Today, many of us started the day much earlier than normal. The proximity to land was a welcomed sight after a few days at sea. A few intrepid explorers successfully overcame the landing pier and the swell and managed a visit to Georgetown, the capital of Ascension Island. All of us happily went out later in the afternoon for a visit to the incredible Boatswain Bird Island, one of the best islands in the world for tropical seabirds. Huge numbers of seabirds breed on this island, including, until very recently, the entire population of Ascension frigatebirds!
This morning’s destination was Capitan Canepa Bay, located on the southern end of Isla de los Estados. The entrance to the bay is covered with impressive, rugged cliffs. Southern swells have slowly eroded the cliffs, creating several large sea caves. As the ship proceeded to the end of the fiord, it passed several small bays that were later explored via Zodiac. At the end of one bay, a small waterfall spilled its watershed from a hidden lake sitting above the rocky cliffs and out of our sight. As guests explored the small lagoons and hidden caves, seal pups were often found tucked away in the rocky outcroppings by their worried mothers who were far out to sea. Guests returned to the ship for lunch, and we began our transit to Franklin Bay in pursuit of rockhopper penguins. Upon arrival, a few penguins were spotted in the water. We observed at least a dozen invasive red deer in the surrounding hills and valleys. A small herd of feral goats was discovered in the intertidal zone, evidence of poorly understood introductions in the past. After a ship cruise of Franklin Bay, we departed for Ushuaia to arrive in time for guest disembarkation. The evening closed with presentations by the naturalist staff, the guest slideshow, and the captain’s farewell. After an amazing experience in Southern Patagonia, the trip came to a happy ending.
Overnight, we made our way to San Juan de Salvamento Bay, located at the very northeast end of Isla de los Estados (Staten Island). This is the location of the very first lighthouse in Argentina and in austral waters; it was built in 1884. It is also called the Lighthouse at the End of the World, as the lighthouse inspired Jules Verne’s famous book of the same name, which was published posthumously in 1905. At the break of dawn, we were already in the bay. We were greeted by a view of the lighthouse, which is a replica donated to Argentina by a French team in 1998. The original is being restored in Ushuaia. A chilly morning with calm waters and beautiful sunny weather made for a great landing, and expedition members of National Geographic Endurance enjoyed a steep, beautiful walk to the lighthouse. We had staggering views of the various bays that make up this corner of the island. We were also greeted by the sight of caracaras, steamer ducks, kelp geese, and other birds. The morning was glorious. On the drive to Puerto Hoppner, we were in awe as we took in the views of the north shores of Staten Island, which reminded us of South Georgia. We were lucky enough to spot albatrosses, giant petrels, and Peale’s dolphins! Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the majesty and beauty of Puerto Hoppner. We spent the afternoon in this remote bay scouting for wildlife. We were welcomed by views of steamer ducks, cormorants, and turkey vultures all set within the majesty of the snowcapped mountains. Today was a day to remember.
We are well into the tropics now. The sea around us is the deep blue of the open ocean, far from land. The surface is broken by whitecaps blown by the southern trade winds. Day by day, we are traversing great regions of the Atlantic, feeling our planet moving around us as we make our way slowly north. It’s a remarkable place to be – the sea stretches out to the horizon all around us, featureless to a casual glance, but offering a beautiful insight into the real nature of our world: Planet Ocean.
National Geographic Orion anchored in the calm waters of a remote Polynesian paradise. Swaying palm trees and fragrant Alexandrian laurels shaded an idyllic white sand beach on Alofi Island, overlooking the alluring azure seas. In the space of one day, we enjoyed the sights of dazzling reef fish, abundant and native birdlife, fun with kayaks and standup paddleboards, and a traditional feast prepared with warmth and hospitality by our friendly hosts. All this colorful majesty was captured brilliantly by our talented videographer, Eric Wehrmeister, who chronicled the adventures with aerial quadcopters, capturing the memories of a lifetime.