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OTL24-22, trip log, Basecamp Antarctica Incl. Anvers Island and Flandres Bay

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation - Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation - Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 04.12.2022
Position: 54°48’.6 S - 068°17’.8 W
Wind: WNW force 5
Weather: Broken cloud
Air Temperature: +12

At first a truck load of suitcases arrived from the airport and disgorged its contents onto the quayside at Ushuaia …plastic, leather, fabric, blue grey, red and green of every shape and size. Heavy ones, light ones, extra bags and assorted bit and pieces. All loaded onto Ortelius via the narrow gangplank by guides and crew. No automated loading here, Amazingly, this was the way they did it in the 1400’s…a chain of guides and crew passing the cases one to another! The cases were then wheeled to the cabins indicated on the luggage tags.

At first just a trickle of people, clutching camera bags and obviously eager to view the ship, ambled along the quayside. This slowly increased to a large group of passengers at the gangway well before the 4.00pm boarding time.   Many nationalities were represented. Eventually the order to board was given and in groups of 10 we all handed in our passports at reception and followed the stewards to our cabins.   Once settled the priority was exploration…wandering up and down from deck 3 to 6 and trying to orientate which direction was to the bow and which to the stern.  Panic stations for one passenger who had picked up the wrong luggage at the airport but quickly the problem was quickly resolved in time by a taxi journey back to the terminal buildings. The quayside was a bustle of activity, trucks and buses servicing the many massive Antarctic cruise vessels who had arrived early in the morning and were engaging in a fast turn-round to head back south.

The coffee machine in the bar worked overtime as guests chatted and started to introduce themselves to one another. First announcement was for a series of mandatory introductory meetings in the lecture room. The audience swaying gently from side to side with the movement of the ship as it slid through the not so rough Beagle Channel towards the infamous Drake Passage (Although staff assured us that conditions were not to be that bad!)    First Sara our expedition leader then Stephen the hotel manager explaining the workings of his department, then an officer from the bridge with a lecture on safety.    Passengers concentrated as members of the guide team demonstrated how to wear the lifejackets and the procedure adopted for the abandon ship routine.  This was followed by a practice… first a loudspeaker announcement from the bridge to go to our respective muster stations in either the bar or restaurant to ensure we were wearing our lifejackets correctly and have lists checked before responding to the loud signal and announcement from the bridge to ‘abandon ship’ and proceed to lifeboats. All very exciting!

As all this was going on, Ortelius continued making her smooth way through the relatively calm waters of the Beagle Channel towards the expected turbulence of the Drake later in the evening.

Next ‘captain’s cocktails’ in the bar where Captain Mika Appel gave a short speech introducing his key officers and toasting the voyage followed by Expedition Leader Sara introducing herself and her guide team.  As each person spoke about their background and qualifications it was apparent that we were to be guided by an extremely diverse, well qualified highly experienced group.

This was followed by an excellent dinner.

More mandatory meetings followed…first the IAATO video covering all aspects of visiting Antarctica then the Zodiac briefing, how to get in and out of the craft at either the ship or shore and how to wear the Zodiac life vest.

The evening ended as we engaged in ‘social interaction’ in the quite busy bar… much excited chatter from everyone in anticipation of the next Oceanwide Expedition adventures.

Day 2: At Sea - Drake Passage

At Sea - Drake Passage
Date: 05.12.2022
Position: 58° 04’.2 S - 064°47’.5 W
Wind: SW force 10
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

During the early hours of the morning, we entered the Drake Passage, the notoriously rough, 500mile stretch of ocean separating South America and Antarctica. After many reminders of safety of moving around the ship in rough conditions; fingers out of doorways and stowing your equipment away properly overnight, many onboard managed to get a comfortable first night’s sleep! Although the ship was rolling through the night, sea conditions were not too bad in the morning, although some may disagree! However, the morning did remain relatively quiet, with most staying in the comfort of their cabins. The only activity to take place was the muck boot collection in the lecture room, subsequently named the “vomitorium”…!

For those that were up and about, it was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, the swell measured 5-6 metres and the wind was hovering around 60 knots. The bonus of windy days is that there is often great bird activity! And today was no disappointment – we were graced with the presence of many different species, from the smallest of storm petrels and prions, to the largest of albatross, the wandering albatross. Other species spotted included the southern royal albatross, southern giant petrels, and cape petrels.

Conditions began to improve as lunch was served, with the dining room becoming progressively busier! During the afternoon, there was a buzz around the ship. Many enjoyed watching the crashing waves from the bridge, a blast of cool, fresh air behind the bar or watching the sea birds glide between the waves with a hot cup of coffee. After lunch, the kayak briefing was first on the schedule, shortly followed by the mountaineering briefing.

As the activity briefings drew to a close, we had our first recap of the trip held in the bar. Expedition leader Sara gave a brief overview of tomorrow’s plans and a much-anticipated weather update, followed by a sigh of relief by all as the seas were forecasted to be slightly calmer tomorrow. After Sara, expedition guide Bill kicked off the staff recaps with his “Thinking, Seeing, Doing” talk, much to everyone’s delight!

After a delicious three course dinner, served by Stephen and the wonderful crew, it was time for the final mandatory briefing to take place - the camping briefing. This was an opportunity for everyone to investigate the camping gear supplied by the team and gain an insight of what it would be like to dig a little snow grave and sleep under the Antarctic stars! 

Day 3: At Sea - Drake Passage

At Sea - Drake Passage
Date: 06.12.2022
Position: 62°37’.7 S - 062°01’.5 W
Wind: WSW force 8
Weather: Slightly overcast, bright
Air Temperature: 0

Most of us woke up to Sarah’s enthusiastic wake up call: “Good morning, good morning, and good morning! Those who were not out of bed by that point were next woken up by the voice of the hotel manager Steven. To understand his Belfast accent fully was a bit difficult for many listeners, yet it was easy enough to pick out words such as: Breakfast, dining room, now.

This day was another sea day, the Drake Passage needs two days to cross. When we looked out over the open sea, we could see a stark difference to yesterday morning, that was that the skies were full of birds this time. Birds such as Black browed albatross, prions, Cape petrels, Antarctic petrels, Wilsons storm petrels, giant petrels and gracefully sored around and over the ship, as if it was no effort at all. This sharp contrast in animal life this morning compared to our first morning on the ship was due to certain ocean currents, more specifically a phenomenon called the Antarctic convergence.

The Antarctic Convergence is a curve continuously encircling Antarctica, varying in latitude seasonally, where cold, Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic. The Antarctic cold water sinks beneath subantarctic waters, the mixing of the two creates an up swell where nutrients from the ocean floor are brought up closer to the surface. As a result, this zone is very high in marine productivity and thus attracts more seabirds and whales compared to other areas.

Weather is quick to change in Antarctic waters, as we experienced quite calm sunny weather, then wind and snow and afterwards again calm conditions with relatively little wind. All within a span of 1 hour! To entertain and educate us during the voyage we had several lectures offered to us by the expedition team on topics of photography, penguins and the Antarctic convergence.

During the morning we also saw the first whales of the voyage. They were first spotted from the bridge at a distance. A few blows at a distance. Not long after we saw more blows, and then more, many quite close. It was a mix of both humpbacks and fin whales, some only coming up for breath only about 300 meters away from the ship! While we enjoyed marveling out at these great leviathans, the bridge officer and helmsman on duty had to stay vigilant and make sure that no whale would by accident be hit by the ship, ready to take action at any moment and adjust heading in relation to the whales.

The first islands we saw belonged to the South Shetland island group. Those were Snow island and Smith island, the latter is named after William Smith, the British mariner who is credited for discovering this chain of islands. In the early evening the Antarctic Peninsula also came into view. Even more whales were spotted in the evening and the views were fantastic. It was almost like wind, weather, sun and whales conspired together to give us a warm welcome to Antarctica.

Day 4: Orne Harbour, Cuverville Island and Leith Cove

Orne Harbour, Cuverville Island and Leith Cove
Date: 07.12.2022
Position: 64°40’.4 S - 062°29’.6 W
Wind: Light
Weather: Sunny and blue skies
Air Temperature: +1

Wow, there were very few words to describe the true beauty of today. Our first views of the morning were blue skies, smooth silky seas and occasional humpback as we cruised down the Gerlaiche Strait. We made great progress as Ortelius was able to lower the port and starboard gangways to get people off for their first visit to Orne Harbour.

The first day of activities was a stunner, with people trying to get to grips with what layers to put on and how to wear a lifejacket, but quickly the whole team left Ortelius for a range of activities from snowshoeing, Zodiac drives, kayaking and technical mountaineering.

The mountaineers summited Spigot Peak in good time. Everyone saw chinstrap penguins and Orne Harbour provided spectacular views as far as the eye could see.

The kayakers had fantastic conditions in the bay with brash ice and views of gentoo and the occasional chinstrap swimming and diving amongst the kayaks.

After short cruise over lunch we reached our next destination, Cuverville Island. The gentoo and chin strap penguins were plentiful here with people able to see the penguin highways, and multiple rookeries. The mountaineers practiced their skills enroute to the summit and the kayakers were greeted with pack ice and spotted a leopard seal hauled out basking in the sunshine.

After dinner a very excited group of campers set off for their night on the Leith Cove. The lighting was amazing as they dug their beds out for the night.

Days like this in Antarctica are super special when they are like this and everyone has had a superb first day of activities, lets pray the weather sticks around like this for a few extra days.

Day 5: Gerlache Strait, Lemaire Channel, Pleaneau, Lemaire Channel

Gerlache Strait, Lemaire Channel, Pleaneau, Lemaire Channel
Date: 08.12.2022
Position: 65°06’.3 S - 065°00’.6 W
Wind: SW force 5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

The campers In Leith Cove spent a tranquil night in their sleeping bags and coffin shaped holes in the snow under Antarctic skies. Some slept soundly – others less so. In any event, all were back on board for coffee and a welcome breakfast on board.

Ortelius then sailed out of Paradise Harbour under cloudy skies and southwest down the Gerlache Strait. We entered the famous Lemaire Channel, sheer precipices of rock and snow towering over 900m above us. The Lemaire is nicknamed the Kodak Gap, and plenty of us were out on deck to take in the spectacle. While the Captain and his crew expertly navigated us around huge chunks of ice and through brash ice, the hotel team served up boozy hot chocolate on the bow. Even the most bedbound of the previous night’s camping team couldn’t resist that combination!

As we emerged at the south westerly end of the Lemaire, it was clear there were many icebergs floating around. Our anticipated landing at Port Charcot was choked with icebergs and brash ice so the Zodiacs wouldn’t be able to get to shore. We switched plans (a frequent occurrence in these parts) to nearby Pleneau Island. Here we had something for everyone – the kayakers with Adam paddled around small icebergs near the landing site. They checked out penguins and seals a plenty. The mountaineers with guides Andy and Robin traversed the island from one side to the other. Andy even jumped into a small crevasse to demonstrate how the guests can pull someone out. Coincidentally, this type of crevasse is known in France as a “whale’s throat”!

Back on the shore, a wonderful array of wildlife was observed. Plenty of gentoo penguins, even a few of the rarer Adelie penguins. A few broken penguin eggs were spotted, food for the watchful marauding skuas. Perhaps the highlight were the young elephant seals, waving their tail fins in the air and interacting with their siblings and the inquisitive nearby gentoo.

Embarking once again on Ortielius, we then sailed north back through the Lemaire Channel.
We had intended to camp again back at Leith Cove. Once again, nature intervened. Winds between 35 and 40 knots made Zodiac operations impractical. Just as the last enthusiastic passengers were leaving the bar late that evening, a humpback whale passed just 30 meters away from the ship. An awesome end to another great day in Antarctica.

Day 6: Brown Station and Zodiac Cruise near Neko Point

Brown Station and Zodiac Cruise near Neko Point
Date: 09.12.2022
Position: 64°59’.3 S - 063°03’.0 W
Wind: Variable 2-3
Weather: Sunny with broken cloud
Air Temperature: 0

We woke up in Paradise Bay and 'Base Brown', an Argentinian research base. It was built in 1951 and was able to hold 17 staff. In 1984 after a doctor who had spent 6 months, working mostly solo which had left him in a poor mental state, was ordered to stay another 6 months as the replacement doctor had turned up too ill to work. This pushed the doctor to far. He walked back into the base and set fire to it! The whole base burnt to the ground. He was arrested and was sent to jail. Questionably a better place to end up rather than an empty research base?

The mountaineers left at 6.30 heading to 'Conesa Point'. A dynamic approach to assessing the risks involved in the activity was really applicable this morning. Poor visibility meant that just before the team were going to leave the boat, they almost had to put a stop to the activity. It looked like the fog would prevent them being able to drive the zodiacs to the site. They got kitted up with their fingers crossed in the hope that the fog would lift and luckily it did!

Reminding us all that it's so important to remain flexible with plans to keep things safe in these challenging environments.

After the fog and a few snow showers the weather cleared a little to leave a really atmospheric morning. A lovely zodiac ride and tricky landing lead to a stunning secluded spot. The team really enjoyed the snow shoeing across the glacier to gain a great vantage point. The team did really well with the steep accent.

Meanwhile the kayakers with Adam spent the morning negotiating icebergs and pack ice. Light winds and sunny spells gave great conditions. They were rewarded with crab eater and Weddell seals.

The rest of the team were able to climb a small peak overlooking Base Brown which gave great view across the bay. Of course, there were plenty of gentoo penguins to chat to on the way.

On the way back to the ship folk were able to go seal spotting with the cutest little seal pups. In the afternoon everyone piled into the Zodiacs for a tour towards Neko Bay. Another crab eater seal was happy to pose on an iceberg for 'our viewing pleasure' and some awesome bird life; snow petrels, Wilson's storm petrels, imperial shags and the odd snowy sheathbill.

After another lovely dinner, the campers started their preparations for and overnight stay, but despite continued efforts from the team there were just too many setbacks to be able to use the site. Safety and conservation are so important when trying to make the right choices. The hunt for the next camping venue continues.

Another really successful day on the awe-inspiring Antarctic peninsula. 

Day 7: Orne Islands and Danco Point

Orne Islands and Danco Point
Date: 10.12.2022
Position: 64°40’.0 S - 062°36’.8 W
Wind: Light Air
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: 0

We woke up to another beautiful Antarctic morning and were treated to a stunning view from the bridge of the mountaineers’ proposed glacier trek, which was planned to start from a landing at Georges Point. However, our plans were in put in doubt because of low water, pack ice and wildlife density, issues that had forced the cancellation of the previous night’s camping. The mountaineering team conducted a recce to confirm whether or not the trek could proceed, and it was decided that unfortunately on this occasion it would have to be cancelled and the trekkers would join the main landing at Orne Island. Wildlife has been subjected to increasing pressure, for example the gentoo penguins are behind schedule nesting, laying and hatching their eggs due to the large quantity of snow this season covering their regular breeding sites. They have had to look for alternative snow free places to breed, and it is important we don’t add to their problems by disturbing them. We need to be aware of the potential impact of our activities on the increasing populations of penguins and Weddle seals at Georges point, and to be mindful that we do not contribute to the spread of avian flu for example.

A large iceberg had split. It was unstable and liable to further fracturing, which meant that Ortelius couldn’t reach the ideal drop off point, and the Zodiacs had to take a circuitous line to reach the landing on Orne Island. Drifting ice proved to be a problem for the Zodiacs throughout the morning. Despite this the main group was landed safely and everyone had the opportunity to visit the colonies of chinstrap and gentoo penguins, and also to observe skuas and seals and enjoy the breath-taking scenery along the length of the island. Everyone was transferred back to Ortelius in the nick of time before the ice blocked access to the boats.

Meanwhile, the kayaking group successfully circumnavigated Orne Island, and enjoyed seeing the gentoo and chinstrap penguins, seals and huge icebergs.

With everyone back on board Ortelius and the occasional humpback whale in view from the ship we moved to Danco Island, where the main group headed on snowshoes up a slope that offered an elevated view of the surrounding islands and icebergs, and provided more opportunities to observe colonies of Gentoo penguins.

The mountaineers went to investigate the possibilities for climbing on the nearby ice cliffs but were frustrated by excessive snow and deteriorating conditions in the strong sun. They adopted a flexible approach and took advantage of the opportunity to climb on shoreline ice boulders and enjoy some technical instruction amidst the fantastic coastal scenery. The kayaking group passed by on their circumnavigation of Danco Island.

After the day’s activities we sailed to Dorian Bay, rounding Damoy point as we neared our objective and successfully landed the camping party whilst being treated to stunning views of Mount Jabet, the final technical mountaineering objective of the trip.

Day 8: Dorian Bay, Damoy Point and Flanders Bay

Dorian Bay, Damoy Point and Flanders Bay
Date: 11.12.2022
Position: 64°53’.2 S - 065°38’.6 W
Wind: Light air
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: 0

Activity on board Ortelius started very, very early on the morning of the 11th December. Eight mountaineers and two mountain guides were awake before 3.30 in the morning. Before 4 is morally wrong, but sometimes immorality can be fun. After a spartan breakfast of coffee and cake, they were ashore at Dorian Bay and set off on their mission towards Mount Jabet.

The snow conditions were perfect for climbing. Starting on snowshoes, they switched to crampons about halfway up, and after three hours they were on the summit, looking like tiny penguins from the shore. The views from the summit were spectacular. One guest wrote “It was EPIC and the highlight of my trip”.

Meanwhile the campers on Damoy Point had spent a chilly night under the polar skies. The Zodiac team whisked them back to Ortelius for coffee and a welcome breakfast. The kayak team headed by Adam had a perfect morning on calm water around Dorian Bay, seeing vast numbers of gentoo penguins.

The campers and the rest of us came ashore at Damoy Point where we were able to see the Argentinian and British huts. We were even able to go inside the latter, where we saw antique foods still in their original packaging, including spam and Bird’s Custard. Sheathbills tapped on the window of the hut, eager to get in for more food to supplement their diet of penguin eggs.

In late morning, we headed to Flanders Bay for some real exploration. The area had only been surveyed twice before in 1910 and 1913, so with a sense of pride, we did the third in 2022. As a bonus, the scenery was magnificent, with the twin peaks of Cap Renard dominating the skyline. Cruising with Zodiacs to witness the surveying work, we were also treated to sightings of leopard seals.

We stayed on in Flanders Bay for the evening, where the al fresco barbecue and Antarctic dance party were on the menu for the evening. An open bar and great food cooked up by Stephen and his team for our dining pleasure was a good combination. Stephen and Expedition Leader Sara kicked off the dancing, and we were treated to the sight of Expedition Guide Bill cavorting in his kilt and yellow muck boots, and newly engaged couple Andy and Chelsea in their penguin suits.

Apparently, the party went on into the small hours, a great end to an action-packed day in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 9: Foyn Harbour, Enterprise Island and Portal Point

Foyn Harbour, Enterprise Island and Portal Point
Date: 12.12.2022
Position: 64°31’.5 S - 061°55’.9 W
Wind: Light Air
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +1

For many the morning started with some fairly blurry eyes from the partying the night before. But the effort to get out of bed was rewarded with a zodiac cruse of Foyn Harbour and round Enterprise Island.

Foyn Harbour is the resting place of the whale processing ship, the Governoren. The nature of the site landings and the unhospitable landscape meant it was almost impossible to establish whale processing factories on land, so ships were developed into whale processing plants. The Governoren was one of the largest of these and in one season could collect 22,000 gallons of whale oil. The precious oil was then shipped over the world where it was used for everything from lamps, margarine to medicines. On January the 27th 1915 the annual end of season party was in full swing on the ship. It is thought that someone accidentally knocked a table, which knocked off an oil lamp setting fire to the ship. They were unable to put out the fire, so the captain decided to run the ship aground to give the crew chance to escape. His plan worked and all the crew made it to land and were rescued by another whaling ship.

Our morning Zodiac cruses took us through the ‘iceberg graveyard’ with enormous icebergs in all directions. Huge cracks, caves, different patterns and colours made for some stunning views.

Teams saw Weddell and Leppard seals, Antarctic Terns, Kelp guls and the odd gentoo. The stunning and intimidating cliffs on the island made for a really memorable journey. 

Meanwhile the early morning glacial trekking team made their way up to a southerly summit on Enterprise Island, descended to a col overlooking the wreckage of the Governoren, then a circular route round the island taking in some steep descents.

After another tasty lunch provided by our ‘Conga’ starting head of hotel and his team, we arrived at Portal Point. A more relaxed approach for the afternoon. A gentle walk around the bay with places to sit and watch the Crab eater seals on the beaches and bergy bits below. There were many snowball fights and the occasional ‘snow angel’ too. A really pleasant afternoon.

This afternoon Adam and Adam also took some of the crew kayaking! He took 10 crew out in the sea kayaks where they saw penguins, seals and plenty of icebergs. For some of them this was there first time in a kayak and for some it was their first time seeing penguins and seals close up.

Back on ship the daily recap had some great information about the survey research that was carried out yesterday mapping sections of Flanders bay. Adam, Ben and Anika, the second mate, had put in a late shift to be able to collect plenty of reliable and useful data.

Another great day exploring this incredible area of Antarctica.

Day 10: Whalers Bay, Deception Island and Half Moon Island

Whalers Bay, Deception Island and Half Moon Island
Date: 13.12.2022
Position: 62°36’.1 S - 059°53.6 W
Wind: NE force 3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

The day started with an early wakeup call from Sara so everyone could enjoy the views as Ortelius sailed through Neptune’s Bellows into Whaler’s Bay at Deception Island. After breakfast everyone was driven by Zodiac to a beach landing in the bay and people were able to wander along the shore to inspect the relics of the old Norwegian whaling station that was abandoned after the volcanic eruption in 1969. Blue eyed cormorants could be seen close by. Many of the party enjoyed a walk up to Neptune’s window, which offered a fantastic panorama of the island as well as a view out over the ocean towards the Antarctic Peninsula. Finally, before departing the island, over 70 brave guests and several members of staff took part in the much-anticipated challenge of the Polar Plunge, and enjoyed an icy dip in the Antarctic waters.

As Ortelius headed towards Half Moon Island, Juan’s excellent talk on photo editing was brought to an abrupt close by an announcement that Orcas had been spotted. Thanks to the manoeuvring of the ship everyone could enjoy an extended viewing of 10-15 Type B Gerlache Orca, distinguishable by their large eye patches, stained yellow by algae. 2 or 3 fin whales were also seen in addition to the humpbacks spotted earlier, so it made for a fantastic day of whale watching.

Our final landing in Antarctica was made at Half Moon Island. It was sad to realise that the number of chinstrap penguins here was so depleted, and that there was so little evidence of successful breeding, although at least one egg was spotted being incubated. There was also a Weddle seal hauled up on the rocks.

Our exit from Antarctica was made through the beautiful and impressive English Straight, and as is traditional our departure was announced by a long blast on the ships horn as we passed the Fort William lighthouse.

Day 11: At Sea – Drakes Passage

At Sea – Drakes Passage
Date: 14.12.2022
Position: 59°42’.7 S, 062°17’.9 W
Wind: N Force 7-8
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

A day of relaxation and white spots behind the ear on the neck for most passengers.  A great feeling to wake up in the morning without the stress of tumbling out from under a warm duvet to dress in muck boots, thick underwear and Gortex for another day of hectic adventure activities in an icy environment.

Really nice then to lie drowsily in bed a bit longer and savour the gentle rolling of Ortelius as we ploughed our way steadily across the Drake.  The sea was not so bad today according to our guides… a relief to many anxious souls who had imagined pre-voyage violent action, mountainous rollers and cascades of spray.  Though some passengers were definitely suffering from the ship’s rollling.

Bjarni our ever-enthusiastic Icelandic guide delivered the first lecture of the day…an account of the discovery of the Shetland Islands and the commercial history of Deception Island followed a presentation from by Felicity, her crystal clear Scottish tones capturing the attention of her audience as she explained current global threats to marine life.

All muck boots were collected and returned to store then staff retired to the aft deck hanger to pack the ‘Survival Night’ sleeping bags and return them to the hold store.

After over-indulging in the usual superb lunch, the afternoon entertainment / educational session began with Andy talking about avalanche and rescue. This was so relevant given that everywhere we had been we had seen signs of avalanches on the mountains surrounding our landing sites and during the landing at Damoy, the climbing group has a grandstand view of a spectacular very powerful avalanche sweeping down from a summit to spread out in billowing clouds of snow across the icefield below.    It had been a reminder to everyone that this landscape, whilst incredibly beautiful, had hidden menace for those who were unwary and who had not the benefit of our safety conscious highly experienced guides.

Late afternoon Bill delivered a highly informative talk on Ortelius. Outlining its history, explaining its ice class rating, construction and operational features and leading us on a photographic tour of the secret places on the vessel. Those interesting areas, the catering department and engine room, which were out of bounds to passengers due to Health and Safety considerations.

Recap before dinner as usual with a briefing from Sara, then Felicity talking about ‘Happy Whale’ and Bill using examples from the artists Turner and Breugel to explain the meaning of the sea in paintings of the sea.

Ortelius continued making good progress across the notorious Drake Passage towards South America.  Then the highlight event as Sara identified a sighting of Orca off the port bow as the highly elusive type D….Whoopee another exciting Oceanwide Expeditions moment. The challenge was to capture them on camera.

What a day!

Day 12: At Sea - Drakes Passage

At Sea - Drakes Passage
Date: 15.12.2022
Position: 55°44’.9 S, 065°50’.6 W
Wind: SW5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +3

This was the final full day on the ship and sadly there was talk of embarkation logistics. However, there was still plenty of activity both on board and in the sea with dusky dolphins and pilot and fin whales being sighted.  Cape Horn was also just about visible as we can sailed north. 

The sea was very kind to us, and the wind and swell had dropped since yesterday so on board we could enjoy a very interesting lecture from Adam about life on Antarctic research stations both during the summer and overwintering.  This was followed by a very thought-provoking lecture from Felicity, Sara and Bill about the different factors threatening the Antarctic, concluding with suggestions about how we can help preserve this truly specular environment and how to get involved with Citizen Science Projects. It made us all very feel very privileged to be able to visit Antarctica and the importance of becoming Antarctic ambassadors.

The entertainment continued with a pub style quiz to see who had been paying attention during the lectures and re-caps as well as testing how well everyone knew the staff team. The winning team receiving a signed carton from Bill.

At Captain’s cocktails, the Captain thanked all the guests for bringing such good weather on the trip. Those experienced Antarctic visitors commented this trip had the best weather ever.

Stephen, the hotel manager, then called us for the last time to go to the restaurant for our ‘dining pleasure’.  As every meal had been excellent throughout the trip it was great to have the opportunity to thank all the catering and hotel team for all their hard work.

Day 13: Returning to Ushuaia

Returning to Ushuaia
Date: 16.12.2022
Position: 54°48’.6 S - 068°17’.8 W
Wind: W force 1
Weather: fine
Air Temperature: +7

We arrived at the Pilot Station in the Beagle Channel at dinner time and docked in Ushuaia just after midnight. Ortelius had successfully completed a very memorable Antarctic voyage! The crew and Expedition Team handled all the luggage on to the dock, and at 08:00 it was time for disembarkation. The voyage was over, and it was time to go our separate ways. Fond farewells were exchanged on the dock, as our band of intrepid adventurers dispersed and began the long journey home.

Memories will continue long after disembarkation as most people had a great number of photos to sort through.

Thank you all for such a memorable voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1773 nautical miles
Furthest South: 65°06’.3 S 065°00’.6 W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Mika Appel, Expedition Leader Sara Jenner, Hotel Manager Stephen Bell and all the crew and expedition staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!

We look forward to seeing you again on one of our ships for another adventure.


Tripcode: OTL24-22
Dates: 4 Dec - 16 Dec, 2022
Duration: 12 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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