Saunders Island and West Point Island, Falklands, 1/25/2022, National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
We began our day with a windy morning on a beautiful sandy beach. Saunders Island is full of wildlife. The tussock grass blew in circles as black-browed albatross chicks rested in their sheltered ravine. Magellanic oystercatchers went about their business in an atypically quiet way, while Magellanic penguins tended to their young near the entrances of their burrows. Gentoo penguin chicks tirelessly chased their parents in hopes of another feeding. The sun was shining and the wild world went about its daily adventures while we watched, smiling.
For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and ...
Please Note: This expedition crosses the International Date Line, so there will be two DERs for February 5. A calm but foggy morning greeted us for our last day of exploring the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia. Macquarie is unique in its position on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. The island is entirely comprised of oceanic rocks with a complete sequence from mantle to extruded ocean floor. These rocks are draped with a lush vegetation dominated by grasses and megaherbs that tumble down precipitous slopes to the shore. Many seabirds call this place home, including the elegant light-mantled albatross, the endemic Macquarie shag, and the effervescent rockhopper penguin. The main story is in the massive colonies of royal penguins and king penguins, estimated at well over a million pairs.
After three wonderful days in New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, we are making our way south to Macquarie Island, within the Tasmin State of Australia. Macquarie is a UNESCO World Heritage site, namely for its fascinating geology. The intact seafloor was pushed above sea level by mid-oceanic convergence to form the island. The same ridge that produced Macquarie Island also creates ocean currents that generate biodiverse hotspots, and we were greeted with evidence of just that this morning. During breakfast, we spotted several whale blows in all directions around National Geographic Endurance . We sighted two southern right whales, one of the rarer cetaceans in the Southern Ocean, and numerous sei whales. We were also escorted by a large pod of long-finned pilot whales. The large males and pairs of mothers and calves were just off the bow. They had large, round, shiny heads, white blazes, and beautiful saddles. It was truly a treat to watch them effortlessly move through the water as a unit before disappearing together in one fluid dive. We had two lectures by the photo team. One helped us better understand the phone in our pockets, a.k.a. our smartphone, and the other helped us improve our bird photography. Next up was a lecture on the smell of the ocean by naturalist Conor Ryan. We learned how birds find dense prey aggregations in the vast ocean they call home. The seas were relatively calm, and the fog came and went throughout the day. Albatrosses soared along effortlessly as we moved toward our next destination. The air is getting noticeably cooler. Soon we will lose sight of the vegetation we have been enjoying along with the milder temperatures. We are getting ever closer to the Ross Sea. We are getting closer to Antarctica.
Although we arrived in thick fog and rain, the weather and visibility gradually improved as the day progressed. We Zodiac-cruised the bays of the inner harbour in the morning, followed by a rewarding hike to a southern royal albatross colony under blue skies in the evening.