This morning National Geographic Orion completed the final stretch of its transit to the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. As we were underway, guests aboard were treated to a mid-morning soiree on the patio deck, with icebergs in view and Freuchoppen in-hand. Back in the lounge, renowned naturalist Tom Ritchie regaled everyone with stories of famous overwintering Antarctic expeditions, including de Gerlache, Nordenskjold and Charcot’s exploits in the areas we ourselves are visiting during the voyage. Certainly though, the highlight of the day was Lindblad Cove, where we spent most of our day.
Lindblad Cove, officially named in 1995 by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Antarctic Place Names for our company’s founder, is a stunning ice-strewn cove ringed by the towering mountain peaks of mainland Antarctica. Today was a most incredible visit, and it is hard to differentiate just one highlight.
Our experience began with orca sightings from the ship decks. The orca were hunting within the loosely consolidated ice, quietly moving in and out of the fog like phantoms of the sea. As our ice-classed ship pushed further into the cove, we found ourselves surrounded by sapphirine icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Taking to the expedition watercraft, an exploration of the area began, led by our expedition naturalist staff. Immediately we encountered minke whales, which playfully inspected our boats and looked eye-to-eye with many guests. We witnessed them barrel-rolling under our small boats and spy-hopping to the delight of everyone. Once the whales had satiated their curiosity of us, they moved off to hunt and we witnessed them lunge-feeding for krill.
Continuing our exploration through the heavy ice, groups came across several adult fur seals hauled out on picturesque icebergs. The seals were resting and cleaning their luxurious coats on the snow, perhaps retreating from the water to escape the orca in the area. More cruising through an area with many towering icebergs turned up a crabeater seal, providing a notable photographic opportunity of the fifth seal species we’ve encountered during our trip.
Rounding off this superlative day was the opportunity for intrepid travelers to participate in a time-honored tradition of Antarctic travel, the polar plunge! Many stepped up for the opportunity and were rewarded by the hotel staff with bathrobes and hot cider.