Drake Passage
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 19 Feb 2022

Drake Passage, 2/19/2022, National Geographic Explorer

  • Aboard the National Geographic Explorer
  • Antarctica

The waters that separate South America from the Antarctic continent are renowned for their tenacity. Huge storms parade through the Southern Ocean, often concentrating at its most narrow point, the Drake Passage. Luckily for us, the forecast was near perfect for our crossing. We were able to sneak between two different low-pressure systems that brought humbling winds and seas with them. Throughout the day, we’ve been gifted with relatively light winds and gentle seas, easing us onto our sea legs. To add to the pleasant conditions, warm temperatures and a mostly sunny sky joined us as we sailed south toward Antarctica.

Today was not simply a transit day where we sat waiting. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current sweeps around the Southern Ocean with force, bringing massive amounts of nutrients in its productive waters. Wildlife seeks out these resources, and we sought out glimpses of what creatures we could see. A suite of seabirds passed us by, some at a distance while others came close enough for us to appreciate their size and mastery of the wind. To our delight, several wandering albatrosses made appearances. These incredible animals possess the longest wingspan of any bird on earth, over eleven feet in some individuals. The ocean wanderers glided with seemingly little effort in these expansive waters. In the distance, several fin whales surfaced, giving us our first taste of the cetaceans this ocean holds.

While looking for seabirds late in the afternoon, one of our guests spotted killer whales. These are always a delight for us, but the fact that they were spotted in the Drake Passage meant something special. The very rare type D killer whales reside here, which is only known from a few sightings. Lucky for us, these animals came in very close, offering stunning views and photo opportunities. Little is known about them. Our sighting and pictures will be shared with researchers in order to contribute to our understanding of this phenomenal species.

On the ship, we prepared for landings in Antarctica. We met the ship’s expedition team, learned the regulations in place to protect this valuable area and spent time with our photo team. This will all help us make the best of our time when we visit the southernmost continent. Today was full of beauty and amazement, and with our sights set on our destination ahead, we eagerly await what tomorrow brings.

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