This evening, we found ourselves at 60 degrees south, crossing the internationally recognized geographic boundary into the Southern Ocean and the waters that define the Antarctic continent. Aside from lines on a nautical chart, this transition is marked by the presence of the largest, most traveled, and “longest lived” seabirds on the planet. These birds glide along the edges of the air masses that hover above the fringes of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Beyond the birds hangs a thick fog. Cold air above near-freezing Antarctic waters condenses as it meets warmer Atlantic and Pacific waters along the strong sea surface temperature gradient known as the Antarctic Convergence zone. We have spent the day orienting ourselves to the vessel and getting to know our expedition team and fellow travelers. We have also learned from expedition staff about how to make the most of our journey–from photography tips presented by onboard Certified Photo Instructors and a visiting National Geographic photographer to seabird spotting and identification guidance from naturalists. Embarking on the last voyage that National Geographic Resolution will take in 2022 is also cause for reflection on what the past year has meant for Antarctica and for each other. It is with great enthusiasm that we ring in the New Year with a Captain’s welcome party, complete with sea shanties and festive attire as we look forward to learning more together and appreciating the moments we will share on this epic adventure to explore the wildest place on Earth!
National Geographic Endurance
This morning’s fog and swell conspired to make it a great day for parlour activities. We saw many guests reading or engaged in games of cards, Scrabble, and the like. We also had some talks planned. First off, Tiphanie May spoke on the weird and wonderful creatures of the sea while recounting her earlier years as a Fisheries Observer on commercial fishing ships in the waters of the Falklands! While involved in observing these ships for compliance, she saw the deepest dwelling fish in the sea (the snailfish), giant squid, and fish that have absolutely no haemoglobin in their blood (the icefish)! Shortly after Tiphanie’s talk, a pod of pilot whales were briefly spotted from the bow, a new species for this expedition! Our next presenter was Conor Ryan who spoke on, “The Smell of the Sea.” Conor educated us on the actual source of the smell (dimethyl sulfide). He gave us insights into original research he’s doing on why the release of this compound by diatoms has implications for the successful feeding of whales, and he even coached us on how to pass through airport security without any liquids! You just don’t get talks with that breadth anywhere else! Throughout the afternoon, the staff worked with guests to complete maps of our travels, fill in wildlife lists, and help to spot one or two more species from the bridge. Our hotel staff was busy preparing for our final wine and cheese tasting followed by the captain’s farewell dinner aboard National Geographic Endurance. It has been an amazing journey. Many new acquaintances turned into good friends, and guests are busy gathering contact info before their fellow travellers scatter, once again, to the four corners of the Earth.