PLA22-23, trip log, South Georgia Explorer

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Datum: 09.11.2023
Positie: 54°57.3’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: WSW 3
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +14

After travelling from far and wide, it was finally time for us all to embark on Plancius for an unforgettable trip. The weather as we left port was perfect: lots of sunshine, a little wind, and a nice spring temperature. Ushuaia is the southernmost city on the planet and would be our departure port for South Georgia.

Once we had all boarded and settled into our cabins, many of us used the opportunity to head out on deck for a look around at our surroundings and explore Plancius further. Just prior to departure, we all headed up to the lounge for some refreshments of tea and coffee, then heard the safety briefing from Chief Officer Maikel. We all had a good time trying out the bright orange life vests!

Shortly after the briefing, we threw lines and set sail from the pier. The wind picked up a little, but the sun continued to shine as we made our way along the Beagle Channel towards the South Atlantic. Just after six, we were again invited to the lounge, but this time for an introduction to life onboard with Hotel Manager Oleksander. This was followed by captain’s cocktails and a short speech from our captain for the journey, Evgeny Levakov.

Our expedition leader for the trip to South Georgia, Ali Liddle, then introduced us to her Expedition team and gave us some information about the coming days at sea. A lovely dinner was served soon after and we enjoyed the stunning coastline of Chile and Argentina as we sailed down the Beagle while we ate.

After finishing dinner and the last of the evening views, many of us retired to our cabins, where we settled in for our first night at sea.

Day 2: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 10.11.2023
Positie: 54°57.3’S / 061°39.3’W
Wind: NNW 6
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +9

We started the day at 7:45am, with the voice of our expedition leader. “Good morning, good morning,” she said, telling us about the weather outside and inviting us to breakfast.

At 9:30, Steffi, our assistant EL, gave us an introduction to the seabirds we might see on our voyage to South Georgia. To follow our already productive morning, Katlyn gave a super interesting lecture, introducing us to the whales of the Southern Ocean. She showed us the different types of whales and how to recognize them and told us how, after many years of over exploitation by whalers, the Southern Oceans populations of whales are slowly increasing.

Lunch time arrived and we could enjoy a lovely and assorted lunch made by the excellent galley team. Luckily, we had some time for a siesta before our next interesting lecture.

Ali presented us with an introduction to South Georgia. She was able to tell us about her own experience and aspects on history, economy and wildlife of South Georgia, due to the fact she lived on the Island for a period of time in the 1990s. Her love for South Georgia was infectious, calling it the “Serengeti of the South Atlantic”.

Around 16:45, we were called to get our muck boots from our energetic Expedition Staff. Most of our landings would be wet landings and most terrain we visit could be quite wet, so proper muck boots were required. Once we had found a comfortable pair, it was time to relax. For some of us, that meant a drink in the bar while we got to know our fellow travelers and waited for the daily re-cap and briefing by our EL and her team.

After sharing information on the weather for tomorrow, Ali introduced her Expedition Team. It is a diverse team, with guides from different countries and many different backgrounds: biology, geology, ornithology, oceanography, photography, among others. The briefing was wrapped up by Cas, one of the guides, a keen birder, who gave us some tips on how to use our binoculars. He also gave some clues to distinctive features of the different seabirds, which could help us with identification. At 19:00 dinner was served, a platted dinner! Yummy!

After spending a beautiful evening in the dining room, it was finally time to go to bed after a very productive first day at sea! A long and exciting journey was ahead.

Day 3: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 11.11.2023
Positie: 54°42.6’S / 053°20.8’W
Wind: NNW 6
Weer: Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +8

After a calm night, the swell would build throughout the day and Plancius would move more than yesterday. After a lovely breakfast, we headed straight into an important briefing from our EL, Ali. Biosecurity is very important in Antarctica and South Georgia; we needed to be sure all our gear was thoroughly cleaned. This included our outer-shells, backpacks, boots, tripods, poles, and everything we would take ashore. Also, we would need to treat our boots, poles, tripods, and everything else that might have been in contact with the ground ashore with Virkon solution, a very good disinfectant.

This is a special year for biosecurity, as Avian Influenza has unfortunately already reached the south Atlantic Islands and many Seabirds, Seals and Sea Lions are suffering from it. More than ever, we need to pay special attention to biosecurity protocols.

Ali told us that the ship would be inspected on arrival to Grytviken, but mainly for rodents. The arrival of rats to the island in the Sealing and Whaling vessels had a catastrophic effect on the island’s bird populations, especially on the South Georgia Pipit, an endemic songbird. The South Georgia Heritage Trust’s Habitat Restauration Project has gone through a massive rat extermination program that cost them lots of effort and money, and therefore now they are very strict to avoid any potential new arrivals!

After lunch, biosecurity cleaning continued, and when all our garments were clean and ready for use ashore, Steffi gave us a very interesting talk on Seals. She showed us how to differentiate “true Seals” from Fur Seals or Sea Lions and gave us a lot of interesting facts about the species we were about to see during our time in South Georgia.

As soon as Steffi finished her lecture, she informed us that an ARGO float was about to be launched as we had reached international waters. ARGO is an international program that collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet profiling floats that drift with the ocean currents and move up and down between the surface and a mid-water level to observe temperature, salinity and currents ( Oceanwide contributes to this international initiative by serving as a platform for the ARGO floats to get to the Southern Ocean.

As the afternoon continued, some of us went to rest. Some were feeling a little under the weather due to the ship’s motion, and some enjoyed a lovely introductory documentary to South Georgia. In the early evening, Ali gave her Recap and did a Zodiac briefing to show us how we were supposed to get on and off the Zodiacs. We could already start feeling the adrenaline of making our first outing upon arrival! One more sea day to go and we would finally start seeing the mountains in the distance!

Day 4: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 12.11.2023
Positie: 54°28.2’S / 045°31.1’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +8

This morning, we awoke with the gentle rolling of the Plancius, which really pleased most of us after two days of choppy seas. Getting through these two days made some of us feel like real sailors, a feeling that did lose some of its glamour after listening to Joshua’s lecture of Shackleton’s epic rescue journey from the Endurance!

Outside, meanwhile, a group of some 30 light-mantled sooty albatrosses made their appearance, to follow us during the day. A real treat! These beautiful birds very likely were the albatross species on which Coleridge based his famous poem “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” They do live up to their name, being sooty and having a lighter grey back and belly, easy to remember even for non-birders.

The large (Royal and Wandering) albatrosses, seen in good numbers on the previous days, were missing though. This is probably due to the wind speed not living up to their standards; in order to fly ‘for free’ they need enough wind to provide them with an uplift, after which they curve downward to again rise up into the wind, a process called ‘dynamic soaring’.

Also, during the morning Andrew in his lecture taught us all about the geology of South Georgia. This was followed in the afternoon with lectures on photography by Koen and on plankton by Clara. In between lectures we were treated by the kitchen to home-made hamburgers, always a yippee event, certainly among the Staff.

The first iceberg made its appearance too today, a specimen beautifully crafted by wind and waves. All in all, we could look back on a satisfactory day at sea, and went to bed happy knowing that tomorrow we would reach South Georgia.

Day 5: Peggotty Bluff, South Georgia

Peggotty Bluff, South Georgia
Datum: 13.11.2023
Positie: 54°13.4’S / 037°44.5’W
Wind: NE 5
Weer: Light Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +3

For some of the more eager of our cadre, the day began soon after first light as we made our way outside with the hope of finally sighting South Georgia. Alas, we were greeted with a fog that did not lift for quite some hours.

Throughout the morning, the fog began to lift, affording our first glimpses of South Geogia between the large icebergs ahead of us. Steffi informed us that these were pieces that had broken off D30-A, a large iceberg that had broken off an iceshelf in east Antarctica in June 2021. Since that time, it had drifted into the Weddell Sea before being pushed up to the east coast of South Georgia by the prevailing ocean currents.

After lunch, we continued into King Haakon Bay and anchored off Peggotty Bluff. Soon after, our ski team disembarked and were dropped towards the glacier leading into the Shackleton Gap. Soon after, they began their arduous trek up to the foot of the glacier as the rest of us disembarked in windy conditions to explore Peggotty Bluff.

It was a great introduction to a typical South Georgia landing. We were greeting with wind, misty rain, tussac grass hiding Fur Seals, and King Penguins at the landing site. As we made our way around the bluff to the western beach, the sound of more wildlife, including Elephant Seals, could be heard on the wind. Soon enough, we were able to wander along the beach, taking in the scenery and smells whilst clicking away on our cameras.

All too soon, it was time to return to Plancius. We weighed anchor and slowly made our way out of King Haakon Bay and Northwest through the icebergs, towards our planned anchorage for the night in Undine Harbour.

Day 6: Rosita Harbour & Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Rosita Harbour & Salisbury Plain, South Georgia
Datum: 14.11.2023
Positie: 54°01.5’S / 036°26.6’W
Wind: E 3
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +10

The morning started very early for most of us! Ali had announced the evening before that the plan was to pass the narrow strait between Bird Island and the Main Island. Bird Island is known for the incredible amount of breeding seabirds. Some of us used the opportunity to see these incredible birds in the morning light and got up at 4:30.

When we got on the outer decks early in the morning, places appeared slightly different. The captain had to change plans, as the original anchorage for the night was blocked by icebergs, and he continued further north and bypassed the narrow strait. Nevertheless, it was worth getting up, as the morning sun lit up the mountains. The light was incredible and the scenery spectacular. South Georgia presented itself in perfect conditions.

Some of us went back to bed for a small snooze and our normal operations began at 9. Ali and the Expedition Team planned to land us at Rosita Harbour, a small little beach at the end of the Bay of Isles.

The Expedition Team attempted a landing, with some of us watching through our binoculars from the outer decks. However, the beach was full of male Fur Seals protecting their territory, so as to be ready when the females arrive to give birth. Normally after five days the females are ready to breed again, and this is what the males are waiting for. Our team tried to land twice, but there was just not enough space for all of us to pass the animals safely.

We explored the area instead via a Zodiac cruise and saw many birds, such as South Georgia Shags, Giant Petrels and Kelp Gulls. The highlight for all of us was an unbelievable sighting of a Leopard Seal around the kelp forest. Most likely it was a female. Female Leopard Seals are generally much bigger than males. She was quite curious, but not aggressive, checking out each and every zodiac. All of us got a good view of this graceful animal and a small glimpse how powerful they can be.

After another fabulous lunch from the Galley Team, we headed out again for a Zodiac cruise of Salisbury Plain. Salisbury Plain is home to around 70,000 breeding pairs of King Penguins. Unfortunately, due to reports of Avian flu we were unable to land, but we still got the chance to cruise at the shoreline and observe the breathtaking wildlife. The sun was shining, we had light winds, a little swell and countless Seals and Penguins along the beach. We explored along the coastline and even found a small laguna where we got some nice close shots of the King Penguins and a newborn Fur Seal pup. We enjoyed every minute outside in these perfect conditions, and after 2.5 hours we were welcomed back on our beloved Plancius with hot juice and Whiskey.

Back on the ship, we enjoyed the last afternoon hours outside and observed the surrounding mountains with their glaciers in changing lights while leaving the Bay of Isles enroute to more adventures and new places tomorrow.

Day 7: Fortuna Bay & Hercules Bay, South Georgia

Fortuna Bay & Hercules Bay, South Georgia
Datum: 15.11.2023
Positie: 54°09.0’S / 036°97.9’W
Wind: NE 2
Weer: Overcast/Fog
Luchttemperatuur: +5

We awoke to fog and low cloud obscuring our view over Fortuna Bay. From deck overlooking the crescent beach, we could see it dotted with male Fur Seals. In between the Seals, King Penguins were making their way onto the beach to go fishing. They did so in numbers indicating the presence of a breeding colony nearby, which indeed was our destination for the morning landing.

After finding a safe spot with not too many fur Seals, we came ashore and started our hike towards the Kings’ breeding site. The first stretch of the hike was a bit like running the gauntlet, finding a way through rather grumpy fur Seals. After that the walk was very relaxed, and we were accompanied by Penguins heading the same way. Suddenly, behind a little hill the colony appeared. Thousands of adult and young Penguins gathered on the flat glacial plain. Most of the young were from last year, and were still in their downy costume, but some had already started to moult into the adult plumage.

The cooks must have known exactly what everyone craved after our long morning landing: pasta with lots of cheese! Over this wonderful lunch, we relocated to Hercules bay for a Zodiac cruise.

This little gem of a site is truly an amazing place with a very visible colony of Macaroni Penguins, straddled up the steep tussac slopes. The small beach also contained some Gentoo and King Penguins, along with the ever-present Elephant and Fur Seals on the little beach. Completing the perfect South Georgia picture, in the background there was a scenic waterfall and overhead continuously soared Light-Mantled Albatrosses. It was another day in paradise.

Day 8: Fortuna Bay & Stromness, South Georgia

Fortuna Bay & Stromness, South Georgia
Datum: 16.11.2023
Positie: 54°07.8’S / 036°49.0’W
Wind: NE 3
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +3

After a wonderful landing in Fortuna Bay yesterday, we decided to visit this beautiful place again this morning – in a different area though, but this proved not to be so easy. At places where the swell conditions were good, we simply couldn’t land due to the large numbers of fur Seals. And where the beach was more open, the swells were simply too big, so we really needed to find that one perfect place. Thankfully we did find a spot, and after a short delay, we set foot on Fortuna Bay once again. The staff had flagged a nice route through a grassy plain where we were able to observe good numbers of King Penguins, Fur Seals of all age categories, and of course, numerous very cute Elephant Seal pups.

Despite the rain, the scenery was just stunning. Arriving at the landing site and seeing the beach filled with fur Seals all along the entire coastline was very impressive. Hard to imagine that this beach will be even more crowded once the females arrive. With fur Seals it’s all about location, location, location, so the staff needed to stand their ground quite a lot. Off the landing site, there was much more space and we could walk at ease.

While following the flagged route, we enjoyed amazing views at the glaciers. Today we were meeting our Shackleton Route Ski Expedition, but we didn’t know which glacier they would descend.

In the meantime, we continued to a ‘little’ corner to enjoy the inimitable King Penguins. A little further towards the beach we found more King Penguins, but also breeding Gentoo Penguins. They were on their nests seemingly undisturbed by the harsh and cold rain that was coming down by this time. Although we were all well dressed for typical South Georgia conditions, the idea of a warm cup of tea or coffee was tempting and after a few hours we slowly made our way back to the landing site. While walking back we saw our first glimpses of our expeditioners as they were walking on top of the glacier.

Unfortunately, weather conditions didn’t permit us to do the Shackleton Walk in the afternoon. It was simply too foggy and, in these conditions, it’s strongly discouraged to embark upon this walk. The staff in the meantime had come back to the ship to get a warm lunch and change into some warm and dry clothes. Soon, however, they would go out again to meet the expeditioners. When leaving the ship, they were warm and dry, but the swells at the beach had become significantly more challenging. This meant standing in the surf up to their waists while holding the zodiacs, so the exhausted expeditioners could make it safely back to the warm ship. As soon as all the gear was loaded onto several zodiacs, the staff made it back to the ship where they again could warm up and put on more dry clothes.

Plancius lifted its anchor and before darkness we arrived at Stromness where we did a short ship’s cruise to have views of the former whaling station. It was here that Shackleton finished his epic journey walking into the now derelict whaling station. Seeing the ruggedness of South Georgia and the ever-changing harsh weather conditions, one can only imagine what it must have been like for Shackleton and his men to conquer these conditions and make it back alive.

Day 9: Prince Olav & Possession Bay, South Georgia

Prince Olav & Possession Bay, South Georgia
Datum: 17.11.2023
Positie: 54°16.9’S / 036°30.0’W
Wind: WEW 4
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +8

Today, it was time for a mixture of culture and nature, in other words a morning at Grytviken. This abandoned whaling station now holds the South Georgia Museum, an official post office and a gift shop. The little museum sports an interesting collection revolving around the history of whaling as well as displays items of the natural wonders of South Georgia. Undoubtedly, the stuffed wandering albatross with its 3m wingspan is among the favourites.

At the Post Office we could buy special South Georgia stamps, highly desired by philatelists. And for those with a craving for shopping at unusual places, the gift shop was of course a must. Then, there is the small cemetery, famous for having the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, perhaps the last of the great Polar explorers. There we engaged in the ritual toasting to the ‘Boss, making sure he got his fair share of whiskey. Having indulged in old South Georgia culture and modern shopping frenzy, we headed back to Plancius for lunch.

The afternoon found us at Godthul, Norwegian for ‘Good cove’ where we could pick from activities ranging from a relaxing Zodiac cruise to a climb through thick tussac up to the 300m high hill overlooking the Godthul as well as horseshoe bay on the other side. The slopes of this hill sport a good number of Gentoo Penguins, patiently incubating their eggs on the little nest mounds. There was plenty of opportunity to photograph these birds, this time without a downpour like yesterday at Anchorage Bay. These Penguins have found themselves a wonderful nesting site, overlooking the bay with a backdrop of spectacular mountains.

The Zodiac cruise meanwhile led those, who were not up for the steep climb through the tussac, past a scenic waterfall, nesting light-mantled sooty albatross and the ever-present fur Seals and elephant Seals.

Back on Plancius a tasty barbeque awaited us, where we all also enjoyed the music and dancing from some of the crew. A perfect ending to another beautiful day in South Georgia.

Day 10: Prince Olav & Possession Bay, South Georgia

Prince Olav & Possession Bay, South Georgia
Datum: 18.11.2023
Positie: 54°06.1’S / 037°06.8’W
Wind: ENE 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +3

This morning the Plancius crept quietly in to Cook Bay under beautiful sunny skies. We awoke to a pre-breakfast call on the ship. It was time to get ready for our zodiac cruise in Prince Olav Harbour. We cruised on glassy seas in nearby Elephant Cove and spent time with Elephant Seals, Antarctic Fur Seals, Kelp Gulls and South Georgia Pintails. One female Fur Seal had a brand new pup tucked in beside her trying to nurse. As the days pass on this trip more females have come to shore, and we now need to train our eyes to look for little dark pups hiding on the shores.

The reflections on the calm water inside Elephant Lagoon were absolutely stunning.

Over at Prince Olav Harbour the ruins of the Norwegian whaling station are being reclaimed by tussac and Seals. Many of the buildings have collapsed due to the severe South Georgia weather and the effect of time. The last whalers left this harbour in 1931 and parts were salvaged from it by other companies until 1936. Besides the deteriorating buildings, the Norwegians left another legacy at the harbour, rats. Prince Olav Harbor used to also be called Rattenhaffen (Rat Harbour) due to the stow away rats that came ashore from the Norwegian ships during the Seal hunting era. Today there are no rats, and we were treated to nice views of Seals and Imperial Shags nesting on the broken-down piers.

Continuing around the corner from the whaling station we looked at the remains of the Brutus. This vessel was towed by four whaling ships to Prince Olav Harbour to serve as a coaling hulk. A huge effort to bring this now sunken vessel to support the last years of whaling and left behind to rot in the sea. A few fur Seals were sleeping on the support beams and a nice layer of tussac is growing where deck planks used to be.

After a morning on dreamy seas, we came back to the Plancius for breakfast. She weighed anchor and made her way to Possession Bay for our last operation of the trip. The expedition team had never landed at Possession Bay and was excited for a true expedition day. There is not much information available for landings in Possession Bay because it is not done very often. The team scouted and attempted to set up a landing site in three different places before ultimately deciding to shift our operation to zodiac cruising. The weather and density of fur Seals prevented us from making a safe landing, but it did help make for a great zodiac cruise.

We spent time with our usual suspects of the beaches of South Georgia: Elephant Seals, Antarctic Fur Seals, King Penguins and Giant Petrels. Again, there were a few brand-new fur Seal pups lying next to their moms on shore. As we came to the back of the bay we had views of the Shackleton Gap and the Purvis and Murray Glaciers. For our skiers onboard it was a familiar site from a new perspective. Murray glacier had a small calving while we were there, and we took some time to drift in the brash ice generated from the glacier’s face.

It was a wet and windy ride back to the ship – a typical South Georgia send off! We had a warm lunch waiting on board for us to help us recover from the elements outside. However, lunch was interrupted by a surprise sighting of Killer Whales! A group of at least 5 killer whales hunted and travelled near the ship for about 20 minutes before we kept moving north. They came to follow the wash from the stern of the ship twice during our encounter offering excellent viewing and photo opportunities.

We all came back inside and finished up our lunch as Plancius steamed up the coast. We came across several large aggregations of humpback whales and seabirds throughout the afternoon as we steamed between icebergs. As the evening light became low, we bid South Georgia goodbye through the fog and grey skies.

Day 11: Shag Rocks & At Sea

Shag Rocks & At Sea
Datum: 19.11.2023
Positie: 53°33.6’S / 042°54.9’W
Wind: NW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +3

The night had been long, with quite some rolling, to the point it seemed we could be part of the music video for ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, by Lionel Ritchie.

Despite the rolling, we were treated to views of Shag Rocks. An intimidating rocky outcrop reaching out from the sea. These rocks are covered with breeding Shags, and we could just about make out the birds flying nearby. It was rather grey and foggy, but the Capitan skillfully navigated back against the wind, and between the swell and the ice, to give us some better views.

The wind and swell increased throughout the morning until we were recording wind gusts over 45 kts from the Northeast, and swell heights of about 7m. Usually this is not too much of a problem for Plancius, however the swell direction was from behind and to the starboard side, meaning Plancius was often rolling past 25˚, with a peak roll of about 32-35˚ recorded.

About 9:30am, Steffi gave an interesting presentation on Krill, their lifecycle and importance to the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. This was followed by another interesting and informative talk from Katlyn which described the importance of whales to the ecosystem and their role as gardeners. One interesting fact that came out of her talk was the underestimation of how much krill a whale was thought to consume in a 24-hour period. For example, it is now thought a Blue Whale can consume up to 20 tons of krill in one day! A truly staggering amount of food in anyone’s books.

After a sit-down lunch that was necessary for our own safety, most of us realized it is very tiring to be on a moving ship and retired to our cabins to rest for the afternoon. About 4:30pm, Ali put on an episode of The Blue Planet, which focused on the World’s oceans.

To the relief of all, the swell and wind dropped throughout the afternoon. About 6:30pm, we convened in the lounge for a quick recap before making our way to the dining room for another delicious meal. A few of us took advantage of the calmer conditions and retired to the lounge for a night cap, or two, before making our way back to our cabins for a more fitful sleep.

Day 12: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 20.11.2023
Positie: 54°24.4’S / 049°41.2’W
Wind: WNW 5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +7

At 7:45 Ali woke us up, as usual. Luckily throughout the night the horrible rolling of Plancius, due to the high seas, calmed down a little bit. Not many of us fell out of our beds in the night. If that was pure luck or the growing sea legs, we may never know.

The day started how seadays should, with a nice, wholesome breakfast in the restaurant while chatting to our fellow shipmates. In the morning, Andrew started our lecture series with a talk about Ice and what we should know about Ice besides for cooling our drinks at the bar. We garnered a good understanding of different types of ice and what this means for the cryosphere and the ecosystems which are connected to it.

One tea or coffee later, Josh started his presentation about whaling in the Southern Ocean and information about the human history of South Georgia. We were impressed by the great historic material he showed, and we were speechless over how many whales had been caught in the Southern Ocean. Some populations have recovered, some species have a bit slower, but there is hope on the horizon.

Some of us used the time after lunch for a little snooze. Afternoon naps are almost obligatory on a seaday in our temporary home, Plancius. Time on sea is also meant for growing knowledge, so in the afternoon Cas presented his lecture on Albatrosses and Penguins, Fly or not to Fly’. We found out these two species are quite closely related even though they separated 65 million years ago. Both are specialists in their environment, and it is very impressive to learn about their capabilities adapting to the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.

Later in the afternoon we got the chance to decide between two lectures. Anni. from the Polar Explorers, our Ski-group on the ship, presented a lecture about Shackelton and the story of the Endurance expedition. The Polar Explorers completed the last part of the amazing Shackleton trek, crossing the glaciers in the interior of South Georgia.

In the lounge Stig, a fellow guest, presented his experiences seeing the 18 species of Penguins in the world. He shared his adventures with us and showed us some amazing pictures of the Penguins on the other side of Antarctica.

At 5 pm we were treated to Happy Hour at the bar! Suspicious timing, as preparations for the upcoming auction in benefit of the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) were well underway. There was a selection of exclusive items for the auction with no option of buying them in any shop. The auction was very entertaining, with even staff bidding for some items. The auction raised close to £1000 with all proceeds going to a great cause. The day ended in familiar fashion, with a great meal in the restaurant.

Day 13: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 21.11.2023
Positie: 54°33.0’S / 057°07.1’W
Wind: SW 6
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +8

We began our penultimate sea day with our usual breakfast and made our way up to the lounge for our first lecture from Clara. Despite the moderate seas, we are all adjusted to life at sea now, so we didn’t pay much attention to the rolling while Clara taught us about her underwater work in the Beagle Channel. Despite being over 1000 miles apart, the marine ecosystem and the large kelp forests are very similar in South Georgia. We also got to learn about the great work Clara and others are doing in Ushuaia with their educational organization, Una Ventana al Mar, teaching children about the importance of our oceans.

Following on from Clara, Ali delivered her ‘Ice Maidens’ lecture. She described the history of women in Antarctica and South Georgia, and included some amazing stories of the women behind the men who first explored the Southern Oceans.

After another great lunch, we had time to enjoy the views outside and relax in the lounge. Koen then offered some advice and tips on how to make the most of the numerous photos we took during the voyage. His ‘Photography, Post-Trip Processing’ lecture gave us some great tricks to edit our photos and make the most of the images we have snapped over the last two weeks.

We were again treated to another guest-speaker today, with Simon Hearn speaking of his experiences in the military and sharing some stories of the South Georgia invasion in 1982. Recap included some great stories from Josh and Katlyn, who told us about the finding of the Endurance last year and a citizen science project, HappyWhale, which helps identify individual whales and Seals.

After our three-course dinner, we took to the lounge again for a special event: a poetry slam. This was organised by the Polar Explorer group and gave everyone the chance to share some poems, stories, or songs. There were some classic poems recited of Byron and Robert Service, a few original poems, a cover of the Beatles on ukelele, and even some songs sung in Dutch.

Day 14: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 22.11.2023
Positie: 54°04.9’S / 064°46.2’W
Wind: SW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +9

Our last full day on Plancius began with an unusual wake up call. Having been one of the auction items a few nights previous, one lucky guest got the chance to replace Ali for the wake-up call and treated us all to some soothing music before launching into ‘good morning’ in many languages.

Katlyn began the lecture program for the day and presented us with the year in the life of a Humpback Whale. Having worked with these magnificent creatures in both hemispheres, Katlyn shared her knowledge of their lives and migration routes. Shortly after Katlyn, Josh told us the story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott and their iconic race to the South Pole. Focusing on public perception of both expeditions and the differing methods each used to reach the pole, Josh shared some new insights into the consequences of publicly and privately funded expeditions, and how this fed into the famous ‘race’.

With another delicious lunch buffet behind us, we dropped back our rubber muck boots to the expedition team. These were great for keeping us warm and (mostly) dry on each landing, and I’m sure some of us will secretly miss cleaning out the logos with a paper clip!

Chief Engineer Floris gave us an insightful virtual tour around the engine room after lunch, sharing some of the secrets of the ‘inner workings’ of Plancius. It was great to learn how Plancius had been transporting us back and forth from Ushuaia to South Georgia, and all the work that goes on below to keep the ship running smoothly.

The last speaker for the trip was again a guest speaker, this time Annie from the Polar Explorers. She shared some great images of the ski trip across the interior of South Georgia and how the team of 15 travelled from King Haakon Bay to Fortuna Bay, retracing the footsteps of Shackleton, Crean and Worsley.

Our last evening’s celebrations began with Captain’s Cocktails. We joined the Expedition team and Captain Levakov in the lounge for a toast to the voyage, before retiring to the dining room for a tremendous dinner. There we ate and drank, sharing some of the great memories we have all made on this two-week journey to South Georgia.

Day 15: Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day
Datum: 23.11.2023
Positie: 54°57.3’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +8

We docked back at Ushuaia early in the morning, while many of us enjoyed our last sleep on board Plancius. With our bags packed and left outside our doors for the staff to collect, we enjoyed our final hearty breakfast from the Galley team. Following breakfast, we disembarked the ship and said goodbye to Ali and all the team. Whilst many of us leave with some sadness, we are grateful to be back on solid ground and with our hearts full of fond memories and unforgettable experiences from our exploration of South Georgia.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support, but most of all for joining us on this adventurous South Georgia voyage. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed: 2470 nautical miles

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Evgeny Levakov, Expedition Leader Ali Liddle and her team, Hotel Manager Oleksandr Lyebyedyev, and all the crew and staff of M/V Plancius, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!


Reiscode: PLA22-23
Reisdatum: 9 nov. - 23 nov., 2023
Duur: 14 nachten
Schip: m/v Plancius
Inscheping: Ushuaia
Ontscheping: Ushuaia

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Ons oudste schip, de Plancius, is een klassieke keuze voor een aantal van onze populairste poolreizen.

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