There are few places on the planet as spectacular as the Weddell Sea. Visiting this part of Antarctica is often synonymous with little sleep. Our adventures here began late last night, when we were lucky to spot a group of Type B killer whales. Their exhales were audible in the calm waters and the sky slowly turned red as the sun set behind tabular icebergs on the horizon. It wasn’t long before we were woken up by the sounds of the National Geographic Endurance navigating through sea ice early in the morning. All eyes were on the lookout enjoying the scenery as we made our way towards Snow Hill Island. Parking into the fast ice, we had the perfect setting for Naturalist Carl Erik Kilander to tell the story of Ernest Shackleton and the original Endurance. We rugged up to spend the morning in the sunshine walking on the fast ice, enjoying amazing views of the ship, toasting with champagne, and the company of curious Adelie penguins and snoozing crabeater seals. To make the day even more perfect, we were treated to an awesome burger-day BBQ lunch – a luxury Shackleton and his crew certainly never experienced while in this location – just before spotting an Emperor penguin on an ice floe. As we cruised north out of the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Sound in the evening we enjoyed our last views of tabular icebergs and the Antarctic continent, ready to continue on our journey in the Southern Ocean.
National Geographic Explorer
Today was one of fullness. Full sun, full plates, full smiles. An exploration of Enterprise Island via Zodiac granted us looks at a pair of humpback whales that lifted tails fully out of the water. Because individual humpback flukes have distinct scarring, coloration, and shape, this allows for easy identification – with the right camera, of course. By uploading these images into an online database, both of these whales were recognized and one had even been previously logged from this very same ship, four years ago in the same location. A hike up Danco Island provided more than an eyeful of sweeping panoramic views of the stunning Errera Channel, flanked in all directions with towering ice-covered peaks. We spent several hours observing a bustling gentoo penguin colony; determined parents marching their way up their tamped down snow highways to feed chicks and relieve their mate so they can trudge down to the water and head out looking for sustenance. And just when it feels like there can’t be any more to squeeze into a single day, we spotted killer whales and enjoyed a transit through the ever-entrancing Lemaire Channel.