PLA25-23, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia, Embarkation Day

Ushuaia, Embarkation Day
Fecha: 22.12.2022
Posición: 54°48.6’S / 068°17.9’W
Viento: E3
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +17

Finally, the day arrived for our adventure! Many of us have waited a long time for this day. We embarked on board our home for the next 13 days at about 4pm. The sun and temperatures in Ushuaia were just amazing.

We entered the port and were welcomed by the Expedition Team and the Hotel Team at the Plancius’ gangway. After we had been shown to our rooms, we started to explore the ship and our new environment, soon followed the briefing for the mandatory safety drill and drill itself.

It was interesting to see the 110 fellow passengers in the bulky orange lifevests. Before dinner Matin, our Expedition Leader (EL), invited us to the lounge where we went through some basic information about life on the Plancius, the general plan for the trip and the weather forecast for the upcoming days. Volodymyr, our Hotel Manager, gave us useful advice about practicalities of life on board. We also met Captain Remmert and we had a drink to celebrate the upcoming voyage!

After the drill was complete and the shore staff were ready to free our lines, it was time to leave Ushuaia behind. We set off down the Beagle Channel in a l

For many the travel days to reach the remote town of Ushuaia were long, so most of us went to bed shortly after the fantastic buffet. We enjoyed settling into our new temporary home and cannot wait for the adventures that will begin soon.

Day 2: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Fecha: 23.12.2022
Posición: 55°53.7’S / 065°40.7’W
Viento: S 9
Clima: Rain / Sleet
Temperatura del Aire: +3

Good morning! Martin, our EL, woke us up on our first morning on the ship heading to Antarctica and yes, we were in the Drake Passage.

In the early hours the windspeed was picking up and we experienced winds up to 45 knots. The wave heights were not too bad, but the seas seemed confused, that means that wind and waves came from different directions what gives an uncomfortable combination of rolling and pitching on the ship. As a result, some fellow passengers were not seen at breakfast. Our EL decided to postpone the briefing for our extra activities in the basecamp and we could enjoy the “rocky” morning in our cabins heading further south.

The weather forecast was right, the wind dropped in the afternoon and the wave heights decreased. At 14:00 we were called for the briefing on the additional activities offered: kayaking, camping, and mountaineering. Richard talked about the mountaineering, Zet about kayaking and Anthonie and Marco about our adventures sleeping in the Antarctic environment.

After a short break we were called in groups to sign up for the activates we wanted at times that suited us. It was exciting to make plans for our upcoming week full of adventures.

In the evening we met the Expedition Team for our first recap where we heard the plan for the upcoming day and some stories.

After a fantastic dinner we went to bed waiting for the adventures to come.

Day 3: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Fecha: 24.12.2022
Posición: 59°14.2’S / 062°30.5’W
Viento: N 3/4
Clima: Clear / Sunny
Temperatura del Aire: +5

Our second day on the infamous Drake, but luckily a much calmer and less rocky day than yesterday. The grey skies had made way for the sun, which was shining abundantly, and it was nice to spend some time on the outer decks after a day inside. Throughout the day we saw wandering albatrosses, cape petrels, giant petrels, and prions, but unfortunately no marine mammals just yet. The wandering albatross has a wingspan of more than 3,5 metres or almost 12 feet making it one of the largest birds in the world. And seeing that bird soaring the waves, with their wings so close to the water surface, is just a delight for the eyes and something we can look at for hours. 

We couldn’t be outside endlessly because today we had some important briefings about the IAATO regulations, bio security, and zodiac procedures. The IAATO briefing is all about the regulations for visitors setting foot on shore and how to behave among wildlife. Bio security is an important part of the briefing since we have to be completely clean in order to avoid brining any foreign biomaterial to Antarctica. And the zodiac briefing informs us how to embark and disembark the zodiacs in the safest way.

After a short break it was time to fit our boots. Since all landings will be wet landings, we are advised to wear the rubber and warm Muck boots that Oceanwide provides. Deck by deck we were called into the ‘boot room’ where the expedition team was waiting to handout the right sizes. The ‘boot room’ is managed as a shoe store, but unfortunately the boots only come in two colours so there isn’t much choice 😉.

Time flies and soon it was time for a delicious lunch. With calmer seas it was good to see many more people having an appetite after a day of seasickness struggles.

Following the IAATO briefing it was now time to actively clean our outer gear and boots. To make this activity more fun they called it a vacuum cleaning party! All Velcro strips, dust particles in our pockets and backpacks, pieces of mud and sand on our boots etc. needed to be removed and in some cases that required quite some efforts. But always a good feeling to start your spring cleaning sooner rather than later.

Finally, it was time to sit down with a coffee or a cup of tea and listen to Koen’s lecture about improving our wildlife photography. Let’s see how we can put his tips into practice with hopefully award-winning results!

After the recaps it was time for our Christmas Eve dinner. Hard to believe it’s Christmas time, but the kitchen and dining room team did a tremendous job and with delicious food and some Christmas carols it truly felt like Christmas. One more night to go 😉

Day 4: Half-Moon Island and Deception Island ships cruises

Half-Moon Island and Deception Island ships cruises
Fecha: 25.12.2022
Posición: 62°19.3’S / 059°16.6’W
Viento: W8
Clima: Drizzle
Temperatura del Aire: +3

We received a “Merry Christmas” wake-up call though the PA system by our EL on the morning of the 25th of December whilst M/V Plancius was making her way through a rough sea. The night had been quite harsh on most of us and despite having crossed the Drake Passage, still we had to deal with the swells of the Bransfield Strait.

Ahead of us the low and curved coast of Half-Moon Island started to appear on the horizon; a persistent west wind was blowing at 40-45 knots, with strong gusts over 50 knots. The captain decided to approach the island from the northeast hoping to have some shelter in the small bay that encircled our landing site; however, the restless westerlies were not going to let off and therefore our EL decided to cancel the landing.

Despite the change in plan, the surrounding landscape was impressive - huge glaciers tumbling down from the southern shore of Livingston Island, the second biggest islands of the South Shetland Islands.

We left Half-Moon Island behind and decided to move forward towards our next destination, Deception Island. The westerlies weren’t giving up on us and, even though they disrupted our plans, we had the privilege to observe huge and beautiful lenticular clouds building up right above Livingston Island while cruising southwest along the southern shore. It was a magnificent landscape to look at and in particular the wild weather gave it the true Antarctic feeling.

To keep the morning alive a couple of lectures were given in the lounge. Firstly, Martin delighted us with an extremely interesting class about the “Sea birds of Antarctica”. During his talk we learned more about albatrosses, skuas, prions, petrels, and fulmars; species we had the chance to enjoy while sailing across the Drake Passage during the first days of our exciting expedition.

Koen took the stage in the late morning with a lecture about “General Photography”, sharing with us his passion and knowledge regarding storytelling and composition, in order to make our photographic trip more thorough. It was a fantastic presentation which really made us all thing about what is important in a photo and what makes it memorable to us.

Meanwhile M/V Plancius continued southwest towards Deception Island and right after midday we found ourselves transiting through the so called “Neptune Bellows”; a narrow passage that connects the open waters of the Bransfield Strait with Port Foster, the inner caldera of this geological marvel.

Deception Island is one of the most active volcanoes of Antarctica and over the past century it had undergone several eruptions, the most recent happening in 1970. It is located on the Bransfield basin, where extension over the last 4 million years (of a rate of 10mm/year) has caused the opening of the Bransfield Strait, and volcanism. The rifting is related to trench rollback which is related to the adjacent subduction zone. The volcanism is mainly below sea level but three of these volcanic centres make it above sea level: Deception Island, Penguin Island and Bridgeman Island. These islands form the youngest emerged land of the South Shetland archipelago.

Whilst sailing through Neptune’s Bellows, the storm was still blowing strong with restless winds. On starboard side of Plancius, the huge and majestic basaltic cliffs of Cathedral Crags were welcoming us into the active caldera basin. Strangely enough the cliffs were absent of the usual Antarctic terns and shags, who probably were seeking refuge from the wind somewhere else in the island.

Inside the bridge, focus was high and M/V Plancius was capably steered through the narrow passage despite the intense wind. Once we passed the Bellows a great sense of relief and awe was in the air. Unfortunately, Eolo was not ready for a truce today, therefore Captain Remmert together with EL Martin decided not to anchor and do the landing in Whaler’s Bay as schedule, but rather opted for an incredible cruise of the windswept waters of Port Foster.

Lunch was served in the restaurant and around 14:30 we made our way out through Neptune Bellows; our bearing now pointing 230° on our way across the Bransfield strait towards to Antarctic Peninsula.

Pure westerlies continued to blow at 30 knots; luckily enough “with white caps come recaps” so they say, and the afternoon continued with Anthonie’s lecture about “Ocean Waves”. In the evening we had our Beth back on stage with a great presentation about the geology of the South Shetland Islands, particularly focused on the peculiarity of Deception Island.

Christmas dinner was then served in the restaurant whilst the rolling movement of M/V Plancius cradled us towards our next destination, the first continental landing of our expedition: Portal Point.

Day 5: Portal Point landing and zodiac cruise at Føyn Harbour with camping at Kerr Point, Rongé Island

Portal Point landing and zodiac cruise at Føyn Harbour with camping at Kerr Point, Rongé Island
Fecha: 26.12.2022
Posición: 64°29.9’S / 061°44.8’W
Viento: SE2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +6

The weather was with us this morning so we could get off the ship and were brought onto land by the zodiacs. For this morning we arrived at Portal Point for a continental landing. At this landing site there were many icebergs around which we had to navigate between to get to the landing site at the point. It was impressive to be down on the zodiacs among the ice for the first time.

Portal Point is on Cape Reclus and has the remains of an old British base – however this was covered by snow today. The base was built in 1956 and was intermittently occupied for scientific survey work in the years following. In October 1957, four men set off from Portal Point and completed the first overland crossing from Cape Reclus to Hope Bay by dog sled. The team was led by Sir Wally Herbert, and they completed the crossing by the end of December of the same year.

We were able to walk around the bay, up a snowy slope and down to near the water’s edge opposite from where we landed. The mountaineers went for a glacial hike which was a great success for everyone participating. Everyone was happy to set foot on the Antarctic continent.

From Portal Point we transited to Føyn Harbour where we had a zodiac cruise. The weather was again nice, and the winds were calm. The conditions allowed for a safe and fun zodiac cruise. In total we went with 8 zodiacs to navigate along the coast of Enterprise Island. Along the island we cruised past some magnificent glaciers and beautiful icebergs, each having their own unique shape and size.

Further along the island we visited the shipwreck Governoren. The Governoren was a Norwegian whaling factory ship. In 1915 it caught fire, and the captain of the ship intentionally ran the ship aground to save the crew on board. All crew onboard survived the incident. The ship is one of the reminders in the Antarctic region of the whaling era. We motored around the wreck, which was impressive to see considering it sunk more than 100 years ago. Today, we were lucky that the tide was very low when we visited the shipwreck, so a lot of the ship was visible. Some groups even spotted the old lettering from the ships name on the hull. The water around was so clear that we could also see the aft part of the ship under water. On some of the zodiacs, we had a moment of silence, we switched the engines off and enjoyed the silence of Antarctica. Listening to the ice, waves, and wildlife. This was a special moment.

Many Antarctic terns were around and certainly letting us know of their presence with plenty of noise. They have beautiful bright red beaks at this time of year which we were able to see as they swooped passed out zodiacs.

On the rocky outcrops we were able to see some gentoo and chinstrap penguins which as very exciting as they were, for many, the first penguins of the trip! Many a photo were taken of these lonely penguins!

Back on the ship we had the recap of what we did that day, and the plans were presented by Martin for tomorrow. After recap we had dinner before half of our group went off the ship for the third time today. This time at Kerr Point, the location for our first night of camping. We were dropped off with our sleeping kits and on shore the camping staff was waiting to receive us on land. In the snow we used shovels to make a shelter to spend the night, in which we set up our sleeping bags. Ready for a night on Antarctica!

Mountaineering Log

In the morning we made an ascent of the broad glacial ridge behind Portal Point, travelling as two ropes of 7 mountaineers. Passing through the narrow neck we could see seals to the left and large carving ice cliffs to the right. Snow conditions were firm underfoot and progress was steady. We congregated at the wide-open summit, approximately 200m a.s.l, for photos and celebrations as snow began to fall and the cloud base lowered. Following our track of ascent, we returned to the landing site.

In the afternoon we took a long Zodiac journey passing large icebergs to a small ice capped island off the eastern side of Enterprise Island. Landing on the eastern tip we ascended its twin summits observing many remains of shells left by feeding Guls. Snow conditions were soft, and progress was challenging even in snowshoes on the short but steep inclines. At the summit, approx. 80m a.s.l, we enjoyed views of the nearby shipwreck, then returned to our starting point.  After embarking the Zodiacs, we took a short cruise to take a closer look at the shipwreck.

Day 6: Danco Island and Paradise Bay with Brown Station

Danco Island and Paradise Bay with Brown Station
Fecha: 27.12.2022
Posición: 64°43.8’S / 062°36.9’W
Viento: Calm
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +12

This morning we woke to find a beautiful day. Those who had been camping at Kerr Point last night had already seen the start of the day as the sun was trying to push through the thin layer of clouds at 5am. There was even a birthday to celebrate for one of the campers coming back to the ship!

At 7.45am it was time to ‘properly’ wake up and start the day. By this time the skies were clearing and there was blue to be seen! We had a delicious breakfast as we looked out the window, eager to get going on such a perfect day!

The water was glassy with ice bergs invading the ship from different angles. The clouds were clearing and revealing the impressive peaks high above the calving glaciers at the coastline. We could see Danco Island adjacent to the ship with a backdrop of the mountains of the Arctowski Peninsula, part of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Errera Channel which separates Rongé Island from the Peninsula, had considerable amounts of ice bergs clogging it up. This could be seen from the high point of Danco Island.

The day was quite adventurous with all sorts of changes to the plans and unexpected highlights. During our landing at Danco Island we were able to observe the penguin behaviour of the Gentoo Penguins. We have not yet seen so many penguins together and up close. It is always entertaining watching them build nests, steel stones, and waddle up and down the penguin highways. Some eggs lay on the snow, far from the colonies – evidence of the successful invasions from the lurking skuas.

At Danco Island some of us enjoyed prolonged time with the penguins whilst others enjoyed stretching their legs with a walk up to the summit of the island. From the high point we could see the ice filled Errera Channel from above with 360 panoramic views. It was magnificent and certainly worth the sweaty journey zigzagging up the hill! Not only did this hike allow us to get our bearing in the area, but it also warmed us up making us eager to get into the clear waters!

Back at the landing site where the zodiacs had dropped us off, the towels were piled up and the drivers on standby ready for the much-anticipated polar plunge! This is an event that is an important one for many people and to show they were truly submerged in the wild Antarctic environment. Those who were still up for the challenge after getting to the water’s edge with their bear skin exposed to the chilly air did a super job of putting on a show for those who were happy to watch. It was the perfect day for such an event with blue skies and not too much ice.

To get to our next landing we had to take the long route around Rongé Island as the Errera Channel was blocked with ice to the south. On our route round most of us were out on deck wildlife spotting and enjoying the sun draped landscapes around. Soon enough the ship was altering course as Zet had spotted some orcas! This was an amazing encounter as the group of orcas came very close to Plancius and checked us out. What made it so special was that the water was so still and clear that we could also observe the orcas below the water too. This is a rare occasion.

We arrived at Paradise Bay a bit late due to our wildlife sightings. Once we arrived, we dropped the zodiacs and set for some exploration. We navigated along the coast of Lemaire Island observing the icy coastline, impressive mountains and passing penguins. We were also lucky to have a sighting of some feeding humpback whales which Koen gave us some information on. Telling us about the techniques they use for feeding which is their primary reason for being down in the Antarctic at this time of year.

We navigated through the ice towards Base Brown, an Argentinian base. On route we also took some time to observe a sleeping Leopard Seal on an iceberg. Near Base Brown we saw some nesting Antarctic Shags with some chicks too. This was wonderful to see the first chicks on this trip.

What a fantastic afternoon of wildlife from the ship and from the zodiacs. After all these encounters we no longer had time for a recap, so it was straight to dinner when we were back on board. After dinner the next activity was to begin camping. The campers were taken ashore at Leith Cove, also in Paradise Bay.

It was certainly a very full day, and the weather was finally being kind to us allowing for some spectacular activities.

Mountaineering Log

In the morning an unsuccessful attempt was made on a traverse of Danco Island, thwarted unfortunately by the combined factors of snow collapse and shallow underwater rocks restricting access at the south-western side, and exploratory prod was made by the Mountain Guides at the south-eastern side, but was deemed unsafe and so we travelled to the northern end of the island to join the rest of the passengers.

In the afternoon we boarded Zodiacs and took an extended journey to Brown Station. We climbed the short steep peak behind the station, approximately 100m a.s.l, finding an exposed summit with steep cliffs on three sides, then traversed a plateau to a secondary summit. Turning around we retraced our steps back to the landing.

Day 7: Port Lockroy and Damoy Point landings

Port Lockroy and Damoy Point landings
Fecha: 28.12.2022
Posición: 64°46.5’S / 063°22.6’W
Viento: SSE 1-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +3

Light snowflakes started falling while we crawled out from our bivvy bags, we found ourselves surrounded by massive glaciers and craggy peaks, stranded in a little spit of land which is Leith Island located in Paradise Harbour. While M/V Plancius made her way through the maze of iceberg which filled up the bay, we lined up all the way down to the shore patiently waiting for our zodiac to bring us back on board of the ship.

Landing and getting to know Antarctica on foot is certainly something special, having the pleasure of sharing a night in the White Continent with penguins and seals is surely a once in a lifetime experience!

Back to our rooms we could have the comfort of our beds for a couple more hours while the ship was repositioning and sailing out of Paradise Harbour through the Bryde Channel into the narrow and beautiful Neumayer Passage which divides Anvers Island from Wiencke Island.

M/V Plancius was soon anchored in the vicinity of Port Lockroy and with British punctuality, at 9 o’clock sharp, our friend Lucy, one of a four-team member who is running Base A of Goudier Island during the summer, was onboard. Lucy thoroughly presented in the Lounge Room the work that British Antarctic Survey has been done in the past decades to recover and maintain all bases belonging to the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust foundation, among those Port Lockroy Base A.

During World War II United Kingdom established the military-base Operation Tabarin, on the tiny Goudier Island. The primary objective was to strengthen British claims to sovereignty over a few Antarctic territories to which Chile and Argentina had made counter claims since the outbreak of the war. During 1944/45 a staff of 14 men overwintered in Port Lockroy, carrying on mapping, meteorological and telecommunication works.

Port Lockroy Base A also includes the most southerly operational post office in the world, therefore once on land we could access the main building, stamping, and sending postcards to our beloved, not forgetting to shop maps, beanies and T-shirts to bring back home.

During lunch, the ship moved to the nearby Dorian Bay and in the afternoon, we could enjoy an incredible landing at Damoy Hut. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and clouds were hovering on top of the surrounding peaks letting us enjoy an amazing 360° view of the west coast of Wiencke Island dominated by jagged peak of Jabet and the Seven Sisters.

Our expedition staff wisely designed a magnificent loop around the shallow and rocky waters of Dorian Bay, leading us past by a few colonies of laborious gentoo penguins till reaching a vantage point over the waters of Neumayer Channel under the bluest sky we had had in Antarctica in the past week.

Walking down back to our zodiacs we passed besides Damoy Hut, which in the mid-seventies was built to support the airstrip operation during the summer periods when the access to Rothera research station was prevented by the presence of sea ice early in the season. BAS personnel would arrive by ship to Damoy, provisions were transported by a snowmobile to a 400m ski-way that was marked along the spine of the glacier on which a Twin Otter aircraft was able to take off, thus connecting Damoy with Rothera further South.

Damoy Air Facility stopped its operation in 1993 as the transit station was no longer needed and direct flights from the Falkland Islands to Rothera started to be operated.

Back onto M/V Plancius a delightful BBQ awaited us in the aft deck of the ship, however sooner than predicted, while sailing out from the protected waters of Dorian Bay, the sea forced us to run inside seeking for a warmer space where we could taste the delicious pork ribs and chicken wings that the kitchen had prepared for us.

Another spectacular day has passed, following the exploratory routes of legendary expeditions of the early 20th century such as Adrien De Gerlache aboard the Belgica and Commandant Charcot aboard the Français. Our voyage was continuing with even more surprises in the next days to come.

Mountaineering Log

In the afternoon, roped up as two teams, we started from Dorian Bay and made steady progress in bright sunshine towards a beautiful satellite peak of Jabet. After crossing the aeroplane runway plateau, we ascended a broad ridge, eventually stopping at approximately 250m a.s.l. Our Mountain Guides explained that there was avalanche risk if we were to continue higher onto the open and steeper summit slopes, so after a brief pause and a team photo, we retreated back to the bay.

Day 8: Lemaire Channel followed by Pleneau Island zodiac cruise and landing at Petermann

Lemaire Channel followed by Pleneau Island zodiac cruise and landing at Petermann
Fecha: 29.12.2022
Posición: 65°06.7’S / 064°02.3’W
Viento: Calm
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +9

This morning the day started a bit earlier, but it was definitely worth it. The sun shone as we started our day passing through the well-known Lemaire Channel. The mountains rise steeply from the ice scattered water. Many of us who were standing out on deck were excited to see Plancius navigating through such a narrow channel with the extra challenge of so much ice.

The Lemaire Channel is formed by a fault which runs the length of it. This fault is still active today and can be observed by the GPS monitoring that has identified progressive offset on either side of the Lemaire Channel. It is for this reason that the deeply incised channel has formed. Whilst we were all out on deck observing the beautiful landscape there were some cheers and the singing on happy birthday to celebrate with one of our guests. What a memorable day!

Following this we arrived at Pleneau Island where we dropped the zodiacs and had a spectacular cruise. We saw 4 different types of seals, 3 types of penguins and some whales! And this is just the wildlife, the scenery was also spectacular with large icebergs towering above the low-lying outcrops of rock. The seals we saw were the elephant seals hauled out on Pleneau Island near the penguins, a weddell seal hauled out on a secluded rocky outcrop, a crabeater seal on an iceberg and a very large leopard seal on a relatively small iceberg.

Once we were back on the ship, we shared stores of the morning’s excitement over lunch while the bridge team carefully navigated us to Petermann Island. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Penola Strait over lunch. We were very lucky to have some wonderful weather to observe the incredible surroundings.

After a lovely buffet lunch, we went ashore in the zodiacs to Petermann Island beside the Argentinian refuge hut. To start, we went to the high point where we could see our first nesting Adelie Penguins of the trip. Nesting shags were also visible but at more of a distance.

After this we were able to walk south on the island to get spectacular views of the high sharp mountains in the distance with low lying rocky outcrops and ice scattered across the near sea. A truly spectacular view where we could contemplate and imagine the lives of the explorers before us who had visited these remote areas.

The landing was called short as the ice was closing in. When the wind is pushing the brash ice it can quickly clog our landing sites and make leaving the beach very challenging and time consuming. Therefore, to keep us all safe we had to head back to Plancius earlier than planned. Although it was a slightly shorter landing, we were still able to have a good walk and stretch our legs before getting back on board. The conditions ashore were extremely warm resulting in many of those who hiked at a good pace becoming overheat after dressing up in all the usual layers! The pile of coats at the landing site was very big, evidence of the high temperatures that we were experiencing!

It was a wonderful evening out on deck as we travelled north back through the Lemaire Channel. It is not every trip we get clear skies like this revealing the tops of these impressive mountains! It was truly magical.

Mountaineering Log

In the morning we climbed the 3km long, broad glacial northern ridge of Hovgaard Island. Snow conditions were favourable, feeling firm underfoot after an overnight freeze, so a steady ascent was made to the summit at 369m a.s.l. After a brief pause, time was short, and we followed our path of ascent back to the landing site.

In the afternoon we climbed to the summit of Petermann Island. Initially easy ground lead us through penguin colonies to where we roped up to ascend the steep snow slope. After this an easier angle was enjoyed along the summit plateau to the top, at approximately 250m a.s.l. We returned via the same route to join the rest of the passengers evacuating the island in case of a brash ice entrapment.

Day 9: Stoney Point in the morning and landing at Orne Islands in the afternoon

Stoney Point in the morning and landing at Orne Islands in the afternoon
Fecha: 30.12.2022
Posición: 64°54.4’S / 062°55.5’W
Viento: Light Air
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +11

Today we started at Stoney Point, which is a beautiful island in Paradise Harbour. Half of the group went for a zodiac cruise to explore the bay. We saw two fin whales traveling together, it was amazing see them so close, blowing, swimming, and enjoying the morning with us. Also, from the zodiac we saw a rookery of gentoo penguins on a small island in the middle of the bay nesting and diving around. We looked at a weddell seal taking a nap on an iceberg and sliding into the water.

The other group walked around Stoney Point, the scenery was stunning with glaciers and mountains. All of our senses were used to feel the environment. The silence was filled with the sound of glaciers calving. We watched as the waves rippled from the calving location to the beach of green volcanic rocks. 

We navigated through Gerlach Straight while we had lunch on our way to Orne Islands.

We anchored in the entrance of Errera Bay and began another new exploration on Orne Island. We had a nice hike where we saw chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels, wilson storm petrels and some kelp gulls. The view from the top of the island was fantastic.

We started our journey north towards the South Shetland Islands when suddenly we found a group of orcas. The captain stopped the ship, and we stayed watching them. We all layered up and dashed out on deck. We could see some orcas playing around with some quite interesting behaviour going on. Luckily Martin was keeping a close eye on what was going on and was able to give us regular updates on what er were looking at. It takes a lot of experience in these areas to start to have an observant eye in these situations.

Firstly, Martin was able to see oil in the water indicting that it was likely that there had been a kill. As the Antarctic minke whales sink when they are killed, it is likely that the orcas were diving down to pull of scraps from their kill and the oil from the fat was visible on the water surface.

He explained how the orcas were going down to the submerged meat and returned to the surface to break up in pieces and take a breath. They were feeding on a whale; it was a large group.

Not long after, out of the blue we sighted a young humpback whale in the middle of the group of orcas. The interaction was surprising, but it appeared that they were in the process of teaching the youngest to hunt. It was unbelievable, they were around our dear Plancius with no problem and all of us outside in the decks. We could hear the stressed whale and the orcas trying to drown it. It was an experience that we will never forget, mother nature exhibiting itself in its splendour, showing us the order of life in the wild Antarctica.

We were all moved by the show, but we had to continue and leave nature in peace. Martin gave a fantastic and enthusiastic recap explaining what we had seen and showing his excitement for such an unusual and special observation. Tomorrow will be our last landing where we are going to visit Hannah Point in Walker Bay.

Mountaineering Log

In the morning we took an exploratory trip to climb an unrecorded summit near to Stoney Island. We found good, firm snow conditions and reasonably passable glacier, good enough to allow them access to the summit. The team climbed well together, and a swift ascent was made to the high point at approximately 300m a.s.l. The summit as-of-yet remains unnamed.

In the afternoon we travelled to Ronge Island and climbed to a saddle lookout over Georges Point, at approximately 200m a.s.l. We made steady progress in firm snow conditions with only a little breaking trail required. A final steep slope landed us at the col where we enjoyed our final summit views of Antarctica.

Day 10: Landing at Walkers Bay in the morning then north towards Tiera del Fuego

Landing at Walkers Bay in the morning then north towards Tiera del Fuego
Fecha: 31.12.2022
Posición: 62°39.0’S / 060°30.0’W
Viento: N 3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

We were woken at the expected time after the bridge team had brought us from the Antarctic Peninsula to the South Shetland Islands through the night. There is always a chance of changes to timings when we have a slightly longer journey though icy waters, however this time we were able to keep to our schedule.

After another great breakfast it was time to get our kit on for the last landing. The air felt more humid and colder than we have experienced on this trip so far. Here at Walker Bay, we split the morning in two parts: half on a zodiac cruise and half on the landing site, then we swapped.

The landing site here on Livingston Island is very different from any of the landings that we have done so far. From the ship we could see the rocky landscape, already a change from the snow piled landings on the Peninsula. At the beach we were welcomed by the memorable sound of groaning and belching elephant seals. These large animals were piled up in places, sometimes in pairs, some in groups and others enjoying alone time. They move at an impressive pace across the ground considering their shape, which is entertaining to watch as their blubber ripples. Some elephant seals were practicing jousting, rising to impressive height, and throwing their head into their opposition. Many of the seals here were juveniles so not to full size nor as ferocious.

In an area of rockfall we were also able to see some whale bones and an interesting array of rocks. The sample of rocks which had been piled together on a large boulder by past visitor to Walkers Bay were a beautiful selection of colours. The surrounding cliffs had layers of material from pyroclastic flows formed by the deposition during volcanic eruptions. Green blobs were commonly seen in this rock. Reds could also be seen, likely from the precipitation of some iron rich minerals in cracks of the rocks when hot fluids had travelled through the rock. Most excitingly though, there were fossil plants imprinted in the rocks. They looked like fern plants that we have today. These show that in the past the climate here in Antarctica has been a lot warmer than it is today enabling much more plant diversity to flourish. This is quite contrasting to the site today where we could see the only native vascular plants of Antarctic: Antarctic hairgrass and Antarctic pearlwort.

On the zodiac cruise we all manage to get a glimpse of some very cute, fluffy and grey chinstrap penguin chicks. These looked very young as they had not even left their nests yet. There were also some slightly older looking gentoo chicks causing havoc in the colony, full of energy chasing each other around! Some of us also saw a menacing leopard seal lurking in the water around the rocky coastline.

The morning was quite different from the other landings we have had which made for a lovely end to the trip. It had been quite cold out, so we all enjoyed getting back on board in time for a hot drink before lunch.

It was now time to set off across the Drake Passage so once again, all the various patches and tablets were taken ready for what lay ahead. It has been a very busy week of exploiting Antarctica and as a result the ship was very quiet after lunch as everyone was catching some sleep. We were all tired but what was more important was that we will be needing to stay up later tonight to welcome in 2023!!

Steffi gave a wonderful lecture on seals in the afternoon too which was well attended. We have been lucky to see so many different types of seals on this trip and with multiple encounters with each. Therefore, Steffi’s talk was perfect for improving our understanding of these marine mammals and how they live.

After recap and a delicious special New Year’s dinner, it was time to put our sparkles on and get into party mode! Jake was busy at the bar as everyone celebrated a wonderful end to the year. After a good afternoon lie-down, everyone had returned looking ready for the event. At midnight, all the crew were able to come into the lounge which was a lovely atmosphere to share the moment with everyone on board, including those from behind the scenes here on Plancius. At midnight, Captain Remmert shared some Prosecco and a toast for the New Year as we all counted down to 2023 here in the Drake Passage.

The seas were kind to us as we danced, chatted and enjoyed the night. A quite breakfast will be expected in the dining room tomorrow!

Day 11: Sea day on the Drake Passage

Sea day on the Drake Passage
Fecha: 01.01.2023
Posición: 59°42.9’S / 063°56.7’W
Viento: WSW 8
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +5


Today marks the start of 2023! After last night’s celebration in the lounge, Martin spared us the usual wake-up call. We are in the middle of the Drake Passage; we have waves of around 4 meters high and winds coming in from the west. This is making Plancius dance in the waves as she rolls from side to side. Perfect conditions to sleep in after all the experiences we had this last week, and all the activities that we have done.

In the morning, Warren, our 2nd officer, Ramon and Uylesis some of our AB’s (able bodies seamen) and Beth launched an Argo float from the back deck. Argo is an international program of which Oceanwide is part of, that aims to collect information from inside the ocean using a fleet of electronical instruments which are deployed at specific points of the ocean. They complete a 10-day cycle to take these observations. Firstly, they sink to 2km and then rise back to the surface to transmit the information. This is a float that measures temperature, salinity, currents and, recently, bio-optical properties at different depths in the ocean. Gathered information is sent via satellites making it available to anyone.

Steffi gave a lecture about whales in the lounge at the end of the morning. She introduced us to various whale species and their characteristics. She explained the differences between baleen whales and tooth whales, the hunting methods that these whales use, the life cycle of whales, communication between baleen whales and their intelligence. She concluded on her idea that the greatest minds on earth live in the sea. This was a fantastic lecture after all the special whale encounters, we’ve had this trip.

After lunch, Beth gave a lecture on Ice in the Southern Continent. She explained the differences between glacier (land) ice and sea ice. The Antarctic continent consists of a thick layer of ice, which can be divided between the west Antarctic and the east Antarctic ice sheet. In some places the ice is moving, resulting in ice shelves and glaciers. When the ice breaks off at the edges of this moving ice, it results in the icebergs we have seen on the trip.

After a little break, Koen gave the last lecture of the day. He talked about photography, and as we all made pictures on this trip, he explained how to edit these pictures. These pictures we took help to memorize the amazing trip we had and editing them gives an extra personal touch to them.

Before dinner we had the recap, Martin showed us the weather for tomorrow, some wind is forecasted for the afternoon. For that reason, the bridge wants to be in the protected water of South America around noon already. Anthonie talked about katabatic and foehn winds, how they form and why they are so common in Antarctica. Daniel shared the secrets of the barrels, which we take to shore in case that we are on land and cannot go back to the ship. It for sure was a day full of lectures and the staff sharing some of their knowledge with us, a good start 2023!

Day 12: Heading into the Beagle Channel and arrival in Ushuaia

Heading into the Beagle Channel and arrival in Ushuaia
Fecha: 02.01.2023
Posición: 55°29.7’S / 066°10.1’W
Viento: NW 6/7
Clima: Rain
Temperatura del Aire: +10

Today we had our second full day on the Drake Passage. We have been making fantastic progress across the Drake Passage due to the very reasonable weather we have been having. Yesterday we were in the very centre of a low-pressure system which we could see on the barograph as the pressure dropped a lot then was stable at a low point before rising again through the night as we left the eye of the pressure system. As we travel through the different pressure levels, we experienced some stronger winds through the night. A few of us heard items moving around as we tried to get a good night sleep.

Breakfast was well attended today, unlike yesterday. Although the Drake Passage is not the highlight of the trip for most on board, it is certainly of value to have some time for reflection and discussions with those on board before we hit the real world filled with emails and the expectations of instant responses. A trip like this gives us time to interact with our surroundings and enjoy each day for what it brings. It appears that everyone on board has made some connections with fellow travellers on board which will go on to make good friendships and inspire how we live our lives in the future.

In the morning we had a very inspiring lecture from Martin on climate change. His approach was interesting and different from most talks on this topic. One principle take-aways from his lecture was the importance for us to replace shame and fear surrounding this topic, with love and passion for the planet around us. This provoked lots of discussion and more sharing of details between those on board.

After a delicious pizza lunch, it was time for a talk from Floris, our chief engineer. He gave a very interesting talk on the dungeons on the Plancius! He introduced us to some of the functions of the ship which we have pondered over but not been able to see.

We returned our boots to the boot room where we had collected them from on the first day of our expedition. What a journey we have walked in these muck boots!

After the pilot was introduced on board at 1630 we continued out journey up the Beagle Channel towards our final destination, Ushuaia. The wind was strong, gusting up to 45 knots as we made our way experiencing some motion, more than usual considering we were in such protected waters.

At 1815 it was time for our last recap. This started with some plans for tomorrow, followed by an overview of the trip with some highlights from Martin. We shared a thank you drink together with our Captain. Lastly it was the slideshow of photos which stirred our emotions giving us pride and delight that we have been involved in such an incredible adventure.  

At dinner it was time to thank the crew hard at work behind the scenes on Plancius. Many of whom spend months on board, passionately caring for all of us with big smiles on their faces!

Day 13: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Fecha: 03.01.2023
Posición: 54°48.6’S / 068°17.9’W
Viento: NW 4
Clima: Partly Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

While we enjoyed a last breakfast on board, our suitcases were taken off the ship. It is a sad moment to disembark from the Plancius, which has been a comfortable and cosy home during this unforgettable journey. We have shared many unique moments, seen a range of rarely sighted wildlife, and made new friends. Loaded with fond memories we now must head home.

We will continue our adventures, whether it be returning home or experiencing what South America has to offer. On the pier, beside our little blue ship moored alongside in Ushuaia, we say our goodbyes and until next time, we wish each other good health and fair winds.

Thank you all for travelling with us on this voyage, for your enthusiasm, support, and good company. We very much hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

The expedition team have enjoyed exploring together with all the guests. Of course, these operations only run smoothy due to the coordination between all the departments on board Plancius. So, to all the dedicated and determined individuals involved in this adventure, we all give our thanks and appreciation.

Of course, this would not be possible without you, the guests. Thank you for travelling with us on this voyage, for your enthusiasm, support, and good company. We very much hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1, 755 nm
Southernmost position: 65°10.5’S / 064°07.4’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Remmert-Jan Koster, Expedition Leader Martin Berg, Hotel Manager Volodymyr Cherednychenko and all the crew and staff of M/V Plancius, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Código del viaje: PLA25-23
Fechas: 22 dic., 2022 - 3 ene., 2023
Duración: 12 noches
Barco: El Plancius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Ushuaia

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Nuestro barco más antiguo, el Plancius, es un clásico para algunos de nuestros viajes polares más populares.

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