HDS23-19, trip log, Antarctica - Discovery and Learning Voyage

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Bitácora

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Fecha: 02.12.2019
Posición: 54°48’.6 S, 68°17’.9 W
Viento: E4
Clima: partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +8

Most of us were excited to see MV Hondius docked at the wharf from Ushuaia during the day. However, the real energy began when it was time for boarding. We were thrilled to explore the beautiful ship that was to be our home for the next 10 days. We were ready to start our adventure.

It started with the mandatory safety briefing, followed by a briefing to get us familiar with the ship. As this wrapped-up, we cast off from the wharf and set course to the Beagle Channel and then the open sea. We were given time to head to the outer decks to wave goodbye, and then had a bit of serious business with the donning of life jackets for the lifeboat drill.

Our first taste of the work done by the kitchen and dining room teams was a tasty dinner buffet – a good sign for future dining.

After dinner we were back in the Observation Lounge for a glass of bubbles to toast to the voyage, and continue the process of meeting our fellow passengers. The hubbub of many eager and enthusiastic conversations filled the air.

Day 2: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 03.12.2019
Posición: 56°36’.1 S, 65°02’.2 W
Viento: W4
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +6

During the night the rolling of our berths reminded us where we were. We woke to see a gentle swell. Some were queasy or worse, but most turned out for coffee or breakfast. We soon learned that Hondius will be our dancing partner for the voyage. Walking the corridors required that we get in step with her rhythm – swaying, rising and falling in her time – and always keeping one hand free for her.

The morning saw the proper kick-off of the voyage with the introduction of the Expedition Team by Adam, the Expedition Leader. He showed the IAATO briefing on our proper behaviour during landings and how to ensure that our impact on the wildlife and environment is minimized. Then came an overview of zodiac operations and Plan A for the expedition. We learned that, as expeditioners, we must expect that plans can and will change. We were fitted for boots to be used during excursions. The kayakers had their initial briefing, and later the campers too. Anticipation was building all the time.

After lunch we started the series of lectures that helped us learn about our destination. First up was Martin who introduced us to the birds of the Southern Ocean in his talk Seabirds – Masters of the Sea and Sky. Before, during and after the talk seabirds were circling the ship including the largest sea bird of all, the Wandering Albatross.

During the afternoon the bids disappeared as the wind blew from the west more strongly and the weather became more boisterous. Meanwhile the atmosphere in the lounge became quieter and more subdued. It was a good time for a nap.
At recap Bill helped us to prepare our senses and consciousness to Look, See, Think and Do. Neil then immediately had us thinking with his presentation about the words and pictures that we post on social media – and our responsibility to behave with thoughtfulness and integrity.

The dining room was not packed, but it wasn’t because of the food, which was great, but because some of us were still not quite ready to eat.
At the evening workshop Ole and Sara explained the basics of animal communication and the acoustics research they will perform, and how we can participate and learn.
The lounge followed the trend of the day by being a bit quiet and sleepy – but still we were happy to be one day closer. Can’t wait.

Day 3: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 04.12.2019
Posición: 60°56’.7 S, 63°44’.0 W
Viento: NW2
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

During the night we passed both the political and biological boundaries of the Antarctic. The political boundary is 60°S as agreed by the Antarctic Treaty System. The biological boundary is the Antarctic Convergence, the region in which the sea temperature lowers dramatically.

On the decks for our morning stroll we saw that the whitecaps were gone and “The Drake” was now a placid lake. No complaints from us.
In the morning Celine prepared us to be informed as well as delighted when we meet the most charismatic of the birds in; What to know about Penguins?
Then all of us did a thorough clean of our equipment with the Expedition Team on hand to inspect the results. We needed to ensure that we didn’t carry any invasive species or diseases to this pristine wilderness. It is our responsibility.
After lunch we heard from John about the one of the most amazing stories of survival in the history of Antarctic exploration in his talk on; The Imperial Transantarctic Expedition – Shackleton’s Heroic Failure.
The second workshop of the voyage kicked off with Neill’s; What makes a “Good Photograph”? and George’s Antarctic Videos; Where Attenborough meets Spielberg. Plus, Bill had already started to create his drawings that entertained us throughout the trip.
At the Briefing Adam prepared us for the first landing and cruise; John helped us understand how humans came to know the unknown land of the south in Terra Australis Incognita; and Martin gave us a bit of scale for the wingspan of the seabirds.
During the day the wind and seas built from the east – opposite from yesterday’s – and light rain turned to persistent snow. We were getting further south. The bumpier ride again cut down the numbers for dinner, which was again delicious. The lounge wasn’t crowded, but was full of energy.
Only one more sleep.

Day 4: Useful Island, Orne Harbour

Useful Island, Orne Harbour
Fecha: 05.12.2019
Posición: 64°43’.5 S, 62°57’.5 W
Viento: S5
Clima: clear
Temperatura del Aire: -1

A glance outside at dawn showed that we had already arrived in the spectacular setting for morning activity. Then, the expedition activities began even before the wake-up call with the announcement of killer whales off the port bow. The day just got better and better from there.

We landed and cruised at Useful Island. The name derives from the whaling days when it was used as a lookout. We climbed to the top to look out ourselves – not to hunt whales of course, but to marvel at the amazing views. The mountains, glaciers, sea, ice and, especially the sky, were dazzling. Before enjoying this view, we had to first pass the sleepy Weddell seal and climb past the nesting Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. Super fun. The zodiac cruise wound around the coast to see the magnificently brutal Leopard seal and crabeater seals plus a close-up view of the floating ice sculptures. Extra super fun. Not to mention that the sun shone almost as brightly as our spirits.

We had earned our lunch, but could hardly wait for it to be over so that we could get our afternoon excursion started.

The sun came out and the temperature was positively balmy for the afternoon climb to the top of the ridge at Orne Harbour. We were shedding layers all the way, but loving it. At the top the “Chinnies” were in full song and busy with pebble collection for nest building and other courtship activities. As this was a continental landing, we could have kept walking to the South Pole. We decided to skip that optional activity and take the fast, fun way down by sliding on our bums all the way. The sea sparkled in the sun for the kayakers and zodiac cruisers who saw Weddell seals, penguins, large icebergs and calving glaciers. The kayakers had a successful first run and were able to touch the continent with their hands.

At the recap Vide helped showed us the lifestyles of the largest member of the dolphin family – the killer whales that had started the day.

After a day in calm conditions the dining room was very full of smiling hungry faces, then the cruise down the gorgeous Neumeyer Channel got us all out into the sun again.

The evening was so pleasant as that the camping group was put ashore to dig their own “graves” (slots in the snow) and spend the night in the natural world. After such an action-packed day some were even tired enough to actually sleep.

Day 5: Damoy Point, Port Charcot

Damoy Point, Port Charcot
Fecha: 06.12.2019
Posición: 64°40’.4 S, 63°29’6. W
Viento: NE1
Clima: clear
Temperatura del Aire: +4

The announcement in the morning let us know that the air temperature was 4°C (35°F). When we looked out, the sun was shining brightly, there was no wind, and the mountains were reflected in the sea. Who knew that this trip was destined for the Antarctic Riviera!
So far in this voyage we have received our expedition merit badges for mountaineering, kayaking and camping. This morning we had the opportunity to add snowshoeing, but to be honest, the walk was just a pleasant stroll and the snowshoes were a fun option. We crossed a snow hill past the Gentoos to the historic British Antarctic Survey hut at Dorian Bay. In the bay were Weddell seals and Gentoo penguins.

For those lucky enough to be aboard, the first morning zodiac cruise was a real highlight of our incredible trip so far. We had a close encounter with a large pod of killer whales. Wow!
What a perfect start to a perfect day.

During and after lunch our passage was slowed by heavy ice conditions. The silver lining was that this gave us a chance to see another type of Antarctic conditions, and made for an excellent opportunity to see the deep colours in the icebergs that we passed slowly. It also allowed a few of our fellow passengers to stage impromptu musical performances.

We arrived at historic Port Charcot in time for as quick visit to the penguin colony and an overview of the ice filled bay. The stone cairn on the hilltop reminded us that this is where the French explorer Jean Baptists Charcot spent the winter of 1904 frozen into the small cove where we landed. Brrrr.

Luckily, we had a BBQ dinner and dancing on the back decks instead! What a great way to get to know the wilder side of our fellow expeditioners, and the ship’s crew, in this wild place, with an astounding sunset as the backdrop.
The lounge was very full of smiles and laughs until very late. We can always sleep when we get home.

Day 6: Lemaire Channel, Vernadsky Base

Lemaire Channel, Vernadsky Base
Fecha: 07.12.2019
Posición: 65°08’.1 S, 64°03’.0 W
Viento: E1
Clima: partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: 0

Expedition Leader Adam and Captain Alexey gave us a surprise extra treat with an early morning call to get out on deck for a transit of the Lemaire Channel. The presence of large icebergs and sea ice made this a tricky proposition, but they pushed Hondius through, making full use of her ice strengthened capability. Thank you, Captain. Thank you Hondius. The Channel is one of the scenic highlights of the Peninsula so seeing it in the early morning light was special.

The transit to the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station was through the remnant pack ice and icebergs. At the base we were greeted by the twelve staff members – being only the third ship to visit them in the past eight months. We had a chance to see their laboratories and working conditions and tour their common rooms, including the bar, as well as visit the most southerly souvenir shop and post office in the world. Homemade vodka shots, retail therapy and postcards home! Outside the Kelp Gulls, South Polar Skuas and Gentoo penguins seemed to know that they had competition and needed to put on a show – and did they ever. We gave a big Thank You Very Much to our generous hosts by inviting them aboard for a taste of our hospitality and some of Ralf’s excellent fare – a pleasant change for them from preserved food.

The extended visit, and the slowness of travel in the think ice, meant that no second landing was possible. Instead the Captain grabbed the opportunity to take us back through the Lemaire Channel – from south to north this time. It was even more spectacular in the afternoon sunshine. This cruise continued all afternoon back north through the Gerlache Strait to position us for tomorrow’s activities.

We took the opportunity to lounge in the lounge or spend time on the outer decks chatting and watching the vistas slide by.

At recap Laura filled us in on all those rugged rocks we have been photographing, and Sara played some of the killer whales sounds that she had recorded yesterday.

You know by now that dinner was tasty and filling. Every night is a different menu, but the quality is consistently excellent. Yum.

And you know by now that the lounge is a nice place to spend the evening. Each night is a different mix, but the fun is consistently excellent. Sweet.

Day 7: Whalers Bay, Walker Bay

Whalers Bay, Walker Bay
Fecha: 08.12.2019
Posición: 63°04’.0 S, 60°32’.1 W
Viento: SSE3
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

This morning began like every other morning in the Antarctic on this voyage – with an exceptional experience. This time it was sailing into the caldera of an active volcano, as we passed through Neptune’s Bellows to enter Deception Island.

The zodiac cruisers and kayakers then got a closer view of the craggy entry of the Bellows as they were able to pass back through them on the way to check the exterior of the island. This rare excursion again shows the amazing luck with the conditions that has followed us throughout our expedition. We saw the Chinstrap colony and some rare flora (Antarctic Pearlwort).

The landing gave a choice of walking to Neptune’s Window on the volcano rim for a view both ways, or an exploration of the historic remains of the whaling station. These ruins give an evocative echo of the work of the men who manned this place through the various chapters of its operation. The bleak landscape all around gave testament to the explosive past.

Then, some of us had a bit of a brain explosion of our own as we decided to take the Polar Plunge from the beach. Admittedly the sand was steaming and the shoreline warm, but the sea was still frigid and we earned our satisfaction and enjoyment, and the admiration of our fellow expeditioners. Well done us.

The afternoon excursions were at Walker Bay on Livingston Island. We had a cruise along the coast to see the Southern Elephant Seals – some battling in preparation for next breeding season – and to enjoy a warming drink from D.J. On shore we had a closer look at the “Ellies” plus a Weddell seal and the ever-charming penguins. In the rocks at the back of the beach we found lichens, fossils (not Bill), and an old sealers camp. We tried to imagine living there 200 years ago – and going out every day to club fur seals and skin them. Humans have caused huge environmental damage to this place. Sad but true. Our challenge is now to serve as ambassadors for Antarctica to ensure that it never happens again.

At the recap Terri told us more about those lichens, and then Neill had us all on deck for the group photo.

As you might expect, the dining room and the lounge were packed with stories, laughter, and growing wistfulness. It can’t be over so soon.

Day 8: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 09.12.2019
Posición: 60°55’.9 S, 63°14’.8 W
Viento: E5
Clima: partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: -1

Our sea days in the Drake Passage going south were filled with briefings to prepare us for the trip. This time, going north, we had only to return our boots and the rest of the day was free to learn from the Expedition Team. We built our knowledge to deepen our understanding.

First up was Bill with his sad and sobering talk of death and destruction in The Development of Whaling and Sealing - Arctic to Antarctic. Our glaciologist, Laurence, explained the dynamics of the powerful ice rivers that have surrounded us in Glaciers and Glaciation.

After lunch Celine showed how two separate areas of scientific study have come together to cooperate on a project to build knowledge for both disciplines in Elephant Seals as Oceanographers”. The feast of information was wrapped up by Steve in his description of the similarities and differences of the Arctic and Antarctic in Why Don’t Polar Bears Eat Penguins?.

Ironically, as we travelled north and crossed both the political and biological boundaries to leave Antarctica, conditions became increasingly Antarctic. The wind built to blow from the east at 30 knots with spray coming over the bow at regular intervals. Our dancing partner had decided that waltzing was over and that it was time for some rock and roll! Thank goodness for those stabilizers.

At recap Laura gave us a more detailed description of the volcanic activity that created Deception Island, Ole explained how penguins use their two voices to make sounds that are so different from other bird sounds, and Celine used volunteers from the audience to show that despite the fact that penguins do have knees, they waddle because the knees are hidden within their bodies.

Given the conditions, the dining room was well populated. Afterward, the lounge was full of admiration for the talents of our fellow expeditioners in the judging of the photo competition. The 3 winners are included in today’s post, and the 3 runners-up in the wildlife category are in tomorrow’s post below.

Day 9: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 10.12.2019
Posición: 60°56’5. S, 63°14’.4 W
Viento: E6
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

Late yesterday evening Hondius received word that a Chilean Navy aircraft with 38 people aboard was reported missing. Under the International Law of the Sea we immediately changed course, began the search and prepared for a possible rescue effort. The Crew and Expedition Staff stood watch in the bridge and on the upper deck through the night. The search continued through the morning and into the afternoon Against this tragic background, expedition activities continued. Michael showed us photos that he had taken under the waves in What the Divers See. Then Vide helped us understand the international governance of the south in his talk on The Antarctic Treaty & Madrid Protocol.

Later, Ben prepared us for arrival in his home country with his talk about The Beagle Channel and the Expedition Team presented a lecture mini-series about human impacts on the Antarctic environment followed by discussion of ways that we can all contribute to the changes that will be required.

At recap Bill gave us an overview of the ship and Celine showed how sensors are attached t albatross so that illegal fishing can be detected. We had a moment of silence for the people lost in the plane crash.

The final travel day for any expedition is inevitably a melancholy and bittersweet time. Our expedition was no exception – and with the pall cast by the failed search for the missing plane and passengers our mood was subdued. We are content, thrilled even, with the experiences that we have shared, but also aware that our time of sharing is drawing to a close, and that our fate is not always in our hands. Today was a day for thinking about home and loved ones, connecting with new special friends aboard, and sombre reflection.

Day 10: Disembarkation, Ushuaia

Disembarkation, Ushuaia
Fecha: 11.12.2019
Posición: 55°34’5. S, 66°05’8. W
Viento: SSW3
Clima: partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

After the violent seas of the past few days it was striking to look out of this morning and see such peace. We were again made aware of the power and changing moods of nature.
The days was busy with making, changing and checking onward travel arrangements, circulating to make sure that no farewells were missed, and sharing highlights of our voyage.
The Expedition Team took the opportunity of the extra sea day to continue the lecture series with Steve’s talk on Mysteries of Mysticeti: majestic moustached whales and Bill’s The Meaning of the Sea in Paintings. The final formal event was a chance to toast to the voyage over a farewell drink with Captain Alexey Nazarov. Finally, it was luggage out, double check the passports, handshakes and kisses, then down the gangway to whatever adventure awaits. Go well.

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!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1611 nautical miles

Furthest South: 65°13’.9 S, 064°14’.9 W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Alexey Nazarov, Expedition Leader Adam Turner, Hotel Manager DJ Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Detalles

Código del viaje: HDS23-19
Fechas: 2 Dec – 11 Dec, 2019
Duración: 9 noches
Barco: El Hondius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Ushuaia

Video de la bitácora del viaje

Aboard El Hondius

Hondius es el primer buque polar Clase 6 que haya sido registrado en el mundo, cumpliendo con los últimos y más altos requisitos de la Lloyd’s Register para cruceros de casco reforzado para el hielo.

More about the El Hondius >>