Expedition Stories

Our fleet navigates the world in search of adventure. These are the stories they bring back…

Previous Reports

Daily Expedition Reports

6/27/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

A spectacular day in the Galapagos on the season’s first family program, exploring. A walk past blue-footed booby nests, watching comical courtship displays and seeing a few of them incubating their eggs. At the blowhole, there was time to sit and watch the waves spout 90 feet into the air. Linda, our Family Program Coordinator, had some of us making "sound maps" of the many things we could hear. Then it was on to see the nesting colony of waved albatrosses. What a day...After landing on Española (Hood) Island, one of the first things we encountered was the Hood mockingbird, found here and nowhere else. They are bold, cheeky, and totally unafraid of people! This afternoon, a landing on Genovesa (Tower) Island. It’s near the end of the breeding season for the great frigatebirds, but there are still quite a few males with their red pouches inflated. It’s a tough life -- theysit there looking as gorgeous as possible, in the hope that a passing female willfind them hopelessly attractive. It works for them -- there’s no shortage of frigatebirds at all, with hundreds soaring overhead and still more incubating eggs and chicks. An incredible spectacle.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/8/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

Conservation was the definite topic of the day as the Polaris anchored in front of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in Galapagos. Although not the capital of the province, it is the touristic and conservation nerve center of the archipelago. The highlight of the day was to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, with its growth in captivity programs. The one usually opened to the public is the giant tortoise program, aimed at rescuing this unique creature, but one of the other endangered species is the land iguana, also raised in captivity here. Both animals are then repatriated to their islands. This program is usually closed to the public due to the shy nature of the iguana, but because of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Galapagos being declared a National Park, we all had the very special treat of being able to visit this special site.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/12/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

We awoke once more in the center of the archipelago, and as we stumbled out on deck after our early-morning wake up call, we were confronted by a spectacular but stark scenery. A volcanic moonscape of rust colored parasitic cones surrounded by a more recent black lava flow, a dry area caught in the rain shadow of larger islands. We anchored opposite the small cone-islet of Bartolome, where an early morning climb up 372 wooden steps certainly got our blood pumping! We then however had a lovely restful time on the beach, where we saw such highlights as sharks, octopus and many species of colorful reef fish. The most remarkable experience of all though must have been snorkeling with the incredibly adorable Galapagos penguins. A small colony can be found in this area, and they were particularly busy today, rounding up schools of tiny salemas, then going in for the catch, which many of us were able to witness. Where else would you be brave enough to get in the water with penguins?!!!

Daily Expedition Reports

7/12/1999

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National Geographic Sea Bird

From the Sea Bird in Alaska

The day started out with a wonderful view of a waterfall in Red Bluff Bay, afterwhich the Sea Bird headed into Frederick Sound where several humpback whales were lunging head first out of the water in unison while bubble net feeding. After lunch the ship moved towards the northeast side of Baranof Island, where we all went ashore at Saook Bay for a hike along the intertidal zone with a few peeks into the lush temperate rain forrest in search of berries and banana slugs. We could see that bears were using the same path we were, becaause of the presence of bear prints in the mud, bear fur on the trees, and bear scat near the trail. The photo is of hikers heading back towards the Zodiac landing point in Saook Bay..

Daily Expedition Reports

7/13/1999

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National Geographic Endeavour

From the Caledonian Star in Norway

The exploration of the Norwegian fjords continues and last night, at midnight, we passed the Arctic Circle. As usual this was celebrated with glogg, hot wine, and for those who wanted, the traditional swim. The temperature was about 42 degrees F. Refreshing! Today we spent the morning in Reine, one of Norway's "cod capitals" -- a typical fishing village in the Lofoton Islands. Later in the afternoon Captain Leif Skog was able to maneuver the Caledonian Star into Trollfjord, and people were able to collect flowers from the bow of the ship. What an incredible event! We are now heading to the capital of the Arctic, Tromsoe.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/14/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

These islands are a fabulous place for kids of all ages -- from 6 to 96! This week has been a very special one for all the families on board the Polaris during our Family Voyage. They are enjoying what we believe may be a life-changing experience for everyone. The family oriented activites incorporated in this voyage are making it an enjoyable wayfor families to vacation together and learn about the enchanting beauty and unique ecosystem of the Galapagos Archipelago.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/7/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

Today We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over dramatic cloud formations, in the proximity of a small, rocky outcrop standing alone in the middle of the ocean, Roca Redonda. Hundreds of seabirds were flying around the Polaris , while a small group of dolphins could be seen feeding. The waters in this westernmost part of the archipelago were cold and green, so particularly rich, and this marked the first of our whale sightings for many months. Two Bryde’s whales regularly surfaced before our eyes, before diving down into the depths. Another strange oceanic creature also made an appearance, the ocean sunfish, or Mola mola. It was truly a magnificent beginning to a day spent surrounded by tall volcanoes covered in black lava flows, and populated by strange and wonderful creatures such as flightless cormorants (we photographed one feeding a chick), and equatorial Galapagos penguins.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/9/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

Another successful day in Galapagos! We all are sure that today's visit was enjoyed from beginning to end. We began our experience with incredible bird-watching on the island of Tower. Red footed boobies were probably the highlights of the morning, while hundreds of frigate birds above our heads, with the classical pterodactyl wing, took us back in time for few seconds and made us feel on a prehistoric field where only the fittest will survive. Our day would not be complete without the great experience of snorkeling, feeling like we floated in the air without gravity, sharing our bodies and our souls with the colorful fish that surround us, as we cruise along the environment that they master. Enjoying every minute of the afternoon's walk, it became a totally relaxing time, when the surprise of finding the short-eared owl in front of our eyes left us both motionless and breathless, and only the sound of a "click" brought us back to reality. Yes! I am a dreamer, and whoever was not when coming here, may probably be surprised at leaving Galapagos full of dreams!

Daily Expedition Reports

7/12/1999

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National Geographic Endeavour

From the Caledonian Star in Arctic

The Caledonian Star is on her way to the high Arctic. Like an Arctic tern, she travels between the north and south each year. Maybe when we reach Spitsbergen we will encounter some of the terns we saw last winter along the ice's edge of the Antarctica Peninsula. Amazing -- a bird which travels from "Pole to Pole". Today, en route along the coast of Norway, we explored some marvelous Norwegian fjords. One of the most impressive is Geirangerfjorden, with steep cliffs about 1,000 feet high. Cruising along the shoreline we enjoyed the rich flora of the lower slopes, with a fine span of trees and colorful flowers. High up on the cliffs we awed at and wondered about the odd farms clinging to the slopes, a reminder of the hard conditions that were part of the Norwegian heritage - every inch of farmable soil had to be cultivated, and the sloping patches of grazing did not seem bigger than an average lawn around an American family house. No roads lead to these isolated farmsteads, and everything needed, including cattle and sheep and the work horse had to winched up from the fjord, while the children were roped to the house wall when "playing" outside. For obvious reasons these farms are abandoned today, but kept in shape as part of the cultural heritage. Since we had a peak summer day, windless and with a glowing sun we did not encounter any trolls, the traditional Norwegian folklore giants. They are nocturnal creatures, who will turn to stone if exposed to the sun's rays. Some traces of petrified remains of them were seen in the beautiful geology of the cliffs, though: a fossil ear and nose imbedded in the bedrock! To sail through the fjord is really a journey in to the landscape with villages, folk life and impressive scenery.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/13/1999

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National Geographic Sea Bird

From the Sea Bird in Alaska

On our way to Haines this morning we stopped for a while to watch three humpback whales swimming very close to a group of Steller's sea lions. A cow-calf pair along with another whale swam in tight circles near the shore, while the sea lions took turns sliding down slick rocks into the water and then climbing back out. After breakfast the ship arrived in Haines, where everyone split up into different groups for the activities of the day. There was a raft trip offered, a great opportunity for flightseeing as the weather was absolutely perfect, and a few people went to a fishing lodge to try their luck with trout and salmon. The remainder of the guests, about 12, went on a 5 mile hike on a local trail to the top of Mt. Riley. From there incredible views were had of the Taiya and Chilkat Inlets. The photo was taken from the top of Mt. Riley looking up the Chilkat Inlet. The views of the Mountains and the glaciers to the west of Haines were spectacular.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/13/1999

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National Geographic Polaris

From the Polaris in the Galapagos

What a beautiful day we had on Floreana, the most mysterious sisland in the Galapagos Archipelago! The morning began with a pre-breakfast outing to visit the famous Post Office Barrel, and the we explored several tiny islets by Zodiac. We found sea lions basking in the warmth of the early sun. After breakfast we had great snorkeling off of Champion Island, where we enjoyed swimming among schools of colorful fish, curious sea lions and even a few sharks. In the afternoon we landed on a greenish olivine beach at Punta Cormorant. The walk we took here was excellent, the weather was perfect, and it was a special experience to hike among Floreana's unique plants. The Lecocarpus pinnatifidus and Scalesia villosa that are in my photo are plants that are found only in the Galapagos. As the sun was setting we took the Zodiacs back to the ship.

Daily Expedition Reports

7/14/1999

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National Geographic Endeavour

From the Caledonian Star in Arctic Norway

What a day! Full day at sea with sunshine and calm conditions. The stretch up from Norway goes through the Barents Sea. Are we in the North Atlantic or Arctic Ocean? I guess the answer is both; it depends on whom you ask. The conditions for whale watching could not have been better. We were rewarded -- at least six humpback whales and several pods of white-beaked dolphins. The biological production of the sea is remarkable, as we were able to see with our own eyes. The afternoon was spent on Bear Island (see the photo), halfway to Spitsbergen. Often this island is covered with fog, but on our arrival the sun was shining. We did a landing and also a nice Zodiac cruise to see the bird cliffs and the extraodinary rock formations.

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