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OTL23a-17, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 25.11.2017
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: NE 7-10 knots
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +14

We gathered from all points on the globe on a windy summer day in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. The mountains behind were topped with snow, but in town, wind and drizzle was more prevalent. We wandered town's cobbled, steep and random footpaths, had coffee and lunch, then in the afternoon many did some last-minute shopping before joining the Ortelius at the main dock. Met by our Hotel Manager DJ and Assistant Hotel Manager Sava, we were led to our cabins by the hotel crew. Once on board, we settled in to our cabins, and later found our way to the Lounge on deck 6.

Once we had all gathered, Third Officer Louis presented the mandatory safety briefing to show us how to use the big orange lifejackets and how to muster in case of emergency. Immediately after the briefing, we had our safety drill, to ensure we knew how to muster in the lounge. We finished up with DJ and Sava showing us how we would go to the lifeboats if ordered to by the Captain.

Following the drill, we were again invited to the Lounge. Our Hotel Manager Dejan (DJ) helped us settle in with more information about how the ship works, and Captain Mika Appel spoke a few words of welcome and pro-posed a toast to our voyage. Meanwhile, we sailed from Ushuaia, through the Beagle Channel and towards the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Lynn, our Expedition Leader, introduced the Expedition Team, and after a few helpful hints from Gerhard, our ship Doctor, we went to the dining room for our first meal on board. There, we sat at shared tables, making new friends and wondering what would come in the days ahead. Especially the conditions in the Drake gave food for thought as we were warned that it might be a rough one. The doctor was quite busy handing out patches to each of us who was afraid to get seasick.

Finally, tired from the travel, we retired to our cabins to rest and get ready for our first full day of our adventure.

Day 2: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 26.11.2017
Position: 56°22.7‘S, 066°00.2‘W
Wind: S 11bft
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

This morning in the Drake Passage began with hurricane force winds and waves up to six meters. Needless to say it was a long night for most onboard. The dining room was not very crowded for breakfast as many people were hunkered down in their cabins with various ailments. Those that were well enough got some photography hints and tips from Bruce during the morning lecture. The seabirds seemed to be enjoying the high winds as they glided effortlessly around ship. Many species of albatross and petrels were present. Even though conditions were rough, several brave souls headed out on the decks to observe the birds and experience the wind and waves of the southern ocean. After lunch, Arjen gave a talk about the lives of the Tubenoses, sharing his knowledge and passion about the seabirds we are likely to encounter on this trip. The wind and waves continued throughout the day and from the bridge it was quite impressive to watch the waves crashing over the bow of the ship, sometimes reaching as high as the bridge windows. Progress was very slow today due to the weather. Thankfully by late evening the winds were lessening a bit giving hope that maybe tomorrow will not be as rough.

Day 3: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 27.11.2017
Position: 59°06.2‘S, 065°07.1‘W
Wind: NW 8bft
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

After a rough Drake Passage experience, the second night on board the Ortelius was less bumpy than ex-pected. Lynn’s lovely voice announced the beginning of the day over the PA, before DJ called us for the busiest breakfast of the journey so far, as most people got over their sea sickness by now.

As this day was a full sea day again, the time was used to get all necessities done, before the action part of the adventure begins. Right after breakfast, we received our life jackets and met our new companions the Muck Boots, which will keep our feet warm and dry on all our adventures.

The rest of the morning we spend watching the BBC’s Frozen Planet before DJ called us in for lunch.

While big birds were surrounding the ship, and demonstrating their sailing abilities, we got introduced to the IAATO, the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, an organization besides the Antarctic Treaty that ensures and advocates responsible travel in Antarctica.
We learned how to behave and act close to historical sites and close to wildlife as well as what to take care of to protect the Antarctic environment. Also, we got introduced to the zodiacs, the rubber boats which we will use to go ashore or to cruise in the ice, as well as how to be safe while traveling in these little fast boats.

As the Drake Passage calmed further down over the day, we enjoyed the evening and gathered with games and chats in the bar.

Day 4: Cuverville

Cuverville
Date: 28.11.2017
Position: 63°08.4‘S, 063°31.6‘W
Wind: WNW 4 bft
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

With relief, passengers awoke to a kinder sea compared to the Drake Passage crossing. The hurricane force winds had eased off. Whilst the visibility was poor but Ortelius had increased speed from 4 to 10 knots to close the 65 miles towards Cuverville and the Bransfield Strait. After breakfast the hiking and camping groups met for a briefing in the lecture theatre. Bill introduced snowshoeing whilst Nachito detailed the camping equipment.

Next, what turned out top be the major entertainment of the morning as everyone vacuumed bags, hats, gloves, trousers, jackets, tripods etc. Dust and seeds different corners of the world were snatched from the dark inner recesses of seams and pockets and consigned to the vacuum bags. All passengers then signed the mandatory IAATO biosecurity declaration.

In the afternoon, vacuuming continued then Shawn Faessler one of the passengers, presented a education-al movie made by ROMP. A charitable organisation designed to help amputees with prosthetic limbs move forward economically, socially and physically.
In the evening passengers had their first landing of the voyage as Ortelius anchored off Cuverville Island and zodiacs ferried everyone ashore. Passengers spread out for their first penguin encounters. Everyone was delighted to observe Gentoo penguins engaged in nest building, stone stealing, aggressive chasing, romantic posturing and for some, energetic sexual encounters. Whilst this was happening, some of those who had selected mountaineering, snowshoed to the summit of an adjacent peak in rather windy and misty conditions. Unfortunately, the conditions were such, that the Kerr Point camping on Ronge Island and Kayaking had to be cancelled. [ Wind had increased to plus 40 knots. ] The activity groups then joined the landing party on Cuverville.
This obviously successful day was celebrated in the bar after dinner by excited chatter and laughter.

First Camping Night, Kerr Point – Cancelled
After scouting the area on a zodiac looking for a good spot for camping, Nacho and Ben decided to cancel the first night of the activity due to weather conditions. Not only the wind was increasing the speed, but also the rain was the main factor that make the guides to cancel the night out for the safety of the passengers.

Mountaineering Grade F
After a rough and stormy Drake passage we finally arrived in Antarctica behind schedule. Everybody on board was keen to get out and see the last continent for the first time – expedition staff included!
A quick plan was hatched and it was agreed to squeeze in an evening expedition after lunch. 12 mountaineers set off through the penguin colonies on snowshoes before donning crampons for the steepening slopes above. The team stopped just metres shy off the summit as time ran out in worsening weather – a familiar pattern of the week. A good start and a worthwhile outing for all.

Kayaking
It was decided that rather than write an extensive log Pete would note the location and day of the activity but more importantly take and edit lots of pictures of each kayaking passenger as a memento of their kayaking experience. The passengers felt more pictures was the best way to record the event plus over-come the problem of not wanting to take their own cameras out onto the water in case of capsize. Pete took hundreds of pics and placed them on the shared laptop in the bar for everyone to download and created a kayak slideshow. The kayaking programme successfully offered 103 places and everyone who signed up was offered an opportunity to participate. The opportunities ranged from a minimum of 45 minutes up to 150 minutes. Hampered by high winds and poor visibility the kayaking programme had to run into evening time in order to give everyone an opportunity. Without exception everyone that participated did so in great spirits. Snow and chilly winds did not dampen peoples enthusiasm and from the feedback gained everyone that got out in a kayak had a wonderful time. My thanks goes out to all of you that listened to instructions, stayed together out on the water, respected the wildlife and returned your borrowed kit at the right time in the correct place. It was my pleasure guiding you all in Antarctica and may I wish your all the very best for all your future kayaking adventures. Pete (Kayak Guide)

Day 5: Danco Island and Neko Harbour

Danco Island and Neko Harbour
Date: 29.11.2017
Position: 64°44.3‘S, 062°36.9‘W
Wind: N 3 bft
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

The day started a bit windy so the expedition leader took the first zodiac to do an evaluation of the landing site. The beach was occupied by a few Gentoo’s penguins who were curious about us but soon they realized we were not predators so they stay lying next to us.
The expedition leader gave the OK by the radio and the Ortelius crew started launching the zodiacs.

When the first passengers started to come ashore, they began walking with the snowshoes, just a few me-ters above the beach into the direction of the Gentoo’s colony, following the sticks that Ben and Nacho were leaving on the snow to mark the trail.
Some passengers enjoyed to be laying in the snow taking lot of pictures to the penguins, while others were sliding down like a penguin.
Almost at the end of the journey the wind started to blow strongly so slowly but continuously we started leaving the island.

We started with an incredible weather. A very calm water, no wind, and a very good visibility.
From the Argentinian Brown Base – not occupied at this moment – we were along the bay, going around icebergs and delighting our eyes with the beautiful mountains, all around us, and the blue colour of the glaciers.
Time passed so fast but we enjoyed Neko Harbour a lot!

Second Camping night, Kerr Point This time with similar conditions from last night but seeing that little by little was getting better and forecast being inspirational about the wind and rain, the two camping guides decided to give it a try and they took the lovely campers ashore, but also warning them at the same time that the conditions could change and everybody would have to get ready in the middle of the night to go back to Ortelius. As soon as the group got to the camping site, they realized there was a Weddell seal close to the area so that was the attraction for those who were waiting a shovel to dig their holes. Fortunately wind speed remained as it was, there was a little bit of rain, also snow but nothing serious and even during the night while sleeping there were some other visitors (Gentoos) showing curiosity by the strange big bags inside the holes.

Mountaineering Ice Climbing, Grade WI 4 – 5
12 lucky passengers were chosen to experience climbing vertical glacier ice in Antarctica. We were dropped away from the main group and set up 3 ‘top ropes’ on the towering blue ice cliffs of Danco Island. A few hours were spent hacking, kicking and clinging on to bare ice with guests ‘belaying’ and lowering each other to ensure team bonding!

Day 6: Brown & Skontorp / Stony Point

Brown & Skontorp / Stony Point
Date: 30.11.2017
Position: 64°53.4‘S, 062°51.9‘W
Wind: SE 2 bft
Weather: SE 2 bft
Air Temperature: +5

After a very early morning pick up, the campers were back on the ship around 5:00am, the ship continued sailing towards Brown Station Paradise bay. Paradise bay has always been peaceful and beautiful. Although it was not a sunny day, Paradise bay showed the passengers another side of beauty in snow. With the big snowflakes fell down, everything seemed to be in slow motions. While this split landing, everyone enjoyed the times they spent on land and in water with zodiacs. In the afternoon, We successfully landed on Stony Point, a wedel seal was on the beach resting, everyone had a good time in the close encounter of this wedel seal. Bill led a longer hike up to the mountain, the sun appeared for a short period of time, and made the day for everyone who was ashore.

Third Camping night, Stony Point
Hoping that the same wonderful conditions that during the day the passengers and the staff could enjoy remained for the camping, the third team of campers got ready and with 10 people in each zodiac, after a few shuttles the group arrived to the camping site which had a beautiful view of glaciers, icebergs and the mountains in front. It didn’t take too long to some people to sleep, but others decided to stay awake for a few more hours to enjoy the changing and alive landscape that was offering a great show with clouds, ice-bergs moving, avalanches at the distance and more amazing moments.

Peak and Glacier above Almirante Brown Grade F
17 passengers donned snow shoes and harnesses before zig zagging above the slope above. We all stopped at the corniced ridge, just underneath the imposing peak above. One at a time we mountaineered along the exposed but easy ridge to pose for pictures feeling on top of the world! Tara impressed Jonny by pos-ing(almost) topless as Tim averted his gaze. We then roped up in 3 teams (some passengers leading their own rope) and circumnavigated the glacial ice cap overlooking Skonthorp Cove.

Attempt at a satellite peak of Mount Hauron Grade F+
14 passengers were dropped off on the shore to attempt this pioneering trip. We had previously attempted this peak but been thwarted by huge crevassing so sought out an alternative route this time.Sadly it was not to be. Collapsing snow caused some difficulties for some of the crampon shod passengers and progress was snow. Tim led up through rocks on 40 degree snow before grinding to a halt above. All 3 rope teams reached the shelter of a wind carved scoop below the final rocks and soaked up the views before descend-ing our line of ascent.

Kayaking
30th November – Brown AM (16 Persons)
30th November PM – Stony Point (15 Persons)

Day 7: Pleneau / Petermann

Pleneau / Petermann
Date: 01.12.2017
Position: 65°62.1‘S, 063°53.5‘W
Wind: E 2-3 bft
Weather: cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

Today it was well worth getting up early. Around breakfast the captain steered the ship through the famous and very spectacular Lemaire Channel. This channel is only 600m wide at its narrowest point and has steep, glacier-covered mountains on both sides. The weather didn’t allow us to see the peaks of these mountains, but it was still very spectacular. We were not the only ones going through this passage, a few Antarctic Minke Whales were seen as well.

When we had passed through, it was time to get ready. Despite an approaching snow storm, we boarded the zodiacs for a zodiac cruise in Port Charcot. This bay just south of the Lemaire Channel, is often filled with icebergs. This was the case as well today. The visibility was poor sometimes due to heavy snow, but several icebergs were found with beautiful shapes and colours. A favourite thing to do in the zodiacs was to find names for the different icebergs, depending on their shapes. “Lion” and “Camel” were some of the names that were given to the icebergs.

On the fast ice near Pleneau Island several Crabeater Seals were seen hauled out on the ice, not bothered at all by our presence. On Pleneau itself a large colony of Gentoo Penguins could be seen and it was very funny to watch the different groups of penguins trying to get into the water, or not, or maybe there. “Oops, sorry, I think I pushed you in”… They didn’t seem to be too eager to get into the cold water.

During lunch the captain brought the ship slightly further south, so we could go ashore at Petermann Island in the afternoon. Just before we could go ashore, a Leopard Seal was found on an ice floe next to the ship. On shore more Gentoo Penguins were waiting for us, together with a small number of Adelie Penguins. This penguin colony is one of the longest studied in the world. When Charcot came here in the early 1900’s, a count was already made. At this time roughly 80% of the colony consisted of Adelie Penguins with the remaining 20% was Gentoo. Nowadays this number is completely turned around with the fast majority of the birds being Gentoos and only few remaining Adelies. It was good fun to watch especially the Gentoos and their behaviour of stealing pebbles from each other. The Adelies seemed a bit better behaved, but maybe that was just because they were a bit further in their breeding cycle. Bill took those who wanted for a bit a longer walk on snowshoes over the island, finding yet another species of penguin: the Chinstrap.
When everybody was back on board it was almost time for dinner and after that a visit to the bar or cabin. Due to heavy snow the camping night was cancelled unfortunately, but this gave us the opportunity to en-joy another passage through the Lemaire, even though visibility was still poor.

Forth Camping night, Hovgaard – Cancelled

The day was not very promising about weather, but the camping team still had the hope to have a night out. As closer the departure time got, Nacho and Ben could see that there were not many chances to do it. Anyway, still with a few wind gusts they jumped in a zodiac and they went scouting to find a good place. Immediately they found it but when they went ashore and turned around in direction to Ortelius, they could see low and dark clouds moving very fast to their position, at the same time rain said present and they realized that the could hear the engine of Ortelius but not see it, also this condition was not very nice to the captain because he wanted to keep the campers always in sight in case of a quick evacuation. Unfor-tunately there was not much to think to cancel the activity, so guides went back to the vessel to talk to the passengers and explain the situation.

Hovgaard Island Grade F
While the rest of the ship explored Pleneau Island a team of 17 landed on Hovgaard Island. We split into 3 teams (with some passengers leading their own rope) and fought through increasingly bad weather and visibility to the summit at 370m. It was a long and at time never ending push but a great achievement for all!

Petermann Island Grade F
At short notice (Tim had been injured on board) Jonny steeped into the breach and led 12 mountaineers through the penguin colonies before tackling the steep glacial slopes above. Time (and tide?) was against the team however and a high point was reached before a descent back down their line of ascent.

Kayaking
1st December AM – Pleneau (14 Persons)
1st December PM – Port Charcot (14 Persons)

Day 8: Port Lockroy & Jougla Point

Port Lockroy & Jougla Point
Date: 02.12.2017
Position: 64°49.7‘S, 063°31.1‘W
Wind: SW 5 bft
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: +1

This morning, after another hearty breakfast, we geared up for another day of activities. We headed off in the zodiacs for a split landing at Port Lockroy and Jugla point. We visited the former British research sta-tion at Port Lockroy, which is now a museum, giving us a taste of what what life was like during its years of operation. We also had a chance to shop in the gift shop and send Antarctic post cards to our loved ones at home (it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to arrive). Just a short zodiac ride away, we visited Jugla Point, another continental landing. Here we hiked up to a viewpoint overlooking Port Lockroy and agin enjoyed the antics of the Gentoo Penguins and the beauty of Antarctica.

After lunch, we decided to head ashore at Damoy Point even though the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The winds had picked up and the snow began falling heavily. It made for an exciting zodiac ride and we got a feel for some of the extreme weather that Antarctica has to offer. Back on board we had a chance to warm up before dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening as we sailed northward into the Drake Passage once again.
Jougla point Grade F and sea ice travel.

17 passengers were the first off the ship and were landed on sea ice near Jougla Point. Here we traversed seemingly through time as we weaved our way through whale bones and other detritus from the original Falkland Island Dependency Survey. We ascended to a view point high above the sea then traversed under a towering serac (ice cliff). We finished by ascending the glacier to a viewpoint above. A final descent to our pick up meant we were in time to visit Port lockroy also!

Jabet Pass Grade F
6 passengers set off in worsening weather along the (at one time) glacial airstrip above Dorion Bay. With ambitions of Jabet peak a good pace was set but high winds and lowering visibility meant we started to slow. Jonny’s Scottish experience came to the fore though and he pushed on through in “whiteout” condi-tions (no discernible horizon or ground) with Tim frantically placing flags in the quickly disappearing tracks. Discretion won over valour at “Jabet Pass”, a small col near a satellite peak at around 350m where the team battled with frozen clothes, bodies and cameras (and in Shawn’s case a loosening prosthetic limb). The descent was hard won as the tracks had already blown in and the snow was driving into our faces. Small blue flags would occasionally loom and Jonny’s legendary nose for direction saved the day as the welcome haven of Damoy Hut came into view and gratefully used for refuge! A fitting end to an Antarctic adventure.

Kayaking
2nd December AM – Port Lochroy (20 Persons)

Day 9: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 03.12.2017
Position: 63°31.9 S, 064°55.8‘W
Wind: W 6 bft
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +1

The first passengers who stirred in the morning were relieved to find Ortelius moving steadily rather than violently across the Drake. Obviously the ship was missing the forecasted bad weather.
Breakfast was a quiet affair as many passengers took advantage of the sea-day to have a longer sleep in their bunks whilst others just sat and chatted leisurely which made a change from the normal dash to get ready for the days activities.
First entertainment item was the deck by deck return of the rubber boots and hired bags of goodies.

Second item on the programme was headed by Pete who delivered an excellent lecture on the ‘Evolution and Adaptation of Whales’.
The crossing was very relaxed. Passengers scattered across the lounge either editing their photographs, writing their diaries, swopping stories or playing cards in excited laughing groups.
A humpback whale sighting created a brief commotion as people rushed for cameras and lined the rails for some good shots of its raised tail as it dived.

In the afternoon Michael delivered his interesting lecture on Polar Adaptation followed by a showing of the next episode of Frozen Planet. Now the adrenaline was off, this was very relaxing sleepy Oceanwide Expe-ditions sea-day…so different from the crossing down to Antarctica as witnessed by Bill’s humorous com-ment in the following cartoon.

Day 10: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 04.12.2017
Position: 59°53.1‘S, 066°13.7‘W
Wind: NW 7 bft
Weather: Cloudy/Rain
Air Temperature: +4

Today is the first day at sea on the way back to Ushuaia. No wake up call, passengers got to sleep in. The weather and sea looked very calm. Michael gave a very interesting lecture about sea ice in the morning, people seemed enjoyed this lecture. In the afternoon Super Bill talked about Whaling history and Polar expeditions in the early days. Frozen Planet was played in the bar before recap. Right before recap, some humpback whales was spotted, the officers on bridge was very nice to slow down the ship, try to get close to the whales, and circled around for everyone to see them closely. Although the recap was to be delayed and shortened, it was all worth it.

Day 11: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 05.12.2017
Position: 59°23.4‘S, 066°25.7‘W
Wind: WNW 7 bft
Weather: Cloudy/Rain
Air Temperature: +8

During the night, the sea started already to rise and to shake the Ortelius on her way towards South America.
In order to avoid being hit by the big storm front, which was rolling in form the west, the captain navigated the Ortelius in big loop so that the sea will push us towards our destination.
In the meanwhile, Nacho called the Chilean authorities on radio channel 16 to request a passing of Cape Horn inside the exclusive economic zone of Chile. The permission was granted and we have been passing Cape Horn in three miles distance before lunch.
Because of the great time on board, the passengers decided to take a group photo, which was celebrated afterwards during the captain’s toast and farewell dinner.

Day 12: Ushuaia

Ushuaia
Date: 06.12.2017
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: NNW 1-3 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
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 our cabin, which had started to feel like home already. We put our 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 our ship and its crew and staff, and to our new friends. Appointments were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. We could look back to a very nice and successful trip and all of us marveled at the sight of many Penguins and spectacular scenery during all the activities.

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

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!

Furthest South: 65°10.0‘S 64°07.0‘W
Total Distance Sailed: 1622 NM

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Mika Appel, Expedition Leader Lynn Woodworth, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Details

Tripcode: OTL23A-17
Dates: 25 Nov – 6 Dec, 2017
Duration: 11 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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