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OTL29-23, trip log, Antarctica - Polar Circle - Deep South Discovery Voyage

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation Day, Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation Day, Ushuaia, Argentina
Datum: 20.03.2023
Position: 54°48.6’S / 68°17.8’W
Wind: W7
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +6

Every great journey begins with a single step, physical or emotional. For many of us the seed of adventure bore from a dream, years or even decades earlier, to venture to a kingdom of ice and snow beyond an endless and often angry sea. To stand on the shoulders of giants, to “piece the veneer of outside things” and busk in the raw splendour of our planet. The destination we have set our ambition on is the last great pristine wilderness left on earth, Antarctica. At least we make good on our desires, today we earnestly embark on an expedition of a lifetime.

Leaving behind our own worlds, we fly from all corners of the globe to reach the starting point of our odyssey, Ushuaia – the end of the earth. Awaiting us is our home for the next 14 days, the mighty and august Ortelius, a ship that has spent much of her storied life charting the icy waters of coldest extremities of our planet. As we savour the final moments of terra firma, we make our way up the gangway were we are welcomed onboard by our Expedition Leader Allen White, the expedition team and crew, new faces who will together show you great wonders on our journey deepest South.

Greeted by our venerable Hotel Manager Albert and assistant Andi, we are shown to our rooms. We unpacked and ventured out to explore our ship. With five passenger decks, the Ortelius has extensive outside deck space, split dining room and the Metallica-famous “krill’em All” Bar. Allan calls over the PA system for us to gather in the lecturer theatre for the mandatory SOLAS safety briefing by Chief Officer, Mikael. In one of those “I hope I never need to do this for real” presentations, we listen intensely to the safety procedures and feature of Ortelius. This was followed by the compulsory abandon ship drill, we wandered to the bar or restaurant, lifejacket in hand. We were soon after introduced to the two spaces we hoped to never need frequent, the lifeboats.

SOLAS Completed, we reassembled in the lecturer theatre in which were introduced to Andi, assistant Hotel Manager who gave us whistlestop tour of Ortelius and her facilities. Allan was up next with an overview of the following 24-48 hours. Lurking outside the Beagle Channel was a great purple monster – a fierce weather front passing through the infamous Drake Passage. The wind whipped around Ortelius that afternoon, pushing her close against the peer. We all felt a distinct list - a learn of the ship as the wind pushes against Ortelius high sides. We would have to wait until the early hour before the Port would allow us to leave and so we prepared ourselves for a quiet and stable first night moored to dry land.

Before dinner, we joined our master and commander, Captain Per in the bar for the traditional Captain’s toast followed by introduction to our expedition team. Glasses raised we descended upon the restaurant for our first sampling of Chef Heinz and his team’s fine work. After dinner we returned to the lecturer theatre for our mandatory briefing; how to safely board a zodiac and how to best protect Antarctica pristine environment when we finally step ashore. With the purple monster blowing outside, we went to bed that night wondering what lay outside the shelter harbour of Ushuaia and more importantly, what awaited us on the wild and distant shores of Terra Incognita…

Day 2: At sea (Drake Passage)

At sea (Drake Passage)
Datum: 21.03.2023
Position: 55°28’S / 66°30’W
Wind: NW5
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +9

FINALLY-We are on our way. Some of us must have heard the engine start up very early. By 06:30, we were already abeam of Puerto Williams—Chile’s claim to the most southerly town in the world. We got away from Ushuaia around 04:30 and were a couple hours along the Beagle Channel as the sun finally came up. What a pleasant morning. It was hard to imagine that the previous night was so windy that the ship was pinned to the wharf.

Breakfast was well attended due to the smooth conditions in the narrow Beagle Channel. Many of us were already hanging around the outside decks to enjoy the mild conditions, and the sights. We quickly ticked up black-browed albatrosses gliding effortlessly over the sea, lots of imperial cormorants in small flocks flapping every which way around the area. Those with long lenses or binoculars were treated to a large haul-out of South American sea lions on a small island and a colony of Magellanic Penguins along the Argentina side of the channel. A few lucky observers even spotted a little group of Gentoo penguins that popped up beside the ship. An excellent morning.

By 09:15 Gary started our lecture series with a talk on the common seabirds we will encounter on our voyage. The albatrosses, in particular and some of the othere species we will only spot in the open water of our Drake Passage crossing, but many will be around with us for the entire voyage—even when we get right down among the ice. He didn’t manage to get all the way through the talk when Tennessee me over the intercom to announce WHALES!! It didn’t take long to empty the room. Everyone out on the deck to see probably 14 Sei whales scattered over a fairly large area. We were able to see many of the dorsal fins very clearly as they surfaced to blow. They were just travelling and we were motoring in the opposite direction so the whole encounter was only for a few exciting minutes. Quite a few came back to the bar and Gary did finish up the final 5 minutes.

After a small break for everyone to have a bit more time outside, Chloe continued our program of talks with an introduction to Cetaceans. We heard about how they are divided into toothed cetaceans and Baleen cetaceans; a little about their 50 million years of evolution, about their ability to echolocate, about their diving capabilities and adaptations, and then something about the various species we are most likely to see on our voyage. It was a fine introduction to to an important subject. Great to get some information so soon on the heels of an excellent sighting of whales. Hopefully we will have many more opportunities to see more whales. That brought us to lunch. We’re all starting to get into the swing of eating and eating and eating. It’s early days though so we are still finding our favourite ways to get our meals, which coffee or tea suits us best etc. By the next day everyone will have their own routines.

After lunch the divers had a gathering to discuss their trip and for a mandatory briefing about their procedures and safety concerns. Hopefully they are ready to go as soon as we get to the peninsula.

A bit later in the day, everyone went through the ritual of trying on gumboots. Everyone was called to the lecture room on deck 3 to get Muck Boots for the rest of the trip. Just about the time that was finished, the call came over the intercom to come out and view Cape Horn in the distance. Cape Horn is on a relatively small island, but it has a unique profile. Famous as a stormy point, “Rounding the Horn” has been the end of many ships.

Today, there is a large albatross statue to serve as a monument to all the sailors who have lost their lives rounding the horn. Tennessee recited the poem that’s engraved on the monument as we were view it from the ship. That was also the point when we turned slightly to the east onto a new course of 173˚. That would take us away from Cape Horn, but it also was designed to help our crossing by getting the worst of the weather a little bit more behind us rather than on our side.

About that time, Tennessee gave a presentation about some of the heroes of the age of sail. In particular, the great success of James Cook and his second expedition to south of the Antarctic Circle. It was interesting to hear of the origins of the ‘idea’—and the name, Antarctica—coming from the Greeks. That idea lived on as “Terra Australis Incognita” for many centuries. Those ideas included fantasies of a country of people in a nearly tropical setting. Cook’s voyage pretty much dispelled those fantasies, but he still missed seeing any land in Antarctica. As a consolation prize, he visited South Georgia in hopes that it was a peninsula of the unknown southern continent, but he was disappointed in that as well. Instead, he claimed the island of South Georgia for Britain.

Passing to the south of Cape Horn had the result of exposing us to the full force of the open ocean. Our swell increased in size some once we left the protection of Tierra del Fuego. Still not as rough as we were expecting, but enough to cause us to stagger around the corridors a bit and presented a few challenges for dinner. But most seem to be weathering being at sea pretty well. Those who are not feeling well certainly are hoping for a quick crossing, but as night fell and everyone was heading for the cabins, there were a hardy few that visited the bar for a while, but even the bar was empty by about 10:00pm. Tomorrow we have another full day at sea

Day 3: At sea (Drake Passage)

At sea (Drake Passage)
Datum: 22.03.2023
Position: 59°07.0’S / 63°41.0’W
Wind: W12
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +8

The day began quite dramatically and much earlier than most had anticipated as the Drake unleashed its full ferocity at 3am. Ortelius lurched violently from side to side and pitched bow to stern as it ploughed through extremely rough seas. Winds exceeded 70 knots which is well over hurricane strength. Passengers had difficulty sleeping due to the alarming rocking movement and repeated load bangs.

Oceanwide Expeditions promised exciting Polar adventure and for most passengers, this was how they had imagined the Drake…certainly memorable and something to talk about when home. As the movement continued at the 8am time of breakfast the captain, ever mindful of passenger comfort and safety during the buffet breakfast, ordered a major alteration to our course to set the ship on a more bearable heading through the waves and swell. Eventually to everyone’s relief, later in the morning the elements moderated and life on board became more comfortable. Passengers were called deck by deck to the lecture theatre for the first activity – a mandatory bio-security session in the lecture room. Eagle-eyed guides examined every item of clothing and equipment about to be taken ashore, focusing on seams, Velcro attachments, pockets, bags, boots. Every minute speck that might have been a seed of some kind, was either vacuumed up or picked out meticulously with a paper clip by the zealous guides. This session whilst a serious environmental protection activity was quite an interesting entertainment. First lecture of the day was senior guide Gary Miller, 25 years of expedition voyages around the globe and one of the most experienced naturalist guides in the business who delivered a thoroughly academic, totally comprehensive account of penguins. When asked if there were any questions at the end. It summed up his talk when there were no questions as he had covered every aspect in such detail.

Second lecture was delivered by Vide, our Svalbard based multi activity ‘giant’ guide. The Antarctic Treaty…a ridiculously tale of countries politically maneuvering to claim huge areas of the continent to be in position to eventually exploit the enormous mineral resources of Antarctica. This was an introduction to complicated subject which delivered by someone else, might have been boring but Vide communicated the complexity magnificently. He finished by reminding everyone to act as Antarctic ambassadors when they went home and to apply political pressure to ensure that when the treaty comes up for renewal in 2041 there should be no exploitation of resources in the continent of Antarctica.

Recap session was at 6.30. Despite the still rough conditions this was well attended with over 60 passengers turning up to hear Expedition Leader Allan outlined plans for the next day. Ortelius was to pass through the South Shetlands by around 8.30 in the morning and voyage south throughout the day.

Bill followed with his Looking, Seeing, Thinking, Doing…. Listening, Hearing, Understanding, Doing, illustrated lecture which described exactly the unique Oceanwide Expeditions experience… highly educational voyages of adventure which at the same time were FUN!

Our resident historian Tennessee then stepped forward to entertain and enlighten with a powerfully rendered account of the swashbuckling voyages of Francis Drake. Famed for plundering Spanish ships and communities along the Pacific coast of gold and silver and his inadvertent voyage of exploration in his Elizabethan privateer vessel the Golden Hind which was accidentally driven south in a storm from the end of South America into the massive sea area between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans which now bears his name. In all another exciting Oceanwide Expeditions day.

Day 4: South Shetlands/Bransfield Strait

South Shetlands/Bransfield Strait
Datum: 23.03.2023
Position: 62°54.0’S / 60°10.0’W
Wind: W12
Wetter: Partially cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +1

“So tomorrow we disappear into the unknown. I have no doubt that we are really on the eve of some most remarkable experiences’ – Quote of the day, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After another bumpy and wild night on the Drake passage we are all awoken 07.45 sharp with a “Good Morning everyone” as we head closer to the Shetland islands. With questions, “are we there yet “as people appear at the bar for a morning coffee. Not quite but nearly I hear answered. Then suddenly over the loudspeaker we hear “Land A Hoy” Rushing to the bridge we catch our first glimpse of the Shetland islands a silhouette on the distant horizon. With a sense of excitement in the air we settle down for a hearty breakfast.

With land growing ever closer the captain gives the order to open the outside decks. It seems a awhile away since standing on the outside decks heading down the beagle channel. Many nautical miles covered across the renowned and feared Drake passage.With a quick change, wrapping up warm we venture outside, greeted with fresh air and cold winds. Catching our first glimpse of this rugged and beautiful landscape we approach our transit through the English straights. Heading through the Barnoios islands with Robert Island of our port side and Greenwich island off to our starboard.

After exiting the English Strait, the ship sets a course for the southwest through the Bransfield Strait. In the distance off our starboard side, we can make out Deception Island and the Davis coast of the peninsula to our port side. We are now heading towards the famed Gerlache Strait. After all the excitement of our first sighting of land we then settle down for hot drinks and a lecture in the bar. It was time for captivating lecture from Tennessee about James Clark Ross, one of the great polar pioneers from the age of sail. Ross began his life in ice aged 18, joined his uncle in the frigid, unexplored channels of the Northwest Passage. On 1st June 1831, he would place the Union Flag on the Magnetic North Pole with assistance of local Inuit guides. Have participated in 6 expeditions in the Arctic, Ross was the obvious choice to lead ambitious expedition to Southern Ocean to determine if Antarctica was indeed a continent. Battling unworldly tempests, colliding with giant tabular bergs, happening upon the huge active volcano and discovering land further south than any before, drama of Ross life hit fever pitch. The last great sail-powered expedition to Antarctic, the success of Ross were drowned out by the mysterious loss of his two ships, Erebus and Terror under the commanded by Sir John Franklin in Northwest Passage.

Sailing down the Bransfield strait, position 62 54 S, 060 10 W, with a wind force 12 (65 knots) With hurricane force winds, good old Ortelius is still making 9.4 knots. The sea state has calmed down due to the protection of the land. Air temp outside is 1.2 degrees with a water temp of – 4 pretty chilly. But with the wind on the bow blowing from the west, it still proves to be bumpy ride.Settling down for our second lecture for the day, with Carrot cake and dry cake. Bill gives us an insight into the history of the ship. What it takes to operate and run the mighty Ortelius. From the beating heart of the ship of the engine room through to the galley where the amazing culinary delights are conjured up. Through to the amazing work from ever-smiling wonderful crew that make these adventures possible. What a fantastic team!!! Onwards we sail, destination Cuverville Island…

Day 5: Cuverville Island/Neko Harbour

Cuverville Island/Neko Harbour
Datum: 24.03.2023
Position: 64°47’S / 62°42’W
Wind: E3
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +4

After our long ride over a rough-ish drake Passage, the slightly early wake-up call seemed a minor inconvenience. WE ARE HERE! As we got up to the new day it was first clear that we were in calm water, then it became clear that we were coming to anchor just off the north end of Cuverville Island. Just as the program laid out, we got on our weatherproof gear and went out in the Zodiacs. Team Shackleton headed directly for the shore then Team Amundsen wasn’t far behind to go off on a Zodiac cruise around the island and the icebergs surrounding it. On shore we were completely surrounded by Gentoo Penguins.

The landing site on a cobbly beach was easy enough to negotiate. It was littered with whale bones of the old whaling era, and crowded with Gentoos. Up and down the beach was a busy rush-hour of adults rushing this way and that, with a few groups huddled up against snowy slopes here and there deep in moult. Chicks were running around all over the place when they weren’t walking up to us curiously checking out the odd-coloured—and really tall—penguins that had appeared on their territory. Where the actual colonies were, there were still a few younger chicks waiting patiently for a parent to come home and feed them. Quite a few were still pretty young. They will probably have a hard time surviving the winter because they will fledge at a lighter weight than the larger ‘main’ group of chicks.

The penguins were not alone either. We found a few groups of resting Antarctic fur seals around the landing site as well. Mostly they were sleeping and lounging, but now and then one would chase a group of penguins around a bit before dropping back down for a snooze.

One took exception to us walking on the (his?) beach and charged a few people as they walked along. Gary came along and drove him down closer to the water where he seemed content to keep that part of the beach for himself. There were a few other dramas with skuas and giant petrels as well. Some of us watched a few giant petrels eating the carcass of a penguin chick and another group witness a giant petrel chase a small group of chicks and actually grab one of the smaller ones. They scuffled for a little while and while the chick struggled, a couple of adults came over to charge at the petrel. In the melee, the chick escaped the grasp of the Giant Petrel’s giant bill, and stood bloodied and panting nearby. We suspected the Giant Petrel might have another try later.

Out on the water, the Team Amundsen cruisers were enjoying calm water conditions as they toured some magnificent icebergs around the bay. A couple boats were treated to a sizable calving off the ice cliffs of neighbouring Ronge Island, and word has it that they saw a few Leopard Seals. The divers, on the other hand, SWAM with three leopard seals. They managed their check out dive and then some there at Cuverville Island. Once we did the switch at the beach, Team Shackleton was faced with a bit of wind and rougher conditions on their cruise. Nevertheless, they had a great spin around the icebergs and essentially circumnavigated Cuverville Island before returning to Ortelius, who had changed position to the lee of the island to make boarding at the gangway easier.

Once we all got back on board, it was a well-deserved lunch while Ortelius motored down Ererra Channel into Andvord Bay. The strong wind that came up during our activities at Cuverville Island had us change plans to visit Neko Harbour instead of Orne Harbour. Neko would be better protected form the wind. After a bit less than 2 hours of motoring we came into Neko Harbour and sure-enough, there was very little wind. We jumped right into getting Team Amundsen directly to shore. Of course, this landing is actually on the mainland of the continent so it’s our only official Antarctic landing so far. Many on board finally achieved their 7th continent by stepping ashore at Neko. Some still have a continent or 2 left to visit, but they have bagged the hardest one already. Getting ashore all went well and they were starting to enjoy their time ashore when the wind came up very strong. Change plans again… We cancelled the cruise portion of the activity and brought Team Shackleton to shore as well. Neko was an exciting little bay with an ice-free section with an associated Gentoo Penguin colony, but the other half of the bay is a big glacier with a steep icefall leading to the glacier front. We had several small calvings drop into the sea while we were there.

The penguins seemed to be more active than the ones earlier in the day. There were lots of cases where adults came home with a belly full of food and the chicks ran after them in order to beg for their supper. We witnessed many feedings and even got to see little lumps of food being transferred from parent to chick. We were also treated to a wonderful scenic view. We had a loop trial that worked its way right to the top of a steep hill where the penguin colony sat, then down the other side facing the glacier front. From the top we could see well out across Andvord Bay.

At one stage Vide spotted a couple humpback whales active in the bay. From our vantage point, we could also see the divers climb up onto an ice floe—out where they were diving around some ice for the afternoon. The wind dropped for a while, but it returned just as strong as before, so we had the best of the afternoon by all spending it on shore. Eventually around 17:30, we all got back onto Ortelius to continue our journey to the deep south. We spotted a few more whales (2 Humpbacks and 1 Minke) from the bridge as we left Andvord Bay, then as the light faded from the day, we had our recap to hear of our plans tomorrow and all headed for dinner. The bar was busy after dinner—but not too late. Most everyone was tired from a really good, and big, day in Antarctica.

Day 6: Lemaire Channel/Port Charcot

Lemaire Channel/Port Charcot
Datum: 25.03.2023
Position: 65°04’S / 64°0’ W
Wind: N1
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: 0

Encouraged to get up early once again by the promise of our Expedition Leader Allan that we were to pass through one of the most spectacular much photographed locations in the whole of Antarctica… ‘The Lemaire Channel’…it sounded exotic, but would the reality live up to the hype? Well amazingly it did!!

How can you describe the Lemaire? Dramatic, massive, monumental, magnificent, mighty, memorable…words really cannot do it justice. Before breakfast, as the landscape gradually became more visible, passengers were in awe as Ortelius entered the narrow channel and motored steadily past enormous walls of multi-faceted rock and ice rising into the sky.

Passengers were apprehensive of the towering ridges of rock and snow looming overhead…making us feel small against the scale of nature. We did not require much imagination to consider the danger presented by the many overhanging glaciers and crumbling cornices. The steep snow slopes were covered in avalanche debris and etched by hundreds of deep crevasses.

Eventually, thousands of photographs later we emerged into more open water and turned hard to starboard towards out landing site…Port Charcot.

Ortelius anchored off and deployed the Zodiacs towards the shore. Guides landed first and marked out safe routes to the penguin colony, cairn at the top of the hill and ‘magnetic hut’.

Two separate activity sessions were arranged for the morning. The first group of passengers landed and were free to roam, exercise their legs, and savour the magnificent views from the location. They saw Gentoo, Chinstrap, Adelie penguins and assorted seals The second group were uplifted from Ortelius and cruised through the stunning berg sculpture park that was the iceberg graveyard. Groups swopped half-way through the morning.

In the evening at midnight Ortelius crossed the Southern Polar Circle at 66 degrees 33 minutes 65 seconds. The minutes leading up to this were intensely dramatic as the ship motored forwards with its searchlight beams illuminating in brilliant light, the swirling snowflakes of a heavy snowstorm. This was a truly aesthetic experience…the ship felt as if it was flying through a strange void as we could not see the sea. This was for many, the highlight of the day and everyone who had remained awake to experience the event was treated to a celebratory drink and presented with a ‘Guide Bill’ produced illustrated Southern Polar Circle Certificate.

Day 7: Pourquoi Pas Island/Horseshoe Island

Pourquoi Pas Island/Horseshoe Island
Datum: 26.03.2023
Position: 67°47.8’S / 67°20.4’ W
Wind: WNW7
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: -1

23.56 we crossed the Antarctic polar circle and celebrated with the Bridge team and guests with a glass of champagne thanks to our fantastic Captain Per. The visibility was poor due to the snow coming down we weaved through the ice transiting through Crystal sound. Off to bed we went awaiting an early morning wakeup call 06.45.

Due to the great progress from our bridge team, we were able to make an bonus expedition landing at Bongrain point. Upon approaching the shoreline there was heavy swell combined with a fair amount of glacial ice at the landing point. With the help of our four of the divers in their dry suits guiding in the Zodiacs and the wealth of experience from the skilled zodiac drivers is was all made possible. A safe and thrilling landing.

When on land we were greeted with a great deal of male Antarctic fur seals. Following a track marked out, we headed through fur seal alley up towards a small ridge just below the glacier. What a fantastic view outward towards the ocean and down towards the beach out into the bay. Back of the ridge we headed along the shoreline picking our way through the endless fur seal, Crabeater seals, Adelie, Gentoo penguins with Antarctic Shags flying overhead.

With a short ride back, there is time for a spot of lunch as Ortelius makes her way further south. Next stop Horseshoe Island...

After the landing we eagerly head towards the hut British base Y. A hut ran by the British in the late 1950’s for scientific research. A piece of British history well preserved frozen in time. Even a record player and a copy of an album of SGT pepper’s lonely-hearts club for those long winter nights dancing in the hut, After leaving the hut we head up to higher ground picking our way up to a cairn on the hillside. We were met with a fantastic view across to the mountains, true panoramic splendor.

Descending the hillside, picking up another marked track heading towards the lake and out towards the shoreline; a solitary Weddell seal lies on the beach sleeping, unaware of the visitors watching and snapping pictures. A few Antarctic fur seals and Adelie penguins decided to join the party. Retracing our steps, we head back to the landing site. What do we have in lined up for the afternoon’s entertainment but a polar plunge deep into the Antarctic polar circle. Surely not a regular occurrence this far south. With an amazing turn out, about 30 people and a fair few onlookers the order was given into the water you go.

Braving the icy waters of 1-2 degrees the crowd is met with shrills and cries as we enter the waters. With the cheers of support from the landlubbers, its quite a quick affair only counted as a plunge if fully submersed. Hurrying back to the shoreline it’s a quick change and whisked away back the ship for a hot shower and a warm beverage. What an amazing effort by everyone an experience not to forget in a hurry or repeat….

What an incredible day with exhilarating landings, fantastic wildlife, historic huts, picture perfect views. Adrenalin fueled polar plunges. Great food to tuck into back on the ship.

All in all another cracking day on the deep south expedition….

Day 8: Red Rock Ridge/Stonington Island

Red Rock Ridge/Stonington Island
Datum: 27.03.2023
Position: 68°17’S / 67°11’W
Wind: SE3-4
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: -2

Allan’s 06:45 wake up called seems earlier every day. That’s partly due to the lateness of the season. Now when we get woken up it’s still very dark outside. This morning we had an unusual experience. Looking out from the ship there were lights on shore! We had spent the night within sight of San Martin, the Argentine station south of the Antarctic Circle. As soon as we were woken up, the ship picked up the anchor and started to make it’s way to our morning landing at Red Rock Ridge.

Red Rock Ridge (RRR) was our farthest south position for this voyage, 68˚17.517’ South at 67˚11.209’ West. and a new expedition stop for all the guides. Consequently, we had a little extra time for the guides to go ashore to scout the landing site and set up places to walk. RRR turned out to be a wonderful site. Surrounded by massive icebergs and extensive shallow water, the ship was a good distance from our eventual landing site. Tucked away behind some big icebergs and a few low, offshore Islands, we landed at a few large rock slabs at a small cove in the corner of a larger bay. Towering above us was the namesake, Red Rock Ridge. It didn’t seem all that red, but it was lighter than most of the rocks we have seen south of the circle. Apparently, the sun’s light at sunset shines it's red glow directly onto the high cliffs showing off the red light like a movie screen.

We had a wonderful walk around the place. The fur seals were mostly sleeping all around the place. The biggest ones held possession of all the largest stone to sleep on. It was a bit of a gauntlet to try to walk our little circuit and weave in and around so many seals. Most of us got a quick (but half-hearted) charge from at least one fur seal along the way. While we were dodging fur seals, we also had some lovely opportunities to watch a group of freshly-moulted adult Adelie Penguins at the beach and a few Weddell Seals scattered around the shoreline areas. For some, the highlight was just a short walk up a hill to get the scenic overlook version of a view. ……

After lunch, we were already in position for our afternoon. This time we went just a few short miles north of RRR to Stonington Island. The main feature there was the large historic station from the British. I was originally established in 1946 and operated as the main British Antarctic Station from 1946-1950 and again from 1960 until it was closed permanently in 1975. The British launched many epic journeys from Stonington. With over 140 dogs based there, they travelled thousands of kilometers of many seasons mapping and surveying the lands around the southern Antarctic Peninsula. Everyone managed to take a look through the main base to see many of the old stores, the rooms and layout of the hut. It was built to house 4 to 17 men through the year. It seemed like a good size. Even with 17 men, there were plenty of rooms and workplaces that the men could live and work without being in each other’s faces all the time.

The other historic site on the island was the buildings from East Base. That station was originally established by Admiral Richard Byrd in 1940, but ice and WWII cut the mission short and they left in 1941. It was next occupied by the Ronne Private Research Expedition in 1947- 1948. They conducted extensive aerial surveys and mapping during that expedition, but they also had among them the first 2 women to winter over in Antarctica, Jackie Ronne and Jenny Darlington (the wives of the Expedition leader and the pilot). The huts were not so preserved as the one we visted on Horseshoe Island, but they were very interesting features of our landing. Meanwhile, there were many other out-buildings to discover and wander around. Not to mention the magnificent ice cliffs just across the small channel to the north and east. We were even treated to thunderous cracks and at least one good calving that sent a small tsunami to our side of the channel and for minutes on end, there was the crashing and sloshing of small bits of brash ice on the shoreline. So we had a little bit of everything for a long afternoon. The best ever, though, was the fact that we could roam around freely in the fresh snow to discover the place for ourselves.

Back on board, we had a recap where Allan described tomorrow’s activity where we hope to land at yet another place where no one on board has been before, Jenny Island. That was followed by interesting presentations by Bill and Gary. Bill talked again about looking and really “seeing” things as we visit our various landing sites. Gary spoke of 3 seals we have encountered several times; The Antarctic fur seal, the Weddell seal, and the crabeater seal.

After that it was dinner and darkness and the end of another day south of the circle. Tomorrow after our morning outing, we start to head north as fast as we can.

Day 9: Jenny Island/Gunnel Channel

Jenny Island/Gunnel Channel
Datum: 28.03.2023
Position: 67°40.4’S / 68°17.3’W
Wind: SW6
Wetter: Partially sunny
Lufttemperatur: -2

Another day dawned with Allan our Expedition Leader arranging a civilized start time for landings. No stressful early morning rush, rather enough time for a relaxed breakfast then dressing adequately for cold weather in preparation for our Zodiac transfer to Jenny Island… a dramatic rock and snow outcrop which loomed high above the ship on the starboard side.

Passengers were divided into two groups… one landing, one cruising then swoping.

The landing was on a narrow section of beach at the base of the towering outcrops. As slight swell surged along the stony beach, guides Bill and Alexis dressed in waders stood in the freezing sea securing the Zodiacs during all passenger transfers. Temperature was cold at -2.3 degrees but luckily we were out of the force 6 wind on a sheltered section of coast. As we disembarked were extremely lucky to find excellent photo opportunities just metres away from the landing point. Thirty or forty Elephant seals lay in a ‘wallow’ on the beach and fur seals were scattered all along the snow and boulder covered shore. Passengers on the Zodiac cruises encountered a pod of Orca Type B who obliged by swimming reasonably close and followed, keeping a respectful distance, a lone Humpback meandered across the ocean.

Everyone returned to the vessel at 12.30 in time for lunch.

Ortelius set a course north which passed the massive British Antarctic Survey base at Rothera. It was a surprise for many on board to have sight of the logistical complexity of such a large research station with its enormous sprawl of buildings, tall cranes, construction equipment, huge wall of offshore containers, airfield control tower and lengthy quayside etc.

As we headed across the Cole Channel with the Laubeuf Fjord system towards the narrow ‘Gullet’ the enormous 2,075 metre mountain mass of Adelaide Island dwarfed everything else in the landscape. The light was terrific as the sun poked provocatively through dense clouds highlighting the distant glacier snowfields and as an added bonus, humpbacks were everywhere! How could it get better than this? Well it just did…what happened next was superb.!

Ortelius, egged on by highly favourable weather and ice condition, elected to slide slowly into the Gunnel Channel, a narrower and less travelled passage connecting Crystal Sound with Margarite Bay. We navigated between huge, grounded icebergs; massive convoluted highly photographic shapes dwarfed by the mountains on either side of the channel. Enormous expanses of snow and heavily crevassed ice cascading down almost vertical hillsides Cameras clicked incessantly…this was a truly aesthetic experience which had to be captured. Guides and passengers posed for a group photograph then hotel staff served a welcome cup of alcohol laced chocolate on the foredeck to warm the frozen bodies of all those refusing to miss a minute of this experience by going inside, despite the rather chilly -2 degrees temperature.

What a day…Oceanwide Expeditions excelling itself with a once in a lifetime deeply etched adventure.

Day 10: Lemaire Channel/Damoy Point

Lemaire Channel/Damoy Point
Datum: 29.03.2023
Position: 65°11.0’S / 64°07.9’W
Wind: E4
Wetter: Sunny
Lufttemperatur: -3

After an early morning wake up call. Our first glimpse outside we are greeted with snow-capped mountains, endless peaks silhouetting the clear sky.A crisp – 4 degrees awaits us, heading outside we take our positions around the decks to take n and absorb the sights all around us. As we edge down the coastline, the peaks of the mountains changing colours from pinks toreds. At 08.05 we catch our first glimpse of the sun as it rises in-between the tooth like ridges.

Slowly sailing up the Grandidier channel, Ortelius cuts its way through the newly formed pancake ice. Passing Darboux island & Somerville islands on a heading of 045.7 degrees and a respectable 11.4 knots, we make good time. Our objective the Lemaire channel or kodak ally as its sometimes named. ETA 10.30. Humpback whales are seen as large blows are seen in distance all about the vessel. Then suddenly a call on the loudspeaker as a southern right whale has been spotted 130 degrees, a rare sight in these waters we are told.

Carrying on we pass a Ukraine research vessel named the Noosferus the first ship sighted for a while. Formerly James Clark Ross or JCR when she was operated by the British Antarctic Survey and name after one of Britain’s greatest polar explorers. The crew of Noosferus gave us onboard Ortelius long blow of horn as we sailed by…

Shortly afterwards the Ukraine Vernadsy research station comes into view. Formerly owned by the British and known as Faraday, the station was sold to Ukraine for a grand sum of one pound sterling. Still manned and used for scientific research today. Pushing on we approach the entrance to the Lemaire channel. Starting our transit through the channel we are met with magnificent views both port and starboard, sheer vertical rockfaces shooting upwards towards the crystal-clear blue skies, snow-capped with a scattering of fresh snow. The Sea Gods were defiantly smiling on us today.

With the best yet to come rounding the coastline we are met with the splendid and spectacular Una’s peaks. Una was secretary who work for the Falkland Islands Government and was perhaps the last woman many of the young men working for what is now the British Antarctic Survey would have seen for perhaps 2.5 years. Initially an unofficial nickname, in 2009 Una Peaks was made official. Sailing through the Lemaire channel must have been welcome sight and a reminder of Stanley for the sailors heading north and south.

Upon leaving the channel we head across the Bismarck straight towards Wienke Island. Anvers Island in the distance, Mount Francis rising to a height of 2008 meters. Approaching Wienke Island, we head for Damoy point. With wind a force 4 blowing easterly we have calm seas, a brisk air temperature of -3, sea temperature of +2. Our position 65 11 0 S – 064 07 9 W.

Boarding the Zodiacs for a short ride we are meet with a rocky landing, once ashore we head up the hill with a fair amount of snow underfoot, we pass through a Gentoo penguin colony. The huts now becoming visible in the distance. Following the poles downwards the track forks off then climbs steeply upwards towards the ridge, once used as a landing strip for the aircraft. A good work out to reach the top!!!

Upon reaching the ridge you are standing on what was once used as a 400m ski way marked out along the spine of the glacier on which a twin otter aircraft was able to land. Personnel and supplies arriving by ship were flown from Rothera research station on Adelaide Island. Looking down further into the bay towards port Lockroy there is a historical hut manned in the summer for visitors. Retracing our steps back down the track we head towards Damoy hut. Located, Dorian Bay, Wienke island, palmer archipelago 64 49 S – 63 31 W.

The hut which was last occupied in November 1993 is a well-preserved hut containing scientific equipment and supplies. Usually manned by 2-3 men to organise the transfer of cargo to the ski way by snowmobile and to aid the pilots with weather reports.

After leaving the hut we continue around the coastline past the penguin colonies towards the landing point back to Ortelius.

Day 11: Deception Island

Deception Island
Datum: 30.03.2023
Position: 62°55.7’S / 60°30.7’W
Wind: W7
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +1

Waking up and lying-in bed just before the 06:45 wake-up call we could feel the ship had that familiar heel of a few degrees. It must be windy out. Moments later Allan’s call for “Good Morning” came over the intercom. Time to start our last day on the peninsula. It’s exciting though. Up for an early breakfast, then right after we all crowded onto the bridge and the bow as Captain Per and Chief Mate, Michael directed our entry into the caldera of Deception Island through Neptune’s Bellows. A fascinating passage. It looks narrow enough, but the presence of a submerged rock in the middle of the channel adds to the excitement. Immediately inside we could see the remnants of the old Whaling Station and BAS Research station. But we were on a mission to the back end of the caldera for a landing at Telefon Bay.

The wind was pretty strong, and it seemed unlikely we would be able to operate Zodiacs with so much wind, but we proceeded to our chosen site regardless. It was close to an hour before we got to the back of the caldera and could inspect the site. The wind was still gusting up to 50 knots, but it was clear that in close to shore things were much better. The call went out for staff to go out in a scout boat. Things turned out OK because it wasn’t long after that the call for passengers to load came through the intercom. The brave of us went on down for a wet, windy and wild Zodiac ride to shore. The worst was at the gangway. As we got closer to shore, the wind dropped some so the beach disembarkation was easy.

Once ashore we were met with a lunar landscape of fresh gravel and sand with scattered volcanic rocks. First we climbed through a small erosion channel to rise up to the plateau above the beach. From there the sides of the crater rose above us. Tracks led us up the rim of a crater where we felt the full force of the wind. A few items of clothing disappeared from heads and pockets. Fortunately, people walking well downwind were able to collect them all (we believe). Most braved the strong winds for a while and climbed partway up and around the crater. After admiring the view of Port Foster from a good high point, the track took us down to the crater floor. From the rim, the wind was fierce. It was good to drop back down where the wind wasn’t so strong and walk along the level of the crater floor.

The track took us to look over Stancomb Cove—with beautiful shades of blue and lovely patterns with the snow patches on rocky slopes above the water. All the features we saw today were newly formed by the eruptions of 1967, 1969 and 1970; the craters, the shapes of the lagoons, the beaches. One last overlook to see the entire view of Stancomb Cove before heading back to the landing site. What a contrast to the ice-covered mountainous landscape of the past week.

Back on board for a hearty lunch, we were all called back onto the bridge or outer decks as Captain navigated us for a close pass by the local Spanish Station. It’s already closed for the winter, from there we did a circuit of Whaler’s Bay to get a closer look at the remains of the old whaling station and British research Station. Those with sharp eyes and/or binoculars would have spotted some Antarctic fur seals on the point near Whaler’s Bay---and even a small group of Chinstrap Penguins resting there. The ruins are an eerie testament to the substantial slaughter of the whale populations in the first half of the 20th century. The shore-based station was required because Britain mandated that the whalers at Deception use all the carcass of the whales they killed. While it was a hassle for the early whalers, the bones can hold 20-30% of the oil from a whale carcass so it was good business as well.

From our short ship-tour of the whaling station, Captain expertly maneuvered us onto the correct line of course to take us safely back out through Neptune’s Bellows and on our way towards the dreaded Drake Passage. It didn’t take long before we started to feel a little motion within Bransfield Strait, but it was a few hours when we passed Smith and Snow Islands before we got to the Drake proper. Meanwhile Chloe gave a tremendous talk on plankton. It was a beautifully illustrated talk about many of the wonders of plankton; the wonderful shapes, the different kinds, some about harvesting krill. She did a fine job of covering a broad topic. We all have a much greater appreciation for the diversity and beauty of plankton.

What a relief. By the time we went to our recap, we were already properly in the Drake Passage and on our correct heading to navigate to Ushuaia. The ship movement continued to be easy to moderate and we can expect that for the rest of the night. Dinner was well attended, so hopefully, most people have developed sea legs over the first 10 days of the voyage and our Drake passage will be an easy one.

Day 12: At sea (Drake Passage)

At sea (Drake Passage)
Datum: 31.03.2023
Position: 59°51.0’S / 64°24.4’W
Wind: NW5
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +3

Ortelius ploughed relentlessly on across the Drake with its ‘cargo’ of totally satisfied Oceanwide Expeditions clients. What a trip! It exceeded all expectations. None of us could have visualised the vastness of the landscape, the outstanding beauty of the glaciated mountains and ice studded sea, the convoluted surfaces of sparkling icebergs and the opportunity to have endlessly interesting conversations with fellow passengers. Who of us could have anticipated the commitment of the ever-smiling happy crew and guides to ensure such stimulating education, fun and adventure.

During the day, everyone was hunched over laptops, fingers flicking across keys, discarding, enlarging, cropping, lightening, highlighting…the lengthy process of editing thousands of photographs. Lot’s of new friends now, discussing shared adventures and swoping e-mail addresses and interesting photographs.

In the morning Vide delivered a fascinating highly detailed and amusingly presented account of the ‘Race to the Poles’ between Scott and Amundsen. This was followed by Bill at 11.30 with another of his passenger thought provoking Looking, Seeing, Thinking lectures… ‘Paintings of the Sea’…the meaning of the sea in paintings.

In the afternoon Muck boots handed in…we were apprehensive when issued with them at first but now a bit sad as most had become quite fond of their outstanding comfort in the rigorous conditions. Final well attended lecture of the day was delivered by Allan…subject matter ‘Sledge Dogs’. This was a beautifully illustrated account of the use of dogs during expeditions in Polar Regions. The statistics and stories were extremely interesting.

Of the 900 dogs used by expeditions 800had been born in Antarctica. The dog ‘Mac’ covered a record 14,440 miles compared to the average of 3000 for a working dog . The husky ‘Steve’ slipped away during a base evacuation and everyone thought he was lost when the ship sailed without him. Astonishingly he turned up at the nearest base 80 miles away three and a half months later. The most astonishing story related to a Japanese expedition where 2 brother Sakhalin Huskies survived without human support for over 11 months. This was a relaxing day, the ‘Drake’ was kind, only a moderate swell and an easy motion.

After dinner, we joined Tennessee in the bar for happy hour and Shackleton. The bar, packed 3 deep as we grab a drink, perhaps even a glass of Shackleton Whiskey, a modern whiskey inspired by recently uncovered bottles of Mackinlay’s whiskey at Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition hut, Cape Royds on Ross Island.

Drink in hand, we joined in a toast to the boss, we plunged straight into tale of Endurance and her crew – “the greatest survival story ever told”. We follow Endurance into the Weddell Sea with aspiration of making the first continental crossing and we feel the vice-like grip as Shackleton and his men becomes beset in Ice. With their ship destroyed by churning currents forcing the sea ice together, Shackleton is to make a dash towards land and later the remote Elephant Island. His only hope is to reach the whaling outpost of South Georgia to raise the alarm and dispatch a relief expedition. Salvation lay 800 nautical miles away and their only means of transport was a keelless open lifeboat, the James Caird. Against all the odds Shackleton and five of his men including Endurance’s Captain, Frank Worlsey would land on desolate coast of South Georgia, traverse the unmapped interior and reach the whaling of Stromness 36 hours later, rescuing the remainder of his men on Elephant Island three months later after several failed attempts.

Day 13: At sea (Drake Passage & Beagle Channel)

At sea (Drake Passage & Beagle Channel)
Datum: 01.04.2023
Position: 57°00.6’S / 66°35.2’W
Wind: NW3
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +6

We awoke on the morning 1st April to calmer, more relaxed sea. With no wake-up call from Allan, many enjoyed a well-deserved lie on our penultimate morning. As the lazy swell subsided, we enjoyed breakfast with thoughts of Shackleton and his 800-mile journey onboard the James Caird, imagined life with just one hot and highly unappetizing meal of “hoosh”- hard tact biscuits mixed with fruit and beef, harled around in the roughest seas imaginable.

Our first lecture on today program was “Exploring with Taste – French and Belgium Explorations of Antarctica”. We gathered in the bar and were transported to the gallant age of sail as we joined Dumont D’Uville on his Adelie penguin throwing adventures to Adelie Land, East Antarctica, 1840. We took our berth in the “madhouse at the end of the earth” alongside Adrien De Gerlache, young Roald Amundsen and Fredrick Cook as they endured the first Antarctic winter onboard Belgica. We finally marvelled at the civilised and salubrious over wintering of the “gentleman of the pole” Jean-Baptiste Charcot.

The sun broke through the clouds and ahead of the ship were the distinctive rocky headland of Cape Horn, the bottom of mighty continent of South America. Notorious amongst sailors and landlubbers alike, the “Horn” was first charter and named by Dutch navigators in 1616 and is marker between to the two largest ocean of the world, the Pacific and Atlantic. Opening of the Panama in early 20th century would dramatically reduce the number vessel that would round the Horn, yet it is a feat still considered the holy grail for professional and amateur yacht crews.

As we closed the distant between ourselves and the Horn, we were indulged with an outstanding lecture from our resident Argentinian, Alexis, about the fascinating history of Yahgan peoples, the original inhabitants of Terra Del Fuego. We explored how Yahgan survived and thrived in one of the most challenging environments on earth; from crafting canoes, building tents to hunting methods.

After lunch, we heed the beckoning call to draw closer to the Horn. Soon we could observe, with the naked eye, the Chilean light house & sailors memorial as we stood a mere 3 miles off this famed headland. At our closes point I came of the PA system to read the moving poem by Sara Vial inscribed on the sailors memorial that stand on the island:

I am the albatross that awaits you,
At the end of the world.
I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners
Who passed Cape Horn,
From all the oceans of the world.
But they did not die
In the furious waves.
Today they sail on my wings
Towards eternity
In the last crack
Of the Antarctic winds.

Sara Vial, December 1992, Cape Horn

After a moment of reflection, the Captain approached me suggesting that there was an opportunity to make history. To set the record for the most amount of people in a bridge next to Cape Horn. Vide and myself jumped into action and over the PA a voice boomed – “We aim to make history today…join us on the bridge, the Captain needs your help!”. Smiling and somewhat confused faces passed into the bridge, who were immediately presented with a numbered post-it note. 107 all told! A record and surely an unbeatable one at that.

For the final time we gather in the bar for recap and to raise a glass in a special thank you toast with Captain Per. Tonight we were in for special treat, our man with a camera and resident Svalbardian Vide, had prepared a special end of trip slide show. We watch as 13 days were compressed into 30 mins and we relieved the awe and wonder of our odyssey deepest south. With emotional thanks from our stoic expedition leader Allan crew and expedition staff ended the evenings proceeding as we descended upon the restaurant as Ortelius patiently weaved her way into the Beagle Channel.

Day 14: Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina
Datum: 02.04.2023
Position: 54°48.6’S / 68°17.8’W
Wind: NW2
Wetter: Partially cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +8

2,229 Nautical Miles, 10 Zodiac landings (five of which below the Antarctic Circle), 5 zodiac cruises, 9 dives sites, 1 Polar plunge and over 3 million photographs taken collective (approximately!) we reach are starting point, Ushuaia. You walked with penguins, cruised with whales, and navigated the nearly unvisited Gunnel Channel. These were truly the days of days. It will take weeks, months or perhaps even a year for what you have witness and experienced to sink in. That you have traversed into the lesser-known corner of the world and busked in the sheer splendor of our wild planet. You have seen the world in possibility its purest and most spectacular form.

We venture down the gangplank together, looking upon Ortelius with different eyes and make one final last goodbye to our Antarctic home. With heartfelt farewells to those who were once strangers now close friends, we begin the epic journey back to the worlds we left behind.

You may look back at this trip log in years to come to help you explain to other what it is to journey deepest south. T The Truth is here are no words, photographs or films that can explain, you simple must go and live it…


Tripcode: OTL29-23
Daten: 20 Mär - 2 Apr, 2023
Dauer: 13 Nächte
Schiff: MS Ortelius
Einschiffung: Ushuaia
Ausschiffung: Ushuaia

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Die eisverstärkte Ortelius ist für die Polarforschung und wenn nötig, für Helikopterflüge bestens ausgerüstet.

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