After long days of anticipation, preparation, and airplane travel, it was great to begin our first full day of exploration and expedition aboard National Geographic Resolution. We have left Punta Arenas, Chile and travelled overnight to Seno Almirantazgo, a deep embayment on the west side of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, the largest island of the southern tip of South America. The island is remote and largely empty of the imprint of civilization. We were able to explore the beaches, flats, and forests left after the ice sheets retreated 20,000 years ago.
National Geographic Explorer
Today was our last full day on board, so the decision was made to go big before we go home! National Geographic Explorer positioned beside Observatory Island at 5:00 am, and the deck crew dropped our Zodiacs as the sun rose behind the rugged peaks of Staten Island. We were going for a pre-breakfast cruise! Expedition travel always means being flexible, as changing weather and other factors can mean an abrupt change in plan. But this was yet another morning when we were able to accomplish Plan A. Near-windless conditions meant for a slow, glassy, rolling swell. That, coupled with the slanted golden light of early morning, made for a photographer’s dream! Observatory Island is seldom visited by anyone. The fur seals were curious about us, approaching our Zodiacs and kicking and splashing. We observed many bird species we had not yet seen on this voyage, ranging from snowy sheathbills (common in Antarctica) to black-faced ibises, and we had wonderfully close views of Magellanic penguins, both on land and at sea. By 8:00 am, we were back on the ship for a hot breakfast as we headed for Cabo San Juan and the famous “Lighthouse at the End of the World” on the remote eastern tip of Staten Island. With glassy sea conditions and the sun beating down on us, the weather was decidedly “un-Patagonian.” In fact, it was nearly tropical! It was perfect for a hike over rolling hills of spongy peat bog up to the lighthouse, where we looked down at our ship anchored in the turquoise waters of the kelp-fringed bay. It was a stunning end to an amazing nine days of Patagonian exploration. After lunch, National Geographic Explorer turned back westward and headed over sun-spangled seas towards Ushuaia, where we will finish our voyage tomorrow.