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HDS25-24, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 17.12.2023
Position: 54° 51.8 ’S / 068° 01.9’W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

Having travelled from all over the world everyone was very excited to get started with our adventure and embark onto MV Hondius, our new home. Some of us spent time exploring Ushuaia, the most Southern city in the world before we began boarding Hondius in the afternoon. We were directed to the lounge for tea, coffee, and biscuits, and began our briefings. First, we had a safety briefing with Chief Officer Diedrick followed by a safety drill where we were shown where our life rafts are kept.

Then we were invited for the Captains Cocktails, where we met Captain Remmert and toasted to the beginning of our voyage. Our Expedition Leader Sara then introduced herself and the Expedition Team, the people who will be driving us in the zodiacs, delivering lectures, planning our landings, and keeping us safe as we explore the remote and beautiful places on our itinerary.

After our drinks we had some free to time to go onto the outside decks and enjoy the views of the Beagle Channel. We managed to see distant views of sei whales, some South American sealions, Magellanic penguins, giant petrels, and black-browed albatross, all before dinner!

We then had a delicious buffet meal in the restaurant. In the evening we spent time unpacking, resting after our long travels, and getting to know our ship mates, and of course, birdwatching outside. Later in the evening some dolphins were spotted in the channel.

Day 2: At Sea, sailing towards the Falkland Islands

At Sea, sailing towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 18.12.2023
Position: 53°33.8’ S / 063°33.1’ W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

We awoke on our first morning of the expedition to overcast conditions but fine, calm seas. Whilst we were still in sight of the South American mainland during the first half of the morning, we sailed serenely through throngs of feeding Black-browed Albatrosses, Sooty shearwaters, and Great Shearwaters, beautifully introducing us to the first pelagic seabirds of the trip.

In the morning we had mandatory briefings that taught us how to board and ride zodiacs safely, and how to behave around wildlife and protect the pristine environment of Antarctica. Expedition Guide Simon then kicked off the lecture programme with an Introduction to the Birds of the Falkland Islands which we would hopefully be seeing the following day. He was almost at the end of his lecture when he was interrupted by the excited shouts of ‘WHALES!’. With no thought at all to the small brown birds he was describing the whole audience rushed to the windows to get fantastic views of a group of feeding fin whales very close to the ship….thus endeth the lecture!

After lunch the lectures continued, and Expedition Leader Sara gave us some valuable photography tips and tricks to make the most of our cameras during the voyage. Expedition Guide Jess introduced us to some of the cetaceans we may encounter on our journey and how to identify them. After her lecture we saw some more fin whales in the distance and small pod of hourglass dolphins zoomed past the vessel, the most southern ranging of the smaller dolphin species. We were also treated to our first ‘big’ Albatrosses with several Southern Royal Albatross and the first magnificent Wandering Albatross of the trip gliding gracefully over the waves.

The sun came out for the rest of the afternoon and the seas remained calm. We all enjoyed our first plated evening meal and reflected on a brilliant day at sea, full of thoughts as to what our arrival at the Falkland Islands the next morning would bring.

Day 3: Carcass Island and Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island and Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Date: 19.12.2023
Position: 55°20.4’ S / 060°25.0’ W
Wind: W 4
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +12

Sara stood leaning against the dashboard. Through the windows of the captain's bridge, the blurry outlines of approaching land could be discerned. The Hondius ship, gently swaying from side to side and cutting through the waves with its powerful bow, was approaching the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

The sky was veiled in a light haze, but the strength of the sun breaking through it was enough to make objects cast a faint shadow. The fresh tailwind intermittently caused the waves to foam. The expedition had just begun, and we were still in temperate latitudes, so stepping onto the deck allowed you to feel the wind, strong and quite cool but not yet bone-chilling.

Exactly fifteen minutes before breakfast, at 6:45 am, Sara, whispering, "Well, my friends, let's get it started," approached the microphone, pressed the loudspeaker button, and began her morning speech: "Good morning, good morning, good morning..." During breakfast, many of us felt a slight excitement, as it was our first full expedition day. Two landings were planned for the day: in the morning on the island with the ominous name Carcass Island, and after lunch on another island called Saunders Island. Hondius dropped anchor, sailors lowered several Zodiacs into the water. All members of the expedition team got into these black inflatable motorboats and, taking all the necessary equipment, rushed towards the shore, raising clouds of spray. It turned out to be a routine procedure: first, the expedition team lands, assesses the situation and weather conditions, and then the expedition leader gives the "green light" for us to exchange the ship's iron decks for the solid ground of the land.

We gathered in the Zodiac boarding area and, in small groups of ten, began to board the Zodiacs. As soon as all the seats in the boat were occupied, the Zodiac, led by an experienced guide, set in motion. Quickly gaining speed, it raced towards the shore. The sun played on the waves, the engine roared, splashes flew in all directions, showering us like rain and enhancing the sense of adventure we were experiencing. To those watching us from the deck, the Zodiacs resembled mischievous children who, as soon as the rain stopped, rushed outside and, with their childlike feet, ran through puddles, creating splashes, making adults shake their heads and wag their fingers.

On the shore, Sara, William, Jerry, Jakub, and other members of the expedition team were already waiting for us. The Zodiacs nosed into the white Falkland sand, and one by one, we climbed onto the shore, swinging our legs over the side. The low but feisty waves, as if encouraging us, relentlessly struck the Zodiacs' stern, showering us with sprays and even splashing overboard, causing the Zodiac drivers to grumble and hurry us along.

The sandy beach strip was replaced by tufts of tussock grass as we moved further inland. Sometimes we had to step through marshy areas. The air smelled simultaneously of the sea, grass, and peat — a very unusual combination of natural aromas.

After passing through a densely overgrown grassy hollow, we found ourselves back on the beach but on the other side of the island. It was, I must say, much more picturesque than the one we initially landed on, not only because the sandy strip was much wider but also because the beach was bustling with quite a large number of local fauna representatives.

On a little hill, surveying everything with their proud gaze, stood a family of geese. The male and female, being the same size, sharply differed in the color of their feathers: one was entirely covered in snow-white feathers, and the other had brown feathers, but the chest was speckled in a thin black-and-white stripe. The goslings were all uniformly gray. Treading the ground with their small steps, they constantly bent their heads to the ground, plucking edible vegetation with their sharp beaks.

On the waves, a couple of Steamer ducks swayed. The male had an orange beak, and the female had a green one. These birds had long since forgotten how to fly. Why bother? The climate here is favorable, with no sharp temperature fluctuations, so there's no need to migrate. All their food is right in front of them, no need to fly for it, and the nest is within walking distance, just a few dozen meters from the shoreline. The most amusing thing about Steamer ducks is how they quack. No, it's not quacking; it's more like a cross between the chirping of a cicada and the sounds from some old computer game from the early 90s.

And here are our first penguins — Magellanic penguins! They are quite small, peculiar, constantly waddling and assisting themselves with their wings. Nevertheless, they are completely unbothered by it, strolling along the beach and looking in different directions. Instead of building nests, they dig deep burrows and sit in them, waiting for the arrival of their offspring. Yes, it's dark and dirty, but no skuas will ever steal their eggs. Well, except for the occasional curious penguin chick, wanting to see what lies beyond the burrow, inadvertently emerges on the surface — and here the troubles begin. The malicious skua only needs that, instantly diving down, grabbing the little one, and that's it. It sits somewhere on a rock and pecks at its bloody catch.

Ahead of us was a quite long walk. Three to four kilometers from the landing site stood a hamlet. The locals, the owners of the island, had been living there for a long time, raising sheep and catching fish. Around the houses, there was a garden with flowers and shady coniferous trees. Every time travelers arrived on their island, they baked hundreds of pastries and cakes and treated all the guests. It was the same this time, but before enjoying tea and indulging in local pastries, as mentioned earlier, we had to cover some distance.

The path led along the slope of the hill along the seaside. On our right, sheep were grazing, and local birds fluttered around, while on the left, the bay of Carcass Island spread out, in the middle of which stood our ship Hondius, anchored proudly and confidently. The sun showered us with ultraviolet and warmth, making it hot. Some of us had to make stops to take off sweaters or jackets.

Upon reaching the house, we settled down in the shade of the trees. One by one, we entered the house to grab a pastry or cookie from the table, pour ourselves a cup of tea, and then go back outside, sitting on a bench or a log, appreciating the skill of local confectioners. The morning time quickly passed. Look, and it's already approaching noon! It's time to return to the ship! The Zodiacs were already waiting for us near a small concrete pier. We put on life jackets, boarded the boats, and rushed back on board the Hondius. Pastries are undoubtedly good, but a full lunch is even better!

While we gathered for lunch, the sailors raised the anchor, and our ship headed to our afternoon activity location — the Saunders Island. It was not far away, so we had no more than an hour for post-lunch rest, and even less for our guides. As soon as the anchor chain rattled, the brave participants of our expedition team boarded the Zodiacs and headed to the shore of Saunders Island to make some preparations for our landing. Joyful Commerson's dolphins, thrilled that guests had finally arrived, playfully leaped out of the water, organizing an honorary escort for the Zodiacs all the way to the shore.

Sometime after, the official start of the operation was given. Zodiac after Zodiac, we raced across the smooth water and, as soon as we reached the shore, disembarked, hastily getting rid of the heavy life jackets. White fine sand, the calm of the water, and... penguins! The latter stared at us in complete bewilderment, flapping their peculiar wings and trying to understand who we were and what we wanted.

The local residents, the owners of Saunders Island, arrived in two cars to personally meet and greet us. Parking their cars near the shoreline, they opened their trunks, offering us some interesting souvenir products.

The trail was already marked. A walk of one and a half to two kilometers awaited us along the seaside. Gentoo penguins sat on their nests made of mud and grass, watching over their chicks. The chicks were already quite big, and some of them, gaining courage, went on short walks around their nests. The parents zealously guarded them, clapping and blocking their path with their wings: "Quiet, quiet, stay, where are you going? No, it's too early for you!" It was amusing to watch as they turned their necks toward us, clicked their beaks, as if saying to us: "Move along, guys, we have enough problems here!" And indeed, they had plenty of problems. Nasty skuas constantly circled above, keeping a sharp eye on the penguin colony. God forbid any penguin to be inattentive; instantly, a skua would swoop down and snatch a penguin chick! It would grab it in its beak and carry it away to a place where no penguin had ever returned. Nature here is cruel, but what can you do.

Here is the colony of Magellanic penguins. Like their counterparts we saw in the morning, these also sat in their burrows, consumed by curiosity, peeking outside and looking at us.

On the slope, more appropriately described as a "cliff," a colony of shags was situated, and right next to them, a patch of land was claimed by rockhopper penguins. Small, agile troublemakers, living up to their name, were constantly in motion, hopping from rock to rock. We lingered by them for a long time, taking photos and simply observing their bustle. Nevertheless, the most important awaited us ahead.

Eventually, the trail led us to a colony of black-browed albatrosses. These enormous and majestic birds sat in nests of perfect cylindrical shape. Most of the albatrosses had already raised their offspring. Spotting an albatross chick wasn't an easy task. We had to wait for the parent to rise on its feet, and only then could we see the small gray living bundle beneath it. Some albatross parents allowed their chicks to admire the outside world, holding them snugly under their wings.

Parental duties weighed heavily on the albatrosses. Sitting in their nests, they gazed longingly at the sea, dreaming of the moment when they could finally spread their enormous wings and, taming the wind, soar over the waves into the distance. Albatrosses are made for flight, and only the ancient instinct, as old as the Earth itself, compelled them to sit still in the nest and attend to their offspring. Some albatrosses emitted long, mournful sounds, probably expressing the emotions that had accumulated within them. While preening their chicks' feathers, it seemed as if they were whispering in their ears: "Grow up quickly, and then we'll fly together! I'll show you how the moonlight plays on the sea waves and how whales shoot fountains into the sky. I'll teach you to challenge the wind and catch squids!" Oh, if only it could happen sooner! Our guides showed us where to take the best photographs and made sure none of us, absorbed in the spectacle, fell off the cliff. Albatrosses, glancing at us, furrowed their brows but still posed for photos.

Having feasted our eyes on albatrosses, we started our return journey. On the way back to the landing site, we had the opportunity to turn right and find ourselves on another beach, opposite to the one we arrived on. White, towering waves, ominously roaring, crashed onto the sand. Fearless Magellanic and Gentoo penguins eagerly rushed towards them, disappearing in the white foam. Some penguins, on the contrary, emerged from the sea foam, as if Venus herself, having swum and hunted, appeared in white foam, heading to their nests to swap places with their mates, thereby giving them the opportunity to go hunting in the sea.

But what penguins are standing there near the shoreline? Oh, these are the King penguins! There were only a few of them, some still chicks adorned in huge, clumsy brown pajamas made of soft warm feathers. What a surprise! Of course, we all tried to capture at least a few photographs of these magical creatures.

Walking briskly past the penguins were kelp and dolphin gulls. They turned their heads and repeatedly pecked the sand, devouring the crustaceans hiding in it. Among small sand dunes, oyster catchers strolled, astonishing us with their long bright red bills. Leisurely, rocking from side to side, steamer ducks ambled here and there. A turkey vulture circled above, and, just like at the beginning of our walk, skuas and caracaras soared in the air, striking terror into all the other feathered inhabitants of Saunders Island.

On the slopes of the hill, occasionally drawing attention with loud bleats, sheep grazed. In the local setting, they seemed to perceive us as something outlandish, if not extraterrestrial, certainly as something entirely out of harmony with the surrounding landscape.

One way or another, it was time to return to the ship. As soon as the last of us were on board, the Hondius set course for Stanley, the capital of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. In my opinion, a very decent first day of the expedition, wouldn't you agree?

Day 4: Stanley - Falkland Islands

Stanley - Falkland Islands
Date: 20.12.2023
Position: 51° 41.2’ S / 057° 51.2’ W
Wind: NW 6
Weather: Partially cloudy
Air Temperature: +15

What a beautiful morning to approach Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, calm seas and mostly sunshine. Many of us went on deck before breakfast to view the slightly complicated approach to the Stanley Harbor – but of course our skilled officers on the bridge took us safely in and found a good spot for anchoring Hondius close to the jetty.

After a nice breakfast, we started the Zodiac-operation to bring everybody ashore as soon as possible to give us as much time in Stanley as possible and we were welcomed by several South American sealions relaxing on the jetty.

Still mostly sunny and only light winds, we could enjoy half a day in the capital, whether we were looking for birds near the airport, visiting the very interesting museum, enjoying the silence in the beautiful cathedral, or having a pint of beer in a pub or coffee in a café – or just taking a stroll and maybe buying gifts for our loved ones at home.

As the day progressed, the windspeed picked up quite a bit and most of us got a bit wet on the way back to Hondius – but who cares – we all had our waterproof gear, and a delicious lunch was waiting for us on the ship.’ Some passengers were even approached by Commerson’s dolphins bow-riding the zodiacs. On our way out of the harbour a group of Commerson’s dolphins and a small group of dusky dolphins bid us farewell in their charming playful way.

In the afternoon lecture, Expedition Guide Elizabeth was sharing all the interesting details about the “Falkland-whales”, and how they are tagged- and followed in her mini lecture.

The mandatory biosecurity briefing was given by Sara – our expedition leader – where she taught us about the importance of following the procedures so as not to be part takers in spreading avian flu or introducing invasive plants to the pristine nature and landscapes of South Georgia.

For those dressed warm enough, the late evening sky was clear enough to go to the outer decks to look for the constellations and stars of the Southern Hemisphere – what a beautiful day!

Day 5: At Sea, Sailing towards South Georgia

At Sea, Sailing towards South Georgia
Date: 21.12.2023
Position: 52°27.8’ S / 050° 54.8’ W
Wind: WNW
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: +8

With the mighty wind propelling the Hondius forward, we continued on our South Georgia odyssey at the break of dawn. Out on deck you could find the eager birders, catching the first glimpses of the ethereal soft-plumaged petrels and majestic grey-back petrels as they soared through the crisp Southern Ocean air.

Following a delectable breakfast, Jens, our intrepid guide, regaled us with tales of the legendary explorer Shackleton and his enthralling connection to South Georgia.

As we charted a course for Grytviken, Jens ignited a spark of anticipation in every adventurer's heart.

The morning unfolded with undulating waves and a roaring 28-knot wind, causing the Hondius to dance over the crests almost like a vessel reaching for the skies.

Just past 11 o'clock, the sun burst forth, beckoning those who sought a breath of invigorating sea air. However, our respite was brief, for Felicity enraptured us with her tales of eared and earless seals, infusing the morning with fascinating facts about these remarkable marine mammals.

Lunchtime provided a necessary interlude in our collective journey of discovery.

In the afternoon, the lecture theatre hosted a gripping screening of "Falklands at War" - an untold story that left an indelible mark on our souls.

Post the 4 o’clock tea and coffee break, Sara took the stage, unraveling the mysteries of penguin life, building excitement for the weeks ahead.

By 6 o'clock, we gathered around the bar in the lounge, where we listened to plans for the next day at sea and beyond. Sara ingeniously demonstrated bird sizes with a length of string, while Meike painted vivid pictures of the magnificent Giant petrels that had faithfully trailed our ship since port departure. William brought our assembly to a close, underscoring the photographic legacy of Frank Hurley, whose photo images were manipulated already a century ago: photoshop as we never had seen before. A sumptuous dinner, crafted by the culinary maestro Chef Bawa and his galley team, capped off our splendid day.

A beautiful and more than delightful day to travel at sea ended with a Northern Royal Albatross flying by at the stern of the ship.

Day 6: At sea towards South Georgia

At sea towards South Georgia
Date: 22.12.2023
Position: 53°14.7’ S / 041°49.9’ W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

At 07:45 once again we were woken up by the pleasant voice of our Expedition Leader Sara informing us that the weather outside was beautiful with clear blue skies. It was time to get up, have breakfast and enjoy the day ahead. A few minutes after 9am we encountered our first sighting of a whale on the starboard side of the vessel.

Some of us had many questions regarding our vessel Hondius. At 09:15 Bill Smith, one of the longest serving expedition guides in Oceanwide’s fleet gave a presentation about the technical aspects of the Hondius, explaining everything that happens behind the scenes. Expedition Guide Jerry also gave the lecture in Mandarin.

Just before lunch we had a chance to admire a big group of humpback whales passing near our ship. Many of us went out on the decks hoping to take a good photo, others enjoyed the view from the bridge. At 11:15 we had a pleasure to listen to another lecture – “Life of Albatrosses” given by Expedition Guide Maike. Three days ago, when visiting Saunders Island, we witnessed nesting Albatrosses in one of the colonies. Now onboard the vessel we see them passing our ship from time to time. It was wonderful to find out more about those amazing birds.

At noon our clocks were changed and moved to one hour ahead.

Just after lunch it was time for our main task of the day – biosecurity. We all gathered at deck 3 to clean all our clothes, gear and boots to ensure we did not bring any unwanted invasive species into the region of South Georgia in the form of seeds, mud, or vegetation.

At 16:30 we had a pleasure to listen to Expedition Guide Jakub’s presentation titled “On thin ice – why do we need it?”. Jakub is a glaciologist and lecturer at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poland who spends his free time travelling between two polar regions. We learnt about different types of glaciers and their importance for the ecosystem of our planet. At the same time expedition guide Jerry Zhao gave his presentation on ice and glaciers in Mandarin.

As always at 18:15 we met in the lounge for a recap of a day and found out plans for the next day. Someone had added a question to the ‘question box’ regarding the workings of a sextant. Adam Burke, assistant expedition leader, briefly explained in pictures the mechanism and calculations required to obtain accurate positions while navigating with a sextant, something that Shackleton had to do to reach South Georgia. Thank God for GPS!

Once again, we met for a delicious dinner at 19:00 in the restaurant. The sea was relatively calm. Rested after two days of sailing we looked forward to landing in Grytviken.

Day 7: Grytviken and Hercules Bay, South Georgia

Grytviken and Hercules Bay, South Georgia
Date: 23.12.2023
Position: 54° 16.9’ S / 036° 30.1’ W
Wind: NW 3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +5

Yet another big day lay ahead of us today as we pulled into Grytviken Harbour in the early hours of the morning. We arrived shortly before 7:00 and after breakfast we welcomed several of the South Georgia Heritage Trust Museum staff and Government Officials on board where they delivered their welcome presentation and conducted final checks on our gear and the ship.

Once we were given the all clear, we are all able to land on shore. We were proud to hear that not a single piece of vegetation or potentially harmful seeds or dirt was found on us, giving us a 100% score on our biosecurity standards. As soon as we disembarked zodiacs we were surrounded by thousands of fur seals and elephant seals with their curious pups! We of course had to resist the urge to cuddle these cute and unique animals, but we could take many pictures which will make us smile for years to come.

Over the next couple of hours, we were able to wander at our leisure around Grytviken, a whaling station that has been cleaned up and made safe for visitors. The wealth of information and history surrounding us was outstanding; a museum, whaler’s church, and a post office are just a few of the areas to see. The staff from the museum gave us a guided tour and told us about the lives of the whalers who called this beautiful bay home.

Eventually it was time to post our postcards to loved ones and head back to Hondius. On the way back, just at the end of our visit, the expedition team dropped us to the local cemetery at the other side of the bay. This is where the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton found his ultimate resting place and is buried there next to Frank Wild. It was a very emotional moment for many of us and for Shackleton fans this was a highlight of the trip so far.

In the afternoon Hondius brought us to the northern coast of South Georgia to Hercules Bay! This time we had a zodiac cruise around this little picturesque bay. The weather and sea conditions were challenging though, with considerable snowfall, wind, and swell of the sea. As soon as we boarded our zodiacs we were off to explore the coast. After entering the bay the water calmed down, but the snowfall intensified.

The water had a beautiful dark shiny blue and greenish color and along with the kelp reaching the surface from the deep the whole scenery created an eerie atmosphere. We cruised straight towards large rocks close to the coast where we had our first sighting of the Macaroni penguins. Their yellow feathery crown catches the eye immediately and gives this species of penguin a funny but charismatic look.

Along with the South Shetland Islands and the South Orkney Islands, South Georgia happens to be one of the main locations where we can find the Macaroni Penguin. According to the IUCN the population status of this species is classed as vulnerable and over the past decades we have observed a decrease in numbers, which makes this sighting extra special. The Macaroni penguins are not the only highlight of the zodiac cruise, because the area also offered spectacular geology and landforms.

These included a high waterfall at the mouth of the bay, falling straight onto a small beach, crowded with seals and gentoo penguins. Shortly after this impressive sighting we continued to cruise along the shore and were greeted with large numbers of gentoo penguins breaching from the water in all directions. Seeing so many species gathered in one place gives us a small glimpse of the rich wildlife found in South Georgia.

As we were ready to return to Hondius, our zodiacs became covered with snow. Combined with a strong swell at the shell doors, the conditions provided us a challenging but exciting foretaste of what the southern waters have to offer for adventurers. Despite the wet, cold, and bumpy conditions, everyone did very well when disembarking the zodiacs and we went to warm up with hot showers and coffees before our recap and dinner.

Day 8: Husvik Harbour and Leith Harbour, South Georgia

Husvik Harbour and Leith Harbour, South Georgia
Date: 24.12.2023
Position: 54°10.7’ S / 036°41.1’ W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

As the snow dusted the surrounding peaks, we sailed into the shelter of Husvik Harbour, a derelict whaling station. After the expedition team assessed the conditions, they decided to sail around the corner to the neighbouring whaling stations of Stromness and Leith Harbour, in the hope of making a landing in the sheltered bay. After the short sail it was a bittersweet sight of calm conditions, but an extremely busy beach littered with wildlife. There was not a square meter unoccupied by Antarctic Fur seals, elephant seal pups or penguins. Whilst this was a wonderful sight, it did mean we were unable to make a landing to explore on shore. Therefore, whilst we hovered to take in the surroundings and take a few photos, Felicity started presenting her lecture titled “Whaling – Hunted to the Brink”, a lecture briefly covering the history of whaling and the commercial whaling era that began in South Georgia at the beginning of 1900’s. During the lecture, we learnt that over the operating years in South Georgia, seven whaling stations were built, including Stromness, Leith and Husvik, and an estimated 175,250 whales were hunted between 1904 and 1965.

Meanwhile, the expedition team decided to sail back around the corner to Husvik and drop zodiacs for a cruise around the bay and station. Whilst cruising along the shoreline, we were entertained by hundreds of Antarctic fur seal pups, squabbling with each other or calling out for their mother, large juvenile elephant seals, huddling together and belching from both ends! If you had a keen eye and looked behind the noisy seals on the beach, we also found the South Georgia Pipit battling against the strong wind gusts in amongst the tussock grasses.

After lunch, we re-traced our steps again and returned to Leith Harbour, as it was the most sheltered bay within a reasonable sailing distance, and so we dropped the zodiacs for another windy but wonderful cruise outside one of the largest whaling stations on the island. One of the highlights during this cruise was a sighting of a leucistic adult male fur seal - a very rare sighting!

As it was Christmas eve, we had a wonderful, festive buffet waiting for us on our return. It was evident the galley team had been working extremely hard as they presented a delicious feast for all, including an amazing display of desserts all freshly made by the wonderful bakers on board. To finish off the day, the Christmas comedy film ‘Elf’ was shown in the lecture room, with a side of popcorn for those who could still squeeze in some more food! After all, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without eating an unusual amount of food!

Day 9: Fortuna Bay and St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia

Fortuna Bay and St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia
Date: 25.12.2023
Position: 54°05.5’ S / 036°36.2’ W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

We relished the feeling as we rocked back and forth in our bunks and awoke rather sleepily to start another exciting adventure.

As we opened the cabin blinds and viewed the early morning conditions, a landing at Fortuna Bay did not look hopeful. Along the entire length of the beach a thin line of white foam marked a zone of surging waves cascading onto the steeply shelving shore. During breakfast, Assistant Expedition Leaders Adam and Felicity decided to deploy a Zodiac to check the strength of the surf and density of seals along the entire length of beach. The result was a negative one as the surging waves and gusting winds created unsafe conditions for landings and the proposed long walk. It was then announced that a full ship Zodiac cruise was plan B.

This was first-hand experience of the problems of expedition cruising…clearly extreme operational flexibility was required but with the added difficulty created by bird flu forcing the closure of many landing sites. The result was that our choices was severely limited.

At 8.30 all 15 Zodiacs were loaded and in groups of two and three snaked slowly away from the anchored Hondius and cruised along the fur-seal infested shore- line. Our guides announced that they had never seen such a huge concentration of yelping playing fur seal pups. Mature penguins wandered unconcernedly seeming quite casually amid the teaming agitated hordes of screaming seals. The backdrop for the cruise was magnificent, as adjacent to the beach a huge expanse of grassland stretched out to the lower slopes of the jagged snow- covered mountains at the back of the bay.

Everyone returned to the vessel mid-morning and again Sarah, Adam, Bill, and Felicity set off along the shore for another inspection to see if conditions had changed for the better…they had not, in fact the wave action appeared worse so in the interests of safety the decision was made to abandon the idea of a landing at Fortuna and up-anchor and head south after lunch for 4 hours of Hondius cruising past extremely large icebergs to St Andrew’s Bay.

Several humpbacks were sighted on-route and the bird spotters were out on deck in force to extend their species lists. The sky was overcast with some light rain.

When we arrived at St Andrews Bay the weather was against us again…a long rolling swell and wind gusting to over 40 knots meant no possibility of cruising and landing was not possible as the area was closed due to bird flu. This clearly illustrated the difficulties of programme planning when subject to the vagaries of the weather. The decision was made to drop anchor and wait until after the recap meeting and dinner.

Fortunately, the weather conditions abated, the strong wind died off and it was all system GO! Guides speedily dressed for action, 15 Zodiacs were launched, filled with passengers, and then motored slowly around the coastline to enable everyone to get good photographs of the King Penguin colony and of the thousands of seals thronging the entire length of the beach. Whilst most appreciated this opportunity some passengers understandably were quite discomfited by the strong smell drifting from the land of rotten seal corpses and the sight of large number of bodies heaped along the shore.

This evening cruised finished just after 9.30 pm with everyone happy and was another superb example of the lengths that the Oceanwide staff go to ensure passengers have the best experience possible.

Day 10: At Sea, sailing towards South Orkney Islands

At Sea, sailing towards South Orkney Islands
Date: 26.12.2023
Position: 56°37.1’ S / 038°06.6’ W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Leaving behind South Georgia we said goodbye to the rugged coastline and abundance of wildlife. Shores full of fur seals and king penguins now behind us, it was time to head out into the open ocean once more. The gentle roll of the waves dropped a sereness over the ship as we headed southwards.

Noticeably cooler the ship sailed into the grey overcast day, light flutters of snow reminded us of where we were. Around us we had our cohort of birds which we have seen daily along the South Georgia coast but this morning we were greeted with a light mantled sooty albatross, this graceful bird stayed with us for a short while before heading off over the waves.

Along the way we saw whales blow along the horizon and every now and again we were greeted by humpbacks surfacing not too far from the ship.

Bill and Jerry started the day with lectures about Whaling and Whales. Educating us all about the destruction we caused during the whaling days to the population of not only the majestic whale, but also the seal population. It has been a privilege to see the fur seal population increasing, and to witness firsthand the population density that now thrives along the beaches. Adam then recounted his time working in South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, supporting the science that goes on within the Antarctic bases and onto the continent itself.

After a splendid lunch the landscape outside had given rise to more and more icebergs, these huge sculptures of ice will remain with us now as we head towards the peninsula. These behemoths of ice that change and evolve over time, the incredible journey they undertake and the breathtaking natural patterns they share with us.

Biosecurity was held after lunch to make sure that no invasive species were being carried to the Antarctic continent and of course everyone on board now knew about the importance of why we carry out biosecurity.

As we passed by more and more beautiful Ice it was Williams turn to engage us with the story of Tom Crean and a glimpse into the heroic age of exploration, the life and adventures of this Irishman that played an integral role in Antarctica.

The sea state slowly started to improve and with it the snow increased, visibility decreased and a sense of heading into the inhospitable wilds of Antarctica surrounded us. Sara told us the plans for the next day and the guides responded to a multitude of questions placed in the question box.

Then it was time for dinner and to enjoy the beauty of travelling at sea through some of the most picturesque places on the planet.

Day 11: Shingle Cove, South Orkney Island

Shingle Cove, South Orkney Island
Date: 27.12.2023
Position: 60° 55.9 ’ S / 044° 58.1 ’ W
Wind: WNW 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -1

Today we woke up with sunny skies, both engines at full speed ahead to reach the South Orkney Islands.

During the morning we were visited by a great amount of Fin and Humpback whales along with an unusual density of sea birds using our ship as a way to save energy as they soared in our stream. The bridge was busy with curious eyes as the shape of land started to appear before us. The rugged and sharp black mountains of Laurie Island were a sight with all anxious about setting foot on firm ground, which we hadn’t done in a number of days.

As we sailed on, the expedition team treated us to some fascinating lectures on marine life, especially Krill among others, the base of all existence in the ocean, the once upon a time of the liquid worlds. Sasha, gave us an introduction to the geographical history of Antarctica which included fascinating information about the plant and animal fossils found on the continent. And we arrived... Gloomy fog welcomed us in a theatrical way in Shingle Cove, where the jet-black rock contrasted with the pristine fresh white snow. As the conditions were five-star for a landing we did not waste time and our Expedition team kitted up and rushed ashore to get the landing site ready for our visit.

After a slightly humid zodiac ride, we landed on a calm stony beach where the sweetest Elephant Seal greeted us with his heart melting gaze. The rock was sleet, shingles of rock like broken glass scattered everywhere. The geography of successive hills slowly delivered the beauty of its features as we walked up and down its slow rolling hills. To the west a challenging descent followed by a steep climb led us to an Adelie Penguin colony, named after French explorer Etienne D’Umont D’Urville’s Wife Adele. It is only natural to anthropomorphize these creatures as they are very like us. The males fight and bicker over a stolen pebble or over the affection of a female. They are the most elegant of penguins.

On the other side of the landing site we could visit some juvenile elephant seals that were play fighting on the beach and in the surf. They were accompanied by Gentoo penguins who were delighting us with their comical walks and sliding down the snowy slopes on their bellies.

It felt good to set foot on firm ground again and stretch our legs after some days on Hondius and in the zodiacs. When back on board a divine buffet awaited us.

In the evening we were gripped to the screen as we watched ‘Shackleton, Part 1’ in the lecture room and enjoyed popcorn. It was particularly fitting to see this film having watched Jens’s lecture about Shackleton’s famous expedition and we could recognise the people he spoke about in the film. This day marked the end of our South Atlantic Islands trip and we set off to go to the mighty, legendary, Antarctic Continent.

Day 12: At Sea, sailing to Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands

At Sea, sailing to Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 28.12.2023
Position: 61°19.5 ’ S / 052°24.8 ’ W
Wind: N 5
Weather: Partially cloudy
Air Temperature: -2

Wake up! Wake up! Look out the window! Look out the window! So, we did, somewhat bleary eyed but we did…and observed a thin white line covering the horizon from right to left. We were then informed by our early morning source of information that we were looking at the largest iceberg in the world. A berg 40 miles x 32 covering an area three times the size of New York, a total of 1500 square miles.

It was an astonishing site. Its history was equally astonishing. Expedition Guide and Glaciologist Jakub gave us a short lecture in the morning all about it. A23a had calved from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf in 1986 and had remained grounded in the Weddell Sea until it started to float clear in early 2000 …now it was drifting slowly northwards in the general direction of South Georgia and if it continued beyond there then it would be heading towards Africa! It was a stunningly beautiful mass of gleaming convoluted ice and as Hondius closed in we marvelled at the colossal scale…the perspective was horizon to horizon.

This was the major visual entertainment of the morning and certainly a major life experience. We felt minute in its mighty presence! Expedition Guide William gave us a brilliant lecture about the geopolitics of Antarctica which generated much interest from our international guests. Jess delivered a fantastically interesting lecture on Ecosystem Stabilisers focussing primarily on whales and the important part they play in carbon capture and sequestration. The vital importance of ‘whale fall’ was emphasised and for most passengers this was completely new information and of tremendous interest. In the afternoon Expedition Leader Sarah presented a historical account of the import role women had played in Antarctic Science. Jerry delivered a detailed talk on penguins to the Chinese group in the Lecture Room.

In the afternoon Hondius set a course for Point Wild on Elephant Island, encountering excellent conditions with a comfortable swell and wind. The sun shone on the massive ice and dominant rock bulk of Clarence Island as we slid past. We saw many large fin whales feeding as we sailed and flocks of beautiful cape petrels swirled around us. Everything looking much more dramatic and picturesque as billowing white clouds clustered around the high tops. It was time to engage brain again and try to imagine what it must have been like for Shackleton and his men as they reached this totally inhospitable landfall. Menacing masses of steep dark rock and vertical cliffs of ice must have filed them with despair. Passengers stood in wonder as they realised the conditions experienced by Shackleton’s crew stuck on boulders at that desolate spot especially being unaware if the James Caird had made South Georgia and if they were ever to be rescued. This location produced in many the greatest emotional response of the voyage.

In the evening the highlight was the South Georgia Heritage Trust auction. Kicked off as usual by Bill who managed to sell a plastic bottle top for £100 to set the scene . Passengers then entered into the spirit of the evening by bidding strongly for the assortment of items and a substantial sum was raised.

Day 13: Penguin Island, Antarctica

Penguin Island, Antarctica
Date: 29.12.2023
Position: 62°05.5 ’ S / 057°54.6 ’ W
Wind: NE 1
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

After the subtropical dreamy beaches of the Falklands, the brutal raw beauty of South Georgia, its fragrance and its overwhelming wildlife, and the lost and lonely South Orkneys, we were finally on our way to the grand finale, the eternal, frozen continent of Antarctica.

Today we woke up to the calmest and sunniest day so far. Not a breath of wind was felt as we sailed towards our destination. Our planned landing site was penguin island, a small island on which sits a sleeping Volcano.

After a healthy breakfast we jumped onto the zodiacs for a short comfortable ride to the landing site. Sara welcomed us with her usual smile and enthusiasm for yet another adventurous day. What awaited us was a long walk opportunity and a chance to visit a chinstrap penguin colony.

Our first stop was to a scenic shelf overlooking the stony beach. A colony of chinstrap penguins made themselves heard as dozens of Brown skuas swooshed over their heads in search of an inattentive parent and an easy snack. The Skuas, also nesting, gave us a glimpse of their private life by letting us witness the care given to their small, fluffy young.

As we made our way inland, we summited Petrel crater, a sleeping volcano last active in 1905. After a healthy walk along the craters edge, witnessing along the way some feeding humpback whales, the vistas at its peak were breathtaking and offered the perfect introduction to Antarctica, encompassing all its many characteristics. The red, crunchy ground contrasted with the flat calm surrounding turquoise ocean.

A well-deserved lunch awaited us on board and the afternoon was spent on deck, enjoying the simple pleasure of seeing time and the icy ocean landscape go by. Simon treated us to a lecture about the birds of Antarctica in the lounge. Once again, his bird-based lecture was interrupted by whales, much to our amusement.

In the evening we watched the second part of the film ‘Shackleton’. It was great to see this dramatisation of some of the events that happened to Shackleton and his team, especially having just visited Point Wild on Elephant Island where we could see the spot where they had to survive for four months. We went to bed feeling inspired by the film and excited to get to the Antarctic continent.

Day 14: Portal Point and Palaver Point, Antarctica

Portal Point and Palaver Point, Antarctica
Date: 30.12.2023
Position: 64°24.8 ’ S / 061°44.0 ’ W
Wind: NNE 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

We woke up to a slightly windy and cloudy morning, and as usual we were treated with a delicious breakfast – getting “fueled” for today’s landing on the continent at Portal Point. For many of us this was an exciting moment as we were reaching our seventh continent.

The Antarctic flag was brought ashore for us to pose with. Felicity was at the shore and scooped up some krill for us to look at, the keystone marine species here in Antarctica. The walking route was a short but interesting trek to a viewpoint where we could see humpback whales swimming in the distance amongst the ice bergs. Our first “true” Antarctic Continent landing was a delight.

The path was sometimes challenging – maybe to the local Gentoo’s we looked a bit like penguins, when we sank up to our knees in the deep snow being thrown a bit off balance – but lots of laughs and funny situations was heard and seen. The view from the top of the hill was worth the struggle though - a breathtaking view over the area – glaciers, icebergs, Hondius – and the humpback whales even breached a few times in the distance.

We went back to Hondius to warm up and enjoy our lunch as we sailed to our next landing site which would be at Palaver Point, named so because the noise and activity from all the nesting birds there can cause quite a palaver! It was a breathtaking place with a fantastic view over a large glacier showing deep and unstable crevasses. Several chunks of ice calved from the glacier a couple of times during our visit, causing rumbles and big waves. For many the climb to the viewpoint was a long-awaited chance for some exercise - maybe allowing an extra dessert or cookie to reward ourselves back on the ship – but again, the climb was worth the while! The dark grey sky gave the most dramatic contrast to the pristine whiteness of the icebergs and the glacier – and again multiple humpbacks showed their backs and flukes not too far from the coast. Closer to the shore several colonies of chinstrap penguins entertained us with their behavior – stealing pebbles from each other’s nests, nursing their very young chicks, having a dispute with their neighbours, or just sliding down the snow slopes on their bellies. It is hard not to be completely charmed by their cuteness! It was another wonderful day of expedition.

Day 15: Danco Island and Cuverville Island, Antarctica

Danco Island and Cuverville Island, Antarctica
Date: 31.12.2023
Position: 64° 43.6’ S / 062° 36.9’ W
Wind: N 2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +6

Today is December 31st, the last day of the year 2023, and it feels like paradise in Antarctica. As a group, we embarked on a journey to Danco Island and Cuverville Island. The sun was shining brightly, casting its warm golden rays upon the pristine snow. It was a serene and tranquil day, devoid of any wind or storm.

On Danco Island, we set foot on a small rocky haven concealed beneath a thick layer of snow. We immediately began taking layers off on the beach as the sun was so warm and we knew we would have to climb up hill. The sight at the top of the snowy hill was awe-inspiring; a colony of adorable Gentoo penguins were waddling about, going about their daily lives. We hiked halfway up the island, taking in the breathtaking panorama of sharp mountains and mighty glaciers that reached out towards the vast expanse of the sea. The sun's intense heat warmed our bodies, leaving behind the gift of a healthy tan. It's hard to believe that we could be sun-kissed in this icy wonderland.

Simultaneously, a group of our fellow explorers embarked on a zodiac cruise around Danco Island. From their close vantage point, they witnessed the enchanting display of seals flirting with the waves and humpback whales gracefully breathing at the surface. Their excitement was contagious, and we joined in their exuberance. Some of the zodiac groups were treated to a rare and peaceful moment watching a mother humpback whale and her calf resting at the surface and sleeping, a behaviour known as logging. Others got to see the whales swimming and diving all around the island. The beautiful calm weather meant we had amazingly good views of the whales and could hear them as they took deep breaths into their lungs.

We finished our time on Danco Island with a special event – a polar plunge! We dived into the icy waters at the Danco Island beach. For many it was the first ever contact with cold water, while for others, another chilly morning shower, but for all of us it was a fun and special way to end year 2023.

In the afternoon, we landed on a nearby island called Cuverville Island. Once again, the captivating lives of gentoo penguins unfolded in front of our eyes. We hiked to a high point, our hearts filled with wonder as we took in the striking polar landscape that surrounded us. Here we could also watch the nesting Gentoo penguins, collecting pebbles to maintain their nests and squabbling with their neighbours. During a zodiac cruise encircling the island, we gasped in awe at the mesmerizing icebergs and icy arches that adorned the horizon. As if gifted by fate, we stumbled upon a sight that left us breathless and amazed – an emperor penguin. Very rarely seen in this part of Antarctica, this majestic creature was a real surprise. Many of the guides had never seen an emperpor penguin before. It appeared to be a juvenile and it calmly sat, stood, and slept on an iceberg for two hours while we all had the chance to admire it. An incredible memory, especially for the keen bird watchers among us, which will forever be etched in our souls.

As the evening drew near, vibrant anticipation filled the air. This was not just another night – it was New Year's Eve. At 20:00, we gathered on the outside deck of our ship, the MS "Hondius," for a sumptuous barbeque dinner. Laughter echoed and mingled scents of delicious food filled the air. We swayed to the rhythm, dancing under the sky, as if the universe itself was celebrating alongside us.

Moments before the clock struck midnight, we retreated to the comfort of the ship's lounge. Sparkling wine filled our glasses, and with bated breath, we counted down, united in joyous anticipation. The transition between the old and new year was a magical one, and we will certainly remember this fun entry into the New Year. Dancing guests and the expedition team merged, the boundary between strangers and friends blurred by shared experiences. It was an unforgettable night, brimming with euphoria, deep connections, and a newfound appreciation for the beauty that lies within nature and human connection.

Day 16: Base Brown, Antarctica

Base Brown, Antarctica
Date: 01.01.2024
Position: 64°52.4’ S / 062°52.0 ’ W
Wind: N 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

The first day of 2024 dawned…’early’… but we were not awake at that ridiculous sunrise time after enjoying the fun of the New Year festivities the night before!

Eventually bodies stirred in cabins across the ship and passengers glanced out their porthole or superior cabin window to find our vessel gliding slowly through brash ice, texturing a flat calm sea. Hondius was lying off a snow- covered small peninsula the lower slopes of which were festooned with red painted cabins indicating we were at the Argentinian research station Admiralte Brown.

The weather was overcast with very slight flurries of snow which did not amount to anything and thankfully, unusually, there was no wind…perfect conditions therefor for a cruise.

Plan A was implemented after breakfast. Zodiacs ferried the landing party and groups of passengers to the shore. There we could spread out to follow the red pole marked trail established by the guides, either to visit the un-occupied base to photograph penguins or climb the zig-zagging path to the top of the steep snow-covered hill behind the base station.

Once all had landed, the Zodiacs uplifted all remaining passengers from the ship for a cruise along the geologically interesting shoreline into ice covered Scunthorp Bay. This was a relaxing and interesting boat trip as the Zodiacs slowly meandered through the drifting blocks of ice, their engines on the lowest revs and propellors hardly turning. This cruise was series of interesting encounters, mini-lectures, and photo-opportunities. First, a Weddell seal on a small iceberg. Second, the Base Browne colony of Gentoo penguins nesting in self-made stinking squalor on the rocky slope below the building. Third, the mini ‘village’ of cormorants nesting on the steep slopes immediately below the massive rock overhang just past the station. Here we enjoyed views of the cormorants fluffy chicks and watched drama unfold as terns aggressively chased away skuas, fiercely protecting their nests.

Forth, the green blue copper extruding in a colourful stain from the rocky hillside. Fifth, convoluted columns and shattered cascades of ice along the front of the glaciers. Sixth, almost totally indifferent Weddell seals lounging on large bergy bits. A highlight in Bill’s Zodiac was the ‘imposition’ of a ‘polar silence’ in the brash ice dotted calm water clear of the glacier front…subtle popping from air bubbles escaping from melting ice and faint cracking sounds and low crashes from the glacier front indicating that this monster was alive and creeping remorsely onwards, albeit so imperceptibly slowly.

As the day progressed, Hondius continued north-wards and some blue clad passengers posed for a photo-opportunity with the red-jacketed multi-national Oceanwide guide staff on the stacked Zodiacs on the stern of deck 3. This opportunity was one of the items sold in the South Georgia Charity Action.

The afternoon lecture delivered by our resident ice expert Jacub gave serious food for thought as he presented research material related to global warming. It was a coincidence to be talking about global warming as in the late afternoon Hondius headed north towards the Drake in almost balmy weather and we all gathered eagerly on the foredeck as guides and hotel staff dispensed a moral boosting and warming alcohol laced hot chocolate treat.

Evening entertainment was yet another opportunity for us all to devour a bag of popcorn whilst laughing out loud during at the film Happy Feet. It is not just a coincidence that the Oceanwide Product induces such a mass response of happily grinning young and old faces.

Day 17: At sea, sailing towards Ushuaia

At sea, sailing towards Ushuaia
Date: 02.01.2024
Position: 60°50.7’ S / 064°08.5’ W
Wind: N 5
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: +1

We awoke to find the horizon had disappeared behind a thick blanket of fog. It created a grey and atmospheric start to the first of our two sea days sailing back to Ushuaia.

After breakfast Assistant Expedition Leader Adam, who also happened to be the birthday boy that day, invited us to his lecture in the lounge where he told us all about his life living on the British research bases Rothera and King Edward Point in Antarctica and South Georgia. It was inspiring to hear him talk about his adventures having over-wintered for two years in these remote and unique locations.

Some of us may have noticed in the morning that the ship went a little off course. That was because Shannon and Roger from Seattle got their chance to steer the Hondius having won the opportunity in the South Georgia Heritage Trust Auction, with the help of Captain Remmert and Third Officer Giovanni.

In the mid-morning Expedition Leader Sara invited us to the lecture room to learn more about the modern-day threats to Antarctica and the ocean environment.

It was then time to return our muck boots to the storeroom. Some of us had become strangely attached to them over the trip as they accompanied us on our journey, keeping our feet warm and dry so we could experience the wilderness in comfort.

After another buffet lunch (who will cook for us when we leave Hondius?!), Monika showed us a short film she put together where she interviewed many of the Hondius crew in the ‘behind the scenes’ area. This gave us an insight into the work that goes into delivering an expedition like this to one hundred and seventy guests and it was also nice to see some familiar faces talking about their lives at sea.

At the four o’clock lecture slot Expedition Guide Bill was ready and waiting for us in the lecture room to give his talk on ‘Paintings of the Sea’. Having worked as an art teacher for forty years prior to being a guide, Bill gave us some inspiring perspectives on how we have viewed the sea historically through art and how it has affected the way we see the ocean.

At recap a life-sized humpback whale calf swam through the lounge, Bill showed us just how rough the Drake Passage can get, and Meike gave us an entertaining account of the variety of tongues in the animal kingdom.

After dinner many of us went up to the lounge to get into our quiz teams. William entertained us with fun questions all related to Antarctica and the things we had learnt about and seen on our trip. We enjoyed the baby photo round where we had to guess which expedition guide featured in each photo. It was agreed that Jess was by far the cutest of the babies!

Day 18: At sea, Sailing towards Ushuaia

At sea, Sailing towards Ushuaia
Date: 03.01.2024
Position: 56°05.9 ’S / 065°35.0 ’W
Wind: NNE 9
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

The final full day of our expedition had arrived. Sara woke us for breakfast. It was hard to believe that our trip was coming to an end. The sun was shining but there certainly was a lot of motion in the ocean as we wobbled around the corridors.

The first activity of the day was a talk by Expedition Guide Sasha, where he completely captured our interest with a presentation about how he came to be a guide in Antarctica. Then Felicity, Meike, and Bill gave a joint presentation about marine plastic pollution in the lounge. After experiencing firsthand the joys and wonders that the ocean can give us, it was time to reflect on the impacts that human activities are having on the environment and what we can do to protect and restore it. Then there was a screening of the film ‘Around Cape Horn’ which showed the dramatic and dangerous voyages that have happened in those treacherous waters.

After lunch Gonzalo treated us to a talk about the traditional South American drink Mate, which was very fitting as we sailed closer and closer to Argentina. In the evening we got ready for farewell cocktails with the Captain. It was wonderful to make a toast to what turned out to be a jam-packed voyage full of wildlife, surreal scenery, stimulating lectures, and fantastic new friends. We then watched a brilliant slide show made by Expedition guide Elizabeth with photos and videos of our amazing adventures, which made us remember and realise just how much we have seen and experienced on this trip, leaving us feeling quite emotional!

We dined in the restaurant for a final time, savoring the excellent food before we had to head home and start cooking for ourselves again! During the meal we got the chance to see and applaud all the crew who work in the kitchen and hotel departments. After dinner we gathered in the bar to socialize with our new friends and travel buddies one last time, and enjoyed the seascape outside, the birdwatchers on board trying hard to get a few final species on their lists before bedtime.

Day 19: Ushuaia

Date: 04.01.2024
Position: 61° 06’S / 064° 01’W
Wind: NW 4
Weather: Partially cloudy
Air Temperature: -1

Early in the morning we arrived back in the port of Ushuaia. Our bags were packed, and we were ready to disembark the Hondius for the last time. We were feeling a mixture of sadness that our journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica had come to and end, but also a feeling of satisfaction that our travels were over, and we could head home to rest. We waved goodbye to the crew and staff and then dispersed into the city. Over the last three weeks we have seen some incredibly remote and wild places and the creatures that defy the odds and called them home. We have learnt inspiring new things about the polar environment and our precious oceans, and we have memories that will live forever in our minds. Hopefully many of us will think of these special habitats and species for years to come and endeavour to protect wildlife and the spectacular earth that we share with it. With that in mind, here is a quote from the British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough - ‘’It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.’’


Tripcode: HDS25-24
Dates: 17 Dec, 2023 - 4 Jan, 2024
Duration: 18 nights
Ship: m/v Hondius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Hondius

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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