We enjoyed calm seas from the early morning. Some of us were busy birdwatching on the bridge. We spotted lots of sooty shearwaters, Cape petrels, and light-mantled albatrosses. The highlight of our morning was spotting a group of fin whales actively feeding near the surface of the sea. Fin whales are among the fastest swimming great whales. Aggregations of the whales in productive areas of the Southern Ocean attract special attention of scientists and visitors to Antarctica. And we encountered blue whales! We also saw the first tabular iceberg of our voyage. As we traveled through time zones, we had to move one hour ahead. We enjoyed a bunch of presentations focused on animal migrations, the Southern Ocean, and New Zealand fisheries. For our photography enthusiasts, we had a photo feedback session to review images taken during the first portion of our journey.
National Geographic Endurance
Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel
In the early hours of the morning, we saw land silhouetted behind a curtain of mist and clouds on the horizon. It was Cape Horn, the legendary landmark that witnessed many shipwrecks in past times. This was the end of the South American continent, and for us, it was the last day of our voyage. The mythical lighthouse shone its light. With binoculars, we could see the lighthouse keeper’s accommodation, and farther away, the monument to the albatross. As we sailed northeast towards the Beagle Channel, landforms appeared closer and greener than ever before; this was the first time in more than three weeks that we could see trees. The native Nothofagus (southern beech trees), tussock grass, and shrubs seemed like a novelty after our ice encounters. The Beagle Channel is a large body of water that runs in a practically horizontal stretch at the end of the Large Island/Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego. It is also an international boundary between Argentina and Chile with only two urban settlements. Puerto Williams is on the southern coast of the channel, and Ushuaia, our last port of call, is on the northern coast. To guide us, an Argentine pilot joined the ship, with the boat approaching National Geographic Endurance on the starboard side while in motion. The Beagle is also home to many seabird species, and we were delighted to watch black browed-albatrosses, giant petrels, South American terns, cormorants, and Magellanic penguins. It will soon be time to say farewell to our voyage. We have spent the second month of 2023 together, creating memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Farewell, Antarctica. We will meet again.