We spent days dreaming about our voyage to come, hours shopping, reading, preparing logistics, excitedly chatting with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about our atypical trip choice, then spent hours, days, traveling by planes, cars, buses… Finally, we got our first glimpse of Plancius. She awaited us quietly amongst other expedition ships –smallest, but fiercest. Her bright blue hull contrasted with the grey waters of the Beagle channel, and we proudly boarded the ship, greeted by a warm “welcome onboard!” of crewmembers that took care of our luggage and showed us the way to our cabins.
We readily started exploring the ship, striding along corridors and decks, excited like kids discovering a new playground. We rapidly found our way to the restaurant, the reception, the bridge, or the observatory lounge. We gathered in the latter for a mandatory security briefing given by our chief officer, François. Plancius negotiated a tricky exit of the pier and a U-turn. As she started to head down the Beagle channel, we complied to the drill, necessary simulation of the ship’s evacuation in case of an emergency. We then enjoyed a brief presentation of life onboard by our hotel manager Zsuzsanna, and were introduced to the ship’s captain, Evgeny Levakov, a tall Russian man who has been sailing polar regions for the past 25 years, and the expedition team. Our expedition leader Ali is from the UK. Before working onboard expedition ships, she used to be a schoolteacher and member of the conservation department in the Falkland Islands for 15 years! Daniel, from Germany, is Ali’s assistant. Mainly based in Iceland, Daniel spends most of his time working as a naturalist guide all over the world. The rest of the team is composed of Jochem, glaciologist from the Netherlands, Marie, French researcher in developmental and evolutionary biology, Jerry from China, former international travel consultant gone rogue to become international travel guide, Werner, wild life photographer extraordinaire from South Africa, Rustyn, from the US but based in Patagonia where he runs a guide service, Owen, snowshoe designer and product manager from the US, Trevor and Mal, both highly experienced mountaineering guides from New Zealand, and Alexis, kayaking guide, who settled in a small mountain village in Argentina with the beautiful name of Villa La Angostura. What an international team! All its members are “bipolar”: these passionate fellows, badly infected by the infamous polar virus, spend most of their time hopping from one pole to the other!
We are also informed that despite weather forecast announcing a rather smooth Drake passage, Alexandra, the ship’s doctor, will stick around after dinner to distribute sea sickness pills. Debates ensues: to take medicine, or not to take medicine? That is the question.