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HDS21-19, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logboek

Day 1: Embarkation, Puerto Madryn

Embarkation, Puerto Madryn
Datum: 03.11.2019
Positie: 42°45’.7 S, 65°01’.4 W
Wind: W4
Weer: sunny
Luchttemperatuur: +17

Most of us flew into Trelew and made our way to Puerto Madryn a day or so in advance of our adventure. Puerto Madryn provided a lovely spot to chill out, walk the seaside promenade, and build anticipation.

Finally, the late afternoon came and it was time for boarding. The Expedition Staff helped to handle our luggage and see us onto the beautiful ship that was to be our home for the next 3 weeks: MV Hondius. We were ready to start our adventure.

We started with a briefing to get us familiar with the ship, and the mandatory safety briefing that followed. As this wrapped-up we cast off from the wharf and turned our bow to the open sea. We were given time to head to the outer decks to wave goodbye, and then had a bit of serious business with the donning of life jackets for the lifeboat drill.

Only a few minutes later we were back in the Observation Lounge for the Captain’s Cocktail Party. We took the opportunity to enjoy the lovely nibbles, toast to the voyage and start to meet our fellow passengers. A few were lucky to spot a Southern Right Whale mother and calf off the starboard side.

Meanwhile, everyone was lucky to enjoy a tasty dinner buffet accompanied by a stupendous sunset - a wonderful harbinger for a successful voyage.

Day 2: At Sea enroute to Falkland Islands

At Sea enroute to Falkland Islands
Datum: 04.11.2019
Positie: 44°53’.7 S, 63°28’.4 W
Wind: W5
Weer: clear
Luchttemperatuur: +15

We woke to fairly “lumpy” seas and a brisk wind giving enough motion to upset some of our equilibrium. Some were confined to the berth while our bodies became accustomed to this change from solid ground.

The rest of us – the majority – met in the lounge after breakfast to be introduced to the Expedition Team. It was great to see the wide variety of expertise and experience that they have to share with us. We had a festival of boot fitting down in the zodiac embarkation area – getting closer to being ready for our first landing, and whetting our appetites for adventure.

Meanwhile our appetite for excellent food continued to be more than satisfied by the quality and variety of the meals – including today’s excellent lunch. As the afternoon progressed the sea state calmed and more and more of use were able to be part of the action.
Martin was assigned the tricky after lunch lecture slot – always a tough one with an audience of satisfied and sometimes sleepy people. But he wowed us with a superb presentation on Seabirds – Masters of the Sea and Sky.

This voyage marks the start of a new Oceanwide programme of on-board workshops. In an afternoon session we were introduced to the workshops for this voyage; Photography and Videography, and Scientific Acoustics.

There was a bit of a frenzy and some high-powered negotiation as we divided ourselves into 4 separate groups for landings and zodiac cruising. Another step closer.

Before dinner we had our first Recap and Briefing. Troels introduced us to windy.com – including a map of the next day’s travel and the Falkland Islands showing a bit more yellow/orange and a bit less blue/green than we would have liked. Fingers crossed for a change.

Bill help us to prepare our senses and consciousness to Look, See, Think and Do. Which Neill immediately put into action with some deep thoughts on social media responsibility. We are learning that an expedition has many facets.

Bill has started to contribute his excellent drawing to help celebrate notable activities of our voyage.

Our first plated dinner was again a feast. We are going to need the activity of landings soon or we will all be rolling onto the zodiacs instead of walking.

The evening hours saw 2 special interest groups convene – Chinese photographers and birders followed on their activities of the day. Never a dull moment and a well-earned sleep.

Day 3: At Sea enroute to Falkland Islands

At Sea enroute to Falkland Islands
Datum: 05.11.2019
Positie: 48°47’.2 S, 61°49’.4 W
Wind: W5
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +12

The hardcore birders were again up with the dawn while many of us heard Troels call us at 7:30 for breakfast at 8:00. The day was fine, not too cold and not too windy. The sea state was moderate. Many of us have now gained our sea legs sufficiently to dance with the Hondius as we make our way along the passage ways – keeping one hand for ourselves and one for our partner at all times, of course.

The first business of the morning was the IAATO introduction to behaviour ashore. We learned the “5 metre rule” and other safety, security and environmental behaviours required. After a yummy lunch we put some of the biosecurity measures in practice as we cleaned out boots and outerwear and had them checked and approved by the Expedition Staff. Another step closer.

Falkland Island local Tiphanie touched and entertained us with her very personal description and introduction to her native land. It is clearly the home to 3000 very creative, energetic and busy people. And friendly too we hope.

Ole licked off the bioacoustics workshop with an introduction to sound communication showing us ways to display sounds graphically for visual understanding and analysis.

The Recap and Briefing included Troels’ description of Plan A for landings with caveats on conditions to be assessed upon arrival. The Plan A is for Carcass Island in the morning and West Point Island in the afternoon.

I think that I will stop mentioning dinner in this log and you should just insert “Dinner was again delicious and a good chance to share time and experiences with fellow guests and staff”.

The usual suspects were to be found in the lounge after dinner while the evening would down. Only one more sleep.

Day 4: West Falkland Islands – Carcass Island

West Falkland Islands – Carcass Island
Datum: 06.11.2019
Positie: 51°16’.7 S, 60°28’.2 W
Wind: WNW3
Weer: partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +6

The morning broke to the sight of the white sand beach at the south end of Carcass Island. However, between us and the beach was a windy choppy sea. We had been prepared for a wet landing – but this one was a wet wet landing as the zodiacs were doused with spray on the way in.

Once there, we were split into our pre-arranged groups for birding, walking to the settlement, or exploring the area around the landing. The birders nailed all the target species including Cobbs Wren. While the walkers didn’t have time to complete the whole journey, they did explore along the track. Most ended up at the beach and moorland with the Gentoo and Magellanic penguins, many geese with chicks in tow and a variety of other bird species.

As the morning passed the wind continued to build. When the time came to return to Hondius it was gusting to 50 knots. Clearly this made zodiac operations extremely difficult. Nonetheless, our spirit of adventure kicked in and all braved the conditions without complaint. Everyone was returned to the ship safely and with some small hint of how conditions can change in these wild places.

This is an expedition so activities must be adapted to fit the changing conditions. In these conditions our planned afternoon at West Point Island was cancelled. No one complained as we had learned from the morning.

Plan B was quickly organized. John gave a presentation on The History of the Falkland Islands and then Neill led the next session of the photography workshop.

Troels began his briefing by expressing his thanks to his team. We responded with an enthusiastic round of applause to show our thanks and appreciation. He then outlined the plan for our morning visit to Stanley. The windy weather is expected to continue.
Dinner certainly hit the spot after a busy wild day. Many of us hit the sack early. It was the end of a true expeditionary day full of wildlife in a wild place in wild weather – a truly fitting way to start this adventure.

Day 5: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Datum: 07.11.2019
Positie: 51°41’.2 S, 57°51’.2 W
Wind: SSW6
Weer: rain
Luchttemperatuur: +2

A 0600 wakeup call gave us the opportunity see the entrance into Stanley harbor and the long cruise through the channel and outer harbor to the township. Our arrival in Stanley was via a wet dry landing as the short zodiac ride was wet but they getting onto the wharf was easy. We then split into our various groups and did our own thing. Activities included tours, walking around town, visits to the museum and cathedral, shopping, and penguin excursions.

On the shuttle rides, and all around the ship, the Commerson’s dolphins came over to check us out. The return voyage back to the open sea gave the sleepyheads the chance to see the landscape they had missed. As we exited the channel and set the heading for South Georgia Hondius started to roll a bit. This raised some trepidation with those of us still sensitive to motion – but the Captain soon deployed the stabilizers. They worked very well indeed and we had a smooth and comfortable ride.

Once underway, and well fed, Michael Green entertained us with a humorous and informative account of his personal part in the 1982 conflict in his talk General Gualtieri my part in his downfall.

George continued our photo/video education with his Introduction to film making and some simple techniques for your smartphone masterpiece.

The Recap and Briefing provided follow-up on the dolphins when Suzie ran through the full list of marine mammals seen on the trip so far. We have a few sea days ahead before we reach South Georgia so Troels showed us what to expect along the way as well – which was delightfully blue and green on windy.com.

As we are back “on holiday” we will get a sleep-in tomorrow – so the lounge was well filled with happy conversation and laughter into the evening.

Day 6: At Sea enroute to South Georgia

At Sea enroute to South Georgia
Datum: 08.11.2019
Positie: 52°27’.5 S, 57°51’.2 W
Wind: WSW3
Weer: sunny
Luchttemperatuur: +9

Holiday mode continued with a relaxed start. Troels was even late with the wake-up call!

Still, we are here to learn so Sara got a bit technical in her talk about her research into what animals can hear. She showed how these studies are done – and how they help us understand the behavior and world view of animals - in her talk Practical Psychophysics.
There was then time for photo editing, reading, relaxation, journal writing, and chatting before, during and after lunch. A welcome bit of down time.

While we were slowing down, Hondius was speeding up. The Captain ordered the use of both engines to hit our top speed of 15 knots to give us the maximum time in South Georgia.

Time on deck is always good on sea days, but today the number and variety of birds was exceptional, Killer Whales were spotted, and we even had a bit of a blizzard followed soon by bright sunny skies. If you don’t like the weather or the scenery, then just wait a minute.

In the afternoon Tiphanie continued our education with her talk on Invasive Species. This is a very relevant topic on this voyage as we have all learned that we must be highly vigilant to not transfer any seeds or pathogens from site to site.

Laurence continued the day’s theme with his lecture on High latitude bathymetry: the world beneath the waves. He explained how the ocean floor is mapped and had us guessing at a number of unusual patterns on the sea bed.

In the Recap and Briefing Troels passed along the good news that the wind and sea conditions for the rest of our passage to South Georgia is expected to stay moderate. He also gave a short overview of his Plan A, starting with an early morning landing at St. Andrews Bay. He said that if we can pull off all of Plan A he will be very happy – and so will we, no doubt. Ben then did a super job of giving us an insight into the Argentine perspective on Las Malvinas – with humor and humanity.

We lost one hour of sleep as the clocks changed overnight, but this didn’t seem to make the lounge empty any earlier.

Day 7: At Sea enroute to South Georgia

At Sea enroute to South Georgia
Datum: 09.11.2019
Positie: 53°20’.8 S, 43°14’.6 W
Wind: WSW5
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: 0

With that lost hour getting up was a bit tougher than usual, but a hearty breakfast plus an extra cup of coffee soon had us humming again.

First up was an excellent and informative talk from John on The History of South Georgia giving a taste of the natural and human history of this wildlife paradise including background on the whalers and the current conservation efforts.

Saturday lunch has a bit of tradition behind it as we were served split pea and ham soup al la the Dutch Navy - then a special treat with build-your-own ice cream sundaes.

After lunch we were again called down to the boot room on deck 3 for the mandatory biosecurity check. We brought all our outdoor clothing and gear for a good clean, vacuum, and inspection. None of us wanted to be the one to introduce a pest.

Along the same theme, later that afternoon we joined the expedition team in the observation lounge for a safety and environmental briefing about South Georgia. We all see the effort that the team and the authorities are making to protect this special place and want to do our part.

Throughout the day there were various wildlife sightings. This was especially true as we passed the impressive sea stacks of Shag Rocks. Here there were Humpback Whales and Antarctic Fur Seals feeding while the cormorants that give the rocks their name shared the airspace with numerous other species.

The daily briefing broke the news that the landing at St. Andrews Bay will commence at 0530 for half of us. The holiday is over - let the expedition resume! The luckier half (we are all lucky) get to have breakfast before landing at 8:30. The afternoon would see us visiting Gritviken to visit the museum, the ruins of the whaling station, and Shackleton’s grave.

This news did send us to bed a bit earlier – to dream of tomorrow.

Day 8: South Georgia - St. Andrews Bay, Grytviken

South Georgia - St. Andrews Bay, Grytviken
Datum: 10.11.2019
Positie: 54°28’2. S, 36°10’.2 W
Wind: NNE3
Weer: clear
Luchttemperatuur: +2

We woke to the sight of the mountains of South Georgia dusted with new snow. The billowing clouds cloaked the mountains and served to emphasize the blue of the sky. The first icebergs of the voyage were scattered in the bay, but we paid them no notice.

We were soon on the wide beach of St Andrews Bay surrounded by King penguins – in the sea, on the beach – countless King penguins. These fashion models of the penguin world strutted by calling “Look at me, look at me” and posing – so we looked and took photos. Then we put down the camera and crouched and waited while they approached us to check out these strange new creatures invading their world.

Sharing the stage were the Elephant seals, Antarctic Fur seals, Giant Petrels, Skuas, and more. It was wildlife overload. The conditions were near perfect for the walk to the overlook. From the hill we looked down on the valley rookery – brown downy chicks filling the scene with adults scattered in the throng too. With the river and reflecting ponds plus mountainous background, we stood in awe. No matter what language you speak, words failed.

We finally tore ourselves away for lunch. The hubbub in the dining room was the loudest ever.

We moved to Gritviken for the afternoon. Sara of the South Georgia Heritage Trust welcomed us, and introduced the Trust and the excellent work that it does for conservation, education and the elimination of invasive species. Once ashore we were free to explore the whaling station and museum – with guided tours to help us get the most of the experience. There was also time to see the replica of Shackleton’s boat the James Caird, do a bit of shopping, and visit Shackleton’s grave for a toast to “The Boss”.

After a huge day dinner was most welcome, as was having our heads on our pillows.

Day 9: South Georgia – Salisbury Plain, Fortuna Bay

South Georgia – Salisbury Plain, Fortuna Bay
Datum: 11.11.2019
Positie: 54°03’.1 S, 37°19’.2 W
Wind: WSW6
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: 0

We made our landing at Salisbury Plain as planned – in windy conditions with a bit of “liquid sunshine” in the air. The reception committee of Fur Seal bulls was not all that happy to see us, and some were downright rude. The Expedition Staff helped to convince them to lets us pass – so we made it across the foreshore and walked down the beach to the King Penguin colony. We were a bit closer to the colony than had been the case at St. Andrews Bay, and many curious penguins came over to check us out. Some of us were visited by a downy brown chick which chased and pestered its parent all over the area.

The after-lunch plan for a landing at Prion Island was blown out – so Plan B came into effect. It turned into an excellent alternative as the weather was quite settled in Fortuna Bay. We were able to get both a zodiac cruise and a landing. The cruise included visits to the grounded icebergs in the bay, and a search of nesting Light Mantled Sooty albatross. This search was a moderate success as those of us with good binoculars were able to see the nest. The landing was again a chance to joust with the Fur Seal bulls and the walk along grassy valley toward the glacier. Fortuna Bay is ringed with high rugged peaks, and when skyscape almost matched the landscape the effect was dramatic. Oh, then there was the wildlife and King penguin colony too.

This day was so full that there was not time for a plated dinner, so the buffet was in service and we ate our fill – again. In the briefing that followed we gave ourselves a big round of applause when Troels announced that we had passed the biosecurity inspection with a score of 97% - an exceptional score. More than that, we were the first and only ship of the four that have visited this season to pass.

With that achievement we toasted ourselves and wondered whether we would have Plan A, B, C or Z tomorrow.

Day 10: South Georgia – Gold Harbor

South Georgia – Gold Harbor
Datum: 12.11.2019
Positie: 54°37’.6 S, 35°55’.9 W
Wind: NNW3
Weer: snow
Luchttemperatuur: +2

The sun was shining brightly as we pulled into Gold Harbor at 0530. However, by the time of the landing and zodiac cruise at 0800 true sub-Antarctic conditions prevailed. We endured strong winds with sideways sleet – but was it ever worth it. Gold Harbor’s natural beauty was somewhat veiled by the misty conditions – but was still stunning. The wildlife warmed us with abundance, variety and drama. The King Penguins were there in large numbers with the colony the destination for our walk along the beach. But this time they had to play second fiddle to the Elephant Seals. The younger bulls were in the water as we landed. The females were scattered in harems guarded by beachmasters. The beachmasters reared and bellowed and there were occasional violent confrontations. Seeing their size and power brought home the struggles they face to be successful. Best of all were the “weaners” or newly weaned pups. They were everywhere – but especially along the stream channel to the beach. Their big sad eyes and friendly approaches seemed to say “Are you my mother?”.

What a delight.

Conditions in Cooper Bay did not allow a zodiac cruise, so the Captain took us on a ship cruise instead. We were able to see the chinstrap and macaroni penguins in the water.

Then we caught up on our learning as Martin gave us a talk on Life of a Penguin – which was appropriately interrupted several times as we were called to the windows to see penguins alongside.

Then Celine told us all about Elephant Seals as oceanographers – showing how the seals are used to collect date for researchers. It was great to get a better understanding of the creatures who had recently shared their homes with us.

Day 11: South Georgia – Prion Island, Elsehul

South Georgia – Prion Island, Elsehul
Datum: 13.11.2019
Positie: 54°01’.5 S, 37°14’.1 W
Wind: W6
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

We were blown out of our first attempt to visit Prion Island. An advantage of the extended 4 day stay at South Georgia for this voyage was that we got a second chance. The zodiac shuttle was slightly bumpy, but well worth it. At the beach we could see that the elephant seals were gone except for a few weaners. Taking their place were the Fur Seal bulls busy fighting over the best positions to establish their harems. The Expedition Staff made a path for us and shepherded us safely to the boardwalk. Along the way we passed the Gentoo penguin colony sitting on newly laid eggs.

The top was the highlight. At the viewing platform the sky was filled with seabirds soaring on the wind. The chicks on the ground, especially the Wandering Albatross chicks looked like they wanted to share this action. The older ones spread their wings and flapped and hopped, trying to get the feel of this crazy thing called flying. We could see that it won’t be long before they will take to the air and become masters of the sea and sky.

The ship cruise along the coast over lunch gave us glimpses of the rugged land and glaciers through the mist. It had us wondering about our chance for one last adventure here.

As it happened the swell was building at Elsehul, but the wind moderated and the zodiac cruise was Go. It turned into an absolutely fitting farewell. We saw Macaroni penguins climbing the rocks to their colony, and Gentoos and Kings on the beach and porpoising around us. We saw Elephant and Fur seals on the beach plus swimming around the boats – even a leopard seal made a brief appearance. We saw the cliffs dotted with nesting blackbrowed, grey headed and light mantled sooty albatross – while all the time these same birds circled overhead. The cormorants and pintail ducks were not to be left out.

You never knew where to look, but it hardly mattered.

We have had a super experience in South Georgia, and while we are sad to leave, we can look forward to a hearty dinner with friends as we start our sea days. These will be welcome as we need a bit of rest and downtime to get ready for Antarctica!

Day 12: At Sea enroute Elephant Island

At Sea enroute Elephant Island
Datum: 14.11.2019
Positie: 55°18’.9 S, 40°56’.4 W
Wind: W5
Weer: fog
Luchttemperatuur: +1

What a nice long sleep-in – only slightly interrupted by the wakeup call for most of us. Time for a leisurely breakfast and then some photo sorting and editing, or a nice nap.

Suzie then helped us to remember what we had learned about the seals seen so far, and to prepare for the new species on the Peninsula with her talk Lifestyles of the Fat and Fabulous: Seals of Antarctica.

The more relaxation and more food – plus a chance to clean the camera gear and review photos with George and Neill.

John told the remarkable survival story of both the Weddell Sea party with Endurance, and the Ross Sea party with Aurora, with his talk The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition: Shackleton’s Heroic Failure.

Michael then entertained us with everything there is to know about navy jargon, picked up through his years serving in the British Navy.

The briefing showed smooth sailing ahead for the next 2 days as we head for Elephant Island, bypassing the South Orkney Islands due to too much sea ice. In the recap Claudio showed how the biological boundary of the Antarctic, the Antarctic Convergence, gives upwelling of nutrient rich waters to sustain the abundant wildlife; while Steve took a different tack with a bit of literary history through the examination of the poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The highlight of the day was the uproariously funny and action-packed auction to support the South Georgia Heritage Trust. Did we laugh! While through the humor we also contributed over 2300 Euro to this great cause, and came away with nice mementos of our visit there.

Day 13: At Sea enroute Elephant Island

At Sea enroute Elephant Island
Datum: 15.11.2019
Positie: 57°18’.0 S, 46°38’.2 W
Wind: N4
Weer: fog
Luchttemperatuur: 0

As we are headed east we regained the hour of sleep that we had lost heading west. This was timely as many of us were a bit groggy following the consumption of too much grog at the happy hour that accompanied the auction. Luckily for us the seas are remaining very calm, and the wake-up call included our first Fin whale sighting of the day.

We are now accustomed to the routine of lectures on sea days. Today’s talks kicked off with Terri exploring the mysteries hidden beneath the continental ice of Antarctica in Secrets of the Ice. Then Steve showed us the man behind the superb images of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in Golden Door of Adventure – Frank Hurley, Explorer Photographer. In the final slot Bill told us the sad and savage story of The Development of Whaling and Sealing in the Arctic.

As always there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the passage, plenty of good conversation among our new friends, and plenty of great food to eat.

Meanwhile, outside the ship, we passed very close by to a large iceberg. It was the remnant of a tabular berg carved and sculpted. Along for the ride was a group of Chinstrap penguins. During the day, the sea conditions got gradually rougher as a squally area passed us going east as we headed west. Even in these rougher conditions Hondius gave a smooth ride, and whale sightings continued.

During the Recap and Briefing Troels read the list of 29 nationalities represented among us, John gave a quick look at the life of the sealer and explorer James Weddell, and Celine showed how albatross are being equipped with sensors and telemetry to detect and report on vessels to try to find and apprehend illegal fishing vessels.

We now slip easily into our evening routines of drinks and laughter in the lounge.

Day 14: Elephant Island

Elephant Island
Datum: 16.11.2019
Positie: 61°06’.7 S, 54°21’.0 W
Wind: NW3
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

The wake-up call informed us that Elephant Island was in view off the bow, and when we looked, we could see that the sea had calmed considerably as we slept. We were also welcomed to Antarctica having crossed the political boundary of 60°S overnight.

Our breakfast was interrupted by the sighting of a pod of Killer Whales busy feeding in front of us. The foredeck was opened and we lined the railings for this long and close-up encounter. What a great start to the day.

We watched as we approached and cruised along this historic island of rugged beauty, then waddled into the lounge to hear Head Chef Ralf describe how he and his team are able to work their magic in his talk Catering on Hondius in the Southern Ocean.

We dropped anchor in the lee of the island in extremely gentle conditions and scanned the sea for penguins plus Antarctic and Dwarf Minke whales.

Following this very pleasant interlude we rounded to the north of the island to visit Point Wild where the 22 men of Shackleton’s party waited 4 months for rescue. The Point is named in honor of Frank Wild, but it is in fact a truly WILD place, and a stunningly dramatic stage for the drama that played out here. Our visit was in conditions almost a spectacular as the place itself - sunshine, light winds and patchy blue sky. The large swell precluded a zodiac cruise but the Captain maneuvered Hondius deep into the cove overlooking the low exposed headland formerly occupied by “The Snuggery”. We had a fine view. These men called Elephant Island “Hell-of-an-island” – with which we certainly agree, though perhaps not for the same reasons.

To cap off our visit the hotel crew laid on whisky and cider on the foredeck. We basked in the sunshine, serenaded the birthday girls, and let our beaming smiles be the subject of countless photos.

Sara and Ole have been busy processing the sound recordings made on South Georgia and shared some results with us – including the silence of the seals and penguins while underwater in contrast to the racket on the beach.

In keeping with the day’s events Martin gave a recap on Killer Whales showing how they are grouped into Types – we saw Antarctic Type A, and Claudio introduced us to the SO-Anteco project on which he was a contributor. It gathered seafloor life around the South Orkney Islands with the goal of creating and expanding marine protected areas.

Then off to again sample to the cuisine explained by Ralf that morning – thinking that the morning seemed a long time ago after such a wonderful day.

Day 15: Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound

Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound
Datum: 17.11.2019
Positie: 63°30’.8 S, 56°52’.8 W
Wind: Var1
Weer: foggy
Luchttemperatuur: 0

Like a silent arrow through the foggy night Hondius carried us to our landing at Brown Bluff. As you could, in theory, walk to the South Pole from here, this is a continental landing – welcome to the Antarctic continent!

The zodiac shuttle ride showed how lucky we were to be able to make the landing. Our good fortune continued. A narrow channel to the shore was open upon arrival. In many cases it would have been too risky to use it as the ice shifting could close it. But, with the tide going out the ice grounded, and the channel was safe to use. As a result, the shuttle was a fun ride among the floes.

The beach was packed with nesting and walking Adelie and Gentoo penguins. We had to thread our way carefully to avoid disturbing them. They were incubating eggs, or sometime steal stones to make better nests. Some were walking the beach or jumping around in the sea or up and down on the ice. This was the first visit with Adelies on this voyage – they are so fun to watch. They patrolled the beach in groups – first one way then the other – hoping that someone else is daring enough to get into the water first. Great fun and smiles on our dials.

The afternoon was spent heading south into the Weddell Sea for a ship cruise. We kept an eye out for wildlife and ice bergs as this is the furthest south we travel, and our best chance for some rare encounters. Sometimes we were a bit blanked out by the fog, but we were then entertained and informed by Bill in his talk about perspectives of the ocean in art Paintings of the Sea. The weather never cleared very well and a snow storm reminded us where we were.

For the recap Suzie showed us the variety of Minke whales in the world and how the ones that visited us fit in, then John told us the harrowing history of Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04 who survived the sinking of their ship Antarctic which was crushed in the ice not far from our location.

Day 16: Deception Island

Deception Island
Datum: 18.11.2019
Positie: 62°57’.9 S, 60°39’.2 W
Wind: W10
Weer: windy sun
Luchttemperatuur: -2

Hondius again flew through the night making such good speed through a heavy snowstorm. As a result, the wake-up call was early and announced a change of plans, and a glance out the window showed a winter scene in this Antarctic summer. Our afternoon visit to Deception Island had been changed to a morning visit. We scrambled a quick breakfast while the Expedition Team scrambled a new plan prepared to explain it to us at a briefing. Then, just as we came through Neptune’s Bellows, the wind hit like a sledgehammer. The plan changed again and all operations were cancelled. Don’t you just love expedition travel.

Meanwhile, it was back to the original plan for the morning – infotainment. Michael showed some great photos and videos to complement his stories in his talk What lurks below while diving in the depths of Antarctica. Then Neil and George took the next step for the photo workshop with an introduction to photo and video editing.

After a circuit of Port Foster we headed back out to sea. Immediately the Captain announced that all outer decks were closed. We crowed the windows in the lounge and the Bridge to see the force of the southern ocean. The sea was whitecaps with large swells. The bow crashing through them threw spray all the way up to the Bridge windows. Nonetheless, our progress as expeditioners was shown by the good turnout for lunch.

With no operations possible, the afternoon was filled with more contributions from the Expedition staff. Steve compared and contrasted many aspects of the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions in Why Don’t Polar Bears Eat Penguins? Then Michael dug into his film archive to show a documentary on the life and work of the men stationed at the British Antarctic Survey base in the Ross Sea in 1959.

The recap covered the HappyWhale.com citizen science website by Suzie. In the Briefing Troels showed us the prospect of better conditions for the remainder of the trip, and the prospect of snowshoeing among the penguins in the morning followed by a polar plunge. What a nice thought to fill our dinner conversations and dreams.

Day 17: Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour

Cuverville Island, Neko Harbour
Datum: 19.11.2019
Positie: 64°37’.2 S, 62°45’.4 W
Wind: SW1
Weer: snow
Luchttemperatuur: 0

The wake-up call gave us the usual particulars except the air temperature was missing – the snow and cold overnight had iced over the thermometer! We doubled our usual breakfast portions and added extra layers for our landing and zodiac cruise at Cuverville Island.

And it was cold at times, especially in the zodiacs, but at times the sun came out and the conditions were very pleasant. Nobody comes to Antarctica for the sunshine, but when the sunshine comes to Antarctica the result is simply sublime. Cuverville is one of the most spectacular places on the Peninsula, and were had it in ideal conditions. Pity the poor trip log writer when superlative adjectives simply fail – perhaps otherworldly, magical, ethereal, dramatic, stunning, fantastic, superb... Gentoos, seals, ice, mountains, and more – it had it all. Best of all, it was a big enough to find a little quiet spot, face a view without people, drink in the atmosphere, and just be there. Simply indescribable.

Over lunch we were out on the decks for the passage through the iceberg filled, super scenic, Errera Channel.

The afternoon landing and zodiac cruise was at Neko Harbour. It was in many ways similar to the morning – with the added bonus of huge glacier front spilling down the mountainside the across the bay. Sometimes, when you look through the viewfinder, you know that the picture that you are about to take will never do justice to the place you are standing. But, you take it anyway. You end up with a very nice image that you can show your friends. And, when you see it, you remember just a little bit of what it was like to be standing there with your camera. And you smile to yourself. Neko Harbour was that kind of place today.

To top it off we laughed or shivered depending on whether you were watching the Polar Plunge or plunging in yourself. Hilarious – and really nice that it was topped off with hot chocolate and rum back aboard.

With our spirits high we enjoyed a well-earned dinner followed by a few drinks in the lounge while watching our final sunset on the Peninsula.

Day 18: Paradise Bay, Orne Islands

Paradise Bay, Orne Islands
Datum: 20.11.2019
Positie: 64°53’.3 S, 62°52’8. W
Wind: WSW6
Weer: partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: -7

The lesson from today, expeditioners, was that in Antarctica conditions can change very quickly. The sun from yesterday came only in brief patches today, the cold had intensified and the wind was gusty.

We were able to make our landing at the unoccupied Argentine Research Station of Almirante Brown but zodiac cruising was not possible. We explored the area around the station and were able to see the relatively modest quarters that house the occupants during their summer stay. It was nice to be able to stretch our legs and climb up to an overlook of the Bay.

The challenge of the landing was the drifting brash ice and bergy bits. These forced a shift in our landing site for the first group. The second group’s visit was slightly curtailed as a large mass of ice could be clearly seen from the shore to be heading on a course that would put it between us and the ship. Not wanting to spend the night in the empty huts, we moved smartly to board the boats back to our comfortable floating home. A hot coffee tasted especially good.

The variability of the day carried through the afternoon landing too. The Troels managed to squeeze in one last “short but sweet” venture. This was to visit the Chinstrap penguin colony at the Orne Islands. The “Chinnies” were very active during our visit with comings and goings plus plenty of spypointing and calling. The weather also came and went so we experienced everything between benign sunshine and howling winds depending on the time of the visit. All in all a very Antarctic day, and a fitting one to be the last before heading into the Drake.

The Briefing was brief – just to say that the weather looked good. John gave a recap covering the activities of Adrien de Gerlache and his shipmates – the first to winter over south of the Antarctic Circle – then Celine showed how penguins can fly after all.

We tried to make the most of the final views of this southern land while the evening slipped away.

Day 19: Drake Passage enroute Ushuaia

Drake Passage enroute Ushuaia
Datum: 21.11.2019
Positie: 61°43’.6 S, 65°42’.7 W
Wind: NE1
Weer: overcast
Luchttemperatuur: -2

We are by now accustomed to the gentle “rocking of the cradle” lulling us to sleep, or tempting us to a sleep-in on holiday days. But this is the feared and fearsome Drake Passage. So, for us it is much closer to the Drake Lake than the Drake Shake. We are not complaining, and the queue for breakfast is shorter than usual at the start as we trickle in to start the day.

For our holiday education and entertainment, the Expedition Staff has a full programme. It starts with John telling us something of the political governance of this area, and how it came to be, in his talk A Place for Peace and Science? - The Antarctic Treaty System. Ole continued his workshop series with his lecture Bird hearing in air and under water.

Claudio’s talk on Climate Change help us to see the strong evidence for the anthropogenic changes to the earth, and the strong need for action.

Along the way we had time to check the lounge screen for the finalists in the photo competition and vote for our favourites.

As we crossed through the Antarctic Convergence we saw the sea temperature increase and a noticeable change in the number of bird sightings and different species.

After dinner the time came to judge the photos. Our votes had been tallied and the 3 finalists for each category called to the stage. Then the judging panel listen to the shouts and claps for each, consulted their applause-o-meter, and declared a winner for General, Wildlife and Landscape. Neill then revealed his personal selections as winners of Honourable Mentions. We cheered all participants, as the standard was very high overall, then rushed to the computers to grab our own copy of the entries and the other photos we have shared among ourselves.

The 3 winners are included in today’s section of the log, and the 3 Honourable Mentions in tomorrows.

Day 20: Drake Passage enroute Ushuaia

Drake Passage enroute Ushuaia
Datum: 22.11.2019
Positie: 56°29’.7 S, 66°03’.4 W
Wind: WSW6
Weer: partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +5

The final travel day for any expedition is inevitably a melancholy and bittersweet time. Our expedition was no exception. We are content, thrilled even, with the experiences that we have shared, but also aware that our time of sharing is drawing to a close. Today was a day for double checking onward travel arrangements, circulating to make sure that no farewells with special friends were missed, and wistful reflection.

Happily, the expedition activities were not yet over. Ben helped to prepared us for the transition in his talk about the waterway that will carry us to Ushuaia – The Beagle Channel.

There were also the logistical arrangements for returning those wonderful Muck Boots that have served us so well and that we have tended with such bio-security care. Oh, we had to settle our accounts too!

Throughout the day we spent time on the decks in the balmy weather watching the sea birds, especially in the afternoon as we tracked along the south coast of Staten Island.

Then it was time for the final farewell from the crew of the Hondius at the Captain’s farewell cocktail party.

We toasted to the success of our voyage and noted especially that this is the maiden voyage of M.V. Hondius in the Southern Ocean and to Antarctica. While we are sure that future voyages will be successful too, we know that there can be only one first time – so we feel happy and privileged to have been aboard. We also know that this first voyage for this new ship is the final voyage south with Oceanwide for our Expedition Leader, Troels. We know that his efforts have played a key role in our enjoyment – starting with Plan A and ending up with doing everything possible. We wish him every success going forward.

Finally, there is nothing left except to laugh together one last time.

Day 21: Disembarkation, Ushuaia

Disembarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 23.11.2019

Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Details

Reiscode: HDS21-19
Reisdatum: 3 Nov – 23 Nov, 2019
Duur: 20 nachten
Schip: m/v Hondius
Inscheping: Puerto Madryn
Ontscheping: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Hondius

Hondius is het eerste geregistreerde Polar Class 6-schip ter wereld dat voldoet aan de nieuwste en hoogste Lloyd's Register-normen voor ijsversterkte cruiseschepen.

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