It’s always a bittersweet feeling sailing north across the Drake Passage from Antarctica back to South America. The Drake Passage certainly lived up to its reputation on this leg of our journey, serving as the real ticket to go home. Of course, we do love the wildlife that the less calm condition of the Drake brings for us! As we made our way closer back to South America, we were treated to fantastic sightings of birds from sunrise to sunset. From the tiny cape petrels to the stunning light-mantled sooty albatross, and even passes by the largest flying bird on the planet, the great wandering albatross. When we could manage to peel our eyes away from the windows, we enjoyed the final presentations by our amazing expedition staff team: “On Assignment with National Geographic” by photographer Krista Rossow, and “Climate Change in Polar Regions and Solutions to a Big Dilemma” with Joe Holliday and Bud Lehnhausen. By early evening, we were essentially surrounded by large groups of giant petrels soaring closely alongside the ship. We rounded out the final evening of our expedition with our Captain’s Farewell cocktail party. The premier presentation of our guest slideshow is always a perfect way to reflect on our trip, but this evening was made even more special by a wonderful group of guests who shared incredibly kind words of what made the trip so memorable for them and toast to all the people that made it what it was. The inaugural Antarctic voyage of the beautiful National Geographic Endurance feels like it passed by in the blink of an eye, but is surely a trip we all will never forget.
National Geographic Explorer
Almost home. Land is in sight as we complete our crossing of the Drake Passage and draw within view of Cape Horn. As sunrise begins to illuminate the clouds, we see the blinking light of the Cabo de Hornos lighthouse. Expedition leader Lucho tells us about the poignant albatross sculpture dedicated to lost mariners and reads us the associated poem in Spanish and English. We are sailing in sheltered waters now, and the sea has reached the balmy temperature of more than 7° C. The seabirds we have learned to recognize in the open ocean–albatrosses, petrels, and prions–are now joined by others, such as imperial shags from Patagonia. Fur seals are once again frolicking near the ship. With formalities complete, there is time for a last series of presentations from our expedition staff, including: a lively account of the world-defining voyage of Ferdinand Magellan by naturalist Madalena Patacho, intriguing ‘Behind the Scenes’ insights into the life of an undersea specialist from Brett Garner, and more about the famous Endurance expedition under the leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleton. After making time for some excellent afternoon Swedish pancakes, we sailed the remaining stretch along the Beagle Channel and came at last to port in Ushuaia. We gathered in the lounge for farewell cocktails with our captain. We celebrated the wonders we experienced over the last ten days, the good friends we traveled with and with whom we shared our discovery of the Antarctic, and the glorious land of Antarctica–the seascapes, history, and wildlife. Where will we travel next? Photo caption: An avian harbinger of the coming day. Photo by Steve Backus