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PLA23-23, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions

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Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Datum: 23.11.2023
Positie: 54°57.3’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: WSW 3
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +14

Finally, the day had arrived for our expedition to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica! We found ourselves in Ushuaia, in the most southern part of Argentina, known as the end of the world. During our expedition, we would go beyond it.

We were not expected to embark on Plancius until 16:00, so that gave us time to recover from the long journey south and explore the town of Ushuaia. With lots of coffee and cake places as well as many outdoor shops, Ushuaia makes for a cozy town. It is ideal for buying last-minute items, such as hats and gloves or maybe another layer to keep warm.

At 16:00 it was really time to make our way up the gangway of Plancius. We were greeted at the dock by members of the expedition team, and the hotel manager quickly checked us in. There was not a lot of time to relax, as at 17:00 a mandatory safety drill was scheduled, so our presence in the lounge was required. We were first welcomed by expedition leader Ali, then the chief officer guided us through a safety video and the drill procedure. Before we knew it, we all sat in the lounge wearing our bulky orange life vests. When we heard the abandon ship alarm, we all made our way outside to the life boats, where the second officer informed us further.

With the mandatory drill done, it was time to release the ropes, start the engines, and leave Ushuaia behind. With the ship on its way, the captain came down to the lounge and greeted us with a glass of champagne, speaking some warm welcome words. Ali then gave us more information about the program and the planning for the days ahead. Our first destination would be the Falkland Islands.

Soon it was time for dinner. The galley team had prepared a delicious buffet, and the dining room was buzzing with excitement. The members of the expedition team also joined dinner, and this offered a first opportunity to get to know each other. After a long and intense day, it was time for a good rest. Some of us decided to spend some time on deck to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and golden light.

Day 2: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 24.11.2023
Positie: 53°27.2’S / 063°19.3’W
Wind: NNW 3
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +9

We started the day at 7:45am to Ali saying, “Good morning, good morning...” She told us about the weather outside and invited us to breakfast, our first on board.

The sea was mild, with only the slightest rolling of Plancius. The sun was out too, attracting the guests out on deck. Quite a few birds were following the ship, Southern Giant petrels, Black-Browed albatrosses, and Cape Petrels making up the majority. A bit farther from the ship, the first Royal Albatrosses made their appearance. These magnificent birds can “fly for free,” the wind providing them an uplift, after which they curve downward to rise up into the wind, a process called dynamic soaring. As it was quiet weather, we took the opportunity to hand out the muck boots, so we were all set for our first landing the next day.

Meanwhile, Ali talked about the Falklands and her life as a teacher on the islands. Soon after that, Steffi gave a seabird lecture in German in the restaurant while Cas talked about seabirds in English in the lounge. Lunch included quesadillas, a favourite amongst the staff.

In the afternoon, Josh gave a presentation about the history of the Falklands and the Falkland identity, including his experiences growing up there. Pre-dinner recaps covered our landings for the next day as well as the mandatory Zodiac briefing. Topped by a great dinner, it was a most comfortable day at sea.

Day 3: Falkland Islands - New Island, Coffin Harbour

Falkland Islands - New Island, Coffin Harbour
Datum: 25.11.2023
Positie: 51°43.308’S / 061°18.020’W
Wind: W 4
Weer: Sunny
Luchttemperatuur: +13

We awoke bright and early for our first day of landings. Plancius was anchored overnight in front of our first landing site in The Falklands: New Island. We took the Zodiacs to shore at Coffin’s Harbor. The landing site was right next to the wreck of Protector III, an old wooden ship originally built in the 1940s as a minesweeper. It eventually found itself in the Falklands and was beached at New Island in 1969, slowly decaying in the sand ever since.

There is a small museum on the island called the Captain Bernard Museum, named after a whaling captain who was marooned on the island. The museum has many artifacts from the animals that live on the island, some history from the sealing and whaling days, and information about the island.

Kelp geese with their little goslings were roaming the shoreline as we stowed our lifejackets and began exploring. We followed the old dirt road tracks across the island to an area where the seabirds were nesting. Upland and ruddy-headed geese were wandering the grassy fields, some with goslings. Straited caracara and many passerines also flew over the fields occasionally as we made our way.

The views at the bird colony were incredible. As you approach the view from the edge, your eyes are drawn down the cliff faces. Black-browed albatross, Rockhopper penguins, and Imperial Shags were all piled together in one big colony. While these birds are very different in size and shape from one another, they do live a similar lifestyle. Albatrosses and cormorants were flying in and around the nesting area to either relieve their mates or bring in new nesting materials. Many birds were sitting on eggs and occasionally would get up and stretch, allowing us to see the eggs underneath them.

After taking in the views at the colony on the cliffs, there was an opportunity to walk through the small settlement of New Island to access the beach viewing area, where some gentoo penguins came to shore and walked up toward their nearby colony.

North Harbor: 51° 42.031’ S 61° 15.181’ W

During lunch we repositioned a few miles north to another location on New Island: North Harbor. A long, shallow beach awaited us at low tide, making Zodiac operations tricky. We successfully landed and began walking up the sand dune to the wildlife. Ducks and geese were swimming and roaming near shore. Magellanic oystercatcher calls filled the air. One Magellanic penguin stood on the shore, surveying the walk to the water at low tide. As we crested the first hill, we came to a pond where we saw more Magellanic penguins and a variety of geese.

We climbed higher and saw straited caracara scattered on the hillside, offering great views and photo opportunities. And at the crest of the hill was a gentoo penguin colony. We were delighted to see and hear tiny chicks in the colony. Some parents were brooding one newly hatched chick and an unhatched egg. Other adults were still bringing in nesting materials to please their mate, causing chaos and drama as they ran past other nests. Occasionally a caracara would fly over or walk around the colony as well, sending the penguins into high alert.

Downhill towards the west facing beach, there were more Gentoo colonies, one with a sneaky Macaroni penguin resting at it. The Macaroni had its head tucked down and was sleeping for most of the afternoon, but with binoculars you could spot it amongst the Gentoos. If you were patient, you could catch a photo with three different genus of penguin in it: a magellanic, a macaroni, and a gentoo all in one frame.

The Magellanic belongs to the banded penguins (genus: Spheniscus), the Macaroni belongs to the crested penguins (genus: Eudyptes), and the Gentoo belongs to the brushtail penguins (genus: Pygoscelis).

At the beach, more and more Gentoos were coming ashore and resting on the sand dune before walking up to their colony. It was great fun to watch them surf the waves and swim around the shoreline. It’s not often that Gentoos use white sandy beaches throughout their range, but here on the Falklands they do. A few Magellanic penguins came ashore throughout the afternoon with the Gentoos. At the end of the beach, there was also a family of Steamer ducks with ducklings in tow.

Partway through the landing, an extended walk was offered to those who wanted to see an additional Black-browed albatross colony. The route weaved past another colony of Gentoo penguins and over the hill to the cliff faces, where more albatrosses and Rockhopper penguins were nesting. Many albatrosses were actively courting each other on stunning cliff views.

At the end of the landing, it was hard to walk away from such a beautiful place. As we geared back up on shore to get in the Zodiacs, the rising tide proved to again be tricky for getting back to Plancius. After some human power from the expedition team and use of the engines, we loaded out of the shallow water and made our way back on board to set sail for Stanley.

Day 4: Falkland Islands - Stanley

Falkland Islands - Stanley
Datum: 26.11.2023
Positie: 51°36.73’S / 057°39.5’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +12

After our wonderful day at New Island, we made our way eastwards overnight towards the capital of the Falklands, Stanley. We arrived in Stanley Harbour, through the Narrows – a small passage between two headlands just wide enough for ships to pass – just as many of us settled down for breakfast. With the wind blowing 25 knots out of the west, this would be our first practice at boarding the Zodiacs in choppy conditions.

After digesting breakfast, we all made our way to the gangway for a quick transfer to Stanley. Most of us remained relatively dry for the trip, except the unlucky few of us who were at the front of the Zodiac. Thankfully, our waterproofs came to the rescue!

With the whole morning ashore, we all went off in different directions to explore the small town of Stanley. Many of us headed up the front row towards the shops and cafes, with some of us making it further down to the wonderful museum. Filled with exhibits on local life and many interesting displays on the natural history of the Islands, the museum provided us with a wonderful insight into life over the decades in the Falklands.

As the wind (and often the rain) increased throughout the morning, we began to make our way back to the jetty to return to Plancius for lunch. The Sea Lions who greeted us at the end of the landing pontoon were still enjoying the comfy haul out site when we returned from our adventures around Stanley.

Following another excellent buffet lunch, this time homemade burgers, we settled down to enjoy an afternoon of lectures as we sailed towards our next destination, South Georgia. Josh first talked about the Falklands War. He detailed the international context, which caused the conflict between Britain and Argentina, then went on to describe the legacy of the war locally. Following shortly after, Ali described her Covid year in the Falklands: first, working as a travelling teacher in the east Falklands, then as a guide at the tourist lodge on Sea Lion Island.

With our bellies beginning to rumble again, we enjoyed a short drink and recap before heading off to the dining room for another delicious dinner. The wind, as forecasted, did make dinner a little interesting, with strong gusts and swell from the southwest. For some of us, this may have helped lull us to sleep afterwards, but for some it meant a slightly restless night of rolling about in bed. This was only a minor inconvenience, however, as South Georgia would be worth the couple of days of sailing, whatever the weather.

Day 5: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 27.11.2023
Positie: 52°14.5’S / 050°52.2W
Wind: NE 5
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +8

We awoke to the gentle rolling of Plancius as we continued our route east towards the remote islands of South Georgia. Some had found little rest the previous evening, kept awake by the 4m swell overnight, buffeting our starboard side. Yet others, those lucky few, arose well rested for a day of lectures and wildlife on the high seas of the South Atlantic.

After a delicious breakfast, those venturing out on deck were rewarded with a brief sighting of hourglass dolphins dancing through the waves on our starboard side. They stayed with us for a few minutes before disappearing into the icy depths.

Following this brief excitement on deck, our day of lectures began. First we enjoyed an introduction to South Georgia from Ali, our expedition leader, who shared stories of her first visit to the island nearly two decades ago.

We learnt about the animals of South Georgia and the history of whaling as well as the rat eradication projects and fisheries management run by the South Georgia government and South Georgia Heritage Trusts. Next we heard from Pippa, our assistant expedition leader, who shared her knowledge of seals and pinipeds with us all. We learnt about the eared and true seals of the South Atlantic and Antarctica, and she told us about the various citizen science projects being used to gain a better understanding of leopard seal movements in the Southern Ocean.

At lunch the buffet was closed due to the swell. Yet we still enjoyed a hearty goulash served by the incredible dining team to our tables. The rolling seas were now crashing against our starboard side, measuring upwards of five meters. The dining room felt like a washing machine, yet the wait staff were somehow able to dance between the flying chairs and cutlery to deliver our food.

In the afternoon, we heard from Koen about the penguin species we would see on our voyage, from the small brush tails of Antarctica to the towering Kings of South Georgia. He also shared some of the amazing images he had captured during his time in these beautiful places.

And finally, to finish our lecture program, we heard from George, who shared his stories about the political history of South Georgia and how it came to be a British Overseas Territory. Amongst other things, we learnt about the battle for Grytviken, Mills Marauders, Operation Paraquet, and the unfortunate passing of Felix Arturo in the final days of the South Georgia conflict.

After a big day of knowedge sharing and wildlife watching, we joined Ali for a recap in the lounge and then convened in the dining room for one last delicious meal before retiring to our beds, excited for what lay ahead in the remote islands of South Georgia.

Day 6: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 28.11.2023
Positie: 53°36.05’S / 043°55.1’W
Wind: W 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +8

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’… Another day at sea, and we were still rolling gently. The ocean swells seemed a bit less compared to yesterday, but Plancius made us well aware that we were sailing the Southern Ocean.

We woke up to hearing Ali’s voice, updating us on the conditions and then wishing us a tasty breakfast. Despite the rolling of the ship, the galley team somehow managed to prepare yet again an extensive and delicious breakfast while we enjoyed the views of the waves and birds.

After breakfast we were called into the lounge for briefings on the do’s and don’ts in South Georgia. We started with the soft tones of Sir David Attenboroughs voice who introduced us to the beauty and uniqueness of South Georgia. Then a video by the South Georgia government was shown and last but not least; a video on biosecurity and how to clean your gear.

During the whaling and sealing period, the Norwegians and other foreign workers brought with them invasive plant species, reindeer and also rats that travelled on the ships which then escaped when the ships were moored in Grytviken. These invasive species formed a major threat to the islands’ eco system and the South Georgia government has worked very hard the last decade to eradicate all these invasive species. The island is now rat, mice and reindeer free and most invasive plants have also been terminated. To prevent any new species from invading the island, strict cleaning procedures have been implemented and we all need to meet the standards. So time to clean and vacuum!

The vacuum party in the lounge started around 10:30 and we were required to bring all our outer layers, boots, backpacks as well as gloves and hats. The expedition team was there to help us, but also to check our gear to see if we had forgotten or overlooked tiny bits of foreign materials. Even a tiny piece of sand around the logo’s of our Muckboots could mean a failed inspection so we really needed to be on top of it. But once all the cleaning was done, we were rewarded with a book about South Georgia. The paperclip attached was a reminder to always clean and check your boots before and after every landing. We are on holiday, but some of the household work still made it onto the ship as well 😉.

After lunch there was some time to relax or enjoy the outside decks and at 15:00 Katlyn passionately shared her whale knowledge with us. Hopefully whale see lots of whales during this adventure.

Days at sea can be long, but today went by quickly. We had an entertaining and informative recap and then it was dinner time again. And that was also the moment when we saw our first massive ice berg. Not a bad day!

Day 7: At Sea & King Haakon Bay/ Peggotty Bluff, South Georgia

At Sea & King Haakon Bay/ Peggotty Bluff, South Georgia
Datum: 29.11.2023
Positie: 54°08.95’S / 037°17.42’W
Wind: NW 6
Weer: Rain
Luchttemperatuur: +4

Early in the morning, as Plancius sailed her way closer to South Georgia, we passed thick fog banks, with low visibility. Ali awoke us a little early as the fog parted and we got our first fantastic views of the island of South Georgia. Also appearing through the fog were many huge icebergs, framing the island and welcoming us to this sub-Antarctic Island.

Shortly after breakfast we spotted a number of whale blows, and as we got closer, we found them to belong to Humpback Whales.

These huge behemoths feed in the krill rich waters within the Antarctic convergence – and we were lucky to spot many amongst the icebergs, some quite close to the ship. The captain and his bridge team, navigated us through the icebergs and with the whales, as we found our way into King Haakon Bay.

King Haakon bay is a large bay on the south western side of South Georgia. A rare place for ships to visit as it is often exposed to the prevailing westerly wind and swell. King Haakon is most famously known as the landing site of Shackleton and his men as they reached South Georgia for rescue after spending 17 days at sea. We sailed past Cave cove – Shackleton’s first landing spot, and continued deeper into the bay towards a spot called Peggotty Bluff, where we hoped to visit in the afternoon. Peggotty Bluff is where Shackleton and his men sailed to from Cave Cove to start their traverse across South Georgia to Stromness whaling station to seek help. It is also a spot with lots of amazing wildlife.

We arrived to anchor off of Peggotty Bluff around lunch time – the wind was gusting 25 knots, and it was raining quite hard. The forecast predicted this to subside, so Ali let us know to get some lunch, and we would assess conditions after lunch. The staff headed out in the rain to check conditions on shore, and soon we got the announcement to dress up warm and waterproof and head to the zodiac boarding area.

We headed out in the rain, excited to step foot on South Georgia after a couple of days rolling around on Plancius at sea. The beach was quite sheltered from the gusting wind, and we were greeted on the beach by Fur and Elephant Seals. The staff had made routes to walk through the tussock grass to see more Fur and Elephant Seals, as well as across the beach to see a group of King Penguins resting in the tussock grass. We watched as the King Penguins preened their feathers and rested, often tucking their heads down. On the beach was a large male Elephant Seal that had died and was being feasted on by many Giant Petrels. In the rivers, and the shallow pools we could watch many baby Elephant Seals, known as ‘weaners’ wallowing and playing, having recently been made independent from their mothers – they spend the days resting and playing together, until they finally make their way to the sea. On one section of the beach we were lucky to spot some newly born Fur Seals – nursing from their mothers. We all became acquainted with the male Fur Seals, and their aggressive nature towards each other – and sometimes us! The weather improved throughout the landing, and for the last hour or so, we had sunshine and the wind had dropped significantly. Soon it was time to make our way back to Plancius – with fantastic memories, full memory cards and some soggy clothes!

Back on board we all warmed up and got dry before a quick briefing from about the plans for tomorrow – Ali kept it brief though, so we could enjoy the fantastic pilotage as we sailed out of King Haakon Bay in beautiful evening sunshine, with many icebergs and beautiful scenic views of South Georgia’s coastline. A delicious dinner onboard from our Galley team, and after a beautiful evening, we headed to bed with great anticipation for more exploring of South Georgia the next day.

Day 8: Salisbury Plain & Prince Olav Harbour, South Georgia

Salisbury Plain & Prince Olav Harbour, South Georgia
Datum: 30.11.2023
Positie: 54°02.4’S / 037°13.4’W
Wind: W 6
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +6

After our beautiful evening cruise out of King Haakon Bay yesterday, we awoke to thick fog in the early hours of the morning. As we heaved anchor from our shelter of Bird Island, we sailed around to the north side of South Georgia for our first views of the famous King Penguin colonies.

Salisbury Plain is home to approximately 75,000 pairs of King Penguins. The sight from Plancius, as we prepared to board the zodiacs after breakfast, was spectacular. Thousands of penguins along the beach, with a huge colony reaching up the side of the hill, bordered by two glaciers, the Lucas and Grace.

Despite the cold wind blowing off the glaciers and the sea, we all had an unbelievable cruise along the shoreline of Salisbury Plain. Harems of Fur Seals littered the beach, with males all fighting for the best waterside real estate to mate with the females coming ashore to give birth. Quite a few pups had already been born, and even a small white fur seal was spotted at the far west end of the beach. To add to the scene, many penguins were returning from their feeding grounds and coming ashore between our zodiacs.

Reveling from our morning with the penguins, we barely had time to reflect over lunch when a call came from Expedition Leader Ali that orcas had been spotted in front of the ship. At first, we only got glimpses of the fins breaking the surface and then they disappeared into the distance. Luck was on our side, however, and they were spotted again from the Bridge with the whales turning to join us back at the ship. It was a large pod, maybe a dozen strong, with at least two small calves. We all got great views as they swam alongside the ship. The poor Humpback whales, who were also nearby, didn’t get too much attention from us as we all focused on the orcas. An unforgettable experience.

After leaving the orcas, we sailed into Possession Bay to attempt a landing at Brighton Beach. Unfortunately, with the wind increasing and a beach packed with Fur Seals we were unable to land. We had some great views of the glaciers and snowfields of the Bay as consolation before we returned to the head of the Bay and dropped anchor instead at Prince Olav Harbour.

Prince Olav is one of South Georgia’s old Whaling Stations and is now a picturesque ghost town in a scenic cove with snow-covered peaks towering above. We all boarded the zodiacs for another round of cruising and got some great views of the station. This included the shipwreck of the Brutus, which sits at the point of the abandoned station, and was once used as a floating storage hulk when the station was operational. A bonus to this location is the idyllic Elephant Lagoon. This sheltered lagoon is a perfect place to cruise and get close views of the seals, who seem totally oblivious to our boats.

Following our action-packed, first full day on South Georgia, we were all happy to retire to our cabins after another delicious dinner. Getting some rest in before another full schedule tomorrow with Fortuna and Stromness on the itinerary.

Day 9: Fortuna Bay & Stromness, South Georgia

Fortuna Bay & Stromness, South Georgia
Datum: 01.12.2023
Positie: 54°09.012’S / 036°48.011’W
Wind: W 2
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +12

After a night of sleep on anchor in Fortuna Bay we awoke to crisp sunny skies. There was a cold breeze across the water, but conditions were fantastic for a landing at Whistle Cove. Today’s landing site was a much more typical South Georgia beach: fur seals everywhere. The males were very determined to hold their positions when we arrived but obliged to let us walk up the beach and drop off our gear without too much trouble. Small harems were starting to fill up with females and adorable black pups. The noises of moms and pups calling to each other filled the air. It was a bit like an obstacle course to navigate the beach, but the expedition team marked the safest route with poles and walked everyone in small groups until we reached the glacial plain.

Once on the lush grass of the glacial plain there were elephant and fur seals sleeping peacefully in the sun. King penguins were resting and molting in the small streams and pools whereas others were marching back and forth from the colony. We walked up the gentle slope along the streams and past beautiful waterfalls. As we approached the colony the sounds of thousands of penguins reached us before we could see the extent of all the birds.

Chicks were tweeting nonstop and running around looking for someone to feed them. The ones near fledging appeared to be three times the size of the adults. These round and brown fluffy birds were called “Oakum Boys” by the whalers who initially thought there were another species of penguin entirely. Adults were tending to their young or resting. The wind was much calmer up at the sheltered colony and the weather was quite warm.

It was a perfect South Georgia morning. We were all smiles as we walked back down the grassy fields and headed back to the landing site. We carefully made our way through the new maze of seals along the beach and donned our lifejackets to head back to Plancius for lunch.

It was a short ride from Fortuna Bay to Stromness. As we approached Grass Island in Stromness Bay we caught a glimpse of the whaling station ruins at Leith Harbor. Then we came around the island and Stromness whaling station came into full view. It was a breezy afternoon and gusty winds raced across the water toward Plancius. The beach was covered in dark spots everywhere we looked; more Antarctic fur seals. As the expedition team scouted the shoreline with the zodiacs, they found a tiny window where we could sneak up the beach and walk through a pool of water to a safe place where we could drop off our lifejackets.

The activity on the beach was just short of a frenzy. Pups were running around calling for their moms and big males were fighting for every square centimeter of space. The staff escorted everyone safely up and down the pool to the lifejacket bags.

Past the lifejacket bags the seals were much less dense and a marked path led up to the Shackleton Waterfall at the back of the glacial plain. There were a few young elephant seals lounging near the rivers over halfway up to the waterfall.

It was a brisk walk to the waterfall against the wind, but the views of the mountains, glaciers, and waterfall itself were stunning. This is the place where Shackleton and his men made their descent to salvation at the Stromness whaling station. They knew that they could find help and a ship to rescue the rest of the men left behind at Peggoty Bluff and Elephant Island from the failed Trans-Antarctic Imperial Expedition. While standing on the glacial plain from the waterfall, we had the same view that they did over 100 years ago.

The wind was on our backs for our walk back to the beach. Gentoo penguins could be heard calling from their colony on one of the hills. Overall, it was a very pleasant afternoon for a walk through this historic South Georgia site.

Back on Plancius we had an anniversary to celebrate during dinner – 30 years of Oceanwide Expeditions! Everyone was offered a glass of sparkling wine as they entered the dining room and we toasted Oceanwide before dinner was served. Ali gave a speech about the history of the company and how far we have come. Chef Kabir prepared lunch and dinner with elements of the original meals served on the ships 30 years ago – but thankfully with some improvements here and there. After dinner the galley team came out into the dining room with a special 30 Years Oceanwide Expeditions cake for all of us to enjoy.

Day 10: Grytviken & St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia

Grytviken & St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia
Datum: 02.12.2023
Positie: 54°15.9’S / 036° 10.4’W
Wind: NNW 2
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +7

We awoke to stunning weather as we sailed into Cumberland Bay, our bow turning starboard, passing Mount Paget, Mount Sugartop, and finally our morning destination, Grytviken. At 8 O’clock, the resident government officers were brought aboard to complete their checks whilst we enjoyed a presentation from the South Georgia Heritage Trust about their work on the island. We then filed down the stairway for our compulsory biosecurity check – and what a success it was, 100%! We were free to explore Grytviken.

This morning we moved between the main whaling settlement and cemetery, enjoying the sites of this beautiful bay. We gathered in the cemetery on the southern shore, taking a moment to remember Shackleton and the 63 other souls who now rest in Grytviken. Josh gave a toast to the boss and we all raised our glasses.

We also enjoyed our time at the main station site - exploring the museum, post office, whaling station and church at the settlement’s end. Many of us bought gifts from the store and sent post cards home to friends and family. We also took a moment to reflect on the many lives lived in Grytviken – whalers, sealers, military personnel, researchers and, today, South Georgia government staff.

By 12 O’clock, we were all back aboard Plancius and enjoying lunch as we sailed out of Cumberland Bay and turned south towards our final South Georgian destination – St Andrews Bay. As we drew closer the fog and snow thickened, and, as we prepared for our zodiac cruise, most wore all the thermal layers they owned in anticipation of the cold. However, after only an hour on the zodiacs, the weather broke and stunning sunshine shone down upon the beach.

For two hours, we cruised up and down the coast of St Andrews, mesmerised by the astonishing density of wildlife littered across the beach. 400,000 King Penguins, tens-of-thousands of fur seals and thousands of elephant seals all jostling for space – a cacophony of sound and smell😉.

As our time for departure drew closer, we had to leave the beach and return to Plancius, enjoying one last glass of Prosecco and a toast to our time visiting this beautiful island. And, after dinner, South Georgia had one last surprise – a stunning sunset, backdropping an ocean full of tabular ice bergs and albatross flying overhead. A fitting end to an unforgettable time in South Georgia. As we retired to bed, a new sense of anticipation grew, as our attention turned to what lay ahead – Antarctica.

Day 11: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 03.12.2023
Positie: 55°49.3’S / 038°29.9’W
Wind: W 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +3

Ali woke us up after a rocky night on Plancius. The weather forecast she presented the night before was unfortunately totally correct. We experienced winds of 50 knots gusting up to 60 knots. The wind and waves were hitting our beloved Plancius at the bow and that made us pitch strongly through the night and the early morning.

Nevertheless, the dining room was quite full for breakfast, so either we’d gotten really good sea legs or the medication was simply doing a really good job.

Today the Expedition Team offered a day filled with varied and interesting lectures. Katlyn kicked off with her lecture called “A year in the life of a Humpback whale”. She provided us with great insights regarding the long distance migration these animals undertake and why they do this. Katlyn also shared stories about individual whales which showed how incredible these animals are.

Soon it was Pippa’s turn to continue with a lecture about whaling. The contrast between Kaltyn’s and Pippa’s presentation couldn’t have been bigger. We were left speechless when Pippa mentioned the enormous numbers of whales we killed back then almost hunting them to the brinks of total extinction. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine how many purposes the whale oil had, among others lighting our streets by burning the oil. It’s really fantastic to see that most whale species are recovering well and that the number of whales is growing steadily year by year.

During the day, the sea got slightly calmer and windspeeds dropped down to under 30knots. This was highly appreciated by many of our fellow travelers as we all deserved a break from the endless crashing of waves on the bow while we were ploughing pir way down south.

During rough weather the outer decks are often closed and the only way to get some fresh air is to come up to the bridge and spend some time on the bridge wings. On the bridge we also felt like true seafarers when we get to see the ships’ logbook. This log contains all relevant data of our expedition, such as positioning, weather, sea state, air temperature and water temperature among others. How nice to see an old fashioned hand written log in our modern digital worlds.

After a delicious lunch, many of us turned this Sunday afternoon into a lazy one as taking a nap seemed like a good idea. However at 15:00 the lecture program continued with our guest speaker Eduardo talking about Alien Oceans and where to find oceans on different planets.

Steffi closed the lecture program with a presentation about Antarctic Krill. She did not only talk about the biology of the important animals in the southern food chain, but also about krill fishing activities inside protected areas of South Georgia and below 60°S.

Soon it was time for Ali to update us on the progress and weather conditions shortly followed by yet another delicious dinner. It’s hard to imagine how the chef and his galley crew manage to cook such good food when the ship is bouncing up and down continuously.

Time to get a hopefully better and calmer sleep than the night before. See you tomorrow!

Day 12: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 04.12.2023
Positie: 57°42.8’S / 044°46.2’W
Wind: SW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

Plancius continued making headway as we sailed towards our next destination, Elephant Island. Despite the swell and storm-force winds, many of us still enjoyed the delights of a second day at sea, with perhaps a few of us maybe enjoying our bunks a little more.

After another wholesome breakfast, we were all excited to hear the full story of Ernest Shackleton and his epic adventure from Antarctica to South Georgia. Josh’s lecture on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (ITAE), as it was known at the time, detailed the story from start to finish; including a great selection of Frank Hurley’s images who was the expedition photographer. It was hard to imagine the small lifeboat, the James Caird, sailing the same route we were now travelling on from Elephant Island to South Georgia.

Following on from learning about the Shackelton, we were treated to a very informative lecture from George about the intricacies of Antarctic politics. Building on his academic and professional background in this topic, George illustrated how no one nation owns the land and waters below 60˚ South, and this makes Antarctica unique, but also makes it vulnerable heading into the future with the changes in our climate and the way we live our lives elsewhere.

With another lovely buffet lunch complete, a few of us snuck away to our cabins for a brief post-lunch siesta. The swell certainly helps to rock us to sleep on sea days!

Afterwards, however, we were more refreshed and could enjoy Koen’s lecture on the art of photography. Many of us are keen photographers and have already taken enough images to spend the next 6 months editing, yet Koen’s advice and tips were excellent for preparing for the rest of the trip. Perhaps not taking as many images, but more refined images and remembering to just take in our surroundings with our eyes rather than always through our camera lens.

The highlight of the day for most, was the evening South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) Auction. George served as a brilliant auctioneer and persuaded a few of us to part with our hard-earned cash for a great cause. A well-timed Happy Hour at the bar just prior to the auction may have also helped. In total we managed to raise over £1000 for SGHT with the items for sale, including an addition from the galley team – a fake, baked banana!

At 7 the usual call from Alex over the PA system invited us to dinner, and we all made our way to the dining room for another beautiful, platted dinner from Khabir and his team in the galley. After sharing stories over dinner, some of us headed back to the lounge for an evening drink, while some of us retired to our cabins to catch some well-earned rest.

Day 13: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 30.05.2024
Positie: 60°04.1’S / 051°29.6’W
Wind: NW 6
Weer: Foggy

The third seaday towards the Antarctic continent started. We knew the trip we booked included many seadays, but it feels tyring staying on the ship for so much time.

Nevertheless, it gives us a great idea about distances, about the environment and about the conditions that comes with the ecosystem so far down in the south, we stayed tuned…

We thought about the explorer in the heroic age, how they must have felt being outside 24 hours a day for months or even years, just warming up by the fire of a smokey blubber oven.

We started the day with another biosecurity session. Heading further down south and passing the 60° south latitude means, we reached the area of the political Antarctica area managed by the Antarctic Treaty. We signed the new declaration of the IAATO (International Association Antarctic Tour Operator). The Expedition Staff checked again all our outer gear, but we managed well and the whole ship was inspected in a little bit more than 30min.

Later in the morning we got another lecture presented, Cas spoke about Albatrosses and Penguins and why fly and why not to fly. Steffi used the chance to give our german fellow travellers her lecture about Krill in german.

During the lecture we passed the magical 60° south finally, even when we know the real Antarctica starts with the Antarctic Convergence, the biological border of Antarctica, that we just passed a day before reaching South Georgia.

After lunch we got the opportunity to pick up our Sinterklaas surprise: 200gr of Chocolate. Did we not have already enough calories on this ship?

In the afternoon we continued with whale watching, bird watching and lecture watching. Katlyn spoke about whales as eco-engineers of the Southern Ocean and how they are bounded to the carbon cycle on our planet.

George continued with his political talk about the Antarctic Treaty and we learned more about the geo political situation of the area and the future is will face in the coming years.

During the afternoon the wind and waves picked up, Plancius started rolling again and we roll into Recap and dinner and then an early sleep.

Ali told us tomorrow morning early before breakfast, we will would reach Point Wild, the place where 22 men waited for their rescue while Shackelton did the unexpected, crossing the southern ocean in a lifeboat.

Day 14: Point Wild

Point Wild
Datum: 06.12.2023
Positie: 61°37.4’S / 054°41.9’W
Wind: S 8
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: 0

With great anticipation, many of us were awake already very early when Ali woke us up at 0430. We awoke to great visibility as we approached Elephant Island. The Captain navigated us close to the Northern side of Elephant Island and in to a small bay next to Point Wild. With winds of up to 35kts and a rolling swell approaching from the Drake Passage to the North, we remained on Plancius to view this iconic Polar exploration spot. We had pastries and juice in the lounge and headed out to the bow to view the small spit of land in which 22 of Shackleton’s men had remained for four months, awaiting rescue. We could see hundreds of Chinstrap penguins scattered across the rocks and snow. The statue of Captain Pardo stood proud on Point Wild – placed there by the Chilean navy to commemorate the rescue in 1916 – the statue reads; ‘’Here on August 30th, 1916, the Chilean Navy cutter Yelcho commanded by Pilot Luis Pardo Villalón rescued the 22 men from the Shackleton Expedition who survived the wreck of the Endurance living for four and a half months in this Island.’’ Close to Point Wild a small iceberg attracted our attention, as we spotted a Leopard Seal stalking around it; breaching the surface to breath.

We then lifted anchor and made our way round to the East of Elephant Island, cruising it’s coastline, spotting large grounded icebergs, Chinstrap penguins and the occasional blow from a whale. We sailed through Prince Charles Strait, between Elephant and Clarence Islands, as we made our way south towards the Antarctic Peninsula. The wind picked up and began to blow strongly from the South, getting us back to rocking and rolling again.

Later in the morning, Ali told us about the stories of the women behind the Antarctic explorers and the women who pioneered female exploration in Antarctica. The rest of the morning was spent resting or watching the impressive waves crashing over Plancius’ bow from the bridge.

After another delicious lunch onboard we had a lecture mini series; Josh told us of the finding of the Endurance, and Pippa told us of Humpback whale song, while George told us of the last Antarctic whaler and the story of Japanese whaling in Antarctica coming to an end.

Later in the afternoon Koen gave another great lecture on how to improve our photography skills and we learned how best to capture the rest of our Antarctic moments to take home.

In the evening, Ali told us of our plans for the following day – finally reaching the Antarctic Peninsula. We were all very excited to set our feet on Antarctica after a long ocean journey from South Georgia. The evening became special, with beautiful light and we had our first views of Antarctica.

Day 15: Hope Bay – Kinnes Cove - Brown Bluff

Hope Bay – Kinnes Cove - Brown Bluff
Datum: 07.12.2023
Positie: 63°31.0’S / 056°52.2’W
Wind: SSW 3
Weer: Sunny
Luchttemperatuur: +10

An early wake-up call this morning at 6 AM. Overnight we had sailed into Hope Bay where the Argentines have a base called ‘Esperanza’ (meaning ‘hope’ in English). This was our first true Antarctic area, a beautiful bay in pure whites of snow and ice. The sky was blue and the sun was out, complementing the picture. This bay holds a few small Adelie penguin colonies, and we were able to Zodiac cruise to see small gatherings of these funny little penguins standing in the snowfields at the water’s edge. Additionally, a handful of Adelies was posing nicely on an ice flow; a perfect photo opportunity. A few Weddel seals were hauled out close to the shore, allowing us a first observation of this marine mammal.

Over breakfast we sailed to our next destination, Kinnes Cove. In Kinnes Cove we boarded the Zodiacs for a sunny cruise. Numerically, this place easily topped Hope Bay; on the rocky hillsides thousands of Adelie and Gentoo penguins have their nests. It was a great pleasure seeing them hiking up and down the snowy slopes.

On some small icebergs and ice flows both species were basking in the sunshine. Even without birds on them, some of the icebergs were carved to such beauty that they could easily challenge some of mankind’s most famous sculptures.

Overhead giant petrels soared and skuas and kelp gulls were on the look-out to steal an egg or young penguin chick. Rummaging around in between the penguins were pale-faced sheathbills, the cleaners of the penguin colonies. It is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Over lunch, Plancius relocated to Brown Bluff where we landed mid-afternoon. For many of us our 7th and therefore last continent to visit.

Brown Bluff is an amazing place with large Adelie and Gentoo penguin colonies. A great opportunity to take a few hundred more photos of these mesmerizing little creatures. ,

The penguin colonies also have stunning backdrops of 600m high brown cliffs, somewhat resembling giant chocolate cakes with layers of different shades of brown.

At the end of the landing, the brave (or deranged😉) among us took part in the polar plunge. Always a hilarious spectacle.

As if the day was not already jam-packed with activities, on return from Brown Bluff, a delicious barbeque awaited us. With renewed strength we took to the dancefloor and partied until late in the evening while the warm sun was slowly setting behind the cliffs.

Day 16: Half Moon Bay – Yankee Harbour

Half Moon Bay – Yankee Harbour
Datum: 08.12.2023
Positie: 62°35.5’S / 054°54.1’W
Wind: NW 7
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +4

We approached Half Moon Island under sunny skies for our first landing of the day. By the time we were launching zodiacs a cold wind had begun blowing fiercely. A splashy and windy zodiac ride got us to the shore at Half Moon Island. On the beach there were Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins standing around. As we looked up the slope of the island, the snow was covered in pink track lines – penguin highways lined with digested krill.

We crossed a few major penguin highways on our way to the Chinstrap colony. Occasionally we had a penguin traffic jam where we waited for several minutes for them to pass before we could continue. The late spring snow had become quite soft and textured like sugar. The penguins had to work harder to navigate this terrain.

Sometimes they would lay on their bellies and propel themselves with their feet and flippers to avoid stumbling on the soft snow.

Throughout the morning a weather front passed around the landing site. We remained in the sunny pocket as the front climbed over the peaks surrounding us. Lenticular clouds formed across the bay providing dramatic backgrounds for our photos and views.

The Chinstrap nesting sites were full of activity. Some penguins were bringing rocks to their partners in the nest. Others were incubating eggs. Arguments among penguins would break out with several penguins yelling / calling loudly at each other and swinging their heads back and forth. Despite the cold wind, the penguins provided hours of entertainment.

Walking around the other viewpoints on the island we could see Skuas and Antarctic terns flying around. For those who wanted a longer walk to stretch their legs and see Weddell seals, a route to the other side of the island was flagged. This side of the island opposite the landing site had stunning scenery of mountains and glaciers. At least five Weddell seals were hauled out on the snow sleeping. One looked like a very pregnant female close to giving birth.

The clouds started to sweep in overhead as we finished up our landing and headed back to Plancius for lunch.

It was a short transit during lunch to Yankee Harbour on Greenwich Island. The weather was changing rapidly as we prepared to drop anchor. Humpback whales were feeding near the ship as we launched zodiacs and came quite close as the expedition team headed out to scout the shore.

On the zodiac ride to shore whales were visible swimming near the landing site. A few elephant seals were on the shore molting. Gentoo penguins swam in the waters all around the landing site. A short walk from the beach led to a sprawling gentoo colony. The nesting season was in full swing with many busy penguins running around. A few chinstraps wandered around as well.

The wind was constant throughout the landing and fog came and went. Occasionally the mountains across McFarlane Strait would be lit up by the sun even with the fog overhead. On the opposite end of the beach from the penguin colony a crowd gathered watching whales from shore. There were seven or eight humpback whales feeding on krill just offshore.

A mom and calf pair circled through all the groups of hungry whales and the calf occasionally stopped feeding to play around in the water. A leopard seal made a few appearances near the whales as it also hunted for something to eat. It caught an emerald rock cod and ate it at the surface near the crowd of whale watchers.

A wet, but fun zodiac ride took us back to the ship from our last landing of the trip.

During dinner we sailed out through the South Shetland Islands and wished our final goodbyes to Antarctica. As we moved North, we entered a mellow Drake Passage which made for a great conditions to have movie night in the lounge.

Day 17: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 09.12.2023
Positie: 59°44.8’S / 62°17.2’W
Wind: NW 4
Weer: Foggy
Luchttemperatuur: +4

A smooth Drake, what a rarity to wake up to! But we deserved it after all the rough seas we have been through.

After two intense days with early mornings and late nights of BBQ dancing, it seemed everyone needed a long and deep sleep. And it looked like many of us got exactly that as we saw solely refreshed and happy faces at breakfast.

The day was filled with lectures and at night we would do a pub quiz. Let’s see who has been paying attention during the lectures and landings, and who hasn’t ;).

Pippa kicked off the day with a very interesting lecture about the sounds in the oceans. The oceans may look like vast, infinite, and empty bodies of water, but below the surface it blooms with life and wonderful sounds.

If you were wondering how the amazing wildlife, we have observed is able to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of Antarctica, then Cas’ lecture was a definite go to. It’s fascinating how well the animals have adapted to the cold, ice, snow and wind. We would probably last a few hours only, but then the warmth and comfort of the ship would be our preferred choice for the remainder of the day ;).

After lunch it was time for a little snooze or break. Our passionate birders however had had their nap already as we went through an area of fog and little wind in the morning and that meant no birds in the sky. But the fog cleared so they were out on the decks enjoying birdlife as usual. What a passion the birders have for our winged friends.

In the meantime, our resident historian Josh shared with us the heroic story about the race to the Pole between Scott and Amundsen. In the Golden Age of Exploration they both were determined to reach the South Pole first.

To close the lecture program, Koen told us more about the photo editing program Lightroom. Altogether we must have taken tens of thousands of photos and with Lightroom or similar post processing software programs you can get the most out of your photos and edit them to your personal liking.

After our last recap, dinner was served and as usual it was finger licking good. The galley team sure know how to prepare delicious food!

Most days we would head for the lounge for a coffee or an early sleep, but tonight it was competition time; a pub quiz! With 45 questions related to information shared in the staffs’ lectures, sounds of the ship and wildlife, photos of wildlife and locations we have visited and the ultimate ending; baby photos of the staff! Will you recognize these little cuties!?

By the way, the one sound that nobody got wrong was a very familiar and important one and it led to loud laughter. We all know which sound that was!

All teams scored really well, but there can only be one winner; Team Lonely Macaroni won with a margin of only one point. A cold bottle of Prosecco was opened and the victory was celebrated.

Time for another good night’s rest as the Drake was still doing what we liked, being calm!

Day 18: At Sea

At Sea
Datum: 10.12.2023
Positie: 55°42.5’S / 065°52.9’W
Wind: W 6
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +10

Who was that waking us up? No Ali this time, but the highest bidders to our freedom of speech wakeup call time slot were the ones waking us up this morning. We were greeted with some interesting noises, morning greetings in various languages and warm words for the crew, staff and mother nature. Then Blur blasted away with Song 2! Definitely a great song to make sure we were all awake!

Today we took it a bit easier. We had two lectures scheduled in the morning, but in the afternoon a nature documentary was shown, and unfortunately it was also time to return our beloved Muck Boots. It will be hard to say goodbye to these warm and comfortable friends which we kept so clean and neat throughout our adventures.

This morning George talked about the Future History of Antarctica. The title alone was a reason to join this interesting lecture about the challenges Antarctica will face concerning the shared governance of a remote continent. George delivered his lecture with passion as we have grown accustomed to, and it was a pleasure to attend.

But if you talk about passion then our guest lecturer Eduardo must be mentioned as well. He followed George later that day and the title of Eduardo’s lecture was just as intriguing as George’s; Einstein, Clocks and GPS. In his lecture Eduardo explained how the work of Einstein has influenced our modern navigation technologies. And Eduardo did not only do that with theoretical information, he demonstrated it as well in a very creative and entertaining way!

After lunch we had our daily seadays nap, but at 15:00 it was time to really part from our Muck Boots. A sad realization that we wouldn’t be using them anymore and that the trip was really coming to an end.

With coffee & tea and a freshly baked afternoon snack, a beautiful nature documentary was shown. For some very interesting and for others it meant extended nap time ;).

No recap today, but time for Captain’s Cocktails. Captain Levakov spoke warm words and toasted together with the guests and the expedition team to the wonderful journey we had made together. It had led us to the stunning Falkland Islands, amazing South Georgia and breathtaking Antarctica. And to ensure we would not soon forget our wonderful trip; George had created a slide show with highlights of the expedition. A beautiful and fantastic memory that everyone could take home to show to friends and family. For sure they will be jealous of us!

During dinner the dining room was buzzing with laughter and chatter. A good moment for hotel manager Aleks to put his entire team in the spotlights. Of course, we knew the familiar faces of the fantastic dining room stewards and stewardesses, but then we don’t often get to see the faces behind the scenes who are working equally hard to make our expedition comfortable and pleasant. A big thank you to the entire galley team, our housekeeping team, the laundry girls who work at warp speed, our bartender Raquel, and finally Aleks himself and his fantastic assistant, Bobby.

With yet another delicious dessert, we finished our dinner before heading to the lounge. Some days at sea we wished we were already there, but we also started to love our gracious Plancius and this was a good moment to enjoy our last moments on board.

Day 19: Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day
Datum: 11.12.2023
Positie: 54°57.3’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: WSW 3
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +14

We docked back in Ushuaia early in the morning, while many of us enjoyed our last sleep on board. 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 were grateful to be back on solid ground. Our hearts were full of fond memories and unforgettable experiences from our exploration of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica.

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

Total distance sailed: 3250 nautical miles

Farthest South: 63°31.0’S / 056°52.2’W

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!

Details

Reiscode: PLA23-23
Reisdatum: 23 nov. - 11 dec., 2023
Duur: 18 nachten
Schip: m/v Plancius
Inscheping: Ushuaia
Ontscheping: Ushuaia

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