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HDS21-22, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Embarkation – Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Date: 02.11.2022
Position: 42°45’S / 065°01’W
Wind: NE 3
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +10

Puerto Madryn is a small coastal town wedged between the South Atlantic Ocean and the Patagonian Desert. Traditionally this town was based on fishing and whaling but in recent years the whales have brought revenue into the town in the form of tourists.

From mid-afternoon we started to embark Hondius - our home for the next 3 weeks - excited by the adventure lying before us. Once we were all aboard and settled into our cabins, we stood out on deck in beautiful warm sunshine as the ship slipped away from the dock and out towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Everyone gathered in the lounge for the mandatory safety drill from Chief Officer, Matei, including the abandon ship drill and then we were welcomed by Captain Artur with a glass of fizz and canapes. Introductions to the ship and our sailing plan then followed from Will (Hotel Manager) and Pippa (Expedition Leader) and the guide team.

As we prepared ourselves to go down for our first dinner the ship was surrounded by Black-browed Albatross and the sight of the blows of Southern Right Whales. For those who stayed on to look more closely we were treated to some great behaviour including flipper and tail fin slapping. What a start to our cruise!!

Day 2: At sea towards the Falkland Islands

At sea towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 03.11.2022
Position: 45°53’ S / 062°54’ W
Wind: NNE 5
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +10

And so began our first full day aboard Hondius! Early risers were able to see Fin and Minke Whale passing by our ship, as well as Black-browed Albatross and Giant Petrels gliding effortlessly on the wind streams. After breakfast we had our obligatory zodiac safety and IAATO guideline briefings, so everyone was fully informed on how to disembark the ship and enjoy the landings in safety. Charlotte then delighted us with her lecture on the cetaceans that we might be able to see during this voyage The sea was more than unusually calm during this crossing with tail winds pushing us fast towards the Falklands at a comfortable 12 to 13 knots. The weather was sunny and most people were outside for much of the day, the birders especially searching every single seabird in the hope of finding a rarer variety……and it worked! A White-headed Petrel was spotted from the bridge, seen by a very fortunate few.

After a delightful lunch prepared by our head chef Ralph and his team, the day continued with Andrew’s talk on albatross. He went into depth on how to distinguish the different species we might see on our cruise, so that even the laymen amongst us would be able to do so. Everyone then migrated throughout the outer decks to utilise their newfound knowledge and, again, it worked!! The first of the great albatrosses, in the form of Southern Royal Albatross, were soon spotted and identified. A rare passerine (a perching, land bird) surprisingly dropped in and landed on the ship - a White-banded Mockingbird from the mainland. It remained on Deck 8 for quite some time for everyone to take pictures, before taking off to distant lands.

At 16:30, all guests went to Deck 3 to receive their muck boots, which they keep until the end of the voyage to ensure their feet remain dry during landings. We finished the day with a recap on colossal squids, how to identify whales from afar and an introduction to some of the wildlife of the Falkland Islands. The dinner was again delicious and, with the conversation flowing, many people retired to the lounge for a drink expertly prepared by Rolando and John at the bar.

Day 3: Arrival in the Falkland Islands & Steeple Jason Island

Arrival in the Falkland Islands & Steeple Jason Island
Date: 04.11.2022
Position: 50°53’ S / 061°24’ W
Wind: NW 2
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: +8

The day started with a beautiful sunrise and we enjoyed a tasty breakfast before heading to the outer decks. Many birds such as Black-browed Albatross, Wilsons’s Storm Petrels and Southern Giant Petrels were seen flying around the ship and we didn’t hesitate to take some beautiful pictures of them. The next activity of the day was biosecurity. This requires a deep cleaning of every wearable item to be used during the activities off the vessel, like jackets, trousers, backpacks, etc. So, for a couple of hours the expedition team helped us to ensure there were no seeds or any organic matter which could contaminate the pristine areas we would be visiting.

Because of the speed with which we had made the crossing to the Falkland Islands, the expedition team took the opportunity to plan a bonus landing at Steeple Jason Island. After assessing the landing site situation, according to the tide, swell and wind, the green light was given……..and so the real adventure began!! Excitedly, we entered the zodiacs for the very first time and soon found ourselves going ashore on a rocky landing site.

We were greeted by a large Gentoo Penguin colony where they were taking care of their eggs - we stayed at a correct, safe distance so we didn’t disturb them. They are such fascinating, funny and cute animals, aren’t they? However, we had something much bigger waiting for us at the end of the trail…..the Black-browed Albatross colony. This massive and incredible nesting colony holds 250,000 breeding pairs and is famous for being the largest in the world. We could see these magnificent animals to the horizon - so many birds sitting on nests, flying over our heads or floating on the sea nearby. We were also able to approach the colony to get up close and personal as they sat, quite unconcerned, whilst we snapped away and watched in amazement. A truly memorable experience.

Inevitably we had to head back to Hondius for a short recap and dinner. But as we were eating, George, our AEL, announced that an Orca had been spotted close to the ship; so dinner was abandoned as we rushed the outer decks to see this incredible apex predator of the ocean. It was a huge male which looked like it was eating, possibly from a recent kill. It seemed at ease with the ship nearby, at one stage swimming directly under the bow. As it cruised further away the setting sun lit it up in a most spectacular way – a veritable golden Orca.

Day 4: Carcass and Saunders Islands - Falkland Islands

Carcass and Saunders Islands - Falkland Islands
Date: 05.11.2022
Position: 51° 19’ S / 060° 15’ W
Wind: W 3
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +17

We were again greeted by the dawn of another beautiful day in the Falklands and, after an earlier breakfast with the sun streaming through the windows, we made our morning landing on Carcass Island. A short zodiac transfer from the ship we landed on the sandy shores of Dyke Bay, to be greeted by the songs of the endemic Cobb’s Wren, much sought after by birders. All of us made the short stroll across to Leopard Beach and took in the sights of the nesting Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins. While some of us enjoyed the beach life and relaxed with penguins on the shore, the rest of us stretched our legs on a longer walk around the bay back towards the settlement.

Carcass Island, owned and run by Rob McGill, was alive with small birds many of which we spotted during the morning. In addition to the endemic Cobb’s Wren, some of the birds included the Variable Hawk, Striated Caracaras, White-Bridled Finches and Tussac birds. But perhaps the highlight of the morning for us was the tea and cakes laid on back at the settlement! We were treated to vast array of biscuits, cakes and sweet treats, served in the beautiful setting of the lodge and surrounding gardens. None of us went hungry and it was lovely to be greeted at the settlement by the owner Rob and his great team.

After a quick lunch (although maybe not needed after all the cakes!), we disembarked in the early afternoon to the neighbouring Saunders Island. The island is home to huge numbers of penguins, including all the four main species found in the Falklands: Kings, Rockhoppers, Gentoos and Magellanics. Many of us delighted in seeing the nearly-year old King Penguin chicks waiting patiently on the beach for their parents to return with food. In the warm sun many of us hiked up the hill to marvel at the large Rockhopper colony on the cliff side. Many of the birds were sitting tightly on their eggs, whilst others were taking a drink in a nearby spring running down the hill. A perfect photo opportunity.

We then made our way further round the cliff top towards the nesting Black-browed Albatross. The turquoise waters below made for some spectacular viewing as the albatross soared along the cliff face. Despite the great weather, wildlife and vistas, all good things must come to an end, so we made our way back to the landing beach on the south side of The Neck to return to the ship. After a full day exploring two great Islands, we were treated to one last spectacle over dinner – a memorable fiery sunset. Lighting up the sky in hues of orange and red, with the sun setting behind the Islands of West Falkland.

Day 5: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 06.11.2022
Position: 51°41’ S / 057° 26’ W
Wind: N 5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

After sailing through the night from Saunders Island we came to Port Stanley today at 07:30. The entrance to the harbour requires precise navigational skills, through shallow waters and narrow passages. Early in the morning we entered Port William and crossed the entrance to Stanley Harbour, named "The Narrows", a passage that honours its name. We were lucky enough to spot our first Sooty Shearwater and Southern Fulmar. We dropped anchor and, after assessing the weather situation, we commenced operations at 08:30. The expedition team launched the first zodiacs in the water and, despite the cooler breeze today, we were all eager to explore this intriguing town. The zodiac ride took only a few minutes and as we approached the jetty, we could clearly see the "Welcome to the Falklands" sign that greets every visitor.

At the jetty the security staff greeted us and soon we were all moving out into town, trying to squeeze every minute out of the visit. The port of Stanley offered us well stocked souvenir shops, a supermarket, museum, post office, church and a few other attractions. Some spent time shopping, whilst others went walking along the sea front, taking pictures of the wildlife. The wildlife was not shy and we had close encounters with Falklands Steamer Duck and two Southern Sealions who were having a nap on the jetty in the sunshine. Some even went further – hiring personal transport to search for some of the rarer endemic bird species outside the town.

We arrived back at the jetty from late morning to be greeted by the smiling staff. The zodiac return trip was slightly bumpier as the wind started to pick up. Once all aboard safely, we lifted anchor at 12:30 and headed away from Stanley Harbour back through the Narrows.

Soon after lunch we sailed away from the protection of the Falkland Islands and encountered the first heavy swells which made the ship roll a bit more than we had felt before during this trip. As we sailed to the East-South-East, we left the continental shelf and entered into the deep waters of the South Atlantic Ocean. In misty conditions we were still able to spot Prions, Atlantic Petrel, several Fin Whales close to the ship and our first Wondering Albatross…..wow!!

Day 6: At sea sailing to South Georgia

At sea sailing to South Georgia
Date: 07.11.2022
Position: 52°29’ S / 050°05’ W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: +9

Today was our first of two full sea days en route to South Georgia. After the beautiful sunny weather in the Falklands we started the day with fog cover, which made it a little trickier to spot any wildlife. But this did not deter us to be out on deck to enjoy the fresh breeze and some birds which were flying around the ship, including Atlantic Petrels. After breakfast our expedition leader, Pippa, gave a lecture on the history of whaling; starting around the mid-1700s the business became bigger and bigger, with new technologies making the whaling operations more efficient. Antarctic whaling began on an industrial scale in 1904 with the building of a whale processing station at Grytviken, South Georgia. Over a relatively short time whale populations decreased dramatically, making whaling less profitable. With growing ecological pressure it was recognized that whaling should come to an end to prevent whales from extinction. From the landing of the first whale in Grytviken in 1904 to the last in 1965, South Georgia whaling stations processed 175,000 of the majestic cetaceans.

After lunch we had a lecture from Emily about Pinnipeds, describing some of the characteristics of the different seals we may come across in South Georgia and the peninsula. Later, Cloe and Paolo gave a joint lecture on citizen science and how we can all contribute to science whilst enjoying the expedition we are on. Three different projects were described: Happy Whale, phytoplankton using a Secchi disk and GLOBE observer clouds. Happy Whale focusses on identifying individual whales through images of their fluke/tail, something we can all contribute to with our photographs. The Secchi disk is used to determine the turbidity of the water which is related to the concentration of phytoplankton. Paolo explained the project of GLOBE to link photos taken from earth of the clouds to the satellite images of the clouds taken from above.

As we approached the Antarctic convergence the bird numbers really began to pick up. All five species of expected Albatross were seen around the ship along with Cape, Black-bellied and Wilson’s Petrels and countless Prion’s. At one point we had at least ten beautiful Light-mantled Sooty Albatross gliding around the ship. Before dinner we had a recap from Anthonie on that Antarctic convergence zone, which we will cross tonight. The colder Antarctic waters submerge under the warmer subtropical waters which results in an upwelling of nutrient rich water from the ocean floor. This process is key for all life around the Antarctic continent and the climate worldwide.

Day 7: At sea sailing to South Georgia

At sea sailing to South Georgia
Date: 08.11.2022
Position: 53° 31’ S / 042° 07’ W
Wind: NW 4
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +9

After crossing the Antarctic Convergence overnight, we maintained our course to South Georgia in a confused swell and amongst breaking waves of up to 3m. There was no wakeup call today, so that we could enjoy a lie in. After a leisurely breakfast we had our mandatory South Georgia briefing and then took to the outer decks to enjoy a close view of the remote Shag Rocks, west of South Georgia. In this location the seabed rises to the surface in a spectacular fashion giving us both dramatic steep rock formations plastered with seabirds (and their poo!) and an upwelling of nutrient rich waters encouraging an abundance of marine wildlife. As we approached, we spotted a Humpback Whale, our first Northern Giant Petrel and a beautiful Snow Petrel. At 12:00 the time changed forward by +1 hour, whilst expedition guides John and Andrew held a deck watch to help guests identify birds, and we were lucky enough to see a Wandering Albatross. Many guests enjoyed the bird watching.

After another wonderful lunch with very smooth ship movements, we had biosecurity cleaning on deck 3. The expedition team helped guests to clean their outerwear, backpacks, boots and tripods/walking sticks and checked ahead of our first landing tomorrow in South Georgia. Back out on deck we were treated, for the second day running, to the sight of all five species expected Albatross species whilst delightfully patterned Cape Petrels darted around in small groups. Grey-backed, Black-bellied and Wilson’s Storm Petrels were also recorded by the birders, now hardened to life out on deck from dawn to dusk!

During the recap, Expedition Leader Pippa, introduced the plan of the next day activities when we will land at Grytviken in the morning and Fortuna Bay in the afternoon. Rose gave a broad overview of South Georgia, pulling together a summary of its history and ecology. George covered the thorny issue of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, then Mikhail talked about the amazing success of the island’s rodent eradication programme which has seen the populations of the two endemic bird species – South Georgia Pipit & Pintail – recover so well. We then went down to dinner feeling very excited about our first landing in such a historical place.

Day 8: Grytviken and Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

Grytviken and Fortuna Bay, South Georgia
Date: 09.11.2022
Position: 54°17’ S / 036°29’ W
Wind: NE 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +13

Following an unusually calm crossing from the Falklands we arrived early to Grytviken. The weather greeted us with beautiful spring like conditions. As we sail down East Cumberland Bay, Mount Duse came into sight, towering above ‘Shackleton’s cross’ at Hut Point marking the entrance to King Edward’s Cove. This cross is a replica of the original left by Shackleton’s crew after his passing in Grytviken. Hondius anchored outside the cove and we powered into shore to see Grytviken for the first time. What was once a foul, industrial slaughterhouse for whales is today, without a doubt, a sliver of paradise on earth. The decaying, rusty old buildings of the whaling station somehow “fit in” the landscape with its pastel ochre color and so too do the remains of the beached whaling ships like the Petrel, a harpoon gun still standing at its bow. Today the abandoned buildings are taken over by Fur and Elephant seals, whilst Antarctic Terns nest amongst the industrial decay.

Grytviken has an interesting museum showing what was life was like in the heyday of whaling plus a post office and small gift shop. At the cemetery, we enjoyed an emotional moment sharing a toast to “The Boss” and raising our glasses with a tot of “Shackleton” whisky. Next to Shackleton’s resting place, his right-hand man Frank Wild, another icon of the Antarctic Heroic era. In that area many of us found the much sought after endemic South Georgia Pintail and Pipit.

Over lunch we relocated to Fortuna Bay, named after the first whaling ship to operate in Grytviken. It is also known for having been crossed by Shackleton, Crean and Worsley before reaching Stromness, on one of the greatest survival story of all time. The bay is well sheltered and we did a split landing and zodiac cruise. Cruising along the shore as we could see the Elephant Seal harems starting to form with fights between the bulls, trying to assert their dominance over each mating spot available on the beach. We could also see lots of baby elephant seals (or weaners) - with their fat bodies, round faces and huge eyes they are the epitome of cuteness. These babies are only nurtured for three weeks before being abandoned by their mothers; they will then wait a total of 8-10 weeks before heading out to sea to fend for themselves. Until then, they are a gift for us to enjoy from afar. Later during the zodiac cruise we enjoyed a visit to the front of Turn back Glacier, a branch of the Fortuna Glacier.

When ashore we hiked up to our first King Penguin colony. After landing on the shore, the expedition guides helped us safely negotiate the Fur Seals (!) and we walked up to a viewpoint that gave great views over the colony below. To our left, Hondius was anchored in the bay and to our right, the impressive Fortuna glacier. Bathed in late afternoon sunshine the colony, whilst not the biggest, looked majestic. And so back to the ship, a short recap and a well-deserved dinner. South Georgia had really started with a bang and everyone was very excited with today. Life is good!

Day 9: Gold Harbour and Cooper Bay, South Georgia

Gold Harbour and Cooper Bay, South Georgia
Date: 10.11.2022
Position: 54°37’ S / 035°74’ W
Wind: SSW 2
Weather: Fog/rain
Air Temperature: +3

During last night we had cruised from Fortuna Bay to be anchored up in Gold Harbour at the eastern end of South Georgia. The plan to make a very early landing and to be ashore just before sunrise, but sadly, at 03:45, our expedition leader announced that the wind speed was too high for safe operations (30 knots!) and that we reassess around breakfast time. Fortunately, the wind did drop and even the sun came nicely out; so, from 08:00 we headed out for a split landing and zodiac-cruise at this most wonderful place. Even before our feet were set on land it was clear to all that this place is something special. The wildlife is extraordinary here – a colony of King Penguins estimated at 25,000 breeding pairs, Gentoo Penguins, Snowy Sheathbills, Brown Skuas, Giant Petrels, South Georgia Pintails and Pipits welcomed us together with hundreds of Elephant Seals of all ages. Each landing party spent a couple of glorious hours here and saw how Elephant Seals, King Penguins and Gentoo Penguins have occupied almost every square metre of the coastal zone. Gold Harbour itself forms an impressive backdrop to the whole scene and a fine example of the very rich ecosystems of South Georgia. The visit gave everybody good time to have a closer look at it and we were all deeply impressed. The zodiac cruises were also successful and including close up encounters with 4-5 inquisitive Leopard Seals in the kelp zones in the western part of the bay. A great opportunity for everyone to get some great images of this charismatic predator.

Back on Hondius it was lunch time during which we cruised north. On the way, in splendid weather, a large group of Humpback Whales were observed feeding along the coast. By early afternoon we reached our destination of Godthul and dropped anchor. This is a scenic, natural harbour surrounded by steep and grassy cliffs, which were used by Norwegian whale hunters from 1908. Here they established a base with one factory ship and two catcher vessels - there are still remains of these activities on the little beach to the west in the bay.

The zodiac cruise included an exciting ride west to Cobblers Cove and Rookery Point, where we enjoyed the sight of a fine colony of Macaroni Penguins. The penguin was ‘most wanted’ by most birders, so we were especially thankful to our expedition guides. They demonstrated their boat handling skills to get us as close as possible in the significant swell crashing onto the rocks. On the way back to Hondius, some of us made a little detour to Alsfjord Bay where an impressive iceberg had stranded, a first sign of our close proximity to Antarctica. Back on-board Charlotte gave a recap on the Leopard Seals (as seen this morning), an introduction to glaciers by Elodie and an amusing plea from Andrew to love all LBJ’s (‘Little Brown Jobs’), as represented in form of the South Georgia Pipit.

Day 10: Rosita Harbour and Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Rosita Harbour and Salisbury Plain, South Georgia
Date: 11.11.2022
Position: 54°00’ S / 037°26’ W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

We woke at 06:45 to our daily announcement informing us that Right Whale Bay had been cancelled due to wind gusts in excess of 60 knots. Whilst we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, we made the transit to the Bay of Islands in hope of more success under plan B. We arrived at Rosita Harbour where the expedition team launched a zodiac to scout out the conditions. The scouting mission was a success and another landing on South Georgia was imminent and at around 09:00 half the guests began disembarking Hondius for a zodiac shuttle to the small beach. On arrival to the shore the beach was littered with Fur Seals in all directions and a real find of a rare leucistic (blond) individual. Staff had created a safe route and by following the red markers we were able to safely explore the site enjoying the fur seals, one moulting king penguin and many South Georgia Pintails. Amongst the fur seal vocalisations was the soft chorus of the South Georgia Pipit and for many of us it was the perfect opportunity to capture the pipit on camera. Those guests that remained onboard were highly entertained by George’s ‘Who owns South Georgia?’ lecture; it was delivered energetically and was full of interesting facts. When it was time both groups swapped positions between the ship and shore to enjoy the reverse activity. A great Plan B that worked so well!

After a delicious lunch back onboard, it was almost time for the afternoon’s operation - a visit to the famous Salisbury Plain! It was not possible for a zodiac cruise as the wind had picked up however, we all had the chance to set foot on land and enjoy the amazing density of wildlife that greeted us. Young Elephant Seals (‘weaners’) were sprawled out near the landing site, snuggling into each other, capturing our attention with their giant eyes and multitude of amusing sounds. All along the marked route were incredible sights, not just the wildlife but the dramatic scenery with a backdrop of snow-covered peaks and even some blue sky. When reaching the colony many of us were lost for words; 100,000 pairs of King Penguin and the fluffy brown chicks, with their soft downy feathers blowing in the wind, some inquisitive with our presence. Skuas soared above the colony and Sheathbills and Giant Petrels could be seen looking for an opportune moment to get their next snack. It was a party of the senses, the smell of guano filled the air, together with the vocalisations from the penguins - a memory that will last a lifetime.

Day 11: St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia and at Sea

St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia and at Sea
Date: 12.11.2022
Position: 54° 25’ S / 36° 04’ W
Wind: SW 4
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

A very early rise at 04:00 and Hondius was already at anchor in front of St. Andrew’s Bay, the last landing of our South Georgia odyssey, so we could catch the rising sun the rising sun over the horizon in magical colors. Before our eyes the scenery was absolutely stunning - high glaciated peaks reflecting the sun rise, towering over what would seem a desolate landscape yet covered with thousands and thousands of pinnipeds and penguins.

Ashore, the beach was crowded with huge numbers of elephant seals with penguins waddling to and from the sea. The expedition team has already prepared and flagged our route to an elevated point of view. The sight below us was difficult to describe - half a million King Penguins - the largest colony in South Georgia. The early morning light also contributed to the surreal atmosphere to the place. Half of us were in zodiacs cruising along the beach allowing us to have another point of view over this natural spectacle. It was still only 07:00 when we were all back to the ship for a well-deserved breakfast, after which we jumped back into the zodiacs for the swap. Those who already been ashore went for a very smooth cruise in a nearby sheltered bay. In super clear water we had an amazing encounter with a curious Leopard Seal, which was swimming around our zodiacs allowing us to the take fabulous pictures. Later in the morning the wind picked up, so everyone ashore hurried back to Hondius, lunch and reflection on yet another stunning wildlife experience.

Hondius set sail along the north-east coast of South Georgia and the sky was full of amazing lenticular clouds shaped like saucers. The wind was now very strong and the ship started to roll from side to side whilst impressive waves crashed against the bow. Josh gave an interesting lecture about life in South Georgia and his personal experience as a summer scientist at King Edward Point, Grytviken. Later on, the now familiar recap where Pippa presented the plan for the next day. Paolo & Elodie talked about the clouds and weather of South Georgia. Chloé shared very interesting facts about mammalian blubber and George talked the geopolitics of the ‘ownership’ of the oceans. Our time in South Georgia was a life-changing experience for all of us; we left the islands with amazing images and memories that will last forever. We were looking forward to setting off for new adventures in the Antarctic peninsula.

Day 12: At Sea to South Orkney Islands

At Sea to South Orkney Islands
Date: 13.11.2022
Position: 57°29’ S / 038°29’ W
Wind: W 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

After leaving South Georgia yesterday afternoon we were now tracking southwest towards the South Orkney Islands and Antarctica. For the first time proper we started to feel the real nature of the Southern Ocean with rolling swells and bow breaker waves. Many guests joined the captain and his crew on the bridge to view the conditions – a real privilege and one of the highlights of the on-board activities. Hondious handles these seas well with its modern stabilisation equipment and so, with sea sickness tablets and patches as back up, it’s a pleasant day at sea for most. The lecture programme started with an overview of the great, if fated, exploration by Ernest Shackleton delivered by Juan.

After lunch Chloe provided a fascinating insight into plankton – the backbone of the Antarctic ecosystem - and Emily introduced us to the three species of Brush-tailed Penguins, that we hope to see further south. Outside we had sightings of whales throughout the day including Humpback, Fin and Sei Whales. Still windy, the ever-determined birders found nooks and crannies around the sides of the ship to shelter. With seabirds flying close to the ship, they were able to take up the challenge of identifying Prions! Was it Antarctic, Slender-billed, Fairy or even the very similar Blue Petrel, that was now starting to appear??? The apparent plumage variation of individual birds made it even harder. Baffling to many non-birders, they had the consolation of being able to easily identify and delight in the presence of charismatic Snow and Cape Petrels.

At recap Pippa talked through the options for tomorrow which were being influenced by the heavy sea and wind conditions that had slowed us down. After another excellent dinner many people headed for bed in the hope of a calmer night; others found their calm in the warmth of the lounge bar. As we tracked further south more icebergs appeared on the horizon, proof of our progress into ever-cooling latitudes. By evening the visibility had reduced to a few hundred metres as fog descended and we felt for the bridge crew enduring a long night of navigating around big ice in the dark and frigid conditions.

Day 13: At sea to South Orkney Islands

At sea to South Orkney Islands
Date: 14.11.2022
Position: 60°40’ S / 043°52’ W
Wind: NW 7
Weather: Overcast/fog
Air Temperature: -1

Today, we continued our journey Southwest towards the South Orkneys. Despite the rolling seas as we awoke, we were all in good spirits and excited to sight the remote islands later in the early afternoon. After our usual wonderful breakfast buffet, we attended the mandatory IAATO briefing in the lounge. This highlighted the privileged position we find ourselves in visiting beautiful Antarctic locations and the biosecurity actions we must take to be environmentally responsible. After that, we again took to deck 3 to clean and check our outdoor gear. We were now all definitely expert at cleaning seeds out our muck boots with paper clips! Looking outside we were greeted by magnificent tabular icebergs lining our approach to the islands. With the snow-covered peaks of Laurie Island– the second largest island in the South Orkney chain – in the distance, it was an awe-inspiring sight to see so many different shapes and sizes of icebergs floating in the shallower waters. Many of the bergs were actually bigger than the Hondius, in varying hues of blue and white making for some wonderful photographic opportunities.

As we approached more closely, we were treated to a real surprise - a single iceberg hosting all three brushtail penguins together in one group: Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo. Despite being a brief sighting, it was amazing to record all three species together on one floe. In addition, Humpback and Minke Whales were sighted.

The captain navigated Hondius into Scotia Bay and we got to ‘wave hello’ to the Argentine personnel at Orcadas Station. Under current IAATO restrictions we were unable to land, but it was great to see the oldest base in Antarctica which sits on a low plateau between two peaks at the head of the bay. After a warm exchange in Spanish over the radio, we said farewell - sadly without the Malbec wine they had kindly offered to send our way!! With the fog coming back again, we settled in with Elodie who taught us all about continental ice in Antarctica. Anthonie kicked off the evening recap, educating us all on the dynamics of the Southern Ocean. We were then treated to two magnificent pieces of poetry; a rendition of L’Albatros by Mikhail and then a funny, informative tale of the importance of whale poo to the ecosystem, read by Emily. Quite a poetic contrast but well received by all.

Day 14: At sea to South Shetland Islands

At sea to South Shetland Islands
Date: 15.11.2022
Position: 61°00’ S / 052°33’ W
Wind: NW 6
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: 0

Today we had a calm and easy morning still cruising in direction of the famous Elephant Island, which is one of the northernmost islands of the South Shetlands. Surrounded by fog, the day started a bit slow for the always active group of birders. They still managed to enjoy the sightings of seabirds like Cape Petrels, Southern Fulmars, Wilsons Storm Petrels and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. And the bird observations were topped up by a sighting of at least three large whales - possibly Fin Whales. Inside, Mikhael gave an informative lecture about marine mammal acoustics. He highlighted the many studies in this subject that have advanced our scientific knowledge regarding this interesting part of the life of marine mammals, which created a lot of good questions from the interested audience. But it was clear that there are still a lot of mysteries to solve!

In the afternoon David presented an excellent lecture about Irish Antarctic Explorers with a focus on legends like Bransfield and Crozier, which later was followed by a fascinating presentation by our Head Chef, Ralf, who told us about the logistics and management of feeding an expedition cruise ship. He listed examples of the vast amounts of different provisions, which blew us away in amazement. A great talk!

Towards evening, we finally got close to Elephant Island. However, due to the mist and quite strong winds we had to abandon the planned zodiac-cruise in front of Point Wild, where Shackleton and his crew from ‘Endurance’ ended up in April 1915. It was from here he made his famous voyage to South Georgia and later on rescued the remaining 22 of his expedition team in August 1916. As a brilliant alternative to the zodiac-cruise, Hondius was anchored up just in front of Elephant Island and we were invited to the front deck, for a glass of hot chocolate (+/– rum!) and luckily some glimpses of Point Wild in the mysterious misty hour of dusk.

Day 15: Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands & at sea

Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands & at sea
Date: 16.11.2022
Position: 62° 68’ S / 59° 09’ W
Wind: NNW 5/6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

The day started with a very cloudy sky and wind speeds gusting up to 50 knots. The original plan was to land at Penguin Island but the wild Antarctic weather prevented us. Our expedition leaders and the Captain impressively came up with Plan B - a landing at Half Moon Bay to hopefully see a colony of Chinstrap Penguins. We kept our fingers crossed! Plan B required a long transit south during which we encountered up to fifteen Fin Whales close to the coast. The captain maneuvered Hondius so we could enjoy their activity for a while, to everyone’s delight. Just as we thought our encounter was about to end, amazingly, we sighted four Blue Whales! For most of us it was our first ever sighting and a fabulous surprise. We observed them from a safe distance whilst taking incredible images. The two largest animals ever to have existed on planet earth in the space of half an hour. Wow…..just wow!

After another great lunch, the expedition team dropped the zodiacs to assess the situation at Half Moon Island and gave the go ahead to land the first group. Everything was going well as we enjoyed our first Chinstrap Penguin colony, entertaining us with their courtship and nest building behaviour. Several Adelie Penguins were also spotted – the first close up encounters for the lucky few. But this is Antarctica and you must never take anything for granted. The weather unexpectedly and rapidly deteriorated and Pippa called for an immediate return to the ship. We all got safely back onboard to watch the amazing expedition team battling winds, gusting up to 45 knots, to get all the equipment and zodiacs safely stored. Those of us who didn’t make it to shore needed no apology for the landing being cancelled. Safety first, always, in such a remote region.

After a problematic but interesting morning and afternoon, a very exciting event was about to start…. the South Georgia Trust Heritage auction! Our entertaining auctioneer, George, presented us with splendid items to bid for, with all monies going to the SGHT to help fund their important conservation projects. We laughed and laughed as George coaxed us to part with an amazing total £4857.00. Well done, that man!!

Day 16: Portal Point and Danco Island, Antarctica

Portal Point and Danco Island, Antarctica
Date: 17.11.2022
Position: 64°27’ S / 061°49’ W
Wind: S 2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +10

Today we were welcomed at Portal Point with calm and sunny weather. Located in the northeast part of Reclus Peninsula it includes a high promontory with views across Charlotte Bay. After breakfast the first group were shuttled to the landing site, where zodiac drivers had to navigate their way through the ice. Our first steps were now officially set on the Antarctic continent! We had made it!! In the deep snow of the early season we had to put on snow shoes which required a bit of time to get familiar with for many. And then it was up the marked route for the most astonishing view from the peak. The zodiac cruise offered was equally beautiful; tabular icebergs in all shapes and sizes, which calved from nearby glaciers, were stunning.

Whilst we transited to our afternoon landing site, we had a recap from Pippa (on her birthday!) about the plans for the next day. Elodie gave an interesting talk on the stability of icebergs, whilst Andrew gave some nice facts on blue whales. With only about 2,000 individuals in the Southern Ocean, we were so lucky to see them a few days ago. Still in good weather, we arrived at a snow covered Danco Point and went ashore, with several options to walk – more practice in snowshoes. Halfway to the top there was a nice view of a Gentoo Penguin rookery with their very own ‘penguin highway’ from the colony down towards the water, on which they have absolute right of way. The top of the hill offered more stunning views over snow covered mountains, glaciers and icebergs in the southern part of the Errera Channel. The zodiac cruise offered us an even closer views of the spectacular icebergs and brash ice in the channel.

At the end of the landing, with the clouds coming in, the brave hearted among us went for a polar plunge! About twenty-five of us went for a (very) quick swim in the icy Antarctic waters. Back on board and warmed up we were treated to a deck barbecue whilst Humpback Whales surfaced around us. Just surreal! Later the music was turned up and we danced to celebrate the great time we were having on board (and maybe also to stay warm?).

Day 17: Cuverville and Base Brown, Antarctica

Cuverville and Base Brown, Antarctica
Date: 18.11.2022
Position: 64°38’ S / 062°49’ W
Wind: E 3
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: -1

At 06:45 we had our daily wakeup call and weather update. The expedition team launched two zodiacs and scouted the area, checking out the conditions. Due to wind gusts of up to 35 knots and lots of ice, Plan A to land on Cuverville was not possible, despite the teams’ best efforts. So, an alternative option (Plan B) of a zodiac cruise was offered and many of us braved the elements to explore the nearby bay. We observed very comical Gentoo Penguins leaping in and out of the water, with lots of hesitant individuals almost falling into the water rather than choosing to jump.

Amongst the ice we were lucky enough to spot a Weddell seal. Towards the end of our cruise we enjoyed a Humpback Whale, watching it fluke as it dived, almost forgetting how cold we felt with the wind and snow hitting our faces. For those that chose to stay onboard and enjoy the view from the comfort of the lounge, Andrew presented a very interesting lecture focussing on photography and the role it can play in citizen science.

During our transit towards Almirante Brown and Paradise Bay we enjoyed a delicious lunch of fish and chips, followed by warm chocolate cake, watching the snow and occasional whale blow outside. On arrival the snow continued falling, yet the water remained glassy calm. Beautiful reflections of the ice could be seen as we made our way to the landing site and on our zodiac cruise. In the bay some of us spotted a Minke Whale, seeing its small sickle shaped dorsal fin breaking the surface. Leopard, Weddell and Crabeater seals were all spotted during the zodiac cruise amongst the ice. Close to the Argentinian base, we observed nesting Imperial Shags from our zodiacs, watching them flying in with nesting material and listening to their calls. After a few hours the snow stopped and the sun made an appearance through the clouds. The scenery was breath-taking, many of us taking a moment before returning to the ship to absorb our surroundings and enjoy the splendid beauty of Antarctica.

Day 18: Cierva Cove and Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

Cierva Cove and Bransfield Strait, Antarctica
Date: 19.11.2022
Position: 64°05’S / 061°02’W
Wind: NE
Weather: Fog/snow
Air Temperature: +3

Our last day in Antarctica started with the traditional wake-up call, not from our Expedition Leader, but from Scarlett, one of the passengers who successfully bid for this honour at the South Georgia Heritage Auction. She was very happy to greet all the passengers with a ‘Good Morning’ in no less than nine languages. By 08:00 the ship sat in the middle of Cierva Cove, surrounded by fog and snow that gave a mysterious atmosphere to the place. Soon after we were all on board fifteen zodiacs ready for an adventurous cruise, surrounded by towering icebergs, brash ice, and a heavy swell. Finding wildlife was challenging in the low visibility but still managed to list Gentoo Penguins porpoising through the icy water, Leopard Seal, Adelie Penguin and Antarctic Terns. Some lucky people managed a close approach to a delightful feeding group of Wilson’s Petrels, as they pattered around looking just like butterflies. We were welcomed back on board with a well-deserved hot chocolate from the Hotel Team.

It was now time to leave behind the Antarctic peninsula, to take a last glimpse at those icy landscapes that made us smile during the last couple of days. We turned to head northwards to the infamous Drake Passage and as soon as we left the shelter of the outer islands, Hondius started rolling from side to side in the swell. Anthonie and the expedition team organized a quiz, with questions about what we have learnt in the many lectures and recaps during the two last weeks. It was not easy to remember exactly how much a blue whale weighs or how thick the ice is in the middle of the Antarctica! Outside, in the heavy sea, we had been rejoined by those stunningly beautiful Cape Petrels, as if escorting us away from the white continent that they call home. We will miss them.

At 17:30 it was time for the traditional recap and the plans for the next days. Pippa showed us some weather forecasts of the Drake Passage - oh dear……where’s my patch? Dive guides, Mike and Gonzalo, presented photos from some of the twelve dives they did - from diving around icebergs to amazing encounters with Leopard Seals. It’s fair to say, the rest of us were blown away! George presented some very interesting facts about citizenship in Antarctica and we learnt that a total of eleven babies have been born in Antarctica in two research stations belonging to Chile and Argentina. Finally, John talked about impressive bird migration with the example of the Arctic Tern that flies more than 70,000km per year from the Arctic where they breed, to Antarctica where they feed. And from there to another great dinner before being rocked to sleep in the Drake.

Day 19: Drake Passage!

Drake Passage!
Date: 20.11.2022
Position: 59° 40’S / 063° 49’W
Wind: NW 8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

Today we continue our return journey to Ushuaia and cross the mid-way of point of the infamous Drake passage – probably the most feared area of ocean in the world. The Drake Passage (referred to as Mar de Hoces ["Hoces Sea"] in Spanish speaking countries) is the body of water between South America's Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean (Scotia Sea) with the south-eastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean. Though bearing the name of the famous English seaman and global circumnavigator Sir Francis Drake, the passage was first traversed in 1616 by a Flemish expedition led by Willem Schouten. The Drake Passage played an important part in the trade of the 19th and early 20th centuries before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. The stormy seas and icy conditions made the rounding of Cape Horn through the Drake Passage a rigorous test for ships and crews alike, especially for the sailing vessels of the day. Thankfully in our modern sea going vessel with its two powerful engines and stabilization system taking on the Drake is less daunting than it was for the early explorers and merchants. With swells of 4-5 meters and a consistent 35 knots of wind, occasionally gusting over 50 knots, we experienced rolling seas and waves breaking over the bow of Hondius. The stabilization system again proved invaluable, making for a relatively smooth ride on these high seas.

During the day we had a fantastic lecture schedule from the expedition team. George brought his high energy delivery to the fascinating subject of Antarctic politics, whilst Andrew took us on a side-splitting journey into the wonderful and weird world of birding. In the evening Hotel Manager, Will, gave out information for disembarkation (including how to pay our bar bills! Eeekk!!) and Pippa delivered the final recap of our trip. After yet another fantastic dinner from Ralf and the team, we had the final of the photo contest superbly hosted by Juan. The competition attracted an impressive one hundred images which had been voted on by us during the afternoon, to whittle it down to a final three in each category. Using the loudest applause to decide the winner of each category - Wildlife, Landscape and Funny – the successful photographers each receiving a prize donated by Oceanwide Expeditions.

Day 20: At Sea to Ushuaia

At Sea to Ushuaia
Date: 21.11.2022
Position: 55° 40’S / 065° 58’W
Wind: NE 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

As our last day at sea rolled on (pun intended !) the swell finally started to drop off to longer waves which made the passage a lot smoother. Lots of us were feeling a bit sleepy after last night’s rough seas. The coffee machine was going nine to the dozen and we all piled our breafast plates high with from the buffet with delicious items such as scrambled eggs and hot buttered toast, to recover our energy for the day ahead.

Out on deck we started to see the first signs of land - Tierra Del Fuego (‘land of fire’) and Cape Horn, the southern most point of South America !of the South America. As we came onto the continental shelf the bird life ‘exploded’ and not just in quantity but quality. We were able to add fantastic new species such as Northern Royal Albatross, Little Shearwater and Feugian Storm Petrel. More ticks for our trip list and ‘lifers’ for many birders. What a great end for them – mega smiles all around. Inside, we listened as Chloe told the fascinating story about the heroes of the ‘Race to the South Pole’ expedition. After lunch,we watched an Antarctic documentary in the observation lounge - the cinema experience emphasised with ice cream served by the expedition team. Many of us felt completely full (yet again !) but utterly happy at the last three weeks spent onboard M/V Hondius.

As we entered the Beagle Channel, the beautiful golden sunlight shone on not only our ship but on our smiles and hearts that were so full. At Captain’s farewell cocktail party we thanked and applauded the expedition team and ship’s crew for their amazing hard work and dedication. They have contributed so much of themselves to make this cruise the success it’s been. We then settled down to watch Mikhaels’s fantastic slide show of the last 20 days ; it brought us smiles, laughs and, maybe, a little tear to our eye ? And so down for our final special dinner, during which we had the chance to thank the rest of the staff who have made our journey so comfortable - the housekeepers, galley, restaurant and bar staff and Will, Hotel Manager, and his senior team 😊. Then, back to the bar for a last drink and convivial chat, tinged with a little sadness that we had reached the end of our expedition.

Day 21: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Date: 22.11.2022

At 06:00 we approached the port of Ushauia ready to disembark for the final time. The last three weeks have taken us on a remarkable journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Orkneys and Shetlands, the Antarctic continent itself and the vast ocean in between. It has given us a glimpse of life in these remote and sometimes inhospitable places. We have encountered amazing wildlife, made new friends, learnt and experienced so much together. We will all take away different memories of our cruise but those memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives. This was our expedition.


Tripcode: HDS21-22
Dates: 2 Nov - 22 Nov, 2022
Duration: 20 nights
Ship: m/v Hondius
Embark: Puerto Madryn
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Hondius is the world’s first-registered Polar Class 6 vessel and was built from the ground up for expedition cruising.

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