• Home
  • Blog
  • South Sandwich Islands: Third landing at South Sandwich Islands in modern history

South Sandwich Islands: Third landing at South Sandwich Islands in modern history

by Oceanwide Expeditions Blog

The scenery in front of us was at its wildest, with huge cloud formations of different kinds, some of them running along the slopes of the volcano appearing like if it was erupting with fumes!
Antarctic Peninsula

Our expedition leader reports:

On the 12th of November 2013, around 4 am ship time (7 am UTC),  mv Ortelius was just a few nautical miles away from Saunders Island, part of the South Sandwich Islands. Knowing that this remote group of islands was still entrapped in sea ice just a week before, the excitement on board was grand and everyone was up to get the first sight of these active volcanic islands.


The mv Ortelius entered Cordelia Bay, located on the East side of the island and remained drifting while the wind was gusting 50 knots. The scenery in front of us was at its wildest, with huge cloud formations of different kinds, some of them running along the slopes of the volcano, appearing like if it was erupting with fumes!

Saunders IslandSaunders Island, South Sandwich Islands, 12 November 2013 © Delphine Aurès-Oceanwide Expeditions

The long beach was blocked with tons of sea ice pushed against the shore, rendering the sight even more dramatic. With patience as the best ally, we waited and hoped that the weather would stabilize for us to be able to drop a scout zodiac and hopefully find a part of the shoreline that would not be blocked by ice. And it worked! By 08.30 hrs., we were taking all our guests ashore at one of the remotest and most inaccessible island on Earth!

 

Saunders Island beachIce-clogged Saunders Island beach with Adélie penguins, 12 November 2013 © Delphine Aurès-Oceanwide Expeditions

There, myriads of Adelie and Chinstrap penguins were busy commuting from the icy shorelines to their nests on the dark ash slopes. Cape petrels were nesting in the scree cliffs just above the landing site. Our colourful jackets were the only colors in this mesmerizing black and white landscape. Everyone was stunned by the mere fact of setting foot here… Out of 6 attempts of landings in the IAATO record history of motor vessels, only 2 had succeeded so far. It appears that we were the 3rd motor vessel in modern history to have ever managed a landing at Saunders Island!


Beside patience, luck is the second best ally of any expedition in remote polar areas… And we had the luck to find this little cove not completely blocked by ice, in order to be able to land. But it appears that we were also luckily present at the very right moment…  Indeed, before the end of the landing, the swell increased and the rising tide started to move huge blocks of ice inside the cove. The last 3 zodiacs left the shore just on time, mimicking ‘little icebreakers’ to escape the cove!


After such an exceptional landing, we were offered another great experience… Navigating mv Ortelius into pack ice and in the sunshine! The sea ice was quickly spreading northwards, but the Captain skilfully navigated among the large and thick ice floes, offering us some more stunning view of Saunders Island, which was slowly but surely about to be entrapped in sea ice again! Again we felt very lucky to have reached the Sandwich Islands and landed on one of them.
Just before darkness we managed to be clear of the ice and started our long crossing towards Elephant island.


Everyone has expressed their thankful greetings to Captain Ernesto Barria and his crew. They have made possible, these incredibly beautiful landings, despite difficult conditions of strong winds, swell and ice.


During our one day in the Falklands, we landed at Carcass Island and West Point Island and were able to watch all the birdlife of the Falklands, from the endemic Cobb’s wren to the emblematic Rockhopper penguin and Black-browed albatross. Later on, in South Georgia, we succeeded to land at the 3 largest King penguin colonies, being Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour and the ever fascinating Saint Andrews Bay, that left everyone speechless!


Delphine Aurès,
Expedition Leader, mv Ortelius
Oceanwide Expeditions

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctic Peninsula
Up to 3600 USD discount

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctic Peninsula

Meet at least six penguin species

PLA23-17. This Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctic Peninsula cruise is an animal-lover’s dream come true. The expedition explores one of the last untamed areas on Earth – a land of ruggedly beautiful landscapes and amazingly varied wildlife.

Cruise date:

29 Nov - 18 Dec, 2017

Price:

15750 USD 12150 USD 3600 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands
Up to 1600 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands

Classic Antarctica including Deception Island

OTL24-17. This 11-day Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins.

Cruise date:

6 Dec - 16 Dec, 2017

Price:

on request

Atlantic Odyssey, Ascension to Praia
Up to 290 USD discount

Atlantic Odyssey, Ascension to Praia

Witness the northbound spring migration

PLA36-18. The Atlantic Odyssey cruise visits some of the remotest islands in the world, crossing the migratory paths of Arctic Terns, Long-tailed Skuas, other birds, and a variety of whales as they make their annual expeditions north for the breeding season.

Cruise date:

24 Apr - 30 Apr, 2018

Price:

1450 USD 1160 USD 290 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

OTL23A-17. The 12-day Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp Ortelius cruise offers you a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the Antarctic Region. This expedition allows you to hike, snowshoe, kayak, go mountaineering, and even camp out under the Southern Polar skies.

Cruise date:

25 Nov - 6 Dec, 2017

Price:

7950 USD

North Norway-Whale Safari, Aurora Borealis

Follow the herring and the whales North of the Polar Circle

NOO33-17. The North Norway cruise follows the path of more than one kind of whale as it travels amongst the fjords of Troms. The long Norway nights offer travellers on this expedition an excellent chance to take in the beauty and wonder of the Northern Lights.

Cruise date:

26 Nov - 3 Dec, 2017

Price:

on request