Crystal Sound and Marguerite Bay

Jan 30, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

After a smooth passage through the night, National Geographic Orion continued to make its way toward Crystal Sound

We encountered pack ice along the way, a formidable amount, but not so much that our ship could not navigate its way through. This part of the excursion was a delight for guests and crew alike. Unfortunately, Andreas Madsen’s presentation on glaciers had to be postponed as the excitement from the prospect of getting to transit through pack ice grew.

There were some larger icebergs among the pack, and many crabeater seals hauled out on the flows. It was an opportunity to experience the true Antarctic in all its coastal glory.  As we nudged our way southward through the pack, we had the added pleasure of celebrating the crossing of the Antarctic Circle.

Unfortunately, the ice got too thick, and we had to redirect our plans to visit Crystal Sound. Captain Aaron Wood and our expedition leader decided we could make better use of the circumstances by going around Adelaide Island and into Marguerite Bay, which the satellite imagery suggested was clear of ice.

Soon after lunch, Andreas resumed his presentation, and just as soon as he began, a call came up that there were killer whales near the ship. Again, Andreas’ presentation was postponed as guests scrambled for cameras, coats, and binoculars, rushing to get a view of these magnificent animals. They were large and showed more white than those we had seen previously, indicating they may have been a small group of transient whales. It is always a rush to see the top predator of the Antarctic in its natural surroundings.

Finally, once the killer whales departed, Andreas managed to deliver the presentation without interruption, which was well received, then followed up by presenter Javier Cotin’s “Fantastic Beasts [Penguins] and where to find them.”

But our day did not finish out there. After another wonderful meal, National Geographic Orion arrived in Marguerite Bay and Jenny Island, and those who wished to disembark were taken ashore to see three male elephant seals, one of which rounded out to the size of a small sedan. There were also two Antarctic fur seals and three Weddell seals.

Sometimes the best way to finish an eventful day is with more events, and to day was certainly one of those!

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe


John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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