The Ross Sea, 1/19/2023, National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
Today was one of those days that feels like the world is singing. It is a sea day but there is no wind, and the sun is sparkling off the sea ice. The ship is traveling the exact speed of the prevailing wind and so the decks are windless. We tap and bump our way through sea ice covered with tracks of seals and footprints of penguins. Many of us are walking laps around the deck, enjoying the smooth seas and sunshine.
Occasionally, we find a lone emperor penguin standing on the pack ice. Then we waken sleeping Weddell seals and crabeater seals as our ship passes by.
We are in a blue and white world where the sun never sets, the beauty is unending, and the life around us is like nowhere else on earth.
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 ...
Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland, along with other destinations. His 33 years as a professional wildlife photograp...
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