|Position:||54°48’.6 S, 068°17’.8 W|
Ushuaia! We gathered from all points on the globe on a rainy summer day in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. Known as ‘the End of the World’, but for us it is just the beginning as we will venture much further South to the great white continent. For most of us this is a lifelong dream, for some it is not their first trip across the Drake, and for many this will be the seventh continent they have visited. Ushuaia is a beautiful city set in beautiful landscape. The mountains behind are topped with snow, and the streets are buzzing with excitement for those about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime and a slight sadness for those that have already been and it’s time to go home. We wandered town's cobbled, steep and random footpaths, had coffee and lunch, then in the afternoon many did some last-minute shopping before joining the Hondius at the Port.
Ushuaia, which means “the bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue, is a flourishing town that benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. A big community of adventure travellers meet where the rugged spine of the South American Andes ends. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. But the warm rain was refreshing and seemed to heighten the excitement in all of us as we are all prepared for the weather on such a journey.
It is finally 16:00 and we are slowly making our way to our future home for the next 11 days, Hondius. Whilst waiting to board you could feel the excitement in the air. The Expedition Team greeted us at the gangway, and you could feel the exhilaration among the team which was also starting a new journey. We were met at Reception by Michael and Alex, our Hotel Managers. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew.
We had a little bit of time to get familiarised with the ship before we all convened in the lounge on deck 5 to meet our Expedition Leader, Martin, and our Hotel Manager, Michael. They gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next few days, and a short introduction of the next couple of days. Then, we met the first officer Matei who led us through all the details of the required SOLAS briefing (Safety of life at sea). At the end of the briefing we looked outside to see our last glimpse of Ushuaia before heading into the Beagle Channel. While sailing away we saw Magellanic penguins and many sea birds, the rain and fog only added to the excitement as we left the harbour and city life for a while on our great adventure. On hearing the alarm, we reconvened at our appropriate ‘muster stations’, the Dining Room (Deck 3) and the lounge (Deck 4, 6, and 7), for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill. We donned our large orange life jackets carrying our submersion suits and followed the crews instructions so we are all well prepared in the unlikely event we must abandon the ship.
One last time before dinner, we gathered in the Lounge with a glass of Prosecco. We were introduced to our captain, Remmert Jan Koster, who toasted to a safe and amazing trip. At 19:30 we were welcomed to the dinning room. There we sat at shared tables, making new friends and wondering what awaits us in the days to come. We had the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chef Mario and his galley team. After dinner our ship physician Pieter met us in the Lounge where he handed out the seasickness medication for those of us in need. The rest of the evening on board was occupied by more exploration of the ship and adjusting to its movements. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into the open waters of the Drake Passage and heading southeast towards Antarctica. Finally, tired from the travel, we retired to our cabins to rest and get ready for our first full day of our adventure.