Dispatches From National Geographic Resolution's Christening Ceremony
On November 22, 2021, National Geographic Resolution parked in fast ice in the Weddell Sea’s Duse Bay to perform a special inaugural ritual. Gathered alongside the ship, guests, staff, and crew watched as Captain Heidi Norling, Lindblad Expeditions’ first female captain, christened the brand-new polar vessel. Here’s a taste of what it felt like to be there.
In the afternoon we repositioned to Stromness, the site of an old whaling station. Here, some of us Zodiac cruised while many kayaked amongst the abundant fur seals. We experienced pretty much every behavior possible as they were particularly feisty today. As the afternoon progressed, a fleet of alien spaceship lenticular clouds developed and as the sunset and the alpenglow developed, we enjoyed one of the most spectacular evenings possible. The magic and wonder of South Georgia continued today. We awoke to glassy seas as we approached Godthul, a beautiful bay that made for a perfect morning spot. Here, some of us Zodiac cruised, while others hiked to a lake and beyond. All enjoyed abundant wildlife and stunning views. Fur seals and elephant seals lined the beaches while pintail ducks and South Georgia pipits abounded.
While South Georgia never ceases to amaze, some days are beyond magic. Today was one of those days. From the very beginning, when we arrived on the beach at St. Andrew’s Bay beneath a patchwork of puffy clouds and warm weather, we were off to a great start. Just getting ashore can often be challenging but today, swell and weather were in our favor so we took the opportunity and traipsed amongst the din of 250,000 pairs of king penguins, South Georgia’s largest colony. These charismatic birds not only covered many square miles of post glacial landscape but were stacked thick along the small adjoining islands of the bay. Sea and penguin layered by cloud and mountain top. On shore some giant petrels were making short work of weak or sick penguins while, just off shore, others were cleaning up after their meal. These large, stocky, confident sea birds plunge their bloodied faces in and out of the water after a meal. Often oblivious to impressed onlookers. Our afternoon offered a slice of history and culture at Grytviken whaling station. This site has been preserved in an effort to educate contemporary generations about the former scale of whaling while also serving as the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Massive blubber storage tanks flank the station to the north while equally large diesel tanks mirror them to the south. Between are the various bits of machinery used to process and render blubber into useable oil. A grisly scene to any whale loving naturalist. Above it all was a long, sinuous lenticular cloud, which slowly built during our stay. As we headed away from the station the cloud grew in length and form and was joined by other lenticular clouds in every direction. As the light grew more dim the clouds began to glow. Smooth-edged, elongated formations transformed from pink, to orange, to steely grey as the evening matured. Before the full crescendo we joined our two sister ships, the NG Endurance and Resolution in Cumberland Bay. Side by side by side, beneath a riot of color, three of our Antarctic worthy vessels shared a moment of beauty. Three proud captains, supported by three teams of staff and crew all sharing hellos and “I miss you’s” via radio, aboard three beautiful ships, had a chance to share a moment in one of the most impressive landscapes on the planet. It was just one of those days. Beyond magic.
The silver bellies were scattered across the dark sand beach of Gold Harbor this morning. Silver bellies that belonged to the hundreds of newly weaned elephant seal pups that awaited us on shore. These curious big-eyed adorable seals were everywhere, barking, screaming and sneezing. The cute factor was off the charts. This location is personally one of my most favorite places on planet earth. To be on a beach surrounded by these adorable seals, watching king penguins come and go from the surf. Seeing the adult elephant seals scatter sand across their backs as they lay steaming in the sun... This morning was magical. Gold Harbor always is. The beautiful Bertrab glacier cascading down to the sea, with a foreground of animal diversity such as this is something that is hard to describe. For the afternoon, we traveled north to Godthul a deep inset bay where some of us went ashore for a long hike and others explored the bay by Zodiac. This location is not a predominant elephant seal colony so the beach has been open for the fur seals to come in and claim territories. We saw several fur seal pups that were only a couple of days, if not hours old. We explored kelp forests and tussock slopes. It was a very different destination from this morning and did not disappoint. What will tomorrow bring?
The most beautiful and serene place on earth might be South Georgia under a blue sky with no wind! This is what awaited us as we awoke at our overnight anchorage in Godthul. The Norwegian whalers named this cove and the translation of “good hollow” or “good anchorage” was incredibly apt. Our morning’s activities included a long hike from a rocky coastline dotted every 8 or 9 feet by a male fur seal. The hikers carefully picked their way steeply up the tussock slope to a plateau where they split into groups exploring the birdlife and vegetation around Lake Aviemore and on the rolling hills beyond. The rest of us enjoyed the cove by Zodiac cruise, soaking up the sun’s rays while admiring the fur and elephant seals on the shore, nesting South Georgia shags, stunning cliff faces covered with mosses and lichens and even a brief encounter with a curious leopard seal at the end of round one! We headed northwest along the coast during lunch and throughout the early afternoon with unimpeded views of the glaciated peaks which form the spine of South Georgia island. Just before lunch, we had the pleasure of a quick pass with our sister ship, the National Geographic Resolution with both ships sounding their horns and guests and crew greeting each other from the bridge and outer decks. Late afternoon brought us to the Bay of Isles with a lovely Zodiac cruise amongst beautifully lit rocks with snoozing fur seals, beaches heaving with jousting male Antarctic fur seals and a few harems and newborn pups, and a host of seabirds. The giant petrels were the most numerous but even in a short amount of time, we spotted prions, South Georgia pintail ducks, shags, skuas, gentoo and king penguins, and a few lucky overhead soaring passes from one of the resident wandering albatross.
Early risers began at 6:30 am to kayak along the shoreline of Gardner Bay. Gardner is a place surrounded by a couple of white sand beaches and a few islets that rest on a turquoise green water seabed full of sea lions and sea birds. The bay has a breathtaking view. After breakfast, we went to snorkel with sea lions in the crystal water, where multicolor fish and benthonic life are abundant. We then walked along the beach to admire the sea lion colony, which was a great experience for our intrepid guests. In the afternoon, we moved to Punta Suarez, “the jewel of the crown” or “the frosting on the cake” of this exceptional adventure. We enjoyed a walk of about three hours at a very slow pace to admire every single creature we found along our path. Juvenile albatrosses were resting on the rock or flapping their wings in the hope of achieving their first solos. Around January, all of these majestic birds will fly off the cliff to head south, in one of the most incredible bird migrations. These juvenile albatrosses will spend five years exploring the South Seas, and then they will find their way back to Española in order to mate and ensure the survival of their species. “Our time here has been the most incredible experience and one of the best hikes of my life,” said one of our guests. She was very happy and astonished at the great gifts that Mother Nature offered to us. On the equator, the sun comes down quickly. Our journey ended with big smiles and happy faces. We experienced a memorable journey in the Galapagos Islands, one of the last paradises on earth, full of wildlife, great moments, and joy for life. Our Galapagos journey has taken us to the eastern Galapagos Islands today. The ship dropped anchor at Española, one of the oldest islands and one with the highest number of endemic species of animals. The marine iguanas were one of the first inhabitants of Galapagos, they arrived about 3.2 million years ago. Here on Espanola they present unique colors like green and red, so we call them “Christmas iguanas.” The waved albatross is also endemic to this spot, there are about 30,000 of them reproducing every year. We are enjoying the last moments with them, soon they will migrate to Chile and Peru, and they will be absent for three months or so before they come back to mate again. The Española mockingbird is another famous bird found here; hawks, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, sea gulls, finches, and frigates, among others, are all found in this astonishing place.
Joining us on any expedition means signing up for adventure; and the reward for your curiosity is inevitable—the most exhilarating experience of pure discovery possible.