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OTL27-19, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbuch

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 29.12.2018
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17.0‘W
Wind: SW 3
Wetter: partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +12

It was a very typical summer day in Ushuaia when we started our expedition cruise to the white continent: one moment it rained, the next moment the sun came out. At the end of the world, this is fairly common weather! In the afternoon we walked all the way to the end of the pier where Ortelius was moored, and by 16:00 we were invited to board our new home for the next twelve days. Hotel Manager Sigi and his assis-tant Melanie handed us our key cards, and we were shown to our cabins where we found our luggage al-ready waiting for us. After some exploring of the ship, we gathered in the Lecture Room for the mandatory Safety Briefing which was followed by a Safety Drill – we all got to wear our big orange lifejackets and as-sembled in the Bar before heading to the top deck to have a look into one of the lifeboats.

Meanwhile, Ortelius was on her way into the Beagle Channel – we were on our way to Antarctica! We had a bit of time to bask in the sun and take in the fantastic views before we were called to the Lounge on Deck 6 where we were welcomed by Captain Ernesto Barria and raised the glass for a toast to our voyage. Af-terwards, we got to know the members of the Expedition Team before we headed to the Dining Room for our first dinner on board, a sumptuous meal prepared by the chefs and their team.
Duncan, the ship’s doctor, handed out patches and medical advice on how to prevent us getting seasick, and equipped with knowledge and patches, we made our way to the top deck to enjoy the perfectly calm waters of the Beagle Channel and the gorgeous sunset colours. A pod of dolphins came bow-riding, we spotted penguins, gulls, shags and other avifauna, and later on there was even a Minke whale to be seen. What a pleasant and exciting start to our voyage!

Day 2: Drake Passage: At Sea towards Antarctica

Drake Passage: At Sea towards Antarctica
Datum: 30.12.2018
Position: 56°36.5‘S, 065°32.0‘W
Wind: W 6
Wetter: overcast
Lufttemperatur: +7

The Ortelius was heaving slightly when Beau‘s voice woke us up. A gentle Drake Passage start and the Or-telius was already surrounded by effortlessly flying Black-browed Albatrosses and Giant Petrels. After a lovely breakfast the real action started. The day was full of activity briefings, for being a basecamp voyage there were many different things for everyone to take part in. There was, in particular, kayaking and mountaineering briefings for us to attend. After lunch, Gracie and Mark gave a briefing on camping and later in the afternoon Marijke gave a talk about penguins explaining their adaptions how to survive the cold Antarctic conditions.

Whoever was out on the decks or on the Bridge could admire the different seabirds following the ship, among them the black-and-white speckled Cape Petrels, brown Giant Petrels, Black-browed Albatrosses, and the largest of them all, the Wandering and Royal Albatrosses. The Wandering Albatross is the largest flying bird in the world, a magnificent creature with a wingspan of 3.5m!

During our daily briefing and recap, Sandra informed us about nautical terms such as knots and nautical miles, and Gracie told us all there is to know about the Antarctic Convergence. Beau and James showed us how to use the snowshoes!

Slowly it was time for the day to come to an end, after a wonderful dinner served piping hot, everyone slowly made their way to their cabins, into their warm cozy bed and with the sea continuing to be rather gently we were ready for another night of dreams about our upcoming adventures.

Those of us who stayed up to ‘witness’ the crossing of the Antarctic Convergence were treated on seeing a group of (probably) fin whales. The whales were taking advantage of the rich waters of the Convergence due to the upwelling of water that brings fresh nutrients to the surface.

Day 3: Drake Passage: At Sea towards Antarctica

Drake Passage: At Sea towards Antarctica
Datum: 31.12.2018
Position: 61°02.0‘S, 063°04.4‘W
Wind: WNW 3
Wetter: partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +5

We had a really nice night in the Drake Shake and we crossed the Antarctic Convergence around midnight. The morning started with a sunny day and clear sky. A lot of Cape Petrels, Prions, Wandering and Sooty Albatrosses were flying around the Ortelius sailing deeper into the Southern Ocean.

We had a busy morning following breakfast, first as Expedition Leader Beau presented the mandatory zo-diac safety briefing and IAATO regulations for going ashore, followed by a visit to Deck 3 Lecture Room to get our rubber boots and zodiac life vests issued, in anticipation of our arrival at the Antarctic Peninsula the following morning.

After lunch we started our biosecurity “Vacuum Party” in the bar, where all of us made sure to pick away seeds and clean dirt from outer wear, hiking equipment and camera bags, to prevent non-native species becoming established in this pristine environment.
In the afternoon our South African staff photographer, Werner, gave us his photography tips and tricks for capturing great images of wildlife and the jaw-dropping landscapes of the Great White Continent.

After our New Year’s Eve dinner, we were all called back into the bar for the great Ortelius New Year’s Eve Quiz (Trivia), in which Gracie and all the expedition team tested whether we had actually learned anything during the first days of this trip about Antarctica, staff and biology. The winning team was awarded with several bottles of fizz with which to celebrate the New Year...scores were impressively high, showing that much thinking and listening had gone on during the lectures and recaps.

Day 4: Cuverville Island & Orne Harbour

Cuverville Island & Orne Harbour
Datum: 01.01.2019
Position: 64°40.0‘S, 062°38.4‘W
Wind: SW 2
Wetter: clear
Lufttemperatur: +6

Happy New Year! 2019 welcomed us with calm seas, blue skies, fantastic colours and stunning landscape wrapped all around the ship. In the early morning, Ortelius was sailing in the Gerlache Strait towards our first destination in Antarctica, Cuverville Island. Some of us hadn’t even gone to bed while others were a bit late for breakfast which, admittedly, was rather early for a New Year’s Day. Then again, how often does one get to celebrate the start of a new year in Antarctica? So, to breakfast we went then we layered up, put on our lifejackets and headed out to the gangway where the Zodiacs were already waiting for us.

Our first Zodiac ride was an exciting one – with lots of beautiful icebergs to look at, plenty of penguins porpois-ing and glaciated mountains to both sides of the channel. On shore, the welcoming committee was already waiting: several Gentoo penguins and a lone Adelie penguin which is quite an unusual sight in this spot. The guides had marked paths for us to walk on, some of which we shared with the penguins who of course had the right of way, leading to the different parts of one of the largest Gentoo colonies on the Antarctic Penin-sula. Sights, sounds, scents – it was overwhelming, and some of us just found themselves a spot to sit, watch, and enjoy while others trekked from site to site to see all of it. The kayakers came paddling into the bay while the mountaineers had gone to the neighbouring island of Rongé to make their way up a snow ledge to gain fantastic views of the ice-clogged waters with icy peaks in the background. Way too soon it was time to return to the ship.

While we were having lunch, Ortelius relocated to our afternoon landing spot, and the calm weather of the morning only got better: The sun came out, and we were looking at fantastic conditions for a landing on the outside of Orne Harbour. The mountaineers were the first ones to go for Spigot Peak, then the kayakers set out all the while two Humpback whales surfaced and swam and fed quite close to the ship and, after a short Zodiac ride, we all set foot on the continent of Antarctica! The snowshoe trail was a bit steep and felt a tad slippery in places but we were about as determined to go up to the colony or the viewpoint as were the Chinstrap penguins making their way from nesting spots down to the water or the other way around. It was amazingly warm in the sun, and it was hard to decide where to look first: at the Chinstraps with the first chicks appearing under the bellies of the parents, or at the scenery of Orne Harbour with huge glaci-ers and a lot of ice, or outwards over the Gerlache Strait where the kayakers were with the whales now. Only the mountaineers could possibly have had an even better view than us from their summit, and it was not an easy job at all for the guides to get us back to the ship in time!

Yet the first day of the new year had more in store for us. On the way to our camping spot, a pod of Orcas appeared, and they even seemed to be interested in two Humpbacks, possibly a mother with calf. Unfortu-nately, we could not linger to watch the scene unfold further but it was great to get some good views of those fascinating marine mammals. Shortly after 21:00 we reached Doumer Island where the campers went ashore for their first night out in Antarctica – and it could not have been a better spot nor a better night, for the light was glorious, there was hardly any wind, and the surroundings with the Seven Sisters and Jabet Peak towering over the islands were breath-taking. Small wonder some people got hardly any sleep at all but kept taking it all in, photographically or otherwise. Meanwhile, Ortelius retraced parts of her earlier route in the Neumayer Channel treating all of us on board to a magic Antarctic evening – hon-estly, it could not have been any better than this!

Kayaking
AM: Cuverville Island – Group 1 (14 persons)
What an incredible morning, arriving in Antarctica and to be greeted with sunny spells, light winds and calm seas! For Group 1 of the 114 signed up for kayaking these were just perfect conditions to enjoy their first activity experience in Antarctica. Cuverville delivered ice sculptures of all sizes that provided a perfect backdrop for the kayakers to manoeuvre around at a safe distance. A journey across the open water al-lowed the kayakers to spend some time with the Gentoo penguins washing themselves at the beach, always fun to watch and particularly nice from the sea. After a final round of group pictures it was (all too soon) time to weave our way back towards the waiting ship and lunch back on board.

PM: Orne Harbour – Group 2 (14 persons)
Nothing but light winds, calm seas, sunshine and blue skies the whole way for the afternoon kayaking trip. A full quota of ‘mad for it’ Kiwi’s and other equally adventurous kayakers were ‘all in’ for the full polar kayaking experience, Antarctica certainly delivered in ways none of the participants had imagined. The group of 14 followed the coastal line at the glacier edge away from the landing site to a peaceful position where they could all switch off and just listen in silence. Although the group were silent the environment was not. The sounds of calving ice cliffs, bird calls, penguins porpoising and the small pieces of popping ice knocking against the sides of the kayaks all completely filled one’s senses and stimulated the imagina-tion. There was also a small matter of a big marine mammal wishing to spend 30 minutes with the kayak-ers!! The pictures sum up the moment better than any words.

New Year’s Day Mountaineering

AM: Rongé Island, Georges Point
Our first landing in Antarctica on New Year’s Day was full of adventure. We had awoken to calm seas, lite winds and amazing views of the Peninsula and a rising sense of excitement that our journey in Antarctica was actually real! Our landing was a little bit wet and now we understood why we needed to use Muck boots to get ashore – the snow on the beach was quite high and the Gentoo penguin colony was just above us on a small series of rocky outcrops.
After getting ourselves established on the snow, getting into snowshoes and wandering up towards the glacier, Mal and Trev roped us up for glacier travel and we headed of towards a small col on the low flanks of Mt Adams that offered us amazing views of the Gerlache Strait.

The snow was actually quite frozen and even though we didn’t have crampons on, our snowshoes were able to give us enough grip make us feel secure going both up and down the small slope. A stiff breeze had picked up about 200m above sea level and despite taking shelter in a col we were rapidly cooling down. Heading back down to the shore we reflected that even if we had gotten ourselves into trouble, we would have been kept safe – Banana Man was there to save us!

PM: Orne Harbour, Spigot Peak
Our first afternoon ashore gave us the opportunity to use the technical terrain above Orne Harbour. Our guides were not certain that the snow conditions would allow them to keep a large group secure on the Peak so the numbers for this technical trip were kept low. Six hardy climbers set out to break trail towards the Chinstrap penguin colony that perches itself high above the sea here.

The snow leading towards the true start of Spigot Peak was reasonably deep and the travel was slow. We climbed to a point where we could leave our snowshoes behind and then travel up between rock and snow for about 50 m before reaching our crampon point. The terrain from here was steep and exposed but the snow actually allowed Mal and Trev to kick good steps which gave us secure footing. This meant that we could all move together slowly up the hill in two ropes.

Reaching the small summit gave as incredible views in 360 degrees. The wind was lite to moderate and the temperature quite acceptable. After sending the 1st Officer our best wishes from the summit we began the descent – going down is actually harder in many ways than going up. Good solid secure footwork was needed along with a slow steady pace to bring us back down to our snow shoes.

From the Chinstrap Colony view point it was easy going along a well-worn path back to shore where we jumped back on the zodiacs and we were whisked back to Ortelius by Sandra for hot showers, a snack and hot drinks!

Camping
Doumer Island
After a stunning first day in Antarctica, the great weather continued into the night and we had a perfect camping evening. Several gentoo penguins and one chinstrap were waiting to greet us on shore. The sun-set colours were reflecting off the glaciers and mountains. We all worked on assembling our camp bags and digging our trenches. Then we did a short walk to get more sunset views. Working together we made our ‘ANTARCTICA’ photo in front of our amazing view spot. After a bit more fun everyone headed for the warmth of their bivy bags for a few hours of sleep.

Day 5: Lemaire Channel, Pléneau Bay & Peltier Channel

Lemaire Channel, Pléneau Bay & Peltier Channel
Datum: 02.01.2019
Position: 65°03.2‘S, 063°54.8‘W
Wind: SW 4
Wetter: partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +1

The day started rather crispy and blue as the ship sailed down towards the Lemaire Channel. Hoping the narrow passage would be free of ice and passable, we made our way towards the entrance while everyone gathered outside on deck and enjoyed the beautiful views and sunshine. But alas, there was still too much ice around the channel. Not to fear, we managed to get through it but were not able to make a landing at Port Charcot, a small bay on Booth Island named after the famous French Antarctic explorer. There was simply too much ice!

As we headed further south, the wind reduced and the clouds moved away to bless us with another beauti-ful warm Antarctic day. Many Crabeater seals were observed hauled out on ice floes, and large icebergs sparkled in the sun as Ortelius wove her way through the ice and wildlife. Occasional Weddell seals and one Leopard seal were also seen basking in the sun on thick ice floes.

After lunch we continued to cruise towards Petermann Island but again our efforts were hampered by the ice. We changed our plans (again) and made our way to Peltier Channel where we launched all the Zodiacs for a wonderful sunny afternoon glacier cruise. Some Weddell seals were hauled out on the coastline, sleepily scratching about, and a nesting site of Antarctic Cormorants revealed good-sized chicks!

During our daily briefing, Beau informed us about the upcoming plans and Marijke spoke about Crabeater seals – the most abundant seal on the planet. Mal completed the recap with an informative overview of calving glaciers.

Kayaking
PM: Peltier Channel – Group 4 (10 persons)
Unfortunately, with the volume of ice laying in both the bay and on the landing shore the morning activities had to be cancelled for safety reasons. Ice conditions also prevented the ship from meeting the Petermann schedule so it was full steam ahead towards plan B. A full ship’s cruise dictated that only 10 of the signed-up 14 kayakers in Group 4 could therefore participate in the afternoon kayaking schedule. The team dis-cussed the most logical and best fit to reduce 14 participants to 10, the kayak guide being most apprecia-tive to the manner in which this happened and the willingness of the 4 to step down and be rescheduled. A gorgeous afternoon then unfolded for the 10 lucky people to enjoy a downwind paddle with a ship’s drop-off at point A and pick up some miles later at point B. Ice cliffs on the right-hand side (all the way) with an interesting colony of Cormorants to visit on an island halfway down. Sunshine and great views at the end of the trip before final pictures and back on board for recap.

Camping
Stony Point
Hard to believe, but we had another day of fantastic weather, continuing into the night for perfect camping conditions. We got our camping kits and loaded into the Zodiacs and headed towards the shore. Waiting for us at Stony Point were Weddell seals, Crabeater seals and Southern Giant petrels, even a white morph! Several penguins were right at our landing spot to greet us as well. The beach was full of krill, making ob-vious why so many penguins were swimming around in the waters. As we were digging our trenches and putting our camp kits together we saw a few good calvings from the nearby glacier. We did two groups for our Antarctica photo which came out really good, and started getting ready for bed. Sleeping in Antarctica! All through the night we heard sounds from the glaciers.

Day 6: Useful Island & Rongé Island: Ketley Point

Useful Island & Rongé Island: Ketley Point
Datum: 03.01.2019
Position: 64°41.9‘S, 062°51.9‘W
Wind: WSW 2
Wetter: sunny
Lufttemperatur: +3

Our day was special in many regards as we explored two places only few members of the Expedition Team had ever visited before – in other words, it was a true Expedition Day! In the morning we went to Useful Island. On our way to the landing site our Zodiac ride took us through iceberg-clogged waters which was part of the exciting experience! After landing at a rocky ledge we followed a narrow pathway in the snow slowly making our way to the top of the island where we were treated to incredible views all across the Gerlache Strait and towards Rongé Island all the while we were surrounded by Gentoo, even some Chinstrap penguins and Skua for sure! The kayakers had come to play amongst the bergy bits close to the island as well.

After the lunch, the team moved to the second landing site – and again, what a great time we had at Ket-ley Point on Rongé Island! From inside a tiny cove we made our way to the top of the hill passing really close to a young Weddell seal taking a rest right next to the path, different groups of Gentoo penguins and Chinstrap penguins. Again, the experience was simply amazing!

After the landing we returned to the ship for dinner surrounded by the beauty of the Gerlache with ice-clad mountains and the odd whale blow in the distance.

Kayaking
AM: Useful Island – Group 5 (11 persons)
Always disappointing when people simply don’t turn up for activities without any explanation. The reduced group size of 11 enjoyed a wonderful morning in the shelter of the landing site at a really useful island. The force of the wind away from the shores encouraged us to stay in close and spend time with the penguins and the grounded ice-burgs in the bay. There was time for everyone to develop some kayak manoeuvre skills around the ice-burgs and lots of time to have a photo shoot in front of a particularly sparkly small piece of ice grounded in 12 inches of water. A short journey back towards the vessel in the open seas al-lowed all the participants to push the envelope a little and stay on the water as long as they dared before the waves got too big and the guide called the session to a close. Lots of happy faces from all the 10 lovely women that all took part and also from one very lucky guy.

PM: Ketley Point – Group 6 (14 persons)
It was a windy afternoon blowing 20 knots offshore with whitecaps all around the ship. There was however the possibility for kayaking to take place in the shelter of the shoreline. This would be a shorter trip that took account of the prevailing weather conditions. Some initial kayaking skills training and practice took place (in the shelter of the rocks) at the beginning of the afternoon for those who were unable to control their kayaks from the go. Once everyone was in control of their craft a journey then took place from the Chinstrap colony to the landing area where the Gentoo’s had taken up residence. This point was to be the venue for the polar plunge later in the afternoon that 11 of the 14 kayakers had elected to take part in. Away from the landing area the kayakers continued down the rocky coastline until they reached the large glacier that marked the endpoint. More photos then back onboard the Zodiacs and return to the ship for a speedy turnaround before the polar plunge.

Mountaineering
AM: Ketley Point
While the rest of the passengers and staff on Ortelius were getting ready to go and explore Useful Island the Mountaineering team headed off in their own Zodiacs on a longer open-water crossing to reach Ketley Point. An amazing location filled with seals, penguins, shags and incredible rock formations covered in li-chen we could also access the glacier above for a great walk up to a high point affording us, yet again, amazing views of the surrounding area. Trev needed to take one person back down to our landing to rest whilst Mal roped us all up on one single rope to continue our wander. The glacier here looks benign but the rope is 100% needed as any crevasses are well hidden by the snow.

As short while later we arrived back to our landing to find that obviously our Mountain Guides were well grounded – and so were our Zodiacs. The tide had still been going out but this was nothing that a bit of team work couldn’t easily solve.

PM: Ketley Point
Trev and Mal were keen to explore a new option for a slightly more technical glacier walk in the after-noon. Landing on a broad glacial tongue coming down between towering serac cliffs gave us safe access to get up and onto the main glacier above us. Beginning our journey back to the landing site it was easy to see that both Mal and Trev were being quite cautious through this new and technical crevassed terrain. Stopping at one crevasse we were able to safely look down and into the bowels of the glacier and we got a new appreciation of what crevasses really are like!

Shortly after Mal broke through a bridge of snow into a hidden crevasse and was left hanging with his feet unable to touch the sides of the crevasse wall beneath him. Trev reached him safely and with negotiations finished as to what it was worth to Mal to be assisted out of the crevasse, we were able to safely move out of the crevasses field and back to a high point over the normal landing site.

A short snow slide later and we were back to watch with amusement the final passengers completing the polar plunge before it was time to get back to the ship to get warm yet again.

Camping
Leith Cove
A stunning spot with 360-degree views, Leith Cove was an excellent campsite for the (again!) perfect con-ditions: no wind and a clear evening. We all got to shore and after a short but steep climb we were re-warded with those amazing views, with many very close glaciers. Camping tonight was the GLT group plus a few friends who had been made along the journey. So, for sure it would be a fun evening with lots of laughs and photos. A bit of fun chaos as we got in position for our ‘ANTARCTICA’ photo. Then many, many group photos to follow, a few of them with not too many layers. We had a lot of space to spread out on our island top, some took advantage of this for a bit of privacy to enjoy the views in peace. As we were prepar-ing our camp spots for the night and taking photos a group of humpbacks had been making their way close in. They stayed around for the entire night. After quite a good evening everyone got in their bivy bags and were tucked in with a few photos. We could hear the whales all through the night.

Day 7: Neko Harbour & Danco Island

Neko Harbour & Danco Island
Datum: 04.01.2019
Position: 64°50.7‘S, 062°34.1‘W
Wind: var. 2
Wetter: sunny
Lufttemperatur: +7

Beautiful conditions welcomed us in the Gerlache Strait this morning. With a blue sky, calm seas and a lot of ice around we sailed to Neko Harbour for our daily landing. The Zodiac ride itself was an amazing expe-rience, zipping past beautifully sculpted icebergs in near perfect conditions. The snow conditions were good enough for walking without snowshoes (as long as you stayed on the path!) so many explorers contin-ued up the trail past a few Gentoo rookeries and up a steep slope hoping for a payoff on top besides just a sweaty base layer. Others spent most of the time enjoying the blue colour of the terminal glacier face in the bay, waiting for a big piece of ice to tumble down, looking at the chicks presents in the Gentoo colony and in the nests and enjoying the gorgeous views over Neko with a lot of smaller icebergs right in front of the landing site and bigger ones further out in Andvord Bay.

While we were having lunch, the ship relocated towards Danco Island. Zodiacs were put into the water and soon we were all on land where we had different options of getting a view and stretching our legs. Most of us aimed to climb up to the top of the island to admire the view over almost the entire Errera Channel and the Arctowski Peninsula – and of course, over the Gentoo Penguins nesting up there. The view from the top showed us several massive icebergs (including Big Mama!) in the bay surrounded by glacier-clad moun-tains and clouds.

When we went back to the ship the time was perfect for a polar BBQ on the heli deck. The hotel staff had prepared the best BBQ in the polar regions and at the end of the dinner we took a passenger group photo on the back of the deck. The night continued in the bar singing and dancing!

Kayaking
AM: Neko Harbour – Group 7 (15 persons)
Yet another fabulous day dawned over the Peninsula with stellar conditions at Neko Harbour. This allowed an oversubscribed group of 15 very able kayakers to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience amongst the ice. Cameras clicking from the get-go all the way to the end of the morning. The most difficult decision for the kayakers was deciding from one amazing backdrop in the lens to the next. Photo shoots in front of the blue ice and amongst the small bergy-bits no doubt filled most of the memory cards and hopefully all of the memory banks that will never be deleted. A truly magical morning.

PM: Danco Island – Group 8 (12 persons + Doctor)
As the kayakers left the vessel and boarded the Zodiac heading for the shelter of the channel (to the left of the landing area) some jokes were exchanged about the likelihood of seeing some more whales amongst the ice-burgs. The kayak guide joked about the fact he had booked whales for a 3pm sighting and for eve-rybody to stick together as a group and be prepared. Well, a little earlier than anticipated mother nature once again provided the kayakers with a spectacle that none will ever likely experience again. The kayakers on OTL27 were truly Humpied for the second time in one expedition. Once is unusual but twice is completely crazy and a first for the kayak guide who has led Antarctic basecamp kayaking trips for 8 seasons. The ice-burg pics and encounters with the ice climbing mountaineers was super fun however the afternoon show was stolen by one particular rather large cetacean.

Mountaineering
AM: Neko Harbour
The journey above Neko Harbour is always amazing and this day was no exception. Neko offers a long, slow steadily rising climb to a point just below a set of cliffs. It was a beautiful morning with an amazing halo around the sun – this halo was giving us a warning for the possible weather to come later that night and over the next few days.

Continued amazing calm winds and mirror-like seas gave us incredible views. A lite wind had picked up by the time we reached our high point and by the time we had started to cool down it was time to make a move back towards the beach via the look out over the glacier.

This view point, and indeed anywhere in Neko Harbour allows you to really see what glacial calving is all about and we weren’t disappointed! A few amazing ice calvings gave a few of us a momentary startle but there was nothing to worry about where we were – nor for those still on the beach.

The mountain team was again the first and last team to reach and leave the shore and we zipped back to Ortelius for lunch.

PM: Danco Island
With a team of 12 keen people with technical boots and the attitude to fit we headed off to find a location to get our ice tools swinging and to get a taste of near-vertical ice climbing with the ocean lapping at our feet.
Trev and Mal ran the ropes up on the ice and then got us all fired up and ready to go. With a bit of coach-ing and technique development we were all running up and down the ice face with increasing confidence.
The slowly rising tide reminded us that time was passing and so after packing up our equipment we wan-dered back to the main landing site to board a Zodiac and head back to Ortelius for dinner.

Day 8: Port Lockroy & Dorian Bay/Damoy Point

Port Lockroy & Dorian Bay/Damoy Point
Datum: 05.01.2019
Position: 64°49.8‘S, 063°30.9‘W
Wind: NE 4-5
Wetter: overcast
Lufttemperatur: +5

Overnight we headed across to Port Lockroy, our destination for today. Port Lockroy used to be French, but served as a British base later on. Nowadays, the old ‘Base A’ contains a museum and the penguin post office. As it is built on a small island, it is not possible to land everyone at the same time. For this reason, half of us would first visit the museum and the shop while the other half remained on board Ortelius as there was too much ice in order for us to land also at Jougla Point. The museum at Port Lockroy shows how a base operated in the 50’s. The post office gave us the opportunity to send seasonal greetings from Antarctica, and to post our many, many, many penguin postcards. Just next to the museum we could admire the tiniest chicks of Gentoo penguins. Their parents were taking turns in feeding them. Across from the museum we saw several Weddell seals, and we spotted our first Leopard seal hauled out on a giant ice floe.

After lunch we sailed around the corner for our afternoon landing at Damoy Point. This is a spit of land jutting out into Dorian Bay. Right above there used to be a landing strip for all the British aircraft coming into Lockroy, for scientists who were heading further south to Rothera Base. Flying in from the Falklands, they were landing at Damoy, then hopping onto a ship heading further south to Rothera. Nowadays it is simply a reminder of the good old days, as the British base now has their own hard strip for direct flights. The wind had settled down; however, there was a lot of ice in front of the entrance to the landing site and it was low tide so the approach was quite thrilling – the Zodiacs snuck through a narrow, shallow opening between the reef and a perfectly blue iceberg. A snowshoe hike took us up to the ridgeline that was used by the British as an ice airstrip. From here we enjoyed panoramic views out over the bay. The penguin peepers peeped away at even tinier chicks and the sun came out too! Near the hut were even tinier Gentoo chicks, with most penguins having one egg and one chick – they were rather busy fighting off (successfully) a large South Polar Skua.

During our daily briefing, Sandra told us who Ortelius really was and Mal showed us impressive photos of a rather steep climb. Beau gave us an overview of what was planned for tomorrow – obviously, it was going to be a day of surprises!

Kayaking
PM: Dorian Bay (14 persons)
After the morning session had to be cancelled due to high winds at Port Lockroy, also the afternoon kayaking looked sketchy on the outside of Dorian Bay with winds gusting in excess of 20 knots. Fortunately, the bay itself looked very different and offered (some of the less experienced kayakers) some shelter and an opportunity to learn some of the basic kayak-handling skills. This scenario worked out well and as the skill levels improved amongst the teams of two during the early part of the afternoon the winds eased to allow a journey along the coastline towards Goudier. The journey through the ice was magical and the backdrop simply incredible. The afternoon kayaking surpassed all expectations and completed the kayaking schedule for OTL27. All those signed up for kayaking had been offered an opportunity to take part during the expedition, 108 being the final total of participants.

Pete (the kayak guide) would like to extend his thanks to all the kayakers on board OTL27 whom took part in such a positive way. Without exception, everyone behaved responsibly on the water and people were incredibly helpful as regards usage and storage of equipment. It was a pleasure kayaking with all of you and may I wish you well in all your future kayaking adventures wherever they may take you.
Happy paddling!
Pete

Mountaineering
Jabet Peak
It is not often that the weather, the ship’s schedule and the snow conditions all align to allow an attempt to be made to summit Jabet Peak – but that doesn’t stop us from planning to make the attempt.

The technical nature and snow / ice conditions on Jabet mean that only a small team is really able to make the attempt. On the morning of the 5th the weather was a bit touchy as whilst it was mostly clear the wind was quite strong. As the morning progressed the winds were easing and with the forecast to continue to ease the go-ahead was given to go ashore. A short steep climb out of the ocean got us up onto the glacier to make the approach to where we could drop the snowshoes and get into crampons.
Conditions were quite firm and icy all the way to the summit. Mal and Trev needed to change modes from glacier travel to short-roping and then to pitched climbing to keep us secure.

Reaching the summit shelf, we changed again back into glacier travel before crossing the bergschrund and reaching the final steep gulley to the summit. At 580 m above sea level it had taken us five hours to reach this point from the ship and we had at least three hours to go before we reached the new landing site for our pick-up.

With the obligatory summit pictures taken we started our descent. Trev and Mal lowered us through the steep sections we had climbed and then with increasing confidence we made our way back down to the point where we had left our snowshoes.
The snow surface had started to melt and weaken which meant that the journey back to the shore was a slow process but after reaching the landing site we could all sit back, relax and look at our summit … be-fore quickly being taken back to the ship for a well-deserved late lunch!

Camping
Doumer Island
While we had missed camping the previous night due to bad weather, it actually had worked out perfectly for group 4. We enjoyed the BBQ on board the night before, skipped the miserable weather and instead went the next night in beautiful conditions. It was a small group, only 14 of us for the night. We made quick work of setting up our camp spots and had time to enjoy the sights and company of our fellow campers. The sunset was shining off the nearby mountains as we took our group photo then and we got comfortable in our bivy bags for our last night in Antarctica.

Day 9: Rongé Island: Georges Point

Rongé Island: Georges Point
Datum: 06.01.2019
Position: 64°38.3’S, 062°44.0’W
Wind: SE 3
Wetter: partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +5

This morning we were greeted by a clear sky and intense sunshine as Ortelius steamed towards Georges Point, a small rocky outcrop with stunning scenery. With only a few hours available before heading north back to Ushuaia, this was to be a quick landing. After some scouting to find a suitable landing spot we once again found ourselves ‘on the beach’. More Gentoo penguins were awaiting us with the occasional blue-eyed Antarctic Cormorants too and another Leopard seal.

After lunch we began our journey north transiting through the Gerlache Strait during another beautiful Antarctic afternoon. Claudio gave a lecture on climate change – a serious problem that is having a big im-pact on the fragile Antarctic ecosystem. Whale spouts were seen all around and some humpback whales cruised close by the Ortelius, waving their flukes and flippers as if to say goodbye to us.

During our daily briefing, Beau informed us about the upcoming plans and Grace spoke to us about hap-pywhale.com – a brilliant and very easy-to-use website where we can submit all our whale fluke photos. This is the only way to learn more about the still largely unknown migration routes of the whales that come to feed down in Antarctica. Mal completed the recap with an informative lecture on why glacier ice is blue, green or white.

The seas were incredibly calm as we left the last of the Antarctic Peninsula islands behind. Dinner was on schedule as the Ortelius prepared for the crossing of the Southern Ocean’s Drake Passage.

Day 10: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Datum: 07.01.2019
Position: 60°54.9‘S, 063°15.0‘W
Wind: WNW 4
Wetter: sunny
Lufttemperatur: +5

This morning we were allowed to stay in bed longer – Beau’s wake-up call came at 07:45 before Sigi’s gen-tle voice reminded us of breakfast. The Drake continued to be at its best possible with warm sunshine and calm seas. At 10:00, we were invited to attend Mal’s lecture about glaciology. Afterwards, many of us spent time on deck and on the bridge watching to catch whales, birds and other sea life. Then at 14:30 we joined Marijke to learn about whale identification. In the late afternoon Ortelius crossed the Antarctic Convergence and we were officially out of Antarctic waters. While some remained in their cabins catching up on rest, many were in the Bar throughout the day, writing journals, editing photos, playing board and card games, learning a bit more from the lectures and visiting amongst the passengers.

Just before dinner, we met in the Bar for the daily recap where Sigi told us some important details about closing up for our departure; we looked at some photos of the day from Mal, and Gracie showed us just how big some of the seabirds and Antarctic avifauna are in terms of wingspan. Then it was off to dinner, followed by some retiring to the cabins while others headed back to the Bar to upload photos to the share folder, play more card games or have a few drinks with fellow friends.

Day 11: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Datum: 08.01.2019
Position: 56°33.3‘S, 066°44.9‘W
Wind: SE 6
Wetter: sunny
Lufttemperatur: +9

The Drake Passage had treated us to another incredibly calm night with only slight movement of the ship as we drew ever closer towards our destination. As we had made exceptionally good progress, we were able spot land in the distance already at about breakfast time – we had the southern tip of South America in sight! Lots of Black-browed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters and some White-chinned Petrels were around, and we also saw some of the huge Royal Albatrosses. After breakfast, Mark invited us to the Lec-ture Room for his presentation about a very different voyage: the semi-circumnavigation of Antarctica on board Ortelius, going from New Zealand all the way to Ushuaia exploring the Ross Sea. What a contrast to afterwards step out on deck being greeted by the balmy temperatures, blue skies and warm sunshine just off Cape Horn!

In the afternoon it was finally time to settle our ship’s accounts and hand in our rubber boots and Zodiac lifejackets – it looked like our journey was coming to an end indeed, even more so with the Captain’s Farewell. What an incredible trip we had had! The Dining Room was buzzing with excitement as was the Bar afterwards while Ortelius made her way into the Beagle Channel to pick up the pilot and continue to-wards Ushuaia.

Day 12: Ushuaia

Ushuaia
Datum: 09.01.2019
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17.0‘W

All good things come to an end, and unfortunately this is not just a saying. Today was our last morning on Ortelius. After a final night in the cabin which had started to feel like home, we were instructed to put our duffels, backpacks and suitcases in the corridors this morning so the crew could take them out and off the ship to be ready for transport to the airport or the storage facility in town. After one more breakfast it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the ship and its crew and staff, goodbye to all new friends. Appointments were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. All could look back to an absolutely stunning voyage with highlights too numerous to mention. At 08:30 everyone handed in the keys to the cabins, picked up their luggage from the pier, and set off by bus or foot towards our individual destinies, heading for new adventures and with many great memories.

Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm.
We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Furthest South: 65°09.00'S, 064°04.00'W
Total Distance Sailed: 1,749 nm

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Beau Pruneau, Hotel Manager Sigi Penzenleitner, and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Details

Tripcode: OTL27-19
Daten: 29 Dec, 2018 – 9 Jan, 2019
Dauer: 11 Nächte
Schiff: MS Ortelius
Einschiffung: Ushuaia
Ausschiffung: Ushuaia

Aboard MS Ortelius

Die eisverstärkte Ortelius ist ein exzellentes Schiff für polare Expeditionsfahrten in die Arktis und Antarktis.

More about the MS Ortelius >>