarized themselves with National Geographic Explorer. Many spent time with the staff and crew on the bridge. From here, fleeting observations of wildlife kept everyone on their toes, from occasional humpback spouts to the rare sighting of an orca pod. In between exciting viewing opportunities, a handful of lectures were held. The lectures help guests build their foundational knowledge of the area and better hone their photographic skills so they are ready to capture the best images once we reach the continent tomorrow. All and all, it’s hard to imagine a better day at sea.
Many of us are veterans of the Drake Passage. While there are more tales of treacherous crossings than you can shake a stick at, today’s crossing was definitely not one of them! A little fog and a gentle swell conspired to lull many guests into napping, and why not? It seemed a fitting way to spend our penultimate day at sea after this amazing journey! Some guests focused on the call to pack before it becomes a last minute necessity! This morning’s talk by our on-board science team was eagerly anticipated. A crowd showed up to learn more during the talk entitled, “Top Predators at the Bottom of the World.” After lunch, photo instructor Jim Pfizer had the urge to tickle the ivories, and we were treated to a wonderful musical interlude while plates were cleared. At 4:00 pm, our amazing hotel department put together a beautiful assortment of finger sandwiches for teatime in C. Greens. Despite the slightly increasing swells, it was well attended! And at recap, geologist Serguei shared the results of his fanciful “shapes in ice” contest!
This morning, National Geographic Explorer sighted Cape Horn. With binoculars, we could see the lighthouse and monument that marks this infamous part of the world. After negotiating some of the islands that make up Tierra del Fuego, we entered the Beagle Channel around lunchtime. Today we listened to presentations by naturalist Emily Mall, ‘A Whale of a Story,’ National Geographic photographer David Wright about his photographic adventures around the world, and naturalist Alex Searle on, ‘Selk’nam People of Tierra del Fuego.’ With fair weather, we sailed through the Beagle Channel, spotting wildlife as we went and admiring stunning views of mountainous peaks across Argentina and Chile in the distance. We arrived in Ushuaia this evening. We enjoyed farewell cocktails and a fantastic slideshow of images from guests and staff taken throughout this incredible expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula.
We awoke this morning to blue skies and calm seas as National Geographic Orion made her way through the Cook Strait towards our afternoon destination. The ocean was so calm that albatrosses and gannets were stranded flightless on the water, as there was not enough wind for them to fly. New Zealand fur seals occasionally rested on the surface of the water as well. What a magnificent crossing from the North Island to the South Island of New Zealand, and in absolutely perfect conditions! After lunch, we disembarked to Abel Tasman National Park. Three hundred years after Abel Tasman first sighted this beautiful location, the park was designated in 1942 at the height of World War II! Our groups hiked and kayaked in this beautiful national park with its golden beaches and beautiful second-generation forest. Back on National Geographic Orion , we were treated to a scrumptious dinner, a fitting end to a beautiful day!