Cape Crozier, Ross Sea, 1/18/2023, National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
As the National Geographic Endurance did our morning approach toward Cape Crozier, things started happening in a rapid sequence. First it was a ship-wide call for killer whales, then the start of an ever-increasing number of Adelie penguins, both in the water and hauled out on ice floes! The colony at Cape Crozier is somewhere around a quarter of a million breeding pairs of Adelies, covering a large area of the Cape. Finally, it was time to launch the Zodiacs, and head out on a two-hour cruise through this amazing area, along the Ross Ice Shelf and Ross Island, with perfect weather conditions!
After lunch, it was kayaking along the ice shelf, followed by a “Polar Plunge.” What a magical day!
Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland, along with other destinations. His 33 years as a professional wildlife photograp...
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.
The wind and sea conditions today were quite favorable, making for relatively pleasant conditions on deck from which to watch seabirds and the occasional passing ship. The naturalists on board gave presentations on the biology of whales and the adaptations of albatrosses. We are making good speed and are north of the Antarctic Convergence Zone (Antarctic Circumpolar Current) for the first time in almost three weeks!
Today aboard National Geographic Endurance , we cruised north up the Antarctic Peninsula. It is an unusual experience to arrive at the peninsula from the south via the Ross Sea and New Zealand rather than by the Drake Passage. Traveling back north through familiar waters felt like a novel homecoming. We started the day with a sunrise cruise through the Lemaire Channel, a narrow strip of water between Booth Island and the Antarctic mainland that is hemmed by towering heights. We photographed the hanging glaciers and marveled at Una Peaks. After a short respite for breakfast, whales were spotted. We rushed to the bow to view humpback whales diving, tail slapping, and fluking just in front of a beautiful iceberg. Midday, we arrived at Cuverville Island in the Errera Channel. We climbed ashore to witness our first views of large groups of gentoo penguins. This was our seventh or eighth penguin species of the trip, and it is such an iconic one. We watched as dozens of gentoos descended the ice-covered slopes in funny little lines on their way to the water. Back on the ship, just before teatime finished, we were called to the bridge again to watch another stunning humpback whale display. It was a fine day on the Antarctic Peninsula. IMAGE: A skua bathes in shallow water at Cuverville Island. Photo by Brett Garner