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HDS31-23, trip log, Antarctica - Elephant Island - Weddell Sea - Polar Circle

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 14.03.2023
Position: 54°55.3’S 067°29.4’W
Wind: Var 1
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +3

Finally. Finally, we’re here, finally we’re getting on board, finally we’re going to Antarctica! Some of us have been waiting for years, and for some of us this is a life’s dream coming true. We find ourselves in the port of Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the world. On all the signs and souvenirs, Ushuaia is advertised as “the end of the world”. And to some extent this is true. For we are heading across the Drake Passage into a different world. A world that is unlike anything we have seen so far.

We are stepping on board the M/V Hondius, our beautiful 107-meter vessel that will be our base for the coming two weeks. The team on board welcomes us with open smiles and many of us can’t hide their excitement anymore. We get set up in our cabins and are then invited to the lounge for coffee, tea, home-made cakes and a mandatory safety briefing and drill. Chief Officer Diederik explains the most essential safety features on board and how we should behave in case of emergency. For the abandon ship drill, we all put on our funny looking orange life vests and gather at our muster stations from where we are directed to our life boats.

We leave the safe harbor of Ushuaia around 6pm. Half an hour later we are invited to the lounge for Captain’s Cocktail to celebrate the beginning of our voyage into the wilderness. The speech of our Captain Artur is accompanied by prosecco and tasty canapés. Afterwards we get to know our Hotel Manager Will and the Expedition Team. Outside the windows we gaze at the stunning landscape along the Beagle Channel that is accompanied by blowing humpback whales and jumping dusky dolphins. We end the day with a delicious dinner buffet, a stunning sunset and a relaxing glass by the bar.

Antarctica, here we come…

Day 2: At sea on the Drake Passage

At sea on the Drake Passage
Date: 15.03.2023
Position: 56° 50.05’S 063° 13.8’W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +7

Fair winds and following seas all day today, making it a wonderful beginning to our Antarctic adventure on board M/V Hondius! The day was also very mild, with temperatures hovering around 7 degrees Celsius for most the day, accompanied by bright sunshine. We are very lucky to have such great weather!

The day’s wildlife-watching began with a couple of majestic Wandering albatrosses gliding over the waves, effortlessly following the ship just before breakfast. On the schedule today was a mandatory attendance at the IAATO and Zodiac safety briefing in the Lounge with our Expedition Leader, Hans, to learn the important do’s and don’ts of a visit to this great Southern continent.

Afterwards there was time to enjoy the views from the outside decks; Slender-billed prions, Soft-plumaged petrels, Grey-headed and Black-browed albatrosses travelled along with us, providing good opportunities for practising the art of birds-in-flight photography! For our lecture programme today, Simon, one of our very knowledgeable birdwatchers in the Expedition team, gave us an introduction to some of these species and others that we hope to encounter during our sail through this region of the world and later, Ursula, our whale expert on board, taught us how to identify these impressive marine mammals.

The good weather continued throughout the day and we were treated to a beautiful sunset to finish this beautiful first day at sea!

Day 3: At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south-east towards Elephant Island

At sea on the Drake Passage, heading south-east towards Elephant Island
Date: 16.03.2023
Position: 60° 05 S, 56° 44 W
Wind: NNW 4
Weather: Overcast, long periods of light rain
Air Temperature: +7

After a beautiful, sunny, calm Drake Passage on day one we awoke to a similar, nice and calm sea for our second sea day. Today it was overcast with the first few spots of rain which would become more prominent throughout the day. In these excellent wildlife-watching conditions we were soon hearing the first shouts on the radio of the first-of-many sightings from around the ship; even before breakfast had finished there had been some Fin Whales, closely followed by a great mixed group of Long-finned Pilot Whales and Hourglass Dolphins.

Birdlife also kept us entertained right from first light with the stalwart group of hardcore birders glued to their perch on deck six making sure nothing was missed; amongst the fine selection of birds that would stay with us through the day were Grey-headed Albatross, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Slender-billed Prion and Black-bellied Storm Petrel. ]

Wildlife watching wasn’t the only activity through this long but enjoyable sea day as a couple of excellent lectures kept us busy; first, Andrew introduced us to the three Brushtail Penguin species that we will hopefully encounter on this trip (Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo) and in the afternoon Koen entertained an enthralled audience with the amazing story of the Shackleton expeditions – all the more relevant given our next stop of Elephant Island. We also undertook the vital jobs of collecting our Muck-boots (essential kit down here!) and the super-important biosecurity checks to ensure that the magnificent, unspoilt wilderness of Antarctica remains that way far into the future.

The wildlife highlight for many came mid-morning when the first of several Kerguelen Petrels appeared around the ship; these all-dark seabirds may not have been the most spectacular of birds but they were a new species for many of the birders and many of the staff on board and we were treated to brilliant views of these ace birds whizzing around the ship at high speeds for pretty much the rest of the day.

The afternoon got a bit cloudier and wetter as we steamed south but it didn’t dampen our spirits as we closed in on Elephant Island with the horizon sometimes filled with distant Whale-blows (although in these conditions the visible horizon wasn’t that far away!) and the first few little groups of Chinstrap Penguins in the water ramping up the anticipation of our first landfall in Antarctica complete with amazing wildlife and tales of exploration and survival.

Day 4: Elephant Island

Elephant Island
Date: 17.03.2023
Position: 61°04.4’S 054°45.5’W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

This morning starts at a historical site. Despite the restricted visibility we can see the steep and rocky shore of Elephant Island where Sir Ernest Shackleton had left his men some 100 years ago. Looking at this hostile, yet from a tourist’s point of view beautiful place, we can sense the challenges and dangers the men left behind and had to endure until The Boss returned to bring them to safety.

Although the heavy swell and waves do not allow a zodiac cruise the weather conditions with great visibility, dramatic clouds, blue sky and sunlight we got all out on the bow while the ship cruises along the coast of Elephant Island. Passing the German research vessel RV Maria S. Merian we discover more and more blows of large whales pushed into the sky.

Instead of staying close to the island we now head east towards the whales. Shortly after we are caught in a breath-taking spectacle. Everybody is now out on deck to take in this beauty while countless Ahs und Ohs can be heard throughout the morning. We are gifted by dozens of fin whales close and far. Powerfully surfacing in the high waves they expose not only their dark slender bodies and huge dorsal fin. Quite often their snouts breaks through the wave’s high crest exposing their pointy streamlined head with the creamy coloured right cheek.

The phenomena of an aggregation of an estimated 200 + fin whales lasts for hours. Giving us enough time to get through the stage of being overwhelmed to focus on other animals such as countless Black-browed Albatross, Slender-billed Prions, brown coloured Giant petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. On top of this, dozens of Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins aggregate in large groups or porpoise through the water surface. And to top it up a fully white giant petrel flies around the bow. Binoculars and cameras are lifted to look at this very rare morph. Much to our regret it is time to leave to start our journey south towards the Antarctic sound. Yet the spectacle continues as for several hours, fin whales could still be regularly seen along our course.

After a well-deserved lunch Pierre explains the history and structure of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and gives us interesting insights into his often-frustrating work as a Scientific delegate. At four o’clock another highlight, awaited by many, takes place: Ice cream with chocolate and almond chippings is served! Which is simply the best way to start a lecture on ice, presented by our knowledgeable glaciologist Jakub.

After Hans has explained the plans for tomorrow Pierre shares more insights into the lives of fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet while Clara takes us into the world of the tiny creatures, the phytoplankton. Through photosynthesis they create the huge biomass forming the base of the marine food chain in Antarctica.

After diner the day ends again historically as a black and white documentary about Shackelton’s expedition is shown in the lecture room where all seats are taken. Today was a perfect teaser for the days to come when we will explore the east and west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 5: Devil Island / Dreadnought Point

Devil Island / Dreadnought Point
Date: 18.03.2023
Position: 63°30.8’S 056°52.01’W
Wind: NNW 3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: -1

We are getting our wake up call from Hans as every morning and it was already in our mind that today it will be our first day of activities going in a Zodiac and exploring this fascinating environment Antarctica. After a delightful breakfast we got dressed up and were ready at the shelldoors to get off the ship. The red group went first ashore and the blue group went to do a Zodiac cruise.

What a good start walking around or either sitting in a Zodiac and cruising around the icebergs and seeing some seals (Antarctic fur seals) swimming in the water. The sun is shining and the conditions are perfect for our first day off the ship in Antarctica. Out of nowhere in not even 5 minutes the wind picked up rapidly. The wind gusts are from almost 0 up to 40 till 50 knots and is reaching a maximum of partial 65 knots. The wind is blowing us around, some of us are sitting in Zodiac and waiting to get the call from the bridge that they are ready for the next Zodiac. We are close to the shoreline we can feel the wind gusts and the swell but as soon as we are on our way to the ship out of the little bit sheltered part from the icebergs the swell is way bigger and we are feeling the rough sea. Almost every wave is splashing over the bow and hit us hard on our bodies. Back at the ship we are soaking in water and happy to get changed. It was a rough end of an almost perfect start to our first landing.

In the afternoon we started our transit towards Dreadnought point. It is a real expedition landing for all of us this a new landing site. Very exciting. We arrived at the beach and then went for a walk along the beach to see our first weddell seal lying at the beach. The zodiacs cruise went by some impressive big icebergs that were drifting around in many different shapes and colors.

The evening ended with a beautiful sunset lighting up some lenticular clouds in the sky. As we were sailing away we enjoyed a delicious dinner.

Day 6: Brown Bluff and Orcas

Brown Bluff and Orcas
Date: 19.03.2023
Position: 63°30.8’S 056°52.01’W
Wind: NNW 3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: -1

Today we wake up to the most beautiful sunrise reflecting on the mountains, the snow turns bright orange and the sea a deep blue, it is already a good start to the day. We fill ourselves with bacon, eggs and tea and from 0800 we are notified it is time to enter the zodiacs to visit Brown Bluff, an inactive volcano with a penguin colony. Half of us go on land and the other half explore the area with our wonderful expedition guides. There is many Gentoo Penguins onshore amongst a few grumpy Fur Seals and a few sleepy Weddell Seals are also dotted around. Large pieces of ice litter the shore and the ice glitters as the sunshine reflects upon them. On the zodiacs we manage to get to the glacier which towers above us, the icebergs surrounding the area makes us feel very small, but really makes us appreciate this fragile environment.

At 1200 we are back ‘home’ for a much needed coffee followed by a delicious lunch. It is however interrupted by a pod of Type B Orcas! Not only Orcas, but Orcas feeding on a Gentoo Penguin, it is a first for many of the guides and a spectacle we couldn’t believe. We all feel incredibly lucky to witness this as the Orcas continue to circle the ship chasing Penguins with a Fin Whale amongst them. We eventually depart them and encounter several Fin Whales in groups of 2’s or 3’s, wow can this day get any better? Unfortunately it is too windy to do our after zodiac cruise at Madders Cliffs, so we start our 150 nautical mile to our next destination.

Andrew, Elizabeth and Charlotte put on a fascinating lecture about Orca, but this only made us want to know and learn more about this intelligent species. The sun sets as we enjoy a fabulous plated dinner, which is made even more special and amusing with a few of the guides serving us!

Day 7: Diamond Island and Mikkelsen Harbour

Diamond Island and Mikkelsen Harbour
Date: 20.03.2023
Position: 63°57.3’S 060°51.8’W
Wind: NNW 2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +9

This morning we started with a standby for a zodiac cruise to Intercurrence Island. The weather conditions were looking good, almost no wind and the sun showed itself every now and then. Thus, the decision was made to drop two zodiacs and to open the shell doors. The swell was big enough to fill the shell doors with water after a couple minutes after opening them. The ship was then repositioned to seek some shelter from the waves, but that proved to be impossible and the cruise in the zodiacs had to be cancelled.

Instead of a morning off the ship, Jakub gave a lecture about icebergs, as we have seen plenty already on our trip, he explained all the different iceberg formations and how these big masses of ice travel across the Southern Ocean. Sasha then gave a lecture of the geography of Antarctica, the southernmost continent with all its ice masses has a very interesting geological aspect to it as well.

After lunch, we arrived in Mikkelsen Harbour, which is a small bay on the south side of Trinity Island. The sun was still present, even more than this morning and the wind was negligible, perfect conditions to get on shore and a zodiac cruise! We landed on a small island in the bay, which had plenty of things to see. On the island a water boat and whale bones were some remainders from the whaling era. On the ice along the shore there were 7 Weddell seals resting, of which one of them was making some incredible sounds. And across the entire island there were Gentoo penguins, both adults and this year’s chicks which were very curious and came close to check us out!

It was not only on land where we had plenty of wildlife action, on the zodiac cruise we also had a lot of things to see. On an ice floe we had a leopard seal resting, while closer to the landing site we encountered a leopard seal hunting Gentoo penguins in the water. The seal managed to catch three penguins in the time we were there, which was really impressive (and quite fierce) to see!

Back on the ship we were treated with an amazing sunset and the recap presenting tomorrows plans. During this recap Elizabeth talked about Weddell seals and she explained the behavior we have been seeing today during the landing. Ursula talked about her project ‘1 to 1’ with animals, she makes life sized animals using fabric and uses them to teach both children and adults and to create awareness.

During dinner we all had plenty of stories and experiences to share with each other. What an amazing day we had today! And what a trip so far!

Day 8: Lemaire Channel, Port Charcot & Pleneau Island

Lemaire Channel, Port Charcot & Pleneau Island
Date: 21.03.2023
Position: 65°09.5’S 064°23.3’W
Wind: NE 8
Weather: Snowing
Air Temperature: -1

Many of us get up extra early today because we are passing through one of the most scenic landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula: the Lemaire Channel. The sun slowly rises as we approach the narrow channel with its’ towering, glaciated cliffs. Stunning cloud formations create a mysterious ambiance. If not outside on deck, we are enjoying the spectacular views with a coffee and a good breakfast.

Once we are through the Lemaire, Hondius turns to the starboard side and enters a relatively sheltered bay: Port Charcot. We get ready for a landing on Pleneau Island and a zodiac cruise around the “Iceberg graveyard”. We have already been warned that the weather might change quickly today so we’re aware that we might have to evacuate fast if the wind picks up.

Until that happens, we enjoy stretching our legs a bit on land, take a little stroll up the hill and spend some time with the Gentoo Penguins. On the zodiacs we gaze at the bizarre formations of the countless icebergs that stranded in this shallow bay. Some of us are lucky and encounter a playful Leopard Seal that shows interest in the zodiac. The divers, who are not able to dive today since it is too windy already, get to cruise around the icebergs as well and at least get to jump into the icy cold water.

Then the wind picks up and reaches an average speed of 35 knots. The bridge calls us back to the vessel. So we wrap up and one zodiac after the other makes their way back to Hondius. Once we’re leaving the shelter of the icebergs, we are exposed to strong katabatic winds that create some decent waves. After we’ve been spoiled by a flat calm sea and yesterday’s sunshine, we’re back to expedition mode today. After some small challenges by the shell door, we get back on board, completely soaked and happy.

The storm keeps on increasing throughout the afternoon as we start our voyage towards the Antarctic Circle. After lunch Ursula gives a beautiful lecture about her many years of working with Minke Whales specially highlighting the challenges that whales are facing today. One of the biggest problems is entanglement caused by fishing gear or other human garbage that made its’ way into the oceans.

Koen rounds off the afternoon with his great story about Antarctic Exploration, where he talks about the many brave men on numerous expeditions to the frozen continent until the late 19th century that led to what we call today the “Heroic Age of Polar Exploration”.

After the daily recap that gives us an idea of the plans for the coming days, we head down for dinner and some of us for some drinks to the bar while the ship gently rolls southwards.

Day 9: Crossing the Antarctic Circle

Crossing the Antarctic Circle
Date: 22.03.2023
Position: 66°52.5’S 066°48.1’W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -2

What a way to start the day: today we crossed the Antarctic Circle, passing 66 33.4944’ S! (Before breakfast, nonetheless!) The weather conditions were not beautiful blue skies and sunshine, but rather a perfectly fitting, snowy and freezing morning, with the decks of Hondius decorated with the previous night’s snowfall and the icebergs looming out of the low cloud and squalls as we gently sailed further South.

After a little celebration of the crossing, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as we approached Detaille Island. This would be our most Southerly landing site and a very special one at that – very few expedition ships make it to this small and rugged island, formerly the site of the British “Base W”, hastily abandoned in 1959 when sea ice conditions made resupply to the team here impossible.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate (in true-Antarctic, late-season fashion!) and as the morning progressed and swell conditions worsened, the Captain made the call for us to return to Hondius. Those of us who were lucky enough to reach the rocky shores of Detaille Island had a very challenging climb up the slope – the expedition team set up a series of ropes and helping hands for the way up the frozen and slippery landing site. The reward for our hard scramble was the chance to look inside the hut where the team of Base W had their home. As the men were forced to leave so suddenly, the hut is like a time-capsule with many of their belongings and supplies preserved in situ, allowing us a glimpse of this Antarctic life from over half a century ago.

The island itself is very small but was covered in fresh snow and many beautifully carved icebergs had grounded on the shallow reefs surrounding the coastline; Weddell, Crabeater and Fur seals could be seen from the landing site, resting on the ice floes. A chilly and snowy zodiac cruise around the rocky shores completed our mini-adventure south of the polar circle. Hondius set sail again, with our destination Fournier Bay, 254 nautical miles to the North.

Inside the hut, there was a truly heart-warming story about Steve the sled dog: the RSS Biscoe had arrived to deliver supplies to the team at the base, but when sea ice made delivery operations impossible, a last-minute decision was made by the Captain of the ship to abandon the base and the men were to gather the necessary belongings and cross the 30 miles of fast ice to join the Biscoe, never to return to Detaille Island.

Steve the sled dog was not with the men when the time came to board the ship and the Captain regrettably could not grant extra time to retrieve him, leaving him alone at the island. The men relocated to another base, 60 miles away to the South. After three months there, the men could simply not believe their eyes when Steve the dog one day appeared at their feet, having found his way back to them, all by himself! Having made the journey alongside the men in a previous winter, the dog simply retraced his steps and found his way back to his beloved team.

Day 10: Sailing north – Fournier Bay

Sailing north – Fournier Bay
Date: 23.03.2023
Position: 64°31.6’S 062°43.0’W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

Another activity day onboard MS Hondius started with strong winds and rough sea in the Gerlache Strait – a strip of water between the Antarctic Peninsula and larger islands of Anvers and Brabant. We were still steaming north from our previous day south of the Antarctic Polar Circle and would arrive at our destination in the early afternoon. Expedition Guide Andrews’ comedic side was exposed during his hilarious morning lecture about the strange world of birders. He poked fun at himself and our wonderful birders onboard while explaining the inner world of bird watching.

Until noon the weather was unfavourable for operations due to wind, but the evening before Hans, our Expedition Leader, was hoping to find a sheltered place for zodiac cruising in the afternoon. Luckily for us, years of his experience paid off. During lunch we entered the picturesque Fournier Bay of Anvers Island and as we cruised deeper into the bay the wind eventually ceased and the skies cleared, giving us another chance to get out on the water in Antarctica.

The thing that happened next was just unbelievable – a pod of four orcas suddenly popped up just metres from the Hondius bow! All passengers and guides immediately rushed to outer decks to observe their majestic dance, with dorsal fins and tail flukes alternatively emerging and submerging all around the ship. A quick decision was made to anchor Hondius exactly at the spot and launch the zodiacs. Our first group of guests embarked on the zodiacs and were lucky to see the orcas from the water. The orcas had just successfully hunted a Weddell seal and the remains could still be seen. Over the next 20 minutes we observed the killer whales displaying surface active behaviours, including tail slapping. The orcas then regrouped and slowly travelled north out of Fournier Bay.

During the remaining part of the cruise we zig zagged through the iceberg maze, searching for more whales and seals. We puttered along shoreline admiring the icy cliffs of glaciers and ice caps of the Fournier Bay. We were fortunate to find leopard seals basking in the sun on ice floes and got a very close look. We also encountered two humpback whales, a mother and a calf, playfully hanging around our zodiacs! To make this cruise even more enjoyable, the hotel manager William and bartender Angelina jumped into their own zodiac to open a one of a kind, floating bar, serving hot chocolate (and rum) to all of us! This cruise was a beautiful last zodiac cruise of our expedition and truly a memorable experience.

Another successful day onboard MV Hondius and continuous excitement for what was in store for the following day, South Shetland Islands.

Day 11: Sailing north – Fournier Bay

Sailing north – Fournier Bay
Date: 24.03.2023
Position: 62°59.0’S 060°33.7’W
Wind: N 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Our journey north continued as we arrived at the southwestern end of the South Shetland Islands in the early morning. Logistics allowed for an additional landing in our itinerary at Deception Island, a well-known stop for many guests onboard due to the history and picturesque diving location. Its shape is nearly a full circle, hence the name Deception Island as explorers thought it was a typically shaped island however, they were deceived and found an entrance into the caldera through a place called Neptune’s Bellows. Our bridge team excellently navigated MV Hondius through the entrance with impressive geology towering over us on both sides of the ship. Whalers Bay has quite a barren appearance with a rocky black beach and a blanket of fog perfectly hovering to mask the tops of the mountains.

Whalers Bay is a United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust Historic Site and Monument. Within the bay there are buildings, structures, and artefacts that remain from both the historic whaling days and more recent British scientific base. Deception Island was utilised by both the British and American sealers in the 1820s targeting fur seals; an eerie thought as during our visit the beaches were covered with Antarctic fur seals. The hunters were so successful they decimated the population of fur seals and moved to a new location. This allowed for a Norwegian whaling company, Hektor, to move to Deception Island and build a whaling station. The whaling station was in operation from 1906-1931 and similar to the seal hunters, the whalers left Deception once the whale stocks were too depleted to be successful any longer. In 1944 Whalers Bay become home the British Base B as part of Operation Tabarin. Base B was a research station focusing on meteorology and geology. With the addition of an aircraft hangar, Deception Island became the centre of British Antarctic Flight Operations. Possibly the most notable historic fact about Deception Island is the volcanic eruption. In December 1967, a volcano on the island erupted and smothered the island with ash. A rescue operation was put in place to evacuate 27 Chileans from their base in Pendulum cove, and 8 British from their base at Whalers Bay. The following summer there was another volcanic eruption causing the base to be abandoned and not reoccupied since. This is very apparent during our visit looking at the dilapidated buildings and whale processing machinery scattered all over the beach.

The landing site at Deception Island in Whalers Bay treated us to sightings of many juvenile Antarctic fur seals playfully fighting with one another, a few gentoo penguins scattered among the beach and old buildings collectively creating a beautiful ambiance. This site also offers guests an opportunity to stretch our legs with a nice long walk along the beach. Our landing at Deception Island concluded with the long-awaited Polar Plunge! Over 50 guests plunged into the cold Antarctica water and quicky retreated to the beach, into the zodiac and straight back to the ship. Deception Island is a special location to have the chance to polar plunge as it is active volcano and the water is slightly warmer than other places on the Antarctica Peninsula. What a fantastic last landing of the trip and last Antarctica landing for MV Hondius! In the afternoon we started our journey north into the Drake and sadly towards Ushuaia.

Day 12: At sea on the Drake Passage

At sea on the Drake Passage
Date: 25.03.2023
Position: 59°17.5’S 062°21.2’W
Wind: WNW 8
Weather: Clear sky
Air Temperature: +3

On our first morning back in the Drake Passage, heading northwards towards Ushuaia, we woke (those of us that had managed any sleep!) to a bright, sunny day. Winds were gusting to 50 knots with a swell of around 4 meters, which all made for dramatic views from inside the ship. From the bridge we could anticipate the waves crashing over the bow by feeling the steep rise of Hondius on a big wave before crashing down into the face of the next oncoming. We had the luxury of no wake-up call so when breakfast was served it was, unsurprisingly, not so well attended. The daily lecture program started with Pierre presenting on Humpback Whales, followed by Jacob on the current state of Antarctic ice shelves and the global impact of their failure. In between those two fine presentations we said goodbye to our muck boots, returning them to the expedition team in the equipment stores. Outside, the seabirds were not so troubled by the brisk conditions with Blue Petrels passing the ship in large numbers. This is a species that had not been recorded so far on our voyage and suddenly there were hundreds (with one count of 251 per hour) and all heading south. Grey-headed Albatross occasionally put in an appearance along with a couple of Sooty Shearwaters and some Common Diving Petrels.

After lunch Ursula presented on the feeding strategies of whales and dolphins to be followed by a fascinating insight into the experiences of the dive group during this trip. Faith Ann-Ortins took us through the processes that divers have to go through when diving in such extreme conditions and then through a stunning montage of photos and videos from the trip. They potentially discovered two new species to science (to be confirmed) but perhaps the most exciting showing was the video of the Leopard Seal at Mikkelson Harbour, killing and eating a Gentoo Penguin. Outside again, the Blue Petrel passage had dried up but with more Grey-headed Albatross now being joined a Wandering Albatross and White-chinned Petrels. A Fin Whale also surfaced briefly off the stern. Following a fabulous plated dinner served up by the hotel staff in the dining room, many of us removed to the library for the quiz. Hosted by Antonie in his unique style, teams attempted to answer various questions on many of the topics featured in the lecture program throughout the cruise. The surprise was the ‘Guess the Guide’ round – photos of members of the expedition team in their formative years – quite tricky! Once negotiated, the winning team was able to claim glory (!) and a great prize. Everyone enjoyed it and we were (at least temporarily) able to forget the still tumultuous sea outside.

Day 13: At sea on the Drake Passage

At sea on the Drake Passage
Date: 26.03.2023
Position: 55°45.2’S 065°06.5’W
Wind: W 8/9
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

Today we wake up to the feel of the rough movement of the vessel, we hear the winds were exceedingly high in the night, up to 100knots!! Despite the swell the ocean is beautiful, the blue luminates in the sunshine and the white caps exceed to the horizon. It is our last day to spot those fabulous Albatross as they soar above the waves. Today our schedule apart from a little snooze is filled with lectures from Carina on water treatment, Sasha on how to get to the Antarctic, a Mini Series on sustainability in the ocean and Argentinian traditions with Clara and Gonzalo. Our brains feel so full of knowledge and inspiration!

At 1500 we start to enter the Beagle Channel and the vessel starts to slow down in movement, soon the celebrations begin. The Expedition Team and Captain Artur have a farewell toast in the lounge with prosecco, this is where Georgina presents a beautiful slideshow of the trip, alongside Thomas the videographer with what he captured during this voyage. The final dinner is full of delicacies of lamb rank and salmon and the one and only baked Alaska dessert! We all feel so lucky and privileged to have seen what we saw, we can now leave very very happy 😊

Day 14: Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 27.03.2023
Position: 54°48.6’S 068°17.9’W
Wind: SW 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

One last wake-up call from Hans. Our bags are packed when we head down for breakfast one last time and we are getting ready to disembark our dear Hondius that has taken us to one of the most beautiful places on earth. On this remarkable journey we crossed the notorious Drake Passage twice, discovered the beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula, dived and sailed through multiple storms. We went beyond the southern polar circle! What an extraordinary achievement! This trip has given us a glimpse of life in these remote and sometimes inhospitable places. We have encountered amazing wildlife, made new friends, learned, and experienced so much together. We will all take home different memories of our voyage, but those memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives! This was our expedition.

In the name of Oceanwide Expeditions and all crew and staff aboard Hondius, we want to thank you all for travelling with us. It has been an absolute pleasure for us to share this unforgettable experience with you!


Tripcode: HDS31-23
Dates: 14 Mar - 27 Mar, 2023
Duration: 13 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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