PLA27-24, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Bitácora

Day 1: Ushuaia – Embarkation Day

Ushuaia – Embarkation Day
Fecha: 16.01.2024
Posición: 54° 48.6’S / 66° 54.0’W
Viento: E-2
Clima: overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +6

Finally the day had arrived, and our expedition to Antarctica was about to begin! We found ourselves in Ushuaia, in the most southern part of Argentina, also called the end of the world. During our expedition, we would go even farther south.

We were not expected to embark Plancius until 16:00. That gave us time to recover from the long journey south and explore the town of Ushuaia. This small town offers a lot of coffee and cake cafes as well as many outdoor shops. Ushuaia makes for a cozy town and is ideal for buying last-minute items like hats, gloves, or another layer to keep warm.

At 16:00 it was time to make our way up the gangway of Plancius. We were greeted at the dock by members of the expedition team, and the hotel manager quickly checked us in. There was not a lot of time to relax, as at 17:15 a mandatory safety drill was scheduled, so our presence in the lounge was required. We were welcomed by expedition leader Eduardo, and the chief officer guided us through a safety video and drill procedure. Then we all sat in the lounge, wearing our bulky orange life vests. When we heard the abandon ship alarm, we made our way outside to the lifeboats where the second officer informed us further.

With the mandatory drill done, it was time to release the ropes, start the engines, and leave the port of Ushuaia behind. The captain came down to the lounge and greeted us with a glass of champagne, speaking some warm words of welcome. Eduardo then gave us more information about the program for the days ahead.

Soon it was time for dinner. The galley team had prepared a delicious buffet, and the dining room was buzzing with excitement. The members of the expedition team also joined for dinner, and this offered a first opportunity to get to know each other. After a long and intense day, it was time for a good rest. Some of us decided to spend some time on the deck to enjoy the beautiful golden light. The next 19 days, we will see each other a lot! When sailing through the Beagle Channel, we encountered several Fin Whales and Dolphins, a great start to the trip.

Day 2: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Fecha: 17.01.2024
Posición: 57° 13.3’S / 64° 40.9’W
Viento: NW-4
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +7

Good morning and welcome to the Drake Passage! This morning Eduardo woke us up with beautiful classical music and then informed us about the ship’s position, the weather, and the expectations for the rest of the day.

Last night we left the port of Ushuaia and headed out into the Beagle Channel. The Beagle Channel is a nice way for us to get used to the ship’s movements, as we do not immediately hit open oceans, giving us some time to build confidence that the Drake is just going to be fine. Around midnight we started to get more and more into open waters, and we could clearly feel gracious Plancius’ rolling gently from portside to starboard side and back. The swell this morning was significant with 3-5 meters, but this was created by long stretched waves, so the rolling wasn’t too bad.

After a big breakfast, it was time to gather in the lounge for the mandatory IAATO briefing. IAATO is the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, and this body determines the rules and regulations for visitors to Antarctica. For us guests, this involves keeping a respectful distance from wildlife but also rules related to not kneeling or lying down. Unfortunately, this is not allowed anymore as the risks of spreading contagious viruses such as the avian flu are too high. Sadly, avian flu has now reached the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, whereas the first cases have been reported in Antarctica as well.

This led to Eduardo’s next point on the agenda: biosecurity checks. Before we can land in Antarctica, it is mandatory to clean our outdoor layers from little stones, seeds, leaves, mud, hairs, etc. Luckily for us, this so-called vacuum party is not planned until tomorrow.

After the IAATO briefing it was time for our first lecture on this expedition. Helene took the microphone and showed us what effect invasive species can have on eco systems when introduced to remote islands. South Georgia is one of the places where mice, rats, reindeer and invasive plants were introduced, and they had a devastating impact on its eco system. With great effort and dedication, the local government eradicated all invasive species, but this was a 10-year project and it’s still ongoing with regular checks. You understand better now why biosecurity will be very strict when visiting these unique islands.

The motion of the ship (and our seasick medications) makes us sleepy, so after lunch there was time for a nice nap. At 15:00, however, it was Koen’s turn to tell us more about the discovery of Antarctica. A fascinating lecture that gave us more background information about the expeditions that were undertaken to the White Continent and who claimed to have discovered it.

After a short coffee break, it was Eduardo himself that shared his love for the universe and oceans with us. Our oceans seem like vast stretched deserts of water, but below the surface it’s full of life. In his lecture “Exploration of the Bottom of the Oceans,” Eduardo passionately shared interesting information about the history of discoveries and human exploration of the sessile environment of the seabed.

At 18:15 it was time for our Recap. This is a daily routine where Eduardo will tell us more about the plans for the coming day and where other members of staff share short background stories about things we have seen or experienced during the day. Then it was time for a delicious dinner soon after followed by an early sleep. Good night, everybody!

Day 3: At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south towards the South Shetland islands.

At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south towards the South Shetland islands.
Fecha: 18.01.2024
Posición: 61° 35,0 S, 060° 55,4 W
Viento: NW3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +3

Our second wakeup call with another song from our expedition leader Eduardo. We are on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula and within Antarctic waters, as we have crossed the Antarctic Convergence during the night. We were now officially in Antarctic waters with the chance of seeing more wildlife. And during breakfast, this was immediately the case. We spotted three fin whales ahead of the ship with another four blows in the distance. The fin whales ahead of us got closer and closer and eventually gave quite the show, making a lot of their body visible. What a great way to start the day!

At 9:30 we started our lecture program with Regís going first with his talk about Antarctic birds. He explained how you can identify them and where we would be able to expect to see them. Stories about birds with many different shapes and sizes told with a lot of passion. Now we were ready to spot and identify all birds flying and swimming around the ship.

Later in the morning, Eduardo gave the IAATO briefing for the people unable to join yesterday due to sea conditions. Meanwhile, the briefing invited people deck by deck to come to the boot room to pick up their muck boots.

Our lunch was fabulous again, with delicious salades and warm meals. This day on the menu: potatoes, veal loin, fish, and mac and cheese. After lunch we got invited to the lounge for the mandatory biosecurity cleaning. Here we had to bring every piece of outer clothing that will be used outside of the ship, a serious job with serious consequences if done wrong. Just one seed can take hold on an island and take over the local flora. And being that Antarctica doesn’t have much flora so far, all the available terrain is essential and important for the endemic flora. Everybody made an excellent effort to clean all the clothing, backpacks, and boots.

In the afternoon we got a second lecture from Elke. She talked about marine life in the Southern Ocean, a topic where she explained the intricate food chain in the Antarctic waters.

During the recap of the day, we got a final mandatory briefing from Eduardo about the Zodiac operations, something we would be making use of a lot during the following 17 days. During his explanation, however, we got interrupted by some humpback whales that got very close to the ship. They were feeding in the area and showed quite some showman ship showing flukes, side flippers, and some even their whole mouth after eating a mouth full of krill.

Eduardo did have to call everybody in again for the explanation of the next day's plan. Dinner never tasted so good after a spectacular day reaching Antarctica.

Day 4: McFarlane Strait and Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands

McFarlane Strait and Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands
Fecha: 19.01.2024
Posición: 62° 32.7’S / 059° 59.2’W
Viento: SE-2
Clima: Snow
Temperatura del Aire: +1

Our first real day in Antarctica! 2°C warm and slushy drizzle, some humpbacks around the ship in visible distance. We were thrilled to finally get off the ship. Our first Zodiac boarding was challenging because of some quite big swells. However, all of us got into the boats and ventured on their first excursion. Here and there, penguins swam through the water. Some of them waited on a piece of ice for us, arguing whether they should go for a swim or stay, surrounded by curious expeditioners.

The first highlight was a huge rock (Inott Point) composed of many layers of volcanic ash from a series of explosive volcanic eruptions several million years ago. The next rock contained pillars of basalt columns in its center and the very last one was mind blowing: a giant organ, built of massive basalt pipes, rising from the depth of the ocean: Edinburgh Hill, a 120m-high cliff formed from magma. The molten rock turned into basalt, when it cooled relatively slowly and uniformly, forms into regular vertical columns of rock. Rocky blocks all around were host to several Kelp gull families, that were chatting and fighting with each other. Skuas passed by and even some Antarctic terns crossed our way.

After a well-deserved lunch, we were looking forward to getting ashore at Half Moon Island. This halfmoon-shaped island is made up of basaltic rock. It is home to thousands of Chinstrap penguins. Many were struggling through the mud and across slippery debris to either get back to their nests or to find their way to a cleansing bath. We wobbled like them along a greasy path to see their colonies. It was overwhelming to see the chicks begging their parents for food or huddling under the parents' bellies to warm up from the weather.

Nearby on the beach, three elephant seals were hauled out. A noisy chattering lay over the whole scenery. Arriving adults were greeting their partners, jealous neighbors were chasing away newcomers and pair bonding couples raised their necks high in the air to show each other their love. But penguins were not the only nesting birds in the area. In a slippery gap, some Wilson’s storm petrels patrolled above a scree slope, where they obviously had their burrows. Some hundred meters further, Kelp gulls took care of their well camouflaged chicks. Happy and muddy, we strolled back to the beach.

Day 5: Duroch islands, Weddel sea

Duroch islands, Weddel sea
Fecha: 20.01.2024
Posición: 63°18.6 ’S 057°56.1 ’W
Viento: NE-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

We started the day sailing in a very calm bay opposite the O’Higgins base, a Chilean scientific base. After a good breakfast on board, we had the chance to visit a small island called Kopiatic Island. We landed on some rocks before reaching a beautiful colony of chinstrap penguins. Many babies were on the rocks. A few adults were feeding the babies. At this time of the year, babies are about 5 or 6 weeks old. Both parents take care of them and come regularly to feed them with krill and little fish and sometimes squid. A few sheathbills were wandering around the site. We also met a few gentoo penguins and finally an Adélie penguin.

We had time to enjoy the view. After a while, we were offered a Zodiac cruise to get closer to the magnificent blue icebergs all around us. We passed the O’Higgins Base, where researchers work year-round. They study the movements of penguins underwater by equipping them with sensors. To recognize individuals, the penguins are equipped and are colored with a blue dot. We slalomed for a good hour past icebergs of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The older the icebergs, the fewer air bubbles they contain and the more intense their blue colour becomes, since only blue waves are reflected at the surface.

We then returned to the ship to enjoy a buffet lunch. We sailed along the coast in the Antarctic Sound and passed the Esperanza Base, an Argentinian station on the way to Brown Bluff. The weather was nice, with blue skies but a lot of wind. The sea and wind conditions prevented us from landing at Brown Bluff, but we could observe the geological formations from the deck. After a recap in the afternoon, we continued the cruise to make an incursion into the Weddell Sea, an extraordinary opportunity to get close to the tabular icebergs. This was one of the most impressive views of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The team then suggested we set foot on a little-visited site that is home to a small colony of gentoos. A real step on continental Antarctica! On this side of the peninsula, we are relatively sheltered from the wind, which allows us to take a Zodiac out while enjoying the magnificent colors of the setting sun. The show was complete with humpback whales that approached the Zodiacs.

Day 6: At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south towards the South Shetland islands.

At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south towards the South Shetland islands.
Fecha: 24.04.2024
Posición: 63° 15,3 S, 056° 39,5 W
Viento: S4
Clima: Overcast

Another day in the paradise of Antarctica. We woke up with good sea conditions and good visibility. Many people had a shorter night after celebrating the continental landing from the evening before. But nobody could wait to start a new adventure in this amazing scenery. Plancius had parked itself inside of Kinnes Cove where we got 180 degrees view of the surrounding glaciers. After breakfast we quickly went out the door and down the gangway to start a Zodiac cruise. This took us by the islands at the entrance of the Kinnes Cove, where many of the penguins could be found. The Adélies definitely were in the biggest numbers.

There were also Snowy Sheathbills flying around and skuas both predating in their own way, profiting from the many penguins nesting here. The sheathbill, the only non-aquatic bird in Antarctica, does a good job walking around the rocky and snowy surfaces. But some of the sheathbills were sitting on an iceberg where their grip was lacking. They were skating from the left and the right, which looked quite funny. This, however, did not stop them taking advantage of this snowy continent.

After the islands and several icebergs, we made our way to the main cliffs just outside the cove. Here we were able to find a gigantic number of Adelie penguins nesting. Most with their one or two brown fluffy chicks sitting in front of one of the parents. There were also grey chicks. A real penguin town that went up very high up to a high pyramid looking hill. The thought of the movie Happy Feet and the macaroni penguin called Lovelace sitting on top of the hill certainly came to mind. The busy hub of shoreline was the perfect place to see how the penguins jumped in the water in large groups.

The penguins all grouped together until the pressure was built up to create a massive number of jumping penguins. Swimming in a group obviously has good reason, as there could be predators around that are hunting them. And what do you know, a Leopard seal appeared at one of the penguin highways. It was interested in the penguins but seemed to be waiting for the best possible chance to catch an unaware penguin swimming in the water. We ended the cruise at a beautiful iceberg that had intense blue colors and artistic features on all sides.

After the two-and-a-half-hour cruise, everybody was quite cold and ready for a warm lunch. In the afternoon, we sailed past the last islands of Antarctica towards the South Orkneys. We passed many impressive tabular icebergs and could spot many penguins swimming around the ship. There even was the occasional seal swimming by although these were harder to spot. We started our daily recap at 18:15. Here Eduardo explained to us the plan for the upcoming day. We were going to sail past the biggest existing iceberg existing at the moment. This iceberg, called A23A, was released over 30 years ago from the Filchner ice shelf and had been stuck for many years. But just a few years ago, it broke loose and drifted up north, almost directly in our path to the South Orkneys.

This was going to be the possibility of a lifetime to pass by such an enormous iceberg. We also got to hear more about Leopard seals from Heléne and about whale immigration from Koen H. In the end Elke explained us what kind of citizen science projects exist in Antarctica and how we can help gather information that is needed for scientist around the world. Happy Whale is a fun website where you can emit your photo of the fluke of a Humpback and see almost instantly if this whale has been seen before. On Penguin Watch, you can help scientists to establish a record of the growth or decline of penguin rookeries around Antarctica. Here you look at photos where you must point out the penguins from the chicks and the eggs. This way AI can improve working out the information on the photos better in the future.

Day 7: South Orkneys

South Orkneys
Fecha: 22.01.2024
Posición: 61°07.1’S / 48°43.6’W
Viento: SW-3
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +1

After a nice breakfast, we were flabbergasted by the massive piece of ice appearing on the horizon. The captain sailed Plancius close to A23A, the largest iceberg currently afloat. It is 74 km or 40 nautical miles long and 60 km or 32 nautical miles wide and 400 meters thick. It has an incredible volume of 1,7 billion m3. The giant iceberg which broke off from the Filchner-Ronne iceshelf in 1986 started to be adrift in 2023 from the Weddell Sea and is now on its way to the South Orkneys just like us. This giant chunk of ice has its own local weather system and treated us to a few hours of sunshine. After Michael’s lecture about what we can see under the water, a few humpback whales showed us why they are called the clowns of the ocean. We got a fantastic show when one of them started breaching close to the ship.

In the afternoon, Tom told us about the world of ice and later Koen had a lecture about Penguins. In the late afternoon, we could see the South Orkneys and during recap Eduardo revealed his cunning plan to try an activity after dinner. After dinner we ship-cruised the South Orkneys and at a certain point the expedition team lowered two zodiacs to assess conditions for a landing. Everybody was excited and watched how the expedition team ventured into the unknown. Unfortunately, conditions were not good enough to get everybody off the ship, so we continued to enjoy the spectacular scenery while Plancius continued sailing to the next destination: South Georgia.

Day 8: At Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea towards South Georgia
Fecha: 23.01.2024
Posición: 59°08.1’S / 41°49.3’
Viento: SW-7
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

Good morning, everyone! Another day at sea, but we made good progress. The rough seas of the south had been very good to us so far, and it made the journey a lot smoother and more comfortable. Eduardo woke us up with beautiful music before informing us about the sea state and the day ahead.

South Georgia is a unique eco-system that unfortunately was invaded by foreign animal species and plants. These aliens had a severe impact on endemic animal and plant species such as the South Georgian Pippet, but also Albatross and local grass types were affected. The aliens unfortunately did not arrive naturally; they were brought by whalers on their whaling ships. Reindeer were introduced, but also rats and mice that travelled as stowaways before entering South Georgia via the mooring ropes. Since we are travelling on a ship this means we are a risk factor and therefore another round of bio-security cleaning was planned.

This was all well explained during the mandatory briefing that all visitors to South Georgia need to attend. After the briefing the inevitable had to be done; cleaning our outer gear with almost surgical precision. Every little piece of sand, dirt, mud, feces, foreign fabric etc. needed to be removed as even a small individual piece of the above-mentioned would lead to a failed inspection. Eduardo was keen on achieving a 100% score, so the staff were on top of us.

Our efforts however were not ignored, once the staff inspectors cleared us, we needed to sign a declaration, but then we were also rewarded with a beautiful book about South Georgia. Hard work makes hungry, so lunch was very much welcomed. After lunch we got a bit of time to relax or take a nap before Koen “KJ” Jongerling invited us to his lecture about the charismatic and adventurous life of Ernest Shackleton.

At 16:30 it was time for a unique presentation by Hélène and Régis about their year on Kerguelen Island. Not many people visit this remote island in the southern Indian Ocean which is also called “Desolation Island” and having 2 guides on board that lived there as researchers is unique. At 18:15 it was time for a recap, soon followed by yet another delicious dinner. How the galley team manages to do this every day on a moving ship is simply fantastic. Time for a drink and a game in the lounge or an early sleep. Good night, Plancius!

Day 9: At sea on the Scotia Sea heading towards South Georgia, Larsen Harbor

At sea on the Scotia Sea heading towards South Georgia, Larsen Harbor
Fecha: 24.01.2024
Posición: 55° 31,0 S, 036° 45,1 W
Viento: NNE3
Clima: Snow
Temperatura del Aire: +1

Another day at sea and another day with great weather. Today we had some swell to begin with, but it still came from our aft, so it was quite easy to deal with. There were many birds flying around the ship in the morning. We were getting closer to land. We had larger birds like the Black browed Albatross and the southern giant petrel. There were also many small ones like the Cape Petrel and Prions. They were all quite close to the ship which made it a great chance to get sharp photos from them.

Not long after breakfast had finished, the first lecture of the day started. Tom talked about the movement of tectonic plates and explained the Scotia plate between South America and Antarctica. He explained that the Drygalski formation was the oldest rock that we could find in South Georgia. And this was going to be very interesting information seeing where we ended up in the late afternoon. We had a second lectures done by Elke who talked about the expedition of the Swedish naturalist Otto Nordenskjöld. They had rather unfortunate circumstances where the party got split up in three who by great navigation and a bit of sheer luck found each other.

After lunch we started to pass by a lot of beautiful icebergs. All pieces from the giant A23A iceberg that had broken loose and blown forward to South Georgia which was already in sight far in the distance. We did get another lecture from Koen H about photography in the afternoon. He had about 15 tips to explain to us how to take better pictures. And were about to immediately try out those tips as Eduardo told us over the PA that we were going to arrive earlier at South Georgia and that there was a possibility for a zodiac cruise in the Drygalski fjord. A giant gap in the island on the Southeast tip.

Our approach to the island was gorgeous with incredible sunlight. Everything was bright and colorful. There were many large icebergs that had run aground which made it look like an iceberg graveyard. We made our way into the Drygalski fjord where we were going to anchor to lower the zodiacs. Specifically, we were going to enter Larson harbor. A smaller fjord in the mouth of the Drygalski fjord. Here everybody entered the zodiacs at 17:45 to start a hour and a half cruise passing by some of the most stunning mountain ranges in South Georgia. From today we were not just having the differentiation of the Humpback and the Minkes but a new group arose who were called the Adélies. These two Zodiacs were dedicated to the photographers onboard who want a bit more time to take pictures from multiple angles.

At the entrance of the fjord, we immediately found a lot of beautiful wildlife. There were Antarctic fur seals laying in the tussock grass. There were Antarctic cormorants, kelp gulls and Antarctic terns nesting on the grassy cliffs. Families of fur seals were resting and playing on the surrounding beaches. Loads of tiny fur seals running around the shorelines playing with each other. And an animal that everybody wanted to see, the king penguin! Multiple king penguins were standing on the beaches from whom most of were moulting.

These penguins will be there for the following weeks until they have a completely different coat of feathers for the winter. Further into the harbour, we were able to cruise underneath giant walls of metamorphic rock. In the very end there was a small glacier that marked the furthest away we could go. An incredible first zodiac cruise on South Georgia. After dinner we had our recap from Eduardo who explained the plan for tomorrow. A day that will certainly amaze everybody seeing hundreds of thousands of king penguins in a bay. We can’t wait.

Day 10: Gold Harbour, St Andrews Bay

Gold Harbour, St Andrews Bay
Fecha: 25.01.2024
Posición: 54°36.2 S 035°51.5 W
Viento: VAR
Clima: Clear
Temperatura del Aire: +4

We started the day under a blue sky, but foggy. Fortunately, the clouds disappeared as soon as we started our activities. A magnificent Zodiac cruise in Gold Harbour brought us close to a grand site.

Dozens of elephant seals, sea lions by the hundreds, and king penguins basked or frolicked on the beach. Elephant seals congregate on this beach during the breeding season. The larges males form harems of several dozen females. During this period, the females have finished caring for their young, born in late spring (between September and November). They return to the beach after feeding to regain their strength. They then mate before beginning their moult. We sailed with the Zodiac along the beach, conditions were good and we could get close enough to observe these magnificent animals in detail. We pass some giant petrels floating at the surface. Many storm petrels come to pick at the food on the surface of the water. They almost seem to be able to run on the water. Fur seals do the same. Numerous groups are formed, with a few large males keeping the females close by. The view around was fantastic, with a beautiful glacier behind the beach.

After a delicious buffet lunch, we set off for a second Zodiac cruise in Saint Andrews Bay in the early afternoon. The concentration of wildlife here in the bay is incredible. More than 300,000 penguins gather here every year to breed. The scenery was great, with an immense glacier falling into the sea. The bay is rich in microcysts and kelp. Numerous cormorants and even a pipit have been spotted on the shore.

This afternoon was truly an adventure. After boarding, we enjoy a cup of tea or a drink with a pastry. The evening recap presented by Edouardo gives us the weather forecast for the next day and the program to come. Then Edouardo gives us historical details of the sites we visited. Régis finishes with a presentation on king penguins. After a delicious plated dinner, Eduardo invites us to share a moment with him on the foredeck to observe the stars.

Day 11: Ocean Harbor, Grytviken, Nordenskjöld Glacier

Ocean Harbor, Grytviken, Nordenskjöld Glacier
Fecha: 26.01.2024
Posición: 54°13.11’S / 36°26.8.4’W
Viento: ENE-3
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

We were able to admire the sunlit coast early in the morning. After breakfast, we got back into the Zodiacs and explored Ocean Harbour. The small bay was once home to the smallest whaling station on the island, founded in 1909/10. Ten years later, it was abandoned. In the bay lies the wreck of the Bayard. She was built in 1864 and was wrecked on 6 June 1911, when a storm tore her loose from her mooring and set her adrift on the beach. Today the shores are inhabited by numerous fur seals. We enjoyed the sight of the many young animals playing in the water. A large group of moulting king penguins had gathered in a riverbed at the end of the bay. The Antarctic tern also presented its offspring to us. The chick sat on a stake in the shallow water and had food brought to it in front of our eyes.

After the short excursion in the sunshine, the Plancius hieved anchor again and continued northwards along the coast. We wanted to be in Grytviken, the administrative centre of South Georgia, by midday. Two young women from the local museum gave us a short introduction to South Georgia in general and Grytviken in particular. The first ten of us at the gangway were also inspected once again to ensure that we didn't bring any seeds or similar ashore with our clothes. We would all have passed this test with flying colours.

Before the boat drivers dropped us off on land, we took a short detour past Shackleton's grave, which was unfortunately not currently open to visitors. Bird flu has also found its victims in this bay and restrictions for visitors should minimise the further spread. On land, we were drawn to the post office, the museum and the church. The urge to stretch our legs was great. Fur seals along the way and penguins next to museum artefacts stopped some of us in our tracks. The museum was well organised and allowed us to learn more about the region's whaling history as well as marine life. The small white wooden church on the edge of the former whaling station was simply furnished. However, there was a fairly large library in various languages and genres at the back.

We spent dinner in the ice-filled Cumberland East Bay. At the end of the bay was the edge of the island's largest glacier, the Nordenskjöld Glacier. The captain sailed our ship past fantastically shaped icebergs and kept the aft deck leeward, so that only the rain interfered slightly as we were served a sumptuous BBQ dinner on the aft deck.

Day 12: Hercules bay, at Sea to the Falklands

Hercules bay, at Sea to the Falklands
Fecha: 27.01.2024
Posición: 54°02.5’S / 36°32.8’W
Viento: E-3
Clima: Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +5

In the early morning, Plancius positioned at the entrance to a small bay called Hercules Bay. After breakfast, our expedition team proposed a Zodiac cruise in a place that only South Georgia can offer. Conditions were perfect, with little wind, calm seas and plenty of sunshine. Wildlife was everywhere: the cliffs were home blue-eyed shags and a few petrels, and the shores were occupied by a lot of fur seals.

Some played in the surf and kelp belts, while others napped in the sun. Giant petrels and skua flew over the bay. The shy South Georgia Pipit explored the shores and let itself be observed, delighting some of us who had been waiting for this encounter.

As we made our way along this narrow and protected bay, we heard hoarse sounds, Macaroni penguins! An inconspicuous colony had settled on a cliff slope, amid steep tussac slopes. Down below, we could watch their comings and goings from a very short distance, some jumping out of the water and climbing the steep walls separating them from their nest, others heading out to sea to find the food they need to raise their chicks.

At the far end of the bay, we admired a small cove in paradise, where King and Gentoo penguins, Fur and Elephant seals met against a backdrop of waterfalls. After these unforgettable moments, it was time to leave South Georgia and head for our next destination: the Falkland Islands. In the afternoon, as the last peaks fade away and the Plancius begins its crossing escorted by albatrosses, prions and petrels, Koen H invited us into the lounge for a reading on Shackleton, an emblematic and inspiring figure from the great period of Antarctic polar expeditions. Eduardo and his expedition team then presented the plan for the days ahead before a well-deserved dinner. In the evening, a screening of the BBC documentary "Blue Planet 2" was held in the lounge. Another busy day.

Day 13: At Sea to the Falklands

At Sea to the Falklands
Fecha: 28.01.2024
Posición: 53°00.8’S / 43°45.0’W
Viento: W-6
Clima: Clear
Temperatura del Aire: +6

Another day at sea, and for the first time on this expedition, we were facing head winds. This slowed us down slightly, but with a bit of luck and good timing it also gave us big waves crashing on our gracious bow splashing the outer decks.

For the morning program two interesting lectures were scheduled. Eduardo shared his passion for outer space when he talked about the current efforts that are undertaken to find water and possibly life in other worlds. With his passionate delivery and fascinating insights, it really made us wonder if there’s life out there.

Michael talked about whaling in the early 20th Century. Antarctica and South Georgia are magical places to visit nowadays, but in the whaling era they were places of mass death, blood and stench. It is fantastic to seeing whales making a comeback with some species showing almost pre-whaling numbers, but back then we killed hundreds of thousands and almost hunted them to the brink of extinction. In today’s world it seemed like a very cruel thing to do, but whale oil was big business and a necessary ingredient in many of our daily products. Still, seeing them today thriving and roaming free in our endless oceans is a much better way of enjoying these intelligent and gentle giants.

Michael also made a very strong point and opened our eyes when he mentioned krill fishing. We killed whales for their oil back in the day, but today krill is the new whale oil. Enormous amounts of krill are caught these days with Norway leading this industry. In Norway it’s mostly used as food for salmon farms. Krill is pinkish / orange itself and this will give the salmon its attractive pink color. Incredible but true; people only like to buy pink salmon.

However, with krill being food for almost every living creature in the oceans and especially the Southern Ocean, krill fishing needs to be more regulated and limited. If we don’t act, we will deplete the main food source for whales, seals and penguins with certain death and poor reproduction as a result. Michael made a strong and emotional point that krill fishing could be “the whaling area of the 21st century” if the situation doesn’t change. With China building enormous “krill vacuum” ships, this threat is more real than ever before, and we can’t let this happen.

Around 16:00 our lovely bartender Raquel opened the bar and with that happy hour had started as well. With everyone having a drink it was time for the South Georgia Heritage Trust auction. Eduardo had brought back a box with special South Georgia items that aren’t for sale in the souvenir shop. Among others there was a special Endurance whiskey, stone penguin book ends and a beautiful map of South Georgia, the Falklands and the Antarctic Peninsula with illustrations of the unique animals we can see in these regions.

Hosts Michael and Koen started the auction with the lower priced items and then worked their way up to a grand finale with some fantastic high bids. All together the 13 items auctioned led to a stunning end total of GBP 1440, which is the best result on Plancius this season. After recapping it was time for a delicious dinner and for most of us an early night's sleep.

Day 14: At Sea to the Falklands

At Sea to the Falklands
Fecha: 29.01.2024
Posición: 52°23.6’S / 50°12.4’W
Viento: NW-6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +9

Day 15: At Sea, Port Stanley

At Sea, Port Stanley
Fecha: 30.01.2024
Posición: 51°40.3’S / 57°33.4’W
Viento: E-2
Clima: Sunny
Temperatura del Aire: +10

This morning we woke up again with a beautiful piece of music from Eduardo’s private collection. After breakfast, Michael gave an impressive eyewitness account of the events that took place during the Falklands war. We were grateful to hear his story and his willingness to answer many questions. After lunch, we were released in Port Stanley where we could finally stretch our legs again. We all scattered around town looking for souvenirs, visiting the Museum, getting a beer in a local pub or just giving our legs a much-needed stretch. With heavier backpacks and lighter wallets, we came back to the jetty and were shuttled back to Plancius. During the recap Eduardo was making us enthusiastic about his plans for tomorrow. In the evening when sailing North of the Falklands coast to the islands in the North-West corner, we witnessed whale blows in the distance welcoming us to this beautiful part of the British Overseas Territories.

Day 16: Carcass island, Saunders island

Carcass island, Saunders island
Fecha: 31.01.2024
Posición: 51°08.2’S / 60°33.8’W
Viento: SW-4
Clima: Clear
Temperatura del Aire: +12

Pleasant music woke us up this morning. After a good breakfast, we prepared to disembark on Carcass Island. This island on the west coast of the Falklands is home to a big colony of Magellanic penguins, Gentoo penguins and many species of birds. We disembarked on a white sandy beach. From the beach, we could already see the birds and geese in the tussock. The vegetation was very characteristic, with numerous tussocks under which the Magellanic penguins dug their burrows. This species is unique in that it lays its eggs and raises its young in a burrow. This protects the chicks from predators. The skuas are never far away. We were lucky enough to see a young skua next to an adult, barely hidden in the vegetation. The island was very different from our previous stops. The largest Magellanic chicks were sticking their heads out of the burrows and taking to the air. Some had started to moult.

Higher up on the small hill, we met a small colony of Gentoo penguins. The young were grouped together in a creche. Some were having fun chasing passerines, such as long tailed meadowlarks (red-throated birds). On the other side of the island, we descended to a magnificent beach of fine white sand. A few small groups of Penguins joined the sea. At the end of the morning, we joined the Zodiacs for a short cruise to the landing on the other side of the bay. There we enjoyed a cup of coffee with biscuits prepared for us. The sun was back, and the weather was magnificent. Several young Caracas were circling in the garden.

We left the island at noon and got onboard Plancius for lunch. In the early afternoon, we disembarked on Saunders Island, which, although relatively close to Carcass, is very different. It is home to a beautiful mixed colony of black-browed albatrosses and rockhoppers. Along the way, many Magellanic penguins pointed their beaks out of their burrows. A small number of king penguins too, some incubating their eggs or warming their young chicks between their feet. In the background, a magnificent white sandy beach contrasted with the turquoise blue ocean.

We enjoyed our time on the island, but the wind picked up and it was time to get back on board. The Zodiacs had to manoeuver so that we could get in at the stern to avoid being too exposed. Once on board, after a cup of tea, we listened to Edouardo's recap about the program and Régis's presentation of the birds of the Falklands. After dinner, many of us went back out on deck to enjoy the beautiful light over the cliffs of the neighbouring islands.

Day 17: New Island, At Sea to Ushuaia

New Island, At Sea to Ushuaia
Fecha: 01.02.2024
Posición: 51°43.8’S / 60°17.1’W
Viento: N-7
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +11

Today is a special day, our last day in the Falklands. After breakfast, our expedition team took us out to New Island, in the extreme west of the archipelago. Long used as a base for whaling, as a sheep farm and for occasional attempts to collect guano, New Island is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful islands in the Falklands archipelago, as well as having possibly the most diverse range of wildlife in the region. It is a nature reserve, established by Ian Strange in 1972.

We disembarked on a small beach before taking a path through vast expanses of wild grass dotted with Upland geese. Since the end of sheep farming, local plants are gradually reclaiming their rights. The path took us to our first viewpoint, from which we could happily observe wildlife in its purest form. Before our very eyes, thousands of blue-eyed shags, rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatrosses shared the area in an incessant cacophony. The spectacle was so amazing that it was hard to focus on any one scene. Everywhere birds were taking off, landing, feeding their chicks, defending their territory...

A narrow passage threading its way through the tufts of grass gave us access to a promontory from where we could see the leaping Rockhoppers leaping out of the water and starting the difficult climb back to their colony. On this side of the island, the wind was stronger and the albatrosses were at their ease. The surrounding cliffs were magnificent. The morning light and sunshine made the scene even more beautiful.

The arrival at the gangway was indeed stormier. We had become accustomed to the good weather, which had accompanied us throughout this wonderful journey. In the afternoon, the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind had picked up and a thick fog covered the nearby coastline. After a ship cruise close to some superb cliffs, Plancius slowly made its way towards its next destination: Ushuaia. The time has come for us to return. Elke gives us a presentation on the plants of the Falklands. Before dinner, Eduardo and Koen give a final recap. The icing on the cake: the setting sun sets the sky a magical orange pink, as if to bid us farewell.

Day 18: At Sea to Ushuaia

At Sea to Ushuaia
Fecha: 02.02.2024
Posición: 54°55.3’S / 65°11.9’W
Viento: NE-3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +7

This morning Eduardo was in his “Barry White” mood and woke us up with a 70’s tune of the grandmaster of Soul music. During breakfast we could already see Staten Island, so we must have escaped another patch of horrible weather as we made quite some distance during the night. We sailed into the Le Maire channel named after the forgotten Dutch expedition of Le Maire and Schouten in 1615 AD where they discovered Staten Island and Cape Hoorn. Another forgotten fact is that the Cape was named after their ship Hoorn (Named after the Dutch city who sponsored the expedition) which was lost in a fire along the Patagonian coast.

After breakfast, Koen H. gave us a lecture about how to edit our foto’s so we all can make our neighbors and relatives jealous when we get back home. Given the number of pictures we took on this trip we will be editing them in the next decades. After Koen’s lecture, Eduardo gave a presentation about time, clocks and navigation.

We were paid a visit by Dolphins after lunch, Michael showed us some historical movies about 20th century Antarctic exploration. After our final recap we had a cocktail with the captain and went to the restaurant for our last meal. During dinner the household and galley teams presented themselves. One last night onboard we enjoyed the views of the Beagle channel.

Day 19: Disembarkation day

Disembarkation day
Fecha: 03.02.2024
Posición: 54° 48.6’S / 66° 54.0’W
Viento: E-4
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +8

We docked back at Ushuaia, while many of us enjoyed our last sleep onboard Plancius. With our bags packed and left outside our doors for the staff to collect, we enjoyed our final hearty breakfast from the galley team. Following breakfast, we disembarked the ship and said goodbye to Pippa and all the team. Whilst many of us leave with some sadness, we are grateful to be back on solid ground and with our hearts full of fond memories and unforgettable experiences from our exploration Antarctica Peninsula.

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!

Total distance sailed:

3173 nautical miles

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Ernesto Rubio-Herrera and his team, Hotel Manager Michael Frauendorfer, and all the crew and staff of M/V Plancius, it has been a pleasure traveling with you!

Detalles

Código del viaje: PLA27-24
Fechas: 16 ene. - 3 feb., 2024
Duración: 18 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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