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12/20/2007

"Channel about 1 1/2 miles wide, hills on both sides above 2000’ high…scenery very retired – many glaciers, uninhabited, beryl blue, most beautiful, contrasted with snow.”
Charles Darwin’s journal description of the Beagle Channel

The sun warmed the aft deck. It was 8 p.m. on the second longest day of the Austral summer and the ship was underway. All passengers and their luggage had arrived safely and to those from more northerly climes it seemed like high noon. Thus began our great adventure to the Polar South and the Atlantic Sub Antarctic regions. We had arrived from various parts of the world to converge on the city of Ushuaia, the southern most in the world according to some, and arguably set in one of the loveliest spots on the planet.

Champagne, comfortable cabins, and friendly crewmembers greeted us when we boarded Explorer II. Once settled into our cabins, Captain John Moulds mustered us for a general emergency drill and safety briefing. In the main lounge Cruise Director Jannie Cloete and Expedition Leader Marco Favero warmly welcomed us aboard, introduced us to the ship, and told us a bit about the journey we’d just begun and then members of the staff introduced themselves.

As dinner was announced many folks made for the outer decks since the weather and sights were too good to be forsaken. The ship cruised down the Beagle Channel, named for the vessel, which carried a young naturalist who was to revolutionize the way we looked at the world. To port were the snowy peaks and remarkably dense forests of false beech (Nothofagus) flanking the southernmost parts of the island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. To starboard were Navarino Island, the town of Puerto Williams, and more mountains and forests in Chile.

Winds were light and the sea state was very calm. An opportunistic dolphin gull, with bright red bill and feet, sought out food scraps on the aft deck. Among the scattered birds we passed was the occasional feeding flock thick with South American terns picking at shoaling fish at the surface and king cormorants and rock shags diving underwater below them. The odd Chilean skua, kelp gull and Northern giant petrel winged by and some saw a few Magellanic penguins riding low in the water. Being out on deck to take in the lovely scenery and get to know new friends was a pleasant way to spend the evening. A delicious dinner beckoned as the last rays of the sun dipped behind Navarino. We were off to a fabulous start.

   

The Explorer II is docked at the port of Ushuaia as it awaits passengers who are arriving from all over the world.

Excited passengers are greeted by members of the Expedition staff as they board the Explorer II, their home for the next 16 days!

The port town of Ushuaia sits nestled at the base of majestic snow covered mountains and recedes in the distance as the ship sets sail for the Falkland Islands.

Passengers enjoy the evening on deck as we sail through the Beagle Channel.

The Explorer II Expedition staff pose for a photo after introducing themselves to the passengers at the welcome briefing.


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* Please Note: Daily cruise logs are posted each day based on communications and log entries received from the vessel. We will strive to keep the cruise log's updated daily, however, communications are dependent on internet connection and delays may occur due to communication interruptions and other variables outside of A&K's control. Your patience is appreciated.

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