On Christmas Eve night, we sailed south through the Prince Gustav Channel, and our gift came swiftly: calm seas, clear skies, and a magical midnight light reflected on the last mountains of James Ross Island, amid humpback whales and tabular icebergs. We ventured through the channel into the unknown, uncertain of the ice conditions at the southern exit.
However, we held a goal close, one we avoided mentioning to avert any jinx. By the morning of the 25th, the possibility transformed into a proud reality announced over the speakers: everyone geared up and gathered on deck to celebrate a first for a commercial expedition—we were crossing the Antarctic Circle on the eastern side of the peninsula! This terrestrial circle represents the southernmost point where, during the summer solstice just three days prior, the sun never sets, and during the winter solstice, it remains below the horizon. The horn sounded, toasting glasses clinked, and National Geographic Endurance continued its journey south beyond the 66°33.7’ south latitude, a significant milestone for every traveler aboard.
At this high latitude, there's no land, only ice. Our precise objective for the day: locate a large, flat, and stable ice floe to disembark our intrepid guests. This was a mission we accomplished. Walking on the multiyear sea ice, we felt the memory of the great polar explorers who endured days adrift on these floating ice masses. Later that afternoon, we were privileged to witness the unique Larsen C Ice Shelf, increasingly famous in the media for releasing massive icebergs into the South Atlantic.
Complemented by the on-board celebration and the immense efforts of the galley and hotel teams, this Christmas celebration will stick in our memories forever.
Dedicated to Sue Fenton, who never misses a DER, not even on Christmas.