HDS25-23, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia, embarkation day

Ushuaia, embarkation day
Date: 23.12.2022
Position: At Port Ushuaia
Wind: WSW7/8
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +9

Today is the day to embark M/V Hondius, the beautiful 107 metre vessel that would take us to explore Antarctica. After visiting Ushuaia, the Southernmost city in the world, we embark the ship at 4pm and are met by the staff and crew who warmly welcome us onboard. After checking in we are directed to our cabins, followed by the lounge for tea, coffee, and biscuits. The Chief Officer, Matai, gives us a mandatory safety brief, we all get involved in the safety drill where we are shown to our lifeboats.

At 6.30pm it is time for Captains cocktails to celebrate the beginning of the voyage with a glass of prosecco and delicious canapes. Captain Toni makes a welcome speech and we all toast to a good trip ahead. The Expedition Staff introduce themselves; it is interesting to meet all of them and learn where they are from. As the ship sails through the Beagle Channel, it is time for our first meal on board by way of a fantastic buffet. The excited chat at dinner is all about the journey ahead and the adventures that lay before us.

The next two days will be spent sailing through the Drake Passage, the place of the roughest seas in the world, but we are all hoping for a calm passage. 

Day 2: At sea Drake Passage

At sea Drake Passage
Date: 24.12.2022
Position: 57°10.06’S / 064°29.4’W
Wind: NNW6
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: +7

Our first night of this voyage was, as quite a few put it: interesting. The rocking and rolling made some of us sleep profoundly, others less and even others did not have a great time at all – not everyone showed up for breakfast. We hope they get better soon.

The program of today is filled with as much preparation for the visit on the Antarctic Peninsula as possible as weather condition are said to worsen during the night and tomorrow. And if you wish to leave the ship and take part in any of the activities, it is mandatory to attend.

We start with the mandatory zodiac safety briefing during which we learn how to put on our zodiac life jackets which are different from the ones we used yesterday during the drill. We now know where to find the shell doors, know how to embark, and disembark a zodiac, how to dress and how to behave – all this is new to us and very exciting.

This is followed by the mandatory IAATO briefing – IAATO being the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators whose primary goal is to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic. And so, we learn a lot about the rules and regulations, wildlife, and biosecurity - the dos and don’ts, the can and cannot-s. We too want to leave as little trace as possible on our voyage down to Antarctica. Shortly after that, Mal invites everyone wishing to participate in any mountaineering activity to yet another mandatory briefing. We learn that mountaineering is mostly fun after the activity itself but also, what we can expect of our mountaineering excursion. We do get excited.

At around midday, boot camp starts. We are called by colour groups down to the expedition deck where Muck Boots are fitted, and we all leave with a pair we call ours for the next 10 days.

Lunch gives us a well-deserved break from a lot of information – more is to come.

The Camping and Kayak briefings are happening in the afternoon. Here again, we learn, how the activity is organized, what we can expect and what is expected of us. Most of us are much looking forward to these special activities.

Later in the afternoon Julia holds a lecture about “some things about photography” – a more philosophical than technical approach to the subject. This is surprising but highly interesting.

During daily recap, Pippa, our Expedition Leader presents the plans for tomorrow: activity signs-ups, lectures, and bio security to prevent bringing any alien species to Antarctica. And due to the weather and sea conditions. Christmas celebrations are postponed to the 26th thinking that by then, most of us guests will be able to participate and enjoy them. This all sounds great, and we are looking forward to yet another day in preparation.

After a lovely dinner, some of us spend the evening in the lounge, others find their way to their cabins early and hope, against all odds, for a calm night.

Day 3: At sea on the Drake Passage

At sea on the Drake Passage
Date: 25.12.2022
Position: 61°15.0’S / 060°25.5’W
Wind: W5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

he wakeup call from our expedition leader Pippa is a nice way to start the Christmas morning. First breakfast and then we could sign up for the special activities which we can do on our basecamp trip. As soon as we hear our group we go straight to the lecture room, where we are signing first for mountaineering then kayaking and lastly for the camping. With a good feeling we are going to the lounge to listen to Sasha`s lecture Geographical Introduction to Antarctica. Our hotel manager Michael announced that the lunch is ready. We go down to the dining room to enjoy another lovely meal from our great kitchen team.

In the afternoon we are preparing for the next day, our first day in Antarctica. All our outer gear is going to be properly cleaned with a vacuum cleaner and very importantly the Velcro and the pockets inside.

Before we are going to listen to the lecture from Carina about the Antarctic Penguins, we are treated to some ice cream.

Some of us are collecting the kayak gear for the next day for our first time kayaking in Antarctic Sound.

After recap we are again treated to a very outstanding dinner with an overwhelming dessert from our great baker team. During dinner we watch whales from the restaurant. After dinner some watch the movie Happy Feet 2 with Popcorn.

Day 4: Brown Bluff and Paulet Island

Brown Bluff and Paulet Island
Date: 26.12.2022
Position: 63°30.9’S / 056°51.9’W
Wind: N1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

oday we are very lucky to be visiting the Antarctic Sound in the Weddell Sea, an area not usually visited because the weather needs to be good enough for us to get there. Brown Bluff is our first port of call, it is part of the Antarctic continent, the area was formed 1 million years ago from subglacial eruptions. The 1.5km beach and the entire scree slope is littered with an Adelie Penguin colony. Not only Adelie Penguins, but Gentoo Penguins are on the beaches both with their chicks, some have only hatched in the last 2 days! Half of us go on land to visit the colony and half of us zodiac cruise with the expedition staff. It is so beautiful and amazing seeing the Adelie and Gentoo chicks, what a treat. We watch in awe as the penguins feed their chicks Antarctic Krill and do their best to keep their fluffy bums warm by using their body heat. Some chicks are the size of a fist, but some were almost the same size as the adults!

Our next stop is Paulet Island, a very interesting historical site. There is a Stone hut on Paulet Island which was built in February 1903 by survivors of the wrecked vessel ‘Antarctic’ under Captain Carl A. Larsen, members of the Swedish South Polar Expedition led by Otto Nordenskjöld. A grave of a member of the expedition and the rock cairn built by the survivors of the wreck at the highest point of the island draws the attention of rescue expeditions. This is another even bigger Adelie Penguin colony, at least 200,000 birds reside on the beaches and all the way up to the top of the hill, it is an extremely impressive sight. Half of us cruise in the zodiacs along the beaches, we spot many Weddell Seals (blubbery sausages) lazing about the beach. Not far off the beach are icebergs with the odd Adelie resting on the ice, it made a beautiful photograph with the purple sky in the background. Once we swapped out on land with the first group of passengers, we had a walk around the landing site which the expedition staff had marked out for us. We look at the very impressive stone hut and watch as the Adelie’s go about their daily business, we could never get bored of these clumsy, loveable creatures. The day is not over yet, we have a recap from the fantastic expedition team about tomorrow’s plans followed by a Christmas dinner put on by the chefs and hotel team. It is wonderful to celebrate Christmas in this snowy, magical landscape with our fellow passengers.

Day 5: Gerlache Strait & Cierva Cove

Gerlache Strait & Cierva Cove
Date: 27.12.2022
Position: 63°57.3’S / 061°05.9’W
Wind: NNW3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +0.5

oday we woke up to our expedition leader Pippa welcoming us to the stunning Gerlache Strait. As we opened up the blinds, we saw wonderful icebergs and views greeted us through the windows of the Hondius. Some of us went out on the decks to try to watch as the Hondius worked her way through the bergy bits and brash ice crunching up against her hull. Before we knew it, it was time for breakfast, Michael called us down to the dining room so we could enjoy a delicious meal to start the day. After breakfast we attended a lecture with Saskia on the Swedish Antarctic Expedition. It was fascinating to learn about the trials and tribulations of these first exploration voyages.

We then had a little break before attending our second lecture of the day with Szymon who gave us a wonderful insight into the world of ice and taught us how to categorise it. This will be especially useful for the coming days. After a morning of learning we finished off with a hearty lunch ready for our activities in the afternoon.

Just after lunch we started to prepare ourselves for the first activity which would be a full ship zodiac cruise of Cierva Cove. Some of our number would be going out to kayak the area whilst the rest of us started loading into our zodiacs to explore the beautiful cove full of grounded icebergs. The location was also home to a variety of wildlife. We spotted leopard seals, gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins on the shoreline and in amongst the ice. Also, on the shoreline we came across the Argentinean research station Primavera, a beautiful little station nestled on the hillside. We glided in between the icebergs taking in the beautiful colours and shapes of the ice around us. All too soon it was time to head back to the ship. Our flotilla of zodiacs headed for home to deliver us on time for evening recap where we would learn the plans for tomorrow.

After recap, Michael once again called us down to the dining room to enjoy a wonderful dinner after a day of learning and exploration. After dinner some of us would be heading out again for the final activity of the day. Camping! The ship moved around to a location called Portal Point where the campers would spend their night sleeping in the snow. Whether on the ship or in the snow everyone settled in for the night dreaming of the adventures tomorrow might bring. 

Day 6: Danco Island and Neko Harbour

Danco Island and Neko Harbour
Date: 28.12.2022
Position: 64°43.8’S / 062°37.2’W
Wind: W3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

It’s a new day in Antarctica and for some of us an early start. At around 4 am the campers are ready for their pickup at Portal Point and as they arrive on Hondius they are both, tired and happy.

The first Camping night was a beautiful and unforgettable experience. After helping our Camping Guides Saskia and Gonzalo with the Camping Gear we enjoy a hot chocolate and some Pastries in the Lounge before we go to take a warm shower and maybe a little nap until breakfast and new activities start.

After breakfast we all meet at 08:30 at the Shell door to begin our next adventure. We visit Danco Island where we hike up a hill, walking parallel with the penguin highways to the Gentoo Penguin colonies. Breathtaking landscape, Glaciers, Icebergs, and mountains surrounding us.

On the Zodiac cruise we experience a lot of wildlife from that area. Weddell seals, Humpback whales and some of us are even more lucky and see a curious Minke whale diving under their Zodiac.

Now it’s time for another great adventure that only the bravest of us can conquer:

The polar plunge!!! Such great fun, getting out of our waterproof and very warm clothes and running into the very cold (+2C) ocean. And it’s even more fun to get back on the zodiac and the ship again, take a hot shower and enjoy our delicious Lunch buffet.

In the afternoon another beautiful place awaits us. Our Expedition Team brings us to Neko harbour. A breathtaking bay surrounded by a huge and very active Glacier. We all think about last night’s recap when our Expedition leader Pippa showed us a video of a calving of this Glacier. So, we are prepared, and we know that we have to observe the Penguins and if they start to run we should also be alert.

It is a sunny and calm afternoon with blue skies, blue ice in all different shapes and shades. And again, we are surrounded by wildlife like Weddell Seals who sleep and relax on icebergs, Humpback whales swimming very close to the beach and a lot of Gentoo Penguins.

As we are leaving the landing site and approach the ship there is a certain smell in our noses that promises another surprise for this spectacular day…

We will have a barbeque on the outer deck!

Perfectly prepared by the crew and hotel department we enjoy our food and drinks with some music in a quite windy and cold but still stunning, Antarctic evening. 

Day 7: Wordie House, Port Charcot

Wordie House, Port Charcot
Date: 29.12.2022
Position: 65º 14,6’S / 064⁰12,9’W
Wind: S4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

The day started very early, much earlier than any other. At 5:30 AM Hondius entered the famous Lemaire channel – a narrow and one of the most picturesque bodies of water on the Antarctic peninsula framed in high mountain peaks and ridges covered with hanging glaciers. The drama of the moment was felt even stronger, because Lemaire channel is the only way to reach the destination of our morning activity. Our expedition guides had told us that sometimes Lemaire channel is blocked with iceberg and navigation is not possible. Fortunately, we were lucky enough not to have this problem and passed through the channel without any serious problems. The professional level of our captain Tony was very high, and no icebergs turned into obstacle for us.

Right after having passed through the Lemaire channel, we had our breakfast and got ourselves ready for a Zodiac cruise. The original idea was to land next to Wordie House – a small hut on Winter Island that formerly belonged to the British Antarctic Survey and now is maintained by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust. Sadly, all the accesses to the Wordie house were blocked with fast ice, so we changed our plans and had a Zodiac cruise instead of landing. Nevertheless, our Zodiac cruise was definitely not less interesting than the landing that didn’t happen.

We saw lots of wildlife and had a wonderful ride on Zodiacs down the straits and channels around Winter Island. Besides we had a chance to approach former British Faraday station, famous as a place where the Ozone hole was discovered. Now the station belongs to the Ukraine and is named Vernadsky after a famous Soviet geographer.

After lunch we had another Zodiac cruise. Yes, this day we had no chance to set our feet on any land, but the afternoon Zodiac cruise was definitely worth it. It took place at a small bay called Port Charcot where there is a great number of different icebergs. Actually, among the expedition guides this place is known as the Icebergs’ Graveyard or The Garden of Icebergs. The bay is very shallow, so the icebergs that drift here all get grounded and are not able to keep on drifting unless they fall apart into many smaller icebergs.

We spent almost 3 hours navigating among these natural masterpieces of beauty. Some of us spotted seals and even whales.

In the evening we got a second chance to stand on the bow and look at the Antarctic beauty while Hondius was making its way back through the Lemaire channel. Late in the evening we dropped the anchor at the place called Port Lockroy and those of us who was signed up for camping got shuttled to the spot called Damoy Point and stayed there for the night. We were really hoping to see them alive the next morning. (And we did!)

Day 8: Port Lockroy and Damoy Point

Port Lockroy and Damoy Point
Date: 30.12.2022
Position: 64°49.7’S / 063°32.1’W
Wind: SW2
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

Today we wake up to the sights of beautiful mountains around us. The campers have returned in the early morning before most of us woke up. Breakfast set us up well for the day ahead and at 0800 we don our many layers for the zodiac cruise/landing. Half of us venture on land to Jougla to visit the beautiful Gentoo Penguin and Antarctic Blue Eyed Shag colony and half of us cruise in the calm bay around the islands. We are very lucky to see a Leopard Seal resting on an ice floe with a Weddell Seal strangely calm sleeping behind him. Port Lockroy is a former Antarctic base and most famously known as being the world’s most Southernly post office. Unfortunately, we can’t land because the four ladies running the post office are sick, but at least we could see the intriguing buildings for ourselves. Two Humpback Whales are spotted out in the bay, so off we go to see these incredible animals fluking next to the glacier.

After another delicious lunch we prepare to head out for the afternoon to Damoy Point. Here there are two huts which up until 1993 were used as a transit station for the British Antarctic Survey to fly supplies to Rothera research station. It feels wonderful to stretch our legs on land and it always makes us smile seeing the Gentoo’s interacting and fighting for their stones. The zodiac cruise is very relaxing, lots of Gentoo’s jumping in the water and the occasional Chinstrap standing out amongst the crowd. That evening we watch as Humpback Whales are swimming in the glassy water just as the campers head out for their ‘Antarctic sleeping experience’. 

Day 9: Cuverville & Orne Island

Cuverville & Orne Island
Date: 31.12.2022
Position: 64°40.5’ S, 036°32.7’W
Wind: NE4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

Today, on the last day of the year, we arrive at Cuverville Island for a landing and a zodiac cruise. We get the first taste of typical, antarctic weather, for the first time we don‘t have zero wind, clear skies and sun. It‘s still not very windy, just around 12 knots. In the early morning there is some snow but very soon that stops. Having been spoiled with prime weather this whole trip, some of us are taken by surprise but we quickly adapt to this authentic experience. Good views of a white morph Giant Petrel greet us on the Island.

For the first time since the first landing all those days ago, we do not need snow shoes at the landing site, thanks to some very dense, compacted snow. A zig zag walk up a rather steep hill gives us a great view of Gentoo rookeries. The zodiac cruise is an absolute home run. Dozens of humpback whales are around, swimming, feeding, diving and showing us their flukes. It‘s an absolute marvel. The sound they make as they come to the surface and blow are mesmerising.

The whales aren‘t the only blubbery things we see; a young Weddel Seal has made itself comfortable on an iceberg and poses for us for some great photos.

During the zodiac cruise we are able to make a quick landing on an island where an old boat from the time of the whaling days lay. Massive, rusty chains are also a relic from the time of the whalers.

All in all the outing at Cuverville was a true highlight of our trip.

In the afternoon, the winds become even stronger, making the zodiac ride to Orne Island quite wet for many of us. Even though we have seen stray Chinstrap Penguins here and there on our journey so far, Orne Island is where we see our first, proper Chinstrap colony. Many of us pass on the zodiac cruise and choose to go straight back to the ship but a few brave souls decide to go on a wet, turmoilous cruise, a true adventure.

A plated dinner awaits us in the evening. We know it‘s quite fancy because they serve sorbé between plates.

In order to test our knowledge (and more importantly, to keep us awake), George holds a Quiz Night in the lounge. Some of us win prizes, all of us have fun.

The weather gods have become merciful enough to allow us to make a toast out on the deck at midnight. That‘s when the new years miracle happens; whales appear out of nowhere and ring in the new year with us. 

Day 10: Paradise Bay & Orne Harbour

Paradise Bay & Orne Harbour
Date: 01.01.2023
Position: 64°37.8’S / 062°32.4’W
Wind: E-3
Weather: overcast & sunny
Air Temperature: +6

What a way to start the New Year! On this stunning evening Hondius is positioned in Paradise Bay, surrounded by glaciers and snow/ice-covered mountains. Most of us are out on the bow. We dance on the music while the crew is serving mulled wine (known by our German guests as Glühwein) and we count down into 2023! The captain comes out to personally wish us all a happy New Year while the horn is blown three times. We have the best ‘fireworks’ imaginable, several lunge-feeding and tail-slapping Humpback whales hang around Hondius for over an hour.

During the night we reposition to Orne Harbour where we will start our last activities on this amazing trip before we have to head back to Ushuaia later today. Half of us start this beautiful day on land. The expedition guides are dropping us of at the landing site where we start the steep uphill walk. Arriving on the saddle we are rewarded with spectacular views of Orne Harbour on one side and into the Gerlache Strait and Errera Channel on the other side. At the top there is a colony of Chinstrap penguins, and we can see some small, fluffy chicks with their parents too.

The zodiac cruise takes us along the impressive ice walls of the glaciers inside Orne Harbour where we spot a Weddell Seal on an ice floe. The sun comes out and shines on the 285-metre-high Spigot Peak where we find another colony of Chinstrap penguins. They wait for the perfect time to jump into the water, some are ‘flying’ out onto the slippery rocks while Blue-eyed Shags swirl over. Out in the Strait we find some Humpbacks. One of them pops up in front of the zodiac and shows his fluke and just a few meters offshore (where it immediately drops to 50 meters deep) we see another one.

Back on board we enjoy another delicious lunch and have some free time until Pippa enthusiastically shares her interesting lecture on the history of whaling in the Southern Ocean at 16.00. Followed at 18.00 by our daily recap and the answers to some of the questions put into the question box. “We don’t have a jail on board” and “we have a gym but it is situated in the crew area and only for their use”.

Around 19.00 we are passing by the snow-covered mountains of Smith Island, one of the South Shetland Islands and heading into the Drake Passage. As dream-like this first day of the New Year started we close it off with sightings of the wished-for Killer Whales. Around 21.00 Pippa makes an announcement that quite a large pod of Killer Whales is spotted on the port side of Hondius. The sun colors the sky orange while we’re adding more picturesque images to our memory. Several large dorsal fins sticking out of the ocean for at least 10 minutes. What a beautiful day to say goodbye to Antarctica!.

Day 11: At sea on the Drake Passage towards Ushuaia

At sea on the Drake Passage towards Ushuaia
Date: 02.01.2023
Position: 60°40’S / 064°12’W
Wind: SSE4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

After yesterday’s wonderful sighting of Orca, we could stay in our beds little bit longer. It’s our first day on the way back to Ushuaia after a fantastic trip to the Antarctic Peninsula. Michael our hotel manager started the day with his announcement coming through the speakers that the restaurant is open for us for breakfast.

Weather and sea conditions were very gentle for us, we could go to Ushuaia without using stabilizers and with two engines running to maintain speed of 14.5 knots.

After breakfast George collected from us pictures for the photography competition, we could contribute photos for three categories – landscape, wildlife and novelty. More than two hundred pictures were contributed and then displayed on all the screens in the lounge for us to vote for the best ones.

Later this morning Chloe gives a very interesting talk about drifting life of the ocean – plankton. She explains to us that it’s not always and only about the whales and seals. These tiny and even sometimes cute animals are important for our entire ecosystem and a vital element for bigger animals in the oceans.

After another delicious lunch, Charlotte invites us to her lecture to talk about whales of the Southern Ocean. She shows us how many of these wonderful creatures are living in this part of the world. And then later this afternoon, George presented his topic - Antarctic Geopolitics. With his passion for this topic, he explains to us how sophisticated and well-regulated Antarctica is and the many countries which are involved in this subject, and which are taking care of this part of the world; but there are also problems and conflicts of geopolitics.

Daily recap with plans for tomorrow and lots of small and interesting topics from our expedition team happen as usual before dinner. And to round up the day, we all meet in the lounge after dinner to celebrate the winners of the photo contest.

Day 12: At sea on the Drake Passage towards Ushuaia

At sea on the Drake Passage towards Ushuaia
Date: 03.01.2023
Position: 55°36.5’ S, 066°10.7’W
Wind: SW9
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +3

We wake up to our second day in the Drake Passage without a wakeup call, hence guests get the chance for a good long sleep.  The swell has increased, and the wind speed has increased to 70 knots this morning. It’s a litter bit strong than yesterday! For safety reasons the open decks have been closed. Breakfast is served at 8am, after that Szymon presents his lecture “Killer Whales” at 1030am, with some great Killer Whales identification photos he delivered a lot of information about how to identify the different types of killer whale and how to tell the gender.

We then have a chance to take a break to enjoy reading or drinking in the lounge. Lunch was served in the dining room at 1230pm. After lunch we have time to relax as we watch an Antarctica Documentary which was played in the lounge, a documentary series narrated by David Attenborough. Time runs so fast, at 4pm we had a history lecture “ Belgica Antarctic Expedition ” presented by Rose about the full story of the Adrien De Gerlache Expedition. It describes how to overwinter and survive in the Antarctic harsh environment and how the team members managed, how all the crew suffered from scurvy and how finally they were all rescued back to Belgium.

At 6.15pm we the had the farewell toast and the trip slideshow. Everybody dressed nicely and assembled in the lounge to toast the trip. Captain Toni attended and gave a warm speech.  Then the time has come for our last “briefing” and one last time Pippa comes up with the plans for the next day.

During a last dinner at 7pm, we finally get the chance to meet the entire hotel department. The time has come to thank them with a huge round of applause for their amazing work. What a day this has been – again!

Day 13: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Date: 04.01.2023
Position: 78°14.5’ N, 015°32.6’E
Wind: S4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

One last wake-up all from Pippa. Our bags are packed when we head down for breakfast one last time and we are getting ready to disembark our dear Hondius that has taken us to one of the most beautiful places on earth. The last 12 days have taken us on a remarkable journey over the notorious Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. 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.

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1’882 Nautical Miles
Furthest point south:29/12/2022 65°14.6’S / 064°12,9’W


Tripcode: HDS25-23
Dates: 23 Dec, 2022 - 4 Jan, 2023
Duration: 12 nights
Ship: m/v Hondius
Embark: Ushuaia
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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