HDS32-24, trip log, Atlantic Odyssey

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Datum: 28.03.2024
Positie: 54° 48.63 ’S / 068° 17.9’W
Wind: NNW 3
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +7

It is time, after much anticipation to board what will be our home for the next thirty days as we undertake an adventure of a lifetime, sailing the Atlantic Ocean from its southernmost point to Cape Verde. Over 25 nationalities make our contingent of travelers, coming from all four corners of the world as we gather in Ushuaia to board our new Home MV Hondius.

For once Ushuaia isn’t too windy and also quite dry on our arrival day ahich let sus enjoy its many beuaties. The birders undoubtably took a walk along the shore to see the rich bird life of the south american shores, while others took this last oportunity for an empanada or a local brewed beer.

In the afternoon was time for us to make our way down the slopes and onto our new home. Little by little we arrived at the jetty and were welcomed by a group of smiling crew members and Staff, braving the wind that had by now picked up, welcoming us and showing us the way.

On board our precious suitcases had been brought to our cabins and it was time to make ourselves comfortable in our new environment. After a mandatory safety briefing in case of an emergency we were treated to a drink by the Captain who told a few words about the ship, his crew, and the trip we were about to undertake. Hans our Expedition leader continued and entroduced to us the Expedition Team, in charge of interpreting our voyage by being the link between us and what we see when we are outside. They are composed of many specialists from Geology to marine biologists, birders of course and historians.

It was time after this introduction to be introduced to our weight gain program in the restaurant. We were served a magical buffet which set the tone for the rest of the trip. We will meet here three time a day, twice for buffet in the mornings and evenings and we will enjoy a four course meal every evening.

The weather was not on our side on this day so decision was made for us to spend the night in Ushuaia in order to avoid a “Purple Monster” which was causing havoc in the drake. This will give us the rare oportunity to discover the Beagle channel in the morning.

Day 2: At Sea – Beagle channel, Scotia Sea

At Sea – Beagle channel, Scotia Sea
Datum: 29.03.2024
Positie: 55° 06.1 ’S / 060° 31.6’W
Wind: W 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +3

The day we all expected arrived! Sea conditions were good, and the weather was a bit rainy and cloudy. It was dark and the lights of the pier shone intensely. Activity in the port was as usual. Provisions were being delivered to various ships around, some passengers could be seen departing from their ships after their Antarctic adventures. A long line of buses collecting them as well as many service trucks around.

Next to us, opposite the pier was the ARA Almirante Irizar one of the biggest ice breakers ships of the South Americans, she lied there moored with her very distinctive bright orange and yellow livery.

We woke up all early to witness the manoeuvres of departure. Our officers closed the bridge as soon as the pilot was on board. In the bridge shortly after 07:00 our officers started to issue the first orders. The bow springer lines of the ship were casted away as well as the ones in the aft. Soon we were moving slowly away from the pier. We were underway. Our adventure started finally. Our epic crossing of the Atlantic Ocean started!

As soon as we cleared the pier, we moved south, to gain the mouth of the Beagle Channel. As soon as we left Ushuaia, we turned east bounded for the east entrance of the Channel. The sun came and lit the atmosphere late, and with the light we were able to see the first features of the channel. There were the ‘Dientes de Navarrino’ (Navarrino’s Theeth’) to the south, the chilean side, and the beautiful forest of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego to the North.

We sailed along the Beagle for the next hours seeing various features as we moved eastwards. When breakfast finished, we had the town of Puerto Williams to our ship’s starboard. This is the southernmost settlement in the world. An hour later, we came to the position of Bahia Moat where our pilot left the ship.

We had various activities that morning. Around 10:30 Martin our guide gave a nice introductory talk with the title ‘Birds of the Drake’. When this presentation ended, we left the Beagle Channel and the islands that mark its entrance were visible from the aft of the ship, namely Isla Nueva, Isla Lennox and Isla Picton. We’re sailing the northern tip of the Drake Passage bounded for South Georgia.

For the afternoon we had two lectures, being the first one given by Marijke. She talked about the cetaceans we may encounter in the Drake Passage. Georgina was our second speaker of the afternoon. She presented an introduction to photography. Late in the afternoon we had our first recap of the trip.

Dinner was served at 19:00 and after it the bird enthusiasts and experts had their first meeting in the lecture room, to discuss the species seen during the day. Various sights of wondering and royal albatross were done throughout the day, as well as various types of prions, petrels and skuas by these bird enthusiasts.

The night came and we encountered a turbulent sea which made the ship to bounce and roll. The weather deteriorated a lot in that evening, and we had rain and low visibility. No stars were seen and in this dark night, our officers navigated with the aid of the radar.

We were going to need two more days to reach the first destination of our trip, the remote islands of the South Georgia archipelago.

Day 3: At Sea – Scotia Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea – Scotia Sea towards South Georgia
Datum: 30.03.2024
Positie: 54° 43.6 ’S / 058° 00.1’W
Wind: WSW 5
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +9

We woke up on our second sea day to a slightly better sea state, which was to improve as the day went on. The weather was bright with occasional patches of blue sky. Outside, the boat was surrounded by huge albatrosses – mostly Wandering Albatross, with the occasional Southern Royal and Grey-Headed Albatross. The Wanderers were of various states of maturity, which enabled us to become more familiar with the associated plumage details. A probable Brown Skua was seen aggressively harassing Wandering Albatrosses (3-4 times its size!), to regurgitate their food – an amazing sight.

Inside we all attended the mandatory briefing on zodiac operations and biosecurity for South Georgia, following which we joined the expedition team on Deck 3, who issued us with our Muckboots for our off-ship activities. The team then invited the less experienced bird enthusiasts to join them on the stern to spot wildlife and help with identification. During this, it was noticed that a Snowy Sheathbill had ‘stowed away’ on Deck 8 and we took the opportunity to make ourselves familiar with this funny looking bird and capture a few photos.

After a good lunch, we were treated to fascinating lectures from Chloe on Squid and from Joss about the famous polar adventurer, Ernest Shackleton. Outside the wildlife was still ‘hot’ with large groups of Prions being seen; even the really experienced birders admit to finding this group difficult separate into the various species! Seemingly ever-present Giant Petrels were joined by beautiful Kerguelen Petrels and both Southern Rockhopper and King Penguins were sighted, swimming close to the ship. Quite a day for the birders, who rounded it off with the evening gathering to share images, opinions, etc. A quiet drink in the bar or an early night for the rest of us…….ready for tomorrow!

Day 4: At Sea - Scotia Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea - Scotia Sea towards South Georgia
Datum: 31.03.2024
Positie: 54° 14.4 ’S / 050° 02.3’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +3

Today we spent our Easter Sunday at sea! We were welcomed with chocolate eggs and easter decorations in the dining room for breakfast.

In the morning, Julian taught us about the geology of South Georgia. The island's geology consists of folded metamorphosed slates, silts, and graywackes with occasional thin limestones. Additionally, Julian discussed igneous intrusions along the south and southeast coasts.

Our afternoon began with a mandatory biosecurity check. We were called by deck to have our outerwear, backpacks, muck boots, and tripods checked for seeds and dust. These biosecurity measures are in place to protect the fragile ecosystem of the South Georgia islands from invasive species. The officer of South Georgia is going to check us too in Grytviken.

Following the biosecurity check, Bob gave us a lecture about the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The Arctic is an ocean covered by a thin layer of perennial sea ice and surrounded by land. In contrast, Antarctica is a continent covered by a very thick ice cap and surrounded by a rim of sea ice and the Southern Ocean. Bob also explained the geographical and political distinctions between the two poles.

Throughout the day, we spotted wildlife around the ship. We were delighted to see hourglass dolphins, which are black on top and white on the belly with white patches on the sides. Whalers colloquially referred to them as "sea cows." We also observed a variety of albatrosses and other sea birds.

As another day at sea comes to an end, we eagerly anticipate reaching the magnificent island of South Georgia tomorrow.

Day 5: At sea towards South Georgia, Shags rocks

At sea towards South Georgia, Shags rocks
Datum: 01.04.2024
Positie: 53° 41.9 ’S / 042° 00.1’W
Wind: W 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +5

On our fourth full day at sea, we were excited to learn that today we would come across the magnificent but rather bizarre feature of the Scotia Sea, Shag Rocks. Shag Rocks are an interesting geological feature of the Scotia Ridge – the tips of undersea mountains rising like daggers out of the ocean, like triangles of Toblerone in the Southern Ocean! Some miles from the island of South Georgia, we would still sail another half day and a night from here before reaching our first landing destination.

Our sailing today was pleasant, with sunshine and a stiff breeze causing the sea to be fairly choppy. Throughout the day we encountered many Prions, skimming the crests of the waves, their numbers increasing as we drew closer to the Rocks. The birds we saw today were mostly Fairy Prions, the smallest and daintiest of the Prions in this area. Wandering albatrosses also graced us with their presence, and we spotted several White-chinned petrels today, too. Aside from birds, we had many sightings of the second largest whale in our oceans – the Fin whale! Our marine mammal expert-spotter, Marijke, estimated over sixty Fin whales were recorded during our day’s sailing today. Shag Rocks is known to be a hot spot for these beautiful creatures – Krill is plentiful here and they come to feast. We were also very lucky to have the company of several pods of Hourglass dolphins, riding along the waves with Hondius.

As we approached Shag Rocks just before lunch time, the sea conditions picked up and the bow became less of a bird-watching spot and rather more of a ‘second-shower-of-the-day’ situation for some…! The photographers enjoyed great photo opportunities from deck three aft, as we took a closer look at Shag Rocks and all the feathered creatures calling this wild and remote spot home.

Lectures today were presented by Elizabeth about whaling, Georgina introducing photography and Bob.

Another beautiful day at sea (and we escaped the day without any April Fools…..).

Day 6: Fortuna bay, Leith harbour

Fortuna bay, Leith harbour
Datum: 02.04.2024
Positie: 54° 03.5 ’S / 037° 18.3’W
Wind: W 3
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +4

The morning of April 2nd was filled with long awaited excitement and the feeling of success. For some, this Oceanwide trip had been years in the making and the moment has finally arrived. Hondius left Ushuaia days prior finally reached South Georgia in time for a stunning sunrise over this beautiful island, providing guests onboard with their first breath-taking views. Views of snow-capped mountains, jagged peaks towering over the shorelines, giant seabirds soaring effortlessly on our leeside, and marine life energetically leaping through the waves almost as if to welcome our arrival. Views, which some of us regard as our favourite place on earth.

We started our first South Georgia expedition day at Fortuna Bay. The name originating from one of the first whaling vessels Carl Larsen brought with him to the island to commence the bustling whaling industry. This sorrow past of South Georgia whaling would be discussed often in the days to come with plans to visit Grytviken, Leith, Stromness, and Husvik, all old whaling stations. However, this morning was not about the whales, it was about the penguins. For most, today was their first time ever seeing Southern Elephant seals, Antarctic Fur seals, and perhaps the most important, King penguins! Fortuna Bay is home to one of the largest King penguin colonies and it is a spectacle everyone must see.

We landed all guests in the morning with over three hours to walk amongst the wildlife. The King penguin colony is situated at the back of the wide glacial out washed plain, which houses beautifully braided streams lacing from the sea to Konig Glacier. Not only is the colony a sight for our eyes but also our ears! The sound of hundreds of king penguins of all ages could be thought as the symphony of South Georgia; spectacular! Fortuna is not only to be enjoyed from the land but also from the water.

We dropped zodiacs in the water and had a short cruise along Whistle Cove and the massive icebergs grounded in the bay. Above us towered the peaks of Breakwind Ridge, in front of us a plethora of species went about their daily lives, and below us kelp strongly hung onto the seabed floor while it swayed side to side with the constantly moving current Although King penguins were the main attraction, other species we had the pleasure of seeing during the zodiac cruise included: Gentoo penguins, Light-mantled sooty albatross, Snowy sheathbill, Brown skua, Elephant seals and Fur seals.

The next destination for our afternoon activity was not too far away, as we headed around the corner to a protected and shelted place called Leith Harbor. Leith Harbor is another one of the old whaling stations in South Georgia, situated in a bay just next to two more stations, Stromness, and Husvik. We set out for an afternoon zodiac cruise to enjoy the wildlife on the shorelines and see the old whaling station buildings. What a fantasic first day in South Georgia!

When we returned back onboard we were welcomed to a surprise from our galley and hotel crew; an outside dinner! The grills were fired up and BBQ food sizzling away. We ended this day with a lovely dinner outside on deck admiring the scenery and getting excited for what was in store the next day.

Day 7: Grytviken, Godthul

Grytviken, Godthul
Datum: 03.04.2024
Positie: 54° 51.3 ’S / 035° 56.6’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +4

A light mist greeted our arrival into the eastern arm of Cumberland Bay, early in the morning. Soon it started to lift giving us wonderful views of the mountains around Grytviken, King Edward Point where the South Georgia Government is based, and the rusting remains of the whaling station.

Soon we were anchored just outside the point, and the Government biosecurity inspector with two folk from the Grytviken museum were on board – would our scrupulous cleaning efforts be adequate to the rigorous check? Happily, whilst our two museum representatives were explaining about the history of the site, and the various do’s and don’ts of our visit, the inspector eventually declared himself satisfied with our efforts – we had a pass rate of 100%, nice after all that work extracting those pesky seeds from boot treads!

So then it was onto the zodiacs, and motoring ashore to land on the beach just beside two rusting old whaling vessels. Whilst much of the site was closed to us because of avian flu, we were able to visit the museum and post office and see much of the old life, whilst keeping our loved ones back home happy with postcards and souvenirs. All this was greatly enhanced by Josh giving a guided tour around as much of the site as possible, including the beautiful old church.

Because it wasn’t possible to walk around the shore to the cemetery, we had a shuttle running across the bay, which offered a nice perspective on the whaling station and its grim, decaying atmosphere. Then on to the narrow beach and up the path, past fur seals, to the little cemetery within a low fence. There Bob and Eduardo dispensed little tots of ‘Shackleton’ whisky to those who wished to toast the ‘boss’ (and juice for other folk) and everyone raised their glasses to the boss and his right hand man, Frank Worsley, and not forgetting the poor Felix Artuso, the only death of the war in South Georgia.

Back on board, we made a quick and easy passage to Godthul, a scenic little bay with a narrow beach. Whilst some of us made our way up to the gentoo colony a short climb from the shore, others remained below enjoying the views of the increasing number of gentoos swimming ashore, the fur seals and the odd moulting elephant seal lurking in the tussock grass. Perhaps the most memorable aspect was the sight of many of these penguins trying to scale the slippery slopes of the various icebergs grounded a short way offshore. Happily some even succeeded and posed delightfully upon their new vantage points, despite various echoing rumbles as sections of ice collapsed.

Evening saw the completion of the day’s species list, doubtless enhanced by the cocktail of the day, Tequila Sunrise!

Day 8: Drygalski Fjord cruise, Cooper Bay

Drygalski Fjord cruise, Cooper Bay
Datum: 04.04.2024
Positie: 54° 48.6 ’S / 035° 50.7’W
Wind: SE 2
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +14

We spend the night at sea, sailing south-east, following the northern coast of South Georgia. Our objective was to be at the beginning of the morning at the entrance of the beautiful Fjord of Drygalski.

Wakeup call was early today, at 06:30 and as we came on decks we found ourselves facing the grandiose scenery of the mountains and steep cliffs that mark the entrance of this fjord. On this day, breakfast was served a bit earlier, at 07:30 so we would be well feed to enjoy the cruise along this long fjord.

As we entered the Fjord, we could see the entrance of other bays and the small harbour, all of them adjacent to the main one, the Drygalski. The first open entrance to the west, was the Larsen Harbour which opens clearly with a copule of beaches along the western side. Here we could see many fur seals as well as many elephant seals, all of them guarded by king and gentoo penguins.

As we came into the glacier, we had the chance to see more of these small harbours and coves. To the west we had the Brandt Cove which similarly to the Larsen Harbour, had a few beaches with visitors along the side, more fur and elephant seals. The landscape by this time turned into an amphitheatre of mountains, water and glaciers. We were surrounded by many mountains and glacier fronts. To the north east (starboard side of the ship as we were entering) we had the Trendall Cragg peak, rising up to 1000 meters above sea level and as we sailed into, we encountered the Dead End Glacier debouching into the Fjord.

Higher peaks were visible beyond the end of the fjord and more glaciers fronts appeared in front of us. Soon as we were at the end of the Fjord, we had a good view of the Risting Glacier to the northwest as well as the Jenkins Glacier also, located directly towards the west on the other side. Both glaciers have been showing significant change over the last decades and they herald the times we are living in which glaciers are receding at great speeds everywhere, including the most distant places on Earth.

As we came into the Fjord we had the chance to see various birds flying around us, mostly Antarctic Terns, Giant Petrels, Cape Petrels, Skuas, Wilson's Storm Petrels, and a couple of prions among others. One remarkable sight was the one of a single South Georgia Pipit crosing the Fjord and flying in front of the ship as high as our bridge. Sadly one of the residents of the Fjord was not visible, the Snow Petrel and as we turned the ship to egress the Fjord, we could not see it, leaving us with the nostalgia of missing a friend.

As we came out of the fjord we spotted some whales (right southern whales and a humpback whale) and we sailed out to reach the Cooper Sound located at the Southeast tip of the main island of South Georgia. There we organised a zodiac cruise along the Bay of the same name, a wonderful place where it is possible to sight the typical wildlife of South Georgia. Sea conditions were not ideal and therefore we had to use the gangway of our ship in order to access our zodiacs. Swell was between 1 - 2 meters high making the operation of embarking and disembarking from the zodiacs slow and a bit challenging.

Despite this, twelve zodaics left the ship and had the opportunity to see and photograph Maccaroni Penguins, Chisnstrap and many elephant and fur seals pesent along the shores. One distinctive feature of these areas was also the sight of the kelp, most of the coastal regions were covered by this seaweed giving an alien-like impression to these desolated coasts constatly battered by the weaves and the wind.

This was our last activity in South Georgia, as we embarked the last zodiac on board, we prepared the ship for the next crossing, among the mist and fog coming from the west.

Because of our early start, today all the rest of our activities were done earlier than our normal plan, so we had an early recap, Marijke talking about the Weddel seals, Eduardo talking about the lesser known expeditions to South Georgia and Chloé talking about her favourite subject plankton, giving a live demonstration with one of our microscopes on board.

As we sailed bounded for the northeast of South Georgia, dinner time came also a bit earlier. After dinner our bird enthusiast and experts had their daily meeting to discuss the trip's species list. This was followed of a Happy Hour and a wonderful ship's quiz organised by staff.

As the darkness enveloped the ambience, we crossed the waves of the South Atlantic bounded for our next destination: Gough Island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

Day 9: At sea towards Gough Island

At sea towards Gough Island
Datum: 05.04.2024
Positie: 51° 48.27 ’S / 029° 50.6’W
Wind: SW 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

After enjoying the wonders of South Georgia for the past 3 days, we settled in for our first full day at sea travelling towards our next destination, Tristan Da Cunha.

Despite heading North, and potentially leaving the polar environment behind, we were surprised to find we were surrounded by ice throughout the day. Our Bridge team had the unenviable task of navigating through the ice, a job made especially difficult during the night with very low light and fog all around. We did get some great views of the passing icebergs during the day, but unfortunately the thick fog obscured most of our sightings.

As with previous sea days, we were all treated to a host of lectures throughout the day from our expedition guides.

Elizabeth gave us some brilliant insights into Right Whales, including her work in the North Atlantic and some of the geo-tagging that has helped to shed light on their migration across the oceans. Following on from Elizabeth, we moved down the food chain and Chloe taught us about the wonderful of world of Plankton. As keystone species these organisms form the foundations of our ocean ecosystems.

After another wonderful lunch – and another time change - we enjoyed an afternoon of history with our two Historians onboard: Josh and William. Josh shared some stories of his experiences working and living in South Georgia and gave an insight into what it is like to spend time on an isolated research base in the Southern Ocean. William followed shortly after with a breakdown of politics in the Antarctic region. Antarctic Geopolitics is a complicated subject, but Will helped to answer many of our questions regarding ownership, claims and what the future holds for the region.

With another recap and delicious dinner behind us, most of us headed back up to the lounge to celebrate with a glass of bubbles our 100% pass score in our biosecurity checks in South Georgia. The champagne also helped to get us in the spirit for the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) Auction, which was brilliantly hosted by our auctioneer, William. With 14 items up for auction, we managed to raise over £2000 for SGHT and contribute nicely to the excellent work SGHT are doing in South Georgia.

Day 10: At Sea towards Gough Island

At Sea towards Gough Island
Datum: 06.04.2024
Positie: 49° 08.4 ’S / 024° 31.2’W
Wind: NNW 4
Weer: Foggy
Luchttemperatuur: +7

This morning we woke to another wakeup call from Hans and news that the ship was still sailing through fog. However, our spirits were raised with news that we were travelling fast in a Northerly direction and that the sea temperature had risen.

After another delicious breakfast Eduardo gave a lecture entitled Alien Ocean, The Quest for Extraterrestrial Water and Life. The lecture was a fascinating insight into the importance of water in our search for life on other planets. Eduardo finished with a short, thought provoking, film about human behavior.

Following the lecture there was time for reflection, tea and coffee, some fresh air and wildlife watching before Leon gave his first lecture on the history of Tristan Da Cunha. He finished the lecture with the promise of more to come.

Lunch was another tasty array of treats and a look out the window suggested that the fog was beginning to lift, this was great news as we were close to a large cargo ship and in fact an hour later the ship loomed out of the mist and crossed our bow. It seemed to bring with it some new birds, one of the huge Wandering Albatross along with an impressive Great-winged Petrel and some Storm Petrels. To keep the mammal watchers happy, we were also joined by some Hourglass Dolphins.

Bob gave a very interesting lecture on the evolution of Penguins and in the meantime the visibility improved significantly over the course of the afternoon, so much so that Hazels lecture on pinnipeds was postponed until tomorrow.

Recap was as interesting as ever with plans for the coming days and discussion about our hugely exciting arrival at Tristan. Dinner followed with Yorkshire Pudding, Beef and gravy! Or Salmon for those not wanting the red meat.

The evening began with the wildlife list discussion followed by a beautiful presentation from Georgina about her amazing life growing up on New Island in The Falkland Islands and the conservation work that her father, Ian Strange, had started.

It had been a day at sea but a very special day with lots of interesting information and some great wildlife.

Day 11: At sea towards Gough Island

At sea towards Gough Island
Datum: 07.04.2024
Positie: 45° 28.1 ’S / 018° 25.7’W
Wind: WSW 4
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +18

The morning wake-up call announced good visibility and that the water temperature had jumped-up to 14 degrees, meaning we had properly crossed the convergence and should expect to see different bird species. And it proved to be a great day for the birders with a Shy Albatross, Spectacled Petrel, Subantarctic Shearwater, Broad-billed prions and Sooty Albatross amongst the early sightings.

Hazel kicked-off the morning lecture program, with an informative talk on Pinnipeds, explaining the features of seals, sea lions and walruses, and later Julian talked about the history and origins of the Tristan volcano, and showed a historic film documenting the 1961 eruption that occurred next to the settlement. Chloé also had the microscope out to show off the amazing plankton collected from Cooper Bay earlier in the voyage.

After stuffing us once again with his excellent food, Chef Ralf gave a talk and answered questions about the catering operation onboard Hondius, explaining how he uses mashed potatoes to make the food stick to the plate on the rough days at sea. Later in the afternoon, Leon packed the lecture room and provided fascinating insights into life on one of the world’s remotest islands with his talk about life on Tristan da Cunha.

The afternoon saw plenty of passengers out on the decks with their cameras enjoying the warm conditions as many Wandering/Tristan albatross arced gracefully around the ship.

At the evening recap, Chloé provided the perfect introduction to the Toothfish dinner by talking about the fish found in Antarctic waters, and the day was rounded out with our guest Kirk giving a talk about the differences and range of the various types of Fregetta Storm Petrels.

Day 12: At sea towards Gough Island

At sea towards Gough Island
Datum: 08.04.2024
Positie: 42°26.3 ’S / 013° 24.3’W
Wind: E 7
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +12

We found ourselves yet another day at sea, but today with a noticeably stronger wind. This meant that all the woolly hats and gloves, which we had only put away yesterday, had to be brought outside again to keep us warm. After breakfast more people gathered on deck to enjoy being outside, stretching the legs but also keen to explore the wildlife around the vessel.

At first it was unusually quiet on the wildlife front. But by mid morning a new species of the trip was observed. A white-faced Storm-petrel. These rather long-legged storm-petrels nest on Tristan and can therefore be encountered in this part of the Atlantic and indeed it was a lovely surprise. We also started to see more Sub-Antarctic Fur Seals. Their pale colouration on the head and chest were clearly visibly, whilst they were speeding through the water and curiously inspecting our vessel.

Eduardo gave us a lecture on the impact of Einstein’s work on modern society with a focus on Einstein’s clock and GPS. After lunch there was a towel folding workshop and we could get all rather creative under close supervision (and a bit of help) from the lovely people in the hotel department team!

Several White-headed Petrels followed the Hondius for a little while. Strengthened after the delicious lunch, we soon started the vacuum session in the lounge. Vacuuming? Yes! We were again called deck by deck, and we had to bring our outer gear and bags. Our friends the vacuum-cleaners were waiting for us, to clean pockets and Velcro. We have to make sure, that no foreign plant material will be brought on land in the Triston Archipelago.

In the late afternoon, Bob gave a lecture on the Atlantic Islands up to Gough! Aside from the rare treats today (White-headed Petrel and White-faced Storm-petrels), we also saw Sooty Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Little Shearwaters, Kerguelen, Atlantic and Grey Petrels. Also more prions were seen when the mist started to roll in. A huge blow of a large (but unidentified) baleen whale was seen towering from the mist. But the whale was not seen again.

We rounded off the day with an update from Hans about the plans for tomorrow when we arrive at Gough. Josh spoke about the mice situation on Gough Island and the feeding behaviour of the Black-browed Albatrosses. Fingers crossed the weather will settle tomorrow.

After a lovely dinner it was time for the Species Listing in the Lecture room followed by a Movie Night. Leon featured the documentary ‘Step out of Time’ which features Tristan Da Cunha and its inhabitants. Ofcourse there was plenty popcorn to go around too!

Day 13: Gough Island

Gough Island
Datum: 09.04.2024
Positie: 40° 21.0 ’S / 009° 57.6’W
Wind: ENE 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +17

We were awakened gently at 07.00 by Hans’s dulcet tones announcing that we were some 10 miles off Gough Island, with a northeast wind of about 6-7 Beaufort, with a lively sea. So began a memorable day experiencing the drama and wildlife of this remote and (apart from a weather station) uninhabited island.

With the wind in this direction, it clearly made good sense to find more sheltered conditions on the south west facing coast of Gough, and this worked well. Initially it still looked very fresh but as Hondius neared the shores, off about a mile, it was very settled. So, out with the zodiacs, whilst Tristan albatross’s and southern giant petrels circled around us, we boarded zodiacs to explore. Our explorations spread between Gaggins point and the appropriately named Saddle Island, a stretch of precipitous cliffs covered in tussock grasses, threaded by high waterfalls tumbling into the sea. Low clouds swirling around the peaks added to the feeling of drama and mystery.

There were hundreds if not thousands of sub-Antarctic fur seals howling around the boulders, their calls echoing off the cliffs. We also had the pleasure of seeing numerous northern rockhopper penguins in small colonies dotted up the lower slopes, whilst our birders managed to get good sightings of the endemic Gough bunting/finch. At one point a young dead seal was floating some way off the rocks, attended by numbers of quarreling southern giant petrels dedicated to pulling it apart.

Those with underwater cameras obtained good photos of fish with the same intentions. Finally, after two hours of investigating all the corners and inlets below the cliffs, we made our way back to Hondius – a lively passage as the weather was freshening quite significantly, even in this sheltered spot.

Our afternoon was spent circling the southern point of Gough Island and working our way up the easter shores. Although by now the weather had deteriorated somewhat, we had excellent views of the main bird species, following and circling the ship, including storm petrels (fueling debates about the black-bellied versus white-bellied!) and great shearwaters. We also got good views of the numerous offshore rock outcrops rising precipitously above the waves, a truly heroic scenery. Then, as we cleared the northern point of the island, the course was adjusted, and Hondius set her bow towards Nightingale Island, and Gough gradually disappeared into the clouds and mist far behind.

Day 14: Nightingale I. Inaccessible I. and Tristan da Cunha

Nightingale I. Inaccessible I. and Tristan da Cunha
Datum: 10.04.2024
Positie: 37°05.8 ’S / 012° 22.9’W
Wind: NNW 5
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +20

Again, we were at Sea, on the way from Gough Island to Nightingale Island in Tristan da Cunha waters. At 10.30am we arrived at Nightingale Island, Unfortunately and sea conditions were not favourable we did a ship cruise around Nightingale having the telescopes on hand to search for any nearby birds or mammals.

As conditions did not improve, we headed towards Inaccessible Island, not only to do a ship cruise there but to assess sea conditions for the landing areas at Salt Beach and Waterfall Beach as we had been given rare permission to land at Inaccessible Island.

After a short ship cruise at Inaccessible Island, we headed towards the main Island of Tristan da Cunha, We had to clear the Ship with local immigration and customs before any landing in the Tristan Island group could be finalised. One of our Expedition Staff members Leon who lives on Tristan asked for permission to Stay ashore at his home on Tristan to spend some time with his Fiancé and Children. This was agreed and in preparation for Tomorrows attempted Landing at Inaccessible Island one of our Staff from Last years Atlantic Odyssey Expedition Conrad Glass agreed to come aboard Overnight to assist with any attempted landing. Conrad is also Leons Father.

With All official Clearance granted We then headed towards Inaccessible Island to anchor overnight ready for and early start in the morning, there were a plethora of sea birds returning to the island to nest which kept the very excited birding community on board very happy!

Day 15: Inaccessible I. and Tristan Da Cunha

Inaccessible I. and Tristan Da Cunha
Datum: 11.04.2024
Positie: 37°03.5 ’S / 012°18.4’W
Wind: E 3
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +20

Before breakfast, we awoke in front of an inaccessible island. The staff team was prepared to assess conditions for a possible landing. The last landing with a passenger ship on this island occurred 8 years ago! Two Zodiacs were launched, but unfortunately, the swell at the beach was too strong to attempt a landing.

Plan B was quickly enacted, and we made our way as swiftly as possible to Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island on Earth! This island is also challenging to access, and we felt a mix of excitement and impatience. Would we be able to land?

The staff team launched the Zodiac again to assess the conditions. The gangway still seemed challenging due to the swell. But finally, we got the green light – we were going to land on Tristan!

Some of us, armed with binoculars and telescopes, hurried to the Potato Patches . There was no time to lose in the quest to find the Goof Moorhen and the Tristan Thrush! Others began the day with a guided walk to the Volcanic lava fields. Some also visited the local school to meet the island's children.

The birds were difficult to spot, requiring patience as we could hear them before seeing them. However, we finally made some well-deserved and satisfying observations of the Moorhen, and we even spotted some juveniles. The birds were roaming on the slopes, adding to the thrill of our experience.

We spent 7 hours on the beautiful island, which gave us time to have a local guided tour, visit the settlement, and explore the Potato Patches.

On our way back to the ship, the ride on the Zodiacs was challenging due to the increased swell and wind. Some of us got splashed by the waves, but it was all worth it. The day was a success. Birds were spotted, postcards were sent, and countless pictures were taken. What an extraordinary day it turned out to be!

Day 16: Inaccessible island

Inaccessible island
Datum: 12.04.2024
Positie: 37° 19.4 ’S / 012°40.1’W
Wind: NNE 5
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +19

The outlook for today was a bit more windy. In the early morning hours we transited to Inaccessible Island, and upon arrival there we soon found a sheltered area off its eastern end. It became clear that a zodiac excursion was feasible, although landing was out of the question because of the swell, allowing the island to live up again to its name.

But what a cruise it was! Close into the shores it was sheltered, and we were able to take time to marvel at the awesome scenery high above us. For the birders it was a special opportunity and soon they had spotted the endemic Inaccessible finch – small greenish birds flitting along the tussock grasses above the shore. Soon after, the Inaccessible thrush ‘starchy’ was spotted, showing a conspicuous yellowish-brown against the dark rocks.

For those who looked upwards there were sooty albatross chicks seen dotted around the place and also spectacled petrels circling about the peaks and their nesting colony. There were also a few moulting rock-hopper penguins seen on the rocks. We returned to the ship with our brains buzzing over what we had seen and reviewed it all over lunch.

In the meantime, the ship had transited towards Nightingale Island but fresh winds and low cloud drifted across, at times almost completely obscuring the slopes of the island. Regrettably, the conditions for zodiac operations were still hazardous, so we transited towards Tristan Island while following a deep canyon (with depths of 2 km) – a place where previously beaked whales had been seen. Birding continued to be also good – in particular numerous great shearwaters circling the ship, obviously enjoying the breezy conditions.

Finally, the Hondius approached Sandy Point beach, located on the South-eastern side of the island. It was here when a small group of beaked whales were seen which caused quite a bit of excitement on the decks. They could not be identified as the beaked whales in question were immature and not showing enough of the head or flank patterns which are needed to ID these elusive deep-diving whales.

From the anchorage place, systematic counts revealed that at least 15,000 petrels were returning to their nesting sites on the cliffs. What a spectacle! Amongst all this a group of at least 150 Pilot Whales turned up. They were socialising and quite surface active – making fluke slaps and breaching and were also seen spy-hopping to have a look around. Photographs of the length of the flippers indicated that these were Short-finned Pilot Whales.

After a long day, Hondius once again heaved anchor and we said goodbye to Tristan Da Cunha for the last time as we set off in a North Easterly direction towards our next destination, St Helena.

Day 17: At sea towards St Helena

At sea towards St Helena
Datum: 13.04.2024
Positie: 33° 46.7 ’S / 011° 12.3’W
Wind: N 4
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +20

Today we woke up into a blue-grey stormy sea. Conditions deteriorated overnight and visibility dropped significantly. A couple of lonely cargo ships passed a few miles north of our position overnight. It is possible to say that everyone had an interruption over night due to the sea conditions; our ship pitched into the waves and bounced sometimes gently sometimes violently.

We are approaching the tropics and as we sail north the periods of darkness and light are more regular. Every day the Sun comes sharp around 07 and sets also punctual around 19 hours. Periods of 12 hours of light are followed by 12 hours of darkness. The sea seems also very empty today. During one of the bridge's watches, we saw only two lonely birds flying into the distance, a couple of petrels. Our watchman saw also a few pieces of garbage floating around the ship. A long piece of rope, a white neon lightbulb, a piece of wood. The afternoon was also devoid of life and sea conditions worsened. Wind blew with a speed up to 40 knots and the weaves smashed the ship creating lots of white foam that dissolves into the blue.

A few lectures were offered during the day, Eduardo opening the stage with a presentation about the resources to produce sky charts and how to make sense of what we see in the night sky. He mentioned the different movements of celestial bodies, the ones of the planets and the list of stars we have seen during the trip so far. A short lesson in practical astronomy.

Around 11, Georgina came also to the stage with a wonderful presentation about photography. With the title 'The Secret of Beautiful Images', she gave various tips to improve the quality of the pictures that can be taken on board, either of wildlife or landscapes.

After lunch, we had a great excursion back in time led by Leon who presented a great film about life in Tristan da Cunha. The movie was about the visit of a former Tristanian to the island and shows the great advantages and challenges of living in that remote location. The movie is very emotional and shows how hard is for its inhabitants to keep the bonds and ties with their families. The movie ends with the young mother saying goodbye and taking off in a helicopter that flew her to the ship that would bring her back to the UK.

The last activities we had in the late afternoon were yet another presentation and our daily recap. The last presentation of the day was given by Marijke and was devouted one for the fans of marine mammals. She spoke about Beaked Whales, describing some of the species we had the chance to see in Tristan a day before in the afternoon and showing some of the habitats, types and concerns regarding this beautiful marine mammals.

Our day ended with a wonderful sunset that despite the clouds, was visible for a few minutes. The sky was grey and from behind the clouds we could see many rays of light coming out of orange-yellow color clouds. Shortly after the sky was pitch dark and we went for a wonderful dinner prepared by the galley team under the lead of our chef Ralph.

After dinner we had our species list recap under the led of Andrew and Martin our bird specialists. This one was a special one in which the birding community shared some of the great pictures they managed to capture of the unique birds of the islands we were visiting the days before.

At night the same conditions we had during the day prevailed and there was no sign of change in the weather forecast chart.

As we sailed the South Atlantic, our vessel Hondius plough into the weaves against the wind, and sailed into the darkness of the night.

Day 18: At sea towards St Helena

At sea towards St Helena
Datum: 14.04.2024
Positie: 29° 31.1 ’S / 009°51.3’W
Wind: WNW 6
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +20

This morning was an unusual morning because of a late wakeup call from Hans. We had been told beforehand that we would be treated to a lie-in (for those who wanted it) and that breakfast would be replaced with a later brunch instead.

For some the temptation was too much and most were up early as usual to see what wildlife was about. The early morning highlight was a wonderful relaxing sound bath from our fellow guest Ann Bessudo, the relaxation and healing properties of this experience are immeasurable, such a treat!

Hans then made his wake-up call for those that had taken advantage of the extra time in bed.

A tasty brunch followed, the cheese and ham croissants were not to be missed. Josh then gave an interesting lecture on habitat restoration in some of the South Atlantic Islands. This included an insight into the problems of non-native species eradication.

We were then given the opportunity to return our muck boots, some of us had become quite attached to them over the previous few weeks but it was time to say goodbye as we would be wearing our own shoes/sandals or even flipflops on landings from now on!

At 4pm it was time for another of the hugely talented Bessudo family to entertain us, this time it was the turn of Sandra.

Sandra Bessudo is a force to reckoned with, a champion of conservation, a world-renowned marine biologist, diver and the guardian of an island off the Colombian coast called Malpelo. She has formed The Malpelo Foundation and she is responsible for the change of law enabling the protection of a huge area of marine ecosystem. The laws are all very well, but someone needs to enforce that law. For a long time, Sandra did it herself but through years of hard work and perseverance she eventually was given the assistance of the Colombian Navy.

Sandra gave a presentation of her work and the Island which was followed by a fantastic National Geographic film of the Island and surrounding seas featuring of course Sandra herself, there was more than one expedition guide reduced to tears! It left many of us thinking about what we could do in some way to help our own home environment. A truly memorable, thought-provoking event.

Another delicious dinner followed and that in turn was followed by the wildlife listing meeting. Another highly interesting day at sea.

Day 19: At sea towards St Helena

At sea towards St Helena
Datum: 15.04.2024
Positie: 24° 33.2 ’S / 008° 46.5’W
Wind: SW 3
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +23

Today we continued our journey towards St Helena, sailing Northwards from our previous destination in Tristan da Cunha. The tropical weather continued to heat up, but unfortunately the sunshine did not appear throughout the day. Humidity was high, especially with the constant drizzle about the ship, luckily for us Hondius kept the temperatures comfortably inside.

With it being a day at sea, we were treated to another series of lectures from our Expedition team. First up after breakfast was Julian, who taught us about the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, detailing the mid-Atlantic ridge with all its regions of volcanism and differing ecosystems.

Following shortly after Julian in the main lounge, Andrew welcomed us to the strange world of birders. Andrew gave us all a brilliant, and humorous, insight into what It really means to be a birder, twitcher, stringer or, just an unpopular, dude. The lounge was full for the talk with lots of laughter throughout, and we all went to lunch finally understanding the finer details of birding.

After lunch Bob gave us the second instalment of his lecture series on the islands of the Atlantic. This time he focussed on the islands North of Tristan, including our next destination St Helena.

With recap fast approaching, we were all invited on deck as we crossed one of our first geographical landmarks – the Tropic of Capricorn. Despite the light drizzle, we gathered at the bow to officially mark our transition into the tropics, which included a few blasts on the ship’s horn.

Following another beautiful dinner, including a trio of Tristan potatoes, we all made our way back up to the lounge for an evening of entertainment at the Crew Show. With Josh hosting the event, we enjoyed a multitude of dance routines, songs and even a comedy sketch about birds. It was a brilliant evening, and a great chance for everyone to let their hair down with a dance afterwards. A great end to another fantastic day onboard Hondius.

Day 20: At sea towards St Helena

At sea towards St Helena
Datum: 16.04.2024
Positie: 19° 57.2 ’S / 007° 48.6’W
Wind: N 2
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +25

By contrast with the previous two days, this started, and continued with wonderfully fine weather, an easy sea with a long, low swell from the south combined with a light northerly breeze. The horizon was knife-sharp, a welcome relief from the murky haze of yesterday.

The whole day was of course at sea, on passage to Saint Helena island, and so was largely spent in sea-watching, though there were relatively few sightings as usual in these waters, and on attending lectures. There was a great range of topics to listen to. Eduardo started with a lecture on Halley and his visit to the island – Edu explained how this pioneering astronomer and mathematician determined the size of the solar system from his observations, and how it is still possible to see the foundations of his observatory on this island.

He was followed by Hazel giving a fascinating talk on where were the most productive places in the world to watch whales and dolphins, particularly concentrating on hot spots where large numbers of both species and individuals may be seen.

After lunch, Marijke gave a lecture on flying fish, and their adaptations for flight and survival in the open ocean. This was very timely as we were seeing quite large numbers of these fish flying speedily away from our ship, some achieving flights of over 100m.

Finally, Chloe gave us a lecture on how animals perceive the world, and she described numerous examples, recognising that their outlook can be very different to ours, and that we need to understand this.

There was a most glorious sunset, not only the from the sun itself, but also the dappled effect of the clouds reflecting a golden glow. Of course, everyone sought to see, and photograph the famed green flash, and some memorable photos were taken.

After dinner, Elizabeth showed a film about the fate of the right whale: ‘The Right Whale: The Whale left behind’ which she played a major role in producing – a salutary tale of nature conservation issues.

Day 21: Arrival at St Helena

Arrival at St Helena
Datum: 17.04.2024
Positie: 15° 41.8 ’S / 006° 46.7’W
Wind: ESE 3
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +26

Our final morning at sea before reaching the long-awaited shores of St. Helena.

As we cruised closer and closer to the remote island, after two days of seeing only a handful of birds for those of us lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, we were treated to a festival of feeding birds. The swarmed the horizon and skimmed the surface of the water to find a well-deserved snack.

Having something to look at and entertain us after days of respite was a welcome treat for the senses.

The birds weren’t the only treat of this day. Bob delighted us with a lecture about the great Napoleon Bonaparte, inviting us in the complex and extraordinary life of the man both loved and hated marked our history perhaps more than any other General in history. A great taste of what is to come during our visit of his home and grave on St. Helena.

After This history break, dolphins appeared in the distance, a large pod purposing their way effortlessly through the waves just a few meters from our ship. A good omen, some may say, and a great welcome to the tropical waters. Just a few minutes past when a dwarf sperm whale met us on our port side, a rare species that is seldom seen.

Finally came St. Helena in sight, this impressive piece of rock shooting out of the calm turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean like a gift for sailors needing a place to replenish and rest. We cruised the western coast before turning towards starboard for the last stretch of our five days at sea. St. Helena is made of a hundred colors, desert gives way to jungle, steep rocky slopes give way to lush rich pastures.

And there, stuck comfortably in a fresh valley, lays Jamestown, the capital and only town of the island where 4000 souls live. A colonial style town, where time seems to have stopped. There in front of us in its simple beauty, inviting us to join the few yachts moored in its bay for a few days in paradise.

Day 22: St Helena

St Helena
Datum: 18.04.2024
Positie: 15° 41.8 ’S / 006° 46.7’W
Wind: E 3
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +26

We awoke to a beautiful tropical morning, anchored just outside the port of Jamestown, St Helena; ahead of us, three full days of new and exciting experiences.

After breakfast, we started to go ashore by zodiac. The expedition team had established themselves at the landing site on the quay. Washed by Atlantic swell, we had to get our timing right to exit safely to the shore!

Then we split up: some went to wander the small streets of the capital – a very pretty little town nestled in a tiny valley, spilling down to the sea. Others joined walking or bus tours to various places of interest around the island. The bus tour visited a number of different places, including Napoleon’s tomb and residence. The tomb is set at the head of beautiful little valley, full of green trees and shrubs – surely a place of calm and tranquillity that anyone could wish to be laid to rest in, even if it no longer contains his body.

Following that it was announced that we would take a diversion from the normal route to possibly locate a good view of the St Helena Plover (‘Wire Bird’) – yes, we were on an actual ‘twitch’ and instantly everyone was a twitcher!! We duly found this emblematic, endemic bird on the golf course to everyone’s delight. Meanwhile others took the guided walk-through Jamestown to learn about its history and visit various sites, such as the beautiful church, before ending at the foot of the terrifyingly steep Jacob’s Ladder.

But the action wasn’t all ashore - an escorted snorkel was on offer for us. We went out in zodiacs to drop in over a wreck just off the sea front. There were masses of fish of all shapes, sizes and colour covering the well recognisable superstructure – such a sight for many of us having our first experience of tropical Atlantic waters. Finally, in the evening, we had the choice to eat onshore or return to the ship for another fabulous BBQ.

Day 23: St Helena

St Helena
Datum: 19.04.2024
Positie: 15° 41.8 ’S / 006° 46.7’W
Wind: W 2
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +26

It was strange to wake up and still be in the same place on this voyage after so many miles but here we were anchored off Jamestown and we had another full day ashore on the island. Many of us headed into town early for some further explorations of the town.

The land excursions for this morning involved a visit to the Plantation House which is the Governor’s Home. We also met up with Jonathon the famous (and very large), 180 year old tortoise who lives on the grounds. He has an enormous area to roam, has several tortoise friends to keep him company and also keeps the grass trimmed as an added benefit. He is the islands oldest resident a great addition to the grounds of Plantation house. Here, the Butcher and his wife who are buried in the grounds have interesting headstones.

Several snorkelling trips were also taking place today in the nearly crystal-clear waters. We were rewarded with abundant fish, some brilliant underwater landscapes and of course we enjoyed swimming in warm water of almost 27°C.

During lunch another, rather large surprise approached the Hondius… another whale shark swam right up to the gangway!

In the mid-afternoon the Photography Bird Tour started and we headed out to visit the seabird colonies. As we approached the small islands we found a juvenile red-billed tropicbird which had difficulty flying off from the water. We picked it up and brought it to one of the islands so it could dry its wings and hopefully resume energy. We were also met by Saint Helena’s many nesting seabirds – brown noddies, masked boobies, red-billed tropicbirds and band-rumped storm-petrels. Just a bit further offshore from the islands, we switched off our engines and simply drifted peacefully with the currents while we could photograph the many noddies and Saint Helena’s Storm-petrels. A few sharks and masked boobies were attracted by the feeding flocks too.

In the evening some expedition members spent their time in town to enjoy the local Friday evening festivities. On board the chef had prepared a lovely dinner outside on deck for those that stayed aboard. Several whale sharks were seen and this time also two hammerhead sharks were seen slowly swimming passed the shell doors. By 23:00 hour the last shuttle zodiac came back to the Hondius.

Day 24: St Helena, and Goodbye

St Helena, and Goodbye
Datum: 20.04.2024
Positie: 15° 41.8 ’S / 006° 46.7’W
Wind: N 2
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +26

After three weeks spent together and three wonderful days in St Helena was time for our Hondius temporary family to lose a third of its weight. 38 of us made the choice to make St Helena the end of their odyssey and give those who remain on board a sense of loss and heavy hearts. The Lounge felt empty, the air was filled with a new echo and the restaurant seemed lacking it’s original bubbly energy.

Despite the separation our last day in St Helena was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I believe all of us felt the bourgeoning blues growing in our belly, the dread of leaving such a perfect place. We will never forget it’s charming architecture, colonial buildings and tightly knitted streets where the Saints sit and talk. Where a hello is warm and honestly directed towards you as you walk by.

The Saints are a kind, patient and generous people, always offering a smile an a few words of welcome and genuine interest in how your day is going. The hospitality shown in the local bars and restaurants was outstanding, the kind school children offering smiles and laughter. It’s a place we all felt at home in.

At four in the afternoon, it was time for the last zodiac to return to the Ship, under the beating sun but with the promise of more wonders ahead. I personally was the last to board the ship, and I must admit my belly felt tight and my eyes started watering and I looked back on what has been one of the best three days of my short life. I have no doubt many felt the same feeling of abandonment, and perhaps dreaming of the next time.

We set sail at five and the ship started doing a 180-degree turn! Did we forget someone?! We all wondered as we were listing to portside. No, we did not, it was Josh, who earlier in the trip won the ”be the captain” experience up on the bridge. For the better part of half an hour he did his best to make those of us who hadn’t felt the effects of sea sickness yet to finally appreciate its full potential. The evening was quiet, as one might expect. All of us exhausted from three days of relentless adventure and a head packed with memories and dreams. It was an introspective evening, one on one chats where stories we told, laughs were had, and tears felt.

Now on our way to Ascension!

Day 25: At sea towards Boatswain Bird Island

At sea towards Boatswain Bird Island
Datum: 21.04.2024
Positie: 13° 23.5 ’S / 008° 36.2’W
Wind: SE 4
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +28

Most passengers took advantage of a Sunday lie in after the activities of St. Helena. Those that did manage to rise early were treated to views of Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins.

After the 10 o’clock brunch, Edu gave an entertaining lecture on the features of the day and night sky. Bird sightings were sparse throughout the day, the highlight being a few South Polar Skuas, which were flying a long way north of their usual range. y

The crew tried to fill a swimming pool on the top deck, which would have made welcome relief form the tropical heat. The Atlantic swell had other ideas however, and swiftly tossed the water back to the ocean. Josh kicked off the afternoon lecture programme with a talk on Fernão Lopes, St Helena’s lesser-known exile and first known permanent inhabitant. After a welcome afternoon ice cream, Marijke talked on how to identify the tropical dolphins, which are often difficult to recognise within large multi-species groups.

Another superb evening meal rounded-up another day on the Atlantic.

Day 26: At sea Towards Ascension Island

At sea Towards Ascension Island
Datum: 22.04.2024
Positie: 10° 01.1 ’S / 011° 52.7’W
Wind: N 2
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +31

At sea again today, the weather remains very warm despite a moderate wind from the stern of the ship. At 5:11.26am this morning the GPS position was particularly interesting as the latitude and longitude were the same 011°00.002 South and 011°00.002 West. Wildlife encounters still remain few. A small flying squid was spotted just before dawn. As the sun rose there were slightly more frequent encounters of flying fish, as well as a sighting of a distant frigate bird. During the early afternoon some white-faced storm petrels were spotted.

We celebrated Earth Day onboard with various members of the staff team joining forces to present joint lecture concerning wildlife preservation carbon footprints and plastics in the world’s oceans. The Earth Day theme continued after lunch with an informational question and answer panel put on by staff to highlight wildlife preservation in their chosen fields and local areas.

During the early evening we changed course slightly to observe a flock of birds feeding on the water, this included frigate birds, sooty terns, white tern and two species of Storm-petrels: both Band-rumped and Leach’s Storm-petrels were seen at quite close distances.

The evening continued after dinner with the species list and was followed by a karaoke night in celebration of Hazels Birthday!

Day 27: Boatswain and Ascension Island

Boatswain and Ascension Island
Datum: 23.04.2024
Positie: 07° 52.9 ’S / 014° 16.6’W
Wind: ESE 3
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +31

After a few days at sea, today ended the long anticipation of finally seeing land! We approached Ascension Island and luckily had a few hours in the pocket allowing us the ability to circumnavigate the island scouting for wildlife. It didn’t take long before we found our first dolphins and what a spectacle it was! Over 600 bottlenose dolphins came towards the ship as if almost leading us towards the land. The beautiful dolphins were leaping, jumping, spinning and bow riding. All guests on the forward decks got a fantastic view for this special wildlife encounter. In the morning both Bottlenose dolphins and Rough Toothed dolphins were spotted; how exciting!

In the early morning, William gave a fascinating presentation about the harrowing story of the Medusa Raft. This tale is of a shipwrecked crew who confronted with the impossible, did the unthinkable. The crew survived for 15 days on a makeshift raft and of 150 men, only 15 survived. The survival was possible only due to the cannibalism that occurred. This tale has inspired the famous painting ‘Le Radeau de Meduse’ by Gericault Theodore in 1818; an allegory to the challenges faced by the post-revolutionary French nation.

As we circumnavigated Ascension Island, in the afternoon we did a ship’s cruise at Boatswain Island. This island is quite small and located a few hundred meters off the East coast of Ascension Island. It is famous for being home to many bird species and is designated as an Important Bird Area. The main bird species we observed were Ascension Island frigate bird, white-tailed topic bird, as well as various species of noddies and petrals. These birds call this island home because it is predator free compared to Ascension Island which has both rats and cats that target the bird eggs. The designation for the Important Bird Area was of no mystery to all onboard! Hundreds of birds soared around the ship, with many taking advantage of Hondius creating different wind patterns. As the birds effortlessly soared overhead, you could hear the sound of camera shutters clicking away and exclamations of jubilee onboard.

After a delicious dinner in the restaurant, we enjoyed a still night at anchor. The ship’s light attracted dolphins and flying fish to the ship, continuing the wildlife spectacle for the day! Additionally, William and Josh serenaded guests with beautiful guitar music and songs to sing along to while enjoying the sunset and beautiful views of Ascension Island.

Day 28: At sea towards Cape Verde

At sea towards Cape Verde
Datum: 24.04.2024
Positie: 04° 35.8 ’S / 015° 24.2’W
Wind: E 3
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +30

We woke this morning at anchor off the coast of Ascension having been there all night. The ship was moving a little and there were clear signs that there was a little swell, even at the ship. A look across the water towards landing site and the town of Georgetown revealed that there was indeed a heavy swell. A little after 7 am a radio message confirmed our worst fears that we would not be able to land at Ascension, the message was clear and was followed by the message that the weather was due to deteriorate during the day. There was nothing else for it. The anchor was raised and we set off north towards Cape Verde.

It wasn’t all bad news however as most of us had good views of a turtle on the beach as it made its way back to the sea. It was a fantastic visual present from the Island.

This all happened before breakfast, so it was now time to enjoy another great breakfast and settle down a bit.

After the spectacular sights of all the birds the previous day our hopes were high for more groups of birds and we weren’t disappointed, we saw several large groups of feeding birds including Frigate Birds, Black Noddies, Sooty Terns and Boobies to name a few.

We travelled north, the sea state was good, and we made good time towards The Equator. The sea temperature was getting ever warmer as was the air temperature. Both reaching 30 degrees and very humid.

Just after lunch we were treated to a great sighting of a Sperm Whale on the surface of the water. It surfaced a few times before disappearing and we carried on our way.

Everyone enjoyed the beautiful warm weather during the afternoon and before we knew it it was time for recap and dinner. Today was another delicious buffet meal.

Day 29: At sea towards Cape Verde

At sea towards Cape Verde
Datum: 25.04.2024
Positie: 02° 48.4 ’S / 016° 02.9’W
Wind: SSE 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +31

It was another beautiful day out in the open ocean, as we fast approached the North Atlantic with the crossing of the equator scheduled for early tomorrow morning.

Prior to breakfast some of us were again treated to the sight of a Sperm Whale close to the ship, another great view of a Sperm Whale similar to the one many of us shared yesterday.

Shortly after another great breakfast feast, we were treated to two more lectures from our Expedition Staff – Bob and Hazel. First up was Bob who shared some tales of marine phenomena. From the mysterious and strange to the downright spooky, Bob again thrilled us with his nautical tales and seafaring stories. Following on from a quick coffee and tea interlude, we again gathered in the lecture room to enjoy Hazel’s informative talk on Sperm Whales. After a couple of sightings of these magnificent cetaceans, it was brilliant insight into the secretive lives of the world’s largest toothed predator.

With another lunch in the books, we were all looking forward to an early afternoon movie with Happy Feet on the bill. However, the wildlife had other ideas. We were soon all out on deck captivated by a huge pod of Clymene Dolphins approaching the ship. This super pod, estimated at approximately 600 individuals, spent a good amount of time nearby the ship and many of us were excitedly peering over the railings enjoying the bow riding and porpoising of many of the dolphins.

As the Dolphins began to disperse, so did many of us, and many of us went back inside to enjoy the Penguin Day celebration movie, Happy Feet.

As another delicious afternoon snack was served, we were again spoilt with another lecture treat. This time our Expedition Leader, Hans, discussed the fascinating work he has been involved in mapping the offshore wildlife of Mauritania. Detailing some of unique species they observed during their survey work, he also shone some light on a country many of us had little idea about.

Following on from another wonderful recap and dinner from the Galley team, we returned to the lounge for a Penguin-themed quiz. In honour of World Penguin Day, Hazel hosted the quiz, which included a number of puzzling questions relating to 1970s rock music and a Hollywood blockbuster.

After the conclusion of the quiz, and another action-packed sea day, many of us retired to our cabins eagerly awaiting the crossing of the equator line early tomorrow morning and the ‘baptisms’ to be performed in the afternoon!

Day 30: Equator crossing, Deep sea swim

Equator crossing, Deep sea swim
Datum: 26.04.2024
Positie: 00° 00.0’S / 016° 56.6’W
Wind: E 3
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +30

Our day started very early with an important activity: at 04:01 hours we crossed one of the most significant major circles of Earth, the Equator. Given the time at which the crossing occurred, only a few guests and the bridge crew on watch witnessed the marking of the event through the GPS system of our bridge. Officially and for the records we crossed the equator at a longitude of 16° 56.583' west. This event marked the rather abnormal program we planned for today.

Later in the morning we had our wake-up call, which happened at 07:00. Hans, our expedition leader conducted the wakeup call in his traditional way of doing it, calling for the time, the date and the conditions outside the ship. However, during his call, a mysterious envoy of King Neptune interrupted Hans's speech, menacing the ship's crew and passengers with actions to be taken, should they would not clean themselves today in a way that would be satisfactory for his royal highness King Neptune At this point is worth to mention that we all were warned since the day before, April the 25th with a proclamation that was received on board and dully published everywhere in the public areas around the ship.

In this proclamation, His Royal Highness Neptune, King of the Seven Seas, Tyrant of the Deep, Grand Duke of Atlantis, Protector of the Equator, etcetera, etcetera as well as his beautiful and faithful wife Salacia, Grand Lady of the Red Sea, Mistress of the Southern Oceans, Lover of the Northern Oceans, Protector of the Sperm Whales etcetera, etcetera, communicated his desire to give us the pleasure of his presence on this day. Of course, keeping the tradition, he did not state the exact time at which this encounter would occur, limiting himself to mentioning that his presence as well as the one of his wives, would happen sometime in the afternoon.

Breakfast occurred early too, because we had a good way to celebrate our first day in the northern hemisphere; as soon as breakfast was done, we stopped the ship at 0° 38' North (that is about 38 nautical miles north of the Equator). Here at this location, we dropped a few zodiacs and organized a nice swimming session in the open sea. We brought our guests in two waves letting them swim for about 15 minutes per group. The feeling of swimming in such a place is awesome given that around us was only the vastness of the ocean. Hundreds of kilometers of water around us and more than 5 kilometers of water below.

Our swimming excursion was successful, and we were all back on board by 11 in the morning. We continued steaming towards Praia and yet another surprise came before lunch when Marijke found a big school of Clamine dolphins in the horizon. We had the privilege to see this majestic group swimming peacefully in the waters of the Atlantic and we did a few maneuvers to keep the animals in sight. After lunch Julian, our staff member expert in geology gave an interesting presentation about the volcanoes that form along the Mid Atlantic Ridge, specially giving special attention to the ones from Iceland. In his presentation he showed and described the latest activity of the volcanoes in Iceland showing impressive footage of the eruptions that happened up to March 2024. At the same time as his presentation, a group of pilot whales was spotted by Marijke. Consequently, his presentation was stopped and we had the chance to enjoy the big pod of whales swimming graciously along the ship.

By midafternoon it was announced that his Majesty King Neptune and his wife Salacia were found on board M/V Hondius and a small ceremony to clean the many pollywogs on board commenced. For this purpose, all the shellbacks on board prepared themselves with various costumes. We could clearly see King Neptune, Queen Salacia, queen copepod, a prosecutor, various nereids, a mischievous cook an astronomer, a few officers, and many others assisting to initiate and introduce all these landlubbers into the order of the deep. The ceremony went uneventful, and King Neptune and Queen Salacia were satisfied to see so many creatures receiving their cleaning. The whole ceremony lasted about an hour and a half and afterwards certificates were issued to complain about the modern bureaucratic requirements of Neptune's house so all these landlubbers could keep proof of their crossing.

Later we had our daily recap starting with Hans talking about the plans for the coming days, Andrew talking about Golgers Law on bird camouflage and finally Edu talking about the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the region of the planet where we are sailing now.

The day ended with a BBQ served on deck. Lots of our guests and staff ended up dancing until well past 10 in the night. Given the clear night, Edu also gave his first stargazing session in the northern hemisphere. Around 21:30 a waning moon appeared in the east horizon close to Antares and illuminated the rest of the night as we sailed north.

Day 31: Back in the Northern Hemisphere towards Cape Verde

Back in the Northern Hemisphere towards Cape Verde
Datum: 27.04.2024
Positie: 05° 07.7 ’S / 019° 07.0’W
Wind: NEW 2
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +28

We awoke to another settled day, now well into the northern hemisphere, with overcast skies, and warm breezes, mostly from the northerly quarter. As the day progressed, the clouds gradually dispersed, and it became very hot on deck. This didn’t deter the birders who were out there from dawn, although sightings were limited.

Events kicked off with a lecture by Edu on the explorations of Magellan, an experienced Portuguese soldier and sailor who, using five ships, organised the first expedition to circumnavigate the world on behalf of the king of Spain. Unfortunately, he died before the project completed, and it was left to just one surviving ship and a few crew to return to Spain.

Outside, a brief excitement was created by the arrival of a common swift (Will, I assume that’s what it was?????? From Andrew – we don’t know atm – suggest ‘unknown swift species’??) over the stern. Whilst swifts are famous for their perpetual flight, this little fellow would have had a bleak time of it without insect food over the ocean.

Then Ohad Sherer, one of our guests, gave a lecture entitled ‘Israel: the safest country in the Middle East (for birds)’ He brilliantly analysed why the country is so important for bird life, especially migrating species moving between Africa and the northern Palaearctic.

After lunch we had the first of three showings of Atlantic: The Wildest Ocean on Earth with stunning photography of its marine life. Appropriately enough, we were soon accompanied by large numbers of Clymene dolphins, sporting around the ship, leaping and playing around the bow to everyone’s delight. After this, as we were enjoying (rapidly melting) ice creams on the fore deck, an event of great significance took place. It had come to King Neptune’s notice that not only had an earthling pollywog failed to identify himself for the ceremony yesterday but had actually impersonated the great King himself. Neptune was gravely displeased and at his orders Leon was arrested by the policeman and brought forward for ‘baptism’ by the prosecutor. The punishment duly took place, and he was subjected to an ordeal of immersion in something unspeakable!

The evening was notable by the galley staff producing a monumental dinner of Tristan lobster followed by Argentinian steaks. Those that were capable, after this feast, had a species list review, and then a trip to deck 8 where Edu pointed out the many features of the heavens on this wonderfully clear night. Perhaps most notable was the views of both the southern cross and the north polar star, the latter low on the horizon and just proving that we are in the limited latitudes where both can be seen at the one time.

Day 32: At sea towards Cape Verde

At sea towards Cape Verde
Datum: 28.04.2024
Positie: 08° 47.1 ’S / 020° 47.5’W
Wind: N 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +27

On our penultimate sea day, we woke up to a cloud of sand straight from the Sahara Desert. It rendered the air heavy and hazed the sun giving us milder temperatures after having very hot consecutive days.

A lighter day was planned as today was turned towards introspection on the voyage past and the perfect day to sit on deck and read a good book. To begin this laid-back day, we were treated to a later wakeup call and a ten o’clock brunch. One could feel the calm and composed habits we have all adopted by now. The safe comfort of home, quite simply.

Shortly after, as of habit, we were visited by a medium sized pod of Clymede dolphins, about 50 of them were bow riding for several minutes and gave us yet another show that no one gets tired of. Amon the group were several young, so small and sweet, swimming close to their mothers and quite incredibly came up simultaneously to take their breath together.

The Dolphins were followed by Pilot whales in the distance and by several Arctic Turns, making their way north for the northern summer, very much like Hondius.

Inger Vandyke, one of our passengers was kind enough to share with us her photography work in Bangladesh through a impactful lecture.

It was then about time for some refreshments. We were therefor treated to a glass of ice coffee in the lounge along with freshly backed finger licking muffins.

This calm day was concluded with some drinks at the bar with the expedition team, as we get ready for the last dance, our last 24 hours at sea and our arrival to Cape Verde which marks the end of our Atlantic Odyssey.

Day 33: At sea towards Cape Verde

At sea towards Cape Verde
Datum: 29.04.2024
Positie: 11° 56.2 ’S / 022° 31.5’W
Wind: NE 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +25

As “Goedemorgen” rings out once more over the speakers in our rooms and pulls us from our sleeping state we can feel a sensation we haven’t felt since perhaps leaving South Georgia. The winds had started blowing and the swell had been building itself up through the night which made the sea awake, in good time to remind us of who is in charge and that we have now left the idyllic calm waters of the Tropics.

At ten o’clock Elizabeth and Hazel stood before us and co presented a lecture about our relationship with whales and dolphins and What does it mean to be Endangered? This along with an Introduction to Wildlife Conservation. A thought-provoking talk where our impact can be appreciated in clear numbers and the heart wrenching endless list of all the extinct species we will no longer see.

After our last lunch of this trip on board Hondius we had the pleasure of a refreshing ice cream in the lounge while a Red footed booby was hunting down the flying fish startled by Hondius and we sailed by.

This day full of introspection, quiet conversations and heavy hearted packing lead us to the unavoidable time of goodbyes. At 6pm Hans gave us a few words about what this trip meant for him, it is true his efforts were immense at making this trip as successful as it has been, and we owe most of it to him. Next came the Captain with final words of farewell and a big thank you for trusting Oceanwide with our adventure. Alexander, our hotel manager followed up by calling in every department one by one. An occasion for us to give them a well deserved round of applause and for them to see the fruit of their relentless efforts throughout these thirty four days together.

This was followed by Georgina’s Slideshow of the trip. An amazing account of our voyage, bringing all those details in perfect sharpness for us to take home with us and inspire our families and friends. “Cheers” was hailed and all raised their glasses to a wonderful trip together.

Day 34: Disembarkation

Datum: 30.04.2024

On behalf of everyone on board we thank You for travelling with us and hope to see You again somewhere around the globe!


Reiscode: HDS32-24
Reisdatum: 20 apr. - 30 apr., 2024
Duur: 10 nachten
Schip: m/v Hondius
Inscheping: St. Helena
Ontscheping: Kaapverdië

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Aboard m/v Hondius

Hondius is 's werelds eerste geregistreerde Polar Class 6 schip en is van onder tot boven gebouwd voor expeditie cruises.

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