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OTL25-18, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 16.12.2017
Position: 54°49‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: W 6
Air Temperature: +10

Boarding Ortelius started around 4pm and we were soon checked in by our Hotel Manager and his assistant (DJ and Sava). We were shown our cabins and had some free time to get unpacked and settled in. Lovely to know that we don’t have to change ‘hotel’ again until we’re back in Ushuaia.

We soon began exploring our new home; perhaps the most important place to find was the Bar on Deck 6, where coffee/tea can be accessed 24/7 and where Barman Rolando can often be found if we fancy something stronger. Of course doors to the outside deck-space were also important to locate, so that when ‘whales’ and other delights are announced , we know how to get out there as quickly and efficiently as possible.

At 5 pm we were summoned by Expedition Leader Cheryl to a mandatory briefing in the Lecture Room on Deck 3. She welcomed us on board and introduced Third Officer Warren, who gave an all-important Safety Briefing and Lifeboat Drill. Now we are aware of what we should do if we see a fire or man overboard, and know precisely what to grab and where to go in the event of the ship’s general alarm going off. Seven short and one long blast calls us (warmly dressed) to the Bar, which doubles as our muster station. Once we are all there, radio communication between the bridge officers and ship’s crew keeps us informed of developments. The ‘abandon ship’ signal is a verbal command given by the Captain or Chief Officer, and we hope that today is the only time we hear it, followed by the reassuring words ‘for practice only’…Filing outside in orderly fashion and gathering next to the lifeboats completed the drill; we were then free to continue our explorations of the ship, or come out on deck with our cameras to watch Ortelius’ departure from Ushuaia.

Captain had quite a job to get us off the pier! The wind was trying to pin us down and it took quite a while to get free and turn into open water. We waved our goodbyes to this city (almost) at the end of the world and headed down the Beagle Channel towards the open ocean.

Before dinner we again gathered in the Lounge/Bar on Deck 6 in order to meet key crew/staff and learn about ship routine during our voyage. Hotel Manager DJ imparted useful information about mealtimes, Internet/Webmail access and treating the toilets nicely. He was followed by Expedition Leader Cheryl, who introduced Captain Mika – the person who will get us there and back again safely – and then handed over to her team of staff for self-introductions. We raised a glass of bubbly (or orange juice) to the success of our voyage and then it was time for our first dinner aboard.

After dinner Dr. Susan was available in the ship’s hospital to hand out seasick medication and valuable advice. A stroll on deck, a cup of tea or something stronger, and then most of us fell into bed after a busy and exciting day – hoping to be fast asleep before the rocking and rolling begins. Tomorrow morning will find us well on the way to our first stop – the Falkland Islands.

Day 2: At Sea towards the Falkland Islands

At Sea towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 17.12.2017
Position: 54°05’S, 064°09’W
Wind: SW 4/5
Air Temperature: +7

Cheryl’s dulcet tones awakened us at 7.30 this morning with a gentle ‘Good Morning’ and some information about weather, wind speeds and our progress towards the Falklands. We can definitely feel that we’re at sea, but for most of us the rolling was tolerable; a few people were affected by seasickness and turned to our doctor for help. Patches appeared behind ears and pills were ingested, which worked for the majority.

After enjoying a buffet breakfast, many of us wrapped up warm and went outside to gaze at the waves and the seabirds – which are in their element. Pintados (Cape petrels) skimmed the water close at hand, and further afield Giant petrels and several species of albatross glided, using the air currents to demonstrate their skill at dynamic soaring. Every now and then they would fly right past the deck or bridge window and we could stare straight into their eyes…At the other end of the scale there were tiny Wilson’s Storm petrels darting low over the waves – the smallest species to be seen here. And already a Commerson’s dolphin has been spotted riding our bow-wave…

By 9.30 am people were getting excited at the prospect of the rubber boot handout! Of course these boots are essential to our activities in this part of the world, and it was important to get the best fit possible. Sadly, there was only one colour choice available – black. Zodiac life jackets were handed out and tried on too (these are orange). Now we are ready and eager to make the first landing tomorrow…

Next up was Victoria at 11 am. Her presentation was entitled the ‘History of the Falkland Islands’ and covered from first discovery up to the 1982 conflict. Many people were surprised to learn that the Falkland Islands were first settled by the French, rather than the British, Spanish or Argentines. After this it was already time for our buffet lunch in the Dining Room – a delicious boeuf bourguignon.

After a welcome siesta break, most people joined Mick in the Lecture Room to find out all about ‘The Falkland Islands, Wildlife & Landscapes’. Mick really whetted our appetites for the scenery and animals of the smaller islands, and for the charm of Stanley itself – it’s very helpful to know what to look out for before arrival.

Tea time came and went, and also today’s mandatory briefing session. Assistant Expedition Leader Kurtis told us everything we needed to know about safe Zodiac operations. We’ll need to use these newly-acquired skills as soon as we reach the Falkland Islands and make our first landing of the voyage.

The final official event of the day was our first Recap & Briefing in the Lounge/Bar (which was open). Cheryl had a lot to tell us about the next couple of days and you could feel the excitement and anticipation growing as she spoke. There was a lot of chat as we descended to the Dining Room afterwards. Our first sea day was drawing to an end and we went to bed early, to dream of albatross and penguins…

Day 3: Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Date: 18.12.2017
Position: 51°18’S, 060°38’W
Wind: W 6
Air Temperature: +13

Our first day of landings dawned – many of us got up early in order to enjoy the seabirds and Ortelius’ approach to the stunning landscapes of the West Falklands in the sunshine. Soon after breakfast we neared our first stop, which was Carcass Island. The island’s owner welcomes ships and so we dressed in waterproof layers (there was quite a strong wind at sea level), marked ourselves ‘out’ on the tagboard and headed for the gangway to the Zodiacs. We took our time boarding as there was some movement at the gangway due to wind and swell, but soon enough we were all on our way to shore.

We landed on the beach near the small settlement and were greeted by an abundance of wildlife, including Kelp geese and even a few Magellanic penguins. Within a short walk of the beach the birders were enjoying themselves immensely, with sightings of a Cobb’s wren, snipe and Black-chinned siskin to name but a few. The most enthusiastic hikers set off in the footsteps of guides Mick and Arjen, determined to see as many shore-birds and passerines as possible. Whether we chose to walk the whole four km to the southern beaches, or lingered nearer the homestead close to the landing site, there was plenty to see. There were a number of Striated caracaras perched on fence posts, garden benches and roofs around the McGill home, eyeing us warily. And there were wild flowers scattered through the island grass, yellow gorse blooming everywhere (pretty, despite being an introduced species) and blue, blue ocean framing the beach; just lovely.

Last stop before we headed for the Zodiacs was an absolutely wonderful example of local hospitality. 18 different types of cake and biscuit were counted on the table in the main settlement house, washed down with tea or coffee; it doesn’t get better than this!

It was a challenge after all that cake, but we tried hard to do justice to our buffet lunch. Captain and officers repositioned Ortelius to the afternoon’s landing spot at Saunders Island (where the British first settled back in 1766). It was obvious to all observers that wind speeds had increased over lunch as we came out of the shelter provided by Carcass Island, so on arrival at our afternoon’s destination it was necessary to play a waiting game. Rainbow-coloured ‘williwaws’ constantly whizzed by – VISIBLE wind gusts of whirled-up sea water. Just as we thought wind speeds were calming a little, suddenly there was another one coming through. Impossible to launch Zodiacs in these conditions and although we waited patiently for a couple of hours it was clear that the weather was not going to relent in time for us to go ashore this afternoon. Never mind: we could still see Black-browed albatross riding the air currents and we watched out for porpoising Rockhopper penguins. We gazed longingly through binoculars at the bird colonies on the slopes above the beautiful long, sandy beach…so near, yet so far.

Some recompense came later in the day as we began our voyage to South Georgia. That evening three (and later more) Commerson’s dolphins were spotted in front of Ortelius, enjoying a glorious joy-ride on our bow wave. It looked such FUN as they darted and rolled and spun just below (and sometimes above) the surface of the water. And it was almost as much fun watching all the passengers leaning out over the bow, focussing intently on the ocean. Once they remembered to look up as well, there was a very pink and orange sunset to admire. And so we made progress round the top of West and East Falklands towards Stanley for tomorrow’s excursion in the capital. The weather forecast suggests a fine day, so a lot to look forward to.

Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 19.12.2017
Position: 51°41’S, 057°51’W
Wind: W 3/4
Air Temperature: +10

The morning saw Ortelius sail into Port William under overcast skies. In order to get into Stanley Harbour we had to pass The Narrows, the aptly-named passage between Navy Point and Engineer Point. Shortly afterwards we arrived at our destination for the morning and were eager to go ashore.

Those of us who wanted to visit Gypsy Cove came to the gangway first and were shuttled to the small floating pier right in front of the Visitors' Centre. Soon we were off in a bus, first stopping for a look at the wreck of Lady Elizabeth, a three-masted iron-hull barque stranded there. The ship once served as a timber warehouse but broke her moorings in a storm in 1936, after which she drifted into her current position. Some of us, however, were much more intrigued by the Falkland Steamer duck and her little ducklings which huddled together on shore.

We then continued to Gypsy Cove and had a pleasant walk with beautiful views over the bay, the sweet scent of gorse wafting in the air. Down on the white sandy beach we could see Magellanic penguins. One penguin had its burrow right next to the footpath, eyeing us quizzically from its shelter as we passed by.

There were Falkland thrushes hopping around in the Diddle-Dee, and we found Night herons and even chicks on one of the rocks towards the headland.

Meanwhile, all the other guests and quite a number of crew had disembarked and were enjoying this beautiful summer day on shore in Stanley. Some chose to stroll along the waterfront, visit the museum or the church, stop by the post office or go for a coffee and a snack in one of the cafés. Some serious souvenir shopping had to be done as well! Those returning from Gypsy Cove by bus joined in, and everyone had a great, sunny time at this very colourful British outpost.

Around noon we had to return to the ship, and after heaving up anchor we made our way out through The Narrows again, then turned to starboard to start our long voyage towards South Georgia. A few dolphins were seen in the course of the afternoon, splashing about but obviously not interested in a bow-ride. Albatrosses and shearwaters glided past, and we looked at the very calm seas in amazement and wonder; how was it possible that one of the most notorious stretches of water in the Southern Ocean could be this peaceful? A little later we gathered in the Lecture Room; in his talk about whales, Arjen introduced us to the marine mammals which live in these waters.

Afterwards we found ourselves out on deck basking in the sunshine, or in the bar going for one of Rolando’s famous cocktails – after all, a Happy Hour had been announced from 6.30 pm! Together with the Expedition team, we looked back over our time on the Falkland islands: Sandra told us how Carcass Island had gotten its name (and why both Horatio Nelson and a polar bear feature in the story); Victoria raised the secret of the mizzen mast of SS Great Britain which we had passed in Stanley; Mick summed up our Falklands experience with a set of great images, and finally Arjen showed a video he had been able to get while some Commerson’s dolphins were bow-riding yesterday. Off to dinner and back outside again for many of us – light conditions were just too good to waste!

Day 5: At Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea towards South Georgia
Date: 20.12.2017
Position: 52°19’S, 052°11’W
Wind: NE 6
Air Temperature: +7

What a contrast to the glorious sunny summer weather experienced the previous day in Stanley… passengers awoke to mist, a mist that enveloped the ship all day through into evening. Long lens cameras and binoculars were given the day off…they rested in cabins or on the sofas in the lounge. The one consolation was the lack of movement on the ship as Ortelius slid along at a steady 11 knots through a relatively calm sea. People relaxed and appeared on deck to chat in groups and wander about without having to clutch guard rails. Many passengers visited the bridge and coffee-drinking was also a popular activity.

In the morning Sandra delivered a highly informative presentation on the technical side of camera usage…photography de-mistified! Bill followed with a lengthy lecture encompassing the development of sealing and whaling in both the Arctic and Antarctica: a sad tale of the death and destruction of animals, men, ships and businesses.

Undoubted highlight of the day was the after-lunch IAATO bio-security briefing, followed by a vacuuming session in the lounge area. Passengers eagerly and quite meticulously turned out every seam of their clothing, delving into every pocket (removing long forgotten sweets and crumpled bus tickets) to search and suck out each and every alien substance. It became the afternoon ‘sport’, as every gaily-coloured Gortex garment, piece of camera equipment, back-pack and assorted accessory received the treatment. All were thoroughly investigated and the necessary confirmation signature appended to the ‘bio-security completed’ list. This activity was inspiration for more amusing cartoon responses from Bill, which appeared on the lounge walls later in the evening.

Recap educational presentations included Kurtis explaining ‘The Antarctic Convergence’ and Bill on ‘The secret places of Ortelius Part I…the Engine Room’.

In the evening after dinner, a large number of passengers relaxed in the Lecture Room as they watched an episode of ‘Blue Planet’ - which included a section on South Georgia.

Day 6: At Sea towards South Georgia & Shag Rocks

At Sea towards South Georgia & Shag Rocks
Date: 21.12.2017
Position: 53°11’S, 044°44’W
Wind: N 8
Air Temperature: +8

‘Twas the night before South Georgia and all through the ship, all the passengers were preparing for their first day on land…

The morning dawned foggy and breezy and no wildlife was to be seen around the ship except for the occasional Giant petrel passing close by. Victoria regaled us with stories of Shackleton and his men who undertook an ambitious expedition to cross Antarctica from the bottom of the Weddell Sea to the shores of the Ross Sea. Before their trip really began, they became trapped in the ice and had a harrowing story to tell by the end of it.

Those who were outside searching for wildlife were persuaded in to watch a short video about South Georgia and to get details about what to expect when we arrive. All in all, it was a quiet, contemplative morning.

After lunch, Mick gave us an introduction on penguins, getting us ready for the vast numbers of them we were to soon see. After his talk everything started to change outside. The fog started to lift, exposing a little bit of blue sky and giving us more visibility. We started to see a bit more bird life around the ship. We passed from very deep ocean into shallower waters and all of a sudden, the ocean came alive! Humpback and Fin whales surrounded the ship, taking advantage of upwelling nutrients.

The Captain and his team slowed the ship to give us more time with the whales, some of them coming very close to us. This all came at a most inopportune time for all of the geology buffs - but seeing as the live action outside always takes priority, Kurtis postponed his lecture. The ship also made its way close to Shag Rocks - the first bit of land in between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, a favourite place for South Georgia shags to nest and call home - and for hours afterwards we enjoyed abundant birdlife and the occasional whale around the ship.

Cheryl’s early evening briefing (on tomorrow’s potential landing activities) was well-attended, and Victoria contributed a recap on Captain Cook’s discovery and claiming of South Georgia for Britain in 1775 – though
he was greatly disappointed when it turned out NOT to be the Antarctic Continent itself.

That night we closed up our portholes to keep the light in (to prevent bird strikes) and we eagerly anticipated the morning, when we would wake in the Bay of Isles ready to step foot on land with hundreds of thousands of King penguins.

Day 7: Bay of Isles, Salisbury Plain & Brighton Beach, Possession Bay, South Georgia

Bay of Isles, Salisbury Plain & Brighton Beach, Possession Bay, South Georgia
Date: 22.12.2017
Position: 53°56’S, 037°35’W
Wind: NW 4
Air Temperature: +7

Our introduction to South Georgia was a delightful surprise. We approached the Bay of Isles in a fog which obscured our view. Without warning the mountains, islands and the spectacular panorama of this magnificent bay appeared as if by magic. It was like a curtain being pulled back, revealing a sunlit landscape of great beauty. There were gasps of surprise and amazement. Strong sunlight, blue skies, alpine scenery and masses of wildlife greeted us.

The Zodiacs were lowered and soon we were ashore on the beach at Salisbury Plain. Approximately 60,000 pairs of King penguins nest here along with skuas and Giant petrels. Fur seals in their hundreds occupied the beach and we had to choose a route carefully, that would take us inland to the main penguin colony. Our route was marked out with red poles by an advance party of staff.

Here was one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles, on a par with Africa’s plains reserves. An unforgettable combination of sight, sound and smell! We positioned ourselves on the edge of the masses of kings. We observed the complex breeding cycle of this magnificent creature, laid out before our eyes, unique in the bird world: from newly-laid eggs to 12-month-old almost fully fledged chicks, it was all there before us. For the birders there were good sightings of the South Georgia pipit and South Georgia pintail. Zodiac cruises also took place, with a change-over system to allow everyone to come ashore.

Our afternoon activity was at a new location not often visited by ships like ours - Possession Bay, named after Captain Cook’s claiming of South Georgia for King George of England in January 1775. Our ship anchored near to a ‘reef of kelp’ and our destination was Brighton Beach (so-named because it gets very crowded in summer, just like the British seaside town!). The sun shone and a northerly breeze kept the temperature low, but not uncomfortable. Our landing beach had large numbers of Fur seals, penguins and Giant petrels in residence.

On shore, walks were offered of varying lengths and the walkers wandered past Fur seal pups, fighting adult males, mating pairs, scavenging Giant petrels and moulting penguins. Zodiac cruises took us along the coast through a forest of giant kelp and we had fine views of two glaciers, one of which had meltwater flowing out in the form of a waterfall.

Finally it was all aboard at 7 pm in time for a Recap of today and a Briefing regarding our next day’s planned adventures. After dinner many people gathered out on deck to view the scenery before falling into bed and sleeping well, following so much activity and scenic beauty on our first day in South Georgia.

Day 8: Grytviken & Stromness, South Georgia

Grytviken & Stromness, South Georgia
Date: 23.12.2017
Position: 54°13’S, 036°28’W
Wind: N 4
Air Temperature: +5

This morning the early risers were rewarded by beautiful sights of the little bay of Maiviken; lovely scenery and lots of wildlife were seen, as we started to get used to South Georgia. During breakfast the Captain brought the ship into King Edward Cove, close to the former Norwegian whaling station of Grytviken. After all the wildlife of yesterday, today our focus was on the human history of the island – though the numbers of seals and penguins scattered about the site clearly indicated their continuing dominance!

The morning began with a talk given by one of the ladies of the South Georgia Heritage Trust. In our lecture room she spoke about the very successful (though expensive) Rat Eradication Programme they have been running for the past few years. This programme is now in its third and final stage, during which they will check whether all the rats are really gone from the island. So far so good, and the effects of the programme are already noticeable, with a rapid recolonisation of the main island by the South Georgia pipit.

After this briefing we were shuttled ashore, but not before our clothes and boots had been checked for seeds by the government representative. Fortunately we had done a good cleaning job, and all of us were allowed ashore.

Our first stop was the small cemetery, where several whalers and one victim of the Argentine-British conflict in 1982 are buried. The most famous graves however, are those of the Boss, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his right-hand man, Frank Wild. When we were all gathered around Shackleton’s grave with a small glass of whisky in hand, Victoria proposed a toast based around the various aspects of this famous explorer/leader/friend/man, after which we drank a little and gave Shackleton the rest of our whisky, as tradition demands.

Now there were several options available. We could join a tour through the whaling station guided by one of the ladies of the South Georgia Heritage Trust; or we could walk around by ourselves, looking at the different buildings and other remains of the whaling station; we could go shopping in the gift shop, have a look in the museum or church, or send post cards from the little post office (no guarantees when the cards will be delivered though!). A little later another tour through the settlement was made, this time focusing on Shackleton’s time here. For those less interested in human history, there were a surprising number of Elephant and Fur seals in town, as well as some King penguins and South Georgia pintails.

After another splendid lunch on board we headed for another old whaling station, this time at Stromness. As this whaling station was in a very poor state, we were not allowed anywhere near the buildings and had to stay at least 200m away from it. Stromness too has a strong connection with Shackleton, as this was the place where he, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean finished their epic journey across South Georgia at the end of the Endurance expedition. Many of us retraced the very last part of this journey by walking across the valley bottom to the Shackleton waterfall, then back to the beach and the whaling station. Others, who were less inclined to walk and more interested in wildlife, stayed on the beach where many King penguins, Antarctic Fur seals and Elephant seals were resting. Strangely enough there were also several Gentoo penguins sighted, who were persistently walking inland; the hikers came up with the answer to this as en route to the waterfall, about two km. inland, several small Gentoo penguin colonies could be seen up the left-hand slope, evidently a good place for them to breed.

Back on the ship Recap was postponed to another day and we just had a quick briefing about tomorrow. After dinner most of us went outside again to enjoy a dramatic sunset over the South Georgia mountains. Another great day had passed and when we went to bed, we were full of excitement over what South Georgia had to offer.

Day 9: CHRISTMAS EVE: St Andrew’s Bay & Gold Harbour, South Georgia

CHRISTMAS EVE: St Andrew’s Bay & Gold Harbour, South Georgia
Date: 24.12.2017
Position: 54°26’S, 036°10’W
Wind: W 6
Air Temperature: +7

Wow…what a day!

After breakfast passengers emerged on deck to photograph the beautiful mountain-and-glacier-studded landscape of St Andrew’s Bay. The captain had once again skillfully helmed Ortelius into a position close to the beach, ready for Zodiac launching. The weather was excellent…offering perfect conditions for a landing.

Having listened carefully to Cheryl’s briefing and removed their life jackets, incoming passengers walked slowly along the shoreline following a route of red pole markers laid out by guides, which led inland to the top of a large moraine. This was the best vantage point from which to view the largest King penguin colony in South Georgia… many thousands dotted the plain below – the estimate stands at around 500,000 birds in total. Long ribbons of puffy brown chicks stood moulting patiently along the edges of streams and ponds amidst a sea of brightly-coloured adults. This was a sensory feast, as an over-powering musty penguin/seal smell and loud cries filled the air, whilst opportunistic hunting skuas wheeled overhead. Passengers were also offered the option of viewing the wildlife from the water, by Zodiac-cruising along the shore.

This St Andrew’s bay landing was a stunning experience for passengers and Expedition Staff alike. The highlight of the voyage to date. How could it get better?

Ortelius then cruised a few miles further to Gold Harbour, which was an even more dramatic location with a backdrop of towering peaks and overhanging glaciers. Everywhere one looked, the area was covered in a seething mass of seals and penguins. Once groups landed on the shore they were immediately confronted by a cordoned-off mass of 20 or 30 Elephant seals lying in a belching, snorting, almost oblivious mass just yards from the Zodiacs. Photographers clicked their cameras and zoomed their lenses, seizing the opportunity to capture images of these huge slumbering creatures. And there was a huge variety of other wildlife too - Fur seals, Gentoo and King penguins, skuas and blood-covered petrels dining on dead things...

Some intrepid birders were led up a steep, tussocky slope to view (from a respectful distance) a Light-mantled Sooty albatross nest, with other birds riding the air currents overhead. And a few lucky Zodiac-cruisers out with Bill spotted a Leopard seal attacking a penguin. Both on land and by sea it was a magical day.

In the evening the ‘Santa Claus-hatted’ hotel department arranged a festive meal, which provided the perfect end to yet another superb Oceanwide Expeditions adventure day.

Day 10: CHRISTMAS DAY: Cooper Bay & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia

CHRISTMAS DAY: Cooper Bay & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia
Date: 25.12.2017
Position: 54°47’S, 035°48’W
Wind: SW 4
Air Temperature: +11

Christmas Day began bright and very early for us, at 5 am in fact! But here we are in South Georgia, in Cooper Bay, with a Macaroni penguin colony in view and so a good reason to get going.

Ashore by 6 am, we took turns to climb the tussock-covered slope to see our only crested penguins on this voyage. With the breeding season well under way, the birds were firmly into the nesting routine in their preferred habitat of dense tussock. We saw lost and discarded eggs, courtship displays, fights and mutual preening - and the constant raucous conversations were very loud and very distinctly different from the sounds of the King penguins.

We Zodiac-cruised also and on the foreshore we had fine views of the penguins, South Georgia shags and pipits. Light-mantled Sooty albatrosses flew above the cliff tops, sometimes in pairs and highly synchronised. A heavy swell broke at the point, but luckily it did not reach our landing beach as it often does in this open and exposed location, though the floating kelp forest helps to dampen the swell. All too soon it was time to leave the penguins and get back on board for our Christmas Breakfast: smoked salmon and sparkling wine provided a seasonal treat!

Our next adventure was sailing into Drygalski Fjord. Here we clearly saw the dramatic differences between the various locations in South Georgia. Here, in contrast with the north of the island, we experienced Antarctic conditions in the form of glaciers, low temperatures and katabatic winds. Our highly-experienced Captain Mika used the wind - gusting at 50 - 60 knots – to manoeuvre the ship into the position he wanted. It was amazing to see such a display of skill and seamanship.

Snow petrels were numerous and on one occasion five of them could be seen following a Fur seal, which was eating a fish on the surface. The wind was so strong that an ice-melt waterfall was blown upwards, defying gravity! We nosed into Larsen Harbour, a location that yachts and ships use when seeking shelter at this most southerly point of the island. This was an incredible opportunity, because there was no way we could have launched Zodiacs here in such wind conditions, so a big thank you once again to Captain Mika.

To keep on schedule we had to leave this haven and face the open sea in order to begin the next stage of our voyage: destination Antarctica.

In the afternoon, Assistant Expedition Leader Kurtis was finally allowed to give his geology talk, with no interruptions from wildlife. The subject was ‘A Brief 400 Million Year History of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula’, and included a clear and simple explanation of some necessary geological terms before applying them specifically to these three different areas of our voyage.

Recap and Briefing had a strong South Georgia focus, as the Expedition Team summarised key points about and answered questions on the wonderful island we have just departed. And we had a delicious Christmas Dinner with all the traditional trimmings to look forward to. Merry Christmas Everyone!

Day 11: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 26.12.2017
Position: 57°18‘S, 039°37‘W
Wind: W 7
Air Temperature: +2

Overnight the ship’s movement eased somewhat, and in between grey clouds a bit of blue sky could be seen. We passed the occasional large iceberg, an early reminder of the fact that our journey to Antarctica has only just begun.

Most of us had a lie-in after the four intense days we spent on South Georgia, still digesting what we had seen and experienced. After breakfast, Victoria invited us to the Lecture Room for a talk on the ‘History of South Georgia’ from Captain Cook’s discovery in 1775 to the Falklands conflict in 1982. As soon as we had had our fill of history it was time to start a vacuuming party once again in the Bar – our outer clothes and backpacks, tripods and walking sticks needed to be cleaned of seeds and soil which might otherwise give unwanted species an easy ride to pristine Antarctica.

Around noon, a good spot to be was the bridge – at least for those not feeling slightly queasy when the ship pitched in the swell. Every now and then, Ortelius took a deep bow, and the waves would wash over the foredeck, sending spray up all the way to the bridge windows - the reason being that we had changed course towards a more westerly direction. The Argentinian base on the South Orkney Islands had reported that the island was engulfed in ice, which meant no chance for us to make a landing. Therefore, the Captain and the Expedition Leader had taken the sensible decision to head straight for the Antarctic Peninsula.

Nevertheless, quite a lot of us came to listen to Arjen’s talk about tubenoses, the birds magnificently adapted to a life at sea. We had already seen a fair number of them, including albatrosses, so we were eager to learn more about their biology. Before Bill followed with his talk on ‘Paintings of the Sea‘, we quickly dashed up to the Bar or the bridge for a tea, coffee, hot chocolate – and another look at the endless expanse of water in front of Ortelius’ bow. We were even getting the odd snow squall coming through, so the weather is becoming more polar by the hour!

At 6 pm we gathered in the bar for the South Georgia Heritage Trust auction, which magically coincided with a Happy Hour. All afternoon the items had been on display in the lounge; they included a t-shirt with illustrations drawn by Mick, a cyanotype print of a Frank Hurley photograph, books, a Sir Ernest Shackleton Gift Box (with whisky of course), some traditional Chinese calligraphy, a ceramic penguin, and a cushion cover on which a penguin was proudly stating: “One day I’ll take over the planet“. What a prospect!

After careful examination, we knew what we would like to have and were ready to go. Auctioneer Bill started with the smallest of the lots – a dead rat patch - and for some reason or other already this first item was highly sought after. With loads of jokes, being his usual self truly, Bill led us through the event, which in the end raised more than 800 GBP for the SGHT. After an hour equally exciting as exhausting, dinner came just in time for us to regain some of the energy we had spent, and afterwards we enjoyed a quiet evening on board.

Day 12: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 27.12.2017
Position: 58°55‘S, 045°07‘W
Wind: W 6
Air Temperature: +3

How everyone loves these relaxing sea days….

Wake up late, just in time for breakfast. Leisurely chat with fellow passengers in the Dining Room, have a second cup of coffee, amble back to the cabin, tidy up the shambles on the bed, fold up some clothes and stack neatly on the shelves.
Next activity, transfer photographs from camera to computer and put camera battery on charge. Now face the first serious exercise of the day…climb the stairs to the lounge carrying computer. Have another cup of coffee, this time with a biscuit. Stare out of the window at the undulating seascape. Decide to go outside later, but first some serious editing of the enormous collection of photographs to date. Sit playing with the light and dark controls, adjusting colour, cropping to improve composition, showing the best images to fellow passengers.

Walk outside for fresh air; stare at the undulating seascape.
9.30 Lecture time…descend into the depths of the ship to the Lecture Room. Listen to Mick…’Greenwich Mean Time and Navigation at Sea’. Announcement of ‘Fin whales’! Hike upstairs with camera…quick coffee when show is over…descend into the depths of the ship to the Lecture Room.

11.00 Listen to Victoria…’Amundsen the Sportsman / Scott the Hero?’ Hike upstairs again.

Tanoy announces lunch….another leisurely chat with fellow passengers in the Dining Room, have the fifth cup of coffee of the day. Stare out of the window at the undulating seascape.
Return to the lounge, sit playing with the computer, deleting failures and improving the best photographs, showing the best images to fellow passengers.

15.00 Lecture time...descend into the depths of the ship to the Lecture Room. Listen to Sandra…’Frank Hurley & his Photography’. Hike upstairs again.

Afternoon tea (not coffee this time) and a decadent two slices of cake. Walk outside and stare at the undulating seascape. Descend into the depths of the ship to the Lecture Room again.

17.00 Lecture Time…Listen to Kurtis…’Ice, Ice Baby!’ Hike upstairs again. Walk outside and stare at the undulating seascape.
Recap & Briefing …love this time of day. The first alcohol of the day and also the second, all within the hour, and sometimes within just half an hour. Descend to the Dining Room. Tanoy announces dinner….another leisurely chat with fellow passengers in the Dining Room.

Retire to the cabin. Exhausted! Cannot understand this feeling of being totally drained.

Revived enough to join fellow passengers in the Ortelius Theatre (also known as the Lecture Room, on Deck 3) to watch ‘Casablanca’ with popcorn, or:
early to bed...in order to prepare for another relaxing, but exhausting sea day tomorrow.

Day 13: At Sea & Elephant Island

At Sea & Elephant Island
Date: 28.12.2017
Position: 60°38‘S, 053°09‘W
Wind: NE 5
Air Temperature: +1

When we woke up this morning, there was a lot to see outside. Unfortunately it was a lot of the same: small water droplets in the air creating a dense layer of fog around the ship, making it far more difficult to see other more interesting things. However, for those who spent some time on the outside decks or on the bridge several bird species could be found. There was a fairly large group of Cape petrels flying around the ship and several Southern (or Antarctic) fulmars were seen as well - a species we hadn’t seen a lot so far on this trip.
Shortly after breakfast Mick invited us to the Lecture Room to listen to the second part of his lecture on penguins – ‘Penguin Summer’, covering their breeding cycle. After this, many of us went to see our ship’s doctor Susan; not because of a strange virus or because of rough seas, but because she too was giving a lecture, about seafarers’ medical problems and superstitions, some of which were truly bizarre.

The highlight of the day, however, came in the late morning/early afternoon. We could see land!! After almost three days of open sea, the fog lifted just enough to enable us to see the steep mountains of Clarence, Cornwallis and Elephant Islands on the horizon. In the past three days we had covered the more than 700 nautical miles that Shackleton and his men did in the reverse direction in the James Caird, over a hundred years ago. It had been a lot more comfortable for us, hardly bearing comparison to what those six men went through in their tiny wooden lifeboat.

Our captain did a great job of bringing the Ortelius close to Point Wild on Elephant Island, the place where Shackleton landed with his men from the Endurance Expedition, and where 22 of them, under Frank Wild’s capable leadership, had to spend nearly five months before they were rescued. We were all very surprised at how small their little beach was. None of us would want to spend longer than one hour even on this little spit of land, never mind nearly five months.

Now the spot has been taken over by Chinstrap penguins and the only thing to remind us of this historic survival story was the bust of the Captain of the Chilean ship (Yelcho) that rescued the men from the island after their ordeal, on 30th August 1916.
Captain Mika kept our ship close to Point Wild for long enough to satisfy our curiosity, and then we moved on. Around Elephant Island several whales were seen, mostly Fin whales. It was now time to head further south towards the Antarctic Sound at the top of the Antarctic Peninsula.

During Recap & Briefing Cheryl informed us about the plans for the next day and Victoria looked back on our Elephant Island visit. After another excellent meal prepared by our Galley Team most of us went straight to bed, full of anticipation for what was about to come: The Antarctic Peninsula itself!

Day 14: Kinnes Cove & Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula

Kinnes Cove & Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound,  Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 29.12.2017
Position: 63°19‘S, 056°29‘W
Wind: SE 4
Air Temperature: +2

Bring on Antarctica proper! In thick fog, Ortelius sailed south and when we first glanced at the world around us in the morning, to some it may have seemed rather bleak. The colours had almost completely vanished and given way to a monochrome world of serene beauty. On the way to Kinnes Cove, those who had risen early enjoyed views of Humpback whales, iceberg arches, and porpoising penguins galore. While we were having breakfast, the Expedition Team scouted the landing site and surrounding areas. Soon it was time to head ashore or board the Zodiacs for a cruise, and we were advised to dress warmly. The wind had picked up a bit, we were surrounded by ice cliffs, and later on it started to snow softly – Antarctica proper indeed!

The landing site was an exciting little spot: upon disembarking the Zodiacs and balancing our way carefully across the rocks, we found ourselves surrounded by Adelie penguins. Black and white and with a funny white eye-ring, they are the emblematic penguins and a true Antarctic species. Every single one of them seemed to be busy - dashing out of the water or carefully tiptoeing towards and finally plunging into it, cleaning themselves (preening), calling out, waving their flippers, pecking at each other, stealing pebbles, commuting to and from the colony situated higher up on the slope … which is where we went too, just nowhere near as elegantly and effortlessly as the Adelies and Gentoos, which were also present.

Much to our delight, we found that many of the penguins had chicks - little grey fluffballs snuggled up against the belly of the parent bird. Some of them gave us a curious glance, and we marveled that we were experiencing such a sight - exchanging looks with penguins in Antarctica. There was constant movement both in the colony and on the penguin highway, and it was not easy to decide where to look and photograph first, the snowfall adding to the special atmosphere!

Those who dared made their way further up, some to the very top hoping for good views. However, by now the snow was falling faster, obscuring visibility. But there was never a dull moment with all the penguins nearby, climbing the slopes and tobogganing down, quizzically eyeing the strange big multi-coloured penguins following the line of red flagpoles. Meanwhile, the Zodiac-cruisers had been out in the bay, the drivers skilfully navigating the ice-filled waters. At halftime, we swapped and got treated to some special moments: penguins on the ice, Humpback whales next to the Zodiac, ice arches and blue icebergs at a perfect distance for great photos, Wilson’s storm-petrels flitting here and there, Cape petrels gliding past beautifully-sculpted pieces of ice art. Everybody came back ultimately excited – and hungry.

While we were having lunch, Ortelius sailed across Antarctic Sound towards Brown Bluff, and even if lots of ice created a certain navigational challenge, we arrived on time. There was next to nothing to see just yet – heavy snowfall and fog made the approach to the landing site an eerie experience. We hoped the Zodiac drivers knew where they were going! Sure enough, we were all landed safely at the bottom of the towering cliffs which, thanks to the weather, had lost all of their colour. Lots of smaller icebergs lay grounded just offshore. Groups of Adelie penguins marched along the pebbly beach coming out of and going into the water. Gentoos were nesting here, there and everywhere, unperturbed by the conditions, snow heaped upon them by the driving wind. A little way further up the guides had found Snow petrels nesting under a huge boulder, and those interested in birding or genuinely curious went up to have a look. It took us quite a while to spot the bird tucked away in the very corner of the little cave, let alone photograph it!

Those who went on a Zodiac cruise were rewarded with views of flying Snow petrels, and some of us even managed to catch a glimpse of the elusive Leopard seal patrolling the coastal waters in search of a penguin snack. The inclement weather made many of us return to the ship after a while on shore, back to where a wonderful surprise was waiting for us: DJ and his team had prepared hot chocolate with cinnamon – yummy!

Completely excited by our Antarctic experience, we gathered in the Lounge prior to dinner to hear from Cheryl about the plans for tomorrow and from Arjen about the very special Snow petrel. What a day it had been!

Day 15: Half Moon Island & Deception Island, South Shetland Islands

Half Moon Island & Deception Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 30.12.2017
Position: 62°36‘S, 059°54‘W
Wind: SE 7
Air Temperature: +2

Today we made our way west of the Antarctic Peninsula and spent the day in the South Shetland Islands. The morning dawned cool and windy and there was a little movement on board as we left the Bransfield Strait to take shelter in between Livingston and Greenwich Islands, entering the bay on the inside of Half Moon Island. Here the staff tentatively put a Zodiac on the water to investigate conditions, which we found to be quite alright and so took everyone ashore.

The Chinstrap penguins we encountered were industriously making their way to and from their nests, taking one determined hop after another, from precarious rock to steep snow slope. These little mountaineers made scaling the sharp rocks and steep gradients look easy as they shuttled small stones back to their partners in the endless task of nest-building - as pebbles from the other side go missing almost as quickly as they get added! Why are penguins such dedicated kleptomaniacs?

On a different part of the island we got our first close-up look at a Weddell seal snoozing on the snow, digesting his most recent meal. Terribly relaxed, he managed to sleep his way through our entire excursion without so much as lifting his head to see who had come to visit; this is just another reminder of the sanctuary land provides for much of the wildlife of Antarctica, since there are no land-based predators.

We pointed our ship south-west along the South Shetland Island group and made our way towards a small island at the end of the chain; its cliffs descended right to the water revealing a small gap, which was the gateway into Deception Island’s Port Foster. Through Neptune’s Bellows, Captain Mika skilfully sailed our ship, so close to the cliffs on starboard side you could almost reach out and touch them. The waters opened up ahead and we sailed into one of only a few volcano calderas like it in the world.

Towards the back of the bay, we seemed to find some shelter from the 50 knots of wind streaking across the surface of the sea and again the staff went out to investigate the shoreline, to see if landing Zodiacs was possible. This time when they reached shore, the waves were breaking over the back of the boat, half-filling it with water. An investigation of the beach showed no protection from the pounding waves and it was decided (after getting Jerry totally soaked when a wave broke over the Zodiac bow, pouring sea water down his neck) that we would all be safer and drier enjoying the views from the ship!

We then made our way from Fumarole Bay to Pendulum Cove, where from the decks of the ship we could see steam rising from the beach, a reminder that we were inside an active volcano with intermittent geothermal activity. The backdrop was impressive, with steeply-rising hills of black volcanic sand and ash framed by patches of white snow and glaciers - a stunning monochrome world.

After this we made our way back again through Neptune’s Bellows and promptly came across a group of Humpback whales. Chief Mate, on the bridge, eased the engine and slowed to take us in for a closer look. And a closer look we got, just a few hundred metres away from where the whales lazily breathed and dived, giving us some fantastic views. Finally it was time to leave them and be on our way, as we turned the ship south in anticipation of waking again on the shores of the Antarctic Continent tomorrow.

Just time for a quick briefing before dinner and after eating, we retired to bed early, as our final day in Antarctica is going to start EARLY.

Day 16: NEW YEAR’S EVE: Foyn Harbour & Portal Point, Antarctic Peninsula

NEW YEAR’S EVE:  Foyn Harbour & Portal Point, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 31.12.2017
Position: 64°32‘S, 061°56‘W
Wind: Light airs
Air Temperature: +7

And here it was, the last day of 2017 and also our last day in Antarctica and the last day of shore activities on this trip. As we had to depart around lunchtime for the infamous Drake Passage, Cheryl decided to start early to get the most out of the day. At 5am we were woken and, after some small pastries, we queued up on both sides of the ship for a 5.30 am gangway. The boarding operation went smoothly, and off we all went for a Zodiac cruise at Foyn Harbour on Enterprise Island.

The weather had calmed down considerably during the night. (In fact, as our photographer Sandra remarked to her colleagues in the Expedition Team, it was a ‘Foyn morning’!). Beautiful icebergs filled the bays and our first goal was the Gouvernoren, an old factory ship from the whaling era that caught fire and was sunk in 1916. Today it was being used – somewhat ill-advisedly - as a yacht mooring station, whose occupants must have been somewhat surprised to be surrounded by a fleet of Zodiacs so early in the morning. Apart from this wreck, several other remains from the whaling era could be seen, such as some water boats and mooring pins in the rocks.

There was wildlife around too: three species of seal were seen - a Weddell, a Crabeater and an Antarctic Fur seal either on the ice or on land. Shags nesting on a cliff face, a few skuas out for an early morning reconnaissance and some beautiful Antarctic terns caught our attention too. And towards the end of the excursion several Humpback whales showed up as well, allowing a few of the boats glimpses of these massive marine mammals from sea level.

Back on the ship it was time for breakfast, although it felt more like lunch with this much activity already behind us. During lunch the captain brought the ship into Charlotte Bay for our regular morning landing at Portal Point. Just when we were ready to board the Zodiacs more Humpback whales showed up, so the plan was quickly changed. The first half of the group was brought ashore, while the second half went for a short Zodiac cruise with the whales. After a good hour the groups swapped places.

The landing was popular too. We could all enjoy fantastic views of iceberg-filled Charlotte Bay (with whales!), and we took advantage of the opportunity to stretch our legs for the last time before heading into the Drake Passage. Most of us hiked past the remains of Wally Herbert’s hut at shore level to a snowy view point over two different bays, one of which contained 30 – 40 Weddell seals dozing contentedly on the ice. Our guides enabled us to observe a couple of these seals more closely, and at one point a few lucky people heard them ‘singing’, or vocalising in their sleep.

Towards the end of the landing a number of people were crazy enough to take part in the Polar Plunge and go for a little swim - although in most cases it was in and out again rather rapidly, with not a lot of swimming involved! From the Zodiacs of course, more swimming could be watched, but in this case it involved great views of Humpback Whales (close enough to hear them breathing), who were in their element.

Now lunch was served (though it felt a bit like dinner!) and we made ourselves and our cabins ready for open sea again, although the forecast predicted a very calm Drake Passage. Most of us had a little nap in the afternoon, after our early morning start. During an extended Recap & Briefing later in the day Sandra talked to us about the secret life of lichens, Victoria told us about the history of Deception Island, Kurtis answered the question of why ice is blue and Mick told us all about the biology of Leopard seals.

After our New Year’s Eve dinner we were all called back into the bar for the great Ortelius New Years Eve Quiz, in which Arjen tested whether we had actually learned anything during this trip. Questions about the Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctica, our time at sea and even different mystery sounds had to be answered. The winning team was awarded several bottles of fizz with which to celebrate the New Year...scores were impressively high, showing that much thinking and listening had gone on during the lectures and recaps.
With this phase of the evening over, several of the guests wanted to say a few words to acknowledge the end of this year and the rapidly-approaching end of the voyage, ranging from an amusing slide show given by a real amateur photographer (thanks Stewart) to drawings/speeches created especially to mark the idiosyncrasies (and most lovable traits?!) of various Expedition Staff members. To the accompaniment of much laughter, it was then time for the captain to officially close the book on 2017 and open 2018, although to do this we went back to the South Georgia time zone, so that we could celebrate at 11 pm while most people were still awake! Toasts were drunk from special Ortelius New Year glasses and Happy New Year Greetings were widely exchanged. It was an awesome way to end the year, and we all hoped that 2018 would bring plenty more of the adventure and companionship we have experienced in the past two weeks on board MV Ortelius.

Day 17: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 01.01.2018
Position: 61°02‘S, 063°01‘W
Wind: W 4
Air Temperature: +3

On the first morning of the New Year, Cheryl woke us up with exciting news: Humpback whales were passing close to the ship, and there was also a Wandering albatross circling! Those already out on the decks or the bridge greatly enjoyed the views while others rushed for jackets and cameras. A little while later, more whale blows were seen. The Drake Passage was as calm as the metaphorical lake – we were incredibly lucky again.

After breakfast, another cup of tea and coffee and some more views over the endless expanse of water surrounding Ortelius, we joined Victoria in the Lecture Room to hear all about the Antarctic Treaty System. Having visited this very special continent and seen its splendour, we were curious to learn who governs it.

While Ortelius made her way north, we had lunch and then a little snooze, took time to edit photos or just sit and let the previous days sink in. With very little ship’s movement, the crossing was as pleasant as it could have been – by far the calmest this season, according to the guides. A few birds were around and a Leopard seal was spotted sticking its head out of the water, eyeing the ship as it approached.

At 3 pm Kurtis invited us to the Lecture Room to hear about the oceans we were navigating; his lecture on Southern Oceanography made us familiar with the powerful currents, severe weather conditions and huge seasonal changes of this region. Afterwards, Bill took us to the North Atlantic and introduced us to the ship’s journey from Aberdeen to Spitsbergen/Svalbard - a very different experience, but no less fascinating. Just in time we headed to the Bar for the daily recap at 6.30 pm. Arjen showed a much-admired video sequence of King penguins - including a chick pecking at his camera. Following up on his engine-room presentation, Bill provided us with glimpses of what the galley work on board looks like (including an amazing video sequence created by Head Chef Kabir), and we got an idea of what it means to cook for 160 people every day, prepare all the delicious meals and serve them. When we marched to the Dining Room this evening, our admiration for the Chef and his team had multiplied enormously!

‘Around Cape Horn’ showed in the Ortelius Theatre after dinner – a hilarious and insightful film from the last days of the square-rigged sailing ships, with a commentary by the original cinematographer. And the Bar was buzzing until well after 10 pm as we gathered to talk over our trip, our plans for the coming year, and our hopes for meeting again – maybe even on Ortelius.

Day 18: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 02.01.2018
Position: 57°17‘S, 066°20‘W
Wind: SW 4
Air Temperature: +4

And so our last full day at sea dawned and the Drake Passage was STILL behaving incredibly kindly! Only the birders were truly longing for more wind, as the skies were quiet…but the reprieve for all of us, so that we could relax and get some rest before we left this wonderful floating haven of Ortelius – well, we were very grateful for the lack of wind and swell. These conditions also enabled us to make excellent time, so we had the opportunity to diverge from our direct route to Ushuaia, and approach the renowned and infamous Cape Horn sometime after lunch! This was a bonus we were not expecting, and there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation on board all morning.

Mick was in the Lecture Room on Deck 3 to deliver the last in the Expedition Team’s lecture series – ‘Birds of a Feather’, in which he regaled us on the usage of feathers, by both birds and people! Then for many of us it was time to head back up to the bridge to check on our progress towards the tip of South America.

Lunch was announced at 12.30 pm - a Croatian lamb stew, which certainly hit the right spot. Before we allowed our thoughts to stray to the puzzle of packing (why did we buy all those souvenirs in Stanley and Grytviken?!) it was time to look out to the horizon to spot land ahoy – the bottom of South America was just coming into sight.

Hung about with binoculars and cameras, we went out on deck and laid eyes on Cape Horn - for the first time for most of us. The iconic albatross statue could just be made out, symbolising the souls of all the sailors who have died rounding the Horn...Beneath it the following words are inscribed (originally in Spanish) by Sara Vial:

‘I am the albatross that awaits at the end of the world...
I am the forgotten soul of the lost sailors,
rounding Cape Horn from all the seas of the world.
But they did not die in the fierce waves,
for today they soar in my wings towards eternity,
in the last crevice of the Antarctic winds’.

And now it was a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous, as DJ and Sava summoned us deck by deck to reception, to settle our ship accounts. The moment of reckoning had arrived! It wasn’t too painful, but parting with our rubber boots and life jackets to the Expedition Team in the Lecture Room hit hard; no more landings or Zodiac cruises to look forward to. Better get on with packing then.

After a peaceful afternoon of reminiscence and trying to make our suitcases close, we approached the Beagle Channel and the Pilot Station. There were still a couple of treats ahead. The first came at 5.45 pm, when we were called to the Lounge/Bar to be shown a wonderful slide show of our voyage (thank you, Sandra), a timely reminder of all we have seen in the last two and a half weeks. This was followed by the Captain’s Farewell Cocktails, in which we toasted a successful and exciting trip and some formal farewells were said.

And so to dinner at 7 pm. Tonight was the last chance to share our best photos with other passengers on the computer in the bar, and of course also our last chance to enjoy the company of our fellow passengers in said bar. It was a convivial evening. Not forgetting to put our luggage outside the cabin door for collection before breakfast tomorrow, off we went to bed and sweet dreams on this, our last night of the voyage on Ortelius.

Day 19: Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 03.01.2018
Position: 54°49‘S, 068°17‘W

All good things come to an end, as they say. Today was our last morning on the Ortelius. After a last night in our cabin, which had come to feel like home, it was time to move on to new adventures. We put our luggage in the corridors this morning as asked, so the crew could take it off the ship for us. After one last wakeup call from Cheryl and one last breakfast on board, it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to our ship and its crew and staff, and to our new friends. Arrangements were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. We could look back on an excellent and successful trip, and all of us had many memories of wildlife and spectacular scenery during our days at sea, Zodiac-cruising activities and shore landings.

At 8:30 am we handed in the keys to our cabins, picked up our luggage from the pier and made our way into Ushuaia or to the airport for our onward journeys. May we meet again somewhere, some day!

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

Total Distance Sailed: 3450 Nautical Miles

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

Details

Tripcode: OTL25-18
Dates: 16 Dec, 2017 – 3 Jan, 2018
Duration: 18 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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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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