We awoke on National Geographic Resolution ready to start our South American adventure. We began on Staten Island off the southern tip of South America, east of the mainland into the Atlantic. This island, known in South America and Chile as Isla de los Esatados, is rich in wildlife, fjords, and history. Today’s adventures began on the northern side of the island, just east of its midpoint in Puerto Cook. This beautiful fjord extends into Isla de los Estados, the deep south. We landed on the rocky beach and began hiking farther south, reaching the opposite side of Isla de los Estados and Puerto Vancouver – one of the few easy hikes that allows for access to both the northern and southern shores of this majestic, kelp-circled island. After enjoying the hike and learning more about the flora and fauna of the island, we returned northwards, back to our landing beach and back to our home, National Geographic Resolution. After a lovely morning, we had a wonderful lunch, crafted with care and expertise by the hotel department. We scurried north out of the fjord and then east, continuing along Isla de los Estados. Eventually, we came upon our afternoon destination, Puerto San Juan del Salvamento. Puerto San Juan del Salvamento is another large fjord, one of the most easterly fjords of all of Isla de los Estados. We boarded Zodiacs for cruises to explore the wildlife found all around Puerto San Juan del Salvamento as well as to enjoy the beautiful kelp forests. Then we turned our Zodiacs southwest to make a landing on the beach and to again walk amongst the shrubbery on the island. Meanwhile, our undersea team ventured deep into the abyss to document kelp forests in all their glory, bringing back footage to showcase while we sailed west to our next day of adventure on this island.
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.