HDS29-20, trip log, Antarctica - Learning and Discovery Trip

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Bitácora

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Fecha: 05.02.2020
Posición: 54°48’.6 S, 068°17’.8 W
Viento: SW4
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +10

Ushuaia! We gathered from all points on the globe on a sunny summer day in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. Known as ‘the End of the World’, but for us it is just the beginning as we will venture much further South to the great white continent. For most of us this is a lifelong dream, and for many this will be the seventh continent they have visited. Ushuaia is a beautiful city set in beautiful landscape. The mountains behind are topped with snow, and the streets are buzzing with excitement for those about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime and a slight sadness for those that have already been and it’s time to go home. We wandered town's cobbled, steep and random footpaths, had coffee and lunch, then in the afternoon many did some last-minute shopping before joining the Hondius at the Port.

It is finally 16:00 and we are slowly making our way to our future home for the next 11 days, Hondius. Whilst waiting to board you could feel the excitement in the air. The Expedition Team greeted us at the gangway, and you could feel the exhilaration among the team which was also starting a new journey. We were met at Reception by DJ, our Hotel Manager. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew.

We had a little bit of time to get familiarised with the ship before we all convened in the lounge on deck 5 to meet our Expedition Leader, Adam, and our Hotel Manager, DJ. They gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next few days, and a short introduction of the next couple of days. Then, we met the first officer Matei who led us through all the details of the required SOLAS briefing (Safety of life at sea).

One last time before dinner, we gathered in the Lounge with a glass of Prosecco. We were introduced to our captain, Remmert Jan Koster, who toasted to a safe and amazing trip. At 19:30 we were welcomed to the dinning room. There we sat at shared tables, making new friends and wondering what awaits us in the days to come.

Day 2: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Fecha: 06.02.2020
Posición: 56°51’.5 S, 066°18’.5 W
Viento: NW4
Clima: Partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +10

Our first morning in the famous Drake Passage. For some it felt like the swell had woken them up like a baby in a cradle. However, there were some mixed opinions about this. Most people did come down for breakfast which was a great start. After breakfast we all had to meet up in the Lounge for the introduction of all the expedition staff. Strangely enough there was one older gentleman walking around in a Scottish kilt. That was Bill’s first lesson about, Looking Seeing Thinking. After the introductions Adam gave the mandatory IAATO briefing where we learned what we can do and more importantly, what we can’t do in Antarctica. This was briefly followed with the handing out of the rubber boots. Many shoesizes flew around the room. If you had a big size or small size, the expedition staff had a pair with you in no time. Therefore, it also did not take very long until everybody had a pair and was ready to go for lunch. And for this afternoon we had a buffet style lunch with enough options and quantities for everybody on board.

In the afternoon we also had a full program filled with lectures and activity briefings. Starting with the Biosecurity check. For this we all had to bring down our outer clothing which were checked thoroughly by the expedition staff. All pockets had to be vacuumed and all Velcro were checked and cleaned with pincers. With a bit of music to listen to it was done within an hour. Afterwards Massimo and Myriam had a lecture prepared to teach us something about “Photography in Antarctica”. Followed by both the briefings for Kayaking, with Pete and Paul, and Camping, with Ben and Marcel, for those who had written themselves in for the more adventurous activities in Antarctica.

To end the day we had our first Daily Recap in the Observation lounge. Here we got to hear the Plans for the next day from our Expedition leader Adam. And some of the expedition staff had some interesting topics to talk about which were relevant to the day. Bill thought us about Looking, Seeing and Thinking. Sara talked about different birds we had seen in her Recap “the size of birds”. And last, Pippa thought us about the Antarctic convergence which we were about to cross that same evening.

Our evening lecture was given by Massimo and Myriam to teach us something about “Videography in Antarctica”. This way we were fully prepared for what was awaiting us at the distant continent of Antarctica.

Day 3: At sea, Drake passage

At sea, Drake passage
Fecha: 07.02.2020
Posición: 61°39’.1 S, 067°00’.0 W
Viento: WSW-4
Clima: Fog
Temperatura del Aire: +2

During the night we sailed through the Antarctic Convergence and when you got on the outside decks, you could feel we came closer to the Antarctic peninsula and the Antarctic circle where we heading for. We expected some more sea birds, but probably because of the calm sea, there were not that many birds. But most people felt very good and most of us had a delicious breakfast.

After the mandatory briefings of yesterday we had a day full of interesting lectures. We first gathered in the lounge to hear Gaby tell us about the glaciology . We learned about glaciers and ice so we are able to read the landscape when we will reach the white continent. Just before lunch Pippa taught us about marine mammals of Antarctica. How we can identify whales and dolphins and we got a closer look in some scientific research programs.

Then it was time for the lovely lunch buffet and after a quick rest for some of us Sara took us on a voyage of the different penguins we can see, their adaptation to the harsh environment and frequently asked questions. Also the kayakers met up with their guides to get a close up look at a kayak, get familiar with the seats and steering and collect all of the kayaking gear.

The two acoustics scientists, Morgan and Sara, told us about their research in the afternoon and how we can help them. We will all be able to see how they work and what they are able to record over the coming days. After all the wildlife information it was time for history. Koen told us more about the Exploration of Antarctica up to 1900. Very interesting and it really makes to think about how the early explores had to survive compared to us on the comfortable Hondius.

Before dinner we gathered in the lounge to hear the plans for tomorrow. It will be a day everybody is waiting for, because after leaving Ushuaia it will be our first outing in the zodiacs or the kayaks.

After the 4-course meal it was time to go to the lecture room to hear from Adam on the quest to the South Pole. A very interesting lecture and we learned a lot about Scott and Amundsen and how they had very different tactics to get to the South pole.

And then at 22.00 it was time for a drink or a good sleep in the cabin. The last night before the dream of most people to set foot on one of the Antarctic Islands became true.

Day 4: Crystal Sound and Detaille Island

Crystal Sound and Detaille Island
Fecha: 08.02.2020
Posición: 66°42’.5 S, 067°06’.5 W
Viento: NNE-2
Clima: Fog
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Early morning, at 7.14 when most people were sleeping, Adam announced the crossing of the Polar circle on the PA system. Straight after the captain confirmed the crossing with 3 blows of the ships horn.

Breakfast was served at 8.00 whilst the ship was making its way calmly true the Chrystal sound. Most people went to deck after breakfast to enjoy the surroundings and wildlife. There were a lot of crabeater seals sleeping and laying on iceflows around the ship and we also enjoyed the birds that came flying past. To everybody’s excitement we spotted a Ross seal! After the initial first sighting, the captain turned the Hondius for another good look. A very, very rare sighting and a first for all crew and staff on board as well.

After lunch it was time for the kayakers to meet up with their guides, Pete and Paul. They got all of their kayaking gear distributed and had a first look at a kayak that was brought inside to get used to the seats and steering.

Around 14.00 it was time for the first outing. It was a zodiac cruise and a landing at Detaille island. The cruise was very good with close up sightings of quite a few Crabeater seals, a Weddell seal and even a Leopard seal. On the Island itself there were some Adelie penguins. The cruising area was super calm and lots of big icebergs around with beautiful shapes and blue colors.

The landing was challenging with steep rocks to climb over but the visit to the hut made it well worth the effort. A superb hut, called “Base W”, showing how the people used to live in it and the inside is still very much was in 1959 when it was last used as a British base. Visits to this island and hut are very rare and again a first for all of the passengers and guides.

After coming back on board, it was time for the daily recap. This time with champagne to celebrate the crossing of the Antarctic circle. Plans for the day after were explained as well as some recaps by the team.

The day was not over yet after dinner as Bill did a lecture on paintings of the sea. As always Bill managed to get us looking, seeing and thinking in a different way on the fascinating paintings he showed. An excellent first day at Antarctica!

Day 5: Yalour Islands and Petermann Island

Yalour Islands and Petermann Island
Fecha: 09.02.2020
Posición: 65°13’.7 S, 064°08’.8 W
Viento: ENE 2
Clima: ENE 2
Temperatura del Aire: +10

We woke up to a beautiful blue-sky day. With blazing sun and not a breath of wind the temperature felt distinctly tropical rather than Antarctic! Our morning landing at Yalour Islands was an ideal place to watch Adelie penguins. We enjoyed watching the penguins tobogganing across the snow, hurrying from one place to another. The chicks were getting close to being fully fledged, many of them had developed most of their adult feathers with just a few patches of chick down left. Still reliant on their parents the big chicks chased their parents asking to be fed. The sea around the islands was filled with stunning sculptural iceberg formations: some had impressive archways, whilst others glowed blue. The flatter pieces of ice floes made perfect sleeping platforms for groups of crabeater seals, which looked very relaxed enjoying the cool of the ice and the heat of the sun. Cruising in the zodiacs around the shoreline gave the chance to see a busy colony of Antarctic cormorants. Many of the adult birds grouped together in the water to dive for fish, while their chicks ashore vigorously flapped their wings getting ready for their first flight. A few lucky cruisers enjoyed the spectacle of humpback whales before it was time to return to the ship.

After a delicious lunch it was time for the second landing of the day at Petermann Island. The island has a rich Antarctic expedition heritage, it was the site where the French expedition of Jean Baptiste Charcot over-wintered in the ship ‘Pourquoi Pas’. The initials PP carved into the rock can still be seen at low tide, marking the place where the ship was anchored. When we arrived ashore island was throng with birdlife. Gentoos and Adelie penguin chicks chased their parents in search of food. Adult moulting penguins hunkered down near rocky outcrops for shelter while their summer feathers were slowly replaced by new winter ones. Brown Skuas circled the colonies on the look out for an opportunistic penguin chick meal. A short hike up and around the back of the island gave a stunning view of impressively sculpted icebergs. Much of the snow had melted and that which remained was mottled pink and green with a mixture of red and green snow algae and, of course, penguin guano. Once again, lucky zodiac cruisers were blessed with the experience of seeing humpback whales, while those of us ashore admired the whales from a distance. Another spectacular day in Antarctica!

After the daily recap in the lounge Dejan surprised us with the news that a special Antarctica BBQ was waiting for us on the outside decks, and better still, there was a free bar to be enjoyed! The galley team had prepared a wonderful selection of barbequed meats, vegetables and salads, followed by an array of mouth-watering deserts. As we tucked in to this mighty feast we sailed through the very picturesque Lemaire Channel, famously nicknamed ‘Kodak Gap’ due to the amount of pictures that people take of the ice filled channel and surrounding towering peaks, we could not have asked for a better setting for a BBQ. Once we had eaten our fill, they cleared the deck of tables and chairs and pumped up the music so that those of us that sill had a little energy could dance the night away as we cruised further North in preparation for our morning landing.

Day 6: Port Lockroy & Ships Cruise

Port Lockroy & Ships Cruise
Fecha: 10.02.2020
Posición: 64°49’.6 S 063°30’.2 W
Viento: Var1
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +3

Once again, we woke to a beautiful Antarctic day with light winds and a mirror calm sea. Our first destination of the day was Port Lockroy, a renovated base that is now a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. To ensure that everyone had significant time to explore the museum, purchase some unique Antarctic souvenirs and send their postcards we combined this visit with a scenic zodiac cruise. The cruise offered some memorable sightings of gentoo penguins, Antarctic shags and a minke whale for a lucky few. As well as the wildlife we also cruised along the base of the stunning snow covered mountains and giant icebergs whilst also observing several remnants of the whaling industry left behind over 100 years ago.
After we said goodbye to Port Lockroy and the small number of staff working at the base we started to head in a North Westerly direction towards the Orne Islands. As we entered the Southern reach of the Gerlache Strait we were all treated with some exceptional views of feeding humpback whales. At one point there were numerous groups of these fifteen meter leviathans all around the Hondius which ensured that everyone onboard had the opportunity to experience the unforgettable sights and sounds of these charismatic marine mammals.

Unfortunately, the weather conditions deteriorated throughout the afternoon and with the safety of everyone at mind it was decided that a landing at the Orne Islands was not feasible. Instead we continued our marine mammal experience with an educational lecture on the ecology and life of a humpback whale in Antarctica by expedition guide Pierre. This was followed by our usual informative daily recap where plans for the next day of our expedition were discussed along with a short presentation on salps by Koen and counting penguin populations be Assistant Expedition Leader Sara.

Day 7: Orne Harbour, Dobrowolski Island

Orne Harbour, Dobrowolski Island
Fecha: 11.02.2020
Posición: S 64022’; W 62056’
Viento: SW20kn
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

This morning’s objective was to set foot on the main Peninsula as, up to this point, our landings had been on adjacent islands. Orne Harbour, on the Danco Coast of Graham Land, was first discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, led by Adrien De Gerlache in 1898. The name is thought to have been given by Norwegian whalers.

When the winds are high and seas rough, as we found them, Orne Harbour offers a sheltered haven where we can land ashore, zodiac cruise and even kayak. The scenery is truly spectacular, a massive glacier tumbles into the head of the bay and granite spires surround us.

We all loaded into zodiacs for a cruise, during which we landed briefly on a promontory of rock, keeping a safe distance from several fur seals. Having enjoyed the feeling of landing on the actual continent of Antarctica we continued with the cruise. Colonies of Chinstrap Penguins perched atop small cliffs by the shore and we were able to watch them work their way down to the water where, after some human-like indecision, they took the plunge and headed off to feed on krill. Nearby was a colony of Antarctic Shags and we could see their fledgling chicks stretching their wings as they grow ready for flight in the weeks ahead.

Passing the kayakers working their way along the shore we headed to view the massive icefall nearby (keeping a wary distance from it). Then it was back to the ship and the usual lovely lunch.

The afternoon saw us cross the Gerlache Strait to Dobrolowski Island tucked alongside Anvers Island. Once the site of a scientific station of which nothing remains, the snow dome on the island gives a nice view of the mountain wall of Anvers, the top of which was obscured by cloud but from within which we could hear the rumbling ice falls above. Surrounding the island were rocky shoals where seals were pulled out as well as ice floes on which three leopard seals were resting, digesting their penguin lunches. The weather was bracing, with moderate to strong winds gusting off the mountain sides and choppy seas. The landing was well conceived by the landing team who shepherded us across small rounded rocks in the shallow waters to load and unload.

A splashy ride back to the ship followed with a cider and rum toddy waiting for us. Life is good!

That evening Adam had just launched into his evening briefing when a cry was heard, that which we were all hoping for had happened, “orcas”! For the next half hour, we were treated to a display we’ll never forget. A pod of around 10 orcas, likely feeding on a submerged minke whale, seemingly oblivious of the ship slowly circling nearby, were diving, surfacing, tail slapping and breeching. It was almost as if they were putting on a display for our benefit, but in fact, they were more likely reveling in the meal below the waves. Above it all, several hundred Wilson’s Storm Petrels feasted on the scraps that floated on the oily slick generated by the kill.

And so concluded yet another fantastic day … Antarctica never disappoints.

Day 8: Whaler’s Bay & Half Moon Island

Whaler’s Bay & Half Moon Island
Fecha: 12.02.2020
Posición: 62o50’.6 S 060o08’.0 W
Viento: NW 4
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

After a night of slight rock and roll as we left behind the Antarctic continent proper and headed northward towards the South Shetland Islands, we finally got our first glimpses of our morning landing site of Deception Island in the early hours of the morning. Before we could arrive at our landing site, however, Hondius had to make its way through Deception Island’s narrow opening at Neptune’s Bellows.

Under the command of her skilled bridge officers, Hondius navigated the Bellows and sailed into Port Foster – Deception Island’s deceptively hidden interior harbour. A sharp turn to the starboard and a few more minutes of sailing brought us to our anchorage at Whaler’s Bay, where we planned to make our morning landing.

Despite the gusting winds and somewhat dreary conditions, the expedition team still managed to get us all ashore for a nice leg stretch and a chance to see firsthand the remnants of Antarctica’s whaling days during our last day on the White Continent. While ashore, some of us made the walk up to see Neptune’s Window while others meandered over toward some of the historic buildings left behind after Deception Island’s last major eruption in the late 1960s.

Whether we were keen for a hike or eager to learn more about Deception Island’s long history of whaling, however, we all got to see an abundance of fur seals snoozing on the beach next to the landing site. The highlight of the morning, though, was not the hike, nor the history, as some of our number decided it would be a good idea to jump into the near-freezing water of Whaler’s Bay for a quick polar plunge.

Once that was all said and done, our brave polar plungers made their way back to Hondius, where we were all greeted with a mug of hot cocoa to warm up after the morning’s activities. Over the next few hours, we enjoyed some time on the ship, ate a delicious buffet lunch, and listened to a lecture from Pippa and Pierre about the beautiful orcas we had seen the previous evening.

Soon enough, though, we had made our way to Half Moon Island, the site of our afternoon’s activities. Despite the forecasted high winds, the weather seemed to want to cooperate with us for our very last excursion in Antarctica. Under sunny skies and moderate winds, we made our landing at Half Moon Island, in the shadow of the South Shetland’s Livingston Island.

Once at Half Moon Island, we had yet another chance to stretch our legs, as many of us wandered down the aptly-named island’s long expanses of beach. Along the way, we were treated to a number of great wildlife viewing opportunities, including a whole host of fur seals resting on the beach, as well as a number of gentoo penguins and Weddell seals scattered about. Closer toward the landing site, we even had a chance to visit a chinstrap penguin colony, checking off the third and final penguin species that we had hoped to see during our voyage.

By the early evening, however, it was time to head back to Hondius and set sail for our northward journey back across the Drake Passage and toward Ushuaia. With great memories and more photos of penguins than we could ever have imagined in tow, we had one last, wet, bumpy ride back to the ship as the winds picked up to usher us home to conclude our last day in Antarctica.

Day 9: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 13.02.2020
Posición: 60°24’.7S, 061°18’.8 W
Viento: N7
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +4

After a night in the ‘Drake Shake’ it was nice to wake up to a calmer sea. This said , the waves were still large enough to keep many people in their cabins and away from breakfast in the dining room.

As the ship powered forward at an impressive speed of 13knots, several of the expedition staff took our minds off the motion of the waves, entertaining us with a day of lectures and presentations. Adele spoke about what it is like to work and live on a tiny island in Antarctica looking after a historic building and welcoming visitors to the Port Lockroy museum and post office. The presentation left some people inspired to apply to be part of next year’s Port Lockroy team. Ross shared facts and figures of all the different bird species we’ve seen on the trip. In addition to the Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap penguins we’ve actually seen over 30 different birds.

After another superb lunch prepared by the galley team it was soon time for a series of ‘bite-sized’ talks exploring climate and weather. This was especially relevant considering Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are the engine of the Earth’s climate and weather system. The afternoon was also the time for the kayakers to return their gear. We all felt a tinge of sadness that the trip was coming to an end, yet we enjoyed recounting the adventures we’ve shared together.

Morgan and Sara, the wildlife acoustics scientists onboard, shared some of the fascinating sounds and spectrograms they have collected over the past week. They have over four hours of recordings of Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap penguins. Most exciting are the recordings of Chinstrap penguins vocalizing while at sea, Chinstraps have never been recorded or researched is this way before now. It’s great to know that our voyage enabled ground-breaking research to be carried out.

The day was finished off with a short recap where Sara explained some maritime superstitions. We all agreed to avoid doing anything that would attract bad luck or stormy conditions for our last day on the Drake tomorrow.

Day 10: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 14.02.2020
Posición: 56°21’.9S, 064°49’.9 W
Viento: W3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +8

As Valentine’s day dawned, passengers who had felt uncomfortable with the rough conditions of the previous day were relieve to experience a gentler motion from Hondius. After investigation, it was found that the stabilisers were still deployed but not activated. This was sufficient to create a user friendly motion for those who had discovered that they lacked the ‘core-strength’ to balance easily during the voyage. The sea had moderated slightly but the wind was still blowing at over 28 knots. This was a near gale and a Force 7 on the Beaufort scale. Hondius was making good speed at 13 knots despite the stabilisers reducing speed by 1 knot. As the day progressed the wind moderated.

As we were at sea on day 2 of the return voyage to Ushuaia with no landings or Zodiac cruising, it was a very relaxed morning. A trickle for breakfast as people savoured a bit longer the sensuous sensation of being rocked gently in their bunks. Passengers sat and discussed shared experiences and hunched over lap-tops as they swapped, edited and down-loaded hundreds of terrific photographs and deleted thousands of out -of - focus rubbishy photographs.

In the morning Koen delivered an interesting lecturer on A Brief History of Penguins followed by Sara with her powerful ‘political’ presentation on the Women of Antarctica.

The ‘highlight’ of the day was the boot collection as passengers surrendered their beloved muck-boots for inspection by the guide team. Another week of activities and most would have requested new boots one size up as their thighs and calf-muscles were now bulging and ‘almost’ fully toned from the constant up and down exercise on the stairs and the increased load everyone carried as a result of eating excellent meals during 11 days of adventure.

In the afternoon Adam delivered a visual presentation outlining Oceanwide Expeditions voyages on the various vessels in the fleet explaining the routes. This was a well timed marketing ploy as many passengers, delighted with their experiences in Antarctica, were expressing interest in the Arctic and other Oceanwide Adventures.

Late afternoon - a passenger, Marli Linter DVM delivered a Lecture on Avian Physiology followed by ‘local boy’ guide Ben, braided hair flowing, with an informative lecture on the Beagle Channel.

The formal end to the highly successful voyage was a power-point presentation of staff photographs followed by a Farewell Drink in the lounge and a toast from our superb highly professional Captain… Remmert Koster.

Day 11: Disembarkation, Ushuaia

Disembarkation, Ushuaia
Fecha: 15.02.2020
Posición: 54°48’.6S, 068°18’.0W
Viento: Light Air 1
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +18

Our last morning wake up call to announce the final morning on board the Hondius. As instructed, we left our luggage out in the hall marked with the appropriate tag for our needs. We had a quick breakfast and as always it was delicious. There were many farewells to our new friends made on board. As we were exchanging contact information the expedition team was busy hauling our luggage up and down stairs and finally down the gang way; to be sorted and checked after we disembarked.

We made our way down the gangway and shook the hands of our team that awaited us for our farewell. With much emotions we all set out on our separate ways, for some this would mark the end of our travels and we will be heading home. For others this amazing voyage was only a stop on our grand adventures. For where ever you go from here we wish you safe travels and hope to see you again someday aboard the Hondius. Farewell guys and go safe.

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: 1865 nautical miles

Furthest South: 66°52’,5S, 066°49,0W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Remmert Jan Koster, 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: HDS29-20
Fechas: 5 Feb – 15 Feb, 2020
Duración: 10 noches
Barco: El Hondius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Ushuaia

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 >>