Today’s wildlife encounters were a first for almost every person on board National Geographic Explorer, including the ship’s crew and staff: emperor penguins, LOTS of emperor penguins! A morning of exploration near James Ross and Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea produced the first sighting of the famous, elusive penguins of the season for the ship’s company and crew. The morning’s fog couldn’t keep the captain from navigating expertly around the maze of sea ice while scouring eyes found one, then another, then a small group of emperor penguin chicks huddled together on sea ice! The sightings continued throughout the morning. The fog cleared while we kayaked, and the winds subsided to sunny skies and flat, calm waters. Guests enjoyed kayaking amongst the ice and viewing the penguins, followed by a record 81 souls flying into the frigid waters of Antarctica during the highly anticipated polar plunge.

The ship couldn’t even get through lunch without being interrupted by the sighting of a lifetime, as the captain and crew located the local colony of emperor penguins. Thousands of penguins perched on a massive floe of ice. They entertained and enthralled us, bringing tears to the eyes of many of the ship’s guests and crew. Such a sighting is special and rare, and this trip just seems to be delivering unexpected and incredible wildlife sightings.

The spectacular weather continued for our evening landing at Snow Hill Island, the overwintering location of the Nordenskjöld party. Guests were fascinated by the unique geology and the terrain, marine fossils, heroic Antarctic history, and stunning views. The new year is delivering for the guests of National Geographic Explorer, and many are wondering, can it get any better?