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PLAEC-21, trip log, Antarctica peninsula, South Georgia, and Falkland Island – Solar Eclipse

by Oceanwide Expeditions

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Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Datum: 23.11.2021
Positie: 55°53’S / 067°42’W
Wind: ESE 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +9

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll be going south...a long way south. But for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavors and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Sitting in the bus, in front of MV Plancius, our home for the next 19 days, we are thrilled to be so close to get on the ship. Martin, our expedition leader for the voyage, called us in group to get onboard where we met Aleks, the hotel manager, and all his team. It was time for us to discover our cabins and the ship, which is quite of a maze…

Everyone was on board and for the first time we heard, on the PA system, an announcement. We had to meet in the lounge or the dining room for the security presentation. We all gathered in the lounge on deck five to begin our safety briefing. First was a video, entertaining but also clearly showing us what was important to pay attention to on the ship for our safety. Romano and Nino gave the different instruction in case something happen, even if it is unlikely, better safe than sorry. We were standing outside waiting for the ship to leave Ushuaia when the alarm announcing the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill rung. Everyone went to their cabin picking their life jacket and gathering in their respective muster stations.

Let’s the trip begin, Plancius was slowly leaving the port under Ushuaia’s sunset. Even with the overcast weather, the light was beautiful. Shortly after, around 8pm, Alex called us in the dining room for our first dinner onboard. We could feel the excitement in the air while everyone was enthusiastically chatting waiting for the meal to be served. After dinner, some of us went to the lounge to enjoy the end of the evening, but most of us went directly to bed after an exhausting but oh long-waited day.

As we thought that the night would be uneventful, we woke up or were interrupted by Martin, around 11pm, who told us that we had to turn around because of a medical emergency. It was life threatening and important to take care as fast as possible. Knowing that we had a long crossing toward us, we went to bed hoping that tomorrow we will be out of the Beagle channel. The real journey just started, and everyone is excited to arrive in Antarctica.

Day 2: At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage

At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage
Datum: 24.11.2021
Positie: 55°01.2’S / 066°46.0’W
Wind: NW 3
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +9

After a brief return to Ushuaia during the night, we sailed back down to the Beagle channel, once again, passing through its mouth into the Southern Ocean, at around 10am. As we moved from sheltered waters of the channel to the open waters below, the wind picked up to 30 knots, driving waves into the starboard side and sending Plancius into a perpetual roll. The doctors were kept busy prescribing medication.

Later in the morning, we had our IAATO briefing, where Martin explained more about our expedition down south and all the responsibilities we have to protect and preserve Antarctica’s untamed wilderness. After lunch and a well-deserved nap, Sarah and Pippa presented their lectures on whales, describing each specie and how we could ID them as we crossed the Drake. All eyes were pinned on the churning ocean, hoping to spot a stray blow, or arched back.

In the evening, Martin shared the plan for the coming day and Eduardo offered a brief presentation describing the 1000-year-long conveyor belt of the Southern Ocean Convergence, where freezing Antarctic waters meet warmer northern waters, driving nutrients to the ocean’s surface for marine mammals to feast upon.

As the end of the day waned, a pair of light mantled sooty albatross joined our ship, gliding off the stern as we powered further south. Then, as if by magic, a Wandering Albatross, the world largest flying bird, also joined the fun, its three-meter wingspan unmistakable as it gracefully banked around the ship.

After a delicious dinner, some retired to their cabins, still suffering from the swell striking our side. Other brave souls made straight for the bar, enjoying an evening aperitif to cap off our first full day on the Drake Passage. Tomorrow, we knew, would be a busy day, making final preparations for our first landings in Antarctica.

Day 3: At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage

At Sea to Antarctica – Drake’s Passage
Datum: 25.11.2021
Positie: 59°32.8’S / 064°02.9’W
Wind: W 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: 0

We spent our third day on board crossing the last lag of the Drake Passage underway to Antarctica. The Drake Passage known among the seasoned sailors just as "the Drake" can be treacherous and our encounter with it left a few of our passengers and crew on board a bit seasick. However, during our third day, more passengers appeared on deck feeling much better and showing some of their new acquired skills such as sea legs and an adaptation to an environment in constant movement.

Sunrise was very early in the morning given the high south latitude where we were sailing, and activity on board commenced smoothly with the announcement of our Expedition Leader, Martin, making the wake-up call. Breakfast was served and our plan for the day was to undertake a few chores and paperwork that must be done before our arrival to Antarctica. Namely our Expedition Staff organized boots for guests, the waterproof shoes to be worn when going ashore. This was immediately followed by implementing the Antarctic Biosecurity Protocol. This is an activity where we clean all the pockets and bags of all the guests and Staff/crew personnel going ashore. The idea of doing this is to ensure that we prevent the introduction of foreign species. It is by implementing this small measure, that we help to preserve Antarctica and keep it pristine and clean.

Once we completed our Biosecurity protocol, we had the chance to enjoy our lunch in the dining room. In the afternoon, we performed a general COVID test for the whole complement of the ship. We started after lunch. The tests were made under the directions of Helga and Tom our ship's doctors. We all got the results of the test shortly after, and, to our relief, all the tests resulted into negative, reassuring our Captain and crew that all the measures implemented have been successful.

As we sailed south in the Drake, we had a wonderful close encounter with a pod of Orcas. Our Captain and Expedition Leader decided to turn the ship around to follow the pod for a while. We must note that this was a great encounter and perhaps one of the best we will have in while, especially crossing the Drake Passage. Along with this pod of Orcas, we also had the chance to see a couple of Humpback Whale blows in the distance, a few Southern and Northen Giant Petrels, Sooty Albatrosses, and a variety of prions that delighted the eyes of many of our ornithologist and marine mammals’ fans on board.

In the late afternoon, as we continued sailing south reaching the southern edge of the Drake Passage, Martin, our Expedition Leader, provided a briefing about our procedures regarding the embarkation and disembarkation from/to our zodiac boat. This is yet another, but very important, briefing aiming to ensure safety during our operations.

The activities of the day ended with our daily recap led by Martin. During the recap Martin presented our plans for next day at the South Shetland Islands, Sarah presented a recap about Orcas, bringing up to date knowledge about these marine mammals. Last but not least, at the end of the recap, Laura our glaciologist and George our photographer on board, presented the Iceberg competition, offering glory and reward to those able to guess when we may sight the first Iceberg during our voyage.

Day 4: Elephant Point/Pendulum Cove

Elephant Point/Pendulum Cove
Datum: 26.11.2021
Positie: 62°41.2’S / 060°49.3’W
Wind: NE 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

Our First Day in Antarctica! Wow!

It was really starting, were we actually in Antarctica? The water temperature dropped to 0°C which meant we passed the Antarctic Convergence and reached the nutrient-rich water of Antarctica. As we looked at the map on our television, it said South Shetland Island, which are located at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. We had a relaxing early morning while the expedition team went out, around 7:30 am, to prepare our first landing. Today, we were visiting Elephant Point. Two bays next to each other, situated on Livingston Island.

As we arrived on the beach, we were just impressed by the beauty of this place. A beautiful beach with different sized cobbles and some higher cliffs around. The cliffs were full of lichens and mosses in all variation of greens. Incredible, we could not believe how much vegetation there was. The beach was full, I mean packed, of Southern Elephant seals. They came in all kinds of sizes. The expedition team explained to us how the different genders differ in size. However, we had a soft spot for all these little elephant seals pups and their big eyes. Well little… not so much anymore. The babies were approximately 3-5 weeks old and weighted already more than us. Their cute little eyes who were observing us made our heart melt. For sure, we felt in love, and when you loved someone, you could also accept any type of noise that comes out of their bodies, as noisy as it was.

This place was just incredible, we strolled along the beach, and we saw our first penguin. I mean our FIRST!! The time flew by so quickly, we barely had enough time to enjoy the nesting giant petrels, the kelp gulls and even the seal and bird carcasses. It just reminded us about the circle of life and how close life and death coincidence. We soaked up every minute of this sunny morning and cannot believed what a fabulous place we saw here.

After our landing, we filled our belly with a delicious lunch and enjoyed a nice quiet time on the ship. Plancius navigating toward Deception Island is probably a highlight of ay Antarctica trip. Deception Island is an active volcano that collapsed, and the inner crater filled with water. It is now an active caldera. There is a small gap where the ships can sail through the crater which is called Neptune’s Bellow. We were in the inside of an active volcano; how crazy this was!

Again, the expedition team prepared our landing and we quickly followed. They dropped us on a mystical beach, fog all around. Well, this was not fog, but steaming water from hot springs. Right under the sand surface, we felt some geothermal activity and we could warm our fingers in the water. We enjoyed a nice hike on the beach with some penguin, until it started to snow. Now we understood what the team meant when they talked about always changing weather. The wind was picking up and the snowflakes were getting bigger and bigger. We are explorers, so we continued to visit the beach where we could observe the remains of the old Chilean Research station that was abandoned in 1967 during the last series of eruptions. Before we got completely wet, we headed back to the landing site and took a zodiac back to a ship. We had time to warm up with a cup of tea, before we were called in for a nice dinner followed by the Precap for the next day. Martin gave us all the information we needed for tomorrow. What an incredible day! Tired, but satisfied we called it the day. We could not wait for what the next day would bring.

Day 5: Neko Harbour

Neko Harbour
Datum: 27.11.2021
Positie: 64°48.5’S / 062°39.6’W
Wind: NNE 6
Weer: Overcast/Snow
Luchttemperatuur: +2

Strong winds diverted us from our morning destination, but after another sumptuous lunch onboard, we were able to make our first landfall on the Antarctic Continent at Neko Harbour, at the southeast corner of Andvord Bay. This is an exhilarating moment for all of us who have dreamed about visiting the seventh continent!

Soon to be occupied by whalers, the bay was discovered during the 1897-99 expedition of the Belgian Adrien de Gerlache. It is boot-shaped like the map of Italy, and Neko is situated near the toe. This affords great shelter from the strong winds offshore; and more suitable conditions throughout the afternoon provided us with a proper introduction to the variability of Antarctic weather – from brilliant sunshine to overcast skies – as well as flurries, snow showers, and even a bit of sleet.

We were 721-miles (1,160 km) southeast of Ushuaia, and it was easy to see why this spot was favorable for the establishment of early whaling operations. Isolated from the great swells and currents, the harbour facilitated the operation of the floating whaling ship Neko for the first few decades of the 20th Century. We were surrounded by magnificent scenery - towering peaks, heavily crevassed glaciers, and regular rumblings from the calving of new icebergs into the bay.

As with the steamy black sands at Pendulum Cove, we were greeted by gentoos, skuas and kelp gulls, which nest here. Landing on this rocky point was a bit more challenging than the flat beach, but well worth it. Many of the passengers were relieved at how accessible the site was for hiking and photography. However, we had been entertained by flyovers of terns, storm petrels and an occasional shag.

Some impact on wildlife behavior was inevitable wherever people interact with animals here, but following guidelines established by the Antarctic Treaty Visitor Guide, we were able to minimize ours and not leave any lasting impression.

In 1949, the Captain Fleiss Refuge Station and penguin observatory (Refugio Neko) was established by the Argentine navy. Felipe Fleiss was an officer on the corvette Uruguay, which rescued Otto Nordenskjold’s crew in Antarctica, manning the Swedish Antarctic Expedition. Refugio Neko was heavily damaged in 2010 by storms and the hut was removed. Portions of the foundation remain and are covered by rugged mosses.

After a very successful afternoon photographing birds and landscapes, we boarded the zodiacs, and headed back to the ship for warm drinks and pleasantries while comparing our favorite photographs and observations. As every day of this trip, we ended it with a nice recap where Martin told us the plan for the next day and we got called in the dining room for a warm dinner. Another beautiful day in Antarctica!

Day 6: Brown Station / Stony Point

Brown Station / Stony Point
Datum: 28.11.2021
Positie: 64°53.2’S / 062°52.9’W
Wind: ESE 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

This morning, we woke up in the stunning Paradise Bay. As we ate breakfast, the expedition team made their attempts to land at Base Brown, the Argentine summer station on the bay’s northern edge. Yet, despite their digging, they were unable to free the landing from over two meters of snow that had accumulated during the winter. Instead, Martin decided to drop extra zodiacs in the water for an extended cruise across the ice-filled waters of Paradise Bay.

After a nice stroll close to the station, admiring some gentoo penguins, we found nesting Blue-Eyed shags, perched high above the water line. As we continued, we also saw a female Weddell Seal laying on an ice flow in front of a 30m meter glacier protruding out over the water. Some of us enjoyed a moment of polar silence on the water before we returned to Plancius, weaving in-between icebergs, following the smell of head chef’s delicious curry.

In the afternoon, we sailed across the bay to Stony Point, making another continental landing. This was our first excursion with snowshoes, and we all felt a little unsteady on our feet. The snow was deep, and many found themselves slipping and sliding across the snow, having to focus intensely upon maintaining their balance as we made our way up the peak for views of the immense glacier behind. As the landing ended, we got called back to the beach for the classic polar plunge. As we got the signal from Martin, the bravest of the group undressed and walked towards the water which was barely above 0°C. Walk was a strong word… we looked like penguin wobbling on the pebbles. Most of us stayed in the water for only a few seconds as our toes started freezing, but some of us did a proper plunge, getting wet head to toe. As exhilarating as it was, the expedition team quickly drove us back to the ship for a warm shower.

As the day ended, we enjoyed a brief evening recap and then another amazing meal in the dining room. As we slept, Captain and the bridge team repositioned the ship, moving ever further south, towards the famous Lemaire Channel.

Day 7: Peterman Island/ Port Charcot

Peterman Island/ Port Charcot
Datum: 29.11.2021
Positie: 65°11.1’S / 064°08.2’W
Wind: SE 2
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +8

Our day started really early with an announcement from our Expedition Leader saying that we will start crossing the Lemaire Channel soon. Even if it was tempting to stay in our warm bed, we all headed to the back and front decks to admire the beautiful landscape. Around 7am, we started to enter the strait under great weather conditions, including blue sky, a comfortable temperature, as well as a decent breeze. As we sailed from the North, we could appreciate, towards port side, the twin pointy mountains known as Uma Peaks rising more than 700m above sea level and the Cléry Peak, another pointy mountain rising above 600m, on the starboard side. We had doubts about the ice conditions inside the channel and we were prepared to turn around in case the narrowest point would be blocked. However, the luck stayed on our side, and, as we continued, we realized that it was possible to transit the whole channel without hindrance. Soon we came close to the towering peaks located at the narrowest point, named the Wandel peak with its 980 m of altitude. The transit was magnificent and, around 8am, we made it to the other side of the channel.

The transit of the Lemaire Channel marked the start of the very first day with truly sunny weather. Breakfast was served immediately after 8am and, soon, around 9am, the expedition members were launching the zodiacs to prepare Peterman Island’s landing. The landing site of Peterman Island is called Port Circumcision, a small cove discovered and used as a base for the Ship Pourquoi-Pas?, which overwintered there in 1909. The cove was found on 1st of January 1909 by the expedition led by Jean-Batiste Charcot. It was a split landing, with part of our group visiting Adelie and Gentoo’s penguin colonies located in the upper hills of the island and part of the group visiting the island from sea during a zodiac cruise. Halfway through the morning, both groups swapped, so we all had the chance to enjoy all the wildlife of the island as well as the various forms of icebergs grounded around. To make the day even better, during the zodiac cruise, we saw a couple of crabeater seals and many Antarctic shags flying around to the delight of the birders among the group.

At noon, we went back to the ship for lunch and, immediately after, we had to go through another COVID test to make sure everyone on board was healthy. Led by our two ship doctors, all the tests turned out to be negative and we could move on with our afternoon’s program. We launched our zodiacs again to do a long cruise in a big iceberg graveyard. Under the bright sunlight, the cruises started with some amazing icebergs showing all the shades of blue. Ten minutes in the cruise, Pippa’s zodiac spotted a group of Minke whale feeding surrounded by groups of gentoo penguins doing pretty much the same thing. One group after the other went toward the location pointed by Pippa and we were lucky enough to get a nice encounter with these beautiful marine mammals. Next, deep in the fast ice, we had the chance to encounter a Leopard Seal. This was one of the highlights of this zodiac cruise, as well as the spectacular shapes of ice surrounding us during the whole cruise.

Up on returning to our ship, we enjoyed our traditional BBQ night, an activity in which we enjoyed very much the fine food prepared by Khabir and his staff. While eating, we were surrounded by the wonderful landscapes of the channels around. The day ended with our ship sailing through the Lemaire Channel, once again. While we were sailing north, everybody on the half deck had time to watch a beautiful Antarctic sunset.

Day 8: Orne Island

Orne Island
Datum: 30.11.2021
Positie: 64°39.5’S / 062°38.8’W
Wind: N 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

We were curious what highlight we can expect after the outstanding day of yesterday. The morning started with the sun was shining, even if it was a bit windier than yesterday. An early morning for the expedition team who headed out to prepare the landing site. We had a slight delay, as obviously it was not so easy to access. We patiently waited on the ship and soon, the first zodiacs picked us up at the gangway. We made a split landing. We had the chance to see Orne Island and to get some zodiac time to search for marine mammals.

The landing was not easy as we needed to climb over rocks and snow. We can do it, we are explorers! Again, we used the snowshoes to walk around because of the softness of the snow. Well, it was easy to put them on as we are used to do it now. The red poles indicated to us the way and we slowly hiked up the little hill. We saw various small groups of penguins on the way to the viewpoint. Gentoo and Chinstrap penguin are sharing this little island and we understood why. The view was just stunning. Almost a full 360-degree view, steep mountains covered by blue-white glaciers, clouds above the summits forming almost lenticulair shapes and icebergs everywhere in the surrounding ocean. It was a good time to take a deep breath and to enjoy the beauty of the landscape, well, with some interruption from the mating penguins doing funny noises. The zodiac cruise was stunning as well, again we could observe one of the top predators of the Southern Ocean… the leopard seal.

Just as the wind started to pick up, the staff picked us up and we headed back to the ship for another fabulous lunch. Martin called us at 2pm to the lounge for an update of the plans. Sadly, no afternoon landing for us due to the weather changes. Instead, we headed north to get some time to explore the Antarctic Sound, as well as the northern part of the Weddell Sea. This gave us a nice relaxing afternoon on the ship. We got time to chat about the adventures of the past few days and sorted the first five thousand photos that we took. As we cruised along the peninsula, Sarah spotted some humpback whales. Amazing, life was everywhere around us.

The afternoon went quickly as we got invited to go to the bar, located in the lounge, as it was happy hour, and all the drinks were half price. This was already the end of the day, and the expedition team presented the daily Recap in the lounge. Eduardo talked about the mountains of the Lemaire channels, Laura about the different types of Ice we saw around, and Sarah taught us about the cameras at the penguin rockeries and how we can support science by counting penguins on our computers from home. After the recap, we got called to the dinner room where the hotel team fed us well, again. With a full belly and new memories, we headed back to our cabins. Another good day in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 9: Weddell Sea Exploration

Weddell Sea Exploration
Datum: 01.12.2021
Positie: 63°36.1’S / 055°51.9’W
Wind: NNW 6
Weer: Clear Sky
Luchttemperatuur: +3

The one reliable constant here is changes; and weather systems regularly alter our plans.

Although the forecast sounded encouraging, today was full of surprises from all quarters of the compass and ship. It was apparent at breakfast that there would be alterations to our planned of visiting Paulet Island. The wind was too strong, whitecaps filled the bay like grazing sheep, as the sailors say, and a suitable and safe landing site was not available.

Instead, we did a slow cruise around Paulet islands before steaming southeasterly, passing Seymour Island. Steffi and Laura treated us with a small geological visit of the area and a bit of Nordenskjold’s history who got stuck on the island for 3 years. Following that little presentation, Martin whetted our appetites for more penguin-watching by alerting us that we were in the vicinity of the northernmost emperor colony at nearby Snow Hill Island.

In moderate seas, Plancius was gracefully gliding along like our most faithful shipmates, the nimble cape petrels, effortlessly sailing between wave crests off our bow. Passing large snow-free areas of what formerly we would view as dirt patches, we regarded such places as decent real estate for a potential penguin colony.

Under a brilliant blue sky we entered the Weddell Sea for our most extraordinary treat and nautical feat so far. Although we have experienced many allisions with growlers and bergy-bits – “Scraping paint and barnacles” along the way - Captain Levakovv provided the biggest surprise of the day. At 4pm, under a clear, he delighted and amazed us all by steering between city-sized tabular iceberg until the bow of Plancius touched the edge of the packed sea ice. This was a spiritual moment for many of us, invoking thoughts of heroic explorers like Shackleton, who, upon reaching this edge, fearlessly ventured ahead to meet whatever destiny awaited them. Before us, the panorama was breathtaking, and we embraced it; imaginations running wild with abstract shapes and shadows spreading endlessly to the horizon.

Celebrating our good luck and enjoying amazing aerial performances by elusive snow petrels, we braced ourselves as the ship’s engines came to life. To our great delight, we finally spotted emperors on the edge and in the background of the sea ice. Us, as the expedition team, could not believe how lucky we were to observe these amazing seabirds. A rare sighting on these trips and we could hear the cameras trying to snap the shape of it. Most of us were able to spot two of them with our binoculars, following Martin’s precise indication. Finally, after this exciting sitting, Plancius figuratively kissed Antarctica goodbye and started to navigate toward our next destination, the South Orkney Island, and the long-waited solar eclipse.

King Neptune exacted a price for all our good luck, surprising us with steep chop and spindrift from the venturi effect of wind as we sailed away between icebergs. As every night, we gathered in the lounge for another Recap. Martin explained the plan for the next few days and the weather expected on the eclipse’s morning. Steffi gave us a vivid history of the trials and tribulations of Otto Nordenskjold’s crew on the ship Antarctica, and the remarkable rescue of the members of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition and a brief description of the geology of Paulet Island, followed by Laura who explained why we were able to see those enormous tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea.

Not to be outmatched, the kitchen prepared their own surprise for our departure – Baked Antarctic for dessert. As we returned to our cabins, we encountered yet another melancholy moment - holiday decorations festooned on our cabin doors to brighten our thoughts while being so far from home.

Day 10: Sea day towards South Orkney Island

Sea day towards South Orkney Island
Datum: 02.12.2021
Positie: 62°49.7’S / 051°01.8’W
Wind: NW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +4

This morning we woke up on the high seas, having departed the windswept ice flows of the Weddell Sea for the rugged mountains of South Orkney. The swell rocked the ship from side to side, making breakfast a challenging affair. Yet up on deck, we could see albatross and petrels gliding gracefully above the rolling waves.

After breakfast, Eduardo presented his lecture on astronomy, explaining the unique planetary circumstances that would result in our upcoming eclipse, early on the 4th of December. He shared stories of his previous eclipse sightings, describing the uniqueness of the event, how to observe it safely and what our plans were to enjoy the eclipse from aboard Plancius. Expectations were building quickly, the event many of us had been waiting for was only two days away.

After lunch Sarah offered a presentation on penguins in German, describing their breeding cycles and explaining the remarkable biological characteristics penguins have that allow them to survive and prosper in the deep south. Finally, in the late afternoon, Laura shared her presentation on Antarctic geology, explaining how the continent was formed and describing many of the important geological formations unique to the region.

As another day on the high seas came to an end, we enjoyed dinner in the dining room and a quiet drink at the bar, preparing ourselves for the upcoming eclipse and looking forward to seeing the South Orkney Islands emerging over the horizon, probably the following morning.

Day 11: South Orkney Island/Sea day toward South Georgia

South Orkney Island/Sea day toward South Georgia
Datum: 03.12.2021
Positie: 60°45.3’S / 044°42.0’W
Wind: W 6
Weer: Clear Sky
Luchttemperatuur: 0

After a bumpy night with Plancius pitching and rolling while sailing through the Southern Ocean, we reached the South Orkney Islands in the morning. The rolling slowly decreased while the ship was sheltered by Coronation and Laurin Islands. The sun surprisingly came out which is quite rare in this remote place. Well not fully deserted, as we got a nice look at the Argentinian research Station “Orcadas del Sur”. This is the oldest research station in the Antarctic area, and it is supported by the Argentinian Military. The station collect weather data since 1904 and the base is occupied all year around.

After enjoying the sunny views over the South Orkney Island, we headed out at sea again to find the lucky “spot” where we will have the possibility to see the Solar Eclipse without clouds and snowstorm. We were still optimistic. For the rest of the day, the expedition team kept us busy. We got our second mandatory Biosecurity Briefing before stepping on South Georgia. We knew what to do to no to bring aliens species into this fragile environment. The briefing was followed by George who gave us plenty of information about the geopolitical status of the Antarctic continent. He explained how much and how intense certain countries are involved into the Antarctic continent and how the Antarctic Treaty protects this fragile eco-system.

After another delicious lunch, Eduardo gave us the chance to “Ask an astronomer”. We could ask as many question as we wanted about the stars, space, and astronomy. It was helpful as we were heading toward the magical morning of the eclipse.

Before dinner, Martin and his expedition team invited us to our regularly daily meeting in the lounge, where we got all necessary information for the Solar Eclipse that will happen the next morning. The doctors told us what NOT to do at the eclipse, Eduardo told us what to do and George gave us the final briefing what we should do and not do with our Cameras. With our solar eclipse protective glasses in hand, we felt well prepared. Now, we just hoped the cloud cover will clear to get the chance to experience this fantastic event. Excited we headed to bed early; it will be a short night!

Day 12: Eclipse/Sea day toward South Georgia

Eclipse/Sea day toward South Georgia
Datum: 04.12.2021
Positie: 57°24.3’S / 039°36.6’W
Wind: NW 8
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +5

One of the most expected day of the trip finally arrived, the day of the Eclipse!

The reason we left the Weddell Sea two days ago was because we were carefully expecting an extraordinary event happening early this morning. It was a geometrical and astronomical coincidence between the sun, the moon, and the Earth, aligning themselves in the sky. To the delight of earthlings, for a moment, this alignment will produce a shadow, dark enough to make the day become night. The best location to see this event, depending on the weather prevision and sea/ice conditions, was at a precise location in the Scotia Sea; 58°0' S/43°25' W. We arrived shortly after sunrise, with a local ship's time of 3am. Few minutes after, the wake-up call was made, inviting all of us to join the Staff in the lounge. Sadly, weather conditions were poor, and visibility was very limited. We were fortunate not to have fog, but we had a completely over-casted sky. We were unable to follow the sequence of the eclipse. Despite it, we were sure we will witness the darkness of the totality. The eclipse started shortly after the wakeup call. The first contact, which is the moment the limb of the Moon touches the limb of the Sun, happened at 3:16 am. At the same time, Eduardo started a live animation of the eclipse as well as some electronic music to produce an atmosphere like the one seen in planetariums around the world.

As time passed by, the Moon's disk started to cover the Sun's disk. Around 4:04 am, the entire disk of the Sun was covered. Shortly before that time, it was already possible to observe the shadow of the Moon advancing towards us from the west, as a deep dark band approached the ship. As the shadow was getting closer to the ship, the day turned into darkness for 1 minute and a few seconds, and we enjoyed the totality. Despite the clouds, we could see a sudden darkness around us and during that moment, the navigation lights of the ship shined in the over-casted skies. As it came, it went off and after 1 minute and a few seconds, sharp, we could see the clarity and the distant clouds again.

Although we did not see the progress of the eclipse, the whole event left everybody exultant, in awe. Afterwards, some were completely silent, and many were thrilled, even though we were unable to observe the complete phenomena. A few guests waited with a group of Staff members until the end of the eclipse and, around 04:55 am, the last contact occurred… The eclipse was over. No activities were planned for the morning, apart from a few announcements made concerning the wildlife spotted around, as we all went back to bed to finish our night.

Our afternoon activities started with a mandatory video about South Georgia, a video that intended to inform all the visitors of South Georgia about the rules for the visit, and the care the visitor needed to observe while ashore, respecting distances to wildlife and, in general, being respectful towards the millions of animals living on the island. The presentation was followed by our biosecurity preparations for our imminent arrival to South Georgia. The lounge transformed itself into a big vacuum cleaning party with our staff members acting as "inspectors", verifying how clean were pockets, outer shells boots and Velcro’s. This procedure was important as we made sure not to introduce non-native species of plants, seeds, or other organic material. After this activity we had a well-deserved happy hour at the bar, and we enjoyed our daily recap. The moods were high, and all our guest had great expectations about our next destination, South Georgia!

In the evening, we had a stellar presentation which the expedition team worked as a surprise for us. To finish a day entirely devoted to astronomy and, thanks to the generosity of the escort of a group of guests we have on board, we could enjoy a lecture about the adventures of a former ESA/NASA astronaut, Prof. Claude Nicollier. This presentation was about his work during his missions to low Earth orbit during the Space Shuttle Program. Prof. Claude had the privilege to fly four missions and to spend a total of about 43 days in orbit. Two of his missions were worth to remark, STS-61 aimed to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as his last mission STS-103 aiming to give maintenance, again, to the Hubble Space Telescope. This telescope is one of the most sophisticated machines ever launched to orbit and has been used as a workhorse to take incredible images of the most distant objects in the Universe. His presentation was preceded by a short introduction, made by Eduardo, and it came as no surprise that we had a full house!

Day 13: St Andrews Bay/Cooper Bay

St Andrews Bay/Cooper Bay
Datum: 05.12.2021
Positie: 54°26.2’S / 036°10.4’W
Wind: NNE 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +12

We awoke in the morning to the beautiful sight of the island of South Georgia, with blue skies and sunshine. The captain and his team on the bridge navigated Plancius into our morning destination, St Andrew’s Bay. Known as the jewel of South Georgia, St Andrew’s Bay is home to over two hundred thousand King Penguins, as well as several thousand elephant and fur seals. The conditions were perfect, and everyone was very excited for our first landing in South Georgia, especially after four days at sea since Antarctica.

We were brought to shore with the zodiacs, and as we stepped on to the beach, we were greeted by groups of curious King Penguins, making their way out of the ocean, and navigating the obstacle course of elephant seals on the beach. The expedition team had marked out a path for us to follow along the beach and onto the glacial plain, reaching the glacial meltwater river, where we could watch the juvenile elephant seals, or ‘weaners’, resting and playing in the water. Looking beyond the glacial moraines, we could see the ginormous King Penguin rookery, dominating the landscape below the towering mountains and hanging glaciers. Some of us walked along the river to a beautiful view of the glacier, while others took their time and observed all the incredible wildlife interactions that happened all around us. We finished this fantastic morning with a short cruise along the shoreline, before being taken back to Plancius. Observing the beach from the zodiac gave us another perspective of that majestic landscape, beautiful views of the rookery, as well as the giant elephant seals resting on the water’s edge.

Once back on Plancius, we were served another delicious lunch from our galley and restaurant team. Martin updated us on our plans for the afternoon; and given the beautiful conditions, we sailed back South, to find Macaroni penguins at Cooper Bay.

As we sailed south, the rich waters of South Georgia were apparent as we spotted a Blue whale feeding amongst diving petrels and prions. After some more biosecurity checks, and dressing up once again, we arrived in Cooper Bay and made our way into the zodiacs. Again, the conditions were perfect, with beautiful light and calm seas. As we cruised around Cooper Bay, we encounter many more Fur Seals racing through the water and swimming amongst the kelp. We reached a rocky outcrop with several small penguins with yellow crests – the Macaroni Penguin. hopped in and out of the water, while making their way up to their rookery, high up on the slopes above. We continued around Cooper Bay and found several small beaches covered in fur seals; including females with young pups continuously calling to one another. Many Pintail ducks, and Pippits were spotted amongst the rocks, kelp, and tussock grass on the slopes above. We even spotted a resting leopard seal on one beach. As the sun began to drop behind the mountains, and the first spots of rain fell, we made our way back to Plancius for shelter and dinner.

After dinner, the captain sails Plancius into Drygalski Fjord; a narrow fjord system at the Southern tip of South Georgia which eventuates at a magnificent glacier. The views of the glacier were incredible, and were best viewed from the observation lounge, as strong winds and rain came barreling down the glacier.

A fantastic first day on South Georgia. As we headed to bed, we were excited for more adventures planned for the next morning.

Day 14: Grytviken/Stromness

Grytviken/Stromness
Datum: 06.12.2021
Positie: 54°76.9’S / 036°30.1’W
Wind: NE 4
Weer: 54°76.9’S / 036°30.1’W
Luchttemperatuur: +12

Brilliant sunshine, blue sky and billowy fair-weather clouds greeted us upon entering Cumberland Bay; along with South Georgia’s formidable patrol ship, Protector. Our visit to the most famous whaling stations in Antarctic waters, Grytviken, was an overwhelming experience for many of us as we explored the industrial center responsible for the pillaging of these waters during the last century. The theme for today might be considered the 3-R’s of natural and human history in Antarctica: Resilience, Recovery and Restoration. All around, we explored the remains of society’s commercial exploitation of this harsh but sensitive ecosystem, marveled at the recovery of wildlife, while contemplating the resilience of Ernest Shackleton and the many others who challenged this remarkable environment. Before disembarking in Grytviken, we were greeted and inspected by two polite and uniformed officers from the King George Station, reminding us of the sensitivity of the island’s ecosystem and the need to guard against the importation of alien species.

We started the landing by dodging males fur seals defending their territories on the beach and pausing to admire a rare and endearing leucistic seal pup, called Blondie, before climbing up to Grytviken’s secluded cemetery to offer a toast at Shackleton’s gravesite. Some examined headstones, noting the preponderance of particular Norwegian surnames. From above, the view of Cumberland Bay was outstanding. Steep, glacier-scoured cliffs supporting the sharp peaks of the Allardyce Range. The sea around Plancius had the same turquoise warmth of Caribbean waters, which darken to a cobalt blue as cloud shadows passed over our ship. On our way to the museum and the post office, we could admire the rusted buildings of the whaling station still standing after more than 50 years. While walking, in between the piece of metals, we could be surprised by a fur seal, some cute elephant seals, or a group of king penguins. Few birds greeted us along our climb including the indigenous South Georgia pipits – the key indicator species that has been able to recover since the removal of rats – and pintail ducks, another vulnerable ground-nester. Noisy Antarctic terns soared above us, commuting to their nesting colony, then quickly returning to hunt at sea to sustain their hatchlings.

After another delightful lunch, we steamed towards Stromness Bay. With expectations of retracing a portion of Shackleton’s final path to rescue and recovery, we had every intention of landing on the beach next to Stromness’ whaling station. However, a thriving colony of fur seals had other intentions. Numerous harems, dominated by belligerent males attending to their domestic duties, defending territories all along the shoreline. Instead, our visit to Stromness Station became a lively zodiac cruise of the bay, weaving between the kelp-belt and shore, apparently entertaining curious seals, and dodging gangs of giant petrels quarreling over scraps of meat. The impromptu cruise was a delightful interlude for every eye and mind, satisfying everyone’s interest. Birders made new observations, history and photography enthusiasts documented the sad tale of these massive remains and took memorable shots, and marine biologists were treated to the appearance of a bizarre stowaway – a peculiar, button-sized crustacean dropped by a passing tern. Isopods are flat, nightmarish shrimp-like creatures that are sometimes free-living, but also occur as parasites; utilizing their shape to cling beneath scales or situate themselves between the gills of fishes.

With the sun setting and the wind rising, we returned to the ship to enjoy views of a landscape that has been restored by man and nature and appeared almost the same as when Captain Cook claimed it for Great Britain in 1775. To finish the day nicely, we had a BBQ on the back deck prepared by Aleks and his galley team. However, the katabatic wind had another idea in mind… and most of the us ended our dinner in the warm comfort of the dining room. Just as we were leaving South Georgia, we had the chance to spot a tiny crescent of moon over the horizon, in conjunction with Venus, a beautiful sight and an invitation to watch the stars. It was during this night that we had the chance to see the Southern Cross, one of the most distinctive constellations of the Southern skies, as well as all the brightest stars in the sky, namely Sirius, Canopus, Alpha and Beta Centauri, Achernar. That was an amazing way to finish the night and we went to bed dreaming about South Georgia and all its wildlife!

Day 15: Sea day toward Falkland Island

Sea day toward Falkland Island
Datum: 07.12.2021
Positie: 53°38.2’S / 036°30.1’W
Wind: N 7/8
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +4

After our adventures in South Georgia everybody was a bit tired, and our day started late, consequently, there was no wakeup call, only a short call for breakfast around 8am. As soon as we left South Georgia, the night before, we left the protection of the island and, shortly after 11pm, we started to feel the strong wind and the heavy confused swell of the open ocean. The morning was difficult for many of us and the crew since the ship was rolling and pitching heavily, given the state of the sea and the head winds. We continued to advance slowly at about 7-8 kts towards our next destination, the Falkland Islands, sailing along the northern edge of the Scotia Sea. Despite the movement of the ship, we had encounters with a few humpback whales and an amazing sighting of fin whales feeding. As we were a bit ahead of schedule, Captain took the time to turn the ship around and moved toward the beautiful marine creatures displaying captivating behaviors. We stayed a few minutes around the whales before heading back north, toward the Falkland.

Stormy and cold, the Scotia Sea is the area of water between Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. For many, it is considered one of the wildest places on Earth. These groups of islands all sit on top of the Scotia Ridge, which frames the Scotia Sea on the north, east, and south, while the west border is framed by the Drake passage. The Scotia Sea covers an area of about 900,000 km2 (347,500 sq mi). About half of the sea stands above the continental shelf. It was named after the Scotia, the expedition ship used in these waters by the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902-1904), under the command of William S. Bruce. In Argentina, the Scotia Sea is considered part of an area known as the "Mar Argentino". Despite the harsh conditions, the islands of the Scotia Sea do support vegetation and are described as the Scotia Sea Islands Tundra ecoregion. These areas do support tundra vegetation consisting of mosses, lichen, and algae, while sea birds, penguins and seals feed in the surrounding waters. The islands of the Scotia Sea also harbour wildlife such as four species of Albatross, five species of birds that remain in the islands, six species of penguins, and a similar number of seals. The Scotia arc is a very active geological region and earthquakes up to magnitude 7.7 have been registered recently, as well as volcanic eruptions.

During the day we had different lectures, four in total. One about the life and expeditions of Ernest Shackleton (in English and German) by Eduardo, one about Sea birds given by our expert birder and expedition leader Martin in English, one on Sea birds in German by Steffi and at the end of the day, one about Whaling in South Georgia, by Pippa. The lecture on Shackleton consisted of a brief account of the four trips that Shackleton undertook to Antarctica, on board the HMS Discovery, the Nimrod Expedition, the Endurance/Aurora expedition, and the Sch ackleton-Rwett Expedition. At the end, Eduardo talked about the conflicting opinions of explorers favoring or discrediting Shackleton's ability to organize expeditions. Both talks about birds showed how extraordinary these creatures are, traveling enormous distances across the Southern Ocean waters searching for food. We learned some incredible facts about the most significant species of birds that live in these waters. By the end of the day, in late afternoon, Pippa gave the last lecture of the day, a lecture about Whaling in South Georgia. Pippa's lecture was a brief account about the whaling operations that took place in South Georgia, referring to the scale of the operations which severely affected the population of whales in the South. Pippa gave cold facts about how populations declined and how many species, such as the blue whale, came close to extinction. This dark aspect of South Georgia’s past will haunt mankind forever and will be remembered as the time where mankind almost eradicated many cetacean species from Earth.

As we moved away from South Georgia, more and more birds were spotted around the ship. Throughout the day we had the chance to see a few Antarctic Prions (Pachyptila desolata), a kind of small petrels of the Southern Ocean. The wingspan of these birds varies from 17 to 20 cm and the body length is around 28 cm. Its under body parts are white and upper parts are blue gray, with a dark "M" across its back. It has a white eyebrow, blue-grey bill, and blue feet. These birds breed in large amounts in the islands of the Scotia Sea, the South Georgia, South Shetlands, South Sandwich, and South Orkney and in other subantarctic islands. Other more common birds such as Cape Petrel (Daption Capense), Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites Oceanicus), Soft Plumage Petrel and Giant petrels (Macronectes giganteus) were spotted around. Late in the afternoon, while there was still light, we had the chance to watch an old wondering albatross flying around the ship. This one had a very white body with dark upper wings and white under wings. It flew around us as if he was wishing us safe journey.

Day 16: Sea day toward the Falkland Island

Sea day toward the Falkland Island
Datum: 08.12.2021
Positie: 53°14.8’S / 046°10.0W
Wind: SW 8
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

Last night we changed the time back to Falkland time, gaining one hour of sleep! For many of us that was necessary as it is not always easy to have a good rest with the ship’s movement. During that second sea day toward the Falkland Islands, the ocean kept shaking us around, especially with the high wind speed and big swells. Even though most of us were already well adapted to these conditions, it could still be challenging to concentrate and keep our eyes open during the presentations on board, independent of how interesting they might have been. The coffee machine kept running in the background while we learned about Krill, Ocean acoustics and Humpback whales during the lectures offered by Steffi, Pippa and Sarah, respectively.

Another good way to keep ourselves entertained on a sea day was catching some fresh air and searching for seabirds and whales on the outside decks. Due to the weather conditions, this was only possible on the bridge wings. Some of us joined the keen birder group who was spotting different types of seabirds, among them even the largest of them all, the wandering albatross with a wingspan up to 3.5m! It was hard to imagine how enormous these creatures are, while they were gliding elegantly over the waves beside the ship, rarely flapping their wings. To help us visualize their size, our Expedition Leader, Martin, demonstrated the wingspan of the most common seabirds we saw on our voyage, with the help of a rope, in a great presentation, during our daily recap. Reverent and astonished ´ohhhhs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ were heard throughout the seats of the Lounge, as length of the rope grew longer and longer with the larger albatross species.

In the evening, the wave height decreased, allowing us to enjoy a delicious dinner in the comfort of the dining room. The Expedition Team seemed overly excited and busy this evening, preparing everything for a special event that would take place after dinner. This evening was dedicated to raise money for the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), an amazing and devoted organization taking care of the beautiful and unique wildlife of the Islands of South Georgia. After many years of struggle, the SGHT managed, only three years ago, to eradicate rats on the Islands being a strong threat, especially for the precious seabird species nesting on South Georgia. This is only one example of the amazing work they do, reason enough to make us excited to help as much as possible. The Expedition Team organized an auction to raise money for the SGHT, while entertaining us with one surprise after another. We were not only welcomed by a glass of sparkling wine, but also entertained by the polyester-clad, fancy dressed George, who turned out to be a born auctioneer. George was in the good company and assistance of an oversized penguin and a very confused polar bear, presenting the exclusive items, while topping up our Prosecco glasses. After a night full of laughter, we felt asleep with a little less money in our pockets but full of happiness knowing we were able to help maintain South Georgia as beautiful and breathtaking as it was during our visit.

Day 17: Sea day toward the Falkland Island

Sea day toward the Falkland Island
Datum: 09.12.2021
Positie: 52°16.0’S / 052°57.1’S
Wind: NNW 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +7

Another morning at sea where we got woken up by Steffi that invited us for breakfast. It looked like a daily sea day routine was settling on the ship. After breakfast, we gathered in the lounge, the outside deck or on the bridge to enjoy the morning fresh air. The sea had calmed during the night, and Plancius was not rolling anymore, and we would even say found it quite comfortable. Few birds were flying around the ship and the sun was trying to pierce the cloud cover. As we kept sorting the thousands of photos we took during the trip, George invited us in the lounge to enter the photo competition. We were allowed to submit photos in three categories: (1) Landscape, (2) Wildlife and (3) Novelty.

Around 10:30am, Steffi invited the German group to gather in the lounge for her lecture about the adaptation of the wildlife in cold climate, or why penguins don’t wear socks. She showed the different adaptation of the animals living in cold environment like Antarctica. As the morning went by, we reflected on the past two weeks; how much we saw during this trip and how long it was since we were down in the peninsula admiring iceberg and Gentoo penguins. As every day, we got invited into the dining room for a well-deserved buffet lunch.

The afternoon went by with some of us going on the outside deck to enjoy the first ray of sunshine of the past few days. The birders were already on duty, trying to spot some special sea birds. We got rewarded by a sighting of two wandering albatrosses, the king of the sky. Their wingspan is more than 3m and they easily make their way across the Southern Ocean, gliding in the sky. Around 3pm, Laura invited us in the lounge for a lecture about the impact of climate change on the ice in Antarctica. She showed that the impact was not as straight forward as we could imagine. Antarctica is under a lot of stress and its fragile balance might be under threat. This lecture was followed by Steffi’s English version of ‘’Why penguins don’t wear socks’’. In between, we could admire the different photos that entered the photo competition and voted for our favorite ones.

The day ended with our daily recap and the plans for tomorrow. We were excited because we would be able to get out of the ship for a morning in Stanley. Even if it was an early morning, with a wake-up call planned at 5:15am, we knew we would be able to stretch our legs for a few hours before getting back at sea. After dinner, we voted for our favorite photos of each category of the photo competition. The top 3 was displayed on the screens and we had to cheer for our favorite one. This was the perfect to finish this quiet sea day and we went to bed early, knowing we will wake up quite early on the next morning.

Day 18: Stanley/ Sea day toward Ushuaia

Stanley/ Sea day toward Ushuaia
Datum: 10.12.2021
Positie: 51°44.3’S / 057°35.2’W
Wind: SSE 4
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +11

The morning started with the ship entering Stanley harbour and Martin wakeup call at 5:15am, shortly followed by the breakfast. Even if it was an early morning, most of us were eager to get out of the ship to visit the friendly and oh so British town of Stanley. At 6:30am, the first zodiac picked us at the gangway to shuttle us in town. They said that no one is more British than an English expatriate, and Stanley was the perfect example of that. It seemed that everyone in the community was bright, friendly, well-spoken, and best of all, comfortable with the visitors from our ship.

For our outing at Gypsy Cove, our arrival wasn’t the usual wet landing by zodiac, weighed down by boots and rain gear; but in comfortable buses, guided by local naturalists. Again, we were greeted with bright sunshine, light winds, and soaring temperatures - well above the average. According to locals (And the Weather Page in Penguin News), the fine weather appeared to be part of a warming period on the islands. Many remarked the similarity of these coves to the beaches of Scotland’s Western Isles, although the donkey calls of nesting Magellanic penguins left no doubt of our latitude and longitude. Everyone enjoyed botanizing with the staff amidst the dense and lovely coastal vegetation, watching the endearing upland geese and goslings, and following the antics of nesting shags and night-herons. The powdery sugar-sands of the beach sheltered a remarkable assortment of seashells, as colorful as on any tropical island; and following protocol on the sign at the gate, the only previous visitors – penguins – left only footprints.

Our return to Stanley, for last minute purchases, emails and phone calls from the classic red London phone booths, was a perfect ending for our too brief stop on this tiny outpost of the British Empire. After we got back on the ship, Plancius steered us west, escorted by noble seabirds. Leaving Stanley, the last landmark we pass was the Cape Pembroke lighthouse. Situated at the Falkland’s easternmost point, it is the only manmade structure we will see until we search for Jules Verne’s light at the end of the world while entering the legendary Beagle Channel, as we sailed the final 400 miles to Ushuaia.

The sun was shining outside, and we spent the afternoon, after a delicious lunch and a well-deserved nap, on the outside deck, sunbathing or bird/whale watching. The weather was so good that we cancelled the afternoon trivia to spend more time enjoying the good weather. As usual, the evening started by our daily recap where David presented a funny but really enlightening video about the circle of life of a plastic bag and Sarah talked about the colorful plants we saw in Stanley and Gipsy Cove. Around 10:30pm, Eduardo invited us to watch the stars and learn about the one we are seeing above our heads. What a way to end the day full of new experience!

Day 19: Sea day toward Ushuaia

Sea day toward Ushuaia
Datum: 11.12.2021
Positie: 53°53.2’S / 062°37.5’W
Wind: E 2
Weer: Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +9

Our last day at sea started with a delicious lunch and a bright sunlight. As we were spending our morning in the lounge, waiting for the first lecture of the day, the bridge spotted some dolphins on the horizon. We all got extremely excited and went outside to try to spot these graceful marine mammals. Short after the bridge’s anouncement, we were rewarded by, first, some hourglasses dolphins playing with the waves created by the bow of the ship. The Captain decided to turn the ship around to get closer to them. While we were slowly sailing toward the splash on the horizon, we heard most of the expedition team getting excited and we soon knew why; about 30 pilot whales were feeding next to the ship. As we thought that was saw enough wildlife for the morning, the pilot whales started swimming around Plancius. It was an amazing treat as we were able to see the animals at less than 3 m from the ship. However, after a certain time, we had to turn around as we still had a long way before getting to Ushuaia.



At 10:30am, Eduardo invited us to the lounge for a lecture about climate change and ‘’Is conservation is under threat?’’, divided in three sections. Eduardo presented the history of climate change, where was the world right now in a geological point of view. Martin gave an introduction on conservation, what could we do to change our behavior and to have a real impact. Even if Martin think politics should be left out of conservation talk, George presented the politic point of view and how it could change the shape of our planet, especially to create some protected area, using Antarctica as an example. However, climate change topic is still a taboo during the politics meeting about Antarctica. The lecture ended with a discussion between the passengers and our three panelists. It was a healthy and informative discussion, and, as we went for lunch, we did an introspection on how we can change our behavior to improve our carbon foot on the world and everything we got out of the presentation.

After our last lunch on board, our administrative duty started. First, we got called by Aleks to pay our bills, followed by the not-so fun COVID test, the last of the trip! The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to collect the gear landed by Oceanwide like the rubber boots. As we saw the journey coming to an end, we all met in the lounge for our last Recap. Martin did a nice summary of the trip followed by a video that showed images of every place with been to, a nice attention from our onboard photograph, George. It really felt like the end of the trid when we heard, for the last time, Ingrid’s voice calling us to the dining room for a final meal. We were celebrating an outstanding trip full of surprises, discoveries and beautiful memories. The sound level in the dining room was higher than usual while we were excitingly chatting about the past days.

Our final evening in the lounge was as festive as the dinner. We all shared a last drink or drinks with the expedition team. It will be bizarre not to wake up to these familiar faces in the morning. Finally with a day full of last moment, we went in bed with a smile on our face and our head full of memories!

Day 20: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Datum: 12.12.2021

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 3790 Nautical Miles
Furthest South: 65°05’S / 064°01’W
On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home.

Details

Reiscode: PLAEC-21
Reisdatum: 23 nov. - 12 dec., 2021
Duur: 19 nachten
Schip: m/v Plancius
Inscheping: Ushuaia
Ontscheping: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Plancius

Ons ijsversterkte schip m/v Plancius is een uitstekend schip voor expeditie reizen in het noordpoolgebied en Antarctica.

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