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PLA30-20, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula, Polar Circle

by Mel vdH

Logbuch

Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Datum: 16.02.2020
Position: 54°53’S / 067°42’W
Wind: Variable 1
Wetter: Partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +7

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll be going south...a long way south. But for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (literally “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote, setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of warmth before heading off on our adventures.

For many of us this is the start of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each person, but even the most experienced of us must feel genuine excitement departing on a journey to the Great White Continent. Accordingly, most passengers arrived promptly at the port, ready to board the good ship MV Plancius, our home for this Antarctic adventure!

We were greeted at the gangway by members of our Expedition Team and our ship’s doctor Claudio where everyone’s health survey was reviewed and temperatures screened in order to keep all passengers and crew secure regarding the Coronavirus risk. After clearing the screening, we proceeded up the gangway where we met Hotel and Restaurant Managers, Alex and Dragan, and to be directed to our cabins with the assistance of the fabulous hotel crew. Once everyone had been approved for boarding, we all gathered in the lounge on deck five to begin our safety briefing. First was a video, entertaining but also clearly showing us what was important to pay attention to on the ship for our safety. Then we met our First Officer Miia, who with the crew and staff led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, including trying on our huge orange life jackets and walking to the lifeboat stations to become familiar with their locations.

We then had some time to adjust to our cabins, explore the ship, and take in the striking scenery of Ushuaia’s mountainous backdrop before reconvening for our next briefing with Alex our Hotel Manager to learn more about our floating hotel/home for the next 11 days, and how life onboard will operate. This was followed by a few words from our Expedition Leader, Ali Liddle, and the rest of the Expedition Team who will guide us in Antarctica. Finally Ali introduced our Captain Evgeny who after some wise words of welcome, proposed a toast to our voyage.


Our first dinner onboard was a chance to chat with other guests and be impressed by what Chef Charlotte and her galley team will be offering us during the voyage. Just as we were finishing our meals, the wind dropped enough to make it possible to depart the pier, and so the engines were started… and we were off! Cruising away from a beautiful backdrop of Beagle Channel mountains we headed out towards open water, the first nautical miles towards the incredible journey ahead of us. Bon Voyage!

Day 2: At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage

At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage
Datum: 17.02.2020
Position: 57°01,4’S / 065°21,4’W
Wind: W 5-6
Wetter: Partly cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +6

A quiet morning in a place where many legends talk about strong winds and big swell. Grey light, a shy sun painting the immensity of this vast ocean, giving us the sense of life that we‘ve been looking for. We are in search of this dream-- this day, and it is finally becoming real.

We start to familiarize our bodies with the never-ending tango between the ship and the waves, a strange love shared since forever, blessed by the wind. Wind means albatross… the most beautiful birds, are we are lucky to follow their performance from front row seats. They follow the waves very close, jumping from one side to the other without flapping a wing, almost touching the foamy peaks with the tips of their wings. They will be with us on this side of the world, called by the sailors as ‘the furious fifties, the deadly forties of the Southern Ocean’.

During the morning we had a very interesting lecture about the fabulous world of sea birds, given by Regis Perdriat, one of the bird specialists on this voyage as well as experienced expedition guide. Following that the dive guides gave a briefing to their group about how their activity would work for the voyage, meanwhile everyone on the ship continued to adjust to life on a moving platform. After the first lunch at the dining room we had the delivery of the rubber boots, an important part of the equipment that we will use during this exploration trip.

After that we had another lecture about plankton and Drifting Life in the ocean with the characteristic sympathy and kindness of our French expedition guide Chloe Marechal. The last lecture of the day was from our Assistant Expedition Leader, Celine Clement about penguins and their adaptations to the harsh polar environment.

The end of the day brought the time for a recap, our daily moment to review what we have seen and done during the day and to hear about plans for tomorrow. Tonight, Ali introduced the staff and shared that the seas would continue about the same, which was a relatively easy crossing. Finally Alex welcomed us into the dining room to celebrate the first day at the famous Drake Passage.

Day 3: At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage

At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage
Datum: 18.02.2020
Position: 60°58.2’S / 063°14.7’W
Wind: ENE 7
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: +4

A nice morning, first real sensations after a full day on this sea. Big swell, stronger wind, long hours of rolling start to affect some of the fellow explorers. A quiet lounge at 08:00 am, some empty spaces, many passengers at the cabin trying to adapt their bodies to this new environment.

This morning Ali offered us a new safety briefing about zodiac boarding, how to get into them, the ‘Three steps’ that the expedition guides will ask us to do every time we board the boats at the gangway to start any landing or zodiac cruise. It seems easy but it will be surprising how often we can forget the process… but they will remind us as many times as is necessary. It’s all about safety!

After that we started with one of the most important things before arriving to Antarctica: The vacuuming of all outerwear, backpacks and any other kind of equipment that we will introduce to this area. The reason? PREVENTION of any kind of Alien on this pristine environment—whether seeds or disease.

As we are doing all these activities, we are still traveling down south…

We are able to visit the Bridge and see how the officers and the watchmen work together to keep us on course and set up everything on the ship. We are in good hands. The first groups of passengers start to play some cards, painting, taking pictures of the sea birds around us and they move from one deck to another moving more smoothly than yesterday. We are gaining our sea legs! Our ship slowly becomes our home, our safe cocoon in the south.

Many activities happened during the day-- Rustyn Mesdag, camping and expedition guide, gave us an excellent lecture about the Antarctic Treaty. The kayakers, divers, and campers had their introductory and safety briefings in different areas of the ship at various times, and then got their equipment organized—all they need to start everything a busy day tomorrow which we realize is coming ever closer. In fact we sighted our first frozen land—we passed between Smith and Snow Islands, part of the South Shetland Islands… Everybody is excited, wondering what the weather will be, asking for advice from the staff, asking for timings and it looks like this adventure is starting to become a reality. Everyone went to bed early... adventure is out there and everybody knows it!

Day 4: Cuverville Island / Danco Island

Cuverville Island / Danco Island
Datum: 19.02.2020
Position: Cuverville Island / Danco Island
Wind: Variable 3
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: +1

After 2 days in the Drake Passage, we got a lovely morning call early by Ali: "Good morning, the ship is surrounded by humpback whales!" Slowly everybody got dressed to go out and have a look. Then, some minutes later, we got the message that some orca had shown up around the ship as well! Plenty of people then went, a little more quickly, outside on different decks and enjoyed the spectacle of humpback whales, orca, and fur seals in close proximity to each other and the ship. What a start to begin our polar exploration!

After breakfast we began our first excursion of the trip, a landing on Cuverville Island. The conditions were perfect. Almost no wind, a bit cloudy, but always some blue sky in between. The first Zodiac ride went well (no splashing!) and we reached our landing spot in great moods ready for our first shore briefing. Ali explained about the landing and what there was to see—gentoo colonies on both ends of the beach and a little later we would be able to make a small climb and reach a saddle on the hill to experience a spectacular view over the bay in almost a 360° angle. We had three hours to explore the area which made plenty of time to relax and take in all of the sights. The cute little penguin chicks were walking around curious and made a big fun show for us. On the beach we had a steady coming and going of penguins and we could easily watch these beautiful looking birds with their lovely orange beaks. The time went by fast, but we knew we would get another landing in the afternoon.

After a short lunch break, we got the chance to see another beautiful island in the scenic Errera Channel: Danco Island. After getting ashore, a big crowd of people went immediately up to conquer the hill on the island. The island is home for plenty of small penguin colonies spread all over, both near the beach and also along the slope and up on top too! The hike up was rocky and most people appreciated the chance to stretch their legs after the long hours at sea. The view again was spectacular, even if it wasn’t possible to reach the top of the island—the 5-meter-rule limited our ability to access the “penguin-penthouse” on top of the hill.

Regardless, there was more than enough view and penguin mass to enjoy as it was so we continued watching the penguin drama unfold: feeding, walking, talking… and also some adults were molting already. Here and there we also saw skuas flying around checking out some food opportunities. Back down below, the walk on the beach towards the penguin highway at the end was comfortable and allowed us nice views towards our kayakers and the divers.

At the end of the landing Ali offered us the opportunity of a polar plunge—meaning you get the chance to swim in Antarctic waters. Sounds exciting, but in reality it means +1°C temperatures plus really cold and lumpy stones to walk on with bare feet! But our unnamed heroes would stop at nothing to be able to claim the title of Polar Plunger. And so a surprising amount of apparently sane people got undressed and took advantage of the unique possibility to “enjoy” the fresh water. It was good fun for everybody and even the “dry” people enjoyed the spectacle and offered the swimmers the chance to take the first Zodiac back to reach the warm showers of our temporary home Plancius. On the way back the expedition team gave us the chance to cruise by an ice flow to see a big leopard seal taking a nap.

Back on the ship at recap Ali explained to us the plans for the next day, and Regis began an explanation on how to discover new penguin colonies based on looking for pink stains on the ice in aerial photography… but he was disrupted by the beautiful icebergs that kept passing by the lounge windows as the Captain navigated some narrow gaps between icebergs on our way to the camping location for the night. After having a good dinner—getting some fuel onboard to help them through the night—30 brave campers took the chance to enjoy a night outside in the Antarctic air. We dropped our new friends at Leith Cove for the night and took off out of sight to give them a real wilderness experience. Good night to our campers, see you tomorrow! And for all of us, the quiet time before sleep was a good chance to reflect on our amazing first day, full of new experiences and impressions. We cannot wait to see what will happen in the next days!

For the campers at Leith Cove they could not have asked for better weather. The snow levels were low after having record high temperatures in Antarctica this season, but the sky had only some high light clouds and there was no wind. After all zodiacs delivered the campers ashore at 20.30pm, Rustyn straight away gave a briefing about our equipment and the area. The campsite was amazing - a small island directly surrounded by high glacier walls on three sides and a view of the bay just right in front. Half of us started putting together our bivy bags and sleeping kits, while the other half used the shovels to start digging our sleeping areas out for the night. After the work was done everyone stayed awake for quite awhile and absorbed the grandeur and breathtaking views that surrounded us. In the morning we had a 4.14am wake-up call and the entire team was in good spirits. We broke down camp quickly and efficiently and got back to the ship for some hot coffee by 05.00am. It was a cold and clear night, and one we would never forget.

Day 5: Petermann Island / South to the Circle

Petermann Island / South to the Circle
Datum: 20.02.2020
Position: 64°57.2’S / 063°34.3’W
Wind: E 3
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: +1

This morning at dawn, our heroic campers appeared on board again. Rumours about this night under the southern stars (though hidden by clouds) evoked different sound atmospheres, calving glacier, big waves, and ... snoring.

Then, while many of us were finishing breakfast, Ali announced that a large group of killer whales were crossing at close range and that we would try to approach them. Their coffee being drunk in triple speed, the first passengers rushed to the deck to watch the incredible scene. First far away then very close, there were about twenty of them swimming around the ship: young, females, and males with imposing dorsal fins. Some of them even swam along the bow and allowed themselves to be admired at close range through the transparent water.

Shortly afterwards, another equally dazzling spectacle was awaiting. The Plancius prepared to enter the Lemaire Channel. This narrow passage is famous for the beauty of the landscapes that surround it. Once again, we were all outside to enjoy the panoramas, dark and dizzying cliffs sprinkled with snow overlooking this fine inlet dotted with icebergs. Once through, we arrived in sight of our first destination, Petermann Island. The gangway was set up and the merry-go-round of zodiacs begins, dropping us off on the island which-- in the early 1900s-- was the wintering place of the French explorer JB Charcot and his scientific team aboard the Pourquoi Pas?.

Petermann is home to colonies of gentoo and adélie penguins. The latter have a very short breeding season and so they have almost all left the island already. Only a few individuals remain here and there, to the delight of all of us, who are very happy to be able to observe another penguin species. A bit later in the landing Ali opened another path to enjoy a viewpoint overlooking the opposite side of the island—interesting sculped snow banks and large icebergs out into the open ocean beyond. The weather began to close in so it felt more than comfortable to return to the ship anticipating a hot drink and satisfying lunch. As soon as we were back on board, the ship began its long descent towards our next goal: the Antarctic Circle. The afternoon was devoted to sailing towards this goal. This was an opportunity for everyone to sort out their photos, rest, and attend Tom's lecture about ice. In the evening, Ali presented us with the programme for our next day, Hélène told us more about the life and work of JB Charcot, and Jos presented about PenguinWatch and HappyWhale—two different ways we can contribute to ongoing Citizen Science projects. Another busy day!

Day 6: Detaille Island / Polar Circle

Detaille Island / Polar Circle
Datum: 21.02.2020
Position: 66°46.3’S / 066°57.3’W
Wind: NE 5-6
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: +1

Some of us woke up early to witness the magical moment when we crossed the Antarctic Circle. Most of us, however, stayed in bed and waited for the regular wake-up call at 7:15. After breakfast we were heading for Detaille Island to visit the abandoned hut of the British Antarctic Survey. Half of us went ashore first while the rest of us had a zodiac cruise near the island.

The hut was abandoned very quickly back in the days, and the men left everything as it was—even some underwear was still hanging above the long-dormant stove. Aside from visiting the hut, we could walk up to the viewpoint on top of the island to view the adelie penguin colony on the other side of the snow cliff.

When it started snowing this just felt appropriate for our visit south of the polar circle. During the zodiac cruise we encountered crabeater and fur seals hauled out ice floes while cruising among many fantastic icebergs.

The fog and mist and snow came and went and the flat light really made the blue of the icebergs glow. For the afternoon the decision was made to return north to give us an opportunity for more landings in the coming days and to celebrate again making our Furthest South below the polar circle. Amazingly, the fog and mist cleared and we were treated to spectacular Antarctic scenery underneath blue and sunny skies so we celebrated our crossing of the polar circle with hot chocolate with rum and whipped cream on the top deck. When the ship’s horn sounded to mark the exact crossing, many pictures were taken and glasses were raised.

Day 7: Damoy Point / Stony Point

Damoy Point / Stony Point
Datum: 22.02.2020
Position: 64°50.4’S / 063°37.4’W
Wind: NW 5
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: +3

The weather was grey and low this morning but we were lucky, there was good light and little wind. We landed on Damoy Point this morning! A few years ago, this site was still used as a starting point to transfer supplies via fixed wing aircraft to the British Antarctic Survey bases. We disembarked the zodiacs on the beach in front of the cheery blue hut. This building served as a sort of waiting room during supply flight operations in the 70s and 80s and now has become a sort of historic museum as well as refuge shelter. We could free roam around the area to visit the gentoo colonies but many chose directly to put on a pair of snowshoes and climb up to see what used to be the runway for the flight operations.

As we began the ascent of the snowy hill, we meandered along the path traced by Rustin, one of our guides for this outing. Though we were stopped from a farther walk at the top due to a crevasse, we still took advantage of a clear view of the bay and Port Lockroy before going down and across the valley to see a small colony of gentoo penguins on the opposite rocky peak. Many also took the time to visit the refuge and to discover the living conditions of the former workers; the hut was complete with dime store novels, snow melter, and the all-important jar of Marmite! The time came to say goodbye to the cute and curious chicks, so we headed back to Plancius for lunch and then a scenic passage through the beautiful Neumayer channel. As the clouds dispersed, we enjoyed the beautiful light and the return of the sun.

In the afternoon, we alternated zodiac cruising and landing at Stony Point, our first foot on the continent of Antarctica! The beach was occupied by a welcoming party of gentoo penguins and Weddell seals. Once we were onshore, many of us put our snowshoes back on to climb to the top of the hill and enjoy the spectacular view of the glaciers and the bay.

The Zodiac cruise allowed us to get close to many seals hauled out on ice floes— several crabeater and leopard seals, with backdrops of majestic craggy mountain peaks and crevassed icefalls… what a treat! The surrounding glaciers certainly offered their full range of blue color. A wonderful afternoon in Paradise Bay. To end this magnificent day in paradise, the crew had prepared an excellent barbecue on the aft deck. Hard to imagine a better way to enjoy the sunset and nightfall for those who had stayed to dance.

Day 8: Wilhelmina Bay / Foyn Harbour

Wilhelmina Bay / Foyn Harbour
Datum: 23.02.2020
Position: 64°34.2’S / 062°29.2’W
Wind: W 7
Wetter: Overcast
Lufttemperatur: 0

Ali woke us up with her morning call at 7:15 a.m. and told us that the weather conditions were not great. There were 30 knots of wind and it seemed that our morning’s plan all of a sudden became unsure. It seemed that after our perfect Antarctic day yesterday at Paradise Bay we obviously have to pay. BUT, we have our amazing Ali! She changed the plans immediately after realizing the ice and wind conditions at Orne Harbor, our original landing point, were not safe. The Plancius then headed directly to Wilhelmina Bay (our afternoon destination) in the hope that this area would be more sheltered. We arrived around an hour later and the conditions improved. We had less wind, better visibility, and the sea was smooth and gentle. The whole ship went out then on a cruise all at once, ten zodiacs all at once (!), and right away we found some humpback whales.

The with them was magical! The whales showed no sign of disturbance and it actually seemed they were interested in our presence. The whales were diving for food and after the dive they rested at the surface and actually checked out our boats and us. The two whales were slightly differently sized and one had a significant injury to its dorsal fin and was covered in barnacles. Both whales spent a lot of time swimming around the Zodiacs and with every dive it was hard to suggest where they would come up next.

Every Zodiac got close encounters and we heard and smelled the blow of the whales up close and personal. The drivers just turned the engines off and deeply enjoyed these unique and special moments. How privileged we were to experience their presence in such close proximity with the feel of pure unity and no impact towards the animals. Some of us were close to tears and we would lie if it would not be a once in a lifetime moment for each and every one of us. After around 1.5 hours the whales actually went to sleep right next to us. Whales sleep just around the water surface. Unbelievable-- how many can say, “A whale fell asleep right next to me!”?

Eventually we left our new friends alone for a peaceful sleep and went for a cruise further around the bay and enjoyed the brash ice, bergy bits, and actual icebergs that have calved off the unaccountable glaciers surrounding the bay. Finally we went back to the ship and enjoyed a quick lunch during our short transfer to Foyn Harbor, where we would make our afternoon excursion.
The weather was again on our side and the wind speed around 12-13 knots made it possible to explore the scenery with some islands, a few little channels, and an impressive wreck. The ship Guvernøren was an old whaling and cargo vessel in action around the turn of the 20th century.

In 1915, at the end of a successful season, the whalers were enjoying a party and during the fun the ship unfortunately caught fire. The ship was full of whale oil in wooden barrels and so made a good source for a really big fire. The quick-thinking captain decided to ground the ship in order to save the lives of the crew as well as the valuable cargo. And so this was the very spot where we found the ship now. One hundred and five years of rusty history telling stories about former parties and lessons learned in cold seas. Next to the ship we met some French people that used the sheltered bay for their yacht and some kind of film-making on an ice flow. We could just imagine how hard it must have been to cross the Drake Passage with such a small boat. However, not our problem, we have our Plancius! So we headed out further to explore the history and wildlife of Foyn Harbor, cruising around to see chinstrap and gentoo penguins, blue-eyed shags, and different types of seals. Even when the weather turned a bit cold and miserable, we enjoyed every single moment.

During recap Ali told us that we will head north towards the South Shetland Islands, so we could get the chance of two more landings during our last day in Antarctica. We were happy with the news and tried not to think about the coming night with a weather forecast that showed potential for 30 knots of wind. We will be in our beds while we pass the Bransfield Strait separating the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula and we hope that this time the forecast isn’t right and maybe the winds will not be so bad.

We went to bed early with the memories of our unique and special whale encounter in our dreams. Sometime reality is creating the best dreams.

Day 9: Whaler’s Bay / Half Moon Island

Whaler’s Bay / Half Moon Island
Datum: 24.02.2020
Position: 62°59’S / 060°33’W
Wind: ENE 4
Wetter: Snowing
Lufttemperatur: 0

We awoke this morning to Ali’s wake-up call at 6:45am in order to enjoy the view at the entrance of the Deception Island caldera. Though the view began only in the fog, to our great surprise the view cleared and everything was
white-- a nice fresh coat of snow covered the mountains around us. We were lucky, the big blue sky was there. We dressed warmly and landed quickly in Whaler’s Bay, near the old buildings, boilers, and tanks leftover from the historic whaling era. The whaling station was actively occupied until 1931, when oil prices dropped and that activity stopped. The site was not abandoned, however, and the British began to use the site—at first strategically during WWII then eventually as a British Antarctic Survey base for flight logistics and meteorological observations. A large aircraft hangar was built and used for many years but in 1969 and 1971 eruptions destroyed the Chilean science base further inside the caldera and forced the evacuation of the British base as well. Now Argentina, Chile, and Spain run summer-only bases inside the caldera, monitoring seismic activity for future eruptions. And once again, fur seals are used have returned to rest and relax around the old station site which is still littered with debris including whale bones. During our visit, we also enjoyed a short walk to the Neptune's Window viewpoint.

Deception Island is indeed still a volcanic crater-- the seismic activity is still visible today. As we were leaving at low tide, we could see a steaming mist over the beach: thermal activity below the sand was warming the water, even bubbling up in some places. Then it was back to Plancius for lunch time, and we sailed three hours to our final landing of the trip at Half Moon Island. This crescent-shaped island is home to a small Argentinean scientific base and a colony of chinstrap penguins. The disembarkation was a bit delayed by a very strong swell at the shore but finally the staff radioed to the gangway that we would go ahead with the landing and the staff got us safely ashore—even mostly dry! For our last excursion, the weather was relatively mild and we took full advantage of the island and the penguin colony. Most of them were moulting, as the breeding season was coming to an end. A leopard seal was also trying to hunt a penguin near the beach. A few gentoo and fur seals were resting on the site, plus one young elephant seal on the beach—a new species! A few photos later, we were saying our goodbyes to Antarctic lands and back on board the Plancius, our heads full of pictures and stories… and ready to face the Drake.

Day 10: At Sea to Ushuaia

At Sea to Ushuaia
Datum: 25.02.2020
Position: 60°20.7’S / 061°44.9’W
Wind: SE 3
Wetter: Cloudy
Lufttemperatur: +5

As we began crossing back the Drake Passage, the pace of life on board has changed—no wake-up call from Ali and the opportunity to enjoy our bed a little longer than usual. And so this morning, a rare sight compared to most other days of the voyage: the corridors and lounge are empty at first light.

It must be said that the grandiose landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands have faded away to make way for the immensity of the Southern Ocean. After the call announcing the opening of the doors of the dining room for breakfast, the ship came to life again and a lovely sunny calm day was waiting for everyone on deck.

Soon after, Tom opened a new series of conferences that will liven up our two days of crossing before arriving in Ushuaia. He offered a presentation on the geological history of the Antarctic continent.

At the end of the morning, Ali tackled a subject that is all too rarely mentioned, that of women in Antarctica, whether they have been wives of explorers (often in the shadow of their famous partners but nevertheless so important) or women scientists and explorers themselves. After lunch, Jos shared with us some special moments in her life, stories and images from her time working and living during both summer and winter at two of the US science bases—McMurdo and South Pole stations. Finally, Steffi gave us a fascinating lecture on the adaptations developed by the fauna of the polar regions.

The day, once again enriching, came to an end with Ali welcoming us to the lounge to present tomorrow's program. Our hotel manager discussed a few practical points concerning our return to port, and bringing the bad news that bills will eventually have to be paid! Rustyn then gave a presentation about the evolution of gear and equipment used during polar expeditions, and Celine finished out by sharing some new news about flying penguins and demonstrated why penguins waddle—they can’t use their knees!

Day 11: At Sea to Ushuaia

At Sea to Ushuaia
Datum: 26.02.2020
Position: 56°05.2’S / 065°32.5’W
Wind: W 7
Wetter: Rain showers
Lufttemperatur: +3

This morning we could definitely feel that there was some more motion in the ocean. As predicted the wind and swell had increased overnight and as the morning progressed the wind began to whip up the waves and throw mist and spray into the air. Very atmospheric to see but not always so nice to feel. It did seem, however, that most folks were up and about and well able to put their seaworthy legs to work. We had another full day ahead with lectures and tasks to take care of. First was an excellent lecture by Helene and Regis about their time on the French SubAntarctic island of Kerguelen, what it was like to live at various field huts as well as the diverse types of monitoring work they were doing, involving king penguins, elephant seals, albatross, plants, and even non-native cats and beetles.

Then after a short break for tea and cookies, Alexis gave an interesting talk about the native peoples of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and recommended an extremely engaging account of establishing the first European homestead and living among the Yamana and Ona peoples, written by Lucas Bridges: “The Uttermost Part of the Earth”. After a short break Alexis then offered a workshop where he explained the culture around the well-known South American drink mate. He, with his gringa assistant Joselyn, demonstrated how to correctly execute the ritual as well as which tools and herbs to look for at the market. After a morning of having the outer decks closed due to the rough seas, at lunch there was finally land in sight—the Beagle Channel was waiting for us. After another couple hours we were in the protection of the outer islands including Cape Horn, and so the swell dropped and we could finally emerge and feel the fresh air and get our first scents of leaves and soil wafting on the wind. During afternoon the divers shared with us some images and stories from their experiences on the trip, what an amazing world exists there underneath the surface of the sea! And then the last equipment-based task, after the kayakers and divers have returned and organized all of their kit, the staff finally announced it was time to return the rubber boots. Thanks to our faithful waterproof companions that kept us dry and upright (mostly!) during our many outings into the harsh Antarctic environment. But perhaps not too many tears were shed because now our cabins were entirely free for us to begin the monumental task of packing all of our exploded belongings back into our small traveling cases. Bon chance!

The ship was well inside the Beagle Channel by 5pm when we arrived at the pilot station to pick up our navigator that will take us safely all the way into port. The last major event of the day wasn’t a recap this time but Captain’s Farewell—a chance to gather together to hear a few final words from our Captain Artur and raise a glass to a successful voyage as well as in gratitude to all of the seen, and unseen, crew members who made this trip possible. We adjourned to enjoy one last evening meal where the galley team showed us again how fortunate we’ve been to enjoy their amazing delicacies for so many days. Then we were approaching Ushuaia at night, with lights shining, welcoming us back to solid ground. The announcement came that the ship was cleared and a few hardy souls went ashore to get a taste of Ushuaia by night, an exciting prospect as the Argentines normally begin dinner around 11pm so we had arrived just in time!

Day 12: Disembarkation - Ushuaia

Disembarkation - Ushuaia
Datum: 27.02.2020

This morning, at last, would be a dry landing. The last 10 days have taken us on a remarkable journey to Antarctica and allowed us a glimpse of life in this remote and sometimes inhospitable place. We will all have different memories of our trip but whatever the memories, whether it was the gentoo penguins at Danco or the sight of icebergs for the first time they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1963 Nautical Miles

Furthest South: 66°51’S / 066°49’W

On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home.

Details

Tripcode: PLA30-20
Daten: 16 Feb – 27 Feb, 2020
Dauer: 11 Nächte
Schiff: MS Plancius
Einschiffung: Ushuaia
Ausschiffung: Ushuaia

Trip log video

Aboard MS Plancius

Das eisverstärkte Schiff Plancius ist ein ideales Schiff für polare Expeditionsfahrten in die Arktis und Antarktis.

More about the MS Plancius >>