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HDS27a-20, trip log, Antarctica - Discovery and Learning Voyage

by Oceanwide Expeditions

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Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 07.01.2020
Positie: 54°48’.6 S, 068°17’.8 W
Wind: NNE25
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +13

Ushuaia! We gathered from all points on the globe on a rainy summer day in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. Known as ‘the End of the World’, but for us it is just the beginning as we will venture much further South to the great white continent. For most of us this is a lifelong dream, for some it is not their first trip across the Drake, and for many this will be the seventh continent they have visited. Ushuaia is a beautiful city set in beautiful landscape. The mountains behind are topped with snow, and the streets are buzzing with excitement for those about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime and a slight sadness for those that have already been and it’s time to go home. We wandered town's cobbled, steep and random footpaths, had coffee and lunch, then in the afternoon many did some last-minute shopping before joining the Hondius at the Port.

Ushuaia, which means “the bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue, is a flourishing town that benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. A big community of adventure travellers meet where the rugged spine of the South American Andes ends. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. But the warm rain was refreshing and seemed to heighten the excitement in all of us as we are all prepared for the weather on such a journey.

It is finally 16:00 and we are slowly making our way to our future home for the next 11 days, Hondius. Whilst waiting to board you could feel the excitement in the air. The Expedition Team greeted us at the gangway, and you could feel the exhilaration among the team which was also starting a new journey. We were met at Reception by Michael and Alex, our Hotel Managers. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew.

We had a little bit of time to get familiarised with the ship before we all convened in the lounge on deck 5 to meet our Expedition Leader, Martin, and our Hotel Manager, Michael. They gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next few days, and a short introduction of the next couple of days. Then, we met the first officer Matei who led us through all the details of the required SOLAS briefing (Safety of life at sea). At the end of the briefing we looked outside to see our last glimpse of Ushuaia before heading into the Beagle Channel. While sailing away we saw Magellanic penguins and many sea birds, the rain and fog only added to the excitement as we left the harbour and city life for a while on our great adventure. On hearing the alarm, we reconvened at our appropriate ‘muster stations’, the Dining Room (Deck 3) and the lounge (Deck 4, 6, and 7), for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill. We donned our large orange life jackets carrying our submersion suits and followed the crews instructions so we are all well prepared in the unlikely event we must abandon the ship.

One last time before dinner, we gathered in the Lounge with a glass of Prosecco. We were introduced to our captain, Remmert Jan Koster, who toasted to a safe and amazing trip. At 19:30 we were welcomed to the dinning room. There we sat at shared tables, making new friends and wondering what awaits us in the days to come. We had the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chef Mario and his galley team. After dinner our ship physician Pieter met us in the Lounge where he handed out the seasickness medication for those of us in need. The rest of the evening on board was occupied by more exploration of the ship and adjusting to its movements. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into the open waters of the Drake Passage and heading southeast towards Antarctica. Finally, tired from the travel, we retired to our cabins to rest and get ready for our first full day of our adventure.

Day 2: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Datum: 08.01.2020
Positie: 56o38’.7 S 064o59’.1 W
Wind: NE4/5
Weer: Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +6

Throughout the speakers at 07:45 we could hear gentle voice of our expedition leader. Martin woke us up by giving little bit of information about our location on the drake passage and weather forecast.

Our First day on the drake passage – with overcast skies and a gentle breeze we could luckily experience the calm state of the drake passage. A little bit of rolling put everyone in a relaxed state during the day and all together we could admire the wildlife outside. Flying Black Browed and Wondering Albatrosses and Giant Petrels all around the ship. After a tasty breakfast, we gathered in the lounge where Martin introduced our expedition team and gave us a briefing about our plans for this voyage. We also got the chance to learn about operations and safety on board and ashore.

After a short break we were called down to deck 3 to collect our rubber boots for landings. All of us were trying different sizes and approaches on how to put them on our feet; and then get them back off. After this we took our boots back to our cabins and we were called for lunch. It again was an amazing buffet prepared by the galley time.

During the day more species of birds appeared around the ship, Gray Headed Albatross, new species of Petrels and different types of Prions. At 14:00 Vide one of our expedition guides gave us a lecture about the Antarctic treaty. After gaining new knowledge about our destination; we went down again to deck 3 where the guides gave us instructions on how to clean and prepare our clothes for Antarctica. The biosecurity it time consuming but necessary to visit such a pristine environment. So, all together with our guides help we ran an army of vacuum cleaner. Just like the ghostbusters we were sucking all the bad things from our pockets which could disturb the environment in Antarctica. At 18:00 we gathered together in the lounge for our first recap of the voyage. This is where we learnt about our plans for tomorrow, giving us relief with good information about a calm drake passage for the following day. Vide gave some information about camping and Sara together with Morgan introduced their acoustic workshop. Last but not least Simon explained to us why our ships name is Hondius. After a great time during recap and empty stomachs we could enjoy an excellent dinner.

After dinner, the kayaking guides Dan and Eduardo prepared our paddling group for the near future excursions. The rest of the passengers sat down in the lounge meeting new friends, playing board games, sharing wonderful stories or just chatting and having a drink before the next amazing day.

Day 3: At Sea, Drake Passage and Robert Point

At Sea, Drake Passage and Robert Point
Datum: 09.01.2020
Positie: 61o04’.2 S 060o36’.9 W
Wind: ENE5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

Overnight, we entered the Southern Ocean, sailing through the Antarctic Convergence as we approached the peninsula. We woke to find seabirds flying overhead and the gentle sway of forgiving seas welcoming us to a new day on the Drake Passage. Having made good speed overnight, the expedition team were busy planning a special surprise, but for that we had to wait.

After a delicious breakfast from our galley team, we gathered in the lounge to hear Mieke tell us about the different species of Penguin that awaited us in Antarctica and Niell & George share their tips for capturing the amazing moments ahead with our cameras. The kayakers met to gear up for the paddling ahead, and just before 12noon we saw our first iceberg. However, the biggest surprise came just before lunch when Martin, our expedition leader, asked us all to attend an unscheduled meeting in the lounge to reveal his plan. Having had the wind at our stern and the full grunt of Hondius’ engine running all night, we were able to plan a landing for Robert Point that afternoon – a second day landing that had only been attempted once before by an Oceanwide vessel. Excitement rippled through the passengers as we all looked forward to the special adventure ahead.

At lunch we saw the Shetland islands slowly approaching in the distance and by 2pm we were deep in Nelson’s Straight on route to Robert Island. At 4pm we boarded our zodiacs and set sail for our first landing of the expedition.

Awaiting us on the shore were countless elephant seals and thousands of chinstrap penguins nursing freshly hatched chicks. During our zodiac cruises we saw blue-eyed Antarctic Shags flying overhead and seals swimming in the ocean below us.

At 7pm we returned to Hondius for a cocktail at the bar, before enjoying a well-earned 4-course meal in the dining room after our adventures ashore. We finished the evening in the bar reflecting on the amazing day we had had and looking forward to exploring more of the Shetland islands and the peninsula in the coming days.

Day 4: Walker Bay and Whalers Bay

Walker Bay and Whalers Bay
Datum: 10.01.2020
Positie: 62o38’.7 S 060o38’.1 W
Wind: Light Air 1
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +4

After gently sailing through the night in calm seas we woke in the morning anchored in Walker Bay. Our first landing of the day was a smooth zodiac ride to a beautiful sand and pebble beach. Some of the pebbles were very striking in colour, glistening like green jade. A short walk inland led to an unofficial open-air museum where a collection of fossils from the shore had been gathered and placed. The fossil collection revealed that in prehistoric times this area had been covered in trees and plants. Further along the shoreline a huddle of sleepy elephant seals relaxed on the beach. Several of the seals had started the moult their summer pelt and were growing a new coat for winter. Knowing that this is an uncomfortable and itchy time for the seals, we enjoyed watching and photographing the animals from a distance so that we did not interrupt their slumber.

A short walk towards and around a rocky outcrop, where more elephant seals lie camouflaged and sleeping, led to an astonishing view of a vast glacier flowing to the sea’s edge. The ice boomed as it calved into the water, sending waves across the water. Meanwhile the zodiac cruisers and kayakers enjoyed some Antarctic wildlife encounters. Cruising along the coast of Hannah Point gave fabulous views of a chinstrap penguin colony and southern giant petrel nests. People cruising with Morten witnessed the spectacle of seeing a leopard seal feasting on a penguin, a graphic display of the food web in action.

The hotel crew supplied another incredible lunch, which we enjoyed while the ship was repositioned to one of the most unique locations in the far south, Deception Island. The island is actually an active volcano with a water filled caldera centre. The walls of the volcano form a ring with a narrow and shallow opening, called Neptune’s Bellows which connects the caldera to the sea. The volcano last erupted in 1969, the British research station personnel who were based there at the time had to be evacuated with help from the Chilean navy.

Deception Island, named for the almost unnoticeable entrance, is known for its history and atmosphere. As we drove ashore a sulphur-smelling mist rose from the water. The black volcanic fluvial terraces make a striking contrast with the island’s snowy peaks. We saw the remnants of the island’s human history in the rusting, towering cylinders and bleached bones from the days of whaling. Buildings from the abandoned British base, which are slowly succumbing to the ravages of snow and katabatic winds, projected a sense of desolation. A steep hike up to Neptune’s window (a collapsed areas of the volcano’s wall) provided views of the spectacular emerald and black sand coves below. Zodiac cruisers and kayakers who spent time exploring in the open sea outside of the island came back with excited reports of humpback whale sightings. Whilst our on-board wildlife acoustics scientists came back from their cruise with the first ever recordings of vocalizations between penguins at sea while porpoising. What a fabulous day!

Tonight as we sail across the Bransfield Strait (named for the British naval officer who first sighted the Antarctic Peninsula in January 1820) we will wake up with a view of icy Antarctica in our porthole windows. The adventure continues!

Kayak Trip Log:
Walkers Bay (Livingston Is.)
We paddled in Walkers bay, where we had calm conditions on an outgoing tide. Whilst we paddled we encountered some juvenile Elephant seals playing in the water. While there were not bothered by us they did tend to keep an eye on us to make sure we were not a threat. We had 22 people kayaking this morning and all of us enjoyed the Elephant seals and birdlife. We started our paddle close by the glacier front and continued to paddle towards Hannah Point. After good 1.5 hours of paddling, we had 5 minutes of silent time to take it all in, and we all really loved it. I think we can all agree we had a great first paddle!

Whalers Bay (Deception Is.)
This afternoon we paddled in the caldera at deception island near to Whalers Bay. It was very protected here and we had no wind inside the caldera. We started the paddle near the boilers that were on shore left from the old whaling station. While we looked at the debris left on shore here it was a reminder of human history in Antarctica. With 8 paddlers we heading clockwise towards the entrance of the caldera and enjoyed the nesting Blue Eyed Shags on the cliffs and we could hear their fluffy chicks calling out to their parents for food. This location has some very interesting and pristine geology, it was amazing to be able to paddle slowly past to admire it. It is not often that we can paddle the entrance of this special and wild island, but conditions this time were exceptionally calm and friendly. What lucky kayakers we were today!

Day 5: Orne Harbour and Orne Island

Orne Harbour and Orne Island
Datum: 11.01.2020
Positie: 64o37’.4 S 062o32’.5 W
Wind: Light Air 1
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

On this morning we woke up to the familiar voice of our expedition leader Martin Berg. Once the curtains where pulled and our eyesight adjusted, we were welcomed with the sight of massive icebergs and extensive mountain ranges of the Antarctic Peninsula. This quickly pulled us from our dreamy sleep and right into expedition mode. Already before breakfast passengers and staff members had sighted both Minke whales and various penguins close to the ship.

The air had grown colder, and light bands of mist where moving over the icy waters of the Gerlache Strait. A sight for sore eyes indeed. A bountiful buffet breakfast gave us all energy to get started and to face the oncoming adventures. The ship sailed alongside the mighty glaciers into a small bay with the name Orne Harbour, clearly marked with a large mountain named Spigot Peak. There was a lot of glacial ice in the water, and surely some of us wondered if the Zodiacs would be able to navigate it. This would be the first landing site of the day, quickly all passengers and staff members started buzzing around to face the day head on. While the 11 kayakers got dressed for a long day on the water, the colour groups headed out for their zodiac cruises and for the landing in Orne Harbour.

While approaching the landing site many of us had mixed feelings. With great stubbornness and a bit of panting most of us made it up to the 300ft/100m high mountain ridge. As soon as we reached the summit all the panting was forgotten and quickly replaced with awesome impressions from the stunning view over the Gerlache Strait and the surrounding mountains.

The presence of a Chinstrap Penguin colony only made it better – and a bit smellier! The zodiac cruising was very successful and we encountered 4 different seal species, Humpback whales, Minky whales and many a penguin. Almost so much wildlife that it put the huge icebergs in a state of shadow. Towards the end of the cruise we discovered a lazy, juvenile, male elephant seal sleeping on a piece of glacier ice merely meters from the Hondius.

Around noon we all returned to the Hondius and enjoyed a lunch buffet. Possibly a powernap or two were taken as the ship sailed just due south. Only an hour later we heard the sound of the anchor chain and knew we had arrived at our afternoon landing site: Orne Islands, located in the Gerlache Strait. Once again, we split up in colour groups and along with our kayak group we set out, full of expectations.

The waters were full of large icebergs, the morning fog had cleared and ashore we were welcomed by a large colony of Chinstrap penguins, with the inclusion of a few Gentoos here and there. This landing site was much gentler, and nowhere near as steep. Even so we could enjoy a relatively long hiking trail to different penguin colonies and watch them feed their newborn chicks from a short distance.

Out in the zodiacs there was a lot of action as the wildlife was abundant and the weather was warm and quiet. A Leopard seal had perched itself on an ice floe just west of Orne Islands and we could marvel at this giant predator sleeping only meters away from our boats, loudly snoring and wheezing. Further out in the Gerlache a large number of Humpback whales were travelling and putting on the show of a lifetime. The sight of a Humpback whale on close range is truly an awe inspiring one that few of us ever have the privilege to experience in our lifetimes.

As we were awaiting our main course in the restaurant the message came from the bridge that a large pod of Killer whales were very close to the ship. There proved to be about 30 of them, and what a performance they put on! Tail-slapping, spy-hopping, side-swimming and even a small calf breaching! That’s what we call ‘A dinner and a show’ in Antarctica! Whales, seals, orcas, penguins, tabular icebergs, sunshine and seabirds. This is truly Antarctica at its best. Another day for the books!

Kayak Trip Log:
Orne Harbor
Always magic, no wind lots of ice, and some tidal current. Crabeater seals on ice flows resting after spending a long time looking for the superfood of krill, a key animal in this remote ecosystem. We paddled around Spigot peak and we crossed with two resting Humpbacks. The fog was mystical and was hard to see the ship for some time. It gave us a feeling of being alone here in the great white continent. After that we paddled back to the harbor and took a beautiful group picture with an impressive glacier in the background. Good tun out this morning with 11 kayakers and all who joined had a wonderful time out on the water!

Orne Island
We started off with great luck as we spotted a Leopard seal on an ice flow. This afternoon we had 20 paddlers join and we heading to George Point to start, followed by enjoying and circumnavigating Orne island. Everybody enjoyed lots of penguins and huge stranded ice bergs. This afternoon we had very calm conditions and absolutely no wind at all. So far the weather is treating us like kings and queens. Another successful kayaking session!

Day 6: Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island and Port Charcot

Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island and Port Charcot
Datum: 12.01.2020
Positie: 65o03’.9 S 063o56’.5 W
Wind: NW3
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

Wow. What a day. Today was by far the longest day we’ve had onboard…and that’s a good thing! It started off with a wakeup call that came quite a bit earlier than usual. That’s because we were woken up as we entered the famous “Lemaire Channel”. This extremely narrow passage goes by many names. “Kodak Crack” “Kodak Canyon” “Kodak Gap”… obviously they all start with Kodak and for good reason. The names all start with Kodak which references the famous film brand and rightfully so. This is the most photogenic part of Antarctica we have seen yet. The snow capped, jagged mountain peaks towered over glacier lined shores reflecting off the still water creating amazing photography opportunities. It didn’t matter what camera you were using; it was impossible to take a bad photo here. The sky was a bit gloomy but this helped bring out the blues in the massive icebergs that were grounded throughout the narrow path. The Hondius bridge team successfully navigated us from the North end to the South utilizing the ships highly rated ice class and really showing us what she’s capable of. We were lucky enough to see a juvenile male elephant seal just off the starboard side. He didn’t have a single care in the world as we passed by. It took only about forty minutes to complete the journey but it’s hard to believe this was just the start to what would turn out to be an incredible, but as mentioned, LONG day.

After successfully passing through the Lemaire Channel, which few ships can do, we landed at a place called Petermann Island. This place was rich with history and wildlife. As per usual, we were split into our groups and did a Zodiac cruise as well as a landing. It didn’t matter which group you were in here. Either way you got an incredibly unique experience. On land we got to see the third and final species of Penguin you can expect to see on the Antarctic Peninsula; the Adelie Penguin. This is known to be the most difficult of the three to see because they are a lot less common and tend to favour more remote parts of the Peninsula. Not only did we see hundreds of Adelies, but they had chicks with them too! Big black fluff balls that must have been the size of a cantaloupe. Meanwhile, on the cruise we lucked out and ran into a “Wall of Whales” as Morten put it. Every Zodiac on the water this day had an encounter with a Humpback Whale. They were bubble feeding, breaching and tail slapping all around us. The guides estimated there to be forty to sixty whales in the area. We even saw some calves with their mothers as well. Needless to say, it was an epic adventure and landing for everyone!

It’s hard to believe this day could get any better, but it did! Our second landing of the day was in Port Charcot. Another historical landmark that offered one of the most unique and quite rare sightings. Once we hiked up to the top we found a colony of penguins that were a mix of mostly Chinstraps and Gentoos. However, there were a few Adelie penguins mixed in. Even though we had gotten to see plenty of each of the three species during the first few days of the trip, we have yet to see all three in one place. Some of the passengers even managed to get all three species in one shot. Neill, the Photographer mentioned that this was extremely rare and even he had been able to get this shot only once in his life. We also did another Zodiac cruise here in Charcot Cove. Otherwise known as the “Iceberg Graveyard”. Massive icebergs of all sorts of shapes and sizes end up trapped here after grounding in relatively shallow water. The ice-flows offer great resting spots for all the Weddell and Crabeater seals we saw during our cruise. We even spotted a Leopard Seal here as well. The water was super calm, as there was almost no wind. This offered beautiful reflections off the surface of all the ice around us. We could hear one iceberg after another cracking and calving way off in the distance. It echoed off the mountain walls that surrounded us. It was very quiet in here otherwise since there was no wind. We suddenly realized why they call it the “graveyard”. It certainly had an eerie feeling to it, despite being packed full of wildlife.

When we returned to the ship, we thought this long day was finally coming to an end; but there was a surprise waiting for us. We smelled the distinct smell of meat and charcoal coming off the ship and could hear the dance music as we approached. The crew surprised us with the Polar BBQ. The chefs and the restaurant staff did an amazing job of putting this event together. The food was fantastic, as always. Chicken, Bratwurst, Pork Steaks and Beef with sides of corn, potatoes and all the other fixens’ one would expect at a traditional BBQ. The desert spread was to die for. No one was counting calories this evening. The best surprise of all was the hot wine! SO GOOD! While some of us thought we were too tired to partake, our minds were quickly changed once dinner was over. Now the dance party has started! Every one of the staff members from the Expedition guides, to steward/stewardesses, Captain, Hotel staff, laundry… everyone was out there! It was great out on the decks having so much fun. They even showed us some of their choreographed dance routines which really got the crowd going. It was the perfect ending to an already long long long and amazing day. The music faded off into the night as did the passengers one by one as we knew, tomorrow was going to be another fun filled day of activities.

Kayak Trip Log:
Petermann Island
An absolutely beautiful quiet morning with a small group of 5 lucky kayakers. Lots of Humpback whales bubble feeding around us looking desperately for the precious Antarctic Krill. One even did some lobtailing right next to our kayaks, a unique experience to listen to their powerful and majestic sounds. After, we paddled along Petermann’s coastline until the Blue Eyed Shags nesting area and an Adelie penguin colony. A great way to start our third day on the white continent. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that intimate experience with the Humpback whales.

Port Charcot
Almost everyone came out this afternoon, we had 26 paddlers on the water! The word had gotten out of the amazing experience that was had in the morning! We paddled among huge stranded ice bergs and had a bit of current due to the upcoming tide. Very scenic landscape and a few crabeater seals hauled out on ice. The shapes and forms of eroded icebergs just flipped our minds and made us understand how incredible the natural processes are down here the far south of our planet. Couldn’t have been better paddling than today on glassy waters.

Day 7: Brown Base, Neko Harbour & Leith Cove

Brown Base, Neko Harbour & Leith Cove
Datum: 13.01.2020
Positie: 64o53’.2 S 062o51’.6 W
Wind: SW2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

Today we were woken up by Expedition Leader Martin in the morning at Paradise bay. When we opened our eyes in the morning we were already in between the tall mountains and mirror like water, and an Argentinian research station called Base Brown was where we were going to visit. After breakfast we started our operation. The personnel at Base Brown came to welcome us at the landing site, and even opened the museum and briefed us of the stories behind Brown station. This was not all, there were gentoo penguins living around the base and because of the hot summer, it was quite muddy around the lower ground. Pass the muddy penguin colony, there is a track to a view point about 70 meters altitude, it requires physical strength to go up, although it was quite a hike for some of the people it was worth the effort. The view looking down on the entirety of paradise bay is just spectacular. It was even more fun on the way down from the view point back to the base, we could slide down on the snow. Everyone was many years younger when they made the slide down, with huge smiles from ear to ear.

The other group of passengers started with a zodiac cruise first, there were Weddell seals relaxing on the small island just north of the Base Brown, a Leopard seal resting on an ice floe, Blue Eyed Shags nesting on the cliff raising their chicks. Continuing to the back side of Brown station is Skontorp Cove, which is an amazingly scenic and peaceful place. Most of the people enjoyed the quietness here with the calling of Antarctic Terns and the eerie sounds of explosions coming from the melting ice floes.

In the afternoon we did another continental landing and zodiac cruise at Neko Harbour. The glaciers around Neko Harbour are very active, so the passengers were asked to stay off the beach area in case of any calving event. Similar as Brown Station, there was a view point that we could hike up to, and it is about 80 meters altitude and around 2 kilometres snow hike to this view point. The scenery is spectacular looking down onto the glacier front. There was a Minke whale and a Humpback whale that swam pass the shore slowly. The zodiac cruisers went to the backside of the Neko Harbour and had great encounters with Humpback whales again and three types of seals in one zodiac cruise.

Kayak Trip Log:
Paradise Bay
This morning we were met with light rain and bit chillier temperature than previous sessions. But despite the conditions we had 11 paddlers. We started our paddle with viewing 4 Weddell seals near Brown Station. Around the station on the cliff we admired the Blue Eyed Shags nesting up high, some chicks were very tiny and crying out for food. The penguins enjoyed our company and played around the kayakers for almost the whole activity. Going up the bay, the cirque of glaciers looking magnificent and pristine.

Neko Harbour
Moist, overcast, and magical. We paddled with 12 people and spotted Crabeaters seal on an ice flow. Then we paddled amongst huge icebergs as we headed towards the rocky faces. Temperatures seemed to be cooler today or maybe it was the humidity sinking into our bones. As we were making out way back to Honduis we were all feeling a bit cold. We shared in another moment of Antarctic silent time, where we could engage all of our scenes and really feel the power of Antarctica.

Day 8: Danco Island & Errera Channel

Danco Island & Errera Channel
Datum: 14.02.2020
Positie: 64o43’.5 S 062o36’.6 W
Wind: Light Air 1
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

The day started early with the now familiar refrains of Martin, our Expedition Leader. He let us know that it was just above freezing, 1 °C, overcast, and was raining gently – perhaps not the most auspicious start to our final day in Antarctica. Nonetheless, we were all up early for another hearty breakfast and eager to get outside. As the time came to disembark Hondius the weather had improved substantially; grey palls of cloud shrouded the mountains, but the rain had abated and the sea was utterly still. The stunning landscapes surrounding of the Errera Channel doubled up in the mercurial reflections, ruffled only by the porpoising penguins and the scattered brash ice and icebergs.

We boarded Zodiacs and headed in for our morning landing, Danco Island, a rotund islet around a mile long that is stranded in the middle of the Ererra Channel. The island is covered in a small glacier and is loomed over by the towering peaks of Rongé Island to the south and the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula to the north and east. We landed on a pebble beach among the Gentoos and set off up the hill to explore the island, and to gain a view over our wonderful surroundings. The path up the island led us through the banks of snow and threaded its way carefully between the colonies of nesting gentoos penguins. From viewpoints along the path we were able to see new parents carefully tending their freshly-hatched chicks; keeping them warm and sheltered from the rain, and protecting them from the predatory skua circling the colonies. Our efforts up the path were rewarded finally with a fantastic view from a highpoint on the island; from here we were able to see the towering volcanic peaks around us, the sublime Ererra Channel, and way out into the Gerlache Strait to the west.

Those of us Zodiac cruising first had an array of wildlife and scenery to enjoy from a waterline perspective. Our first encounter was a resting Leopard seal, just a few hundred metres from Hondius. As we continued along the coastline we encountered several Weddell seals hauled out on the rocks, and also on the snow banks close to the water on Danco Island. During a moment of contemplative Antarctic silence we heard the deep breaths of a Minke whale and caught several brief glimpses of its prominent curved dorsal fin before it disappeared again, lost in the swirling maze of ice. After a successful circumnavigation of the island we headed to the beach and swapped places with our fellow passengers. This landing would be our last in Antarctica, and to mark this, many of us braved the icy waters for a goodbye plunge! After being briefed on the beach by the Expedition Team it was time to test our mettle and we dashed into the frigid sea. Just a few seconds was enough for the water to chill us to the core, and were back on the beach in no time, dripping, swaddled in fresh towels, and thrilled by the pleasure of a wild swim in the waters of Antarctica.

We boarded Hondius once more and as we weighed anchor it was time to bid a slow farewell to this wonderful continent. Over lunch we gently picked our way across the Gerlache Strait, bound for the narrow passage between the Melchior Islands, the open seas of the Drake Passage, and eventually for Ushuaia.

In the afternoon we had a lecture from Laurence, one of our two resident glaciologists, we learnt about these curious rivers of ice; how they form, how they flow, and how they exert a huge influence the entire earth system. Just as Laurence was delving into the world of ice we heard a call on the PA system – Killer whales in front of the boat! Antarctica had one more surprise in store for us. A large pod soon surrounded the boat and we could see the massive dorsal fins of the males sporadically breaking the surface as the pod roamed the waters, searching for prey. This incredible encounter lasted half an hour and was a fitting end to trip marked by incredible wildlife encounters. As Hondius wheeled around once more we were suddenly enveloped in a bank of roiling mist, that was it, Antarctica hid herself, and we journeyed north, headed for warmer climes.

Kayak Trip Log:
Danco Island
Sadly, this was our last paddling day. 13 kayakers started off paddling around Danco Island, named after Emille Danco who perished during Adrian D’Gerlache expedition. The feeling of kayaking around islands named after these brave explorers was superb, those were real men. When we reached the back of the island we spotted a Minke whale and also saw some seals on ice flows. After a really good almost nonstop paddling 9 brave kayakers decided to do the polar plunge off the beach of Danco. A nice ending of our activities before entering the Drake Passage.

Day 9: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Datum: 15.01.2020
Positie: 61°18’.3 S, 63°56’.0 W
Wind: SE2
Weer: fog
Luchttemperatuur: +3

We awoke in the morning to a voyage through Drake Passage. The sea was calm and our views surrounded by thick fog. We were passing a major boundary zone that separates Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions. This zone, called the convergence, lies between 55° and 60°S where warm subtropical waters mix with cold polar waters forming biological boundary with varies types plants and fish species typical to polar regions but rarely found to the south of it.

Once again, we heard Michael’s voice informing us it was 8 am and it was time to enjoy a delicious breakfast, as usual prepared for us by wonderful galley team. At 10 am we gathered in the lounge to listen to Szymon’s lecture about the Orcas. We have learnt so much about varies types of Orcas, regions they live and travel to and also their habits, sophisticated social skills, high intelligence and great sensitivity to emotions which exceeds even our own.
Next, it was time to gather on Deck 3 to return our boots which proved more comfortable and waterproof than initially thought. It would have been hard to survive the last few days without them.

Following buffet lunch, the fog outside cleared and once again we watched in anticipation for the signs of a wildlife, we got so accustomed to. Still not a lot of birds which is explained by the lack of wind outside. However, occasionally Black Browed Albatrosses were seen flying over the waves and landing on the water to rest.

In the afternoon we continued our journey surrounded by vast waters of Southern Ocean. This stretch of water is names after Sir Francis Drake, to some a pirate, to others a hero. As first English sailor he reached Magellan Straight and it is incredible to think that in September 1578, after being blown by strong winds from southern tip of Cape Horn, he sailed the same waters on-board Pelican, only in slightly different conditions.

At 2 pm, some of us returned our kayaking gear and said thanks to Dan and Eduardo with whom we shared unforgettable moments admiring outstanding landscapes and tranquility only Antarctica can offer. The afternoon went slowly, while watching the photos in the lounge and voting for our favorite ones. Some of us enjoyed the bridge for one last time or went outside to stare at the horizon hopping for some action. At 4 pm we met again in the lounge for Jerry’s presentation about the race to South Pole. We were transported back in time into the Heroic Age of expeditions and learnt about straggles, courage and perseverance of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton in their quest to reach the most southern place on Earth.

At 6 pm, as usual, we met for our daily re-cap session. We’ve been updated on the progress of our voyage and the weather forecast by Martin. Meike informed us about different types of birds we are expected to see on our passage and their sheer size which is not always easy to recognize from a distance. Morten left us with a puzzle to solve over the next day – “Why there are no polar bears in the Antarctica and no penguins in the Arctic?”. Correct answer was to be reviled the following day.
Following our exquisite 4-course meal everyone gathered in the lounge at 9 pm. The winner of the photo competition was to be reviled and it was up to us to decide.
The winners were: Wild Life: Eric Van Kuik; Landscape: Sandra Bleeker; General: Cindy Carhart

And so another eventful day has past!

Day 10: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Datum: 16.01.2020
Positie: 56o28’.2S 065o49’.3W
Wind: SW5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

After rocky night on the Drake, the Hondius sailed smoothly into the morning of our last day at sea. Our own mood was a reflective as is inevitable for the final travel day of any expedition.
We were content, thrilled even, with the experiences that we had shared, but were also aware that our time of sharing was 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. Adele gave an inspiring lecture on the history of arts and artist in Antarctica. Being an artist herself expedition guide Adele shared some of her artwork that she made in Antarctica, like the piece:

nothing but footprints- and the photo project with her self-made pinhole camera’s being distributed to research stations all over the Antarctic continent.

After Adele’s lecture, expedition guide Meike invited us for a bird watching session at the back deck and taught us how to identify the different seabirds. Once outside on deck 5, we were treated with close sightings of a variety of Albatrosses. The Wandering Albatross, the Southern Royal and the Black browed. Giant Petrels, Wilson Storm and White chinned Petrels with the slender billed Prions soaring on the wind leaving us in owe with their gracious flying technics.

If it wasn’t for upcoming workshop of Sara and Morgan we could have stayed outside this morning. The final results of the audio recorded on this voyage was presented by researchers Sara and Morgan along with very educational information on how animals communicate. A true learning experience. It was the call for a beautiful lunch by hotel manager Michael that made us move to the dining room around 12.30. In the afternoon the expedition team presented a lecture about the human impacts on the Antarctic environment, hosted by

Nozomi. Sighting of a pod of Peale’s dolphins next to the ship was announced from the bridge. We got outside and enjoyed looking at the dolphins riding the waves and jumping for about 15 minutes. The lecture continued after that which got us thinking about ways that we can all contribute to the changes that will be required.

The final formal event was a chance to toast to our incredible learning and discovery voyage over a farewell drink with Captain Remmert-Jan Koster. The Hotel Crew, the Galley and the Laundry crew were personally thanked by Michael with a last Thank You to all of the people aboard Hondius who worked so hard to made our expedition so wonderful. Martin our expedition leader thanked the staff member for the great teamwork during the voyage. It was the trips slide show by Neill and the passengers video edited by George who made as realize once, more how fortunate we have been with the amazing wildlife encounters, the weather and all the awesome passengers. At around 7 pm the call came inviting everyone to dinner, so we could all enjoy a final experience together, sharing memories of the trip over the excellent dished prepared by Chef Mario and team.

We knew that we would have an early start in the morning, but it didn’t seem to matter as we got together in the lounge one more time and partied until late.

Day 11: Disembarkation, Ushuaia

Disembarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 17.01.2020
Positie: 54°48’.6S, 068°18’.0 W
Wind: Light Air 1
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +18

Our last morning wake up call to announce the final morning on board the Hondius. As instructed, we left our luggage out in the hall marked with the appropriate tag for our needs. We had a quick breakfast and as always it was delicious. There were many farewells to our new friends made on board. As we were exchanging contact information the expedition team was busy hauling our luggage up and down stairs and finally down the gang way; to be sorted and checked after we disembarked. We made our way down the gangway and shook the hands of our team that awaited us for our farewell. With much emotions we all set out on our separate ways, for some this would mark the end of our travels and we will be heading home. For others this amazing voyage was only a stop on our grand adventures. For where ever you go from here we wish you safe travels and hope to see you again someday aboard the Hondius. Farewell guys and go safe.

This is a trip of a life time and will stay with you for the rest of your lives. With all the amazing information you have received through the expedition team in conversations and in lectures it may be that you want to learn more or know ways to be involved in the research happening in the polar regions;

If you are interested in how to help-out science by giving some of your time and photos to the Citizen Science projects. These four projects are very user friendly and would be greatly appreciated: (1) RecognIce who use photos of glaciers all around the world to raise positive awareness, (2) Happy Whale who identify whales from your photos all over the planet, (3) Penguin watch who ask for your time to count nesting penguins from photos, and (4) Oceanites who make an inventory of sea birds in Antarctica by asking you to do some bird surveys when you venture towards the southern continent.

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!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1656 nautical miles

Furthest South: 65o10’.6S 064o07’.7W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Remmert Jan Koster, Expedition Leader Martin Berg, Hotel Manager Michael Frauendorfer and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Details

Reiscode: HDS27A20
Reisdatum: 7 Jan – 17 Jan, 2020
Duur: 10 nachten
Schip: m/v Hondius
Inscheping: Ushuaia
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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