OTL27-20, trip log, Ross Sea Odyssey

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Bitácora

Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina.

Ushuaia, Argentina.
Fecha: 13.01.2020
Posición: 54°48’S / 068°17’W
Viento: Gentle Breeze
Clima: Variable
Temperatura del Aire: +12

At 14:00 the time that we had all been looking forward to had arrived as we walked through security at the pier of Ushuaia and made our way to our home for the next 32 days - MV Ortelius - in anticipation for our or our Ross Sea Odyssey, a 32 day sail from Ushuaia, Argentina to Bluff, New Zealand, along the west coast of Antarctica, via the Amundsen Sea, where few people on earth have ever been!

We were greeted warmly by some of the expedition staff, who welcomed us aboard as we made our way up the gangway to the reception where Hotel Manager, Sigi and assistant William, checked us in and we were then escorted to our cabins by members of the hotel staff.

When everybody was on board, we were welcomed to the lecture room for the mandatory safety briefing by Andy, the third officer, followed by the blasts of the ship’s horn, indicating the beginning of the lifeboat drill. We went to our cabins to retrieve those big, bulky orange life jackets, and reported to our muster station in the bar.

Just before 5pm we untied from the Ushuaia Pier and set sail into the historic waters of the Beagle Channel, under beautiful clear skies. Shortly before dinner we were called to the bar for a virtual ship introduction by Sigi, followed by expedition staff introductions, as we sailed towards our first stop, Puerto Williams, to pick up the helicopters we would need once we reach the Ross Sea.

By the time we reached Puerto Williams the weather had closed in preventing the helicopters from flying over the Andes and over the Paseo Muerto - Pass of Death - to our rendezvous, so we dropped anchor and like many explorers before us, spent the night in the Beagle Channel.

Day 2: Puerto Williams, Chile

Puerto Williams, Chile
Fecha: 14.01.2020
Posición: 54° 55’S / 68°35’W
Viento: Light airs
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +12

We were rousted in our cabins at 7:45 am by the voice of Hotel Manager Sigi over the PA system for our first daily wake-up call of the voyage, and found that the weather hadn’t lifted overnight, causing further delays of the helicopters to fly from Punta Arenas. The good news was that the forecast called for improvement with the helicopters expected by afternoon.

Following breakfast, we were called to the lecture room on the third deck, at the bow of the ship, to be fitted and assigned our muck boot and zodiac life preservers - the landing gear we would need for the entire voyage.

At 11am, expedition and wildlife guide, Simon, kicked off the lecture series that would continue throughout the expedition with his informative presentation, Birds of The Drake Passage.

At the tail end of a delicious buffet lunch, we received word that the weather had lifted enough for the helicopters to fly through the Paseo Muerto!

In our excitement, many of us rushed out to the deck, cameras in hand, to witness the first helicopter at 1:30pm!

At 2pm we began the bio-security “Vacuuming Party”, to clean our gear of any dirt, seeds and other organic matter that could bring foreign and/or invasive species onto the Antarctic continent. By the time we finished all helicopters had landed on Ortelius and were safely stored away in the aft hanger, allowing us to continue our journey down the Beagle Channel.

The expedition to the Ross Sea had begun in earnest and at 6pm Captain Ernesto, came to the bar for a welcoming toast to the passengers and to wish us a successful voyage. Our daily recap session began with Victoria’s presentation on the Native peoples of Tierra Del Fuego and Steve informing us of the importance of bio-security.

Dinner followed at 7pm and by 8 pm we had sailed past Cape Horn. As we entered the infamous Drake Passage, the sky turned pink and we sailed on to Antarctica.

Day 3: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 15.01.2020
Posición: 57°56’S / 065°08’W
Viento: SW5, Gentle Breeze
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +9

During the night we had entered the open stretch of the Drake passage and could feel the first rolling and pitching of our ship. Still, conditions were pretty favourable and we could slowly get used to the rather steady ships’ motion; the motion which would be following us for the next month at sea. Just after breakfast many of us met the expedition team around the bridge for professional wildlife spotting and fresh air. Many new bird species were introduced to us by Simon and Co.

Meanwhile, Gary was ready for lecturing about the bigger marine mammals of the Southern Ocean: “The Whales of Antarctica”. With a focus on the Baleen whales he opened up this world of the Giants to us.

After lunch many of us continued watching for petrels, prions, albatrosses and the occasional unidentified whale, before Victoria gave us her first of many history lectures. This time, she was telling the tales of the less known Antarctic explorers around the Antarctic peninsula. The French gentleman of the Pole Charcot, the Belgium dreamer De Gerlache and the unbelievable rescue story of Swedish Nordenskiöld were introduced to us.

We learned that the best way for an explorer to become famous was if his expeditions ended in a disaster. Successful expeditions of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration are less known to us.

For Recap Delphine updated us on our progress and we enjoyed a fairly calm dinner at sea!

Day 4: Drake Passage en route to Antarctica

Drake Passage en route to Antarctica
Fecha: 16.01.2020
Posición: 62°27’S / 064°47’W
Viento: SW7, Moderate Breeze
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Today was our second day in the Drake Passage and although the wind had increased somewhat since yesterday and Ortelius was rolling a little more, it was not too bad. Most people enjoyed their breakfast and then ventured out on deck to look for wildlife with the Expedition Staff. There were some very exposed, windy positions and most of us sought shelter on the bridge wing. But the Cape Petrels (pintados, or ‘painted ones’) were enjoying the windy side of the ship of course! Regular withdrawals into the Bar for hot drinks helped keep the blood flowing and it was a great way to spend the first part of the day.

At 10.30 am we all headed down to the Lecture Room to listen to Delphine’s mandatory briefings. Everyone who intends to make a landing in Antarctica needed to be made aware of the laws and guidelines influencing our behaviour here – the ‘What to Dos’ and the ‘What not to Dos’. Much of what Delphine told us was common sense, but it was good to get clear guidance on how far to stand from the wildlife (generally a minimum of five metres) and reminders that we should leave behind nothing but footprints. She managed to get an astonishing amount of information across in under an hour. For those who had never been in zodiacs before her briefing was vital for our wellbeing over the next four weeks and included how to dress for cold conditions, how to enter, ride in and leave a zodiac safely and how to maximise our enjoyment of this fantastic continent without any risk to life or limb – or to wildlife and the pristine environment.

We still had some time to relax and watch the waves before lunch, which Sigi announced at 12.30 pm. It was a staff favourite – spaghetti Bolognese! In order to avoid succumbing to an afternoon nap, many of us headed out on deck again after lunch; the sea breeze cleared our heads in a few seconds and the Cape petrels were still there…

Shortly after 3.30 pm Christian was ready for us in the Lecture Room to talk about photography. This talk was for everyone at a basic level, not the advanced stuff. It was a good time to think about how to get the most out of our cameras BEFORE being bombarded with thousands of potential images of Antarctica. Once out among the penguins and in the ice there are many distractions to take our minds away from the technical side of our photos.

A few of us were lucky enough to be out on deck when some Humpback whales were blowing and splashing on the horizon. Even better, two came very close to Ortelius, then promptly dived under us, flukes waving as they disappeared into the depths…

Delphine gathered us in the Bar (where Jake was ready for our orders) before dinner as usual, for Recap & Briefing. There was a high level of interest in what will happen tomorrow, as well as a number of Expedition Staff who wanted to share their impressions of today with us.

Tomorrow will be a very early start, with a wake-up call from our Expedition Leader at 5.30 am! And we will be making a landing on the Antarctic Peninsula later in the morning, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

Day 5: Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
Fecha: 17.01.2020
Posición: 65°13’S / 064°14’W
Viento: SE2, Light Breeze
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

“Good morning good people of Ortelius!!” NOOO…it’s too early. It was decidedly difficult to get out of bed this morning when we got the call from Delphine at 05:15.

But oh it was certainly worth it. After dressing warmly we all bravely headed out into the brisk morning air—and what a morning it was. Down the Lemaire channel with bits of ice here and there in the channel and mostly clear skies.

There were a few puffs of clouds hiding a couple of the nearby peaks but they just enhanced the mystery of the channel. With Booth Island to Starboard rising 920 meters straight out of the sea and mainland Antarctic rising to over 1000 meters on the port we were all entranced with the scenic splendour of the Lemaire Channel.

Captain Earnesto and his crew expertly guided Ortelius down the narrow channel dodging most of the ice, but strategically ploughing through sections of it. We spotted a few penguin colonies at unlikely distances up steep snow slopes, a few seals resting on ice foes and even a few humpback whales travelling in the other direction as we spent a sublime hour in the Lemaire.

When we emerged at the southern end of Booth Island, our world opened up to equally enchanting views along the Penola Strait. We left the farthest south chinstrap penguin colony behind on Booth Island as we continued for another hour on to the Argentine Islands—the farthest south breeding place of Gentoo penguins. Along the way we passed Petermann Island where Jean Charcot wintered on the Porquois Pas? in Circumcision Bay back in the early 20th century. We all ducked inside for a well-deserved hot breakfast, so most of us missed the navigation behind the Argentine Islands, but it wasn’t long before we were finally christening our cold weather waterproof gear for our first outing in Antarctica.

The first half of us headed out in zodiacs for a fantastic cruise around the many icebergs, big and small, near the ship. We encountered crabeater seals and dozens of humpback whales—some so close we heard their blows and smelled their breath. What magnificent creatures cruising stately along in the freezing cold water. For some of us, the icebergs themselves brought us as much joy and awestruck enthusiasm. The variety of shapes and sizes, colours and textures was remarkable as we cruised along on a beautiful calm and sunny sea.

The other half went directly to Vernadsky Station where we were warmly greeted by the Ukrainian scientists and staff. They generously showed us around the station that started its life in 1956 as the British, Faraday Station. In 1995 in the wake of the Madrid Environmental protocols of the Antarctic Treaty, Britain had to either continue to maintain the station and run it under new strict environmental guidelines

at great expense, or remove it and everything around the site. Meanwhile, when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia took all the Antarctic stations and left a keen scientific community in the Ukraine with no place to study. It was a match made in heaven. Britain sold the station to Ukraine for the symbolic sum of one UK Pound and the Ukrainians have done an exemplary job continuing with Ozone Hole research (which was discovered with data from the former Faraday Station), as well a range of new projects dear to the Ukrainian scientists. The station is a cosy home for the small band of scientists. With ample laboratory space and a very congenial lounge/bar area or living space, we relaxed with the Ukrainians, samples a bit of homemade vodka, posted cards, and shopped for a few handmade souvenirs. What a lovely morning.

Finally—and a bit too soon for some—we did a big switch. Those of us who went first on a cruise, came to the station for more hospitality while those who visited the station first jumped into the zodiacs for their turn to cruise around the islands. The new group to the station were met with the same friendly enthusiasm as the first and received their tours and vodka in due time. The second cruisers in the zodiacs covered similar ground, but as is often the case with cruising, there were different experiences to be had.

We cruised past Wordie House, the previous research station. In fact the original presence there was even further back with John Rymill’s British Grahamland Expedition. They had a hut here, but it was destroyed (after being abandoned) by a massive wave from a glacier calving nearby. Wordie house was the epitome of a British Antarctic hut, a cosy warm wooden structure perfectly suited to spending a cold, dark winter in Antarctica. The back channels to Wordie House were peppered with crabeater seals napping on ice floes in the delicious sunshine.

We had equally varied icebergs on the second cruise and some even had the thrill of humpback whales sliding below their zodiacs! It was hard to tear ourselves away from such a morning, but there is a long road ahead to the Ross Sea and lunch was waiting back on our warm ship. After our lunch, we were quickly into the open sea with perfect conditions but almost no ice. Our wildlife day was not nearly over, however, as we spotted probably more than 100 more humpback whales—and a minke or two in the next couple hours of sailing. As the afternoon evolved, many disappeared for a nap to make up for the early start of the day, and the day ended with a recap, dinner and a movie.

Darrel showed us a travel documentary he helped produce. And last but not least, we set our clocks back an hour before going to bed—a sure sign that we were finally heading west toward the Ross Sea.

Day 6: Bellingshausen Sea

Bellingshausen Sea
Fecha: 18.01.2020
Posición: 66°19’S / 74°57’W
Viento: NE6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +9

This morning we entered the Bellingshausen Sea with an extra hour of sleep. After the intense day we had yesterday this was very much appreciated! The seas were calm peppered with large icebergs, the cloud ceiling low with no rain, another welcoming day in Antarctica.

At 10AM it was high time to learn about the weird and wonderful glaciers of Antarctica with Heidi in the lecture room. She started by giving us the secret recipe to make a glacier, and insisted on the many many reasons why glaciers and ice sheets matter. Whether it is for the freshwater they are made of, the climate archives they protect or their direct influence on sea level, our future is directly related to these glaciers and vice versa.

Shortly after 3PM, we crossed the Antarctic Polar Circle at 66°33’S, which was a first for most of us! The ship’s horn rang a few times to celebrate this achievement.
It was Simon’s turn to share his passion for penguins with us. He described the different species we have already seen such as the Gentoos and Chinstraps and made us look forward to the many more we might meet along the way to New Zealand, in particular the majestic Emperor penguins, the only species to breed in the brutal cold of the Antarctic Winter, and the largest one of all, easily identifiable with their golden feathers around the sides of their heads.

The evening’s recap started with the celebration of the crossing of the Antarctic Polar Circle, topped with glasses of champagne! Mark reminded us of the significance of this milestone while many of us took pictures of the sign he made “66°33’S”. Victoria’s recap focused on the mysterious and extremely remote island of Peter the 1st that we are aiming to visit tomorrow. Finally, Christian was eager to tell us all about “Happy Whales”, a citizen science project that aims to create the largest inventory of whale sightings in the world, and taught us how we can contribute to it every time we see a whale’s fluke!

After dinner, it was time to hear some stories from Gary, during his time studying penguins and in particular penguins’ livers in Antarctica. We could hardly believe the tricks the scientists were using to capture the animals, using big nets and catching them in mid-air while leopard seals were killing their prey and throwing them in the air. To the surprise of the seal, the freshly killed penguin would disappear, caught by the scientists just long enough to collect the liver, and would magically reappear just in front of the seal.

Day 7: Peter I Island

Peter I Island
Fecha: 19.01.2020
Posición: 68°02’S / 86°53’W
Viento: SW3, Light Breeze
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

Today’s Sunday was definitely a special one! We were steadily approaching Peter the First island and were thus preparing for a possible scenic flight during the entire day. We still did not really know what conditions to expect, but Delphine and the Helicopter pilots ordered us all into the lecture room to give us the mandatory Helicopter briefing in the morning. This was followed by a so-called “Dry-run” during which we were all called out in groups, mustered for flight numbers and then practiced the procedures in and around the helicopters on the aft deck.

We could already see the infamous Island 80 nautical miles away and as we approached we could slowly see its magnificent shapes building in front of us. Meanwhile, Victoria continued her lecture series with the arguably most famous expedition of the Antarctic heroic age, “Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition”.

While, we were having dinner Delphine, Darrel, the pilots and our Captain were assessing the conditions with shifting winds and cloud cover, but around 20.30 we finally heard the news we were all hoping for: A reconnaissance flight was about to start!

All went well and this meant we could finally go ahead and offer scenic flights to all passengers, starting with Group 4 around 21.00. A couple of hours later, around 01.00 the last passengers arrived happily back from their scenic flights around the steep, glaciated, inhospitable coast of Peter I Island. They flew above icebergs and glaciers, and some even saw whales from the air. What an adventure under the Midnight sun. A day we will never forget!

Day 8: Bellingshausen Sea

Bellingshausen Sea
Fecha: 20.01.2020
Posición: 68°25’S / 95°10’W
Viento: SE 3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Good morning again came the call. Delphine is relentless in waking us up every morning. Today is the first day in a while where we didn’t get an extra hour from setting our clocks back as we zoom through time zones like nobody’s business. Now for a couple days we’ve been heading west by southwest on a direct course for the Bay of Whales in the Ross Sea. There are many days to go so today we kept vigil for the numerous icebergs surrounding us and the steady stream of birds and whales.

After breakfast, Steve entertained and informed us with the remarkable story of the history of Adélie penguin colonies in the Ross Sea. He first summarized the nesting sequence to orient us on how and why there are so many well-preserved penguin remains. Then he told us the fascinating story of how he can excavate material from current and ancient penguin colonies to determine their histories. So much of the material is mummified eggshells, skin and bones from the many chicks that die at a colony every year. With radiocarbon dating he can determine the age of the colony and with stable isotope analysis he can even tell what their diet was during that time. He gave us the entire history of Adélie penguins.

Up on the bridge and out on the bow, the dedicated few spent the morning occasionally spotting whales, photographing the icebergs passing by in a steady stream all day long. We also had great entertainment with squadrons of Cape Petrels circling the ship. Some no doubt relaxed in their cabin going over their photos from last night’s helicopter flight over Peter I island.

After lunch we had another fine lecture on the agenda. This time the topic was a bit lighter at heart and not quite so filled with scientific information. Mark spent the hour regaling with stories of his summer at McMurdo Station. From lining up to get on his C130 flight to the continent, to scrubbing floors as a janitor. He told a fascinating tale of people with different jobs, how life is filled with weird people doing weird things. He told us of the hidden art secreted away in out of the way spots around McMurdo. Mark clearly took full advantage of his months at McMurdo with recreational trips and raging with the best of them at Prom celebrations. It was a crazy tale of crazy people—just the right tone to prepare us for our visit to Ross Island. We won’t be visiting McMurdo on our trip because they’ll be in the midst of their resupply efforts and cannot take the time to host 100 of us. Hoping to go to Scott Base, Mark also showed us photos of the friendly bar there and claimed it to be his favourite place.

The sea was lovely and calm all day so we maintained a great pace with the ship. At recap, Gary told us about the Gentoo penguin—the main species we saw on our visit to Vernadsky Station. The third largest of all the penguins, they are really a species of the sub-Antarctic that manages to extend its range all the way to 65 degrees 5 minutes south latitude. In fact, the colony that now occupies the same small island as the station is the most southerly Gentoo colony in the world, but they only arrived here about 10 years ago—another result of the warming climate of the Antarctic Peninsula. Victoria followed this with a short summary of Captain James Cook and his circumnavigation of Antarctica. Highly skilled in many facets of sailing and discovery, Cook was unlucky with his trips around the Great southern continent. In his expedition, he drove his ship to the south land, but unlucky for him, when he sailed so far south as to cross the Antarctic Circle, he still never laid eyes on the continent.

After dinner we finished the day with part one (of 4) of the story of Borchgrevink’s expedition-the first to winter over on the Antarctic continent. They spent the winter of 1899 at Cape Adare. After that, there was nothing left but to head for bed and dream of blizzards and ice and a long, dark night.

Day 9: Amundsen Sea

Amundsen Sea
Fecha: 21.01.2020
Posición: 68°50’S / 107°57’W
Viento: S2
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Day 9 of our voyage. During the night we sailed past Cape Flying Fish the boundary of the Bellingshausen Sea and into the Amundsen Sea. We were awakened early by the sound of a loud scraping against the hull as Ortelius passed through a patch of sea ice along the “west” side of Antarctica, into one of the most remote spots on earth, waters that few have sailed before us - mostly whalers and explorers of the 18th and 19th centuries.

By mid afternoon the overcast skies cleared and turned into a beautiful, sunny day and the oceanscape was bursting with the color blue - the bright pale blue sky, the deep blue of the Amundsen Sea and all the electric shades of blue of giant icebergs in all shapes and sizes we sailed past throughout the day, too numerous to count.

After breakfast Gary presented “Seals of Antarctica” in the lecture room, followed by the daily buffet lunch in the restaurant at 12:30.

In the afternoon, Victoria continued her lecture on Shackleton, with the tale of “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men” - the story of the OTHER half of his failed Trans-Antarctic Expedition that took place in the Ross Sea.

Over the course of the day we spotted a Minke and Humpback Whale, Light Mantled Albatross, Cape Petrel, Southern Fulmar, Antarctic Petrel and a solitary Antarctic Prion.

That evening Darrel presented the first in a four-part docu-series “Forgotten Polar Hero”, on the Borchgrevink Expedition in 1899 and the first winter over. Oceanwide Expeditions helped facilitate this production and some of the spectacular footage of Cape Adare and Antarctica was shot during the 2017 Ross Sea Itinerary. Darrel facilitated a helicopter landing at the gravesite of the expedition’s zoologist, Nikolai Hanson, for the Great Grandson, who was onboard and subject of the documentary.

After a night off, we resumed setting our clocks forward an hour, the fourth time on our voyage, as we crossed another meridian on our way to the Ross Sea.

Day 10: Amundsen Sea

Amundsen Sea
Fecha: 22.01.2020
Posición: 69°17’S / 121°25’W
Viento: NE4
Clima: Fog
Temperatura del Aire: +3

“On the open, limitless ocean, where time is meaningless and the horizon is always out of reach, there is nothing to mark one’s progress save the occasional and unexpected cry of a bird, splash of a dolphin or spout of a whale.”
Simon Cook

Today was another day at sea, another day to reflect upon our great adventure thus far and another day to scan the open, limitless ocean.

As the day progressed so too did the quality of the presentations. Those that we have enjoyed so far have covered a wide range of subjects and have been presented in a range of different styles. After breakfast Simon once again took the microphone and visually guided us through the fascinating and exciting world of toothed cetaceans.

In the afternoon Heidi was performing – her excellent talk was about the fascinating world of sea ice. It is astonishing to discover that there is so much to learn about something as ‘simple’ as frozen water!

During recap Gary explained about just how difficult (or impossible!) it can be for ships to get through it. It was explained that we have been steering more-or-less due west to avoid a large area of ice but that, in approximately 36 hours when we start to turn towards the south, we might at last come into contact with it. How exciting!

Today was also another day to reflect upon our substantial calorie intake, courtesy of chef Heinz and his team. Once again, the food was delicious! There was plenty of time to see what was going on outside too – hamsters ‘on the wheel’, going round and round the bow, icebergs gliding gracefully by, whales popping up at the surface and birds around the ship. Whales included the usual Humpbacks plus, later on, a very close Fin Whale that was seen by a few of us. The best time for birds was before breakfast and at 06.30 there was a very exciting sighting.

The watchman on the bridge spotted lots of birds on the sea ahead of Ortelius.

As we approached and they flew off they revealed themselves to be Blue Petrels – something like 1,000 of them! Whilst this was the undoubted highlight of the day, other species seen included Cape and Antarctic Petrels, Southern Fulmar, Wilson’s Storm-petrel and a huge Southern Giant-Petrel.

During recap there was a flurry of snow but later in the evening the fog disappeared astern of us. Floating on the flat calm sea were dozens of icebergs, glistening in the sun. To round things off, several Humpback Whales decided to give us a show at close range. All in all it was quite a day!

Day 11: Amundsen Sea, enroute to Ross Sea

Amundsen Sea, enroute to Ross Sea
Fecha: 23.01.2020
Posición: 70°33’S / 134°43’W
Viento: SE4
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Still no sea ice! But it will come soon. Quote of the Day on our Daily Programme for 23rd January is ‘The Ice is Coming’, attributed (correctly) to Captain Ernesto Barria.

It was a touch foggy in the morning, though visibility improved steadily throughout the day. The icebergs we are passing are now tending more towards the tabular than the multi-shaped, which is a sure sign of our approaching nearer and nearer to the entrance of the Ross Sea. We continue to sail on incredibly calm and smooth ocean, with very little wind to disturb us, though it is COLD outside now and gloves, scarves, hats and many layers are necessary for prolonged periods standing on deck.

Lectures today kicked off at 10 am with Victoria presenting: ‘Brutally Unsubtle: The Life of Roald Amundsen – the Last of the Vikings.’ It made quite a change to hear about a brisk, successful, efficient Norwegian explorer capable of using dogs and skis in order to explore Antarctica with maximum speed and minimum risk! Amundsen is an impressive, though taciturn figure, who of course reached the South Pole first in December 1911, and went on to fly in the airship Norge over the North Pole too.

There was just time for a quick top-up to coffee levels in the blood stream before 10 lucky people headed down to a corner of the Dining Room for Day One of our Navigation Workshops with Darrel. It’s proving tough to get a place on this popular training session!

Passengers worked with Darrel to plot a position on a chart, then to mark a way-point to plot a course from A to B, whilst taking magnetic variation into account. Not a bad introduction to this useful skill…

By then it was lunchtime, consisting of a particularly delicious lamb stew. A few folks disappeared for a siesta in the early afternoon, though today the Bar area remained quite full – with passengers quietly reading, chatting, editing photos and popping out on deck at regular intervals to see what there was to be seen. A Snow Petrel was spotted and we passed pretty close to some magnificent bergs, some of which gleamed a deep blue.

Up next was Gary, to tell us about ‘The Life of Adélie Penguins’ in the Lecture Room. We are hoping to see more of these delightful little birds, bustling around on ice floes, when we break through the band of sea ice that charts show us marks the barrier between us and the Ross Sea; we came away from Gary’s talk with considerable respect for these small, but characterful penguins, who live further south than any other creature.

There was time for a hot chocolate before good, clear light and icebergs lured us out on deck again and again until Recap time, when we joined Delphine and her team in the Bar. Darrel whetted our appetites with information on a raffle/auction for the position of Steve’s Field Assistant during his scientific study of Adélie ancestry in the days ahead. And then Victoria informed us of today’s important events in Antarctic history – Gerlache discovering his eponymous strait on this day in 1898, Borchgrevink crossing the Antarctic Circle in 1899, and Joyce preparing to set out on a tragic depot-laying mission for Shackleton in the Ross Sea in 1915, and commenting in his diary later that January 23rd was the last day he changed his clothes or washed for TWO YEARS!

And from the sublime to the – well, not really ridiculous. After showing us the latest ice chart, Delphine recounted the tale of Ortelius carrying musicians, technicians and fans down to King George Island (South Shetlands) in 2013 for the band Metallica to play its seventh continent in a year (hence the ‘Krill ‘em all’ Bar!).

Toothfish (sustainably and legally caught near the Falkland Islands) was on the dinner menu and some lucky passengers were enjoying a breath of fresh air out on deck shortly after dinner when a Minke whale just happened to swim all along the starboard side of the ship – clearly seen underwater and then breaking the surface with a magnificent blow. Wow.

Movie night showed the final part of the Borchgrevink series in the Ortelius cinema and it delivered all the expected ingredients and more of a good polar adventure story, with some very modern political overtones and comments concerning its aftermath. A good time – in the end - was had by all.

It was noted that the volume of conversation at dinner was steadily growing by the day, and also the buzz in the bar continued late into the evening. We have been together for 10 days now and are growing into quite a family of individuals, with plenty to say to each other!

Goodnights were given, secure in the knowledge that once again we were gaining an hour. This is the life. And tomorrow we should be into (loose) pack-ice, which is definitely something to look forward to.

Day 12: Amundsen Sea

Amundsen Sea
Fecha: 24.01.2020
Posición: 72°49’S / 143°31’W
Viento: SW3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

Today is all about sea ice! Some of us woke up early to the sound of the ship hitting floes of pack ice drifting around Antarctica. The icescape was breath-taking. Calm conditions, no waves, low cloud ceiling with icy diamonds all around us.

We admired first-year ice, very flat, low on the water, and many more floes of multi-year ice with tall pressure ridges, several meters high. Navigating through this landscape takes real skills, and a lot of twists and turns.

Our finest spotters on the bridge rapidly found our first Emperor Penguin! Such a special moment on this expedition, and most definitely a highlight for us.

After a few hours in the sea ice, progress was visibly hindered by much denser, thicker sea ice. This is when the Captain decided to send the helicopter to get a good overview of the situation and help us find a way out. We had another 43 nautical miles of ice to cross. Fortunately, this plan worked, and we could find a much easier course in less dense, first-year ice.

As if the day was not special enough, we were full of happiness to celebrate Chinese New Year with our passengers! At 3PM we all gathered in the dining room to help make hundreds of dumplings, it wasn’t easy but some of us quickly got the hang of it, and entire trays were filling up quickly!

Dinner too, was a highlight! Tonight, the galley and hotel departments spoiled us with an indoor BBQ! Ribs, chicken wings, and of course the delicious dumplings so kindly prepared by our Chinese guests were on the menu. We raised our glasses for the new year and enjoyed what was probably the most remote celebration on earth!

To conclude this wonderful day, we met Darrel in the bar and listened and laughed to his stories of his numerous expeditions in Antarctica.

Day 13: Ross Sea

Ross Sea
Fecha: 25.01.2020
Posición: 74°19’S / 147°08’W
Viento: SE 6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

The day started on a very sad note as soon after the wake up call, we came to realise one of our number, Richard Laurent, had passed away in the early morning hours. Richard was an enthusiastic member of our voyage, he was full of excitement for the trip and had questions for everyone. In the short time that he shared with the rest of us, he was well-liked for his positive outlook for the journey. Later in the morning once the formalities were taken care of, all those who wished to say goodbye to Richard and show support for Francine who was hit hardest by the loss, gathered in the lecture room for a small memorial. A few words were spoken about Richard’s engagement in this trip-of-a-lifetime, but mostly we had a period of silence to mark his passing. Being well into the trip with many miles behind us and many more to go, the trip, of course, carries on. Most of the rest of the day was cruising in and out of heavy pack ice as we continued on our way towards the Bay of Whales and our farthest south.

As expected, the mood on the ship was subdued, but in the afternoon we continued with the lecture program and Steve presented us with an interesting and entertaining talk on the Evolution of Research Stations in Antarctica. Tracing the history of huts from the first ever stone hut by William Bruce, then on the continent with pre-fab huts built for the Borchgrevink expedition of 1898, to the ultramodern and emissions-free station of Belgium. For so long in their history, Antarctic huts were simply copies of simple wooden houses found in remote areas around the world, perhaps with a bit of extra reinforcement, but standard constructions. The more modern huts have new design features such as extra thick insulation, or being built on pilings to raise them off the snow and ice so the wind can blow through and under them. Having the wind beneath them helps reduce the accumulation of snow at the huts so prevents them from being buried as so many had in the past.

Not long after Steve finished with his talk, the call came from the bridge: Orcas! This turned out to be one of the premier orca experiences of the trip. There were many on them in the pod and the captain slowed the ship and maneuverer so we could enjoy the orcs. After a short while we discovered that the orcas were attacking a Minke whale as a group. We eventually identified the orcas as Ecotype B with a very large eye patch and a clearly visible cape of dark color on their neck and shoulders. They are well-known seal hunters, but also hunt Minkes whales. Despite being a bit gruesome and tragic for the whale, it was a rare sighting and gave us extraordinary insight into the predator prey relationships in the Ross Sea.

As the evening progressed, we broke out of the ice and for some time we had open water again on our way to the west southwest. Expectations are high for tomorrow, barring encounters with difficult ice, we should finally reach the Ross Ice Shelf in the vicinity of the Bay of Whales.

Day 14: Ross Sea

Ross Sea
Fecha: 26.01.2020
Posición: 76°25’S / 158°23’W
Viento: SSE 2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

We continued to enjoy calm seas throughout the day as we crossed 77° S early in the morning and then entered the Ross Sea by noon. Cape Colbeck soon became visible to the east and we passed through several bands of pack ice where we observed our first Weddell Seals on ice flows. More Adélie and Emperor Penguins also were observed on these flows, but the real treat was when Simon sighted large groups of Antarctic Petrels roosting on two large flat ice floes, perhaps over 100 birds total. Simon later mentioned in recap that it was the first time in all his years of ship-based observations that he had seen Antarctic Petrels use an ice floe in this manner. Pods of Minke whales also were occasionally spotted around the ice floes or far away from the vessel. The air temperature fell to -4 °C by early evening as we approached the Bay of Whales and our first views of the spectacular Ross Ice Shelf by midnight.

Also during the day we had two lectures, first by Victoria on Robert Falcon Scott and the Terra Nova expedition, and then a detailed look at the life of skuas by Gary. Both lectures were highly informative and entertaining. Everyone went to bed soon after dinner to prepare for an early wakeup call at 0100 to enjoy views of the Bay of Whales and the Ross Ice Shelf as we approached our most southern point of the journey.

Day 15: Ross Sea/Bay Of Whales

Ross Sea/Bay Of Whales
Fecha: 27.01.2020
Posición: 77°58’S / 172°46’W
Viento: S 2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: -3

As promised, Delphine woke us up very early this morning; just as we were approaching the Bay of Whales around 2am.

And what a scenery was awaiting us here! A never-ending wall of ice stretched along the entire horizon. As we were sailing even further south into the bay of ice towards our southernmost position of 78°32.5’ at 3am, there were quite a number of Minke and even Fin whales around us. Dark but scenic clouds made our visit even more special. It is hard to even imagine how Roald Amundsen was “going ashore” on the Ross Ice Shelf pretty much where we were right now, a good 100 years ago; he and his men later succeeding in being the first to reach the Pole, from their base Framheim on the shelf.

After the excitement of the night many of us were happy to have a little nap in the morning as Darrel was giving his final round of navigational advice. Meanwhile, we were passing small fields of sea ice and continued our course westwards along the majestic Ross Ice shelf.

In the afternoon though, Victoria was proceeding with her lecture series and told us everything about the Nimrod expedition of Ernest Shackleton who discovered the Beardmore Glacier, the longest glacier in the world, and was the first person to reach the actual Polar plateau and then came less than 100 nautical miles from being the first to reach the South Pole.

In the early evening, Delphine gave us another mandatory briefing regarding our future helicopter landing operations. Christian explained to us why we would now be jumping a day ahead and informed us about the international date line and its implications, while Darrel surprised us by telling us that the record-breaking vessel that reached the furthest south position ever was actually a small Polish yard, the SV Selma.

DAY 16: Ross Sea, Ross Island – Cape Evans

Ross Sea, Ross Island – Cape Evans
Fecha: 29.01.2020
Posición: 77°21’S / 166°07’E
Viento: SE7
Clima: Partly cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: -1

During the night we crossed the International Date Line travelling westwards, and so we have jumped from Monday January 27th to Wednesday January 29th. I reckon most of us spent our idle moments today trying to get our head round this concept…

Anyway, whatever the day, we were up bright and early and full of enthusiasm this morning as we were hoping (Plan A) to fly and land on to the Ross Ice Shelf at Cape Crozier. Unfortunately, the weather gods had other plans for us. Light snow soon developed into heavier snow with poor visibility, so we went straight on to Plan B – which worked out extremely well.

In preparation for Plan B Victoria was in the Lecture Room at 9.15 am to tell us all about ‘Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic homes’. The focus of this talk was on the physical layouts of both the 1901 - 04 Discovery hut (Hut Point) and the more sophisticated 1910 – 12 Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans. These two buildings were intended for very different purposes – the former for storage, as a science laboratory for preparing blubber/skinning penguins and even as a theatre for staging plays over winter; the latter, however, was a real Antarctic dwelling for all of Scott’s over-wintering men, and has been aptly described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘a timewarp without parallel.’ Imagine, despite having much to say on the subject, Victoria’s lecture lasted precisely 45 minutes!

After coffee, Delphine gathered us all back into the Lecture Room for a mandatory briefing, to remind us of IAATO guidelines and especially to let us know the specific regulations regarding visits to Cape Evans. By re-assigning passengers into three zodiac groups, it would be possible for all of us to have a two-hour outing: to visit both the inside of the hut and its immediate surrounds, to walk just outside the officially-designated protected area in order to enjoy the general vistas and sights daily seen by Scott’s men, and to take a short zodiac cruise for ice/landscape viewing and wildlife spotting. As lunch-time approached, the weather was looking good and shortly afterwards we began to get dressed for one of the real highlights of this voyage – an afternoon in the footsteps of Scott and his men at Cape Evans.

Expectations were exceeded. It was with a hushed reverence that passengers stepped onto the porch at Cape Evans and then into the messroom and wardroom. There is a certain atmosphere about this place: it is as if Scott and his men have just gone outside about their daily Antarctic business, and will soon return to gather round the iconic table for a gossip over a fried seal dinner, and to start planning sledging expeditions.

The ‘tenements’ (where Cherry-Garrard, Bowers and Oates bunked), various laboratories, Ponting’s Dark Room and Scott’s own quarters are all just as they were over 100 years ago. The Antarctic Heritage Trust have done a wonderful job of preservation on this hut and its 8,000+ artifacts. The emphasis of their work was on stabilization of the building and its contents and the prevention of further decay rather than restoration, and the results are minimally intrusive and look overwhelmingly authentic.

After feasting our eyes and camera lenses on the interior we dispersed around the landing area to enjoy it from as many angles as possible. For most this included getting photos of a sleeping Weddell seal, and then climbing Windvane Hill to pay tribute to the poignant cross erected there in memory of Spencer-Smith, Mackintosh and Hayward. These men lost their lives in this region in 1916 and were in fact three of the most recent occupants of the Cape Evans hut – the team which was laying depots for Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic crossing, though in the end the supplies were never needed and remain in the ice to this day. The remaining seven members of this group spent a dismal extra year here before being rescued…and mainly going straight into World War I.

It was time for dinner upon our return from Cape Evans. With hearty appetites and much to talk about, we enjoyed Hotel Manager Sigi and Chef Heinz’s meal even more than usual. There was no need for the Ortelius cinema to open tonight to keep us entertained; as we approached the ice edge in preparation for visiting the Dry Valleys tomorrow – another of the trip’s highlighted destinations – the sky was clearing, the sun shining and Captain Ernesto delighted photographers by ‘parking’ us at the sea ice edge. Ice floes, with Adélie penguins grouped on them, spread to the horizon and the light just kept on getting better. Finally we retired to bed to recharge our batteries, leaving just a few night owls buzzing in the bar, mulling over a wonderful day in the Ross Sea and pondering what will happen tomorrow. Sleep well.

DAY 17: Ross Sea, The Dry Valleys

Ross Sea, The Dry Valleys
Fecha: 30.01.2020
Posición: 77°31’S / 164°51’E
Viento: S5
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: -1

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning with the Dry Valleys visible to the west, Mount Discovery in clear view to the south, but Ross Island and Mount Erebus still obscured by a heavy cloud cover. The temperature at 0600 was -2.6 °C with light winds at 12 knots. After breakfast, we had a clear weather window over Taylor Valley so we set out to take everyone up to Canada Glacier for stunning views and a nice hike around part of the valley. The first helicopter with staff left by 0830 followed by all passengers, by groups, for each to spend 45 minutes on the ground.

The 15-minute flight up the valley was spectacular with the sun highlighting the Commonwealth and Canada Glaciers. The landing point was not far from Canada Glacier and a one kilometer walk was marked out by the staff that followed ridge lines and came to a nice overview of the front of the glacier.

Two Crabeater seal mummies were on the route as well. It remained sunny all day, with light winds, so it was a comfortable outing with fantastic views of the valley, the Transantarctic Mountains, and the glaciers. We also had a good view of Lake Fryxell below Canada Glacier. This lake is saline (>9% salt concentration of sea water) but was frozen at the surface. Some of this salinity may be due to CaCl2 salts in the soil that seeps into the lake from ground meltwater.

This landing in the Taylor Valley also had significance for another reason—it was our first landing on the continent. So, for those passengers who had not been to Antarctica before, they were able to touch their seventh continent. By mid-afternoon all had returned to the ship to rest and relax before recap and dinner. An excellent day!

DAY 18: Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound

Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound
Fecha: 31.01.2020
Posición: 77°47’S / 166°19’E
Viento: SE7
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: -3

Very early this morning the full majesty of mighty Mount Erebus became clear – a snow-covered, conical volcano billowing smoke into the atmosphere. Steve later said that he had never before seen so much coming out of the crater. At over 3,500 metres or 12,447’ high, it was a very impressive sight. So too was the sea around us, due to wind of over 30 knots from the south-southeast. The ship made an approach to Cape Royds and on the land could be seen part of the large Adélie Penguin colony and the hut used by Shackleton. Unfortunately, the weather prevented us from leaving Ortelius so she turned her bow to the south, towards McMurdo station.

The visibility steadily worsened until snow was whipping around us. Soon the edge of the fast ice came into view, as did a large tanker and the pride of the US Coastguard, their old but sturdy icebreaker, Polar Star. Mark was delighted to see his hard-earned tax dollars being so wisely spent! The icebreaker was busy keeping open the channel that it had made through the ice to the station earlier in the season. On the way to and through the ice channel several species of marine mammals were spotted – Fin whale, Antarctic Minke whale and a solitary Leopard seal; there was also a single Emperor Penguin on the edge of the ice.

Although it was still very windy the visibility improved enough to allow us to see the small town of McMurdo. There were, for example, radar domes, a church, large oil tanks, an old Quonset hut, accommodation blocks, storage areas, a NASA centre, a cargo ship, a hospital and a heliport. From an historical point of view, we were treated to views of Scott’s hut at Hut Point and the memorial cross to the South Pole party, which was high up on Observation Hill.



Ortelius turned around and on the way back towards open water eagle-eyed (or should that be whale-eyed???) Simon spotted killer whales heading towards us. They passed close by, on their way south and revealed themselves to be “Ross Sea Killer Whales”, or type “C’s”. Very exciting!

We then headed towards the area where the helicopters took off from the ship yesterday. A huge tabular iceberg, 5 nautical miles/8 kilometres long was not far away. Many of us had seen it yesterday from the choppers so it was interesting to see it at sea level. There was a smaller ‘berg and fast ice at the end of the huge iceberg so the captain turned the ship towards the ice. We got very good, close views! By now it was some time after Simon had once more spotted Killer Whales.

After the group photo had been taken of us on the bow the captain turned us towards the whales.

Originally they had been seen spy-hopping (lifting their heads up vertically out of the water to see what was on the ice) miles and miles away. By careful driving the captain got us quite close to the whales and it was soon realized that this was another pod of Ross Sea killers – how lucky can you get?

Once we were past the whales the ship came out from the sheltered side of the iceberg into winds that approached 40 knots in strength. Ortelius was canted over at an angle as she made her way across the sound towards the northern end of Ross Island. Recap was, again, very informative. Gary told us all about seals on ice, Mark covered the use of some of the buildings whilst Simon took us back to his visit in 1994, when he ascended Observation Hill and had spray from the zodiacs freeze instantly when it hit him (-43 °C, with the windchill factor)! Delphine outlined the first plan (plan A) for tomorrow, which was for a helicopter landing on the Ross Ice Shelf.

DAY 19: Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound

Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound
Fecha: 01.02.2020
Posición: 77°09’S / 166°19’E
Viento: S3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +4

The wind has followed us through the night, and we woke up to a gently rocking ship on this Saturday morning. Today we’ll attempt to go to the Ross Ice Shelf around Cape Crozier. After an early meeting with the Captain, Pilots and our Expedition Leader Delphine, it was obvious that the conditions were unsuitable for a landing or a scenic flight in the area, gale force winds were preventing any operation to take place.

Plan B quickly came into effect. Cape Royds is only a few hours of sailing away. It offered us the chance to hear Gary (and his many sound effects) tell us all about his research on Emperor penguins in Antarctica, taking place a few years ago at Mawson station. He investigated Auster colony during the winter, in the toughest “but most magnificent time of the year”. We learned that Emperors are actually the least faithful penguin with an 85% divorce rate, and that the adults are pound for pound the best divers in the world, being able to dive down to 350 m and stay down 8 to 16 minutes!

The sun came out just after the lecture and even though the wind was still very much present, we had magnificent views of Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and Beaufort Island.

Unfortunately as we reached Cape Royds and its iced-packed bay, we realized that once again the wind was too strong for our helicopters to fly safely. The limit is 25 knots and we had gusts up to 28 knots.

We all tried to get pictures of the hut before the ship turned around, which wasn’t so easy as the hut is nested in a narrow bluff, sheltered from the elements. So long Cape Royds!

Today is another proper expedition day, when plan A and plan B do not materialize, so it was time for plan C to come into force. And it was the right decision to take! Delphine called for a meeting at 3PM in the bar to tell us all about it. On our new weather maps it appeared that Cape Bird was protected from the wind, and indeed it was! We arrived at the Cape around 5PM and were greeted by a beautiful sun, and three workers from New Zealand who were there to winterize the Kiwi hut. We all landed at once and had plenty of time to quietly roam around, between the nests and the skuas. It was our first walk among the penguins at a colony and everyone enjoyed watching their behaviour and humorous antics. Meanwhile, Steve took two ‘field assistants’ who won the raffle drawing to assist him in collecting penguin chick bones for his research and they were thrilled to help in this ‘citizen science’.

After taking hundreds and hundreds of pictures, it was time for the most daring ones among us to brave the icy cold waters of the Ross sea for our first polar plunge! About 30 of us went either for a quick dip or a short swim in the middle of the icebergs and with the Adélies, congratulations to all our swimmers!

DAY 20: Ross Sea – Terra Nova Bay

Ross Sea – Terra Nova Bay
Fecha: 02.02.2020
Posición: 77°03’S / 164°56’E
Viento: SW6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: -1

Earlier than expected, we reached the massive Drygalski Ice Tongue at the entrance of Terra Nova Bay. So much about the announced “sleep-in” on this Sunday morning.

Ice was awaiting us in all its forms. The Drygalski Ice Tongue floats more than 50km out into the ocean, marking the southern boundary of Terra Nova Bay, and sturdy sea ice made it difficult to navigate deeper inside the bay. Heïdi was truly in her element! Our captain tried the best to manoeuvre the ship closer to our possible landing sites at Inexpressible Island or at any of the International Stations in the vicinity. We even contacted the nearby Italian icebreaker Laura Bassi for inside information about the ice conditions and visibility. But, soon it became clear that we could not risk going any further and thus we began to purely enjoy the incredible scenery.

Enormous ice floes were moved several meters up and down by the swell from a passing storm far out at sea, and with the swell also our beloved Ortelius was moving. It is hard to imagine the forces involved in such a natural spectacle. The swell continued several nautical miles into the pack ice. Meanwhile, the snow petrels flew effortlessly as usual around our ship.

Later in the afternoon Darrel took us on a virtual tour around Ortelius. So, we could finally see our galley and engine department in their working environment; the people we have been appreciating so much during the last couple of weeks.

Day 21: off Wood Bay, Victoria Land, Ross Sea

off Wood Bay, Victoria Land, Ross Sea
Fecha: 03.02.2020
Posición: 74°19’S / 165°41’E
Viento: NW3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Today was another ‘Expedition Day’ in the Ross Sea – so we awoke prepared for ANYTHING. Ortelius had started moving a lot in the early morning and when we went up on deck before breakfast it was fairly clear that this was going to be a day of both ice and wind. Spectacular, but not easy for flights or zodiac operations!

Still, we could enjoy views and wildlife from the ship throughout the day. By scheduling Victoria’s ‘Antarctic Treaty System’ lecture for 10 am we were pretty well guaranteed a spectacle demanding us all to be on deck instead of downstairs on Deck 3 - and Antarctica did not let us down! Not only was the sea ice magnificent, but there were three Emperor penguins standing on a floe. Captain Ernesto was able to take us quite close – close enough to see that one was a juvenile with some baby fluff still attached, whilst the two adults were moulting. We regarded the Emperors and the Emperors regarded us.

So Victoria’s lecture was postponed until the afternoon and we were free to remain out on deck for the rest of the morning, appreciating the spectacular Ross Sea ice-scape. After many glimpses of seals and Adélie penguins during the remainder of the morning, shortly before lunch we came into some slushy ice and spotted a pod of Orca spy-hopping along its edge! It was a magnificent sighting, watching these awe-inspiring ‘dolphins’ rear out of the water to see if there was any food (i.e., penguins) lurking at the edges of the ice floe, and cameras were happily clicking away for the duration of the experience.

Although we did not get an opportunity to leave the ship today as we’d originally hoped, there continued to be plenty to see from deck and Heidi’s voice came over the PA several times to tell us about the ice tongues we could see as we sailed past, the first being the Drygalski Ice Tongue, but the clearest being the Aviator Glacier Tongue, which bounds Wood Bay to the north. We were pleased to learn all about them from our resident ice enthusiast – apparently they consist of ice flowing rapidly out from the continent and floating on the ocean, and can extend many kilometres, though it is not precisely known why they sometimes form extensive tongues like these rather than shelves. They calve icebergs exactly like ice shelves though. And around lunch time we saw an impressive example of a large berg being tossed around by swell as the wind increased, driving spray in dramatic plumes right over the top of the berg.

The choppy seas we entered in the early afternoon gave a number of us an excuse to take to our beds for a siesta and to give ourselves time to recover our sea legs. At 3 pm Victoria finally got to give her talk, though unusually it was held in the Bar, which was deemed a more stable platform for her slightly queasy audience! Quite a few committed passengers turned up to find out how the Treaty came into being and has evolved, and to learn all about the regulations governing Antarctica right now. In the 2040s the most significant of the environmental protections currently guarding the continent will be voted on anew and there is some uncertainty what will happen next. For sure, Antarctica needs all the ambassadors it can get, and we should all go home and lobby politicians to maintain it as a pristine reserve for peace and cooperative science long into the future…

Tea time came around. Quite a number of passengers were on the bridge or out on deck, enjoying (for the most part) the slightly rougher sea conditions we were now in, though there were mixed feelings about Ortelius’ rolling and occasional corkscrew motion. Recap and Briefing was much worse attended than usual, with a few unclaimed seats still available. Delphine filled us in as always – with information about tomorrow at Cape Hallett - and we heard more about the Orca we had seen today, as well as listening to one of Simon’s AMAZING stories.

Dinner was subdued, with the same people missing as from Recap…and with the exception of a few die-hards in the Bar (someone has to keep Jake company) we took the opportunity to go early to bed, rather enjoying being rocked in our Ortelian cradles throughout the night. Fortunately the weather had taken a turn for the better by the early hours.

Day 22: Ross Sea – Cape Hallet

Ross Sea – Cape Hallet
Fecha: 04.02.2020
Posición: 72°11’S / 170°35’E
Viento: S3
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +4

After enduring two days of large swells crossing the Ross Sea, we awoke today to calmer waters. We had arrived overnight to Cape Hallett, the former location of a U.S. station during the IGY and now home to a large
Adélie penguin colony of perhaps 61,000 breeding pair. The sky was cloudy but clearing with good visibility, so Delphine arranged scenic helicopter flights for all passengers.

The operations began after breakfast beginning with a reconnaissance
flight at 0830 to determine the best route to follow for spectacular views of glaciers, the penguin colony at Cape Hallett, and of Mt. Herschel which was named by James Clark Ross in honor of the astronomer, Sir John Herschel. Sir Edmund Hillary summitted this peak as well.

Next, there was a flight at 0930 to drop Steve and two passenger volunteers who won the raffle drawing to act as field assistants at Cape Hallett where they remained until 1600, collecting penguin bone samples and enjoying the nice weather at the colony. Meanwhile, passengers disembarked for a 25-minute scenic flight, three per helicopter so all could have window seats, and these flights continued through the afternoon. All were thrilled by the views and we were glad the nice weather held all day.

As the ship left Cape Hallett and headed north to Cape Adare, we passed close by the Possession Islands, including Possession and Foyn Islands, both of which have large Adélie penguin colonies on the beaches and ridges above. Possession Island also is where James Clark Ross landed on 12 January 1841 to plant the British flag and claim the area for Britain. As the evening grew late, we were treated to one final look at Mt. Herschel with lenticular clouds above, a perfect end to a perfect day!

Day 23: Ross Sea – Cape Adare

Ross Sea – Cape Adare
Fecha: 05.02.2020
Posición: 71°21’S / 170°07’E
Viento: VAR2
Clima: Partial Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Our good fortune with the weather continued today as we awoke early to calm waters off Cape Adare, where the largest Adélie penguin colony in Antarctica is located (estimated at 338,000 breeding pair). The beach was surrounded by small to large icebergs and brash ice, but openings to the beach large enough for zodiac landings could be seen.

Meanwhile, we were treated to a pod of Minke whales circling the ship plus large ice floes were drifting by that were covered with penguin chicks. Good visibility all around, including the mountains behind the cape, made for a promising day ahead.

After breakfast, we lowered the zodiacs and the staff went ashore to scout out the best landing site for the passengers. Due to the large amount of ice and the high swell, the only safe landing was at the corner of the beach on the northeast side of the penguin colony.

However, because all the chicks were now creching and off their nests, it was easy to establish a trail to the hut and the first group of passengers came ashore by 0930 for a nice walk across the colony to the hut. All groups had over an hour ashore to watch the penguins and go inside the hut for photos.

The landings lasted until 1400, with Victoria giving explanations about the Borchgrevink hut while others enjoyed watching the behavior of the thousands of penguins surrounding us. This hut, placed here in 1899, is the oldest building on the entire continent. Though most artifacts inside had been removed for restoration by the New Zealand Heritage Trust, it was nice to go inside and see what it was like to have stayed in this hut over 120 years ago. It was a perfect day for us and we were very lucky as the last tour ship to visit this place was two years ago!

After returning to the ship, we set off for Robertson Bay on the back side of Cape Adare. A leopard seal went by the ship on an ice floe and the scenery remained spectacular. Delphine then arranged a zodiac cruise for the passengers in the back of the bay, past cliffs, icebergs and ice floes. Nice scenery for an early evening event. Meanwhile, Steve, Gary and one passenger (Peter Gates) whose wife won the auction for him to participate on a research trip to the upper terrace at Cape Adare, left by helicopter at 1645 and arrived at the terrace at 1700. They spent over three hours there to survey for abandoned penguin colonies on areas of the terrace that Steve had not yet investigated. They also sampled at six sites to recover ancient penguin bone, eggshell, egg membrane, and feathers. They even found a mummified chick carcass, though not in one piece, but very useful for the science at this amazing place. They returned to the ship by 2015 for a late dinner and the ship remained in the back of Robertson Bay for the night.

Day 24: Ross Sea – Robertson Bay/Shipley Glacier

Ross Sea – Robertson Bay/Shipley Glacier
Fecha: 06.02.2020
Posición: 71°16’S / 196°54’E
Viento: NW2
Clima: Partial Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +4

We awoke today in Robertson Bay, awaiting word on sea ice, swell, wind and cloud ceiling conditions, as we were aiming for a helicopter scenic flight in and around Robertson Bay and over Shipley Glacier. Shortly after breakfast the fog burned off and we found ourselves floating in beautiful, sunny, and calm waters. Delphine made the announcement that heliops were a go! Those in Group 3 raced to suit up while the rest of us enjoyed a leisurely morning, filled with anticipation of our chance to hop on the helicopters for our turn to cruise over this magnificent bay!

After Delphine and the pilots made a reconnaissance flight, to confirm conditions and determine the flight path, it was our turn for a breath-taking flight.

We were treated to a bird’s eye view of the deep blue waters of Robertson Bay, the sparkling white tops of the large tabular icebergs floating in the bay and then the helicopter pilots turned towards shore and flew low, across the top of Shipley Glacier, and give us a close look at the giant crevasses, then flew back to Ortelius, completely surrounded by the sea ice.

The weather held all day and we all were able to participate in the flights, finishing in the late afternoon. Afterward, as the captain took us out of the ice pack, we sailed past Emperor and Adélie penguins, a group of crabeater seals lounging on an ice-flow and even a minke whale spouted several times before disappearing under the ice.

In the evening, we turned north, and as we sailed out of Robertson Bay, a large pod of minke whales swam across our bow and into the bay.

It was a special, rarefied day, indeed, that none of us will ever forget.

Day 25: Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean
Fecha: 07.02.2020
Posición: 68°20’S / 166°52’E
Viento: SE4
Clima: Fog
Temperatura del Aire: +3

On this Friday morning, our mighty ship is making great progress towards the Balleny islands. Before we started with our daily program of lectures, some of us enjoyed some fresh air at the bow of the ship to admire dozens of Cape Petrels and Greater Snow Petrels flying around the ship. And to our ornithologist Simon’s surprise, one of them even landed on the blue railing of the ship!

At 10:30 we all gathered in the lecture room to hear Steve tell us all about his research on penguins. Investigating eggs shells and bones helps Steve know more about the diet of penguins, which is directly linked to climate, sea ice and polynyas. What a clever way to reconstruct past conditions in Antarctica! Steve has collected samples from 15 different localities around Antarctica, and was even granted permission to sample the Adélie eggs collected by Scott’s party at Cape Evans. During our adventure he was able to collect a lot more samples thanks to our passengers/research assistants at Cape Bird, Cape Adare and Cape Hallett! The samples he has collected on our expedition will be dried and cleaned, tripled bagged and sent to his lab in the U.S. for analysis. We wish Steve good luck with his research, which you can learn more about at www.uncw.edu/penguins and hope that this research program will continue on the Oceanwide ships!

During the rest of the morning we sailed past a few tabular icebergs and thin bands of sea ice, that reminded us that the continent Antarctica was still only a few dozens of nautical miles away. We even got the chance to see a handful of humpback whales!

After a delicious lunch, Simon took us on a tour of the SS Discovery, the 3 masted ship that carried Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton on their first and highly successful journey to the Antarctic, named the Discovery expedition. The SS Discovery was built in Dundee in 1901 specifically for Antarctic expeditions and research and fitted with labs and a small dark room. After a long and tumultuous life, she is now back in Dundee and has been refitted and open to the public. Simon finished his lecture with a few anecdotes that only he can tell.

During the evening the fog came in, making our navigation more difficult. We decided to keep our distance with the approaching Sturge Island and the sea ice that was surrounding it. Tomorrow we’re hoping that the weather will remain calm to allow us to explore the area with our zodiacs!

Day 26: Balleny Islands, Antarctica

Balleny Islands, Antarctica
Fecha: 08.02.2020
Posición: 66°37’S / 163°05’E
Viento: W5
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: 0

We woke up early this morning – either out of choice, or because Delphine made the wake-up call at 5.30 am! But it was well worth it as here we were, just off the Balleny Islands and despite some snow and swell we were about to experience something few people have ever done. Indeed, just getting a glimpse of this island group is a rare achievement.

While deck team and staff were getting everything ready in preparation to test the waters and see if we could go for a zodiac cruise, an impressive number of passengers was already out on deck admiring the birds and glimpses of craggy, rocky, ice-covered islets. We were delighted when the call came for the first group to take to the zodiacs and soon our wonderful little RIBs were zooming over the water in the direction of the mysterious-looking Buckle Island.

Despite the cold, wind and snow (which all made it more of a real exploration experience!) the zodiac cruise was an immense success. Group B departed Ortelius at 6 am and Group A at 7.30 am (with early pastries available in the Bar and breakfast provided between the two group departures).

Everyone enjoyed the antics of Adélie penguins as the zodiacs got close up to the amazing rock chimney we had glimpsed from the ship. In addition, there were some Weddell seals and a few boat-loads of passengers even saw a Leopard seal, which species has proved fairly elusive until now. But the rocks of the island, fringed with icicles and sprinkled in snow were the stars of the occasion, with birds wheeling high overhead as well as round the ship – Sooty Shearwaters and Greater Snow Petrels being the most iconic.

Shortly before 10 am (which felt like mid-afternoon at least!) all staff were back on board and zodiacs hoisted into place on deck. If anything the weather was improving, with glimmers of sunshine penetrating through the cloud, though the wind began to rock Ortelius strongly as she ventured out from the shelter of Buckle Island and headed north towards Young Island. We were out and about on deck enjoying the change in the weather, the sea views and glimpses of wildlife for the next hour or so.

By then it was time for lunch, which we enjoyed all the more for having been outside in the cold since early this morning. And soon after lunch came another milestone in our voyage – we crossed the Antarctic Circle for the second time, going north. Mulled wine was served around 2 pm in celebration and groups of passengers were poised on the Bridge around all of the screens and pieces of equipment registering our exact location; we now have photographic evidence of this transit!

Shortly after this we reached Young Island (the only major Balleny Island north of the Antarctic Circle) and cruised around it to bid a final farewell to Antarctica. These were the last glaciers we would see and it was with several backward glances and the early onset of nostalgia that we departed New Zealand-wards, away from the allure of the ice.
Apparently Simon – who lives on the Bridge – left it for a few minutes for a tea break; big mistake. Steve was therefore the first to spot literally thousands of birds settled on the water and soon he saw Humpback whales among them, sharing a good feed of krill at the surface of the sea and just ahead of the ship.

Recap & Briefing was dedicated to Balleny Island stories from the team and especially featured Steve’s penguin-bone successes. The account of hard work and hardship suffered in the name of science by his two able assistants on that beach (not to mention Heidi, who seems to have attempted to climb every elevation in sight before reluctantly giving it the thumbs down) was enthusiastically received by fellow-passengers – as we sat cosy and warm, sipping a drink in the Ortelius bar. Victoria closed Recap with a historical account of John Balleny’s discovery of these remote and hostile rocky outcrops in 1839. And we learned that even Sir Ernest Shackleton never managed to see them, so we’ve done something The Boss didn’t!

Now we are on our way to the New Zealand sub-Antarctic group of islands, which we hope will provide a whole new adventure in themselves.
And so to bed, after the final, self-congratulatory drink of the day. Sweet dreams – life on the ocean wave is rocking and rolling us a little more now we have left the ice behind and we need to concentrate on getting our sea legs back over the next few days…

Day 27: At sea in the Southern Ocean

At sea in the Southern Ocean
Fecha: 09.02.2020
Posición: 62°35’S / 163°01’E
Viento: WSW5
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

As usual, our day started with a cheerful call from Sigy telling us that breakfast is ready. After the excitement of yesterday with Zodiac cruising Sabrina Island in the Balleny Islands, today promised to be a relaxing ride over a mild sea. Perhaps a bit of time to be spent catching up on downloading, editing and labelling photos? Maybe a little extra nap to catch up after many days of activity. The sea was kind to us all morning. Though not dead calm, we had a lazy roll for the entire morning and most of the rest of the day. Many spent the morning reading while the usual sentinels on the bridge kept sharp eyes peeled for interesting birds and whales. Was that a sei whale spotted in the morning? Probably. There were definitely some new birds; we had White-headed Petrel, a Blue Petrel, and a few Grey Petrels to add to our list. Just before lecture time, our first Southern Royal Albatross graced us with a magnificent fly-by.

In mid-morning, Gary gave us a great talk on how penguins have adapted to their environment to be able to thrive in what we consider to be a very harsh environment. For the most part, they are highly capable and can withstand Antarctica’s worst with little drama. We heard about their feathers, and how important they are for survival; how Emperor penguins managed to breed over winter, but King penguins cannot manage in the same way. They can only breed twice every three years because of the long period they need to fledge their chick. But most importantly, we heard that because of their adaptations, penguins usually see their environment as normal and moderate.

After a break for lunch and some more wildlife watching from the bridge, we had an historical talk from Victoria. She gave us the full story of the Borchgrevink Expedition—whose hut we visited a few days ago at Cape Adare. Despite many difficulties and problems, they succeeded with a very important expedition. Being the first to stay the winter on the Antarctic continent, many who have come after overlooked so much that they accomplished. Borchgrevink did an admirable job of organising his expedition with equipment for a completely unknown environment. Certainly it was bad luck that Cape Adare did not give them the access to long distance travel on the continent that they had hoped for. Nevertheless by staging at Prince of Wales Island, they managed some good excursions in their time at Cape Adare.

Today instead of a recap, we held an auction of some great Antarctic items to raise money for the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZAHT). The NZAHT takes care of all the historic huts in the Ross Sea Dependency and has done a fantastic job of conserving the important history of exploration by conserving the huts in the Ross Sea. The bidding was intense and the auction raucous as Darrel led the way. Thanks to all the bidders and buyers for their generous donations.

Finally after dinner we returned to a bit of ‘story time’ with Heidi. She told us all about her next exciting project. With a team of experts, she will go on a research expedition in Svalbard. Hauling sledges by hand, these 5 women will collect snow samples right across Spitsbergen in March to study the importance of fine particles from pollutants on the melting of Svalbard snow and ice. Anyone can find more information by following their expedition on: www.climatesentinels.com. For being at sea all day we kept pretty busy. With another hour or so after Heidi’s talk, we kept spotting a few birds around the ship, but drinks and evening socialising beckoned from the bar so many finished their day with a nightcap before heading off to bed.

Day 28: At sea in the Southern Ocean

At sea in the Southern Ocean
Fecha: 10.02.2020
Posición: 58°17’S / 165°55’E
Viento: W7
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +6

It was a delicious treat to have a lie-in this morning, especially as Ortelius’ motion told us that we definitely were out there in the middle of the Southern Ocean! Cautious, sleepy figures on the stairs could be seen in the process of offering morning coffee in bed to their partners and friends – always with one hand for the ship.

Breakfast was reasonably well-attended, though there were definitely more empty spaces than usual. Likewise in the Lounge/Bar this morning; the most dedicated passengers were staring with fierce concentration at their computer screens, briskly and ruthlessly throwing themselves into an orgy of photo-editing. This usually led to the need to go out on deck for a breath of fresh air and a good steady gaze at the distant horizon before getting back to work.

At 10.30 am Gary shared facts and tales of his wintering at the Australian Antarctic station Mawson. This was well-received; although he spoke about his science, the emphasis was very much on life lived through the harsh dark of an Antarctic winter. There is a very small social circle on base at a time when all activities are extremely limited, with everyone stuck indoors for the most part. Gary gave us a taste of the patience and character it must need to work as a team, taking on multiple jobs just to keep the place ticking over until the next summer. Of course, it was the parties that pulled everyone through!

When lunchtime came round it was William’s gentle voice welcoming us for a change. As he put it himself: “The dining room is open, but there are no passengers!” This situation soon improved as most of us consumed our sweet-and-sour pork and rice with enthusiasm, even indulging in a little retail therapy in reception afterwards.

A siesta was the next planned activity. If anything the swell was increasing, so going horizontal made a lot of sense. Emerging shortly before 3 pm, we were ready to be entertained by Expedition Leader Delphine as she put her lecturing hat on and told us what it was like wintering at the French Sub-Antarctic station ‘Alfred Fauré’, in the Crozet Islands. Sub-Antarctic islands seem to get the worst of the weather in many ways…

Tea and a muffin and time on the Bridge/out on deck were popular ways of passing the rest of the afternoon – all very much with one hand for the ship - until the early evening, when a beer at the Bar and Recap time ushered in another Ortelius evening – of photo exchanges and reminiscences and shared tales of adventure.

Recap itself featured a report from Heidi on some recent ice shelf calvings and giant iceberg movements, followed by Victoria with the tale of Shackleton’s whisky, re-discovered under his hut at Cape Royds in 2006. It took until 2010 to extract the bottles and then fly three of them from McMurdo to Christchurch, New Zealand, and then on to Whyte & Mackay HQ in Invergordon (Scotland). Samples of the 100 year+ whisky were taken and after some months of work, ‘a meticulous modern recreation’ was achieved, from the careful marriage of 25 whiskies, aged eight to 30 years. And the bottles themselves? They were returned to Cape Royds on Ross Island, of course.

Stifling sad thoughts of waste, with our better natures acknowledging the authentic history New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust is dedicated to preserving, we went into dinner (hare or salmon trout) and devoted the rest of the evening to contemplating whether or not Delphine’s message from Captain Ernesto was correct – that the weather conditions were ‘easing’. Just in case, we battened down the hatches in our cabins before settling down for a cradle-rocking night. The Bridge has closed all outside decks except Deck 6, so better to be safe than sorry inside as well.

Day 29: At sea in the Southern Ocean

At sea in the Southern Ocean
Fecha: 11.02.2020
Posición: 54°06’S / 169°03’E
Viento: WSW6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +9

Despite yesterday’s reassurance that the sea would be calmer no-one told the weather! Overnight, it was still very boisterous and in the morning Steve thought that housekeeping had been in very early and had rearranged the room! The waves were still big and some of us were still feeling the effects of the motion. This continued for much of the day, with the outer decks remaining closed. Even the normally unperturbed, ice cool Ice Pilot finally succumbed to the ship’s gyrations. He did not have a good day at all…

This morning we were greeted by a lovely grey sky and a wondrous grey sea. It was our third day at sea enroute to the rugged and isolated splendour of Campbell Island and many of us took advantage by having a lie-in. After a splendid breakfast there was time in hand before the first presentation of the day. There was another in the afternoon and it was a bit like a father and daughter double act. Someone said, “Well, if she’s your daughter, how is it that she speaks with such a strong French accent?” The answer was simple – her mother is French! Simon got the ball rolling with a fascinating, thought-provoking and at times humerous account of albatrosses – winged wanderers of the world. After lunch it was the turn of Heidi and she invited us into the lecture theatre for an erudite, concise and intellectually stimulating talk on climate change.

The talk on albatrosses encouraged us to look out for them and several different species were spotted. In order of appearance, they were: Snowy Wandering Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Light-mantled Albatross, Auckland Shy Albatross and Southern Royal Albatross. In the late evening, in a matter of minutes, no fewer than 8 Southern Royals sped past the ship on their way south to look for food. Other birds of interest during the day included Cape, White-chinned and White-headed Petrels, Diving-petrels, Sooty and Sub-Antarctic Shearwaters and Black-bellied and Grey-backed Storm-petrels. The only mammals that were seen was a pod of 6-8 killer whales of some kind. Unfortunately, they were only seen briefly.

At 19.48 the island finally appeared slowly, reluctantly almost, out of the murk. Our hopes were pinned on good weather for tomorrow, good enough for both ship and zodiac cruising. To quote from the book about the southern islands, “New Zealand’s southernmost subantarctic territory, the Campbell Island group lies 660 km south of Bluff, near the southern margin of the Campbell Plateau. Like the other two volcanic groups, Auckland and Antipodes Islands, it comprises a large main island, Campbell Island (11,268 ha) and several satellite islands, of which Dent (23 ha) and Jacquemart (19 ha) are the largest. The highest point is Mt Honey (569 m) on the south side of Perseverence Harbour. As at the Auckland Islands, the eastern side of the main island is heavily indented by fiord-like bays and inlets, the longest being Perseverence Harbour. High cliffs line much of the western side.

Campbell Island and its satellites are the eroded remains of a shield volcano of Miocene age, 6-8 million years old, embedded in continental crust. The volcanism was probably centred on the Dent Island-Northwest Bay area. Sea erosion has dismantled the western side of the volcano. The ancient Palaeozoic basement rock is composed of mica schist at least 450 million years old, some of which is exposed at Complex Point, Northwest Bay. Overlying the schist is a younger (Cretaceous-Cenozoic) sequence of sandstone, mudstone, conglomerate and white cherry limestone, which forms spectacular cliffs above Northwest Bay.

During the ice ages of the last two million years, glaciers formed on the main island, leaving landforms such as U-shaped valleys, cirques and moraines. Post-glacial peat deposits mantle much of the land.”

Day 30: Campbell Island

Campbell Island
Fecha: 12.02.2020
Posición: 52°33’S / 169°08’E
Viento: NW5
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +12

“I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the Campbell Teal.”
- Simon Cook, paraphrasing Robert Cushman Murphy.

Today was EPIC!

Having spent the night cruising up and down the east coast of remote Campbell Island, things did not start out so well though. The wind was pretty strong and there was doubt about whether or not it would be possible to get off the ship. Whilst decisions were being made numerous seabirds were wheeling around us, such as White-chinned Petrels, Southern Royal, Black-browed and Campbell Albatrosses (with the occasional Light-mantled Albatross) and Sooty Shearwaters. After checking options, we went into a sheltered area near North Cape, where conditions were better. The first wave of boats headed for Northeast Harbour and they soon came across a small group of the endemic Campbell Shags. Some on the water flew off at our approach but there was still a small group up on the cliffs for us to admire. Antarctic Terns, Red-billed and Kelp Gulls, very exciting Little Brown Jobs (NZ Pipits!) and some NZ Fur Seals were also noted. The second wave of boats was cancelled due to increasing winds but some of us on the ship got excellent views of Yellow-eyed Penguin.

A short distance away was Perseverance Harbour, site of a former weather station, now a research station. High up on the slopes tiny white dots were actually huge, nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses and there were many flying low over the water. Conditions were a bit breezy but it was possible to get us all off on a cruise. People in the first two boats out were lucky enough to see an excitable female Hooker’s Sea Lion but not far away from it, on the surface, there were two Yellow-eyed Penguins. Not far away from them was a small cove and there were a few of the endemic and exceedingly rare Campbell Teal to be seen. Two ran up from the beach and into the vegetation but one swam right up to a group of boats. How lucky can you get???

Along the shoreline there were lots of pipits and on the shore at the base were our guests for the next few days, researchers from New Zealand. They were later formally welcomed aboard and introduced, at recap. In the next bay along the shoreline there were some very playful female NZ Sea Lions and it seemed that one of them only had eyes for Mark... (His name is Trevor! Per the scientists we picked up, that were stranded on the island.)

Ashore were more creatures – male sea lions and at least two male Southern Elephant Seals. Both kinds of gull were seen with chicks and there were plenty of squawking chicks around too. As time went on the cloud lifted, the low clouds rose and the temperature seemed to soar!

The harbour was more like a fjord, with steep slopes rising above the shrubbery. Here and there rock outcrops broke through the ground. It was marvellous to see green again! Not just tiny patches here and there but all over the island! It ranged from grassland, to megaherbs to tussock grass and very dense bushes. Many of the larger bushes down by the water were covered in white flowers. A group of Giant Petrels was spotted at the water’s edge and, unusually, they didn’t fly off when we approached. The reason was soon apparent – they were feeding on a dead seal. Another special sighting was not far around the corner – a big tree, which Delphine got very excited about! “The loneliest tree in the world” – a Sitka Spruce, the only tree for 270km.

All too soon it was time to return to the ship and once the boats had all been lifted aboard, we set off. There were dozens of Royal Albatrosses flying around the harbour, which was an extraordinary sight. Soon the entrance to Perseverence Harbour beckoned and the open sea lay beyond. Here too there were many birds, mostly albatrosses and shearwaters. We had already seen numerous, huge, purple-topped jellyfish and the birds were snapping them up. As Ortelius continued to turn to the north, we encountered stronger winds and bigger waves. Initially it was extremely pleasant to be out on the bow and it made a nice change not to be frozen stiff. What a day! Epic!

Day 31: The Snares

The Snares
Fecha: 14.02.2020
Posición: 48°01’S / 166°37’E
Viento: VAR2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +13

This morning was our last activity – and what an activity it turned out to be! The sky was overcast at dawn, and the seas were a little choppy when we received our wake-up call at 7:00am. We were sitting off the coast off The Snares, one of New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic islands, 178 nautical miles from our upcoming port of Bluff.

While we enjoyed our last regular breakfast on board Ortelius, the Expedition Staff dropped a zodiac and went to scout the shoreline to assess conditions and determine the best route for our final zodiac cruise. Conditions were stable and Delphine made the announcement that the operation was a go and for Group B to get ready to board the zodiacs at 8:30am. There was a good size swell at the gangway and it was a short, bumpy, ride to the islands, but once inside the coves of the Snares the waters were calm and we drove our zodiacs into what looked like a perfectly landscaped garden, teeming with plant and animal life – many of them endemic to The Snares.

We immediately found ourselves next to several hundred small and easily spooked, Snares Penguins in their colony, perched on the steep slope of the granite islands. What a special experience, to be up close and personal with one of the world’s most rare penguin species, found only on this island!

As we turned south and moved down the shore, at first glance the rocks seemed empty but suddenly there were fur seals everywhere we looked – adults, juveniles and a few pups – lazily enjoying the morning.

In the sky and on the water bird life was everywhere! Overhead hundreds of Auckland Shy Albatross soared silently overhead, while those in their next in the cliffs above squawked and nuzzled departing and returning partners. Juvenile Red Billed Gulls hovered over some of the zodiacs and the sea teemed with Diving Petrels and Sooty Sheerwaters!

As we cruised the many coves, we spied more Snares Penguins, Snares Tom Tits, Skuas, a Snares Island Fern Bird and even a Canada Goose! We cruised down the waterway and turned a corner to suddenly find ourselves slowing floating through a natural cave, like The Tunnel of Love, on this Valentine’s Day!

After 1 hour and 45 minutes exploring the shore, we returned to Ortelius amidst Penguins swimming in the water and Albatross floating near the ship.

At 10:15 it was Group A’s turn to tour The Snares, but this time, in reverse. By lunch time we all got our chance to explore this lovely island, and what a Beautiful Day it was!

After lunch, it was time to pay the fiddler – or rather Sigi – for all the good times in the bar and souvenirs we purchased along this incredible 32-day voyage. Then boots and life jackets were returned and we began to pack as we sailed towards our final destination, Bluff, New Zealand.

Day 32: Bluff, New Zealand

Bluff, New Zealand
Fecha: 15.02.2020
Posición: 46°36’S / 168°20’E

And so we have come to our final day. We arrived in Bluff at around 7.30 am. It seemed a little strange to go through customs clearance in our own Ortelius lobby.

As we headed for Invercargill airport or dispersed throughout New Zealand for our next adventure, many farewells were exchanged. Maybe we will meet again one day somewhere – even, perhaps, in polar regions on an Oceanwide ship!

Total Distance Sailed from Ushuaia, Argentina to Bluff, New Zealand: 6410 Nautical Miles

Detalles

Código del viaje: OTL27-20
Fechas: 13 Jan – 15 Feb, 2020
Duración: 33 noches
Barco: El Ortelius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Bluff, Nueva Zelanda

Aboard El Ortelius

El barco Ortelius, con casco reforzado para el hielo, es un excelente barco para cruceros de expedición polar en el Ártico y la Antártida.

More about the El Ortelius >>