HDS29-23, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia, Embarkation Day

Ushuaia, Embarkation Day
Date: 20.02.2023
Position: At port Ushuaia
Wind: N2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +12

After visiting Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, we stepped on board Hondius at 4pm (our home for the next 11 days) to be warmly welcomed by staff and crew. After checking in, we settled into our cabins and then all assembled in the lounge. The Chief Officer, Deidrick, gave us a mandatory safety briefing, following which we practiced putting on our life jackets before being shown to our lifeboats.

At 6.30pm we again went to the lounge but this time to celebrate the beginning of the voyage with a glass of fizz and delicious canapes. As we set sail, Captain Toni made a welcoming speech and we raised our glasses to a successful expedition. Pippa, our expedition leader, gave a brief overview of the trip and then her team took turns to introduce themselves. As we sailed out through the Beagle Channel, it was time for our first meal on board and the excited chat at dinner was all about the adventures that lay before us.

Some great wildlife encounters were already stacking up with a distant view of a juvenile King Penguin away across the harbour – an unexpected local rarity. As we sailed further into the channel we came across a veritable ‘storm’ of Sooty Shearwaters – thousands of these dark chocolate, elegant seabirds flying around us or rafting on the water in the fading light. Amongst them we also spotted South American Terns, Chilean Skua and several Southern Sealions. What a spectacle, what a start!!

Day 2: At Sea - Drake Passage

At Sea - Drake Passage
Date: 21.02.2023
Position: 57°23 S / 65°25 W
Wind: NW6
Weather: Part cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

After our first night on Hondius we had our first wakeup call from our expedition leader Pippa. Today’s program started with mandatory briefings on IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) and zodiac operations. During this briefing we learnt about the zodiac operation procedures and the IAATO guidelines on shore for the Antarctic continent. As this trip was a basecamp trip with various activities, all activity guides organised an activity briefing. The mountaineers gave their briefing first, explain about the different mountaineering activities, and the equipment that they used to get everyone up a hill or a mountain.

At noon we received our muck boots to keep our feet dry when getting on and off the zodiacs. In the afternoon we received the camping and kayaking briefings. Erin and Kieron explained the kayaking procedures and operations whilst camping guides Clara and Saskia took us through the ins and outs of sleeping on the snow in Antarctica! Outside we were getting used to the amazing seabirds flying around the ship: Soft- Plumaged, Common Diving, Wilson’s and Black-bellied Petrels plus our first Wandering Albatross – with the longest wingspan of any bird in the world (3.5m).

In the afternoon, our photography guides Koen and Georgina gave a brief introduction to the workshops that they will be giving on the trip. Before dinner we had our first proper recap; the expedition leader presents the plans for the next day and the team then get to demonstrate and share their wide expertise. Today Elizabeth presented on penguins, Felicity about whales and from Anthonie - the Antarctic convergence zone, that we would cross during the night. And so down to our first plated dinner service and chat about our first full day, before retiring to the bar or bed.

Day 3: At Sea - Drake Passage

At Sea - Drake Passage
Date: 22.02.2023
Position: 61°46 S / 063°08 W
Wind: NNW5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

The Drake Passage showed it’s more friendly side again today and many were starting to become accustomed to the movement of the ship. The main activity of the morning was the sign up for all the off-ship activities on offer during a Base Camp - mountaineering, kayaking, and camping. Later, Andrew kicked off the lecture programme about the three main penguin species likely to be seen (Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap) and how to identify them. Belonging to the brushtail family, they have a distinctive long tail used as a stabilizing anchor point when standing upright and as a rudder during swimming.

After lunch all were called to join the ‘vacuum party’ (Biosecurity check) – the important task of ensuring we do not carry invasive species of life into Antarctica. Triggered by this afternoon’s lecture topic about ice we were delighted to be served a variety of ice creams with almonds and hagelslag (sprinkles), before Jacub took us on a journey of the world’s glaciers. He explained their important role to our climate, with their accelerating melting potentially causing a rise in sea-level up to 84 cm (nearly 3 ft) by 2100, if the world doesn’t take real action against climate change now.

During the afternoon we started to encounter our first marine mammals. Sightings of huge Fin Whales interrupted Jacub’s lecture and Humpback Whale, beautiful Hourglass Dolphin and Fur Seals were also sighted. The bird species list was also increasing and Guide Simon even spotted a true rarity in the form of a Mottled Petrel. After dinner Koen & Georgina led a photography workshop in the lecture room and we headed to bed full of anticipation for our first sighting of the White Continent and all our exciting activities.

Day 4: Danco Island and Orne Island

Danco Island and Orne Island
Date: 23.02.2023
Position: 64°43 S / 062°36 W
Wind: Var 1
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +9

Our first day in Antarctica!! The scene was perfect, treating us to blue skies, flat calm conditions and breath-taking views of the white continent as we anchored up. Gentoo Penguins with fluffy chicks greeted us on the shoreline and showed us how they climb to the peak of this steep-sided island with ease – many of them making their nests right at the peak and on any snow-free, rocky outcrops, their “highways” carved deep into the snow. We had our first chance to try out snowshoeing, which made the steep climb a lot easier and the rewards were the staggering views of the surrounding Antarctic Peninsula and Ronge Island. Our zodiac cruise rewarded us with Humpback Whale and Weddell Seal encounters and, of course, spectacular ice. To finish off our great morning, the brave (or slightly crazy! ) took the polar plunge - a dip in the near-freezing waters, right alongside the penguins!

With the sun still on our backs in the afternoon, we cruised and walked around Orne Island, adding nesting Chinstrap Penguins to our list. At the landing site we were able closely observe some huge (and slightly grumpy!) male Antarctic Fur Seals. These animals breed on the sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. Skuas and Imperial Shags were also present, whilst the zodiac cruisers were able to spot both Minke and Humpback Whales. We could see the mountaineers on Ronge Island, appearing as tiny as penguins to us as we watched them from our distant viewpoint. By late afternoon it was time to head back to Hondius once more for recap and dinner – all of us truly satisfied with a perfect first day. Many wonderful memories were made today in this vast and spectacular land.

Day 5: Port Charcot and Peterman Island

Port Charcot and Peterman Island
Date: 24.02.2023
Position: 65° 05 S / 064° 01 W
Wind: Var 1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

We woke up to yet another windless and clear day, as we sailed through the famous Lemaire Channel - 11km long and only 1600m wide at its narrowest point. Lemaire is also known as the “Kodak Gap”, a reference to the famous manufacturer of film rolls. And those film rolls have been used a lot here since the fjord like landscape, snowy peaks and ice bergs make it a photographer’s paradise. Port Charcot was our destination, a 3 km wide bay indenting the north shore of Booth Island. It is known as an iceberg graveyard, the bergs calving from the surrounding glaciers and only disappearing when they melt, break up. We enjoyed a long cruise amongst the huge, sculptured ice, spotting Humpback Whales with Leopard and Weddell Seals resting on the ice.

After another delicious lunch it was time to dress up again expedition style for Peterman Island, where we visited several penguin rookeries. Here we saw our first Adelie Penguins amongst the rookery of Gentoo Penguins. Most of them were moulting adults but careful observation found at least one well developed chick. Meanwhile the Gentoo’s were still feeding a whole age range of chicks, some very young and small. On our zodiac cruise around the island, we found Antarctic Fur Seals and Imperial Shags. Some of us were also lucky to observe a very chilled Humpback Whale mother and her calf. They were mostly resting but, as kids tend to do, the calf was a bit more active, often circling its mother. For this calf it was most likely the first time down here in the cold feeding grounds having been born in warm tropical waters. Towards evening the setting sun delivered stunning views of the mountains with beautiful colors across the sky and on the snowy peaks.

Day 6: Damoy and Cuverville Island

Damoy and Cuverville Island
Date: 25.02.2023
Position: 64°48 S / 063°29 W
Wind: E2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +2

Our third activity day onboard Hondius started with another beautiful morning in Antarctica. We awoke to calm conditions to pick up the campers from Hovgaard Island before our transit to Damoy Island. On land, we explored Damoy’s penguin colonies and stretched our legs with a nice hike. This site has Damoy Hut which was established by the British Antarctic Survey in 1975. The hut was used as a transit post for the BAS staff and a storage location for gear heading to Rothera Research Station. Our AEL, Adam, once overwintered at Rothera and had wonderful stories to share about his time there and the significance of Damoy Hut. The zodiac cruisers were lucky to experience another trip on the water with beautiful blue skies and gentle light illuminating the mountain peaks. We also had close up views of hauled out Weddell Seals, with Gentoo Penguin chicks desperately begging for regurgitated food. But perhaps the star of the show was the ice and its underappreciated aspect of sound. As the sun took on its role, our zodiac drivers turned off their engines and we drifted amongst a symphony of thousands of air bubbles exploding every second; utilizing a novel sense to experience Antarctica.

Over lunch, our bridge team conducted another well executed, narrow channel transit bringing us through the Neumayer Channel to Cuverville Island. Here we had a full ship zodiac cruise, zipping in and out of the icebergs, growlers and bergy bits looking for wildlife. Two juvenile Humpback Whales displayed socializing behaviour whilst Weddell and Crabeater Seals basked in the sun on ice floes. But the best find was a massive young male Elephant Seal lying out, camouflaged amongst the rocks of the beach. An eagle-eyed guest drew the congratulations of their fellow cruisers who were lucky enough to spot this fairly rare visitor. As we headed back to Hondius an increase in wind strength showed us what Antarctica can have in store, with spray coming over the front of the zodiacs. All aboard, we headed to our next location of Paradise Bay for the nights camping activity.

Day 7: Paradise Bay and Port Lockroy/Jugla

Paradise Bay and Port Lockroy/Jugla
Date: 26.02.2023
Position: 64°41 S / 063°07 W
Wind: NNE4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

After another delicious breakfast, our morning activity was a full-ship cruise exploring the stunningly beautiful Paradise Bay. It got off to an exciting start as we watched feeding Humpback Whales. In Skontorp cove we witnessed majestic glacier margins shooting to the sky with crevassed ice pillars and cliffs, to give birth to even more icebergs. The shoreline was also covered with moss and lichen - one of our first signs of plant life within Antarctica. Within the bay sits Brown Station, home of the Argentine Antarctica Program and the oldest permanent station in Antarctica. We were able to drive closely up to the facility to observe and get a wave from a friendly researcher.

After a lunch time transit, we found ourselves at Port Lockroy and we headed out in waves for Bransfield House, one of the most popular tourist locations in Antarctica. It has a museum with exhibits depicting life on the historic base and the long-awaited gift stop filled with penguin souvenirs plus the famous Penguin Post Office. This is the southernmost post office in the world and we excitedly popped our post cards in the post box, not really knowing exactly when they will be delivered – but that’s half the fun! Located on Goudier Island, it was discovered by Jean Baptiste Charcot in 1904. It is named for French politician who funded the expedition as a safe harbour for the whaling ships from 1911 until 1931. They needed fresh water to process the whales killed, meaning they had to be located close to glaciers. The main scientific work was ionospheric research (study of the upper atmosphere which was used for high frequency radio) and other projects included utilization of the environment and habitat preference for lichens, birds, and mammals. The base closed in 1962 and in 1995 the Antarctic Treaty designated it a Historical Site and Monument. In 2006, the UK Antarctica Heritage Trust took over the site and has carried out Gentoo nesting research since 1996 to observe the impact of tourism on breeding success. A highlight of the afternoon was the exciting visit from the resident Leopard Seal, Big Bertha (Pippa’s favourite!). She frolicked around and underneath our zodiacs, occasionally even playfully chomping on the sides. What a great way to end our visit to Port Lockroy!

Day 8: Orne Harbour and Neko Harbour

Orne Harbour and Neko Harbour
Date: 27.02.2023
Position: 64°47 S / 062°46 W
Wind: W7
Weather: Part cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

This morning we woke up to our first morning of truly Antarctic weather. With wind speeds of 50 knots and a dark, moody sky, Pippa announced that we wouldn’t be making our landing at Orne Harbour this morning. Instead, two lectures were offered: Ursula took us on a deep dive into pinnipeds, then Saskia on the Nordenskjold expeditions, giving us an insight into early Antarctic exploration. Then pizzas for lunch!

During lunch we navigated around to Neko harbour which, protected from the prevailing winds, was like glass and even with a little bit of sunshine. Ashore, we were treated to wonderful views of the massive glacial harbour as well as two Weddell Seals and an Elephant seal! The cruisers headed out where they were enjoyed sightings of Humpback and Minke whales. All the time, the glacier cracked and groaned; every now and then a calving was witnessed causing a great deal of excitement as ice crashed into the sea.

Back on board we headed to recap to hear about the next day’s plan. Our hotel manager, William, then announced his special dinner event – an Antarctic BBQ with music and free drinks. Well, we heartily rose to the challenge, donning our outdoor gear before heading to deck 5 aft to meet the entire galley team, serving a vast array of great food. Once we had eaten our fill the tables were cleared and the music turned up so the dancing could commence. Some of us danced into the night on the back deck while others preferred to engage in conversation in the warm lounge. Surrounded by the ice and sights of Antarctica we had a wonderful time and eventually everyone made their way back to their cabins to get some well-earned rest ahead of the next day’s activities.

Day 9: Orne Harbour and Neko Harbour

Orne Harbour and Neko Harbour
Date: 28.02.2023
Position: 64°30S / 061°58 W
Wind: NE5/6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -3

This morning we arrived early at in Fournier Bay. However, due wind gusting consistently above 40 knots, the full ship zodiac cruise was cancelled; for some of us a much-needed rest after several activity packed days. A morning of lectures was kick-started by Adam, who shared his stories and experiences as Science Support staff for the British Antarctic Survey in the Antarctic. Mid-morning, we started sailing towards our afternoon destination of Foyn Harbour, through the Gerlache Strait, an area very popular for cetacean sightings. With many eyes scanning the horizon, expedition guide Ursula managed to spot a small pod of Orcas (Killer Whales). This group was made up of one adult male, a mother and calf and at least two other juveniles. The expedition team recognized they were Type A Orcas, the largest of the four eco-types found in the Antarctic. Over the next 45 minutes, everyone enjoyed an incredible encounter as they surfaced multiple times close to the ship.

At 11:00, Elizabeth gave her lecture on ‘What Does It Mean To Be Endangered’, discussing marine policies and the meaning of the ICUN Red List. An early lunch was served as we steamed towards Foyn Harbour. This area is home to the wreck of the Governoren, a Norwegian factory whaling ship. In January 1915, a party on board got a little out of hand and resulted in the ship catching fire and being run aground in order to save the 85 crew. We could see the bow of the Governoren above the surface of the water, as well as many nesting Antarctic Terns, which have made it their home. We also managed to spot more Humpback Whales, Antarctic Fur Seals and Weddell Seals during the cruise.

A quick recap and buffet dinner was followed by the opportunity for another continental landing at Portal Point. The views across Charlotte Bay were spectacular and we were even treated to photogenic Chinstrap Penguins ashore and Humpback Whales both near and far! By 21:00, everyone was back onboard and enjoying a hot toddy in the lounge, merrily chatting about the events of the day.

Day 10: Cierva Cove and Palaver Point

Cierva Cove and Palaver Point
Date: 01.03.2023
Position: 64°07 S / 061°11 W
Wind: NE5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Our last full day of operations in Antarctica saw us again chasing the weather, searching for that sheltered bay that would allow us to make the most of the final day. First up was a full ship’s cruise around the beautiful Cierva Cove. Arriving just before breakfast we were greeted by grey skies and persistent snow but it gave an atmospheric feel to the morning. The sea state was good and, with some big icebergs ahead, we set off towards the nearby land and the Argentinian station of Primavera. Almost immediately the staff radios were full of news of several Humpback Whales and Leopard Seals, which instantly brought the excitement levels up a notch. It didn’t really kick off until about an hour in when everybody naturally gravitated to an area where, already fully underway, was an incredible ‘Leopard Seal Party’. Five or six were swimming around the zodiacs giving amazing views as they peered menacingly out of the sea at the gaggle of interlopers bobbing around in front of them; they were clearly very curious and spent long periods gazing at us and swimming next to, around and underneath the zodiacs giving everyone incredible views and a truly unforgettable experience.

In the afternoon we moved to Palaver Point; it was still snowing but with a fresh covering of beautiful, pure white, fresh snow the busy Chinstrap Penguin colony was given a wonderful make-over. With the marvellous Chinstraps, boisterous Fur Seals and melodically singing Weddell Seals on shore, it was a fitting and memorable finale to the operations down on the peninsula with a couple of sea-days to look forward to, allowing everyone to decompress and look back on an awesome trip.

Day 11: At sea - Drake Passage

At sea - Drake Passage
Date: 02.03.2023
Position: 61°15 S / 62°36 W
Wind: NW7/8
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

We woke up (those of us that managed to get some sleep!) to our first day back in the Drake Passage to be greeted with a swell on the port side of 4-5m and winds around 40 knots. A bit of a shock to the system after the relative calm of the peninsula. The view from the Bridge attracted the unaffected but, unsurprisingly, the dining room was sparsely populated at breakfast. Budding photographers entered their images into the photo competition before the first lecture of the day from Ursula on the hunting strategies of whales and dolphins. Lunch was better attended as we adjusted.

Despite the fact the decks were closed until early afternoon, the birding from inside the ship yielded a good variety of pelagic seabirds. Light-mantled Sooty and Southern Royal Albatross, White-chinned and Soft-plumaged Petrels put in appearances along with the inevitable Wilson’s Petrel – a species we’ve recorded every day outside of embarkation day. Only the second Cape Petrel was sighted (a bird we normally record in the hundreds earlier in the season). A superb adult, male Wandering Albatross shone white as the sun came out, followed by a juvenile in its typical less showy, but still beautiful, plumage.

In the afternoon we continued the lecture programme with Jacob talking about ‘The Future of Ice’ and Felicity on the threats to marine life. The lectures throughout the trip have been building up to a crescendo – that we all must do something to protect our planet. Standing on the sidelines is no longer an option….we have to get ourselves into the game. For us, this has been a trip of a lifetime – let it also be a life changing trip.

Day 12: At sea - Drake Passage

At sea - Drake Passage
Date: 03.03.2023
Position: 57°24 S / 62°33 W
Wind: WNW5
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +4

This morning we woke up to a slightly calmer ‘Drake shake’ as the swell had diminished slightly during the night. Today’s programme was kicked off by Simon presenting the different bird species we have encountered during our transits across the Drake Passage. We have been very fortunate to spot so many different bird species during our crossings, including the largest living extant bird, the Wandering Albatross. The expedition team set up a screening of the ‘Antarctica – Seven Worlds One Planet’ documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough. For the team, it is a real joy being able to share this episode as many of us now recognise some of the locations used. For example, the scene of the Leopard Seal hunting the penguin was filmed in Cierva Cove (our last full ship zodiac cruise), where many of us were treated to multiple Leopard Seal encounters.

Muck boots were returned before lunch, in amongst paying some hefty bar bills! Simon and Andrew invited everyone out on deck for a bird identification session. As the winds were dropping throughout the afternoon, there were a handful of birds behind the ship, including Northern Giant Petrel, Grey-headed Albatross and even a very rare sighting of Southern Bottlenose Whales! Afternoon cake arrived just in time for our Antarctic Trivia Quiz, hosted by Anthonie. In small teams we racked our brains trying to answer questions relating to the different wildlife encounters, lectures and locations during our voyage. It was then time for Captain’s cocktails and our farewell recap - an opportunity for us to thank all the crew for making it such a successful expedition. Captain Toni then thanked everyone on board for being such brilliant guests and wishing us safe onward travels. Koen also presented the trip slideshow; an incredible montage of photos and videos, showcasing some of the highlights from the past eleven days.

Finally, it was time for our last dinner, a truly delicious menu served by the wonderful galley team. It is safe to say that many of us will miss the wide variety of dishes and freshly baked goods that have been available to us, day and night! Now, it was time to finalise our packing and enjoy the views of the Beagle Channel with a celebratory last glass in hand.

Day 13: Ushuaia, Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia, Disembarkation Day
Date: 04.03.2023
Position: At port Ushuaia
Wind: Var 2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +8

One last wake-up call. Our bags packed, we headed down for breakfast one last time and got ourselves ready to disembark Hondius, that has taken us to one of the most beautiful places on earth. The cruise has taken us on a remarkable journey over the notorious Drake Passage to the mind-blowing 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.


Tripcode: HDS29-23
Dates: 20 Feb - 4 Mar, 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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