After departing Peter I Island late yesterday, we have driven into the heart of the Bellingshausen Sea. Over the course of the major west-to-east leg of our voyage, we have sailed three seas in six days. These seas bear the names of three of the region’s great explorers: Ross, Amundsen, and Bellingshausen. The latter sailed under the Russian flag and was the first to accurately document the sighting of an ice shelf attached to the Antarctic continent in January 1820. While completing his circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean the next year, he spotted an isolated oceanic island from a distance. He named the island after his benefactor, Peter the Great. The island is now claimed by Norway, as a subsequent Norwegian exploring party was the first to land there. They put boots on a tiny spit of land along a coastline of sheer volcanic cliffs. This sector of the ocean, continuing to the western Antarctic Peninsula, is named in honor of Thaddeus von Bellingshausen.
While the Antarctic continent and its fringes are dominated by massive ice sheets and ice shelves, the region is equally defined by the surrounding ocean, and today we experienced the ocean in abundance. We observed wind, waves, and the occasional seabird during the day, but we also had time to explore the depths and details of our temporary home, National Geographic Endurance. We have made good progress towards the Antarctic Peninsula, the last leg of our expedition before heading to Ushuaia, Argentina.