A visit to the Antarctic is packed with legends. This morning, we awoke in sight of Elephant Island, the location where the men of the Endurance awaited rescue through the Antarctic winter at the beginning of the 20th century. Snow accumulated on deck as National Geographic Explorer made its way through a stiff cold breeze. We imagined the James Caird setting out into the Southern Ocean. It was a humbling reminder of the rigors of the Golden Age of Antarctic exploration and the people who risked their lives pushing boundaries at the bottom of the world. As we approached the bay where the seamen of the ill-fated Endurance awaited rescue, katabatic winds reaching 70 knots buffeted the ship. This was but the smallest preview of what those men endured as they awaited salvation, and it was fierce.
Setting a course east, we traversed active waters. Seabirds were abundant, some passing by at a distance whilst others circled our ship. These ocean wanderers, at home in the gales of the high latitudes, always impress us by making a home in such an adverse climate. We counted many a whale blow in the distance. While passing over a seamount, several whales swam close enough to give us quite the show. A pair of fin whales surfaced near the ship long enough for everyone to get incredible views. From the upper decks, we looked down upon these massive animals and tried to picture just how huge they actually are.
Despite the challenging conditions out on deck, we managed to stay cozy and dry aboard. Throughout the day, our staff offered presentations about Shackleton’s voyages and the cetaceans of our voyage. The galley kept us warm and happy with delicious drinks and snacks between the typical incredible meals. The day wrapped up with our usual recap before dinner as we steamed toward the eastern horizon and looked forward to another day at the bottom of the world.