Today was the first full day of our voyage, and we made good progress through the Drake Passage towards “The White Continent.” For most of us, the expedition began several days ago when we journeyed across broad distances to gather in Santiago de Chile. We had a brief respite (very brief for some) prior to boarding the charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, the self-proclaimed end of the earth and certainly the southernmost city on the globe. We enjoyed a chance for short excursions in Santiago and Ushuaia. We could feel the transition from weeks and even months of planning to the actualization of our embarkation aboard National Geographic Resolution last night as we made our departure from the South American continent through the Beagle Channel and towards the wild Southern Ocean.
National Geographic Endurance
We woke up to the most beautiful sunny day we have had yet this trip. The ship slowly and carefully made its way towards the ice edge so we could enjoy an ice walk. The captain deftly “parked” the ship next to the edge, being careful not to break any ice, and lowered the penguin gangway. Our expedition team went out first to check that the ice was safe. They excitedly reported back that a leopard seal and pup had been found, an extremely rare sight. We bundled up in our outer layers and headed onto the ice. The ice crunched beneath our feet as we wandered around the vast space. While we were checking out the leopard seal, two emperor penguins came sliding across the ice. They even chased some of the guests briefly before settling down on the ice close to the leopard seal and engaging in courting behavior. It was the most magical experience, but it wasn’t over. Next, three crabeater seals crawled out on the ice and took a nap in front of the bow of the ship. We couldn’t believe our luck. All too soon, it was time to board National Geographic Endurance again. We started steaming north to our final landing of the trip at Brown Bluff. Whilst the ship repositioned, we enjoyed a delicious and well-earned lunch followed by a Q&A session with Mensun Bound. In the late afternoon, we disembarked the ship for the final time in Antarctica. Brown Bluff didn’t disappoint with its amazing geology, gentoo and Adelie penguins, and beautiful ice. We said goodbye to the White Continent whilst loading into the Zodiacs for the final time. It was a truly wonderful day, and it still wasn’t over. The galley team treated us to a delicious, traditional Filipino dinner followed by an evening of music and talents in the Ice Lounge. We danced the night away as the ship headed for the Drake.