The Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, 2/14/2023, National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
After a few days of activities in the Ross Sea, we started today with a late breakfast. Foggy weather made it challenging to search for wildlife on the bridge. A few snow petrels flew close to our vessel. Naturalist Conor Ryan gave a presentation about the history of whaling in the Ross Sea and West Antarctica. Then Gabriela Roldan shared her knowledge about Scott’s expeditions in Antarctica.
After lunch, Rob Edwards told us about the geology of Antarctica. Everyone was excited to attend evening recap to learn information about tomorrow’s plans. The chef invited guests to join her for another delicious adventure during dinner. After dinner, we went for a late evening Zodiac cruise along the Ross Ice Shelf in the Bay of Whales. We saw a leopard seal and an emperor penguin.
Katya Uriupova is a Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute (Washington DC, USA). Passionate about the polar regions, Katya grew up in remote and cold Siberia. She received her PhD in Environmental Sciences from Moscow State University, Russia. She hol...
In the early hours of the morning, we saw land silhouetted behind a curtain of mist and clouds on the horizon. It was Cape Horn, the legendary landmark that witnessed many shipwrecks in past times. This was the end of the South American continent, and for us, it was the last day of our voyage. The mythical lighthouse shone its light. With binoculars, we could see the lighthouse keeper’s accommodation, and farther away, the monument to the albatross. As we sailed northeast towards the Beagle Channel, landforms appeared closer and greener than ever before; this was the first time in more than three weeks that we could see trees. The native Nothofagus (southern beech trees), tussock grass, and shrubs seemed like a novelty after our ice encounters. The Beagle Channel is a large body of water that runs in a practically horizontal stretch at the end of the Large Island/Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego. It is also an international boundary between Argentina and Chile with only two urban settlements. Puerto Williams is on the southern coast of the channel, and Ushuaia, our last port of call, is on the northern coast. To guide us, an Argentine pilot joined the ship, with the boat approaching National Geographic Endurance on the starboard side while in motion. The Beagle is also home to many seabird species, and we were delighted to watch black browed-albatrosses, giant petrels, South American terns, cormorants, and Magellanic penguins. It will soon be time to say farewell to our voyage. We have spent the second month of 2023 together, creating memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Farewell, Antarctica. We will meet again.
The wind and sea conditions today were quite favorable, making for relatively pleasant conditions on deck from which to watch seabirds and the occasional passing ship. The naturalists on board gave presentations on the biology of whales and the adaptations of albatrosses. We are making good speed and are north of the Antarctic Convergence Zone (Antarctic Circumpolar Current) for the first time in almost three weeks!
Today aboard National Geographic Endurance , we cruised north up the Antarctic Peninsula. It is an unusual experience to arrive at the peninsula from the south via the Ross Sea and New Zealand rather than by the Drake Passage. Traveling back north through familiar waters felt like a novel homecoming. We started the day with a sunrise cruise through the Lemaire Channel, a narrow strip of water between Booth Island and the Antarctic mainland that is hemmed by towering heights. We photographed the hanging glaciers and marveled at Una Peaks. After a short respite for breakfast, whales were spotted. We rushed to the bow to view humpback whales diving, tail slapping, and fluking just in front of a beautiful iceberg. Midday, we arrived at Cuverville Island in the Errera Channel. We climbed ashore to witness our first views of large groups of gentoo penguins. This was our seventh or eighth penguin species of the trip, and it is such an iconic one. We watched as dozens of gentoos descended the ice-covered slopes in funny little lines on their way to the water. Back on the ship, just before teatime finished, we were called to the bridge again to watch another stunning humpback whale display. It was a fine day on the Antarctic Peninsula. IMAGE: A skua bathes in shallow water at Cuverville Island. Photo by Brett Garner