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

by Oceanwide Expeditions

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Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 26.11.2021
Positie: 54°48’.67 S, 68°17’.9 W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +18

Most of us flew into Ushuaia the night before our early morning luggage drop-off and sanitation which began at 8am, where many of us caught first sight of our ship, Hondius, already tied up at the pier, awaiting our arrival. After drop-off we had half day free to explore the southernmost city in the world and have lunch around the charming downtown before making our way in assigned groups to the small, waterfront church for mandatory covid testing - and our first interaction with the two ship’s doctors and some of the expedition team. Once our group members all received confirmed negative test results, we boarded buses for the short drive to the pier and were dropped off alongside the ship - our home for the next 3 weeks. We received warm welcomes from The Expedition Team and were escorted onboard, ready to start our adventure! Those of us in the earlier groups had time to explore the ship while we awaited arrival of all the passenger groups. At 6pm all were onboard, and we cast off from the wharf, turned our bow to the Beagle Channel and set sail in the direction of the infamous Drake Passage, and or first destination – Antarctica!

We were given time to head to the outer decks to wave goodbye before jumping right into the serious business of a ship safety briefing and demonstrations at 6:15pm. Afterward, we had some additional time on deck, to organize our cabins or spend time in the Observation Lounge, getting acquainted with our fellow passengers.

At 8pm we heard the call to a buffet dinner, by the hotel manager, Sigi, who informed us that as part of the ship’s covid safety procedures, for the first three days of the voyage we would be assigned to the same tables we sat at tonight until after our next covid tests and jokingly advised “to choose wisely, your dinner companions tonight!”

Day 2: The Drake Passage

The Drake Passage
Datum: 27.11.2021
Positie: 57°23.5’ S, 65°30’.8 W
Wind: NNW 4
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +4

Today was our first morning in the infamous Drake Passage. There had been a wee swell throughout the night, but most passengers must have been lucky enough to have been just a little jet-lagged and thus, not to be prevented from having a first good night’s sleep on on Hondius. As a result, most people did come down for the yummy breakfast buffet. Afterwards, we all had to meet up in the Lounge for the introduction of all the expedition staff.

After the introductions, Expedition Leader, Adam Turner, gave us the mandatory IAATO briefing, where we learned what we can do and, more importantly, what we can’t do in Antarctica. We also given the important basics for the zodiac operations, how to use the sailor’s grip, and the use of the life vests that we had to wear when leaving the ship for excursions. After the briefing we received our rubber boots, necessary for wet zodiac landings and walking across snow and ice.

Next it was on to lunch as the first albatrosses, petrels and prions swooped past the restaurant’s windows.

In the afternoon we had a full program of lectures and activity briefings. Since so many passengers were keen to greet our flying friends, Andrew and Kalle ran spontaneous workshops on how to identify and properly photograph them.

At the end the day we had our first Daily Recap in the observation lounge. Here, we got to hear the plans for the next day from Adam, while Sasha and Sara had some interesting topics for us to learn about.

After dinner, we saw an amazing sunset over the Drake Passage, which we were very lucky to see due to the day’s fog and low-lying clouds. Soon enough it was time to head to bed, to get some rest before yet another busy sea day on the Drake, packed with lectures and ample time on deck to witness the crossing of the Antarctic Convergence… and hopefully our first icebergs!

Day 3: The Drake Passage

The Drake Passage
Datum: 28.11.2021
Positie: 61°47’.6 S, 63°43’.8 W
Wind: NE 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

This morning we got our first wake up call from Adam, our fierce Expedition Leader, speaking from the bridge with a little update on weather conditions, but the rolling from the waves made it difficult to get the energy and jump out of bed. If it wasn’t for the stabilizers on Hondius probably we would never gone to breakfast when Sigi called us fifteen minutes later.

Not long after breakfast, Sara presented her lecture about the Penguins of the Southern Ocean. It was a good opportunity to prepare ourselves for the first encounter with the little fellas the following day, while impressing upon how hard it is to survive down in the Antarctic latitudes. Once Sara finished, we had a few minutes to get a coffee or hot chocolate while going for our cameras because Kalle was about to start his introduction to photography. Due to his professional career full of stories and experiences around the world, we could see he was totally prepared to teach us on the right way of setting the cameras so there wouldn’t be any problem with the equipment when capturing the special moments ahead, for our memories, through thousands of photos.

When we booked this trip, we were told that the meals were included but nobody said there was going to be so much food onboard. Is hard to imagine how the kitchen department prepares all the variety of meal on a moving vessel and can carry all different kinds of vegetables, fruit and other delicious ingredients needed to prepare the fantastic meals onboard. After lunch we had our first whale sightings with a couple lively Humpbacks breaching and tail slapping, while lots of Light Mantled Sooty Albatross silently gliding around the ship.

In the afternoon we started with the first big activity without leaving the ship… Biosecurity Vacuum Party. As Adam explained yesterday, in order to keep Antarctica pristine and have the least impact as possible, the best thing we can do is prevent the intrusion of any non-native organism, species or anything that can contaminate or affect the most pristine ecosystem in the world. Deck by deck, the expedition team called us to the shell doors to take all equipment we would wear and take ashore for inspection and a good vacuuming to be ready for our first landing in Antarctica.

Day 4: Orne Harbor, Cuverville Island

Orne Harbor, Cuverville Island
Datum: 29.11.2021
Positie: 64°37’.0 S, 62°33’.0 W
Wind: VAR 1
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +5

We awoke to a stunning day with the sun shining and the light dancing off the stunning icy peaks of the Antarctic Continent. An early start allowed for everyone to receive their negative covid test and the day was able to proceed with a joyous atmosphere. Our first activity was a continental landing at the southern arm of Orne Harbor and to climb 100m to a saddle overlooking the Gerlache Strait. From here we watched chinstrap penguins display mating rituals and incubate eggs, while keeping a watchful eye on passing skuas.

The walk to the top of the saddle took in some amazing scenery and was a chance to stretch our legs after a couple of days crossing the Drake. The walk was through some deep snow up a moderate climb where we are able to stop and take in the sights of the harbor and the surrounding glaciers. We were able to view mosses and lichens on the exposed rocky areas. We also had the chance to take in a zodiac cruise around the harbor, under the shadow of Spigot Peak, where we were lucky enough to have a close encounter with Humpback whales. A rather splendid start to the morning.

After Lunch we set out in the zodiacs once again, in beautiful, sunny conditions. Now well fed, we headed for Curverville Island, where, upon reaching landfall, we were confronted with noisy and nosey Gentoo penguins, their colonies stretching out over the snow and rocky outcrops. Whilst some of us got acquainted with the locals, the other took a circumnavigation zodiac cruise of the island and its stunning array of ice. The afternoon sun really gave the ice a stunning swatch of blues and whites and each iceberg was an architectural marvel! From here we could see the gentoo colonies from the water and get a true perspective of their size. We were lucky enough to encounter a Leopard seal, who was carefully looking over his gentoo prey.

At the end of our landing a few brave souls then took the plunge, literally, and stripped off to complete a polar plunge in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean for The Polar Plunge!

Once back aboard we were invited to Captain’s Cocktails, with an emotional speech from our captain before having dinner, during which we were graced by the sight of crabeater seals floating by the ship on ice flows! After dinner the Antarctic Show continued with a sighting of playful Humpback whales allowing us a great opportunity for pictures until the late evening, a perfect close for such a wonderful day.

Day 5: Foyn Harbor, Portal Point

Foyn Harbor, Portal Point
Datum: 30.11.2021
Positie: 64°32’.9 S, 61°36’.2 W
Wind: NE 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: 0

Breakfast was an occasion of shared tales of the spectacular late night Humpback Whale activity of last night, and everyone wondered what new excitement the day would bring. We were not disappointed…it was a beautiful sunny morning with a flat calm sea, ideal conditions for the whole ship Zodiac cruise in the iceberg studded sea around Enterprise Island and Foyn Harbor. Boats divided up in pairs and we slowly motored around the endless variety of bergs. Cameras clicked endlessly to capture the sparking stunning beauty of the floating and grounded ice sculptures just off the zodiacs. We then all cruised into a very small, steep-sided, snow-slope-enclosed bay, where we found the rusting, twisted, and partly submerged wreck of the ‘Governoren’ whaling ship. Our guides outlined the story of the demise of the vessel and history of whaling in the area. A special, much appreciated, early morning treat was offered at this location, to the surprised delight of us all, when a Zodiac manned by our ever-attentive hotel staff appeared, to dispense a welcome hot chocolate drink laced with just a touch of alcohol. Everyone reflected that it just could not get much better than this!

This cruise was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience, heightened by superb encounters with wildlife, including crabeater seals and a totally relaxed, quite disinterested, Leopard Seal reclining on a gently bobbing ice-flow. Gentoo Chinstrap and a lone Adelie penguin were also spotted in the area. Our cameras clicked frantically all morning.

During lunch Hondius reposition for a cruise / landing and snow-shoe experience at Portal Point. Unfortunately, the weather conditions changed with the wind increased to 25 knots and a forecast of 300-meter reduced visibility. As Oceanwide is always strongly focused on safety and passenger enjoyment, the plan was abandoned, and the launched Zodiacs were recalled back to the vessel. We moved to plan B…an excellent highly informative afternoon lecture on seals titled ‘Ears and Ear-less’, delivered by our Marine mammal specialist guide, Felicity Johnstone.

Recap was delivered by delivered by three of our guides... Adam outlined the next day program and delivered an interesting selection of historical details, Sara amused and educated in her usual high energy manner by explaining a long list of nautical superstitions and Bill provided us with an interesting explanation of the technical details of Hondius and the requirements of the vessel’s operational status - Ice Class 6!

Day 6: At Sea – Elephant Island

At Sea – Elephant Island
Datum: 01.12.2021
Positie: 61°08’.6 S, 55°53’.0 W
Wind: VAR 1
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

We woke up today to a heavily rolling ship and a stiff wind. Our destination was Elephant Island which we hoped to reach by late afternoon. A programme of diverse lectures was on offer from the home team ranging from Adam B’s personal experience of his time working in Antarctica, Adam T relating the famous ‘Race to the South Pole’ and Laurence’s explanation of the science behind spectacular glaciers & the processes of glaciation. All the presentations were well received, referenced by the generous applause and the number of questions from a clearly inspired audience.

Outside, the activity was also impressive. We were back in sub-Antarctic open waters and linking up with some now familiar bird species. This was led, as always, by Cape Petrels that would group together in small clusters running parallel at upper deck height before suddenly swooping towards the surface, in perfect coordination, before swerving away and up to their original position - repeating it again and again - a true flurry of monochrome beauty. They were joined by a few Antarctic Petrels, which, being similarly plumaged as the Cape Petrel, made it a mild challenge to the inexperienced birder to tell the difference between the two. Southern Fulmars, Black Browed Albatross and Giant Petrels were also flying around as we continued our sail.

At 11:00 Hondius found itself in the middle of a significant group of large whales, spread out along both sides of the ship. By combining the numbers from both port and starboard observers an estimate of 30 whales was determined. Species identification was a challenge in the rough swell, but it was felt that Sei Whale was the most likely candidate – the first for our tour.

By 16:00 the Captain was skillfully maneuvering Hondius to its anchor point inside the target cove of Elephant Island, made famous (or is that infamous?) in the remarkable survival story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew. The island, usually completely covered in sea mist, was surprisingly visible and despite the rough conditions and it was decided to launch a few zodiacs to take guests to see Point Wild, where Shackleton’s men actually survived for four months! The site is marked by a bronze bust of the Captain Pardo, of the rescue ship, Yelcho. Back on board Hondius everyone was out on deck as we cruised away from Elephant Island, leaving the rocky peninsula of Point Wild behind in the mist - a fitting bookend to the stories told earlier in the day.

Day 7: At Sea – Scotia Sea

At Sea – Scotia Sea
Datum: 02.12.2021
Positie: 60°05’.9 S, 49°48’.9 W
Wind: NW 5
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +1

The day started with calmer seas than the previous one, as we sailed into the Scotia Sea on our way towards the South Orkney Islands and our location for the Antarctic Eclipse on the 4th. With a sea day ahead we were afforded the luxury of an extra half hour sleep this morning before Adam’s wake-up call at 7:30, followed by Sigi’s call to breakfast at 8:00am.

The day’s lecture series kicked off with guest astronomer Tyler Nordgren’s fascinating lecture “A Voyage Into Totality”, shedding light into the science behind eclipses and what to look forward to in two days’ time. The skies continued to clear and by mid-morning the sun broke through as increasing numbers of Cape Petral’s silently slip-streamed around the ship. Then Bill took us on a long journey through art history and some of the important “Paintings of The Sea”. In Bill fashion, he ran over, until Sigi came up to the lounge to call us to lunch.

After lunch the lectures continued, beginning with Lothar, giving us a specific overview of the coming eclipse, expected weather and the phenomena of what to observe during the eclipse in two days. The afternoon brought increasingly good weather. The fog disappeared, the sun shone brightly, the seas calmed, and we found ourselves witnessing the spectacle of hundreds, perhaps a thousand, prions circling ‘round the ship all afternoon. Andrew then presented his lecture “Citizen Science – The Growing Importance of Wildlife Photography”. As always there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the passage, plenty of good conversation among our new friends, and plenty of great food to eat. Tonight after dinner, we enjoyed a happy hour in the lounge an evening of drinks and laughter.

Day 8: At Sea – Scotia Sea/To The Solar Eclipse

At Sea – Scotia Sea/To The Solar Eclipse
Datum: 03.12.2021
Positie: 58°26’.0 S, 88°06’.7 W
Wind: NW 6
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +1

After leaving the Antarctic Peninsula, our 8th day started with the usual wake-up call from Adam at 7:30, followed by Sigi’s call for Breakfast at 8:00. After, the second mandatory Antigen tests had to be done. Two groups got tested in the Lounge while the other two went in the Lecture room. All went well, and at 10:00 we had the reliving news that all passengers, crew, and expedition staff had tested negative. Hooray!

Felicity then invited all passengers to her presentation ‘License to Krill -Threats To Marine Life, Focusing On The Antarctic’. She gave an overview of threats to marine life around the globe, with a focus on the krill industry, looking at animal entanglements, ship strikes and the effects of climate change.

After the buffet lunch in the Restaurant, Sara invited us to her lecture about Women in
Antarctica. In the first part, she talked about the women behind great explorers like Shackleton and then explained how the women made their way into research and the research stations in Antarctica.

At 16:00 Lothar had the latest updates about the expected weather conditions and location for the solar eclipse viewing. Our guest meteorologist, Harry, helped with his access to the latest, up to date weather data which was followed by Lothar’s information how to photograph the coming eclipse. He talked about the options with simple cameras or mobile phones and continued with detailed information how to adjust professional cameras and telelenses for it. Finally, Kalle and Lothar looked at several cameras and explained how to adjust them, individually.

At 18:30 the focus of the daily recap also was the eclipse. And after the dinner at 19:00, the long, long wait for the sunrise eclipse had begun…

Day 9: At Sea – Day Of The Eclipse

At Sea – Day Of The Eclipse
Datum: 04.12.2021
Positie: 56°02’.7 S, 41°30’.1 W
Wind: NW 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

Dec. 4th started very early. Overnight Captain Toni and Lothar where continuously checking the latest weather information and changing course northward to a position at 56 30” South, 43 45’West, North East of a quickly approaching cold front.

At sunrise and First Contact of the eclipse at 3:15, Adam played “Here Comes The Sun” as the wakeup call. However, unfortunately the sun was hiding in low clouds, but most passengers were quickly out on deck anyway. Andrew and several guests observed a large group of Sei Whales. A second Oceanwide Vessel, Plancius, was further South, also in the clouds. Other vessels tried to approach our position from the South but were all clouded out as well.

Sadly, the whole partial phase was hidden in the clouds. No weather change for totality at 4:02 Ship’s time but we all were impressed how quick it got very dark during Totality that lasted almost 1 min. 30 sec. The second partial phase was also hidden in the low clouds, ending with the 4th Contact at 4:53 Ship’s time.

Around 8:30 those of us that had not gone back to bed were treated to a visit by three Fin Whales that approached starboard side, so close that you could hear the blow, and also 2 Sei whales! At 10:30 that morning Sigi invited us to a buffet brunch, followed by a Mark’s presentation Living in Antarctica”: Life at McMurdo Station”, sharing his personal experience of working and living at the US base in the far-off Ross Sea.

The Ship’s course now changed to South Georgia and it was time for the mandatory briefing and short film about this sub-Antarctic island. Adam, our expedition leader, informed us in detail about the island, its great nature, and the animals we could expect to see. And of cause the specific regulations to ensure that this unique environment remains unchanged.

The briefing was followed by the mandatory biosecurity inspection and “cleaning session” including all outdoor clothing, boots, camera bags, and rucksacks.

During the afternoon, around 3:30, we had a spectacular approach of Fin Whales on port side, one of them breached in a very close distance to Hondius. After Recap at 18:00, Adam informed us about the program for our first day in South Georgia and dinner was served at 18:30 in the Restaurant, before a very unusual sea day ended.

Day 10: South Georgia - Grytviken

South Georgia - Grytviken
Datum: 05.12.2021
Positie: 54°15’.2 S, 36°26’.0 W
Wind: NW 10
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +4

SinterKlaus Day

Excitement ensured that we woke early…and were rewarded by the magnificent sight of the cloud-capped snowy mountain landscape of South Georgia on our portside… it was truly awesome. The wind gusted strongly as we cruised towards Grytviken. Not long after the anchor was dropped a masked government official arrived on board to do random biosecurity sampling of bags and footwear as we eagerly queued to load Zodiacs.

After a short ride, we landed on the beach adjacent to the white stoned station graveyard. We walked carefully through hordes of lounging seals indifferent to our camera snapping presence, raised our glasses in a whisky toast at the monument to our explorer hero Shackleton and over the adjacent simple plaque erected in memory of his trusted second in command ‘Wilde’,

This decayed place ‘engaged the brain’…it was impossible not to focus the mind on the murderous business of whaling and the numbers processed at this otherwise beautiful place. The industrial scale of the operation was impressive…massive rusting whale oil storage tanks dominated the site and the whole place was covered with the abandoned buildings and processing machinery. Nothing was wasted as the carcasses were cut apart.
In the foreground, along the beach, the vessel, ‘Petrel ‘ and a couple of other ‘catcher boats’ had been rammed ashore, their rusting abandoned hulks providing a dramatic visual final ending to the whole bloody industrial whaling business .This was a great landing enjoyed by all. Photographers alternating between snapping snoozing fur seals and carefully framing artistic shots of the shapes created by twisted rusting steel.

After visiting the museum, those of us knowing the Shackleton story, were full of respect for the seamanship of the crew once we had seen the relative small size of the ‘James Caird’, emphasized by our wet return to the ship as the Zodiacs bucked through the waves to come alongside in gale of increasing strong wind.

Coffee and drinks were the next priority.

At recap Adam presented a review of the day and programme for the next, followed by a hilarious intervention as Bill swept into the lounge dressed in red tartan tights and top, yellow wellies, carefully crafted bishop’s hat and staff, his kilt and most importantly, carrying a black book filled with the names of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ passengers. He made a totally convincing Scottish version of ‘SinterKlaus’ as he sprayed the lounge with traditional sweets from his seal-skin sporran. Amid continuous laughter he used his fertile imagination to read out the supposed ‘crimes’ of the ‘bad’ passengers and congratulated the ‘goodies’ for their exemplary behaviour.

What a great day…we all agreed that once again it had been fantastic Oceanwide Expeditions educational fun and landing at Grytviken had been a highlight!

Day 11: Salisbury Plain, Possession Bay

Salisbury Plain, Possession Bay
Datum: 06.12.2021
Positie: 58°03’.1 S, 37°18’.9 W
Wind: NW
Weer: Sunny
Luchttemperatuur: +4

After a relatively early start we arrived on the shores of Salisbury Plain at 8:00 this morning. The sun was shining, and 250,000 king penguins welcomed everyone on shore. The beach was littered with Antarctic fur seals, many of them aggressive males which we all kept an cautious eye on as we walked along the Plain to the edge of the main colony. After skirting around lazy elephant seals and dodging confident fur seals, we were greeted by a king penguin edition of “Where’s Waldo”. As far as the eye could see were thousands of chicks and adults, preening their feathers and calling out to one another in a constant hum of noise.

In addition to a short hike on shore, we were also zodiac cruising along the beach, accompanied by inquisitive fur seals and penguins playing amongst the kelp beds, while we took in the stunning landscape and entirety of the Salisbury Glacier.

The after-lunch plan of a split landing and cruise at Rosita Harbor was unfortunately abandoned due to the density of fur seals on the shore - literally not one square meter of empty beach to make a pathway through. So, plan B was put into place quickly and we started sailing towards Possession Bay, 40 miles away. During the transit, Felicity gave a lecture on the history of whaling, how it spread across the globe and its beginnings in the Antarctic and South Georgia.

By 16:30 we were ready to deploy the zodiacs and begin the full zodiac cruise. The weather had deteriorated by now, clouds had rolled in and a strong katabatic wind funneled down Buxton glacier whipping up some waves. With everyone wrapped up, we cruised along the shoreline scattered with fur seals, king penguins and giant petrels. However, the wind speeds were increasing and just 45mins into the cruise, we were getting gusts of 45 knots and horizontal rain. This triggered a call from the ship for all zodiacs to return to the ship immediately! It was a wet and bumpy journey back, but everyone managed to get safely onboard and we were greeted by yet another delicious four course meal in the dining room.

Day 12: Salisbury Plain, Possession Bay

Salisbury Plain, Possession Bay
Datum: 07.12.2021
Positie: 54°26’.1 S, 36°02’.7 W
Wind: NNW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

From the very beginning the day promised to be full of adventure! We woke up when Hondius was already positioned in St. Andrew’s bay. While we were having breakfast, our Expedition Team was scouting the area, trying to find out whether a landing operation was possible and what potential problems might come our way.

The news was good with an announcement over the PA system that the landing as on! As always, we were divided into two groups and half of of us got shuttled via zodiacs directly to the landing site and the other half went for a cruise around St. Andrew’s Bay – one of the highlights of South Georgia. We slowly cruised along the coastline watching hundreds of thousands of King penguins, Elephant seals, Fur seals, Giant petrels and also enjoying the stunning landscape around us. St. Andrew’s bay is a glacial valley surrounded by the snowy peaks in the background and glacial moraine and Tussock grass covering the huge meadow in the foreground. One of the expedition guides, Mark, found a Leopard seal resting on a rock at the edge of the bay. One by one we approached this creature to take a picture of it, but the seal refused to raise its head for a good picture and just kept on sleeping. By the time the second zodiac cruise came by the Leopard seal had hunted up lunch and some got to witness the sad fate of a penguin snack.

When he zodiac cruise came to an end, we headed to the landing side and finally got a chance to set our feet on the ground of this legendary place. The first thing we noticed was the smaller amount of Fur seals in the area than at Salisbury Plain. Of course, there was still many of them and some of them were not very happy with our arrival, but in general the situation was much less scary the day before. Instead, there was many Elephant seal pups, friendly and funny, sleeping on a sandy beach or just lying and staring at us with their big black eyes.

Our primary goal was to reach the King penguins colony, which was the biggest colony, not only on South Georgia, but on the planet. The route was short, no more than one kilometre, but there was an obstacle to overcome – a raging glacial river! Thankfully our expedition guides were experienced and knew how to get us across safely - we had to stand in line of 10 people with a guide on each side, we walked slowly and carefully, locked arm in arm, safely to the other side. A true adventure!!

The best viewpoint to see the colony was on the top of the moraine in the middle of the valley, and as soon as we climbed up we got stunned by the breath-taking view - thousands and thousands of penguins filled the valley below. It seemed like we could stay there forever looking at them, but sooner or later we had to make our way back to the landing site – and crossing the menacing river once again! As we returned to the landing site, we got shuttled back to the ship where the lunch was about to be served.

During our lunch Hondius repositioned to the Ocean Harbor, where we were supposed to have our afternoon activity, but the closer we got the more challenging the weather conditions were becoming. When we eventually reached the harbor, it was clear that the landing would most likely be cancelled due to dark skies, low clouds, fog, rain, and strong gusty wind. Unbelievable how fast the weather can change! Only a couple of hours ago we were enjoying sunny, warm, and still weather at St. Andrew’s bay!

Adam then announced that it was too dangerous for zodiac operations and sadly, all the afternoon activities had to be cancelled. We stayed onboard enjoying afternoon tea and nice ambiance of the observatory lounge, as members of the Expedition Team gave informative lectures. All in all, a brilliant day.

Day 13: Gold Harbor, Ocean Harbor

Gold Harbor, Ocean Harbor
Datum: 08.12.2021
Positie: 54°38’.8 S, 35°49’.2 W
Wind: N 6
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +5

Yesterday during the daily recap, Adam, the expedition leader announced that the activities scheduled for the 8th of December would start at 5:00am. We took it for a joke, but apparently it was 100% true. At 3:00am Hondius dropped anchor at the Gold Harbor, famous for the abundance of Elephant seals, King penguins and beautiful golden light on the surrounding mountains. At 4:15 our guides were already scouting the area. The weather was sunny and still, just like at St. Andrew’s Bay the day before and we got the green light for landing!

5:00 AM the first of us embarked the zodiacs towards the landing site to find the site full of wildlife – including nice and adorable Elephant seal pups. Sometimes it seemed that the entire beach was moving, with so many of them there! The Seal pups were funny and curious, sniffing the air and opening their mouths to lick our trousers and jackets. However, due to COVID restrictions (and those of South Georgia) we had to tred carefully around as social distancing is not only about the people, but it also needs to be observed when we have contact with animals. On the landing, we had over 2 hours to enjoy this place and watch the seals and the penguins, so we all snapped hundreds of pictures, making sure to take home incredible memories.

For the afternoon activity the captain had to cover several nautical miles to get us back to Ocean Harbor for another attempt at landing. The weather was windy with swells at the ship’s shell doors, but the landing site was clear and calm. There we were offered two activity options: either to go for a hike or to do a slow walk in the valley. Those who had chosen to do the hike were the first ones to disembark. From the landing site they started climbing up the hill and even further to the top of the nearest mountain. The rest of us were not in a hurry, so we just enjoyed walking on a green carpet of moss towards a small waterfall at the back of the valley. Also, it was possible to approach the remnants of the former whaling station and observe how nature reclaims its territory - Fur seals slept next to the strange rusty steam machines, a river that contained pieces of different industrial machines and engines, Giant petrels nested in a Tussock grass, at a place that was busy with people only a few decades ago.

We had a wet and bumpy return to the ship as the swell had increased, but also proved to be fun. When everybody was onboard, Adam announced the plans for the next day – our last on South Georgia.

Day 14: Right Whale Bay

Right Whale Bay
Datum: 09.12.2021
Positie: 53°56’.2 S, 37°53’.1 W
Wind: - 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +3

Our last day on South Georgia was met with typical South Georgia Weather, the clouds hung low around the hills obscuring the view of the high peaks. Wind rattled through the valleys and picked up the sea into a dark and wavey state. The planned early start at Elsehul was unfortunately too wavey and windy to enjoy a zodiac cruise, so with a few hours to sleep we left the bay behind and headed for Right Whale Bay.

As we entered Right Whale Bay the conditions were much more favorable and we took the opportunity to load the zodiacs and head for a cruise around the bay. The low cloud really framed the bay well and its inhabitants were a playful population of fur seals. We watched as the beach came alive with noise and activity, fights for territory were continuous, fur seal pups were abundant and moving around, giving us a chance to really see how small they really were.

As we continued around the bay, we were met with the cacophony of sound that comes with the king penguin colonies. The colony extended from the beach and up the grassy embankment beyond, chicks were singing for attention and adults swam gracefully through the kelp, their sleek and maneuverable swimming worlds away from the sometimes-clumsy waddle when they return to land. A large jellyfish was seen in the shallows not far from the penguin colony and it seemed at home among the fronds of kelp. Another group of fur seals revealed a rare surprise and a tiny leucitic pup sat center stage on the beach, its blond fur a stark contrast to the dark grey of the sand.

The backdrop of waterfalls and low cloud really gave a beauty to the bay, and as the wind picked up it was time to leave this wonderful place and its spectacular inhabitants behind.

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to South Georgia and we set sail towards the Falkland Islands. The fog slowly shrouded the island and as we left South Georgia faded into the distance. As if to say goodbye a pod of Humpback whales was spotted close to the ship and escorted us on our way.

After a well-earned lunch it was back to sea for us and we were given an insightful lecture on the challenges of catering at sea, by our head chef Ralf.

The evening’s entertainment was an auction to raise funds for South Georgia Heritage trust, which saw our Doctor auctioned off for an evening, a selection of magnificent artwork from Bill, and a long list of other items sold to the highest bidder for this wonderful cause. The evening saw a spectacular array of bidding and we raised £7,617 for the South Georgia Heritage Trust, a phenomenal amount of money that will aid with the conservation and preservation of this beautiful island! Thank you all who took part!

Day 15: Sea Day – Sailing toward The Falklands

Sea Day – Sailing toward The Falklands
Datum: 10.12.2021
Positie: 53°10’.2 S, 44°49’.7 W
Wind: NW 5
Weer: Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +4

It was an early start for a few of us this morning, at 02:15 we sailed past Shag Rocks, a collection of six small islands in between South Georgia and the Falklands. These are of significance to wildlife enthusiasts because of the upwelling and productivity in the area – many shags nest here and lots of humpback whales are often spotted close by. Although conditions this morning weren’t ideal, Andrew and a few passengers managed to spot a variety of seabirds and even several humpback whales as they sailed past.

As the rest of us began to wake, by breakfast time it was beautiful sunshine with a calm rolling swell. The morning started off with a guest lecture from Tom Love, talking about the “Perspectives from the Edge of Civilization”. This was then followed by Laurence lecturing about “High-latitude bathymetrie – the world beneath the waves”, exploring images on the sea floor, with patterns created by icebergs moving with tidal changes.

The clouds then started rolling in and the wind picked up slightly, but this brought about a surprise visit from a transiting pod of Type-A Orca! Spotted by the bridge just before lunch time, everyone rushed out onto the decks and watched a pod of 10 killer whales surf through the waves alongside the ship. This was a bucket list moment for many onboard! Delighted, we then headed for another delicious buffet lunch. The afternoon set of lectures was kicked off by guest and astronaut Andre Kuipers, who gave us an insight into his time on the International Space Station, including behind-the-scenes footage of their day-to-day operations. After a short coffee break, we then learnt about the behind-the-scenes operations onboard Hondius, a talk given by our Chief Officer Miia.

After a full-on day at sea, busy learning about what goes on at the bottom of the ocean, in a space station and everything in between, we all sat down for another superb dinner, followed by a few night-caps at the bar.

Day 16: Sea Day – Sailing toward The Falklands

Sea Day – Sailing toward The Falklands
Datum: 11.12.2021
Positie: 52°20’.1 S, 51°59’.5 W
Wind: E 4
Weer: Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +8

We can feel the trip passing very fast while approaching to the final destinations on our itinerary – The Falklands/Malvinas Islands. The wake-up call fortunately wasn’t very early so we had the chance to catch up some good hours of sleep after several early mornings in South Georgia. Conditions outside were still gentle and friendly but during breakfast and by mid-morning the rumours of a nasty weather front coming to the islands spread out among us.

The first lecture of the day was given by Alexis, the professional kayak guide onboard, passionate about the aborigines who live in the island of Tierra del Fuego and its channels, the “Yamanas”. Through his presentation he explained many aspects of their life and traditions at the very harsh conditions of those latitudes, showing us a great way to appreciate the values of an extinct culture that is struggling to stay alive in people’s minds.

As we were getting close to a territory that not that long ago hosted one of the worst moments of South American history, the Malvinas/Falklands War, Ben offered a presentation about the historical facts that preceded the conflict between Argentina and UK in 1982. It was not simple to talk about, because so many emotions related to this, were in the air with such an international audience. A fast timeline recap reviewing the facts and important moments of a story not very worldwide known.

With enough time for a short nap after a great lunch meal served by the galley team, we made our way to the lounge again for some more educative presentations. This time was a miniseries of lectures given by the Super 4 Team, Felicity, Laurence, Sara and Andrew. Each of them specialized in a different task, together contributing for a complete and open overview of Human Impact in the Polar Regions.

To conclude the day at sea full of lectures, Lothar shared all his knowledge about the Wonders of the Southern Sky – a great education as most of us come from countries in the North Hemisphere and a completely different and unfamiliar night sky.

As every day, before our last huge, yummy meal, we attended Recap, where Adam talked about the plans the following day at Stanley and shared a few nice facts about Malvinas/Falklands before we set foot on them.

Day 17: Stanley - Falkland Islands

Stanley - Falkland Islands
Datum: 12.12.2021
Positie: 51°41’.3 S, 57°50’.4 W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Partly cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +5

Due to the weather forecast the original plan had to be adapted to suit, so it was decided to anchor off Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Isles and land everyone on the main pontoon. A small fleet of coaches had been arranged to take groups to Gypsy Cove & Yorke Bay. There we were able to roam along the coastal path to take in a new vista - a landscape of turquoise sea, white sandy beaches, cliffs, and low coastal scrub.

Even allowing for the colony of Magellanic penguins, a whole catalogue of new bird species was added to the trip list, including Ruddy Headed Duck, Austral Thrush, Night Heron, Long-tailed Meadowlark & Steamer Duck. To top it all off the clouds rolled away and we were treated to stunning blue skies and bright sunshine that just put a smile on everyone’s face.

Back in Stanley the action was more retail orientated with guests and staff buying presents and souvenirs on offer. Attention soon turned to food and before long it became apparent that we had literally emptied the town of fish & chips (!!!), much to the dismay of those later arriving guests.

Strolling along the waterfront close encounters with the Falklands Steamer Duck were readily available.

Meanwhile Adam, in his role of OEX Operations Manager, was undertaking interviews in a rather desperate attempt to supplement the threadbare expedition staff.

As the afternoon drew on guests started to return to the pontoon for what was to be a “memorable” zodiac return trip. Wet, wet, wet!! On the flip side some of the guides were really in their element as they returned to shore empty taking full advantage of the wind and spray driving at exhilarating speeds, followed by skilful parking manoeuvres to pull in alongside the pontoon. During both the morning and afternoon Zodiac runs, Commerson’s Dolphins were spotted swimming close to the ship – our first small cetaceans of the trip.

Back on board the expedition team successfully released a Wilson’s Petrel that had been found stunned on the deck in the early morning. As we headed into dinner Hondius was surrounded by a massive flock of Sooty Shearwaters, showing off their magical silver underwing colouration as they turned and banked in the low evening sun. A fitting end to a magical day.

Day 18: Bleaker Island - Falkland Islands

Bleaker Island - Falkland Islands
Datum: 13.12.2021
Positie: 52°10’.9 S, 58°54’.4 W
Wind: W 3
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +10

The morning broke to the sight of the light green, dry grass beach at the south east end of Bleaker Island. However, between us and the beach was a windy, choppy sea and a long ride. Many Commerson’s dolphins had been playfully popping around the zodiac drivers during the preparation of our last landing on the extreme south east border of the Falkland Islands.

We had been prepared for a wet landing – but this one was a wet, wet landing as the zodiacs were doused with spray on the way in. Once there, we were split into our prearranged groups for birding, walking around the Bleaker settlement or exploring the area around the landing. The birders nailed all the target species including Imperial Cormorants breeding close to the Long Gulch, Rockhopper penguins around the cliffs of Pebbly Bay and to our surprise, a special bonus - a lone Macaroni penguin between many of the Rockhoppers, bringing our total number of penguin species to 7!! Some Falkland Skuas were chasing chicks and juvenal of Rock Shags.

As the morning passed the wind continued to build. When the time came to return to Hondius it was gusting to 30 knots. Clearly this made zodiac operations extremely difficult. Nonetheless, our spirit of adventure kicked in and we all braved the conditions without complaint. Everyone was returned to the ship safely and with some small hint of how windy conditions can be in these wild places. The Falklanders already told us about the wind in this area that is exposed to the winds that come from the South Convergence without any obstacle.

Once on the ship, we were more than ready for a magnificent lunch and a hot shower. We had a quiet afternoon as many of us took naps or joined Sara and some of the guides in the lounge for a few rounds of Trivia. After that, during the recap, Felicity presented a lecture on interesting aspects about Phytoplankton and the
relationship with whales feces in the ocean.

Dinner certainly hit the spot after a busy, wild day. Many of us hit the sack early. It was the end of a true expeditionary day, full of wildlife in a wild place in wild weather.

At 22:30, Lothar invited us for Stargazing on Deck 7 aft. After the Sunset, we observed the Moon and Jupiter. A bit later, Sirius, the brightest Star became visible, followed by Canopus and Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our sun. Lothar pointed out the stars Alpha and Beta Centauri, which point to the Southern Cross. Later Orion and the Orion Nebula became visible. Finally, the International Space Station (ISS) passed brightly overhead, as a very bright object crossing the night sky. Andre Kuipers, the Astronaut on board, also enjoyed looking at this former home, too.

Day 19: Sea Day – Toward Ushuaia

Sea Day – Toward Ushuaia
Datum: 14.12.2021
Positie: 58°41’.9 S, 64°56’.8 W
Wind: NW 6
Weer: Clear Sky
Luchttemperatuur: +6

Day 20: Disembarkation, Ushuaia

Disembarkation, Ushuaia
Datum: 15.12.2021

Arrived back in Ushuaia, Hondius having successfully completed our first Antarctic Trip for the 2021/22 Season!

Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour, enthusiasm, patience, and support with our covid safety protocols!
We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 4085 nautical miles
Furthest South: 64°53’.8 S, 062°52’.8 W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Toni Salo, Expedition Leader Adam Turner, Hotel Manager Sigi Penzenleitner and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!

Details

Reiscode: HDSEC-21
Reisdatum: 26 nov. - 15 dec., 2021
Duur: 19 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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