Expedition Diaries: Ushuaia Bay and the Beagle Channel

This post is the first of Kike Calvo’s visual diary as a National Geographic Expert on the South Georgia and Faulklands Expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer. 

As I walked into the National Geographic Explorer I was transported to a space of exploration and discovery.  A soft light was caressing the old atlases, all well lined up on the shelves in the ship’s library. A big open space with grandiose panoramic windows, the library allows us travelers to peak into Antarctic history and science while contemplating the immensity of the vast ocean. The rest of the Explorer is of comparable magnificence.

Photographer and National Geographic Expert Kike Calvo aboard the National Geographic Explorer.                              Photo © KIKE CALVO

“It is always very exciting to return to the ship, ” said Eduardo Shaw, naturalist aboard the National Geographic Explorer.  “We come to love her very dearly.  She is very well equipped, incredibly strong.  She has been built to travel to these remote places in the world. With the centuries of navigation and exploration culture we have inherited from the great explorers of the past, we kind of give her life. ” With as many as a few hundred expeditions to the Antarctic, South Georgia and Falkland Islands, the crew and staff aboard the Explorer are a real asset in terms of knowledge, experience and appreciation of southern exploration.


It was only yesterday that we embarked the Explorer, right after a catamaran ride along the waters of the Beagle Channel, an important waterway discovered in 1826 and shared between Argentina and Chile.  With the autumn quickly approaching, some of the trees along the channel displayed a slight tint of orange and the whole landscape was gently colored by the dimming sun. On the distance, the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse framed the postcard-like scene. “Interestingly enough, many travelers are under the impression that this is the lighthouse at the End of the World, made famous in Julius Verne’s novel,” explained Gabriela Roldan, naturalist and social scientist. “The lighthouse that inspired Julio Verne exists, but many miles away from Ushuaia in Isla de los Estados, lying east off the coast of Tierra del Fuego.”

Today we woke up to a bright sky and an uncharacteristically calm ocean. Navigating from the Beagle Channel towards the Falkland Islands we spotted amazing birdlife and heard about the history of area from the onboard experts.  The Captain estimates we will be able to explore ashore tomorrow morning depending on the wind. “We come to a place like this because it is a challenging environment to perform our jobs and we like that challenge,” said Captain Kruess. “It is extremely rewarding to help people develop the same passion that we have for these remote areas of the world.”

First timers and seasoned explores alike share their expectations for this dream-come-true experience. “Every year, I wonder how it will when I return. It is never the same. Each season is a new lesson on how to deal with difficult situations.” said Captain Kruess. “In every trip there is a personal expectation to return to these magical places,” added Shaw, “And there is always a surprise.”

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The South Pole: A Narrative History of the Exploration of Antarctica (National Geographic Adventure Classics)

Antarctica: The Last Continent

Antarctica Satellite [Laminated] (National Geographic: Reference Map) (Reference – Continents)

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia (Wild Guides)

Field Guide to the Wildlife of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia (Collins Pocket Guide)




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Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: www.colombiaphotoexpeditions.com