Polaris, the North Star, rested dimly on the horizon as we entered Magdalena Bay this morning. A reliable navigation aid and the tip of Ursa Minor’s tail, Polaris is actually three stars; the brightest is a yellow supergiant. Above Polaris, the familiar Big Dipper shone brightly. Higher in the sky, the lovely Virgo constellation gazed over our shoulders.
In spite of dramatic celestial happenings, the horizon stole the show. To stand on the bow of National Geographic Venture this morning was to feel like Odysseus returning from battle. It seems possible that Homer secretly slipped off to Baja California while writing the Odyssey, for there could have been no greater inspiration for his rosy-red fingers of dawn than the slender wisps of cloud, bathed in a roseate crepuscular light and beckoning us into the bay.
Slowly, the sun appeared, cooling and brightening the warm pinks and purples to yellows and blues. Magnificent frigatebirds floated overhead, squadrons of brown pelicans crisscrossed the skyline, and a lone crested caracara passed by on the way to scavenge.
Just as rosy skies might portend, the day continued gathering momentum. During a morning spent cruising in inflatable landing crafts, guests caught sight of hundreds of frigatebirds. In mangroves along the shorelines, the birds ballooned their gular sacs, more red than any rosy dawn, in attempts to attract mates. Other guests paddled kayaks in search of the world’s southernmost bald eagles.
The afternoon was all about exploration on land. Guests discovered a range of birds along the coast, including the lovely cardinal-like pyrrhuloxia with its punk rock crest and the loggerhead shrike, a black-masked songbird known for impaling its lizard prey on the spines of cacti.
Following our adventures, we returned to the ship for a cocktail hour replete with fermented pineapple drinks and a three-piece local band that featured our own naturalist and musician, Alberto Montaudon, on guitar and percussion. Our day ended as beautifully as it began in this paradise. We gazed at stars from the bow as we listened to the lapping Pacific.