Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Isla de los estados, San Juan de Salvamento

    National Geographic Orion is navigating along the southernmost region of the American continent following the routes of early voyagers and explorers. Staten Island is our destination for today and we are very excited to set a foot on this rocky island with forests of evergreen beech and winter bark trees. This island is home to South American sealions, giant petrels, kelp gulls and many other birds. It is also the place where the legendary Les Éclaireurs, or “Lighthouse at the End of the World,” is located: This being the inspiration for the French writer Jules Verne.

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  • Franklin Bay and Captain Canepa Bay

    Staten Island is in an area notorious for strong winds and generally bad weather, which made our day all the more special. In the morning we had some wind and a few drops of rain which cleared to give a really beautiful and dramatic landscape to Zodiac cruise into, through a relatively narrow channel before landing on a sandy beach and splashing ashore. Many then hiked to see some rockhopper penguins.

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  • Cape Horn, Chile

    Cape Horn is a small island at the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. This notorious point marks the southernmost point of South America, a graveyard for many mariners of wooden sailing ships. “I am the albatross who awaits you at the end of the world,” wrote Sara Vial in 1992. Today the poem, written in a marble slab by the monument, that reveals the silhouette of a wandering albatross, honors all those fearless souls, that unsuccessfully tried to round the cape.

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  • Garibaldi Fjord, Chile

    Today was a truly fantastic day for our expedition. After arriving in the morning to the Garibaldi Glacier we left National Geographic Orion to explore the ice face and the fjord in the Zodiacs. It did not take us long to realize that this is a remarkable place not only due to the advancing glacier that calves into the fjord, but also to the surrounding forest of nothofagus or southern beech trees that grow all the way to the edge of the ice and snow. Along the steep walls of the fjord, a large number of waterfalls cascade into the water, contributing to the presence of glacial flour or finely ground stone that gives the water almost a milky appearance. We were not only taken aback by the imposing glacier wall and its stunning blue colour, but driving through the brash ice of the fjord allowed us to experience this place with all our senses: the sound of the ice being pushed by the Zodiacs, the water falling from the heights of the stone walls into the fjord, and the thundery sound of the calving glacier really added a new dimension to the whole experience.

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  • Ainsworth Bay/Garibaldi Narrows

    This morning we found ourselves in Ainsworth Bay, with the Marinelli Glacier peeking at us from around the corner. Marinelli is the fastest receding glacier in all of South America, and as we took Zodiacs to shore, we could see the terminal moraine which was an indication of where the glacier stood one hundred years earlier. Photographic evidence shows that it has receded 100 km since 1913. 

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  • Jackson Bay and Parry bay | Tierra del Fuego

    Jackson Bay of Karukinka’s Natural Reserve was where we started our day. Slowly approaching the beach on very shallow waters we could see the reflection of the bended Lengas, southern beech trees. The water falling from high in the mountains surrounded us and a big elephant seal at a distances raised it’s head pronouncing a strong trumpet like sound that echoed all around the mountains.

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  • At Sea Exploring Fjords | Patagonia

    Traveling at sea aboard National Geographic Orion, the passing landscape was nothing short of spectacular this morning. The grey skies against the towering snow-capped fjord walls set the scene for a beautifully moody day. We spent some time sipping lattes in the cozy lounge while watching black-browed albatross glide effortlessly behind our ship. Now that we’ve unpacked and settled-in a bit, our time aboard the ship was a good opportunity to get to know our naturalists, photographers, officers, and crew. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers the unique opportunity to see how navigation occurs with the open bridge policy. We watched the bridge team hard at work and were able to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on transiting these narrow and shallow fjords. It is a given in almost any expedition that wildlife will appear at inopportune times – and without fail, our photography lecture was cut short due to the presence of feeding humpback whales and various bird species. Despite the eight-foot wingspan of the black-browed albatrosses, the surrounding landscape dwarfed them to mere specks on the water.

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  • San Juan de Salvamaneto, Staten Island

    Waking in the protected harbor of San Juan de Salvamento, we began our operations for the day in true Patagonia weather: a bit cloudy with strong winds. We took our Zodiacs to the landing to visit the “Lighthouse at the End of the World.” After a winding hike through low southern beech trees, we crested the top and were treated to a view of the cliffs below and an ever-present fog hanging just above our heads. After lunch, we sailed back to pick up a few researchers we had dropped off in Isla de los Estados a few days prior. The conditions looked favorable, so we were able to make a short Zodiac cruise to see steep cliffs with nesting rockhopper penguins.

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  • Cánepa Bay, Staten Island, Argentina

    Franklin Bay, our first stop in the morning, proved to be too much for us to make a landing. Winds gusting to 50 knots are regular in these latitudes and we had to go to plan B. Cánepa Bay proved to be well-protected from the “furious fifties” and we explored this magnificent fjord system for several hours. In the afternoon our plans to visit another location were interrupted by a group of killer whales that was prowling the rocky coasts where several hundred South American fur seals were resting, afraid of getting into the water. After an hour of quiet observation, the whales finally decided to catch one of the seals, right under our bow! The day ended on the sheltered waters of Puerto Cook, our intended destination for tomorrow morning.

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  • Cape Horn

    The road signs in Ushuaia proudly declared the town to be the southernmost in the world: Fin del Mundo. Chileans may choose to disagree but this lively township (at least in the summer season) on the Beagle Channel has an interesting history. When Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle surveyed this passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the south of Tierra del Fuego, he had captured some members of the native population to take back to England between voyages. Jemmy Button, York Minster, Fuegia Basket, and Boat Memory were dressed in contemporary English costumes, taught English table manners, and even presented to the royal family before being returned to Tierra del Fuego in the company of Charles Darwin on the voyage that departed from Plymouth in 1831. (Boat Memory sadly died while in England, as a consequence of a well-intentioned smallpox inoculation.) What ensued was a fascinating case study in the relative strengths of nature versus nurture, with the released Fuegians (as FitzRoy called them) quickly reverting to their former habits, an occurrence noted with horror by Darwin.

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