After an amazing time exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, we awoke on the final day of our journey to blue skies and wonderfully calm seas as we neared the end of the infamous Drake Passage. Right out of the gates in the morning, Naturalist Madalena Patacho told us the story of Magellan, before our attention was drawn to the slight detour we had made to sail by Cape Horn. As we made our way towards the Beagle Channel, we enjoyed views of Peale’s dolphins riding the X-bow of the National Geographic Endurance. Soon after lunch, the fresh breeze beckoned us outside again to appreciate the smell of earth and trees as we made our way back into the southern tip of South America, just in time to listen to naturalist Conor Ryan give a talk on “The Smell of the Sea.” Several species of seabirds – from albatross to petrels and penguins – and views of sei whales were seen around the ship in the afternoon. We finally rounded out our last day on board this magnificent ship with the world premiere of the Guest Slideshow, before celebrating our experience over the last 10 days at Captain Aaron Woods’ farewell cocktail party.
National Geographic Explorer
Almost home. Land is in sight as we complete our crossing of the Drake Passage and draw within view of Cape Horn. As sunrise begins to illuminate the clouds, we see the blinking light of the Cabo de Hornos lighthouse. Expedition leader Lucho tells us about the poignant albatross sculpture dedicated to lost mariners and reads us the associated poem in Spanish and English. We are sailing in sheltered waters now, and the sea has reached the balmy temperature of more than 7° C. The seabirds we have learned to recognize in the open ocean–albatrosses, petrels, and prions–are now joined by others, such as imperial shags from Patagonia. Fur seals are once again frolicking near the ship. With formalities complete, there is time for a last series of presentations from our expedition staff, including: a lively account of the world-defining voyage of Ferdinand Magellan by naturalist Madalena Patacho, intriguing ‘Behind the Scenes’ insights into the life of an undersea specialist from Brett Garner, and more about the famous Endurance expedition under the leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleton. After making time for some excellent afternoon Swedish pancakes, we sailed the remaining stretch along the Beagle Channel and came at last to port in Ushuaia. We gathered in the lounge for farewell cocktails with our captain. We celebrated the wonders we experienced over the last ten days, the good friends we traveled with and with whom we shared our discovery of the Antarctic, and the glorious land of Antarctica–the seascapes, history, and wildlife. Where will we travel next? Photo caption: An avian harbinger of the coming day. Photo by Steve Backus