The Drake Passage – Friday, December 30, 2016

Here’s a recap of my first full day on board the National Geographic Explorer.

After a delicious breakfast, the fellows enjoyed an informative tour of the ship with our mentor, Eduardo Shaw. He told us that we can go ANYWHERE on the ship! The Bow is my favorite place for wildlife viewing.

Following our tour, we headed to the lounge for our official introduction to the guests. I am also on the official staff board! It was very cool to see my picture and bio on the staff wall. Wow. I cannot believe I am actually here – it is an honor.


Next it was time for a Bird Watching Talk with naturalist, Conor Ryan– I am very impressed with the resumes of our naturalists. Conor, who is originally from Ireland, gave us a wonderful lesson about identifying the various birds. The top three (which we saw some example of today) were the Albatross, the Petrel and the Sheathbill. He made it very clear that we should be able to identify these three by the end of our expedition.


Since we were crossing the Drake Passage, it was an excellent opportunity to view some of these birds from the Aft Deck. We saw lots of sea birds gliding along behind the ship.  We saw the Wandering Albatross and the Great Petrel here, and thanks to Pete and Eduardo’s help I was able to identify them (OK, Pete and Eduardo identified them).







The staff keeps things moving on the sea day and my next stop was the Young Explorers Meeting with Conor. Conor has some neat activities planned for the kids on board and I think he might let the teachers tag along (fingers crossed). An interesting note – I have seen several people (grownups and teens) reading on Kindles throughout the day, but I haven’t seen ANYONE mindlessly working/playing on their phone or tablet. None. It  is very refreshing to see everyone engaged with the natural world around them and engaged in the lessons/tips/lectures offered to enhance the experience.

After our meeting with the kids, I took some time for quiet reflection on the bridge (with a brief stay in the Library). Lucky too – I caught a glimpse of the Beak Nosed Whales here (just barely – they looked like dolphins).


Library and Bridge Time – After lunch I took some more time to reflect on the vastness of the ocean and to enjoy a quiet cup of hot cocoa in the Library. No wildlife spotting, but it is a lovely place to watch the Drake Passage.


Afternoon Camera Lesson with Steve Morello – Thanks to Steve’s tips, I hope to have some better photo skills. I will give it a try tomorrow so we shall see…

Our afternoon highlight was Alex Kumar’s Presentation about his experience Overwintering in Antarctica.  Alex is an amazing human being. His dedication to his profession is astounding and he is a remarkable person. I cannot even comprehend many of the things he has done, and yet he seems so normal. Just a regular guy – but his is no regular story. He works in some of the most difficult places in the world studying (and combating) outbreak viruses (Ebola, Zika) in addition to the year he spent in Antarctica conducting research for the European Space Agency.

The full day concluded with a wonderful dinner with our mentor, Eduardo – Eduardo is such a kind, knowledgeable and caring man. This evening at dinner I learned so much about Argentina, Argentinian schools, culture, and politics and South American political history in general. Eduardo is also a wealth of information about the history of Antarctica. I look forward to learning more from him as the trip continues.

So, so tired so off to bed for an early start (with ice!) tomorrow morning.

Wildlife Sightings –

Beak-Nosed Whale (species unclear)

Rockhopper Penguins (swimming in the Drake!)

Wandering Albatross

Blue Petrel

Great Winged Petrel

Snowy Sheathbill

*Note: This post was written while I was on my expedition, but was not posted until after my return so that I could include pictures and videos. Thanks for following my amazing journey!

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