It’s always a bittersweet feeling sailing north across the Drake Passage from Antarctica back to South America. The Drake Passage certainly lived up to its reputation on this leg of our journey, serving as the real ticket to go home. Of course, we do love the wildlife that the less calm condition of the Drake brings for us! As we made our way closer back to South America, we were treated to fantastic sightings of birds from sunrise to sunset. From the tiny cape petrels to the stunning light-mantled sooty albatross, and even passes by the largest flying bird on the planet, the great wandering albatross. When we could manage to peel our eyes away from the windows, we enjoyed the final presentations by our amazing expedition staff team: “On Assignment with National Geographic” by photographer Krista Rossow, and “Climate Change in Polar Regions and Solutions to a Big Dilemma” with Joe Holliday and Bud Lehnhausen. By early evening, we were essentially surrounded by large groups of giant petrels soaring closely alongside the ship. We rounded out the final evening of our expedition with our Captain’s Farewell cocktail party. The premier presentation of our guest slideshow is always a perfect way to reflect on our trip, but this evening was made even more special by a wonderful group of guests who shared incredibly kind words of what made the trip so memorable for them and toast to all the people that made it what it was. The inaugural Antarctic voyage of the beautiful National Geographic Endurance feels like it passed by in the blink of an eye, but is surely a trip we all will never forget.
National Geographic Explorer
Today we have had a truly memorable and wonderful day exploring Antarctica aboard our aptly named expedition ship, National Geographic Explorer . Last night, Expedition Leader Bud Lehnhausen, who has been working in the expedition industry for over 40 years, told us that he would evaluate the weather and ice conditions and give us an updated plan in the morning. This was a fitting and refreshing message, given how detailed logistics can be with a voyage like this. During breakfast, Bud outlined a plan over the public address. The day was filled with pleasant surprises and once in a lifetime experiences for many of us. Right after breakfast, the bridge officers parked our ship directly beside the fast ice in Duse Bay. Surrounded by the Antarctic continent, we walked off the ship’s B Deck directly onto the four-foot-thick ice and explored around the vast white expanse. Some guests took classic pictures, posing in front of the bow while pretending to haul one of the ship’s lines. Others studied the details of the crystalline structure of the ice. A few times during the morning, we were visited by groups of Adélie penguins. We made room for them as they walked by our group along the fast ice. During lunch, the bridge guided the ship to Brown Bluff while weaving through various large tabular icebergs. Along the way, two humpback whales were spotted, and the ship slowed down so we could observe. This was a highlight for many, and we got a close view of these beautiful migrating creatures of the sea. A few keen photographers captured images of the underside of the fluke. These images can be used to identify individual whales, and we have submitted them to Happy Whale, an organization dedicated to the better understanding and conservation of whales. At Brown Bluff, we set out to explore the collection of impressive icebergs via our fleet of Zodiacs, and we spent time on shore observing the Adélie penguin colony. Back on the ship, we were treated to a delicious dinner. Afterwards, we had popcorn in the lounge while listening to wildlife filmmaker David Wright share stories from his 40-year career in the field making documentaries for National Geographic. Today was a day that many will never forget.