We awoke to a calm morning, protected from the winds on the island of Isla de los Estados. For our morning exploration, we headed to the southwest side of the island and nosed into a small and narrow channel once carved by glacial advance. We spent our time cruising in Zodiacs through the fjords and gawking at the sheer height of the rhyolite cliffs which harbored countless Magellanic cormorants and Andean condors. Like true explorers, we weathered the wind and rain to get up close views of towering waterfalls before warming up in the shipboard saunas. In the afternoon, we cruised back to mainland Argentina looking for sea life and enjoying a special wine tasting with our afternoon tea.
National Geographic Explorer
Today was our last full day on board, so the decision was made to go big before we go home! National Geographic Explorer positioned beside Observatory Island at 5:00 am, and the deck crew dropped our Zodiacs as the sun rose behind the rugged peaks of Staten Island. We were going for a pre-breakfast cruise! Expedition travel always means being flexible, as changing weather and other factors can mean an abrupt change in plan. But this was yet another morning when we were able to accomplish Plan A. Near-windless conditions meant for a slow, glassy, rolling swell. That, coupled with the slanted golden light of early morning, made for a photographer’s dream! Observatory Island is seldom visited by anyone. The fur seals were curious about us, approaching our Zodiacs and kicking and splashing. We observed many bird species we had not yet seen on this voyage, ranging from snowy sheathbills (common in Antarctica) to black-faced ibises, and we had wonderfully close views of Magellanic penguins, both on land and at sea. By 8:00 am, we were back on the ship for a hot breakfast as we headed for Cabo San Juan and the famous “Lighthouse at the End of the World” on the remote eastern tip of Staten Island. With glassy sea conditions and the sun beating down on us, the weather was decidedly “un-Patagonian.” In fact, it was nearly tropical! It was perfect for a hike over rolling hills of spongy peat bog up to the lighthouse, where we looked down at our ship anchored in the turquoise waters of the kelp-fringed bay. It was a stunning end to an amazing nine days of Patagonian exploration. After lunch, National Geographic Explorer turned back westward and headed over sun-spangled seas towards Ushuaia, where we will finish our voyage tomorrow.