OTL21-19, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 03.11.2019
Position: 54°49‘S, 68°17‘W
Wind: SW F6
Air Temperature: +7

It was late afternoon on a windy but sunny and beautiful day in Ushuaia. The first passengers to arrive to Ortelius at 4pm were a group of young (or young at heart!) adventurers. All the expedition staff greeted the guests as they climbed the gangway for the first time and hotel manager Sigi quickly had all the guests assigned and shown to their cabins where they will be staying for our trip. After every passenger was onboard and had a cabin we had our mandatory safety drill, everyone seemed to enjoy wearing orange! Before dinner all the guides introduced themselves and Claudia, our EL gave us a little introduction about expedition cruising in Antarctica. Our ships doctor (Rob) had a ‘patch and pills party ’after dinner to try and keep everyone free from feeling too sea sick, only time would tell if it had worked, as unfortunately the forecast had promised the infamous ‘Drake shake’.

Day 2: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica
Date: 03.11.2019
Position: 57°45’59 S 65°7’22 W
Wind: WSW F8-9
Air Temperature: +4

When we were woken by our expedition leader Claudia, we found ourselves completely surrounded by open water. We were in the Drake passage and she was not being particularly kind to us. There was a steady 30-35 knots of wind, with a top wind speed recorded of 45 knots (!) creating a 4-5 metre swell and quite a bit of movement of the ship. Due to the rough waters the outside decks were closed so we filled our day with multiple lectures trying to keep our movements to a minimum, as many of us were not feeling 100%. Our lectures of the day introduced us to many aspects of Antarctic that were unknown to some of us. Claudia started the day with a lecture on the Birds of the Southern Ocean. A great overview and in-depth look at the birds we could see flying around the ship. After that Ian gave an interesting lecture on the Seals of Antarctica which showed the subtle, but important, differences between the seals we might see in the coming days. In the afternoon Rustyn gave his lecture on the Antarctic Treaty System and IAATO - which included all the politics involved on this complex subject. Later Amelie gave a lecture on photography and how to best make use of any camera you might have to capture the amazing wildlife and scenery. Although it was a rough day on the Drake Passage, we used our time wisely and learned quite a lot. Meanwhile outside several birds were seen. Black-browed, Northern and Southern Albatrosses were seen flying around the ship. As there was a lot of wind, the birds seemed to be having a great time - unaffected by the weather that was causing some of us so much trouble. Despite the rough seas it was still well worth spending some time on the bridge watching what the ocean had to offer. At the end of the day we had our first recap. Here Claudia explained the plans for the following day and showed us the forecasted weather charts. We would most likely have much calmer weather tomorrow, good news! When recap was over it was time for a lovely dinner after which we congregated in the bar to meet new friends and enjoy the anticipation of what was about to come…

Day 3: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica
Date: 04.11.2019
Position: 61°37’21 S 62°45’30 W
Wind: SE F2
Air Temperature: +4

We awoke to a sunny morning with almost a calm sea! This was great news for a lot of us who had been feeling a bit sea sick as it meant a good night sleep was had by all. Ortelius had a gentle motion and it was a relief to see the Drake Passages’ softer side. A few cape petrels and southern giant petrels were showing off with their amazing flying, wheeling and diving around Ortelius. Some of us as early morning risers were rewarded when a humpback was spotted, it reappeared during Claudia’s IAATO briefing, which certainly interrupted the briefing for a little bit but our EL made sure no-one missed any part of this important briefing. The species sighting sheet received steady ticks as we identified more whales, assorted birds and one penguin – which was quite difficult to identify from the ship as it sped past in the water. Reports of our first iceberg in the afternoon certainly got our attention and everyone was eager to get to Antarctica to see more of these huge wonderous pieces of ice. In the morning we had a vacuum party! This was for biosecurity so we didn’t bring any seeds, spores or small animals down to Antarctica that shouldn’t be there. Boots and lifejackets were handed out and all of us were ready to go! In the evening our activity guides gave their briefings to all of the groups, kayaking, mountaineering, snowshoeing, photography and camping. This certainly made everyone ready and very excited to get going on our adventures in Antarctica.

Day 4: AM - Orne Harbour, PM - Cuverville Island

AM - Orne Harbour, PM -  Cuverville Island
Date: 06.11.2019
Position: 64 °38’00 S 62 °33’00 W, 64°41’00 S 62°38’00 W
Wind: Var F1
Air Temperature: +8

The fourth day of our Antarctic adventure got off to an incredibly beautiful start with a fantastic zodiac cruise in and around Orne harbour. We were able to get an up-close look at our first rookery with both gentoo and chin strap penguins giving us a show. As soon as everyone was back on Ortelius we set course to Cuverville Island, just south of Orne Harbour, in order to spend some time with the local gentoo penguins belonging to the largest gentoo colony in Antarctica. Along the way we enjoyed views of the striking blue sea under snow-covered mountain peaks and marvellous icebergs. The weather remained good throughout the morning and afternoon with sunshine and little to no wind. A truly phenomenal start to our first day of excursions on the icy blue continent for this unforgettable trip. Excitement was running high at recap and briefing that evening; not only were we eager to hear about tomorrow’s activities, but nearly 30 aspiring campers were hoping to spend the night out on the ice. Conditions stayed good and they shouldered their sleeping gear and all headed out around 8 pm all in good spirits. There was much speculation back on board as to how they would feel in the morning… Kayaking This was the first kayak of the season in Antarctica for Ortelius. We got in to our kayaks at Orne harbour, where we had beautiful conditions, sunshine and hardly any wind. Just a few hundred metres into our cruise we came across a chinstrap penguin colony, this early in the season we had to work our way through a lot of ice and it felt more like we were icebreakers then Kayakers. But our hard work paid off as we got to enjoy the penguins. In the afternoon we kayaked near Cuverville, around huge icebergs and followed the coastline of the biggest gentoo penguin colony on the Peninsula. Mountaineering AM - Eight of us set off from Orne Harbour in two roped teams Wearing snowshoes we reached the col and the Chinstrap colony. Under blue skies and no wind, the chinstraps seemed happy to see us after 8 months with no visitors. Changing to crampons we climbed the steep and exposed ridge to the summit with stunning views. Care was needed on the descent with a big drop tugging at our heels to the left. Cuverville PM - Setting off in atmospheric light twelve of us wearing snowshoes and using ice axes climbed the steepening snow slopes until the angle eased and we reached the ice cap. Reaching the summit, we soaked up the view on the other side of the island with a steep drop to the Ocean. Camping: Kerr Point After our first day in Antarctica there was a lot of anticipation for our first night camping at Kerr Point. After scouting a prime spot it was obvious that the weather could not have been more in our favour. We arrived at around 20:30 and immediately had a briefing regarding our location, our camp set up and what to expect during the night. Everyone started working as a team to transform this remote camp spot into our home for the night. The ship sailed out of sight and left us in complete silence. After digging out our camping areas, we all crawled into our bivys for the night and tried to get some sleep so we would be as rested as possible for our 05:30 zodiac pick up. The temperature dropped low that night and from our bivys we could hear ice falls and avalanches though the night. A great reminder of our small place on this vast icy continent.

Day 5: AM - Neko Harbour, PM - Danco Island

AM - Neko Harbour, PM - Danco Island
Date: 07.11.2019
Position: 64°50’37 S 62°31’58 W, 64° 43’56 S 62°35’33 W
Wind: SE F5
Air Temperature: +3

Today was a day of wonders. Starting in Neko Harbour, the wind was threatening to prevent us loading or landing the zodiacs. As we waited, the wind settled enough to make it safe to load the zodiacs with a little extra help from Zet. With small puffy clouds in the sky, the lighting could not have been better for photos. After a bumpy ride in the zodiacs, we arrived at the beach. Our landing at the gentoo rookery was quite challenging and the snowshoes had to be applied right away or ones legs would sink to the knees in the snow. The gentoo penguins were extremely curious about what was going on their beach so they immediately came to look around. We passed some of their rookeries on our way up to the high viewpoint looking over Neko Harbour and Andvord Bay. The mountaineers were already far above us walking to the edge of the glacier, they walked over the debris of a recent avalanche, quite an adventure. After a quick lunch on the ship we arrived at Danco Island. What a difference a couple of hours had made, there was no wind, blue skies as far as the eye could see and beautiful sunny reflections from the glassy water. The kayakers told us later on that they were almost too warm kayaking and enjoyed finding their reflections back in the smooth water all around them. In addition, the kayakers reported finding a weddell seal laying on a rock, gently snoring. The mountaineers found their way to steep glacial ice cliffs with their guides for ice climbing. On shore we had our hands full with the hundreds of gentoo penguins walking, sliding and stumbling around. A highway of penguins going up and down was therefore a busy crossing where we had a while for our turn. The view from the top of Danco island (although it was a warm walk up!) was simply breathtaking and absolutely worth the effort. To top it all off, we had a delicious and well-deserved BBQ organised by the hotel staff on the helideck. With enough beer and wine for all, we watched the sunset with orange, red and purple colors filling the sky. Kayaking After a windy morning which prevented kayaking, thankfully the wind dropped to nothing when we arrived at Danco island. The sea was like a mirror and we cut the perfectly flat waters when we paddled south of Danco island. Gentoo penguins were jumping around our kayaks and we got to see an iceberg rolling. Mountaineering: AM - Landing at Neko Harbour twelve of us in two roped teams climbed up towards the precipitous cliffs and jumbled glaciers above, we travelled into the depths of the glacier passing large crevasses and avalanche debris. Another blue-sky day to soak up the Antarctic Peninsula from up high. PM - Ice Climbing! Three top ropes were set up on the steep ice beside the sea in Danco Island. Using two technical ice tools and crampons twelve keen climbers tested themselves on the near vertical ice. All this to the backdrop of a calm sea in perfect weather.

Day 6: AM - Damoy Island, PM Jougla Island

AM - Damoy Island, PM Jougla Island
Date: 08.11.2019
Position: 64°48’27 S 63°30’12 W, 64°49’00 S 63° 29’00 W
Wind: SW F2/3
Air Temperature: +4

The sunshine was a little slow in showing its face this morning but that didn’t stop us wanting to visit Damoy Island. On shore gentoo penguins and a weddell seal were waiting to greet us. There are some historic British and Argentine field huts and we were able to look inside the British hut. The British hut was established by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in November 1975. This was primarily used as a transit station for BAS staff and stores to be flown south, if ice was preventing access to Rothera by ship. This was flown from the skiway on the glacier above the hut at Damoy. The hut was last occupied by BAS in 1993. The Bahai Dorian hut was established by the Argentine Navy on February 23rd 1953, it has been (and still can be) used as an emergency refuge. Some of us enjoyed the penguins, or had a walk up the hill, the kayakers went kayaking and our group of mountaineers had a great walk up the glacier and into a huge ice wall, it looked stunningly blue. For our afternoon outing we had something special in store! We were able (with Tim and Johnny’s excellent guidance) to go for a walk on some sea ice that was attached to the shore which is called ‘fast ice’. This ice will probably have melted in the next week or so, so it was very special to have this experience. We saw a weddell seal with a pup and of course enjoyed seeing the gentoo penguins on the island. The wind had picked up and it was a chilly journey back to the ship where warm showers awaited! Due to the wind and sea ice, camping was cancelled, but we won’t give up and fingers crossed for the next time. Instead we all settled down to another excellent meal prepared by our onboard chefs. Kayaking: It was a little windy this morning at Damoy but that didn’t stop 14 strong Kayakers from going out on this sunny cold morning. We kayaked around icebergs all the way up to a gentoo colony and got the chance to see both a penguin diving in from the rocks and a demonstration of how they climbed their way out of the sea. Mountaineering: AM - Leaving from the huts we climbed in our snow shoes towards the glacier and old runway leading up to the steep slopes of Jabet peak. Zig zagging up the steepening blunt ridge we entered a large crevasse where all twelve of us stood with a towering ice wall above us. After soaking up the views towards Port Lockroy we descended on our snowshoes to the shore. Jabet Peak, Damoy Point PM - Everyone came on a sea ice adventure passing the scene of some whaling history including some old graffiti and signs. We went back on the sea ice passing a spectacular ice cliff and a mother and pup weddell seal.

Day 7: AM – Pleaneau Island, PM – Petermann

AM – Pleaneau Island, PM – Petermann
Date: 10.11.2019
Position: 65°6’3 S 64°2’49 W, 65°10’36 S 64°8’14 W
Wind: S F2
Air Temperature: 0

Our day began as Ortelius sailed South towards Pleaneau Island through the amazingly beautiful Lemaire Channel, it was breathtaking, not only in beauty but also with the biting temperature of the wind! There was a lot of us out on the bow braving the wind, as Captain Yury navigated us down the narrow channel. As we made our way out into the Penola Strait, we experienced a lot of sea ice that Ortlieus was able to push its way through at the south end of the Lemaire. Thankfully we found the wind had died down and we were able to get ashore at the visually stunning Pleaneau Island. With snow-shoeing amongst gentoo penguins and our mountaineers scaling the east side of the island, it made for an outstanding morning. After repositioning the ship further south in the Penola Strait, we found ourselves in Port Charcot at the historic Petermann Island. With jaw dropping views from behind the back ridge on the far east side of the island, we were able to spot huge grounded icebergs and a very solitary and slothful weddell seal. On the north end as we hiked for a little elevation there was our first and only glimpse of the rare, and getting rarer, adelie penguin colony. A magnificent treat to say the least. Port Charcot; named after Jean-Baptiste Charcot, the captain of Porquois-Pais which was Charcot’s second French Antarctic expedition ship in 1903-05, which overwintered in the bay. Later that evening we returned 31 of our happy campers to the far north end of Pleaneau Island for a snowy and foggy- but satisfying- overnight stay on the ice. Petermann Kayaking: In the afternoon the wind had calmed down and we were able to get in to the kayaks at Petermann island. We kayaked along the east side of the island and for some of the way our kayaks had to act more like icebreakers then kayaks. In a little shallow bay that is only accessible by kayak, we got a chance to see both adelie penguins and nesting blue eyed shags. As a great finale of kayaking this afternoon we landed on an ice floe from our kayaks. Mountaineering: AM - On today’s sea ice adventure we travelled over to a small island with the back drop of spectacular icebergs (the graveyard), coming back we spent some time with a weddell seal on the ice before finishing by climbing in our snowshoes to the highest point of the island. PM - Passing adelie penguins our team of eleven headed for Circumcision cove and the steep icecap leading to the highest point of the island. The team gave it their best but sometimes turning back is the best option if conditions are not right. After soaking up the view over the cove we descended to see the adelies. Camping: Hovgaard The camping night on Hovgaard started with a discussion on whether or not camping was possible at all. The grey clouds and predicted snowfall made the camping guides wonder how the night might play out. But with everyone being very positive and enthusiastic it seemed that the team could handle it - and they decided to push forward. After the zodiacs had delivered the campers ashore, there was a briefing about our camp spot and equipment. Everyone looked on as the guides built the privacy walls for the camp bathroom and they agreed that this might just be the best views a bathroom could ever have. As everyone settled into their bivys, a group of penguins walked through camp and decided to stay with us for the night. At around 1am the snow started to fall constantly and slowly covered everyone, and everything, with 6cm of fresh snow. In the morning the entire team was in good spirits and broke down camp quickly and efficiently and got back to the ship for some hot coffee by 05:30am. It was a cold and snowy night, but a night that no one would ever forget.

Day 8: Hovgaard Island

Hovgaard Island
Date: 10.11.2019
Position: 65° 6’49 S 64°4’1 W
Wind: Var – F1 / SW F7
Air Temperature: 0

We started our day at Hovgaard Island where we had to pick up our campers after a cold and snowy night. We made our way north back through the Lemaire Channel towards Paradise bay. With all our hopes up we were looking for better weather that would allow a zodiac cruise. Our journey up went smoothly with many snow petrels flying around the ship. Arriving at the bay the weather looked a poor but, with the full motivation of the expedition crew we lowered the zodiacs and made our way to the research station Brown for a landing. With a lot of ice in our way there were already some doubts and after our Captain mentioned that there was more ice coming a difficult decision had to be made. We couldn’t safely land. With plan C up our sleeves, we made our way further up north to a place called Cierva Cove. As this was a 5 hour ride to the north, we had some time to fill and what better way than calling everybody on deck for a snowman contest. Starting with an intense snowball fight between the passengers and the expedition crew! With some amazing sculptures made, from a tiny to a gigantic snowman, whales and penguins Clouds announced the winner the contest, The Penguin! The winners were then able to enjoy the prize of a bottle of wine. Making our way through the Gerlache strait, we found a position to hold station near to Cierva Cove just so we could make it an extra early start the next day on our zodiac cruise, fingers crossed the weather would remain favourable for us.

Day 9: Cierva Cove

Cierva Cove
Date: 11.11.2019
Position: 64°8’21 S 60°56’49 W
Wind: Var F1
Air Temperature: +2

The weather remained stable and at 7:00 am we disembarked the ship for an astonishingly beautiful zodiac cruise near Primavera Station in Cierva Cove. A calm but snowy early morning cruise took us amongst blue icebergs and still waters surrounded by brash ice. The placid conditions made for a wonderful last excursion with all of us enjoying the final views of the most breath-taking place on earth. What a treat! As soon as we were out of the shelter of the peninsula we went into the full force of the storm, with the ship moving around a lot people stayed in their cabins for a while to get used to the movement. The storm reached its peak in throwing a force 10 at us, some truly rough seas. In the afternoon some people felt well enough to join in the bar for some team trivia. Pippa put together a wonderful quiz for everyone to enjoy in the bar. A fun quiz made up mostly of questions referring to all of the information and some fun facts that we have gathered from these past days in Antarctica. A great way to finish our last day in Antarctica as we start to make our journey north to Ushuaia.

Day 10: Through the Drake

Through the Drake
Date: 12.11.2019
Position: 60°19’5 S 63°30’9 W
Wind: NW F7
Air Temperature: +6

After a bumpy evening, in the middle of the night the weather had decided to give us all a break and improve so that we could get some sleep. It was still quite rough outside in the morning so the decks remained closed, instead we enjoyed two fascinating lectures. The first on whales of the Southern Ocean by Pippa and the second with Ian about the whales feeding habits and behaviour. In the afternoon we learnt about Tim’s time living and working in Antarctica and finished off the afternoon with a fun game with the expedition team in the bar – seeing who could be best the liar!

Day 11: Towards Ushuaia

Towards Ushuaia
Date: 13.11.2019
Position: 56°09’7 S 65°45’5 W
Air Temperature: +6

The weather had calmed down enough overnight meaning we could enjoy some fresh air again! Another day at sea but we had certainly escaped the worst of the storm that was closely following behind. In the morning we learnt about the weird and wonderful sounds of the ocean from Pippa, and just after lunch we learnt about the evolution of penguins from Koen. The time had then come to hand back our rubber boots and lifejackets. We couldn’t believe the trip was nearly at an end! In the evening we had our final recap, some brilliant photos and slideshow were shown and the captain came to share his thanks for a wonderful voyage.

Day 12: Disembarkation day!

Disembarkation day!
Date: 14.11.2019
Position: 54°49‘S 68°17‘W
Wind: N F3
Air Temperature: +9

We awoke for the last time with a wake up call from our EL, this was sadly our disembarkation day. We had all survived the Drake shake (!) and it was with mixed emotions we found ourselves in Ushuaia, happy that the movement of the ship had subsided but sad that the adventure was over for now. After our breakfast on board we said our goodbyes, and left the good ship Ortelius, although our trip was over it was simply fantastic and all of us have memories to last a lifetime. Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be! Total Distance Sailed: 1637.5 Nautical Miles On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Yury Marin, Expedition Leader Claudia Holgate, Hotel Manager Sigi and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Tripcode: OTL21-19
Dates: 3 Nov - 14 Nov, 2019
Duration: 11 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Ortelius

The ice-strengthened Ortelius is thoroughly outfitted for polar exploration and, when necessary, helicopter flights.

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