|54°48’.6 S - 068°17’.8 W
|WNW force 5
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.