Today was our last day to experience the wilderness of South Georgia. Tucked away into a small cove at the northern tip of the island, the National Geographic Endurance was surrounded by a sampling of almost every species we had seen over the last week. Nesting albatrosses tucked away in the tussock grass eyed Zodiacs passing by, and thousands of macaroni penguins called out to each other and at passing skuas warning them away from their precious eggs. On the beaches, hundreds of Antarctic fur seals eyed us warily as we watched them battle for small parcels of territory on the cobbled shore; female fur seals fought the males off with even more vigor than other males – likely just wanting a moment’s rest with their newborn pups before the males claimed their rights over their harems. As the Endurance pulled anchor and started making her way north, she made one last stop to bow into a cove of Trinity Island. Here, thousands of macaroni penguins made a colony, and one hundred years ago, a small colony of fur seals survived the slaughter of the fur trade to repopulate the entire Southern Ocean.
National Geographic Resolution
Any true voyage contains the element of return. As we approached South America, we reflected on our voyage thus far. Nearly three weeks ago, we cast our lines from Ushuaia and sailed towards the seventh continent. We saw corners of the world privy only to a few…truly special experiences that we will hold close for our lifetimes. Seabirds circled the ship, coming in and out of our wake to pay visits. These beautiful animals wander the ocean. They are at home at sea, an alien concept to us terrestrial animals. As the day progressed, the landscape began to unravel. Snowy peaks in the distance eventually gave way to a forested landscape, quite a shock as we had not seen proper trees in weeks! For our final wildlife encounter, we spent time with a group of killer whales. Our incredible ship and bridge team allowed close and personal views of these amazing animals. Aboard the ship, we hosted presentations with topics on photography and how to take observations from our voyage and share them with the scientific community. The hotel department pampered us with delicious treats. Our much-anticipated auction was a lively hit, raising money for our crew fund and conservation on South Georgia. In the afternoon, we met our pilots on the eastern edge of the Beagle Channel. Under their guidance, we will be dockside in a few hours, the same location we departed from three weeks ago. It feels like a lifetime has passed, bursting with countless memories. Memories we look forward to taking home with us and sharing with our loved ones and the world.