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OTL22-18, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 07.11.2018
Position: 54°51.1‘S, 068°01.4‘W
Wind: NW 3
Air Temperature: +10

It is late afternoon on Ushuaia dock when the first new passengers arrive to board the Ortelius. As the buses start to arrive the excitement in the air is palpable. The expedition staff greet each guest as they climb the gangway for the first time and direct them to the reception to check in. The hotel manager, DJ, and his as-sistant Alex, quickly have all passengers assigned and shown to their cabins where they will spend the next 10 days. After a brief period to settle in, all guests were invited to the lounge for house rules and security drills. DJ gave a presentation on how the ship works and meal times, followed by a full abandon ship drill. Passengers tried out their lifejackets before moving to their appropriate life boat. Once these drills had been completed, the Ortelius was ready to depart.

Pulling gently away from the dock and heading out through the Beagle Channel, the Ortleius made her way out to open ocean surrounded on both sides by mountains. A group of Magellanic Penguins raced the vessel as she steamed away. At 6:30pm the passengers were once again invited up to the lounge for Captain’s cocktails. Captain Ernesto introduced himself to the crowd giving his thoughts on the first time he saw Ant-arctica. Next up Lynn introduced herself as Expedition Leader before introducing her expedition staff all with their own anecdotes about how they “caught the Antarctica bug”.

After all the introductions were out of the way, it was time for dinner in the dining room. A wonderful three course meal was served by DJ and his team, much to the delight of all those new aboard. After dinner, with no more briefings or meetings to be had, most of the new passengers and expedition staff met again in the lounge. Getting to know one another and discussing the numerous activities to be undertaken in the next 10 days, all bonded over a few drinks in the bar with Rolando providing both wonderful service and witty banter.

The doctor also dropped by to discuss with those concerned how to manage sea sickness over the next few days on the infamous Drake Passage. The staff informed the passengers that during the night we will enter the passage and that more than likely there will be a lot more movement of the vessel. Armed with this information the passengers retired for the evening to spend their first night with their new cabin mates on this new adventure.

Day 2: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 08.11.2018
Position: 56°18.5‘S, 065°17.8‘W
Wind: WSW 7
Air Temperature: +5

The first full day onboard Ortelius welcomed passengers and crew with moderate winds – at least in terms of the Drake Passage after a rolling night.

Some remaining swell from an earlier low-pressure system (approx. 5m waves) reminded everybody that it might be summer in the region, but that the Drake Passage is one of the most challenging parts of the global oceans a ship can navigate. DJ announced the breakfast buffet to be open at 8.00. The queue at the buffet was not as long as one could have had thought, as many of us experienced seasickness.

Nevertheless, those adventurous people who wanted to join mountaineering and kayaking had to attend the mandatory briefings for their respective activities, kayaking with Fran and mountaineering with Tim and Martin.

After another hour or so of relaxing, coffee-drinking and chatting with the staff, bird watching with Celine and Martin the birder, it was time for lunch.

At 14.30, it was time to join Ben and Rustyn, our two dynamic camping guides in the Lecture Room for an introduction to camping. Most of the passengers were present, impatient and scared at the same time, but ready to live such an experience.

At 16:00, our lovely photo guide Esther presented her famous “Tips and Tricks to Polar Photography” to help people to take the best pictures they possibly could with any camera! After the lecture, it was time to practice on the outer decks before gathering in the lounge for the first daily recap of the trip.

At recap, Lynn told us the plans for tomorrow : another day at sea, thus there wasn’t too much on the agenda of today’s recap but recap time is also usually the moment to explain more in depth some topics. Today was a good time to talk about seabirds, which Martin was happy to oblige.

Recap will become one of the most important formats over the next couple of days. All staff are definitely prepared to handle our questions and if time might be too short, discussions can always be continued after dinner in the Bar.

Altogether, a quite calm day onboard Ortelius, but a perfect day to prepare for Antarctica itself.

Day 3: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 09.11.2018
Position: 60°33.7 S, 063°00.6‘W
Wind: SW 6
Air Temperature: 0

The second day of our Drake Passage we woke up on a somewhat calmer ocean then yesterday. During the night, we have passed the Antarctic Convergence and we are now officially in Antarctic Waters. The tem-perature has also dropped significantly and the early passengers out on the deck were met by the first snow and ice. After breakfast, our Expedition Leader, Lynn, gave a briefing about how to operate down in Antarctica and how to respect wildlife on the sites we are to visit. Soon after lunch we cruised through some pretty exciting waters with a lot of wildlife around the ship and a few lucky of us on the bridge got to see both Fin Whales and Humpback Whales together with all the Giant Petrels and the Cape Petrels that followed the ship since our journey started.

Introduced organisms is a big problem in Antarctica. To prevent new non-native species becoming estab-lished in this pristine environment, all gear we intend to use down south also needs to be properly cleaned before disembarking the ship. So, during the afternoon, we started our “Vacuum Party” in the bar where all of us made sure to pick away seeds and clean dirt from hiking equipment and camera bags.

Late during the afternoon, we eventually arrived to the South Shetland Islands, the gateway to Antarctica. The wind had gone down and even the sun was shining as we cruised past our first icebergs for the trip. The last highlight of the day was a breaching Humpback Whale just a few hundred meters’ port of the ship. Good to have arrived in Antarctica!

Day 4: Orne Harbour/ Cuverville Island

Orne Harbour/ Cuverville Island
Date: 10.11.2018
Position: 64°37.9‘S, 062°32.4‘W
Wind: WSW 4
Air Temperature: +1

The morning started with a perfect first Antarctic sunrise. The wind picked up and for a while the planned zodiac cruise in Orne Harbour and the other activities were unsure. In Antarctica weather conditions can change quickly and luckily enough this time for the best. Only the Kayaking had to be cancelled.

At 7:30 we brought the Mountaineers on land and they headed off to the Spigot Peak.

At 8:15 the first group of cruisers could approach the gangway and the zodiacs were filled one by one. All the zodiacs went straight to the Chinstrap Penguin colony. Probably the only time we will see Chinstrap penguins. The first encounter with the penguins made a deep impression. One group is nesting on the high ridge. Looking up, exposed also, the group of Mountaineers high up looked like a line of Penguins following the ridge line.

Orne Harbour is a very species rich place with breeding Chinstrap penguins, breeding Snow petrels, Storm‐petrels, Sheathbills, Skuas, Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Terns and Blue-eyed shags. All of them were present during the morning cruise. The Blue-eyed shags were especially impressive to watch. Making their nests they kept on hovering over with heaps of nesting material in their beaks.

Orne Harbour is also home to some grounded Icebergs. The sun was still a little visible through the clouds but not too much, perfect conditions to really see the light blue colors that made a nice contrast with the slightly grey sky. Just before heading to the ship a Weddell seal was perfectly placed and a good last gift to finish this cruise as a very successful one.

After lunch in the afternoon, we went to Cuverville Island. Early in the season this place is at its most beautiful with a thick layer of fresh white snow. The largest colony of Gentoo penguins are breeding here. They just arrived from being many months at sea, now waiting for their partners and meantime resting on their bellies on the snow. Some couples already found each other and every now and then we could be the spec-tators of the intimate moments of a penguin’s life.

Kayaking
Orne Harbour
For those lucky enough to see it, dawn in the Gerlache Strait around 5am was a spectacle of smooth water and pink and golden light. However, as we turned into Orne Harbour and headed under Spigot Peak the wind rose to 25+ knots only briefly abating to around 15knots, small downdrafts from the mountain peaks around creating a dappled ‘’cat’s paws’’ on the water. This was not going to be the morning for kayaking so - a little disappointed but with the knowledge that it might all come good later in the week - we prepared for a morning’s cruise.

Cuverville
As the day went on the weather improved in that the wind dropped. The deep grey sky produced a little light snow and rather limited visibility, we were under no illusions that we were kayaking at the back end of an Antarctic winter season. However, Cuverville never fails to deliver and for a couple of hours we es-caped the noise of the ship and enjoyed an incredibly peaceful journey back towards the rocky prow of the mountain and the penguin colonies nestling beneath it. The silence was only ever broken by the calls of gentoos on the water and the splash of our paddles. This is why we go kayaking!

Mountaineering
Spigot Peak from Orne Harbour. 8 Guests, 2 Guides.
Overnight MV Ortelius cruised into the Antarctic Peninsular arriving in the area around 0800 to enter Orne Harbour. First footfall for the mountaineering group was scrambling up soft snow from the Zodiac onto the slopes below the ridge leading to the summit of Spigot Peak. Snowshoes were ideal for the climb up to the col. These were to be a regular choice in the maritime conditions of the following days.

At the col we were greeted by a numerous chinstrap penguins all settling into their nesting sites and awaiting the melt of the snow from the rocks. The two roped parties of a Guide and 4 guests switched into crampons and shortened the rope for the steeper climb ahead. The snow was firm so the crampons provided welcome reassurance on the steady steep walking to the small summit. Spigot Peak has 360 degree views into the harbour and out into the Gerlache Strait. Cameras were busy with clear views all around. Some concentration was needed for in the descent to the col before the final easy slopes down to sea level and the Zodiac pick up.

Cuverville Island. Guides Tim and Martin accompanied by 12 guests.
We walked up the slopes beyond the Gentoo Penguin rookeries before changing into crampons and roping up for the climb on the snow-cap covered island. We tracked up to the summit and followed the heavily corniced summit ridge around the plateau before a steep descent returning to the shore and busy penguin life.

Camping
Camping Kerr Point
There was a lot of anticipation for the first night camping at Kerr Point. They arrived at around 20:30 and immediately started working as a team to transform this remote camp spot into their home for the night. After the work was done and the sun was set, they were all surprised by a massive ice fall that broke and started roaring down from the cliffs directly above them. Everyone stopped what there were doing and had eyes pinned on the white cloud coming down, which seemed to be pointed directly at the camp. Although Ben and Rustyn knew the campsite was out of harm’s way, the avalanche gave everyone pause with the true realisation of how fragile we all were in this environment. After the snow cloud cleared the air, and everyone relaxed, they all crawled into their bivys. Everyone tried to get some sleep so they would be rest-ed for the 05:30 zodiac pick up.

Day 5: Waterboat Point

Waterboat Point
Date: 11.11.2018
Position: 64°49.0‘S, 062°40.0‘W
Wind: W 5
Air Temperature: +3

The morning started with the 6:45 wake up call from Lynn just before breakfast. Earlier in the morning, Ortelius had picked up the campers from Kerr Point and they joined the rest of the passengers with stories of their adventures from the previous night. The plan had been to go to Neko Harbour and Danco Island. Unfortunately, as the morning wore on the weather and fast-moving ice wasn’t playing ball causing plans to have to change.

So instead Ortelius headed to Waterboat Point, an Argentine Base almost completely surrounded by a Gen-too penguin colony. Guests were brought ashore in 10s by zodiac and allowed to wander between the empty base buildings. Many sat in the snow observing the antics of the penguins splashing around in the shallows near the shore. Many comical moments to be had as they attempted to jump on small pieces of floating ice, often bumping off another penguin as they did so. This provided great amusement to the bystanders along with the bobbing dance of the snowy sheathbills on the roof tops.

As lunchtime approached, the guests were ferried back to the ship to enjoy a wonderful buffet prepared by DJ and his team. After lunch the guests were called to the bar for an update on the day’s activities. Sadly, due to the worsening weather and some essential engine maintenance, the afternoon’s landing and activities were cancelled. There was some disappointment but one look outside confirmed the decision was right. DJ then saved the day by announcing that he would be throwing a karaoke party and competition in the evening, lifting spirits all around.

Guests enjoyed the rest of the afternoon playing board games, chatting and observing the wild weather outside. At 18:30 guests were invited back to the lounge for recap. Lynn gave a brief overview of the plans for tomorrow, followed by Tobias’s fascinating and comical lecture based on the scientific calculation of the pressures at which penguin pooh is expelled. Still tickled by this lecture, the guests then descended to the dining room to enjoy a delicious 3 course meal.

After dinner most returned to the bar to choose their favourite songs for the karaoke contest. Everyone was game and soon a long list of requests was compiled for the night. Rolando provided the party with cocktails and very soon afterwards the party was in full swing. Groups and solo acts kept the mood high through the night until finally a winner was chosen, the grand prize being a bottle of prosecco.

The party was then drawn to a close, guests returned to their cabins for a night of well-earned rest, ready for tomorrows adventure.

Kayaking
Waterboat Point
After picking up the campers we headed for Neko Harbour but were unable to get in due to the ice. How-ever, steaming further south to Waterboat Point, we found a place opposite Gonzalez Videla Station with a gentoo colony, which was much freer of ice so provided excellent kayaking opportunity. The weather remained almost completely still and overcast with occasional snow-flakes. We were charmed by the sight of penguins going to and from the colony, to fish and to feed and wash themselves which they do by rolling over rapidly in the water using their flippers as a kind of loofah! We only had a relatively short time of the water but the team made to the most of the opportunities to take photos, and see large icebergs from the sea level perspective. Another beautiful start to the day.

Andvourd Bay
We got as far as getting all the equipment and clothing, and fitting ourselves out in the kayaks – we even got to sit in them but unfortunately due to some essential engine maintenance, and the weather turning sour later in the afternoon, this group did not manage to kayak.

Mountaineering
Duthiers Point Guides Tim and Martin accompanied by 11 guests.
We landed on the point and were immediately inspected by a small group of Penguins. We geared up into three ropes and wore snow shoes in the fresh soft snow. After a steep start we made a gentle curving line across the glacier to a subsidiary summit which provided open expansive views of the surrounding islands of Lemaire Island and across Andvord Bay. We descended to the shore and more visitors who proved the Gentoo Penguins are full of curiosity.

Camping
After closely watching the weather all day, and after speaking with the captain, the camping team was forced to make the difficult decision to call off the camping for the night. Although the weather seemed to be alright, in the end the winds were too high for a safe night on the ice. Everyone stayed positive, and back on the ship made the best of the situation with a fun night of karaoke and an extended happy hour. A truly memorable evening.

Day 6: Brown Station/ Stony Point

Brown Station/ Stony Point
Date: 12.11.2018
Position: 64°53.6‘S, 062°52.8‘W
Wind: N 2
Air Temperature: +3

Wakeup call was not easy for some of passengers this morning because of the amazing karaoke party we had yesterday evening.

At 8:30, the Argentine station Brown, made up of several orange structures, greeted us after a nice ship cruise through superb peninsula scenery of icebergs, glaciers and looming mountains. We were then split into two groups, with one going for a fascinating Zodiac cruise through brash ice and floating ice, getting a closer look at the glacier fronts in Skontorp Cove, while the other half shuttled over to Brown. The landing site was slippery rocks, but we managed to land safely and followed the paths that the Expedition Staff had marked for us. There were several options, one leading all the way up to the top of the hill behind the station, the other leading to the station itself. Both spots provided stunning views over the harbour, the ice, the Zodiacs, and towards Ortelius. At 10:00, we switched groups so that everybody was able to enjoy each activity.

After lunch, we reached Stony Point, a great place to try out the snowshoes.

When all of us were safely down again the bravest joined the polar plunge at the landing site. An incredible amount of passengers splashed about as much as the Gentoo Penguins in the -1˚C “warm” water, may be a record of participation in the history of Polar Plunge.
After a such intense day, we arrived back at the ship in time for our daily recap, in which Lynn outlined the anticipated process for tomorrow.

Happy passengers laughed and chattered in the bar late into the evening with everyone highly delighted at their experience of Antarctica.

Kayaking
Brown Station and Skontorp Cove
This was really a magical morning. Light snow had fallen overnight and continued to do so for the first half of the day. We had to brush snow off the kayaks before launching them. Skontorp Cove is always a favour-ite as it has steep cliffs rich in birdlife and we were entertained by the vivid screeches of the terns divebombing and harassing the much larger kelp gulls in the vicinity of their nesting sites. Further along we observed the streaks of verdigris in the rocks – a bright green stain associated with copper deposits – then around the corner into a bay of brash ice. Up closer to the glacier – but not too close we saw a small ice calving and heard some definite cracks within the glacier – but kept our distance remembering the Neko Harbour video clip. After a quick visit to Brown Station and the gentoos coming on and off the water, we paddled into some clear water, climbed back into the waiting Zodiacs and returned to the ship.

Stony Point
Stony Point is another of those sites where you can creep across from the landing site to some small islands on the other side of the strait. Here there were more penguins, in early season activity, greeting their mates, competing for nesting places and waiting for the snow to reveal more nesting opportunities. It was a fabulous afternoon with delicate clouds draping the mountains on Anvers Island.

Mountaineering
Almirante Brown. Tim and Martin with 20 guests.
Our first day in Paradise Bay. Stunning views all-around of glaciers tumbling down and ice bergs calving into the water. We enjoyed a unique and simple landing on the concrete wharf at the Argentinean base. Guests geared up and set off up pristine snow towards the summit beckoning above. Normally an easy track, this early in the season we were climbing in snow shoes in the deep soft snow!

The summit itself was negotiated in small groups with steep drops all around. All the mountaineers stood on the lofty summit! We then roped up in three teams for a glacial journey overlooking Skonthorp Cove where we observed the calving seracs below.

Mt Hauron. Tim and Martin with 14 guests.
Low tide and the presence of sea ice forced a landing on a small island off the coast. We were able to portage our kit along the boulder beach past a sleeping Weddell seal to a wading point to get onto the Main-land. We geared up into three roped parties and travelled on snow shoes in the soft snow. We climbed, zig zagging up the steepening slopes which offered great views into Paradise Bay. Deteriorating weather and fresh snowfall with steep soft snow and crevasses caused the parties to descend again back to the shore.

Camping
Camping Stoney Point
With the winds calm the team was able to make camp at Stoney Point. The evening started with some clouds but after working on the camp spots, the clouds broke and the evening presented them with beautiful views and landscapes. As everyone started winding down and the camp grew quiet, two penguins confidently hopped up on shore to inspect our camp. They seemed happy to share their spot with us. As we watched the Ortelius sail out of view, this gave the sensation of being completely disconnected from the world. The team fell asleep with a true feeling of self-sufficiency, alone in this pristine environment.

Day 7: Danco Island / Neko Harbour

Danco Island / Neko Harbour
Date: 13.11.2018
Position: 64°43.9‘S, 062°37.2‘W
Wind: W 1
Air Temperature: +3

After picking up the campers at 5:30 on Stony Point we once again went to Danco Island. Our hopes for the morning was climb its peak to admire the view and the Gentoo Penguins nesting up there. Clouds in shades of grey covered the sky but luckily no wind this morning. Soon after breakfast we arrived to Danco Island. Zodiacs were put into the water and soon we were all on land. Most of us aimed for the peak straight away to find out that too many penguins prevented us from reaching the top. Never mind, views were amazing anyway! The snow storm that so far had been further out in the fjord eventually came rolling in later in the morning and soon before lunch the wind picked up and snow began to fall. Perfect time for some lunch and to head for out next destination!

After lunch, we headed towards Neko Harbour, but once again the huge blocks of ice prevented us from reaching the shoreline. Instead, we slowly cruised through the icy fjord. Despite the heavy snowfall, we managed to see a couple of Crabeater Seals, Weddell Seal and Snow Petrels.

At three o'clock we put Zodiacs into the water for an afternoon cruise. The snow was falling from a grey sky and visibility was low, but luckily the wind had declined which ended up in a pleasant cruise with snow, ice and, for some, an Antarctic Fur Seal resting on the ice. Once back to the ship, Lynn and her Expedition Team, announced the plans for tomorrow followed by a barbeque dinner in the dining room. Last event for the evening was dropping off the campers in the wintery landscape. Fingers crossed that weather doesn’t get worse during the night.

Kayaking
Danco Island
The morning began well with flat calm seas and a magical ambience. It was a strong team of paddlers who took to the water with the ambition of circumnavigating Danco Island. We headed south and went around the corner, guided by Philip in the Zodiac who with his superior visibility, found a way through the brash ice for us. We were diverted by the sight of two crabeater seals on an ice floe and made a decision to turn back the way we had come as we couldn’t see easily if we could have got through the channel back to the ship. It was a good decision as the wind started to get up and by the time we got back into the Zodiac and headed back to the ship, the snow has started to fall and the wind was up to 20 knots. The team all agreed that it would not have been much fun to have tried to paddle back against that!

Andvourd Bay
The bay was still beset by too much ice and wind so although we had prepped and got ready to kayak, sadly the session had to be cancelled – though quite a few of the team opted to go cruising instead.

Mountaineering
Danco. This morning was a totally different activity with 13 guests trying their hand at steep ice climbing. Three top rope systems were put in place and everyone tried a couple of lines using two ice axes and crampon front points to climb the ice face of a serac above the sea. The weather closed in towards the end with a winter feel of fresh snow and horizontal snow. There was lots of enthusiasm and a great deal of energy applied.

Tuesday November 13th pm
Cancelled as a landing was prevented by sea ice. Zodiac cruising instead meant we spotted a fur seal and numerous sea bird species.

Camping
Camping Leith Cove
Camping at Leith Cove started with a heavy snowfall that made Ben and Rustyn both wondered 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. Their determination was rewarded and the snow slowed and stopped, leaving them with a beautiful and fresh snow cover. The campers had an entire island to them-selves, surrounded by hanging glaciers and multiple ice falls and avalanches. Everyone looked on as Ben and Rustyn built the privacy walls for the Potty and they agreed that it might just be the best views a bath-room could ever offer. As everyone settled into their bivys, a group of penguins walked up near the camp and decided to stay with us for the night. In the morning the team was in good spirits and broke down camp quickly and efficiently and got back to the ship for some hot coffee and showers by 05.30am.

Day 8: Port Lockroy & Jougla Point

Port Lockroy & Jougla Point
Date: 14.11.2018
Position: 64°43.1‘S, 063°13.8‘W
Wind: ENE 5
Air Temperature: +2

The day started with the good news from Lynn that the shop in Port Lockroy will be open. The Port Lockroy team arrived one day before and managed to get everything unpacked, the stamps ready and the credit card machine working. Next to memories and photo’s this is the only possibility to bring souvenirs home from Antarctica. When we arrived at Gaudier Island we picked up Heidi, the team manager, and one guy from the conservation team who liked to have a warm shower. Heidi told us interesting stories about their research and conservation works, and of course how to send postcards from the most southerly post office and get stamps in our passports.

Goudier Island is small and even though the shop is quite extensive, not everybody can get on land at the same time. So, the morning’s operations consisted of a split landing and half of the passengers went first to Jougla Point while the others went shopping. Jougla is a beautiful place with a lot of fauna, like breeding Blue Eyed Shags, Kelp Gulls and Gentoo Penguins. Some of the rocks are already uncovered and penguins started to build their nests with the rocks from last year. A great place to see the offering and stealing stone rituals. The penguins we saw on the other landings were living still on top of layers of snow and had their bellies white as snow. Here most of the penguins are very muddy and only patches of their white bellies are visible. Around Jougla there is still a lot of sea ice present. The path we made went partly over this sea ice, but after one hour, more and more cracks showed that the ice was breaking and breathing up and down. To make sure everything was safe we changed our route.

Although nobody can get enough of watching penguins, the penguins today that got the most attention are the ones on coffee cups and woolen jumpers.

The museum gives an interesting view into how explorers were living in Antarctica in the early years. It feels like they could still be somewhere around and this feeling brings us back in time. The date on the calendar is frozen like the surroundings of this historical place.

Kayaking
Goudier/Jougla
This was one of those days when it very nearly happened – but didn’t. The team got ready as usual but we were a little later arriving so we stood by until we could see what conditions were like. The Neumayer Strait was windy and icy – as we got closer to Goudier there was some shelter and less wind, but unfortunately still too much for kayaking. Although it did actually drop and clear later, we had already committed to cancelling the session and by way of compensation, we were able to visit the Penguin Post Office and stock up with some souvenirs, and post cards home.

Dorian Bay
The calmer conditions that had prevailed in the latter part of the morning, did not hang around. Back out in to the Neumayer more wind and ice delayed our decision and the sight of an impending snow shower was the final nail in the coffin. Sadly, the last kayaking opportunity of the voyage was cancelled – but hey that’s Antarctica for you, its unpredictability makes it so rewarding when it does come good!

Mountaineering
Goudier Island/Jougla Point Guides Tim and Martin accompanied by 14 guests
We roped up as two parties wearing snowshoes for the deep soft snow cover. We crossed the early season sea ice of Alice Creek across from Port Lockroy. Flexing of the ice with the tides meant there were numerous cracks revealing the sea water 30cm down. Crossing the creek led us past a snoozing Weddell seal. We crossed and returned over the sea ice before ascending a short narrow snow ridge. Finally, we re-turned to shore past several Gentoo Penguin colonies where neighbours were squabbling over nesting sites at the start of the season.

Wednesday November 14th pm
Damoy Hut, Dorian Bay, Old Landing Strip Glacier. Guides Tim and Martin accompanied by 14 guests
With soft snow we again used snow shoes and walked across to Damoy hut before roping up for glacial travel and a journey on the former Damoy runway. Cold windy conditions meant a journey with spindrift and snow build-up. Cornices were noticeably building up on the ice cliffs above Damoy Bay. On the return trip we visited Damoy Hut which is a fine little museum illustrating early life for Antarctic staff.

Camping
After an otherwise beautiful day, the wind picked up and it became clear that their last chance for camping was blown away. Everyone again witnessed the quickly changing weather of Antarctica. Using this as an opportunity to head to our next destination, the next day everyone was able to visit Deception Island. The old whaling station built in the crater of an active volcano.

Thank you for coming camping with Oceanwide Expeditions .

Day 9: Deception Island

Deception Island
Date: 15.11.2018
Position: 62°59.3 S, 060°29.3 W
Wind: SW 4
Air Temperature: +3

As the wakeup call woke everyone for breakfast you could feel the excitement of all on board. The previous night the passengers had been delighted to hear that Ortelius would be entering the centre of Deception Island, an active volcano. Just after 08:00 the PA announced the arrival at the island and encouraged everyone to take a look out the starboard side as the ship past through the narrow entrance to the islands centre, aptly call the Neptune’s Bellows. The ship had to pass hard up against the cliff face of the entrance making for a spectacular photo opportunity.

Finally, in position around 08:30, it was difficult to see the lagoon of Deception Island in its full glory as a snow storm constantly disrupted visibility. The staff went ashore and gave the all clear to ferry passengers ashore.

Three routes were set for viewing. One was a challenging mountain trek set up by the mountaineering team, the second a beach walk which ended in the stunning views over a cliff edge out to sea called Neptune’s Window and lastly a stroll through the whaling station itself ending at the graveyard.

The weather finally cleared allowing Deception Island to be viewed in its full magnificence. The high cliff edges completely surrounding the ship and the black sands made for an impressive backdrop. As time wore on and it was time to return to the ship, a pod of Minke whales decided to join the zodiacs in their ferrying duties, marking the end of a wonderful landing.

Once all were aboard and the passengers descended to the dining room for lunch, Ortelius quietly made her way out of Deception Island and made a course for Ushuaia. Many passengers spent the afternoon watching the last of the ice go by before entering the Drakes Passage tomorrow.

Kayaking
Whalers Bay
We were hopeful for a last paddle here as it really is the most dramatic place to do so – a donut shaped island ringed by precipitous slopes, the stony beaches and the relics of the old whaling industry. Although it did calm a bit as we came into Neptune’s Bellows, it did not subside quite enough and many of the team opted to go ashore and do a leg stretching climb instead.

Mountaineering
Deception Island
Volcanic ridge above Whalers Bay. 33 guests and 4 guides
Our last morning and final landing before heading north to the Drake Passage. The ship entered through the very impressive Neptune’s Bellows entrance to Whalers Bay at 0830. The weather was unpromising with low cloud and light snowfall largely concealing the ash covered slopes above the shoreline.

By 0900 thirty three hikers were ready with Guides Tim, Martin, Fran and Tobias to walk up the prominent volcanic ash ridge into the gloom. Kicking steps in fresh snow and buffeted in the wind the group made an intermediate summit in 90 minutes before tracking out towards the east. We were blessed with gradually improving visibility and finally sunshine, blue skies and fantastic views of the cliffs and ocean beyond. The hikers ran down and glissaded the freshly covered snow slopes to the shore where they were greeted by views of Weddell Seal, Northern Petrel, Antarctic Terns, and numerous Cape Petrels enjoying a meal of krill on the shoreline. A really enjoyable morning.

Our thanks to all the passengers who climbed with us this week, Tim Blakemore & Martin Doyle

Day 10: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 16.11.2018
Position: 59°58.9‘S, 062°22.0‘W
Wind: NW 4
Air Temperature: +3

This morning we were allowed to stay in bed longer! 8.00 wakeup call!

Once again the Drake was not so rough and around the middle of the morning, the ship approached and crossed the Antarctic Convergence, an undulating line in the Southern Ocean between 50 and 60 degrees south encircling the continent. It is well defined by water temperature differences and can be determined by regular temperature readings. It is sometimes also marked by a belt of fog or mist where warm, currents coming south from the tropics meet cold, denser, currents moving north from Antarctica. These conflicting currents clash, converge, and the Ant-arctic waters sink below the warmer tropical ocean waters. The resultant mixing provides a sympathetic environment for abundant plankton which nourishes huge numbers of sea birds and mammals but this phenomenon is rarely seen. Few organisms are able to cross this marked boundary of temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen, so the convergence defines Antarctica both physically and ecologically.

At 10:00, we were invited to attend Tobias’s lecture on Ice and Glaciers. An important one when you know that 85% of the continental ice of the world is in Antarctica. It was very informative. He explained how a glacier is formed and functions, and many other topics like, icebergs, colour of the ice, classification.

Sailing north, the sun was appearing while some of us did succumb and took to our bunks. Outside, we were constantly accompanied by Cape petrels, prions and a few albatrosses. Some of the keen birders even spotted some grey headed ones and a sooty albatross.
In the afternoon, those who weren’t enjoying an afternoon nap attended the talks from Tim and Fran about their experience in living in a base in Antarctica. Both have worked for the British Antarctic Survey.

Just before dinner, we met in the bar for a special daily recap. Esther had organised a photography contest. It was time to show the pictures taken by the passengers divided in three categories: landscape, wildlife and wildcard (funny, action, people). Just after that, everybody was allowed to vote. The results will be given on our last day on board.

Day 11: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 17.11.2018
Position: 56°03.6‘S, 065°03.1‘W
Wind: NW 6
Air Temperature: +7

So finally, we are on our last day in the Drake. The swell has gone down a bit since yesterday and the rolling today has actually been quite pleasant. On deck, the sun has been shining all day and the moderate temperatures tells us that we have left Antarctica behind and are approaching South America. The sea-birds have been going on about their business. Some are following the ship. We had a squadron of Cape Petrels in tow and the obligatory Giant Petrels. Three species of albatross crossed our bow this morning. Their realm is the sea and the air and today most of them were better off in the air. The albatrosses might travel a few hundred miles in a single day. A highlight of the day was seeing a Southern Royal Albatross, a gigantic bird that actually nests in New Zealand but disperses eastward to feed in the rich shelf waters off Patagonia during its first couple of years. The Sooty Shearwaters that nest down here also make a long trek to the North Atlantic for the Austral winter. We might think of ourselves as world travellers, but seabirds have been doing it as a matter of course for a long time.

During the morning gave a talk about penguins and after lunch, we approached the coast of the southern tip of South America. Proximity to shore means less fetch and slighter seas. As we approached Isla de Los Estados, the sea was almost flat calm. At 18:15 we gathered for our last Recap and some closing remarks from Captain Ernesto – and a toast to our voyage! From there, it was onward to the Farewell Dinner during which we got to know the galley team whom we cannot thank enough for the fantastic meals we got to enjoy during our cruise. It’s been a great trip, and some of us passed the last hour of daylight enjoying the scenery and more birds, including a handful of Blue Petrels from the Antarctic. Tomorrow will be the last day of trip. Sad to leave, but also eager to see the beautiful scenery that awaits us in the Beagle Channel tomorrow morning.

Day 12: Ushuaia

Ushuaia
Date: 18.11.2018
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Air Temperature: +8

All good things come to an end, as they say. Today was our last morning on Ortelius. After a last night in the cabin, which had started to feel like home already to some of the guests. Guests were instructed to put their suitcases in the corridors this morning as instructed so the crew could take them out and off the ship. After one more breakfast it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to the ship and its crew and staff, and to all new friends made. Appointments were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. All could look back to a very nice and successful trip.

At 8:30 all handed in the keys to the cabins, picked up the luggage from the pier and walked towards Ushuaia. Heading for new adventures and with many great memories.

Details

Tripcode: OTL22-18
Dates: 7 Nov – 18 Nov, 2018
Duration: 11 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Ortelius

Fortified for both poles of the planet, the ice-strengthened Ortelius is thoroughly outfitted to provide you an up-close experience of the Arctic and Antarctic.

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