PLA29-24, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia – Embarkation Day

Ushuaia – Embarkation Day
Fecha: 13.02.2024
Posición: 54° 48.6’S / 66° 54.0’W
Viento: W-6
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +14

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 which is also call ‘the end of the world’. But during our expedition we will go even further South.

We were not expected to embark gracious M/V Plancius until 16:00. That gave us time to recover from the long journey south and to relax and explore the city of Ushuaia.

At 16:00 it was time to make our way up the gangway of M/V 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 17:30 a mandatory safety drill was scheduled so our presence in the lounge was required. We were first welcomed by expedition leader Michael and then the chief officer Romanas guided us through a safety video and the drill procedure. Before we knew it, we all sat in the lounge wearing our big and bulky orange life vests and when we heard the abandon ship alarm, we all made our way outside to the lifeboats where the second officer, Don, informed us further.

With the ship on its way, captain Ernesto came down to the lounge where he greeted us with a glass of Italian Prosecco, while speaking some warm welcome words. Micheal then gave us more information about the program and the planning 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. As the evening creeped the Patagonian sky set on fire with incredible hues of red, orange and pink colors over the last islands of Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean side of the Beagle channel. While looking at the sky a small pod of Dusky Dolphins swam alongside the wake of the ship escorting us towards the outer waters of the Drake passage. The fun had just begun!

Day 2: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Fecha: 14.02.2024
Posición: 57° 17.1’S / 63° 13.0’W
Viento: W-5
Clima: Part. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Our first day on the Drake passage. The ship was rocking and rolling, and we had to slowly train our sea legs. We started the day with a delicious breakfast in the restaurant and many people were present, which is always a good start to the sea days. Shortly after breakfast we were invited to the mandatory briefing about IAATO. This introduction to the overseeing organization that works out the rules and regulations for visiting the White Continent. Some of the most important parts are safety distance from wildlife and avoiding introducing invasive species into the continent.

To breathe some fresh air, a walk up to the bridge was a must. There the clinometer was measuring the rolling of the ship; readings oscillated from 10⁰ to 16⁰ on average with peak of 20⁰-22⁰. Quite a dance for most of us who had to hold firmly on the rails inside the ship.

The day was gorgeous with an intense blue sky dotted here and there by thin alto cumulus. Wind conditions were ideal for observing and photographing massive seabirds such as Black-browed, Wandering and Royal Albatrosses gliding past the ship. These birds belonging to the order of the Procellariiformes are adapted for living at sea. Massive wingspans and high Lift-to-drag ratio allow them to fly with the minimum use of energy, while being a tubenose helps to find the right direction and intensity of the wind to harness its power.

After a delicious buffet lunch prepared by our exception galley team and attended with smiles in the restaurant, it was time for the activity briefings. Massimo and Dave started with mountaineering, followed by Koen and Marco with the camping activity and closed by Alexis with kayaking.

Later in the afternoon we had our first official Recap. Michael presented us the plans for the next day together with the weather forecast and afterwards Marco talked about the influence of wind patterns in Antarctica; Koen introduced us to the world of the Antarctic Convergence, and we close with Steffi and some historical and scientifical importance of the Drake passage.

In the end a day filled with new information and great preparation to get ready for our first landing in Antarctica. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be as compliant as today and our sea legs will be improved.

Day 3: At Sea – Drake Passage and Bransfield Strait

At Sea – Drake Passage and Bransfield Strait
Fecha: 15.02.2024
Posición: 61° 43.4’S / 63° 57.2’W
Viento: Part. Cloudy
Clima: Part. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Our second day in the Drake we continued sailing South. and within Antarctic waters as we have crossed the Antarctic convergence during the night. The swell had continued to rock us all night, with persistent waves of 4-4.5m and wind of 20-22 knots.

After a good breakfast and a trip up to the bridge wings for some of us to get some fresh air; we were invited to attend the activity sign up. Called by groups we aligned alongside the central part of the lounge starting with Mountaineering, then camping and eventually kayaking with Alexis. Soon afterwards we collected our muck boots, our most precious piece of equipment indispensable for keeping our feet dry during the wet landing on the shore of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Lunch was served and followed up by a nice coffee and tea meeting, and chat in the lounge. In the meantime, the bridge team had spotted some blows in the distance which were duly announced. A few minutes and we were travelling alongside a small group of in whales. The second biggest cetacean of the ocean after the blue whale, this species can reach up to 50 tonnes and measure 20-22m in length. The body of these giants is relatively thin with a slender rostrum and large hook-like dorsal fins that are situated in the upper fourth of the body. It has an elongated ridge on its back, and around 350 to 400 baleens. Like all rorquals, the fin whale has grooves between the tip of the lower jaw and the nave.

Back into the lounge again for Biosecurity during which the staff team helped us to eliminate any chance of introducing invasive species into the White continent. Koen gave an elegant presentation about photography and composition and the afternoon was wrapped up by Michael recap and the presentation for the next day plan.

Excitement was in the air as we were approaching the Antarctic peninsula, sailing West of the Smith Island down into Dallmann bay and the Melchior islands.

Day 4: Cuverville and Orne Island

Cuverville and Orne Island
Fecha: 16.02.2024
Posición: 64° 40.3’S / 62° 37.5’W
Viento: NE-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

The day started very early, with an amazing announcement from Michael, WE ARRIVED IN ANTARCTICA! The feeling was overwhelming. Cuverville Island was waiting for us.

Cuverville stands at the entrance of Errera Channel and is flanked by the precipitous mountains and glaciers of the Antarctic mainland. The island is a 252-meters high (826 feet) rock with a long shingle beach at its foot, home to a sizable colony of gentoo penguins. The explorer de Gerlache led an Antarctic expedition here from 1897-99 and named the island after a vice-admiral in the French Navy.

With this first landscape, we started to feel what was going to come! Michael and Steffi were welcoming us on our first landing. We saw our first species of Bruis-tail penguins, the cute Gentoos; moreover, we had the opportunity to observe some grown up chicks. They were the sweatiest! Three different paths had been laid out by the expedition team: two of them laid on the lower part of the island reaching the easternmost and westernmost rockeries, whereas a third one led onto a small hill with some interesting views of the Errera channel and the Gerlache strait in the distance.

After Lunch, our second landing was at Orne Island; a cluster of small, low-lying rocky islands at the entrance to the Errera Channel between Arctowsky Peninsula and the northern coast of Ronge Island. The Orne Islands were first surveyed by Gerlache's Belgian expedition in 1989 - the first to over winter in Antarctica and 'kick starting' the heroic age.

Here we could meet a second species of Brush-tail penguin! The adorable Chinstraps, with their “helmets strap”. More chicks were visible around the rockeries, plenty of territorial and late nesting Brown Skuas were patrolling the area, often flying on top of our heads, whilst lazy Antarctic Fur Seals were resting and hiding amongst granitic boulders.

Soon it was time to wrap up the operation and head back to the ship where, just before dinner, Michael explained to us our plans for tomorrow. Afterwards we had the opportunity to learn some informative topics from the Expedition Staff: Steffi: “The Circle of life of the penguins”, Alexis: “Loss of the Body Heat” and Koen: “Composition in Photography”.


Location PM: George’s Point, Rongé Island

The team kicked off the first mountaineering excursion for Oceanwide’s Plancius 29 voyage in style. Atmospheric but still conditions had us in the Zodiacs over a glassy sea. There had been a slight delay as we were all hanging over the sides of Plancius as the pair of Humpback whales frolicked right up to the sides of the vessel.

It’s quite the jig-saw puzzle find just the right landing at George’s Pt. The easy one to the right was taken by 20 odd seals. We eventually found a lovely dry foot landing over to the left.

Past the Gentoo colony we wound our way up a gentle glacier past very impressive crevassing, stuck our noses over to observe one very deep one. Some of the group headed up the headwall to the Col, while the rest did a long loop further up the glacier and back to our pickup.

Quite the way to get the ball rolling.


Location AM: Cuverville Island, Errera Channel

Outside of the ship it was overcast. Light breeze from the west pushing the brash ice into the inlet between Cuverville and Rongé Island. We had a nice kayaking session surrounded by this silent ice sculptures, we went to the other side of the island, and we visited the gentoo colony located close to the mooring chains used by the Explorers of the Belgium Expedition de Gerlache during the last days of 1899.

We saw some fur seals, one Weddell seal and many juvenile skuas in one of the rocky beaches. It was a perfect morning for all the group.

Location PM: Orne Island, Errera Channel

The afternoon was more challenging due to the weather conditions. We visited the west side of the Rongé Island, recognizing the Gentoo colony landscape, then we did a long cross to Orne Island, and we saw some other type of penguins, some chinstraps swimming and porpoising in the vicinity of the kayaks. Several fur seals and Weddell seals lying in the little rocky cliffs of the main island. We had some precipitation during the afternoon.


Location: Dorian Bay, Wiencke Island

However, the day was not over yet! Fifty happy campers were going to spend the night off the ship. After dinner, we put on our warm clothes and went directly to the gangway. There, we picked up our camping kit and jumped into the Zodiacs. Damoy Point was the place where we spent the night! We were received by Marco, Koen and Valeria on our “Home” for the night. After climbing a little snowy hill, we first started digging some snow to have some shelter in case of winds. After that, we slid inside our bivies, mattresses and sleeping bag, and a lot of pictures after, we fell sleep one by one and the camping start to be in silence.

Day 5: Damoy Point and Goudier Island

Damoy Point and Goudier Island
Fecha: 17.02.2024
Posición: 64°49.0’S / 63°31.8’W
Viento: NNE-3
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Fifty souls wandered around the lounge at about 6 o'clock in the morning sharing their experience of the previous night. Shivering and wet, they had packed up their snow-soaked sleeping gear after their Antarctic overnight stay and were glad when two Zodiacs had finally arrived ashore and had brought them back to the warm and dry Plancius, where they could take a hot shower and dress up in dry clothes.

After breakfast we headed out into the fresh air again for another exploratory landing. The snowfall had subsided somewhat and as soon as we had strapped on our snowshoes at Damoy Point, the sun occasionally peered out through the broken clouds. With fresh energy, we set off on a beautiful hike around the peninsula's protruding hill. One small colony of Gentoo penguins alternated with another. In between, a few penguins plodded along the well-trodden paths from colony to colony or from the colony to the coast.

Skuas patrolled the air from time to time, or looked from afar to see if there was anything edible to be had. Enchanting light illuminated the distant coasts and, as if by magic, a hole opened at one point or another to reveal some of the majestic mountainous peaks. Not far from the two historic huts of the British and Argentinians, a couple of fur seals posed. Under the museum hut itself, a few penguin families had gathered their nests and were raising their youngsters in its shelter.

Damoy hut was used by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) from 1973 to 1993. On the ridge next to it, where our mountain goats were on the move with their mountain guides, an aircraft runaway was established in 1975 on which Twin Otter aircrafts could land to reach the British station of Rothera further south, where no ship could reach earlier in the year. During the summer, 2-3 men lived in the hut to keep the airfield in running order.

At lunchtime, M/V Plancius sailed just round the corner, where we were able to greet the staff from Port Lockroy in the afternoon. Freshly showered on board, they gave us a talk about life and work at the station and allowed us to send postcards and buy a few Antarctic souvenirs. During the sale, some of us set off on a tour around Goudier island and the multiple rocks that dotted the bay. The area was first discovered in 1898 by Adrien de Gerlache leader of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, and later surveyed and charted by the first French Antarctic Expedition by Jean-Baptiste Charcot. Hence much of the toponomy of the area is associated with French explorers, geographers or politicians.

Our guides took us on a leisurely cruise among icebergs and rocky outcrops where we could observe Gentoo penguins and Blue-eyed Shags, safe in the knowledge that we would soon be back in the warm and dry. Around a small rocky outcrop, a Leopard seal popped its head out of the frigid waters of the bay; perhaps curious of our presence or patrolling the area in search of a distracted penguin.


Location AM & PM: Damoy Runaway, Wiencke Island

The day started ominously with pre breakfast strong winds and snow. But as we got closer to the “Go” point conditions improved and we headed into a landing on a rock point in Damoy Bay.

For the morning’s crew with ambitions for Jabet Col, there still wasn’t enough clearance for that task, even though there were a few tempting glimpses. But we had a great circumnavigation of the historic British “airfield” glacier. Complete with a few small crevasses en route.

The afternoon team had a similar adventure, but in reverse, with lovely views of Goudier Island and Port Lochroy (Base A) on the way back.

Day 6: Girard Bay and Yalour Island

Girard Bay and Yalour Island
Fecha: 18.02.2024
Posición: 65°06.9’S / 64°03.3’W
Viento: N-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

We were woken up at 7am by Michael. We were just in front of the Canal Lemaire, about to cross it. A unique and unmissable sight. The Lemaire Channel is a narrow passage on the West of Danco coast in the Antarctic peninsula, bordered to the East by the mainland and to the West by Booth Island. The surrounding mountains rise to over 1,000 m (about 3280.84 feet). The narrowness of the channel makes for meticulous and very impressive navigation. For more than thirty minutes, we all stood on the snow-covered bridges, enjoying the spectacle.

After a good breakfast, we got ready for our activities. Mountaineering, kayaking and zodiac cruises were on the program in Girard Bay, south of Lemaire channel. The weather was overcast but not very windy, and the water in the bay was a glassy mélange of brash ice and bergy bits and small to mediums-size icebergs ranging from blocky to dome shapes, pinnacles and dry docks. We soon spotted an Adelie penguin on the ice, the third species of penguin we've discovered in the last days. Black and white with a white ring around the eye.

Further on, a crabeater seal was resting. Contrary to its name, these seals do not eat crabs, but mainly krill. They have a specific set of teeth, and their jaws, once clenched, work like a sieve. The seals are then able to spit out the sea water while keeping the elements of their meal, krill and small fish. The light on the glacier was fantastic, and we sailed through the brash ice to get close to the leopard seals. Massive, with a strong jaw and spots on its skin, this solitary marine mammal is a penguin predator.

We cruised a good distance along the edge of the glacier, known as the Leay glacier, then we had the chance to encounter a young humpback whale. She came closer to us before diving and showing up her fluke.

After lunch, which was always appreciated on board, we disembarked on Yalour island. This island, which is very different from the previous sites we visited, is home to many mosses and a few species of vascular plants, including the Antarctic Hair Grass. The snow covering most of the island took on a red or green colour, typical of this site. The island is also home to colonies of Adelie penguins. Young penguins, still in their down feathers, were flexing their wings and gesticulating. Others insisted on asking one of their parents for food. The giant petrel kept watch and flew over the colony several times, no doubt trying to predate a youngster left alone.

The afternoon was also an opportunity to take a zodiac cruise between the surrounding islets and icebergs. The weather was cloudy, but the experience was pleasant. We were able to get close to Antarctic terns and, if we were lucky, a whale that was curious about our activities.

Back on board, Michael and the expedition team gave us some insight on the next day schedule; Koen gave us a presentation on photography, and Elke on the citizen science program with the Happy Whales and penguin colony counts. After that, we were invited to dress warmly for dinner on the aft deck! A barbecue was waiting for us, as was a real buffet, with a magnificent view over the Lemaire channel in which we were sheltered for the evening. Music and dancing helped to liven up the end of the evening.


Location AM: Hovgaard Island

Our crew this morning for Hovgaard awoke to a beautiful morning with low hanging clouds and an early start with the amazing transit through the Lemaire Channel and over to Hovgaard and Pleneau Island.

In calm winds and comfortable temperatures, we got ashore and climbed up to the glacier past some Skua nest with chicks. We’d been forewarned by the parents, and we gained the snow further left in more awkward ground to give them space.

We had a lovely, true Antarctic mountaineering experience, albeit the higher we climbed the less visibility we had, climbing literally into the clouds until the 2 groups couldn’t see each other 100m (about 328.08 feet) apart. We gained the high Col of Hovgaard and returned by a loop to the beach and pick up and some photos of the Skua chicks which the parents were now quite happy to allow.

Location PM: Cape Tuxen

In the afternoon our team went on an exploratory “adventure” (the meaning of which is an undertaking with an unknown outcome). Heading towards Cape Tuxen, opposite the Yalour islands, where neither Massimo or Dave/Gnarly, our guides had ever been.

With a 2 nautical mile approach, mostly through thick brash ice, the dice were rolling right up to when we emerged in an ice-free bay with a perfect beach landing.

Easy snowshoeing led us up to a bench and access to a very cool glacier, surrounded by many huge ice cliffs and glacier cirques. Oh yeah, this was our first Antarctic Continental land!

A great day out.


Location AM: Hovgaard Island, Penola Strait

The weather conditions were not the best lately, so we decided to take advantage of this morning with no precipitations to do it in two rounds, we will have the Taiwanese group first and then the Spanish group.

We had the chance to paddle following the shoreline to see from very close all type of sea birds: Kelp gulls, Brown skuas, Antarctic shags, one big Giant Petrel passing by and finally some penguins swimming around some of the kayaks.

At the end of the session, the surprise of three Weddell seals was perfect to approach them in silence and see the patterns of the fur and some details from very close.

Location PM: Yalour Islands

Again the weather conditions were challenging, some precipitation during the outing but sea conditions were ok to proceed. We paddle in between some growlers of ice, many berg bits drifting and some beautiful and massive icebergs in the distance.

Day 7: De Gerlache Strait and Orne Harbour

De Gerlache Strait and Orne Harbour
Fecha: 19.02.2024
Posición: 64°38.2’S / 62°45.9’W
Viento: VAR-2
Clima: Part. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +1

When we woke up this morning at Danco Island, we were greeted by a slightly different sky for a change: various types of cloud from almost white to dark grey and a strip of morning light on the horizon. The wind picked up during breakfast. Icebergs were also drifting in the narrow waterway, and we soon heard Michael announce from the bridge that we would have to postpone our morning activities. While we continued eating, the Plancius headed North towards Useful Island in the Gerlache Strait. As we came out into the large waterway, there were not only larger icebergs but also numerous humpback whales making their way through the water.

It soon became evident that we would have to stay on board due to the relentless wind gusts that were blowing from the southwest. Therefore, the morning was transformed into an exciting cruise ship. We watched penguins in the water and on the ice. More groups of humpback whales crossed our path, and the weather couldn't decide whether the wind would keep the clouds away and let the sunshine on the icebergs, or whether the view would be almost completely obscured by snow flurries.

We reached Orne Harbour around midday. Snow and wind wanted to spoil us here too at the beginning, but we didn't let that happen. The first Zodiacs were soon launched. The climbers set off first, equipped with ice axes and crampons, to climb Spigot Peak, a striking rock at the entrance to the fjord. Later, some kayakers ventured into the choppy sea. The rest of us went into the Zodiacs to the foot of the rock to see what kind of animals had taken up residence here.

Chinstrap penguins, Antarctic shags and kelp gulls had all settled here. Snowy sheathbills patrolled among the penguins and shags to pick up any lost food. However, the watchful skuas on their ledges did not allow this and so there were always some small arguments between the different birds. This was just fine with us, as it increased the number of photo opportunities. Right at the beginning, a humpback whale approached close to the ship.

Some Zodiacs travelled with this whale right from the start, which brought them together with other members of its species in the Gerlache Strait. There were small performances of fishing humpback whales everywhere. Adults and juveniles were equally active. Light blue patches of water marked the places where the whales had to surface again.

And indeed - with their mouths wide open or simply their throat sacs bulging, they surfaced again. Some turned in the water and their huge side fins waved through the air. If the wind was unfavorable, it blew the whales' unpleasant breath over into the boats and we wished we could go straight back to a fragrant penguin colony. This outing became a veritable study in humpback whale behaviour.

As the Plancius sailed back out into the Gerlache Strait shortly before dinner and we followed the evening recap, our travelling companion Sarah spotted a group of orcas near the ship. Before we were all on the outer decks, the whales were already swimming behind the vessel. Nevertheless, the captain made a turn, and we followed the group of orcas for a while. The large eyespot indicates that they belonged to the B type of orcas, which are mainly found in the Gerlache Strait and feed on penguins. The yellowish colour of their skin is due to diatoms that attach themselves to their skin in nutrient-rich water.

Despite the weather and the wind playing against us we managed to achieve another memorable day in the Antarctic Peninsula.


Location PM: Spigot Peak, Arctowsky Peninsula

Our planned morning excursion to Danco Island was curtailed due to wind and wave conditions not allowing a landing. We’re planning a re-match elsewhere a little later in the week.

In the afternoon we made our way over to Orne Harbour, a continental landing and Chinstrap penguin colony.

The objective was Spigot peak, one of the most iconic peaks in the peninsular, rising straight out of the bay with vertical rock cliffs on 3 sides and a steep snow slope at the back. Although the wind was still noticeable and it lightly snowed on us most of the time, we headed up. Keeping well clear of a huge snow cornice on the southern ridge we made our way up to the table-tennis table sized summit – to awesome views across the bay and the straight.

All climb we’d been hearing the zodiac groups having humpback whale encounters. Well. We didn’t miss out either. When we left the beach, we were treated to 2 Humpbacks lazing close by. When we went to idle, they came even closer than the 50m space we’d given them, rolling on their sides and generally relaxing after what must have been a big feeding session.

What a day!


Location AM: Orne Harbour, De Gerlache Strait

Finally we had a morning clear of snow falling from the sky. The bay was full of ice drifting adding to the experience, an unreal feeling. We were there, paddling in absolute silence, listening to the thunder of the massive glacier in front of us. Up there, far away, the mountaineers were conquering their Summit while we are here enjoying this amazing morning.

Day 8: Paradise Bay and Neko Harbour

Paradise Bay and Neko Harbour
Fecha: 20.02.2024
Posición: 64°54.5’S / 62°52.4’W
Viento: VAR-1
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: 0

What a day filled with beautiful moments. It all started in Paradise Bay where our captain led our ship into Skontorp Cove. An embayment on the Southeastern flanks of Paradise Harbour was filled with ice. The lack of wind in the morning made for incredible reflections in the water from the surrounding mountains. We already could see quite a few seals on the ice floes when going through the bay and that, together with the views, everybody was stoked to get off the ship to do a Zodiac cruise.

The clouds were all hoovering over the mountains which made for a very eerie feeling seeing some peaks come out above the clouds here and there. The zodiacs started out with a couple of Leopard seals laying on ice floes. Afterwards each pair of zodiacs went their own way exploring colorful icebergs and impressive walls of ice coming down from the mountains. Some Zodiacs found Weddel seals and others a humpback whale playing around in the ice.

All zodiacs came by the Argentine base called Almirante Brown named after the father of the Argentine navy, Francisco Brown, an Irish descendent that moved to Argentine in the late 1700. For more than two and a half hours we cruised around the bay and if it wasn’t for the cold, everybody could have easily stayed out another couple of hours.

During lunch we re-located the ship to Neko Harbour. A small inlet on the Northeastern side of Andvord Bay. This continental landing is situated right next to a giant glacier terminus. A wall where calving happens quite frequently. This meant that we had to take a lot of care while being at the beach during this landing and had to go up as soon as possible at the sound of cracking ice.

The landing was fantastic, we could make our way towards the Gentoo penguin rookery up on the hill. To get there we had to cross many penguin highways; these were very obvious and carved sometimes a meter deep into the snow. The views were absolutely stunning from above where we could see the Gentoo chicks playing around puddles of mud and guanos.

Halfway through the landing, we did get to experience some large calvings. The flood waves did not reach high up the beach, so everybody was safe and sound enjoying the impressive sounds of the ice breaking apart from the glacier wall. In the late afternoon we were then shuttled back to M/V Plancius for our daily recap and plans for the next day. This day had not come to an end yet because half the ship still had a camping night to experience.


Location AM: Canessa Point, Paradise Harbour

Arriving in the ice-strewn seas opposite Base Brown the mountaineers had the longer commute of 1-2 nautical miles to our objective of Canessa Point and its peak.

Lots of ice, but not tightly packed makes for the most fun high-speed slalom run through the open water leads. A nice rocky beach landing with dry feet and we’re away with a promise to not be forgotten for pickup by Steffi.

An awkward few meters of steepish loose snow-covered rocks leads us up to the plateau where we can put our snowshoes on. The glacier alternates between easy going and steep zigzags to a second high plateau under the peak. A quick look at the watch and Massimo & Gnarly decided to go for it.

Which we did. Summit! A great day out in Antarctica.

Location PM: Deville Glacier, Neko Harbour

One of the Gem’s in the crown of the Peninsula, Neko harbour is beach landing in a Gentoo colony surrounded by massive glaciers and actively calving ice cliffs into the bay and all around.

Our crew headed beyond the colony to rope and snowshoe up and head out to the climbers right above and out of sight of the beach up a glacial spur. We had the chance to get amazing views, both sides of the spur with ice-laden waters on one side, and grand glaciers, crevasses and seracs peeling into the bay on the other.


Location AM: Skontorp Cove, Paradise Harbour

We had the most unbelievable morning here. A bay full of ice, thunders coming from the glacier, some calvings in the distance, blue dark sea, dense waves in the distance, Blue-eye Shags flying over us, a beautiful seal sleeping on an ice floe, snoring and looking very healthy.

This was a morning of contemplation. A morning of Deep connection with the place.

Location PM: Neko Harbour

As usual, Neko never disappoints. Massive icebergs drifting, tons of growlers, brash ice, beautiful cliffs full of ice falls, hanging glaciers, avalanches in the distance, we had the full Antarctic circus in front of us. Surely nobody will forget this afternoon.


Location: Kerr Point, Rongé Island

After the stories of the first camping night some might have been doubting going or not. However, this night all signs looked good and the windless evening with minimal precipitation looked very favourable for this group. After dinner the fifty brave souls that had chosen to go camping were ready to head out to Kerr Point.

It stopped snowing exactly at that moment and stayed dry for most of the night from that moment on. The group was even more lucky as a dozen Weddell seals were sleeping on the snow below the camping area. They already started singing while we were setting up our sleeping kits. An incredible experience outside on the snow on Ronge island in the Errera Channel. The next morning, we did have an early morning wake call as we had to relocate the ship 3 hours up north to Foyn Harbour. By 5 in the morning most people were quite ready to go back to the ship to rest another few hours in their own warm bed. A day filled with incredible experiences and unique moments in Antarctica. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the great weather.

Day 9: Foyn Harbour and Portal Point

Foyn Harbour and Portal Point
Fecha: 21.02.2024
Posición: 64°32.6’S / 61°58.2’W
Viento: N-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +1

We couldn’t see the sun much in this expedition, but we sure couldn’t complain about the weather. Today we woke up with another windless day, somewhat clear skies and at times even some sunshine. Perfect expedition conditions!

This morning the campers got to catch up on sleep as the expedition team organized two rounds of zodiac cruising in Foyn Harbour. This time of the year Foyn Harbour is a great place for whale watching and here we could also see the shipwreck of former whaling ship the Governøren.

This large steel vessel was one of the first pelagic whaling vessels. When whaling started, whales were hunted and killed out at sea, however the dead whales had to be dragged to land to be processed in one of the whaling stations. With ships like the Governøren this was no longer needed. The ship moored in Foyn Harbour after a season wrap up party during Christmas time. We could only assume that the party involved a lot of drinking as a candle may have fallen over leading to the ship catching fire quickly. The ship was fully loaded with whale oil so you can imagine it would have been sheer impossible to extinguish this fire. Instead, the captain decided to run the ship aground to save the crew. The entire crew survived, but the ship had found its last resting place in the frigid waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.

We cruised around the wreck and at one point we could even see the remaining harpoon charges through one of the holes in the steel body of the ship. Nowadays whales, especially Humpbacks are recovering in numbers, and it was fantastic to see so many during our expedition. This morning gave us the opportunity to witness another wonderful encounter; a mother and calf were resting at the surface, but the calf seemed more awake than its mother. It moved around, rolling here and there and lifting the tail occasionally. In the absence of wind, the blows sounded very loud, and it was amazing to be so close to these gentle giants.

Before returning to the ship, we observed several fur seals on the rocks. The breeding season of the fur seals had ended so the fighting we saw today was merely practice and preparation for next season’s breeding period.

During noon M/V Plancius was relocated to Charlotte Bay, and we landed at Portal Point, part of mainland Antarctica. Although we had been in continental Antarctica since our arrival, a mainland landing remained special as for many this is when they really count their 7th continent. Portal Point is a small landing area, quite often filled with many fur seals and whales surfacing all around. The fur seals were quite close to our flagged route and at times they had to make it clear to us that they were the boss there and not us. But the secret to facing a somewhat excited fur seal is to stand your ground and not run away. Facing them and making yourself tall will sort of confuse them and eventually they will acknowledge defeat.

On the other side of the landing area remains of a former British research station CR or Cape Reclus could be seen. This station was established in 1956 and intermittently used in ’57 and ‘58 for surveying works. It looked as if the Antarctic weather conditions had almost completely disintegrated the station, but that was not the case here. The station was removed in 1996 and displayed in a museum in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands.


Location AM: Portal Point, Reclus Peninsula

Last roll of the dice for glaciated terrain and we rolled double sixes!

The cloud base was well above our head, and we had great visibility as we landed in Charlotte Bay of Portal Point and wove our way through the fur seals to the isthmus joining the point to the continent.

This climb is heavily crevassed, and some of those are HUGE. So, careful attention to correct tension and management of the rope was essential. With the team on board with that, we were able to closely explore some very impressive crevasses and see the bridges (as well as finding one or two unexpected surprises).

Great view at the high plateau on the top and back to the ship, tired but buzzing.

Day 10: Telefon Bay, Deception Island and Half Moon Island

Telefon Bay, Deception Island and Half Moon Island
Fecha: 22.02.2024
Posición: 62°44.3’S / 60°05.0’W
Viento: NE-2
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +2

Michael's wakeup call was early, at 6am, to take in the extraordinary view from the caldera entrance on Deception Island. We were now in the Southern Shetlands, still in Antarctica, but the atmosphere had changed and so had the scenery.

The navigation to enter the caldera is meticulous, as the entrance is shallow and narrow. On the starboard side we could appreciate the impressive basaltic cliffs which guard the entrance of the Neptune Bellows. Once the gate was passed, the remains of the ancient Hektor whaling station were clearly visible.

After breakfast at 6.30am, we disembarked on the black sandy beach of Telefon Bay; a completely new and impressive lunar landscape for us. We were in the very center of a thousand-year-old volcano. Deception Island is one of the most active volcanoes of Antarctica and over the past century it had undergone several eruptions, the most recent ones happened in 1968-70. It is located on the Bransfield basin, where extension over the last 4 million years (at a rate of 10mm/year) has caused the opening of the Bransfield Strait, together with persistent volcanism in the area. The rifting is connected to trench-rollback which is related to the adjacent subduction zone. The volcanism is mainly below sea level but three of these volcanic centers make it above sea level: Deception, Penguin and Bridgeman Island. These islands form the youngest emerging land of the South Shetland archipelago.

Telefon Bay is named after the whaling ship that used to be moored in this bay during the summer season. Located about 9km on the northeastern shore of Port Foster, we set foot on the ashy and rocky landscape of Deception Island; a drastic change compared to the snowy terrain of the past days. A short hike led us to the ridge of a lateral moraine carved out by glacier erosion; from here we appreciated the dark layers of different eruptive events deposited on the ice over the past centuries, and a very unique glacier feature, a dirt cone, a pyramidal cone of ice and snow that gets cover with insulated debris material ejected from the bottom or the side of a glacier.

The trail led us up on the rim of a small cinder cone, one of the many that dotted the inner part of Port Foster. From here we could enjoy a nice view of the whole caldera with the two research bases of Gabriel de Castilla and Deception looming on the horizon across the bay. Back at the shoreline the traditional Polar Plunge started right away. The participation was beyond expectation and even some of our brave staff joined the plunge after most of the participants had been shuttled back to the ship.

After lunch, we continued our navigation to Half Moon Island. The weather was at this time windy, and it started to snow. But quickly the conditions improved, and the afternoon was barely long enough to enjoy all the wildlife and breathtaking scenery on this last landing.

The Chinstrap penguins were now almost all moulting, with the youngsters now similar in size and colouration to the adults. This last stop on our trip gave us the chance to see the Elephant seals, Weddell and Antarctic Fur seals, as well as Gentoo. A great time on land, and a nice walk to stretch our legs before re-embarking for 2 days in the Drake. During the evening recap thanks to Elke we learned more about the geological history of Deception Island, and Koen shared with us a memorable video of the whales we had encounter on our voyage South. Michael showed us the weather for the next few days; the Drake passage looked very promising and relatively calm.

Day 11: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Fecha: 23.02.2024
Posición: 59°29.9’S / 63° 00.4’W
Viento: SW-4
Clima: Par. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +3

During the night we had left the calm and sheltered waters of the South Shetlands and shortly after dinner we could feel the rolling and pitching of the ship amongst the deeper waters of the southern tip of the Drake Passage.

We woke up and found ourselves surrounded by a vast expanse of dark blue sea dotted here and there by white caps. The swell had been good on us during the night, with waves of 2.4-2.6m and periods of 8 to 10 seconds; a much more suitable crossing compared to our way South.

After breakfast, Koen gave an interesting lecture about photo post-processing explained. It was interesting to learn how to improve the thousand pictures (or perhaps more) by using Lightroom. The “other” Koen followed immediately afterwards; however, he was soon interrupted by the bridge calling us the windows. Three Fin Whales were swimming beside us! The show was up for a bit longer when two more whales swam by the port side of M/V Plancius. After all that excitement, Koen could eventually finish his lecture about the first Explorers of the Antarctic continent.

Lunch was offered shortly after noon and then it was time for a short nap. Meanwhile the visibility around the ship had improved and we could observe a few Black Browed Albatross, Cape Petrels, Prions and even a few rare Grey-headed Albatrosses gliding around the ship, which at a good constant 11-11.2 knots had made good progress across the Drake.

At the afternoon the lecture marathon carried on with Steffi introducing us to the different adaptations that Antarctic wildlife had found through centuries of evolution.

The Drake continued to be nice to us, and during recap Michael gave us a great news: the captain had decided since we had made good progress during the day, to lead us towards the end of the South American continent: the archipelago of Wollaston islands where Cape Horn is located.

Valeria presented “Base Brown” and its story about the intentional fire, and finally Steffi took the microphone again to discuss the Albatrosses flying technique known as “Dynamic soaring”.

Shortly after dinner was served, while in the meantime the wind outside had increased and so did the waves. A few people spent some time around the bar sharing stories, memories and pictures of this incredible voyage to the White Continent.

Day 12: At Sea – Cape Horn and Beagle Channel

At Sea – Cape Horn and Beagle Channel
Fecha: 24.02.2024
Posición: 55°58.2’S / 66° 58.9’W
Viento: W-7
Clima: Part. Cloudy
Temperatura del Aire: +10

We awoke for our final day aboard Plancius to the rolling seas of the Southern Ocean. Three-meter swell and 20 -25 knots of wind buffeted our port side, disturbing sleep for some, whilst rocking others into an even deeper slumber. Nevertheless, we arose to another day of lectures, food and wildlife aboard Plancius as we drew ever closer to Tierra del Fuego and the archipelago of the Hermite islands.

After another delicious breakfast from our galley team, Valeria with the co-operation of other members of the staff, introduced us to the epic events of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition lead in 1901-1903 by the geologist Otto Nordenskjöld. Meanwhile, the captain and the bridge drew us closer to Cape Horn, which around 11am became visible in the distance.

Cape Horn is the southernmost tip of Hornos island, part of the Hermite islands archipelago, today located in Chilean waters and part of Cabo de Hornos National Park. The island is considered the southernmost island of South America, even though 40nm southwest of it lies Diego Ramirez islands.

Horn island was discovered and charted by a Dutch expedition lead by the Dutch navigator Willem Schouten in 1618-1619. The island was given the name of his native city, Hoorn, whereas the archipelago took the name of Jacques Hermite, a Dutch Admiral.

The view of Cape Horn was spectacular, hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters, White-chinned Petrels, Black-Browed Albatrosses and Imperial Shags were flying around the ship in the place where the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans meets. Waves and wind created a great atmosphere, at the southeastern tip of the island the lighthouse was clearly visible, and the monument of the albatrosses raised in memory of the numerous sailors who lost their lives going around the Horn stood firmly on the rocky and battered hill.

The cherry on the cake was the poem “The Albatross” by Charles Baudelaire recited by Michael on the PA.

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of a crew

Catch albatrosses, those vast sea birds

That indolently follow a ship

As it glides over the deep, briny sea.

Scarcely have they placed them on the deck

Than these kings of the sky, clumsy, ashamed,

Pathetically let their great white wings

Drag beside them like oars.

That winged voyager, how weak and gauche he is,

So beautiful before, now comic and ugly!

One man worries his beak with a stubby clay pipe;

Another limps, mimics the cripple who once flew!

The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky

Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;

When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,

His giant wings prevent him from walking.

Everyone was outside enjoying the magical moment, while the staff and galley team had organized hot chocolate on deck 7 right behind the bridge.

The afternoon carried on with Michael’s lecture about “Diving in Antarctic” and later by Marco’s talk about Patagonia and its conservational efforts to restore wildlife. Meanwhile M/V Plancius had reached the calm and protected waters of the Beagle channel which showed us all its rich wildlife: rock and imperial shags flew around the stern of the ship, whilst black-browed albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels were gliding alongside.

Eventually it was time for Captain Ernesto’s farewell cocktail. We gathered for a final time in the lounge and after a rousing speech, the captain offered a toast to this incredible voyage and Michael thanked the team and crew for their efforts. The festivities finished with a beautiful slideshow – a fitting memory of a truly amazing Antarctic basecamp.

Dinner was served shortly after, whilst we picked up the pilot and continued our navigation towards the port of Ushuaia which we reached in the late evening.

Day 13: Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day
Fecha: 25.02.2024
Posición: 54° 48.6’S / 68° 17.7’W
Viento: VAR-1
Clima: Overcast
Temperatura del Aire: +12

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 and said goodbye to Michael 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 of the Antarctica Peninsula.

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

Total distance sailed: 1789 nautical miles

Farthest South: 65°14,5’S / 64°10.5’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Michael Green and his team, Hotel Manager Ingrid Van der Loo, and all the crew and staff of M/V Plancius, it has been a pleasure traveling with you!


Código del viaje: PLA29-24
Fechas: 13 feb. - 25 feb., 2024
Duración: 12 noches
Barco: El Plancius
Embarque: Ushuaia
Desembarque: Ushuaia

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