Antarctica – 12/20 – Northern Drake Passage

Wandering Albatross

We woke up after our first night on the NatGeo Explorer in the notorious Drake Passage.  Luckily, the weather cooperated with us on our way down to Antarctica and it was pretty smooth sailing.

One of the many nice touches the staff does is publish daily expedition reports online.  I’m pretty bad at taking notes during a trip to document what we saw and where we went unless it pertains to a particular photograph.  Having the staff create daily expedition reports helps with this.  Just one of the many small things they do to create a wonderful trip.  Here is what one of the naturalist, Peter Puleston wrote for 12/20.

At Sea in the Drake Passage

In the failing light of day last evening as we sailed easily southeastward down the calm waters of the Beagle Channel the large hazy moon rose over Tierra del Fuego. Many days will pass before we return to the verdant valleys between the snow-capped peaks of the southern Andes Mountains.

It was almost midnight before we began to feel the gentle rise and fall of the great Southern Ocean beneath the hull of our stout ship. By breakfast time we were over a hundred and fifty miles south of fabled Cape Horn and well into our adventure of a lifetime. A light breeze and bright sun drew us out on deck and up to the bridge to admire the grace and beauty of our many avian escorts. Magnificent wandering albatross sailed effortlessly around our ship gliding on fixed wings that often measure over ten feet from tip-to-tip. Many of the wanderer’s smaller pelagic relatives including petrels, prions and other albatrosses completed our windborne entourage.

By mid-afternoon one only had to venture out on deck for a moment to realize we had passed into another ecological zone. We had reached the cold Antarctic surface water and the air temperature dropped down to just a degree or two above freezing. We began preparations for tomorrow’s arrival in the South Shetland Islands. Any gear we were planning to wear or carry ashore such as boots and backpacks were put through a decontamination process that removed hitchhiking seeds and any traces of foreign soil attached to our footwear. Later from our photography experts we learned how best to take advantage of our cameras. And from our Oceanites researchers we learned about the important work of the Antarctic Site Inventory.

Finally we were introduced to the ship’s officers and invited to our Captain’s welcome cocktail and dinner party. Then we were off to our beds filled with anticipation of our first trip ashore tomorrow to stand among the penguins.
by Peter Puleston

Karen Copeland talking about seabirds

We also had a talk by Karen Copeland about seabirds.  I spent a lot of time on the Bridge watching for wildlife, taking with the staff, taking photos, and she was almost always up there watching for wildlife as well.  She has a very interesting background and is extremely knowledgable naturalist that has an obvious passion for what she does.  The best thing was… this passion was not out of the ordinary for the staff of the NatGeo explorer… they all had the same passion for nature.

There wasn’t much else to do today except watch for sea birds and excersise.

Watching for seabirds

Running a marathon in the Drake Passage

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