|Position:||58°48’.5S, 008°18’.1 W|
Many of us spent several months dreaming about our forthcoming Antarctic voyage, and hours shopping, reading, preparing logistics, excitedly chatting with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about it. For most, this was followed by hours, if not days, travelling by planes, cars, buses to the end of the world, Ushuaia, where we were due to embark the MV Hondius.
We spent the day ambling about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning, the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a quickly growing electronics industry. Ushuaia, which means “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing in a blink of an eye. However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final breathe of warmth before heading off on our adventure down south.
For many this was the start of a lifelong dream, so guests eagerly awaited at the bottom of the gangway at 16:00 ready to board the ship MV Hondius, our home for the next 10 days. We were greeted at the gangway by members of the Expedition Team who were enjoying the warm sunshine having just returned from Antarctica that morning. Our luggage was already on board so after a short wait on the wharf we made our way up the gangway and onto the good ship. We were met at reception by the fabulous hotel staff who were there to assist with checked in and guide us to our cabins.
Shortly after boarding we convened in the Observation Lounge on Deck 5 to meet Expedition Leader, Florence Kuyper who gave us an overview of the expedition and the ship. They were then joined by First Officer, Matei, who led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, assisted by the crew and staff. On hearing the alarm, we gathered at our designated muster station, for the abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should the need arise. At 19:00 we returned to the lounge for Captains Cocktails, where we had a chance meet our Captain Remmert Jan Koster and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco.
Shortly after dinner, the navigational pilot that is required to transit the Beagle Channel boarded the Hondius and we set sail, finally we were underway!
The rest of the evening was occupied with more exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, settling into our cabins and meeting fellow travellers, before retiring for the evening for our first night at sea.