Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Torres Del Paine National Park

    Waking up at five in the morning is never pleasant, but sometimes the rewards make it more than worth the effort. Besides, you can sleep in the bus! Our tiredness soon disappeared as the scenery around us started to change. As we drove through the grasslands, we anticipated what lay ahead of us at one of Chile’s premier destinations, Torres Del Paine National Park. Breath-taking views and chances for incredible wildlife awaited us, and any discussion of the early morning soon went away.

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  • Southern Patagonia Icefield

    Patagonia is usually considered one of the windiest and wettest regions on Earth, but that was not the case today. Thanks to the high-pressure system working as a barrier out in the Pacific Ocean, we’ve been able to enjoy a lovely, unusually sunny and warm day as we sailed around the perimeter of the Southern Patagonia Icefield. This enormous icefield, spanning about 12,500 square kilometers and spreading across the border between Chile and Argentina, hosts a spectacular array of outlet glaciers and associated glacial landforms in an intricate network of fjords and channels.

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  • Tortel, Chile

    An early wake-up call alerted everyone to a photo opportunity and view of the full moon setting in clear skies among snow-capped peaks. We were approaching the small, remote community of Tortel. Spread out over a high, rounded hill south of the mouth and delta of the Rio Baker, Tortel consists of 500 inhabitants whose homes and businesses are connected by wooden boardwalks. A spur route off the Austral Highway connects the town to the outside world. But the road ends on the edge of the town and turns into boardwalks spiderwebbed throughout the village.

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  • Puerto Chacabuco

    Driving through the pampas in the foothills of the Andes, we were greeted by beautiful views of the snow-covered mountain peaks and the flowing river of the valley below. We spotted many different species of birds on our bus ride, including turkey vulture, striated caracara, and Chilean flamingos. Arriving at the Coyhaique National Reserve, we led several hikes which gave us the opportunity to experience the transition in landscape from the temperate rainforest we saw earlier in the trip to the beginning of Patagonia’s high desert steppe region. After working up an appetite we were rewarded with a meal of carne asada, an amazing Patagonian lamb barbecue, which was accompanied by plenty food, local drinks, and wonderful music.

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  • Pumalín Park

    Pumalín Park is an enormous area of limited development and active conservation in Chile’s center. Its designation in 2005 as a nature sanctuary has granted it additional protection to secure its ecological values and prevent development. It effectively serves as a nature belt, allowing birds, animals, and plants to spread in all directions and access the sea uninterrupted. We went ashore at this beautiful reserve in the morning, going on both short and long walks to discover some of the endemic species. Afterwards we stopped briefly at the small coffee shop nestled in the shoreline and then went back on board for a fantastic lunch and afternoon at sea. Regaled with a lecture from the photography team on board and our Global Perspectives guest speaker, we sailed south, towards tomorrow’s adventure.

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  • Chiloé, Chile

    Our first full day of this Patagonian expedition saw us disembarking on the “Greater Island of Chiloé,” a name that means “place of seagulls” in the Mapuche language. It’s a destination still delightfully lost in time, at least for now, as plans for a road bridge to the mainland are under active consideration and the current stream of tourism may turn into a full flood in a few years’ time. Those who visit Chiloé today do so for its unspoilt scenery and rustic charm—we saw a field being cultivated with an ox-drawn plough as we drove along—and for its remarkable collection of wooden churches, some dating back to the time of the early Jesuit missions to the area. These churches of Chiloé were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 2000. We divided into two groups, one group concentrating on cultural heritage, the other on natural history.

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  • Bernal Glacier and White Narrows

    Today we were greeted by the first sun rays illuminating the ice of Bernal Glacier. National Geographic Orion has sailed into the Montañas Fiord, in which this glacier is located. After breakfast we started our operations to land and hike to the glacier’s terminus, where we could get face to face with ice that is several thousand years in age. We all had a memorable experience by spending the morning in front of this glacier.

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  • Cape Horn, Chile

    Our “bumpy” day on National Geographic Orion began promptly at 7:30 this morning when our expedition leader Doug announced that we have reached the southernmost tip of the South American continent. This destination is known formally as Cape Horn, but more familiarly as the island at end of the world.

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  • Bahía Franklin and Bahía Canepa

    Bahía Franklin or “Franklin Bay” is as much a picturesque anchorage as it is a wellspring for wildlife on this part of the globe. After a night cruising down the Beagle Channel and into the South Atlantic, we arrived just as the sun broke from a scattering of clouds. Because of the generally torrential conditions, National Geographic Orion has only succeeded in landing twice before at this location. Our natural history staff led hikes through the tussock grass to a nearby rockhopper penguin colony. This is the largest and southernmost colony in South America, with approximately 127,000 nesting pairs. Slightly less plentiful are the charming burrowing Magellanic penguins, who also favor the island’s temperate climes. Recent counts show their numbers up by 50% in the last 10 years, with approximately 1,600 nesting pairs.

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