OTL26-24, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Fecha: 24.12.2023
Posición: 54°48.561’S / 68 18.070’W
Viento: SW 6
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +10

Today the weather started with beautiful sunshine. This paralleled with the mood as we embarked on the beautiful M/V Ortelius. 110 guests boarded the ship at 4pm. We didn’t know what to expect on this 12-day Antarctic Basecamp adventure, but we were welcomed by a very happy crew and staff. It was already off to a great start. We immediately had a mandatory ships safety briefing from Marcel and Mikael, which was shortly followed by us donning our bright orange life jackets for the practice abandon ship drill. The ship finally came away from the port at 19:00, and we were finally off!

The evening was beautiful and made the Beagle Channel look even more spectacular. The sky was bright pink, and a lot of people were out on deck enjoying the scenery. We had a buffet dinner followed by the last order of the day, a mandatory Zodiac briefing. We went to sleep early, but we were all excited for the next events of this voyage.

Day 2: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Fecha: 25.12.2023
Posición: 57°35.8’S / 66°06.8’W
Viento: SW 8
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +5

Our first day at sea began with Marcel’s wakeup call at 7:45. The sea state was not very bad, but for many people this was the first time they had experienced the Drake Passage. The number of people at breakfast was less than for dinner the night before. Sea sickness had begun!

Our first day at sea was rather busy – our muck boots were handed out, Mal and Andy briefed us on Mountaineering, and Juan gave a photography lecture. After Lunch, Zet, the fantastic Kayaking guide, briefed us on Kayaking, quickly followed by Andi and Paolo for camping. After the mandatory briefings for the activities had been completed, we had a short break before being called deck by deck to sign up for our Basecamp Activities. The seas eased slightly towards evening, and we finished the evening off with our first Recap of the voyage before dinner in the dining room. Most of us then retreated to our cabins to continue to ride out the sea state in hopes of feeling better for the following day.

Day 3: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Fecha: 26.12.2023
Posición: 61°14.3’S / 62°36’W
Viento: WSW 7/8
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

After a night rolling in our beds, Marcel woke us up. After breakfast it was another mandatory briefing. This time it was IAATO and Zodiac briefings. Hopefully we all remember 1,2,3 down in the Zodiac, and feet towards the driver when getting out. As visitors to the Antarctic Continent, we learned that we must keep 5 meters from wildlife at all times, and if penguins walk up to us, we should slowly move away.

After a tasty lunch in the dining room, it was time for the next mandatory item. All outer layers needed to be cleaned and vacuumed so we did not bring anything to Antarctica. Most found the mesh in their backpacks the worst to clean. Marcel gave us information about the plans for tomorrow at the daily recap, and we all went excited down to the dining room and talked about our expectations.

Day 4: Melchior Islands and Orne Harbour

Melchior Islands and Orne Harbour
Fecha: 27.12.2023
Posición: 64°30.45’S / 62°48.55’W
Viento: WSW 2/3
Clima: Part. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

The first morning in Antarctica, our expedition leader, Marcel woke us up at 6:45. Finally we made it! It was a lovely sunny day. We had blue skies, and some nice weather conditions, our first activity should be a Zodiac cruise at Melchior Islands.

After breakfast we gathered at the gangway to enter the Zodiacs for the first time. After a little briefing of the Zodiac drivers, we saw our first penguin on some rocks. It was a chinstrap. The beautiful islands were covered by a thick layer of ice and snow, and the ocean around them was full of spectacular icebergs.

We had a cruise, and we found many seals around on ice floes and on rocks. There were Weddell seals also. There were also a few birds sitting on ice or flying above our heads, like cape petrels and the Antarctic tern. We took some nice pictures in beautiful sunny light, and we returned to Ortelius for lunch.

The ship repositioned itself for our next stop, which should be Orne Harbour, which was our first continental landing. We were brought to shore, where some of us put on snowshoes. Then we ascended a hill where on the top we found many chinstrap penguin colonies! They still were busy with hatching their eggs and building their nests out of pebbles. The view from the top was amazing.

After taking many pictures, we descended back to the landing side and went back to our ship Ortelius. We listened to our daily recap in the bar and after that went for the special Christmas dinner. Then our first group of campers collected their sleeping bags and went to their camping site to spend the night outside in spectacular surroundings. 




After two days on the Drake Passage, it was great to get our feet on solid ground. We anchored up in the Melchior Islands and took a short Zodiac ride to Gamma Island, site of an Argentine base. Snow conditions were firm on the surface, perfect for snowshoeing. We roped up for glacier travel and set off up the hill. Our guides Mal and Andy pointed out huge crevasses nearby, and recent avalanche activity on nearby islands. The views from the summit were mindblowing, and we could see the Zodiacs cruising around the maze of islands a couple of hundred meters below.

Over lunch we transferred to Orne harbour. This beautiful cove is dominated by the pyramid of Spigot Peak. Conditions were soft porridge right from the landing spot, so we donned snowshoes and moved up past the chinstrap colony. It was incredible to see these penguins 150m (about 492.13 ft) above the sea. Just above the colony, we swapped snowshoes for crampons and zigzagged to the summit.




We picked up our big black sleeping equipment bag from the helideck and went to the Zodiacs at the gangway. Our adventure started on the shore of Punta Vide a beach area close to the Argentinian Brown Station. We were welcomed by a hauled-out Weddell Seal and another one sleeping on the other side of the campsite. Paolo and Andi instructed us about the right shovel technique and designated area zones, then we searched for a god spot for the overnighting.

The landscape was magical, and the sun painted the white mountains into colors of rose, orange and pink. Happily exhausted, we put together our bivy bags and mats and sleeping bag. After taking beautiful photos, we cradled ourselves in our sleeping bags. During the night, some people saw some penguin visitors on shore and a humpback whale passing by! Sometimes there were also calving glaciers and avalanches, mostly audible rather than visible, which framed our unique moments. What an honour to be able to have an experience like this! In the morning at 6amm we were picked up by the Zodiacs and brought back to our vessel Ortelius.  

Day 5: Brown Station and Stoney Point

Brown Station and Stoney Point
Fecha: 28.12.2023
Posición: 64°54.45’S / 62°56.2’W
Viento: W 3/4
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

Some passengers woke up today without the traditional “good morning, Ortelius” from Marcel, because it was camping near Brown station. We got up at the campsite at 5:30 in the morning. One after another, people began to wake up and get out of their warm sleeping bags into the fresh frosty air. The morning greeted us with good weather. Not far from the camp, a Weddell seal was sleeping. It stayed there for more than 8 hours. All night long it made funny noises from time to time.

After a delicious breakfast, we landed on the territory of the Argentinean scientific station, Brown Station, not far from the ship all night. A colony of gentoo penguins is here; they are the real owners of the station. Penguins continue to incubate eggs; this has been their main activity for more than a month. A Snowy Sheathbill was sneaking around, collecting everything that could be eaten between the nests of penguins.

After lunch, the ship moved a little from its morning mooring point. There was Zodiac cruising around the area. In search of wildlife, we examined the nearby shores, and suddenly one of the guides informed everyone by radio that they had discovered a leopard seal. All the Zodiacs rushed towards him. A leopard seal rested on an ice floe among a whole field of ice chips.

The leopard seal lay peacefully on the ice floe, at times raising its head, glancing at the people in the boats that surrounded the ice floe, yawning, and showing its huge mouth. Judging by the markings on its belly, it was a female. There were many birds flying around: Giant petrel, Wilson's storm petrel, Snow petrel. Then a humpback whale was spotted among the ice; its huge head appeared several times among the ice chips. All the attention of the Zodiacs was now directed to him. In open water, he disappeared, but a Minke whale with a calf was discovered very close to the boats.



The target for our morning mountaineering was Canessa, an attractive dome of snow to the north of Brown Station in Paradise Harbour. The landing was quite complicated, with Mal and Andy needing to drop us off on a rocky shoreline and anchor the Zodiacs further away. We had a steady ascent on snow, passing close to some crevasses, and below us were humpback whales and gentoo penguins clearly visible in the clear waters. Views from the summit back towards Ortelius were breathtaking.

Retracing our steps to the landing spot, we found the Zodiacs aground on the falling tide. A team effort eventually got them afloat, and then it was a matter of weaving through a maze of brash ice. We were learning to expect the unexpected on this adventure. More surprises awaited us in the afternoon at nearby Point Sofia.

We landed on a rocky promontory, and EL Marcel left to join the other passengers for a Zodiac cruise. We donned snowshoes but then immediately found the exit from the promontory blocked by a pair of nesting brown skuas. There was no way to circumvent them without disturbing them but fortunately for us it was low tide, and we could walk along this unique shoreline. Huge cliffs of ice towered above us, and at our feet were jellyfish, amphipods and starfish. Wandering around were gentoo penguins and a special treat of an Adelie penguin coming very close to us, seemingly unperturbed by our presence. A Weddell seal lounged on the ice just a little further on.



On the night of the 28th of December, our second group of campers was preparing to overnight in Antarctica. Also, for the second night, the weather looked promising. So everyone got geared up in the heli-hangar with the black bags and left Ortelius on Zodiacs to our chosen spot. It should be Kerr Point on Ronge island.

The ride to our location was stunning, with mirror-like waters and magnificent icebergs. On shore Andi was welcoming us and Paolo instructed us in the right shovelling technique. After we found our spot, we started to shovel our pits. The snow was soft, so it was quite easy to do so! The camping guides built a path to walk a little bit uphill so we could overlook the whole scenery. It was stunning.

We spotted a Minke whale surfacing a few times and stayed in the area for half an hour. Eventually we got tired and crawled into our warm sleeping bags. During the night, there were sounds of avalanches and glacier calvings in the area, giving us a special atmosphere combined with the pristine view. When we woke up around 5.30am, we started to fill in our pits, but this time the snow was frozen, so it took more power to do so. But it was a decent morning workout!

Day 6: Cuverville and Orne Islands

Cuverville and Orne Islands
Fecha: 29.12.2023
Posición: 60°40.3’S / 62°56.2’W
Viento: Light air
Clima: Sunny
Temperatura del Aire: +2

The day began with a crisp Antarctic morning as we awoke aboard MV Ortelius. After a restful night, expedition members gathered in the ship's dining area for a hearty breakfast, fueling up for the exciting day ahead. The anticipation among the guests and crew was palpable as we prepared for our first landing of the day.

The ship anchored near Cuverville Island, and we disembarked for an unforgettable landing. The landscape was breathtaking, with snow-covered peaks surrounding us. The highlight of the visit was the colony of gentoo penguins, their charming antics captivating everyone. Some daring guests took part in the polar plunge, immersing themselves in the icy Antarctic waters for an exhilarating experience.

After an eventful morning, we returned to MV Ortelius for a delicious lunch prepared by the ship's talented culinary team. The dining area buzzed with conversations about the morning's adventures and excitement for the afternoon activities.

In the afternoon, we embarked on a split landing at the Orne Islands. The landing sites were teeming with wildlife, featuring both gentoo and chinstrap penguins. As we explored the islands, the Zodiac cruise provided an up-close encounter with a majestic leopard seal, gracefully sleeping on the ice. Cameras clicked away as guests marveled at the unique opportunity to witness such incredible creatures in their natural habitat.

As the sun dipped lower on the horizon, we returned to Ortelius for a delectable dinner. The atmosphere was filled with shared stories and laughter, creating a sense of camaraderie among the guests. The ship’s crew provided a warm and welcoming environment, ensuring that the evening was not only a culinary delight but also an opportunity for bonding.

The day concluded with a breathtaking spectacle – a pod of orcas graced us with their presence. Against the backdrop of a stunning Antarctic sunset, these magnificent creatures glided effortlessly through the frigid waters, creating an awe-inspiring sight. Guests and crew gathered on deck, witnessing nature's grandeur unfold.



The morning found us standing off Cuverville Island. Conditions were perfect for snowshoeing. Roped up to prevent any sliding on the firm upper layers of snow, we climbed to the summit plateau with great views down on the maze of icebergs through which we’d threaded our way on the approach. An efficient descent took us back to the beach where some of us topped off our ascent with a polar plunge.

In the afternoon, we landed at George’s Point, just a short Zodiac ride from the ship. We roped up once we were above the colony of gentoo penguins and set off up the glacier in wet sloppy snow. These conditions meant the guides had to adapt the itinerary, and we eventually arrived at a snowy saddle via an exposed ridge. How to get down? Mal put in a trench by sliding down the slope, and we all followed in quick succession. 



Day 7: Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Is. and Peterman Is.

Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Is. and Peterman Is.
Fecha: 30.12.2023
Posición: 65°08’S / 64°03.8’W
Viento: SSE 2/3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

On the morning of the 30th December, we were woken up by Marcel a little bit earlier than usual. The crossing of the famous Lemaire Channel would wait for us. The narrow channel is one of the most scenic places in Antarctica, and we should all go out on decks to enjoy the beautiful views. It’s a steep fjord with relatively calm seas and icebergs; we saw some humpback whales in the channel, and after the crossing we turned towards Pleneau Island.

As soon as we were done with our breakfast, we headed out to the gangway to go for a Zodiac cruise. We saw plenty of wildlife during our cruise, which included elephant seals, Weddell seals, Gentoo penguins, humpback whales, and many stunning iceberg formations. The weather was very nice, and the sun came out.

We headed back to Ortelius for lunch, and after a short break, our captain and Marcel decided to take us to Peterman Island, which should be our landing side for the afternoon. Nice sunshine and warm weather awaited us there. Peterman Island is known for its history explorer Charcot and his ship Pourquoi Pas where he had to overwinter back in the year…

We had enough time to visit the Adélie penguin colonies where we could observe a few hatched chicks, a week old or so. Also, many Gentoo colonies were around. We had a chance to go all the way up to a viewpoint, where we had incredible views of the surrounding areas. It was a magnificent landing, enough space to stretch our legs in the best Antarctic summer weather conditions. When we eventually got back to the ship, we were all very happy about the beautiful day.  



After a morning of Zodiac cruising at Pleneau, we sailed south to Peterman Island. Moving up through the gentoo colony on snowshoes, we roped up at the base of a steep snow slope and zigzagged up to reach the plateau overlooking the harbour, where Charcot overwintered in his ship the Pourquoi Pas. Mountain guide Andy gave a demonstration of how snow stakes are used in the sloppy afternoon snow, and we then walked to the highest point of the island for views across the ocean, the iceberg graveyard and the mountains towering above. 



Day 8: Wordie House and Yalour Islands

Wordie House and Yalour Islands
Fecha: 31.12.2023
Posición: 65°13.4’S / 64°15.4’W
Viento: SW 3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

We started our day with the traditional wakeup call half an hour later than usual, yes! And had a great breakfast in the dining room. Marcel warned us about being colder and windier than the previous days, because after all we have only had amazing calm blue-sky days. So we wrapped up and got ready for the adventure.

We were anchored right next to the Argentine Islands, and we could see on its shore the ship the Ukranian research station, Vernadsky. We got the chance to cruise around it, and see all their colorful buildings, where they carry out very important research, mainly meteorological, working there all year round. Apparently, the archipelago was still connected by sea ice, so we could only approach though a narrow and shallow channel. The main goal was to reach Wordie House, a hut built by the British in 1947 and currently a Historical site. We were able to make a landing there, only two Zodiacs at the time, and travel back in time as we entered the house. So many supplies and artefacts from 70 years ago are still preserved intact.

During the Zodiac cruise, we also could observe gentoo penguins, kelp gulls with their chicks (a face only a mother can love), and lots of Weddell seals on the ice. But as if this wasn’t enough, we also had an amazing encounter with some humpback whales that were feeding in the surroundings of the ship, among the majestic icebergs.

In the afternoon we landed on Yalour Islands, another archipelago close by, where we saw a colony of Adelie penguins! They were sliding around the island on their bellies and incubating their eggs. We even saw chicks.

We did a Zodiac cruise around this area, where there were beautiful icebergs that looked like natural sculptures, a Weddell seal on ice, penguins on the icebergs, moss all over the rocks and beautiful scenery. We couldn’t have had a better last day of 2023.

Once back on board, we joined the expedition team for the recap about the plans for tomorrow, and we got ready and dressed warmly to go outside and enjoy the most scenic barbecue of our lives on the helideck. We ate, we danced, we continued the party in the bar and shared the countdown with guests, staff, and crew.  


The last day of 2023 was a real adventure, where the definition of adventure is an uncertain outcome. Mal and Andy were keen to check out Mount Damaria, a spire of rock and snow clearly visible from our anchorage. First climbed in 1979, very few parties visit this hill, and it was a first for Mal and Andy to land here. A long Zodiac ride took us across the sound, from where the guides checked out the profile of the ridge with binoculars, including what looked like a potentially tricky downclimb.

Landing at a chasm on the coastline, we anchored the Zodiacs and set off, carefully avoiding proximity to the gentoo penguin colony. Brown skuas hovered close by for the chance of stealing penguin eggs, and further up the slope of boulders and gravel, they in turn were mobbed by Arctic terns. Reaching the snow ridge, we donned crampons and roped up to snake our way along a lovely snow ridge.

Arriving at the potential downclimb, we could see that it was all a bit too much for us in terms of time and commitment. As Andy put it, “better to be down here wishing you were up there than the other way round”. We called this high point of 450m our summit, and then wended our way carefully back through the gentoos to the shore. A long Zodiac ride took us via Yalour Island back to the ship for welcome food and drink.

Day 9: Lemaire Channel and Damoy Point

Lemaire Channel and Damoy Point
Fecha: 01.01.2024
Posición: 64°48.4’S / 63°30.2’W
Viento: SSW 3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Today we were woken up just before re-entering the Lemaire Channel on our way up North. The scenery was again spectacular, and we saw a couple of humpback whales during our transit. But exiting the Channel, we found our second group of orcas! This was again amazing, as the orcas were socialising. About 30 of them were slowly swimming in front of Ortelius, some of them tail slapping and spyhopping. We then continued our ship cruise during the morning towards Damoy Point, where we planned to do our afternoon landing.

After a hearty lunch, we started boarding our Zodiacs and landed in Damoy Point. We visited the small hut and walked around the different gentoo penguin colonies. It was our last landing in Antarctica before we headed to the South Shettland Islands the next day. Most of us took the opportunity to stretch our legs and walk the loop on the landing site several times before heading back to the ship for dinner.

After dinner we all went to the bar for drinks and were interrupted by Marcel announcing that there were humpback whales around the ship. This was quite an understatement. There were about 100 humpback whales all around, some of them bubblenet feeding in groups very close to the ship. What an incredible way to end the day!

Day 10: Telefon Bay & Pendulum Cove, Deception Island

Telefon Bay & Pendulum Cove, Deception Island
Fecha: 02.01.2024
Posición: 62°56.6’S / 60°38.7’W
Viento: N 6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +3

This morning, perfectly timed after breakfast, we sailed into the volcanic Deception Island via the spectacular Neptune’s bellows. As we sailed into Port Foster, the body of water filling this still active caldera, we sailed past the old Whaling station and continued to the western shore to Telefon Bay.

Here we landed and were able to enjoy a completely different Antarctic landscape. The ground, brown, black, red, and in many ochre colorations. It looks like a landscape from the moon. The expedition team set a hike up and around the rim of a volcanic crater, the views all around and very specially, from the high point, are other worldly. Green lagoons, black ground, white snowy slopes. Some of the guests take this opportunity to ‘do laps’ and make sure to stretch their muscles with even more than two laps to the set circuit. Impressive!

We then returned to the ship, and after the usually plentiful lunch, we landed near Pendulum Cove. This is the location where the former Chilean Base “Pedro Aguirre” was located, until 1967, when the volcanic eruption of Telefon Bay ended up burying the base and scientific equipment in ashes, flying rocks and sand. The same eruption damaged Biscoe House in the Whaling station and both British and Chilean personnel had to be evacuated.

At Pendulum Cove we have our final hike up to the high point via a steep gravel slope that tested some guests' leg and core muscles. The view from the top was beautiful, overlooking the Base ruins, Port Foster, Neptune bellows, and the steamy beach down below. Geothermal activity has heated up the shore waters in this area, and after descending from the viewpoint, most guests enjoyed an open-air hot bath in Antarctica.  

Day 11: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 03.01.2024
Posición: 60°27.1’S / 62°49.7’W
Viento: WNW 7/8
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +4

There was a feeling of regret as we left Deception Island to start our voyage home after so many amazing and contrasting days of adventure. We knew what was ahead of us – two days of sea passage on the Drake with potentially rough seas, but there were still plenty of lectures to keep us entertained and educated.

Juan kicked things off with his photo editing workshop, turning magical moments into works of art. Chloé with her passion for plankton followed with her huge knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for the drifting life in the Southern Ocean. In the afternoon, Pierre gave us an insight into humpback whales with pictures, audio and video to illustrate their remarkable nature. We’ve seen so many, so it was great to learn more about these gentle giants.

Later in the bar, the eighty plus entries to the photo competition were playing on a loop, with a wide range of subjects and interpretations of our experience over the last ten days. The winners were selected with the clapometer in the bar that evening as the sea state gradually built up to a moderate “Drake Shake”

Day 12: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Fecha: 04.01.2024
Posición: 56°51.8’S / 65°19.6’W
Viento: W 5
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

We woke up after a rough night in the Drake. The waves were about 5m high, and we were rocked throughout the night. Most of us were woken up every half hour or so by a new large wave. But eventually we were woken up for breakfast, and for most of us our newly developed sea legs prevented us from getting seasick. It was then time to head to the bar to listen to the Captain answer our questions. This was very informative and funny at the same time.

It was then time for lunch in the restaurant. Thankfully, the sea was already improving. This made it quite easier for all of us to move around the buffet with our plates. At around 2pm we were invited to the bridge for an Ortelius World Record: 120 people on the bridge.

Day 13: Disembarkation Day - Ushuaia Port

Disembarkation Day - Ushuaia Port
Fecha: 05.01.2024
Posición: 54°48.561’S / 068 18.070’W
Viento: SW6
Clima: P. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +7

As we woke up on this fine day, we realised we were already docked in Ushuaia. We packed the last of our bags and put them outside the cabins for the staff to heave up the stairs. After breakfast we were called to disembark the ship and went to the gangway to say our final goodbyes. It was sad, but we hope to be back one day very soon!

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support, but most of all for joining us on this adventurous voyage. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Distance sailed: 1704 Nautical Miles

Farthest south: 65°13.4’S / 64°15.4’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Per Anderson, Expedition Leader Marcel Paul, Hotel Manager Volodymyr Cherednychenko, and all the crew and staff of Ortelius, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!


Código del viaje: OTL26-24
Fechas: 24 dic., 2023 - 5 ene., 2024
Duración: 12 noches
Barco: El Ortelius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Ushuaia

¿Ha estado en este viaje?

Aboard El Ortelius

El Ortelius, reforzado para navegar en el hielo, está completamente equipado para la exploración polar y, en caso necesario, para vuelos en helicóptero.

More about the El Ortelius »