• Home
  • Triplogs
  • HDS29-24, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Elephant Island - Antarctica - Polar Circle

HDS29-24, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Elephant Island - Antarctica - Polar Circle

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 20.02.2024
Position: 54° 51.8 ’S / 068° 01.9’W
Wind: SE 6
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

Our journey has finally begun! After a day full of travelling for most of us, or a rest day and exploring Ushuaia, we embarked on our new home for the coming weeks: the Hondius.

As we went up the gangway and said farewell to Ushuaia at around 4 pm, we were welcomed by the friendly crew and staff of the Hondius. We were shown around the ship, the place to be home for the upcoming weeks. But first, before we could head out to the Beagle Channel, we had a mandatory safety briefing to attend. It is important to know what to do in an emergency situation, and seeing everyone in their orange life jackets (Netherlands’ national color) was an interesting view as well!

Pippa introduced herself as our Expedition Leader. She explained what to expect in our voyage, from weather briefings and what an expedition cruise actually is. One of the first things she mentioned is going from Plan A, to B, to C, and so on… And, that we were actually already on plan B for this voyage! Pippa explained to us how weather might influence trips like this one, and that wind is crucial for safety. On the weather chart she showed, became clear that if we were going to the Falklands right now, the ‘purple monster’ (a storm system) would follow us all the way to South Georgia. So instead of going to the Falklands – South Georgia – Antarctica, we are doing the trip anti-clockwise: Antarctica – South Georgia – The Falklands.

The Captain, Captain Arthur, came down from the bridge to introduce himself as well. He told us about the Drake Passage conditions being not that bad, only 3 meters of swell maximum, which is in fact quite good! With a glass of champagne or a non-alcoholic equivalent we raised our glasses to a succesful trip.

After the explanation of the new plans and some snacks, our Expedition Staff introduced themselves. With a lot of different nationalities and different specialities, the team is for sure very varied.

Day 2: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 21.02.2024
Position: 57°34.6’ S / 065°34.1’ W
Wind: N 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

Today marked the full day at sea on the Drake Passage! The passage had relatively calm waters, providing an ideal sea state for acclimatising to life onboard! The morning started with expedition leader Pippa's first wakeup call, followed by a delightful breakfast served between 8 and 9 AM. The day's agenda kicked off with a mandatory Zodiac & IAATO briefing in the observation lounge. Participants were instructed on proper zodiac entry, exit, and navigation—a vital skill set for the forthcoming expedition. The IAATO briefing underlined the significance of respectful wildlife interaction in this pristine environment. As stewards of these untouched lands, it's important to minimize disruption to the local fauna. Subsequently, muck boots were distributed around noon on deck 3, ensuring everyone was equipped for the journey ahead.

At 11:30 AM, Martin delivered a captivating lecture on the avian species of the Drake Passage. With many of these birds likely to grace our journey, the session proved both informative and engaging. Following the lecture, numerous attendees ventured outside to observe the majestic albatrosses in flight, armed with newfound knowledge for identification. A delicious lunch was served between 12:30 and 1:30 PM, preceding a biosecurity check requiring all outer gear, backpacks, muck boots, and tripods/walking sticks for inspection and sanitation.

Once the biosecurity procedures concluded, Elizabeth led another captivating lecture on the whales of Antarctica, emphasizing their potential sightings throughout our voyage. The decks were abuzz with excitement as passengers eagerly scanned the horizon for wildlife sightings. Subsequently, the daily briefing and recaps commenced. Pippa provided an overview of the convergence zone, clarifying its significance and our impending crossing. Pelin followed with a discourse on sailor superstitions, revealing intriguing maritime folklore, including the auspiciousness of black cats versus the perceived ill fortune associated with women aboard ships. Rose concluded with an enlightening recap on Antarctic Peninsula mapping, acknowledging the contributions of various Antarctic explorers to our understanding of the region. The day ended with a plated dinner served in the Dining room, featuring the classic dessert tiramisu. With the first day at sea on the Drake Passage behind us, anticipation mounts for our imminent arrival on the Antarctic Peninsula—just one more day at sea before our grand expedition reaches its first destination!

Day 3: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 22.02.2024
Position: 62°14.5’ S / 064°10.7’ W
Wind: NW 3
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

Our second day on the Drake Passage. Around 10am, we already spotted some of the first icebergs! Quite exciting, and soon more came into sight. Not only that, some purpoising penguins were also spotted in the morning. The conditions were excellent to go outside, nice blue sky and clear visibility.

At 9:15, Sasha gave us an excellent geographic introduction to Antarctica (not geology!). The next lecture was given by Ursula at 11:00, one of our marine mammal specialists on board. She told us all about the seals, in her lecture called ‘Living on the land and sea’ in the observation lounge.

Not only lectures were on for today, but we also had to pick up our boots. Just before lunch we went down to get our pair of muckboots, which we would rely on heavily the coming weeks for keeping our feet warm and dry. We had to do more preparation for the following morning; biosecurity! As explained by Pippa before, biosecurity is very important as we want to conserve the places we visit and have as little impact as possible. Thus, this is being done by making sure we don’t carry any unwanted biological material ashore. With the help of staff members, we all got to know how useful a paperclip can be when cleaning out the velcro of our outergear…

After lunch, Pippa called everyone on the ship together for a brief announcement. Unfortunately, one of our fellow passengers was having a medical problem and an evacuation was needed as soon as possible. The person in fact was stable, but they needed to go to a nearby hospital to get the right treatment. This meant that our itinerary had be changed: we were heading to the South Shetlands, towards King George Island, so a medical evacuation could be carried out. Lucky in an unlucky situation, our position granted us minimal delay for our own voyage.

During the afternoon at 16:00, one of our birders onboard, Meike, gave a lecture about what a penguin exactly is. Some of us were quite surprised to know the answer! This was good preparation for seeing penguins up close, in the nearby future. Meanwhile, heavy fog was setting in. This is quite common in the Drake Passage as different waters converge at the Antarctic Convergence Zone.

During recap, Pippa told us about the plans for tomorrow. Pelin told us a little bit about the first sighting of Antarctica, Ursala more about breathing behaviour of the whales that we find here. However, the recap was multiple times interrupted by sightings of purpoising penguins and whales. During dinner, Pippa announced a change of plans, going towards plan D, which was the preferred plan of landing at Penguin Island in the following morning! We got some beautiful humpback sightings during dinner to finish the day.

Day 4: Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands

Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 23.02.2024
Position: 62° 05.4’ S / 057° 54.9’ W
Wind: SSE 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -1

Today was our first landing day at our first destination! Despite a slight adjustment in plans required by a medical evacuation, we made the most of our time by embarking on an insightful morning excursion to Penguin Island, our inaugural landing spot! Thus, the day started early to maximize our onshore experience. Following breakfast at 8 AM, the first group disembarked for the island, while the second group prepared for a scenic zodiac cruise.

Situated off the coast of King George Island, Penguin Island boasted numerous penguin colonies, including both chinstraps and gentoos. Brown skuas soared overhead, keenly eyeing the colonies for potential meals, while small storm petrels and blue-eyed cormorants dotted the landscape. The shoreline was covered with fur seals, interspersed with occasional sightings of elephant seals. A trek along the island's path ascended 170 meters to Deacon Peak, affording panoramic views of the crater below, within which nested a smaller secondary crater. You could walk all the way around it, where the highest point was most definitely windy and cold!

Around 10 AM, the groups swapped, ensuring all participants experienced the island's highlights both on foot and by sea. Returning to the ship for a nice and warm lunch, we cruised towards King George Island, and it provided a great view! Meanwhile, at approximately 2:30 PM, Pelin delivered an engaging lecture on Gerlache and the Belgica expedition. Suddenly, amidst the presentation, a majestic blue whale surfaced, around 300 to 400 meters off the ship. As we entered the bay of King George Island, glimpses of the Chilean and Russian research stations provided insight into scientific endeavours in this remote location. Overall, King George Island boasted numerous research facilities alongside an airstrip facilitating transportation to and from the region.

At 6:15 PM, the daily briefing and recaps commenced, offering insights into the forthcoming day's plans. Annelou provided an interesting overview of the volcanic features of Penguin Island, a captivating reminder of our morning exploration. Subsequently, Rose enlightened us further about King George Island, delineating the various onshore research stations. Meike concluded the recaps with an informative presentation on the Chinstrap penguins encountered earlier, enhancing our understanding of the local fauna. With recollections shared, we went on for dinner. We concluded the day in the lounge with leisurely activities, nice conversations, and taking everything in before the next expedition day starts from the beginning.

Day 5: Foyn Harbour and Orne Harbour

Foyn Harbour and Orne Harbour
Date: 24.02.2024
Position: 64°32.5’ S / 061° 57.6’ W
Wind: S 2
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

Having spent the day prior in the South Shetland Islands, we were eager and excited to arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula this morning. For many this trip was years in the making and you could feel the energy onboard skyrocketed. Our bridge team navigated us wonderfully to our first activity location, Foyn Harbour. This fantastic day started even before breakfast was called! Our first true look at Antarctica. The ship was surrounded by towering snow-capped and glaciated peaks, offering spectators no doubt as to the harsh, yet pristine, environment we will be exploring in the coming days. Foyn Harbour is situated on the east side of Enterprise Island and in addition to the whale filled waters and stunning scenery, this site also has the remains of an old shipwreck, the Governoren. For our scuba divers onboard, the opportunity to dive amongst the wreck is a once in a lifetime.

On January 18th, 1915, just 800 miles away from Shackleton’s shipwrecked Endurance, the Governoren had a similar demise. She was one of the largest whaling factory ships as it could catch and process the whales onboard, making this design and construction more economically viable. She was known for producing more than 22,000 gallons of oil and was one of the most technically sophisticated. The crew threw a party to celebrate one of the biggest catch seasons they had before returning to Norway. The dancing was held below deck and perhaps got a little out of hand when someone knocked a lamp off the table and the ship caught fire. As the ship was carrying gallons and gallons of whale oil, the fire was quickly fuelled by the whale oil and become out of control. All 85 crew members were able to escape and watched the ship ablaze from the shoreline. The cruise was filled with beautiful deep blue icebergs, striking towers of glacial walls, and curious humpback whales! What a fantastic first activity on the true Antarctic Peninsula.

In the afternoon we headed for a landing site called Orne Harbour. The landing comprises of a moderate climb to a vantage point overlooking the Errera Channel, Gerlache Strait, Anvers and Brabant Islands. The scenery here is breath-taking but the second reason behind this landing is that it is located on the Antarctic continent! For many of our guests, landing on the continent is important for them! A zig-zagged route leads you up the steep cliff side with the prominent rocky headland of Spigot Peak dwarfing you.

At the top while looking over the vast expanse of the Errera Channel, there is also a Chinstrap penguin colony at the top, mosses, and lichen on the approach up, and views of blue-eyed shags during the zodiac cruise. Our zodiac cruisers were also fortunate to have views of calving glaciers and veracious avalanches as well! We made it back to the ship just in time before the evening storm came rolling in. Anchor weighed, compass heading to the south, and to the Antarctic Circle we go!

Day 6: Fish Islands & Antarctic Circle Crossing

Fish Islands & Antarctic Circle Crossing
Date: 25.02.2024
Position: 65°59.6’ S / 065°25.1’ W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

When we were woken up by Pippa this morning, we didn’t know that the morning zodiac cruise would turn out this amazing. We had made good progress overnight so we arrived at the Fish Islands in time for our morning activity. While at breakfast at 07:30 we sailed through a wide channel with some icebergs in the distance, but not much at first. Where were we and what were we going to explore? That was a question we saw in many eyes. It was overcast outside with some light snow/rain, so we had to dress up warmly.

Around 08:45 the first group was called down to deck 3 to board the zodiacs. And there we went. Out on our adventure. We headed for big icebergs. One more beautiful than the other. Everywhere you looked there was something quite extraordinary. The different patterns of the ice and the colors. From snow white to so many shades of blue. Especially when a foot of the iceberg stretched out into the water, you could see the aquamarine blue just below the surface. Sometimes reflecting back on the ice hanging above. There were some real pieces of art floating around here. A few of the zodiacs passed a growler (official name of a small piece of an iceberg) which looked like it had different air bubbles, big and small that reflected different colors depending at which angle you look at it. Just amazing.

And so many Adelie penguins. They were everywhere. With nice backdrops of icebergs, on the snow and hopping around on the bare rocks. Some with their Mohican like hairdo, as they were still molting. Some of us even saw Crabeaters and a Weddell Seals in the water. A surprise came to the end of the cruise when we made a landing on one of the islands. Extremely special, as not many visitors to Antarctica get to land on these islands. Some of us landed on Mackerel Island and with other six zodiacs we landed on Trout Island, where we stepped up the rocks and could get up close with the Adelie penguins that were chilling there. The Skua couple were protecting their youngster. When we came too close, as they were blended in so well with the colors, they would call out. After almost 3 hours of cruise, we returned back to Hondius, but we could have stayed out for even longer. It was just an amazing trip for every zodiac, but as for real exploration goes, everybody had their own special moment in this fabulous area at 66° South. Especially when there was no wind, flat calm water and a mysteriously grey cloud covered the sky. A real Antarctic experiences!

Back on board we went for another delicious lunch. Then the sky opened up and the sun came out, shedding light on beautiful icebergs that we were passing through. Many of us went outside to get some fresh air and take photos of the stunning scenery. At 15:30 many of us gathered in the Observation Lounge to listen to the story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott and their respective expeditions to the South Pole, given by Saskia. By the time she finished we were almost at the Antarctic Circle. Pippa announced that some festivities would happen on the bow.

At 17:15 we arrived at the Antarctic Circle and crossed it at 66°33’S / 67°08’W. The weather could not have been better. Most of us were at the bow watching the expedition team getting ready to celebrate the crossing. By tradition a lot of us kissed a fish and got stamped on the cheek with special Antarctic circle crossing stamp prepared by Pippa. We were treated with good dance music and hot chocolate, rum, and cream. And a decorated photo frame was provided to take pictures on this memorable place on earth. As all evenings we ended the day with a recap given by expedition leader Pippa and some of our burning questions in the question box were answered by Sasha. Then off to dinner and a last drink in the bar before everybody went to bed after another amazing day here in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 7: Detaille Island

Detaille Island
Date: 26.02.2024
Position: 66° 51.5’ S / 066° 48.3’ W
Wind: N 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Today was a day of adventure and discovery as the Hondius set sail into the breathtaking Lallemand Fjord, with our sights set on Detaille Island as our morning destination. The early morning greeted us with a spectacular surprise as a pod of Orcas gracefully accompanied our journey, setting the perfect tone for the day ahead. As the anchor lowered, we eagerly prepared for a day filled with activities both on shore and aboard our trusty zodiacs. Despite the cloudy and overcast skies, with light snowflakes dancing in the air, excitement buzzed through the air.

Detaille Island awaited our arrival, and navigating through some brash ice, we reached the landing site where Pippa warmly welcomed us ashore. A small hike up the hill led us to a historic site and monument left behind by the British in the late 1950s. Base W, as it was known, served as a British research station focused on surveying, geology, and meteorology, with a particular emphasis on contributing to the International Geophysical Year of 1957.This morning, our historians Saskia and Pelin provided insightful interpretations of the station's history. We learned about the purpose of the Base and its significance during its operational years. It was fascinating to delve into the scientific endeavours undertaken at this remote outpost in Antarctica.

However, as we explored the abandoned hut, we were reminded of the harsh realities of life in such an extreme environment. The British ultimately evacuated the station due to the challenges posed by sea ice and harsh weather conditions, rendering it inaccessible for much of the time. While some explored the island on foot, others were out on the zodiacs to discover the surrounding waters, where we were greeted by Antarctic wildlife: from fur seals to Weddell seals, Adelie Penguins to several Humpback Whales. Towering icebergs, ranging from tabular to growlers, added to the awe-inspiring spectacle of the Antarctic landscape.

As we returned to the comfort of the Hondius, we were greeted by the warm hospitality of our hotel manager, William, and treated to a delicious lunch prepared by head chef Bawa and his talented team. Meanwhile, Captain Arthur and Expedition Leader Pippa made the decision to sail north in search of better weather for tomorrow, leading to an afternoon filled with captivating lectures that enriched our understanding of the region.

Pelin guided us on a captivating journey through history, recounting the fascinating tale of Operation Tabarin, a Top-secret mission during World War II, and the intriguing story of the post office at Port Lockroy. Followed by Rose who shared stories of Antarctic explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot, man who wintered in Port Charcot, in Booth Island, the place we are going to visit. As the day drew to a close, we gathered for drinks at the bar, savouring the moments shared and reflecting on the incredible experiences of the day. Recaps offered insights into the day's highlights, from the charming story of Steve the Dog to the facts about the unique significance of visiting the South of the Circle. Following this eventful day, we sat down to enjoy a lovely four-course dinner together, appreciating the delicious food. As we wind down for the night, looking forward to the adventures of tomorrow, we can't help but smile, knowing it's been good day.

Day 8: Pleneau Island & Port Charcot

Pleneau Island & Port Charcot
Date: 27.02.2024
Position: 65°06.3’ S / 064°02.0’ W
Wind: ESE 1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

Wakeup call 0645h, breakfast 0700h. Early morning again as we planned to do two operations today. The weather looked good in the first part of the day deteriorating during the afternoon.

The morning belonged to Pleneau Island, a place where the icebergs came to die. It would be a long zodiac cruise with no landing. Conditions were perfect, no wind, the surface of the ocean looked like a mirror, and there were beautiful icebergs everywhere. Loading the zodiacs was easy today, we divided ourselves into three groups, each one led by our EL Pippa and our AELs Chris and Adam. The area felt like a gigantic maze, drivers needed to pay attention to navigation, little rocks kept popping here and there and it was a matter of team work to make the trip safe. The black mountains contrasted with the white snow and the blue icebergs, water was clear and everyone was in high spirits for what the day could bring. Every now and then we switched the engine off to hear the silence and the little noises that the ice made. Cracking, dripping, splashing. We heard thunder and a little wave disturbed the surface, pointing towards the origin of thew sound, a piece of ice just broke off one of thew icebergs.

Suddenly we saw through the corner of our eyes a shadow of something bigger. A leopard Seal!! Whoa! A huge, beautiful animal splashing around our zodiacs… She was in a playful and curious mood, so we gathered around her and it felt like she knew that we were watching her carefully as she swam underneath the zodiac and popped her head out a few times. She was extremely curious about these strange devices that showed up in her environment. But there was more to come, we kept cruising and saw two more leopard seals having a nap on a rock and on a piece of ice. They looked so quiet and innocent when they slept. It was hard to convince ourselves that was indeed an apex predator not an animal we could pet. At the end of the cruise, we spotted 8 leopard seals. Magic. Someone asked if they only had a raft of penguins jumping around to end the morning on a high note, and before we knew it, there they were. A raft of penguins saying goodbye on the way back to the ship. Lunch is prepared for 1130h. A quick lunch as we were heading to a split landing early in the afternoon.

Gentoo penguins populate Port Charcot. We were welcomed with raft of penguins coming in and out of the rocky landing site and you could smell them before you saw them. The landing area consisted of a steep icy walk followed by a nice gentle walk towards the penguin colony, where the penguin highway was busy with birds going up and down. The most adventurous of us took the hike up the hill where the ‘cairn’ was built and you could have a beautiful view of the channel and the bay. Towards the end of the afternoon the wind kept picking up and the walk up the hill got a little bit more challenging but nevertheless we did a fantastic job enjoying the walk and the views.

Day 9: Mikkelsen Harbour

Mikkelsen Harbour
Date: 28.02.2024
Position: 63°56.7’ S / 060°54.5’ W
Wind: NE 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

Today is the day of Antarctic challenges. Antarctica showed its more common face of fall with winds, rain and 100% cloud cover. Possibly that quite a number of us thought: “I will skip this landing and enjoy a quiet morning on board.”

However, as we entered Mikkelsen Harbour Pippa announced that a landing and the long-awaited polar plunge will be offered on the small D’Hainaut Island. Drivers carefully navigated the zodiacs through the waves while avoiding the rocks in the very shallow waters. It didn’t take long for the wind and rain to soak our jackets, pants, and gloves. Soon an impressive number of us stepped on land withstanding the challenging conditions during the morning.

On the landing beach hundreds of whalebones of various sizes and shapes covered the gravel. In-between and around the rotting remains of a wooden water were numerous Gentoo penguins. Many of which were in the middle of the moulting process. Not aware that these remains are witness of the dark times of Antarctica more than 100 years ago. Carefully we found our way through the bones to walk up a gentle snow-covered slope. On the ridge we got a nice overlook over the small island, the small rookeries of penguins, the little beach, and the Argentine refugee hut. From this elevated position Giant petrels could be observed chasing the penguins to separate one out. They grabbed the chick by the head when an adult penguin came running to save the chick from its certain death.

Before heading back to the ship, about 50 of us took the courage to run into the cold water. Screaming equally out of shock and joy. Some were faster back on the beach, yet their faces expressed some degree of joy. Others did prolong in the cold water as long as possible to let this rather special moment to sink in. Then things went fast. Put on the clothes, ride back on the zodiac, sign in, walk to the cabin, take off clothes and run into the warm shower. Given how cold and wet the plungers were when taking off their clothes, the expedition team later declared today’s plunge to be a TPP: A True Polar Plunge. And a great Well Done to all the brave who came on land to expose themselves to cold and wet Antarctica.

Soon Hondius set sail again. After the well-deserved lunch and some rest, we met in the observation lunge to listen to Meike’s lecture presenting Euphausia superba, the Antarctic krill. These tiny shrimp-like zooplankton of about six centimetres in length, are the key species of the Antarctic food web as all live feeds directly or indirectly on them. Yet the industrial krill fisheries are growing jeopardising once again the complex ecosystem which has not yet recovered the uncontrolled exploitation of seals and whales in the last century.

Later Pelin presented the story of a forgotten adventure that took place in the area of the Antarctic Sound where we had planned to pass through. But bad weather kept us away. From 1901 to 1904 the Swede Otto Nordenskjöld led the Swedish Antarctic Expedition to explore the east side of the Peninsula. He and his men as well as the retrieving party led by Carl Anton Larsen were both forced to overwinter in the continent. Johan, our Swedish dive guide, calls Nordenskjöld another hero, yet his story is rarely told.

Day 10: Elephant Island & A23A

Elephant Island & A23A
Date: 29.02.2024
Position: 61°04.0’ S / 054°46.6’ W
Wind: WNW 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

The 29th of February – what a strange day it is. It happens once every four years, so we just had to live it in the most special way possible. And, jumping far ahead, we made it!

The morning was calm and sunny. By taking a more attentive look it was possible to see that Hondius was located right in the eye of a cyclone. The sky above us was blue and there was almost no wind, but closer to the horizon in all directions the sky was heavily clouded.

We were sailing North-East approaching Elephant Island, a large piece of land with steep shores, peaky mountains and glaciers covering the rest of it. Ironically enough, when we were close enough to start seeing the details, nobody in fact wanted to watch the shores, because of a much more interesting view around the vessel: Fin Whales. First, our guides spotted a single blow from the bridge and soon the number of blows increased. There were if not hundreds, but at least dozens of them. Fin whales were feeding, swimming back and forth, opening their mouths and swallowing swarms of Antarctic krill. It was just amazing to witness this spectacular scene. We all put on our jackets and went to the outer decks to watch them. Some of the whales approached very close to the ship, which is a rare thing to do, because Fin whales usually prefer staying away from the vessels. Besides whales, there were other representatives of Antarctic fauna to join the feast such as Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, White-chinned and Giant petrels and even Grey-headed as well as Black-browed Albatrosses.

Hondius sailed along the shores of Elephant Island anticlockwise. Late in the morning, we approached the famous Point Wild, a small cape where Shackleton’s Expedition got stranded for several months till they got successfully rescued by Chilean Captain Luis Alberto Pardo. Our captain led the Hondius as close to Point Wild as possible so that we could get a better view of this tiny piece of land. With binoculars we could even see the bust of Luis Alberto Pardo, erected there to commemorate the rescue of the people. The expedition team treated us with hot chocolate and rum on one of the outer decks. After lunch we continued our voyage sailing North-East. The weather slightly deteriorated, the sky became overcast and sometimes we had to navigate through patches of fog and rain. Our guides gave lectures in the main lounge in the meantime.

Right before dinner, when the daylight started to dim little by little, we had one more amazing thing to see. Instead of sailing directly towards South Orkney islands, Hondius made a small detour in order to pass by A23a, the biggest iceberg on the planet at this moment of time. And there it was, an enormous piece of ice drifting slowly, driven by the current. We went to the outer decks to take photos and just to look at this giant. The iceberg stretched from the horizon to the horizon. Waves and wind carved numerous caves in its vertical cliffs of ice. It is hard to believe that one day this colossal body of ice would get dissolved by the ocean. When darkness fell, our ship continued making its way towards South Orkneys. We had dinner and soon went to rest, thinking about Fin whales, Point Wild and A23a. What a day!

Day 11: Shingle Cove, South Orkneys

Shingle Cove, South Orkneys
Date: 01.03.2024
Position: 60° 38.9 ’ S / 045° 32.7 ’ W
Wind: WNW 4
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

The sun greeted us again this morning when sailing the Scotia Sea. While having breakfast from 07:30 we again passed some impressive icebergs. Although after seeing the gigantic A23A tabular iceberg yesterday evening, all icebergs from now on would feel tiny, it still was amazing to see the white giants of the Ocean. Our destination for today was Shingle Cove on Coronation Island, part of the South Orkney Islands. This group of islands, more than 85% glaciated, consist of four big islands and some smaller islets. It rises up in the middle of the ocean, about 1440 km southeast of Tierra de Fuego.

Just before Annelou began her lecture, few Hourglass Dolphins were spotted. They were enthusiastically jumping in two small groups at 11 o’clock from the ship. After that spectacle, we were all ready to listen to Annelou’s lecture ‘Antarctica as comparison to Mars and Outer Space’. It was really interesting to hear and learn how some form of possible glaciers, that look like the ones that are in Antarctica, have been spotted on Mars. Getting closer to the South Orkney Islands, we started to see more beautifully shaped icebergs. They were scattered all around us. On approach, the sky was painted with this mysterious light grey color. Sun was trying to find some spots to shine through. Later the mist went away and the peaks of Coronation Island, reaching up to 1265 meters, came into view right at the bow of the ship. Coronation Island is one of the four main islands of South Orkneys, besides Signy, Powell and Laurie. Laurie Island is one of the two inhabited places on these barren islands, the ‘Orcadas’ station is located here. It’s an Argentine meteorological research station, established in 1904 which houses up to 45 people in summer.

We made good progress overnight and arrived earlier than planned. The blue group was taken out first, while the orange group enjoyed lunch on board. After lunch we swapped groups at our landing spot, Shingle Cove. We were welcomed by a few large Elephant seals, who were resting on the pebbles ashore. Arriving at the shore, we followed a path up and over the boulder field to a junction to go and see the penguins to the left. To the right we followed the pole marked route to the glacier at the far end. We had to cross a lateral moraine, the rocks that were taken by the glacier moving down and pushed aside, to get to the ice. At the beach a few Gentoo penguins jumped out of the surf, while seven chunky Elephant seals were resting on the beach. The metamorphic rocks along the whole route were marked with wonderful patterns, but many bright orange and green lichens gave the landscape a special colorful look. At some points fur seals were resting, well camouflaged, in between the boulders.

What a midday we had! Bright and sunny, with some large icebergs around the bay. Just beautiful. Back on board the anchor was lifted and we set sail to north, heading into the open ocean again towards South Georgia.

With a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate many of us came down to the observation lounge at 16:00 to listen to the lecture ‘Weather in the Southern Ocean’ from Chris. He explained the different weather patterns and how to read clouds. During our daily recap in the evening Pippa informed us about tomorrow’s plans, while we passed some pretty spectacular icebergs again. The light was just beautiful, with a small yellow band of light across the horizon. After another delicious dinner almost all of us went up to the observation lounge to watch the second part of the Shackleton movie accompanied by delicious popcorn.

Day 12: At Sea, sailing to South Georgia

At Sea, sailing to South Georgia
Date: 02.03.2024
Position: 57°57.2 ’ S / 039°59.5 ’ W
Wind: NW 4
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

In the early morning, accompanied by the gentle wake-up call from Pippa, the broadcast informed us of today's weather outside the ship, outdoor temperature, and the day's activities onboard. Breakfast started at 8 o'clock, giving everyone a chance to sleep in after several days of intense landings. Leisurely enjoying the morning meal, we then proceeded to the observation lounge for a mandatory briefing on South Georgia Island. As we were set to arrive there tomorrow, this briefing provided a better understanding of the island's unique natural landscapes and diverse wildlife.

At 11:00 in the morning, Annelou presented her lecture, focusing on the geology, rocks, and ice of South Georgia Island. This would provide us with a better understanding as we approach the island tomorrow. As we were nearing South Georgia Island, we adjusted our clocks forward by one hour at noon. Lunch was served at 1:30 in the afternoon and concluded at 2:30. After enjoying lunch, at 2:30 in the afternoon, our expedition staff began preparing for the biosecurity vacuuming activity. Broadcasting by deck, we informed everyone to bring all their outerwear, hats, gloves, backpacks, life jackets, and waterproof boots to the deck 3 for vacuuming and biosecurity checks. All guests cooperated enthusiastically with the checks, and many have already tidied up their gear in their cabins before we inspected it. We thanked them for making the vacuuming process simple and efficient. Throughout the entire process of biosecurity vacuuming, we played music and engaged in cheerful conversations, creating a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

After the biosecurity vacuuming concluded, expedition leader Pippa delivered a lecture on the history of whaling in Antarctica. The lecture excellently covered the whaling history of the entire Southern Ocean, allowing everyone to better connect with the fact that South Georgia Island was once a major whaling area. Since James Cook discovered South Georgia Island in 1775, he documented the abundant resources of whales and seals here and brought the news back home, attracting countless sealers and whalers to come up here and initiate the subsequent whaling boom. It wasn't until Svend Foyn invented the modern whaling gun that the entire whaling history underwent a significant change. Various modern whaling tools greatly increased the success rate of whaling but also led to a sharp decline in the number of whales in the waters around South Georgia Island to the point of near extinction. Thousands of whales were processed and rendered for oil in whaling stations on South Georgia Island until the last one was closed in 1965. The lecture provided a wealth of information about the unforgettable history here, allowing us to better immerse our guests in the experience of past historical periods during subsequent landing activities.

After dinner, Adam hosted the evening talk in the Observation Lounge, sharing his life experiences working at a British research station in Antarctica. Everyone listened attentively to his captivating stories.

Day 13: Cooper Bay & St. Andrews Bay

Cooper Bay & St. Andrews Bay
Date: 03.03.2024
Position: 54°47.3 ’ S / 035°48.3 ’ W
Wind: NE 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

As today’s trip log writer, I could not help but think “How I am going to fit today’s wonders into a single page?” Having made good progress during the night we had reached our next destination early in the morning. The clouds hung low. Only giving sight was a small strip of green vegetation above the water line. At first. Then, slowly, and gradually, the clouds lifted, exposing a place of pure beauty: Cooper Bay at the Southeastern tip of South Georgia.

By the time all zodiacs were loaded with guests, cameras and binoculars, the sun was shining. Mist went away and set free a marvellous landscape of green slopes, little bays, and large floating icebergs. Who would have thought that South Georgia, the remote mountainous island in the Southern Ocean, would offer such an astounding palette of colours, textures, and sounds? Soon the drivers carefully navigated the zodiacs into tiny bays surrounded by dark rocks. Kelp floated in the breaking swell like long human hairs. Soon we spotted our first Macaroni penguins. A big group of chicks were standing on a large rock near the water; hesitant to go for their first swim, or not. There was so much to discover: Gentoo Penguins, Snowy Sheathbills, Leopard and Elephant Seals, cute Fur Seal pups and countless impressive Giant Petrels sitting on the water. Their heart-warming calls will be one of the sounds, which will escort us while in South Georgia. Later we drove into a narrow channel framed by subtle colours of green tussock grass, orange lichens and black rocks blending harmoniously together. In between we discovered a Fur Seal pup and a moulting Chinstrap Penguin. At the end, vertical rocks reached into the sky making us feel very tiny. No wonder that this place is nicknamed Gondor. Then we drove back into the open space heading over to a long beach where the gentle swell made the gravel sing. Morning cruise offered a unique, diverse, and fulfilling experience no words can truly describe.

After a short sail further north, we reached to St Andrews Bay. Although this site was closed for landings the extended zodiac cruise along the long and open beach became another highlight. Driving slowly in the gentle swell we had lots of time to observe various behaviours of the King penguins. Standing still or walking in pairs with head raised and chests expanded. Once in a while some entered the water. So much to see. So much to enjoy. It became almost overwhelming. Eventually we had to break off the magic and leave. As we approached the ship, a mixture of unexpected smells filled the air: It was a Barbecue and party night! The cooks and stewards had prepared various delicacies served on the aft deck. Soon a medley of music, voices and laughter filled the air and dancers appeared. As daylight began to vanish, we moved the nicely running party to the observation lounge to reduce the danger of attracting seabirds by the deck lights. As feared by some the relocation did not break the fun as dozens were jumping, dancing, and singing on the small dance floor. Meanwhile Hondius sailed along the Southwest coast to our tomorrow’s historical destination while the observation lounge fell quiet and all guests asleep.

Day 14: Cape Rosa & Peggotty Bluff

Cape Rosa & Peggotty Bluff
Date: 04.03.2024
Position: 54°10.6 ’ S / 037°24.6 ’ W
Wind: ENE 2
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

Not all travellers are destined to visit the southern side of South Georgia Island. We initially had no plans for such an endeavour, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The day before, it became evident that an approaching storm on the northern coast of the island would prevent us from landing on shore, arranging a Zodiac cruise, or even observing the coastline from the ship's open decks. That's why Pippa, our expedition leader, after consulting with the captain, made the only right decision – to head south, where secluded spots could still be found, sheltered from the hurricane-force winds by the towering barrier of island ridges. One of these places was King Haakon Bay, a large and picturesque fjord located closer to the western tip of South Georgia. That's where we headed. During the night, Hondius rounded Cape Disappointment and continued its journey while already being sheltered by the island's mountain range.

The morning started with a surprise that no one had expected at all. Instead of the usual wake-up call through the speakers, we heard Pippa's cheerful and slightly excited voice announcing that we had spotted two Blue Whales! None of the expedition team members had ever seen Blue Whales in the waters of South Georgia. A hundred years ago, this region was the site of barbaric hunting of these sea giants. Small boats with heavy harpoon cannons on their bows roamed everywhere, tracking their prey. Killed whales were towed to whaling stations, where their bodies were cut into pieces, yielding a valuable product, whale oil! Unfortunately, hunters did not stop until they had slaughtered all the whales. The miraculously surviving animals dispersed throughout the Southern Ocean. And now, finally, we could gradually observe the whales returning to South Georgia. Standing on the open decks, we watched as these huge creatures, the largest ever to have lived on Earth, spouted fountains of spray into the air, exhaling, and showed us their backs with their comically tiny dorsal fins.

The southern coastline differed significantly from the north. There was much less vegetation here, and the huge glaciers covering most of the mountains didn't terminate in the middle of valleys but reached all the way to the sea. Hondius dropped anchor not far from the famous Cape Rosa. It was here that Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton brought James Caird. It was here that he first set foot on solid ground since leaving Point Wild. And now, solely due to the bad weather on the northern coast of the island, we were presented with a unique opportunity to visit the very place where Shackleton and his comrades rested and gathered strength before embarking on the final leg of their desperate journey and walking to the whaling station at Stromness.

The Zodiacs were lowered into the water, we set off on a Zodiac cruise. The bay where Shackleton found shelter was tiny, no more than 30 people could be there at once. Therefore, it was decided to establish a strict order. Pippa gradually invited us, two Zodiacs at a time, for a short landing on the shore so that we, like Shackleton, could set foot on South Georgia and take a photo against the backdrop of the very cave where he and his faithful companions set up camp. To be fair, it wasn't really a cave, but rather a deep niche in the rock. Nearby, baby elephant seals frolicked in the grass, and South Georgian Pipits chirped cheerfully in the air.

The landing on the shore took no more than ten minutes. For the rest of the time, we explored the coastline of Cape Rosa from the water. Several fairly large icebergs drifted nearby, ambassadors of the giant iceberg A23a, which we had seen a few days earlier. We had to navigate around them, maintaining a safe distance. The shores of Cape Rosa were sometimes low but steep, sometimes even sheer. There were even two real caves, each of which could be entered by Zodiac. If the first, located not far from Shackleton's landing site, was only about ten meters long, the second was much larger and represented a much longer corridor. At its end, there was dense semi-darkness, the roar of the engine, greatly amplified by the echo, reverberated heavily through the vaults. It was, to be honest, quite eerie, but we, being absolutely confident in the skill of our guides, didn't worry at all.

By noon, the Zodiac cruise had come to an end. We returned to the ship and, removing our outerwear, headed to the restaurant for lunch. Meanwhile, Hondius weighed anchor and headed deeper into the fjord towards a small cape called Peggotty Bluff. It was decided to arrange another Zodiac cruise there to get closer to the glacier descending into the sea. Once again, we boarded the Zodiacs and set out to explore this section of King Haakon Bay. The landscape was quite different from what we had seen in the morning: sheer mountain walls, topped with glaciers, cascading waterfalls, fur seals, and giant petrels, brash ice, and small icebergs. The terrain resembled one of the fjords of Spitsbergen so much that it felt like taking binoculars and scanning the area to see if a Polar Bear was lurking nearby. Peggotty Bluff itself was a small hill, inhabited by King penguins and fur seals. It was here that Ernest Shackleton once made his final stop before embarking on his heroic trek across the mountains and glaciers to the whaling station at Stromness. Back on the ship, we gathered in the main lounge for a daily recap. Pippa briefed us on the plans for the next day. Later, as the sunset rays painted the icebergs and coastline golden, Hondius ventured into open sea to circumnavigate South Georgia from the west and return to its northern coast. The sea became rough, so some of us even needed seasickness medication. It was a very unusual and wonderfully surprising day!

Day 15: Grytviken & Godthul

Grytviken & Godthul
Date: 05.03.2024
Position: 54° 17.5’ S / 036° 28.5’ W
Wind: ESE 4
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +1

Our second full day in South Georgia was met with excitement and jubilee! Our bridge team navigated us into Cumberland East Bay and upon arrival we were met with an amazing number of icebergs. Captain Artur has been coming to South Georgia since 2007 and has said this is the most ice on the east side of South Georgia that he has ever seen! It is likely the icebergs are coming from A23a, the biggest iceberg in the world currently, which we sailed passed on our way Northeast to South Georgia. Once we were in position, just off King Edward Point, we brought on representatives from the South Georgia government and then South Georgia Heritage Trust. They checked to make sure our biosecurity requirements were being fulfilled and gave a presentation about the conservation work, past and present, on this beautiful island. We were happy to hear the ship received 100% on our biosecurity; thank you to all the guests for cleaning their gear so diligently!

Next, we headed to shore to explore Grytviken and learn about its troubled past. It is an old whaling station, which is open to visitors to walk around the buildings and get a feel for what life was like back then. Tens of thousands of whales were caught out at sea and brought to shore here to be proceeded and sold for parts. It is a tragic history, and the feeling of sadness is undeniable when onshore at Grytviken. Guests also could explore the museum and the post office, sending a plethora of post cards back home for friends and family. However, for some, the previous whaling was not the most important piece of Grytviken’s history. It is the location where Shackleton is buried. At the church, guests were able to take part in a toast to Shackleton, and coincidently we were at Grytviken on the anniversary of his funeral. On the way back, each zodiac stopped by the cemetery to see his gravestone and pay their respects. Despite an ugly history, it is a beautiful place. The shoreline is littered with playful fur seal pups desperately chasing their mothers asking for food, endemic pintail ducks and pipit birds, as well as the towering peaks of Mt Duse, Mt Hodges, and Brown Mountain situated around the bay protecting this significant place.

We transited out of Cumberland East Bay and towards our afternoon activity site, Godthul, on the Eastern shore of Barff Peninsula. Here we did a split landing and zodiac cruise and both activities offered stunning views of the natural cliff amphitheatre around the harbour and more of the wildlife South Georgia has to offer. From the beach guests could chose to have a good leg stretch and walk up an incline with tussac grass and to a flat area of mixed vegetation. There they could get views to overlook Lake Aviemore and a gentoo penguin colony. The beach also had whale bones and the relics of the old whaling station located at Godthul. The views from the top of the walk were stunning! Equally as exciting, on the water the zodiacs zigged and zagged through kelp forests to access beaches that could not be seen from the landing site. The beaches are home to outstanding number of wildlife, and it is possible to just sit in the zodiac off a beach and watch the wildlife go about their daily lives.

What a beautiful full day in South Georgia! Two landings, a historic whaling station visit and a toast to the boss on his anniversary. Guests were back onboard with smiles on their faces, just in time to reconvene in the lounge and find out plans for tomorrow, another action-packed day!

Day 16: Fortuna Bay, Anchorage & Whistle Cove

Fortuna Bay, Anchorage & Whistle Cove
Date: 06.03.2024
Position: 54°08.2’ S / 036°48.5 ’ W
Wind: NNE 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

With Pippa’s words in mind, the early raisers got up in the morning to check the conditions themselves as we all have become experts in assessing the weather of the Southern Ocean. While the Hondius slowly sailed into Fortuna Bay, they knew that today was going to be a good day. Although there were high clouds in the sky, the sea was calm and the swell at the beach was as gentle as it gets. There was no time to waste. After A quick breakfast we carried out an unique and ambitious plan for the day: To do two landings in Fortuna Bay offering plenty of time to enjoy the landscape and wildlife and to walk on the very same ground where Shackleton and his men had walked 108 years ago. Shackleton, Crean and Worsley hiked over a mountain ridge to reach out today’s landing site at Anchorage Bay. I doubt they had noted the penguins at all, being totally exhausted and of low spirit. As they walked along the beach they heard the whistle of the whale ships of Stromness, the whaling station situated in the next bay where they finally found the help they needed.

Arriving at the landing site we once again walked between countless curious and playful Fur Seal pups and King Penguins and hiked towards a glacier. Soon we left the wildlife behind walking over uneven ground with rocks of various sizes and colours. We surely discovered a new face of South Georgia. Not even lichens nor mosses grew on them as the retreating glacier only recently has set free this landscape. Those who reached the end of the glacier were treated with a live mini lecture from Annalou who was visibly excited to talk about her favourite subject. We learned about the formation of this glacially shaped landscape and the exposed frozen permafrost. After lunch we headed out again. This time we were dropped off at Whistle Cove which offered a very different experience. Here, wildlife was teeming, and the ground was covered with green and soft vegetation. Fast hiking was not possible as countless sleeping, calling, and playing Fur Seal pups grabbed our attention repeatedly. About halfway we discovered a sleeping leucistic pup of creamy colour lacking the colour pigmentation in its fur. Eventually we reached the end where a huge colony of King Penguins tightly stood together.

We too stood still and watched in awe. Overwhelmed by this sight it took us a while to focus on details. Like those penguins with expanded pouches and standing on their heels. Patiently watching, we observed one lifting the pouch giving sight to a large white egg. Shortly after, a tiny naked chick became visible on the feet of another one. Sadly, these chicks won’t survive as the harsh winter is approaching fast. Again, we had to rush ourselves from this place to continue our walk along the poles leading us behind the colony of 7000 breeding pairs standing closely together. As our eyes have become well trained during the past two weeks, we soon discovered countless dark brown patches within the colourful adults: Their cute and fluffy chicks. Standing still we closed our eyes to listen to the beautiful cacophony of calling penguins. Trying to remember Pippa’s recap. A-B-A-B for females and B-B-A-B-B-A for males? Or was it the other way around?

Then it was time to leave this place of overwhelming beauty. Aware that it will again take extra time to hike back to the landing site as the same cute pups we had passed earlier were just waiting for us to catch our attention and to make us stand still. Eventually everybody made it back to the landing sites and the ship. It was time again to meet in the observation lounge to learn about tomorrow’s plan. Once again, the weather caprioles had made Pippa’s head spin but once again, she came up with the optimal plan: To start our journey to the Falkland Islands. After an informative, entertaining, and diverse recap-session and diner most of us disappeared in their cabins to either look at photos, share stories and impressions or to simply to fall asleep dreaming of today’s extraordinary wonders.

Day 17: At sea, sailing towards the Falklands

At sea, sailing towards the Falklands
Date: 07.03.2024
Position: 53°15.3’ S / 041°40.3’ W
Wind: S 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

This morning we woke up to a beautifully calm sea with a nice morning to sleep in. By popular demand there was no wakeup call this morning from our expedition leader Pippa. As we made our way to the breakfast Captain Arthur and his bridge team sailed the MS Hondius closer to the Falklands while Ursula invited us to the lounge for her lecture on the incredible feeding strategy of whales and the oceanic food web. This seaday had many interesting lectures offered throughout the day and we had to plan our outside wildlife watching wisely. After the coffee and tea break Aitana took the stage for lecture on the way the water moves around the Antarctic Continent. So much we learned, things we had no idea of their existence. She also mentioned her personal experiences as an Oceanography researcher, with unique stories shared.

Just as lunch was served the first pod of Hourglass Dolphins showed up next to the ship, it was called out by the team members on the bridge watch but most of us kept on looking at our plates… as if we knew we would have another change of seeing them later that day. At one o’clock the sun came out, together with the few knots of wind the perfect conditions for wildlife watching. Although with less wind it would be less likely to sight Albatrosses (most of the time) Chris started the afternoon with sharing information the importance of making islands predator free and the removal of nonnative species from our sub-Antarctic islands. And suddenly there they were again, two very large pods of Hourglass Dolphins, at our bow and on both sides of the Hondius, making everybody flock outside to be smitten by the fast movements and high jumps of these amazing marine mammals.

While watching the dolphins the marathon friends doing their daily 5 km walks on the ship, this afternoon was a double highlight. They completed a marathon this afternoon by walking 5 km in 8 days, making it 42 km. After the group of Hourglass Dolphins joined us for a bow-ride, Joyce presented her lecture on benthic communities in the Antarctic region. She told us about the diversity of the benthic communities and showed us some examples of those that live there, including isopods, worms, anemones, and how they could live in such cold waters. She ended by elaborating on her previous research in Greenland, showcasing how benthic habitat maps are made. Outside the first Albatrosses of the day started to appear. Not just one, within the hour the Wandering-, Northern- and Southern Albatross came souring by on the winds that the ship produced. Antarctic Prions, the occasional Common Diving petrel and even King penguins were seen in the waters we crossed and all just before our daily recap started.

Once in the dining room just as we got our lovely meals served a younger Wandering flew by the window on starboard side, with the sunset light coloring its wings with the evening glow. The sight everybody must see once in their life, the Wandering Albatross on its wings soaring on the wind. Finalizing the splendid dinner with a bailey’s chocolate-mousse dessert making our more than 2000 taste buds very satisfied. Another beautiful dinner was prepared by Chef Bawa and his galley team. For those of us who were keen for a personal talk about living in Antarctica’s and New Zealand’s Scott Base, the evening talk with Chris was the place to be in the lounge.

Day 18: At sea, sailing towards the Falklands

At sea, sailing towards the Falklands
Date: 08.03.2024
Position: 52°21.7 ’S / 050°24.5 ’W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

As the sun rose above the horizon, we kept sleeping. No wake-up calls, no weather updates over the PA system. Though some missed Pippa's soothing voice and headed early for breakfast, many of us decided to take advantage of the slow day and just kept on snoozing. Whether woken by their stomachs, already very much used to the regular dining hours, the "gentle" rocking of the ship as we reached over 14 knots in speed, or the eagerness to listen to Martin tell us all about the life of a policeman in Port Stanley, by 9:30 most of us were out and about. And good it was. If you were one of those looking out through a window or out on deck, you had a chance to spot Black-browed Albatrosses, White-chinned Petrels, Soft-plumage Petrels, Great Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm Petrels, and Imperial Shags! What a day for bird lovers.

Between the cheeky jokes and captivating intimate life stories, Martin entertained in the lounge for a good part of the morning. The weather outside did not allow for much wildlife watching, and no landscapes were to be seen, so we went on to engage in an activity that everyone by now has grown to love biosecurity! Even with the loose regulations of the Falkland Islands, we all take great care and pay attention not to bring any viral infections to the lovely bird colonies we aim to visit. So, we all dug deep into the boot threads, bottoms of our trousers, and ensured all was clean and safe. By lunch, all squeaky clean, we filled the dining room for another remarkable buffet and, just in case anyone was still hungry, the most adorable, sprinkled donuts awaited in the lounge.

Meike told us about the life and likes of the albatrosses, thoroughly explained how to distinguish them, and in the end, quizzed us all on our species recognition capabilities. The afternoon continued with Joyce explaining how in the world species survive and thrive in subzero environments. As if that was not enough, at the recap, we celebrated International Women's Day with a short yet impactful and powerful story by Pelin about the first woman hired on polar expeditions and the first American woman to set foot on the Antarctic Continent - the inspiring Edith M. "Jackie" Ronne.

Though the day came to an end as the sun set over the horizon at dinner, we were just getting warmed up as it was today that we auctioned off some amazing items for the South Georgia Heritage Trust! The impeccable presentation and Adam's, Martin's, and Pippa's auctioneering skills triggered bidding wars that escalated quickly. With 17 items sold, we raised 4,712 pounds. The most valuable item of the night was a unique piece of art created by the Expedition Team's own Annelou at a whopping price of 1,000 pounds. What an amazing way to finish the night with great fun and fundraising for an important cause. We still encourage you to find ways to give back and continue supporting local and global endeavors aimed at protecting fauna and flora all over the world.

Day 19: Port Stanley, the Falklands

Port Stanley, the Falklands
Date: 09.03.2024
Position: 51° 41.2’S / 057° 51.0’W
Wind: NW 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +14

After two days of sleeping in, we went back to our regular schedule. With a warm wake-up at 7:15, we were all finally ready to set foot on the Falkland grounds. But before heading out, we took some time after breakfast to learn from Martin about the birds of the Falkland Islands, many of which we got to see in the afternoon. An early lunch set us up for good few hours in Port Stanley, a settlement established in 1843. Stanley was awarded city status in June 2022, and after over two weeks in the pristine wilderness of Antarctica and South Georgia, it indeed felt like a city vibe for us. Reminded to look both ways before we crossed the street, by 12:30 we all made it to the Jetty, and everyone scattered. For the next four hours, we roamed not only the streets of Port Stanley, but many of you took the opportunity to visit some Magellanic Penguins, head over to the lighthouse, or simply walk off without supervision for the first time in weeks. Port Stanley proved to be the place to be as we learned the history of the Falkland Islands in the Museum, visited the church and cathedral, snapped photos of vintage Land Rovers, and sent out tens or maybe hundreds of postcards.

Four of us (congratulations Erin, Scott, Mark, and Rickey!) finished a Hondius Marathon that consisted of a bunch of 5Ks around the ship, and some staff and guests decided to stretch their legs with a lovely 7-mile run around town. Others decided to either soak in the history or enjoy a tasting of local beers in the brewery. And apparently, we bought all the gin from the distillery, even though it closed within one hour of our arrival. Whether you were wandering around town or headed out, there were plenty of chances to notice the richness of birds all around. With at least 18 species spotted by the staff and guests, even the most bird-blind among us had plenty of opportunities to appreciate some lovely Falkland birds. With the last Zodiac leaving the jetty at 17:45, we left Port Stanley behind. Two lovely Southern Royal Petrels followed us out, and we headed into the observation lounge for yet another recap.

Ursula shocked everyone as the team brought out the biggest of her handmade animals we have seen on the ship - a 1-year-old humpback whale of 8.5 meters! We all had a chance to appreciate her creations and get really close to the wildlife we had spotted on the trip, so this was a true treat! As Sasha tried to answer as many questions as possible from the official question box, we had some fun-loving, frivolous visitors - Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins surfed the waves and showed off their skills on the starboard side of the ship. Their energy was clearly infectious as many people enjoyed the show, running out of their t-shirts. After such a busy day, only a few stayed up playing games and swapping stories about the day. With the blinds closed to protect the birds of the Falkland Islands from striking onto the ship, it was time to regenerate and get ready for the next day's adventures!

Day 20: Saunders Island & Carcass Island

Saunders Island & Carcass Island
Date: 10.03.2024
Position: 51° 18.8’S / 060° 14.9’W
Wind: WNW 6
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +11

We woke this morning at 6.45 to another wakeup call from Pippa. Those that were already up or those that were straight out of bed witnessed a beautiful sunrise, a specialty of The Falkland Islands. The skies were largely clear and the sunrise above the hills that make up Saunders Island, our destination for the morning. Breakfast was yet another feast, by now several people are trying to cut down on their food intake, a struggle, particularly today.

After breakfast it was time to don our outdoor clothing and our waterproofs in readiness for what was possibly going to be a choppy zodiac ride to Saunders Island. One by one the zodiacs took us onto the beach in the area of the island called The Neck.The beach that we landed on was covered in kelp due to the direction of the wind along with a large group of Magellanic Oystercatchers, Kelp and Dolphin Gulls feeding on the invertebrates in the Kelp. From the beach we walked up past Gentoo, King and Magellanic Penguins all moulting or in the case of The Kings, trying to raise the chicks and get them big enough to cope with the harsh winter weather that would be coming their way soon. Three moulting King Penguins also gave us the opportunity of getting an unusual photograph of Penguins with sheep! For some, the walk also involved seeing a beautiful Variable Hawk scavenging on a dead Gentoo Penguin. Everything has to eat!

The walk then took us to the beach on the other side of the neck, which was much longer and, as the tide dropped, revealed a stunning white sandy beach on which there were Falklands Flightless Steamer Ducks, Falklands Skuas and a few Striated Caracara or as we now know them, Johnny Rooks. From the beach it was time to walk up the hill to the Rockhopper Penguins and beyond them to the Black-browed Albatross. The Rockhoppers were all stood in the colony finishing their moult and getting ready to make the journey back down the cliff and back out to sea for the winter. The moult is known as the catastrophic moult as the birds change all their feathers at the same time, replacing them with brand new, strong, waterproof feathers to keep them alive in the coming months. The Albatross chicks were magnificent sitting on top of their nests that resemble chimney pots and thus give them their names. The chicks are now beginning to develop their flight feathers, exercising their wings, and generally beginning to look more like the adults.

Of course, we had to get back to the ship in time for lunch but more importantly to enable the ship to relocate to Carcass Island for our afternoon activity. After lunch the zodiac shuttle to the Island was choppy and a little wet for some time but before long, we were in the shelter of the settlement bay and landing at a jetty for a change.

The walk around the settlement is beautiful through the gorse bushes and even past some palm trees! It seemed like there were small birds flitting around everywhere, Dark Faced Ground Tyrant, Black chinned Siskin, white bridled Finch, Tussac Birds and Austral Thrush to name but a few. At the settlement we could wander around at will but most of us carried on walking around the bay past Upland Geese, Johnny Rooks, Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins out towards Leopard Beach. Turning round to walk back was right into the wind which was heavy going for some but well worth it as when we got back to the guest house the staff had arranged for tea and coffee and the most incredible table of cakes and biscuits or as it’s called in The Falkland Islands, Smoko.

All too soon it was time to go back to the jetty and the zodiac shuttle back to Hondius. After recap it was time for another lavish spread for dinner and then a well-earned rest. What would our last day of operations have in store for us tomorrow?

Day 21: New Island

New Island
Date: 11.03.2024
Position: 51° 43.9’S / 061° 17.2’W
Wind: W 6
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +9

This morning we once again woke up to the announcement from Pippa. Pippa informed us that we had successfully travelled south during the night towards our intended destination of New Island. New Island is situated to the Southwest of the Falkland Islands, it is an Island that not too many people get the chance to visit, even those living in The Falkland Islands. The Island is a wildlife sanctuary. The late Ian Strange MBE formed The New Island Conservation Trust to ensure that the Island remains a centre for conservation. Falklands Conservation merged with The New Island Conservation Trust and now has the responsibility of carrying on the great work started by Ian and his family.

The Island is 238km from Stanley, there is a short airstrip which is difficult to land on, as a result most visitors are from expedition ships such as Hondius. The island has a population of two wardens, irregular volunteer staff, scientists and, sometimes, film crews. After breakfast we donned our waterproofs, trying to gauge how many layers to put on underneath. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the wind was blowing, and we were told that we would be climbing a hill to see a Black-browed Albatross colony.

The zodiac shuttle to the Island caused the first excitement of the day with Peale’s dolphins swimming alongside as we drove towards the Island. Once there, we were greeted by Pippa and the team but this time they were accompanied by the wardens, Jenni and Tim and one of the volunteers, Pat, who was running the little shop inside the beautifully presented museum. The museum is inside the recently renovated Barnard building which incorporated the oldest building in The Falkland Islands, a stone hut built by Capt. Charles Barnard in 1813 after he was marooned on the Island.

Most of us took some time to view the museum and spend some money in the lovely little shop before making our way up the hill, past the Johnny Rooks and the Upland Geese towards the main goal, the Black-browed Albatross colony. We weren’t disappointed. The colony was on top of the cliffs on the west side of the Island, the views were spectacular, there were Imperial Cormorants and Rockhopper Penguins nesting alongside the Albatross and there was even a Macaroni Penguin amongst the Rockhoppers who had come to visit. The wind blew in our faces taking the heat of the sun away, but we didn’t care the whole experience was exhilarating, such a privilege. It was difficult for some of us to drag ourselves away.

During lunch on board, the ship was repositioned further North and again we went ashore on New Island. This time we walked across the Island, past a large pond and through an area of dense Prion burrows to a beautiful beach on the North side of the Island. New Island has the largest colony in the world (around 2 million pairs of Slender billed Prions). The dolphins were surfing the waves and the Gentoo Penguins were swimming in the shallows, it was yet another stunning experience. We weren’t finished yet, the walk carried on up the hill to cliffs nearby and Albatross Bay, between Precipice Hill and Cathedral Cliffs, the Black-browed Albatross glided around the bay giving us fantastic views of these magnificent creatures as they came into land near the nests of their hungry chicks. The views along the coastline added to the most spectacular way to end our last landing ashore. It was time to go back to the landing site, board the zodiacs back to Hondius and start the journey back towards Ushuaia.

Day 22: At sea towards Ushuaia

At sea towards Ushuaia
Date: 12.03.2024
Position: 54° 39.9’S / 064° 49’W
Wind: NE 2
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +5

Our last day at sea.. A very last day of the wonderful voyage we had to the Antarctic Circle, Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island, South Orkneys, South Georgia and the Falklands…. We all woke up with mixed feelings, sad to leave soon the vessel that became a home for us during these three weeks but also happy to have seen few of the most unique places of our Planet Earth. We were very much aware that we were part of a privileged minority that had chance to visit such places and we would carry these memories with us. Morning started rather slow with a long and hearty breakfast prepared by our wonderful galley team. Then we proceeded to our cabins to start packing. We had to return our muck boots and rental gear to the Expedition Team who were busy cleaning our well-used gear. Expedition Team had prepared a wonderful presentation program for us. Elizabeth started today’s talks with Endangered species, a difficult but very important topic that made us think our impact on the wildlife.

After another delicious meal, presentation program continued with Ursula’s long-requested talk on Minke Whales. It was fascinating to learn about Minke Whales as well as Ursula’s personal story of becoming a whale researcher. Ursula’s thought-provoking talk prepared the scene for another difficult yet very important topic. Several Expedition Guides together hosted a climate and conservation mini-series. Each of them took the stage and talked about what was in our power to do in the face of current climate challenges. Mini-series ended with a well-attended discussion session. Then we took a short break before gathering again in the lounge for Captain’s Farewell cocktail. For those of us who were late in packing, rushed to their cabins to pack. Others wandered in the outer decks while we sailed beautiful Beagle Channel. Sun finally showed itself from the clouds and we could appreciate the beauty of Tierra del Fuego Island.

Captain’s Farewell cocktail was another spectacle to remember. We had a chance to toast to the wonderful trip we had together but also watched the end of voyage slideshow prepared and presented by our Expedition Team. To see wonderful images of the voyage brought tears to our eyes. We certainly would cherish all those precious memories until the very end of our lives. After the bitter-sweet farewell cocktail we head down to restaurant once more to have our final dinner on board. As always Galley Team did not disappoint! Another delicious meal to celebrate our voyage!

Day 23: Ushuaia

Date: 13.03.2024
Position: 54° 51.8’S / 068° 01.9’W
Wind: NNW 2
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +9

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 Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, and the Falklands had come to an 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.


Tripcode: HDS29-24
Dates: 20 Feb - 13 Mar, 2024
Duration: 22 nights
Ship: m/v Hondius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

Have you been on this voyage?

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.

More about the m/v Hondius »