As National Geographic Resolution cruised through Marguerite Bay early this morning, an attempt was made to land at Red Rock Ridge to visit an Adelie penguin colony. Staff departed before breakfast in a Zodiac to brave the large waves and icebergs looming around the ship. After searching for a safe landing site, the staff concluded that conditions would not allow a safe landing. Plan B was set in motion. By the end of breakfast, National Geographic Resolution reached our second location, the historic site and monument of Stonington, Base E (a British Antarctic survey hut). After an amazing breakfast with stunning views of the surrounding glaciers, we departed for the shores of Stonington Island. Upon landing, guests explored the interior of the British hut and caught glimpses of the U.S. East Base, the oldest American base in Antarctica. The British hut was closed in 1975, and many of the contents were removed. However, it remains true to the era and was restored as a historical site. During the height of its use, the UK base often cooperated with the U.S. base to provide sledging support to the American aerial survey. A solitary cross sits upon a rocky outcropping on the far end of the island, a tribute to the death of two men who died in a storm while sledging in 1966. After exploring the island, guests departed for the ship for an afternoon of cruising and talks by on-board naturalists. Shortly after lunch, one of the largest icebergs seen this voyage (taller than National Geographic Resolution) swept past the ship. As the evening came to an end, naturalists presented their daily recaps and guests relaxed as we cruised north.
National Geographic Explorer
We headed into the infamous Drake Passage last night after five days in Antarctica, so today's slightly later wakeup call and breakfast were a welcomed change of pace. A day at sea, however, does not mean fewer opportunities for wildlife spotting! Large numbers of seabirds flew all around the ship, such as southern giant petrels, Antarctic prions, and Cape petrels. We observed several light-mantled albatrosses, considered by some to be the most beautiful of that spectacular family of birds. In the early afternoon, several of the less commonly seen Antarctic petrels joined the fray, distinguishable from the artistically patterned Cape petrels (known also by their Spanish name 'pintado,' meaning painted) by their more orderly black and white plumage. While sea days spent heading back north from Antarctica provide time for reflection and processing of our experiences over the last few days, the lecture and enrichment program also continues. In the morning, Undersea Specialist Emmett Clarkin spoke about the ocean currents that keep Antarctica cold and insulate it from the rest of the planet, while Naturalist Elise Lockton gave a long-anticipated account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous Imperial Transantarctic Expedition. Finally, Naturalist Maria Intxaustegi presented some of her experiences working as a marine archaeologist. After a hearty dinner of Japanese okonomiyaki, we gathered once more in the lounge for a showing of the documentary Around Cape Horn, in which Captain Irving Johnson recalls his time sailing aboard the bark Peking from Europe around Cape Horn to Santiago. This film puts the historic significance of our spectacular ocean crossing into fitting perspective, especially as we hope to catch a glimpse of the famous lighthouse and monument at Cape Horn tomorrow morning.