Glass calm seas and warm air greeted the morning in the Beagle Channel. This area is renowned for its fierce cold winds screaming by, so a sunny sky and pleasant weather was a surprise for us. A suite of sea birds flew by in the morning light as sea lions passed us by. Taking the same route Darwin took on the namesake ship of this channel, it’s easy to see what aspects of the natural world might have captivated him here.

Steaming west we enjoyed talks from our National Geographic photographer Krista and naturalist Phil as the snow-capped peaks rolled by. They imparted information about natural history and how to capture our story as we continue our voyage. After a stop at the dock in Ushuaia, we headed towards the Drake Passage once again, enroute to Antarctica.

Sea birds passed by in great numbers. Cormorants and terns in the thousands. Albatrosses and giant petrels in the hundreds. Midway down the channel we passed a breeding colony for Magellanic penguins. We spotted them by their burrows and on the beach in the hundreds.

As we continued on, so did the wildlife. We passed countless more sea birds and a group of sea lions on the rocks. Dusky and Peale’s dolphins splashed in the distance and came over to ride the bow of the National Geographic Explorer for a short period of time. Spotting spouts in the distance, we went for a closer look and had an amazing encounter with two sei whales. With expert navigation, our bridge team gave us incredible views of these wonderful creatures. As we pulled away, a humpback whale surfaced with more dolphins in the distance. Seeing these creatures is always incredible, having such intimate looks at them will not be forgotten./p>

After a delightful recap and dinner, our day began to wrap up. The Drake Passage and the Southern Ocean lay before us, and with a prediction of relatively light weather we look forward to another day at sea towards our destination at the bottom of the earth.