The guests of National Geographic Explorer awoke to a beautifully clear day on the Antarctic Peninsula. As the ship steamed towards our first destination of the day, folks enjoyed a gorgeous morning on deck.
Mid-November marks the very beginning of the Antarctic tourism season. Early springtime brings unique advantage to those onboard, offering incredibly clear seawater and fresh white ice. The Southern Ocean surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula acts as a massive and productive feeding ground for the entire Antarctic food web – but this system depends on open ocean and sunlight. In the winter, extensive sea ice and dark days delay photosynthesis in some very important organisms. The plankton community, comprised of plants and animals alike, becomes an integral resource as winter lifts and spring takes its place. Without plankton inhabiting the ocean surface, krill cannot feed on these oceanic pastures. Krill are a foundation species here in Antarctica, existing in phenomenal quantities and feeding much of the wildlife we travel so far to visit.
National Geographic Explorer steamed into Paradise Harbour early in the morning, a particularly gorgeous location on the peninsula. Paradise is home to Almirante Brown research station, an Argentine base which goes unmanned this season. Hundreds of gentoo penguins also call this place home, as well as Antarctic cormorants – who make the nearby cliffs their nesting grounds. Large icebergs sit, blown in by wind and trapped in the relatively shallow bay nearby. Today, the ship’s guests embarked on Zodiacs for a lovely cruise around the harbour, to get up close views of the ice and in search of wildlife.
After an exciting morning out in the small boats, guests returned for a delicious lunch created by head chef Sara. During lunch, National Geographic Explorer navigated to nearby bays for sightseeing and ice cruising. Mid-afternoon, the team lowered a scouting boat to assess a rarely used landing site – Portal Point. Portal Point is a continental landing and proved a fantastic choice for the afternoon. Guests made fresh tracks in the snow, even able to view a crabeater seal on the ice at the end of the walk. The expedition staff trailblazed a downhill slide in the snow, and folks who had made the hike to the top of the local hill had the opportunity to take the easy route down!
A beautiful day ended with a beautiful evening on board, with a phenomenal asado dinner from the galley team in honor of our South American launching point.