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OTL25-20, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 16.12.2019
Position: 54°54 ‘S, 067°57 ‘W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +12

It was late afternoon on a windy day in Ushuaia. The first passengers to arrive to Ortelius at 4pm were and all the expedition staff greeted the guests as they climbed the gangway for the first time and hotel manager Sigi quickly had all the guests assigned and shown to their cabins where they will be staying for our trip. After every passenger was onboard and had a cabin, we had our mandatory safety drill, everyone seemed to enjoy wearing orange! We soon left the pier hoping that the conditions co-operate for us to have this fantastic adventure. Before dinner all the guides introduced themselves and Claudia (Clouds), our EL gave us a little introduction about what we are hoping to do on our trip. Our ships doctor (Linda) had a ‘patch and pills party ’after dinner to try and keep everyone free from feeling too sea sick, the weather forecast looked stormy so hopefully not too many of us would feel motion sickness! After we left Ushuaia we heard that the wind conditions had worsened to the point that 3 other ships were locked in Ushuaia and could not leave the same day as we did. Our Captain definitely made the right call otherwise we would have lost a couple of days.

Day 2: At Sea towards the Falkland Islands

At Sea towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 17.12.2019
Position: 54° 39‘S, 064° 50‘W
Wind: NW 6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +11

The first morning after our departure from Ushuaia we were awakened by the sweet voice of Clouds to alert us all for the delightful breakfast that was being served in the restaurant. We had made good progress during the night towards the Falklands. The wind was blowing directly from the front, so rolling of the ship was almost absent. After enjoying the buffet breakfast, many of us wrapped up warm and went outside to watch the seabirds – which are in their element. Specifically present were the two species of giant petrels (northern and southern) following the ship and additionally some Cape petrels, many slender- billed prions and hundreds of sooty shearwaters in the morning. Black-browed Albatross skimmed the water close at hand, using the air currents to demonstrate their skill at dynamic soaring. At the other end of the scale there were tiny Wilson’s Storm Petrels darting low over the waves, with also some Common Diving Petrels – both the smallest species of seabirds to be seen here. Today, the main event in the morning was the mandatory IAATO briefing and Clouds told us everything we needed to know about safe Zodiac operations. Safe landings are only possible with the right gear so everybody was fitted with a pair of boots and a life vest. We’ll need to use these newly-acquired skills as soon as tomorrow when we reach the Falkland Islands and hope to make our first landings of the voyage. After a delicious lunch buffet, bird and more specifically marine mammal watching continued with sightings of Hourglass Dolphin, Fin Whale and Peale’s Dolphin. Some groups of dolphins really came up close to the ship and played just under the bow. In the afternoon two excellent introductory lectures were given by Pippa and Christian. Pippa told us all about the marine mammals we might encounter during our trip and Christian did the same for the birds we might see. At the daily recap Clouds introduced us to our plans for tomorrow: potentially two landings. In the morning we hope to be able to do some birdwatching at Carcass Island including tea in the local settlement. In the afternoon Saunders Island is on the menu. Afterwards she handed over the microphone to Pippa to tell us in short something about the history of the Falkland Islands before she handed over the microphone to Christian who introduced us briefly on the breeding birds of the Falklands. He finished his talk just in time before Sigi called us for the diner. Our first day at sea was drawing to an end and quite a few of us went to bed early preparing for the exciting day that was awaiting us…

Day 3: Carcass and Saunders Islands, Falklands

Carcass and Saunders Islands, Falklands
Date: 18.12.2019
Position: 51°18’S, 060°38’W
Wind: NE
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

Claudia’s voice woke us up this morning in front of Carcass island. The Ortelius has made a good and steady route. Conditions were good and zodiacs were launched right after the breakfast. The beach of Dyke bay was our starting point where all our guests disembarked and got the chance to roam around and witness le local wilderness. Upland geese, Magellanic penguins, oystercatchers, the very famous cobwren, cormorants, steamer ducks… among other species. The weather even cleared up and opened a very nice blue sky with sun shining. Most of our guests followed Ruben on a 4km walk to join the Carcass settlement. A nice way to stretch legs and be attentive to the nature. Everyone went at his own speed and some even cheated a bit by seating in the zodiacs. At the settlement, tea was served with a huge table full of cookies and pastries, a quite rewarding pause before heading back to the jetty and to the ship. After a delicious meal the Ortelius was in front of Saunders island, but the wind had picked up and was steady at 30 knots with gushes at 35. The sea was covered with waves with white caps and the expedition team reluctantly decided to call off as this situation was not safe enough for operations. Passengers stayed on the outside decks, enjoying the sun, watching the black browed albatrosses and the Commerson’s dolphins along the nearby coast. Ruben then gave a lecture about Falkland birds. It was then time for a recap where Cloud’s gave all the informations about tomorrow’s visit to Stanley. Then Adele spoke about some interesting facts of Carcass Island and Christian told the sad story of the extinction of the local “fox” called the Warrah.

Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 19.12.2019
Position: 51° 33‘S, 057° 39‘W
Wind: NNW 4
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +12

This morning we woke to cloudy skies and mildly turbulent seas aboard the Ortelius. From the ship we could see the charming coloured rooftops of Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, and we couldn’t wait to disembark and experience this small port town for ourselves. It was a brief Zodiac shuttle to the jetty where we enjoyed an easy dry landing on the floating jetty. From here we fanned out to explore Stanley. Some of us made a beeline for the nearest coffee shop for our first real espresso in several days, or tucked into the cosy warmth of a souvenir shop to pick up some penguin paraphernalia. Many of us wandered down the quiet main street towards the Falkland Islands’ museum to learn more about the islands’ colourful maritime and terrestrial history. Others opted for a different kind of education, participating in a traditional British pub crawl and sampling some of the local brews. Keen birders were rewarded with some special sightings among the coastal grasses before we left the Falkland Islands behind. As we departed, we were treated to the antics of a local sea lion lolling around at the end of the jetty. We arrived back on board in time for a delicious buffet lunch served up by our wonderful kitchen staff. In the late afternoon, we attended a talk on Nature Photography by Tyrone. The lecture entitled “Nature through the lens” was a comprehensive lesson on photography gear, settings and useful techniques to help us to capture all the amazing landscapes and animals that we were sure to see over the next couple of weeks. At our daily, evening recap and briefing Clouds shared some information about the kinds of foreign seeds we hope to avoid introducing to South Georgia through our collective vacuuming efforts. Ty taught us about the Antarctic Convergence which we were crossing. We finished the day with another delicious dinner, thanks to our wonderful chefs.

Day 5: At sea: Falkland Islands to South Georgia

At sea: Falkland Islands to South Georgia
Date: 20.12.2019
Position: 52°11,9’S, 053°10,7’W
Wind: W
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

A full sea day gave us the time to focus on biosecurity, mandatory briefings, and topic lectures in preparation for visiting South Georgia. In the last few years South Georgia Heritage Trust has completed a successful reindeer removal and rat eradication programme and has tightened biosecurity measures to ensure that the island not only remains predator free, but also to ensure non-native plant seeds are not transported ashore. Staff diligently vacuumed all passengers’ outer clothes and bags, and thoroughly scrubbed their boots and walking poles. A simple paperclip was a perfect tool for prizing out hidden seeds and bio-material trapped in the grooves on the sole of the boots. With all the kit cleaned there was time to enjoy Cristian’s lecture on the geology of South Georgia. Dutch cartographer, Ortelius, the name sake of our ship, was the first person to notice the pattern between the coastlines of the continents and suggested that the landmasses were once joined. Centuries later scientists developed the theory of continental drift and the dynamics of plate tectonics. The rock formations of South Georgia reveal several of the complex geological processes. Part of the island was once connected to the super-continent, Gondwana; with other parts of the island formed through cycles of extension and compression. The geology lecture set the scene and heightened our anticipation for arriving in the next couple of days. A mandatory briefing introducing the fragility of South Georgia’s flora and fauna and alerting passengers to the need for taking great care not to damage the plants and disturb the wildlife when we do arrive. Tyrone’s earlier lecture on wildlife photography inspired many of us to venture outside with Ty and Reuben to photograph seabirds in flight. The wandering albatrosses, northern giant petrels, black-bellied storm petrels, white chinned petrels and prions gliding around the ship made the perfect subjects for all the bird enthusiasts and photographers on board. For Reuben this was an extra special day, he had hoped to see a great wandering albatross on his birthday, and today this dream came true. The albatross was certainly a feature of the day. The evening recap recounted all the various albatross species and the conservation challenges of combatting long-line fishing bycatch, plastic pollution and disease. Clouds also presented excerpts from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner highlighting the cultural significance of the albatross as a symbol of fair winds and protection. Anticipation is high for reaching South Georgia, in the meantime we’re enjoying having the company of the albatrosses along our sea journey..

Day 6: At sea: Falkland Islands to South Georgia

At sea: Falkland Islands to South Georgia
Date: 21.12.2019
Position: 53°02,8’S, 045°56,3’W
Wind: NW
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

Another full sea day gave us the time to focus on the wildlife from the outer decks. The weather was relatively good with the sun peaking through the clouds every now and then. As the Captain had foreseen, approaching South Georgia allowed us to see more and more wildlife, with many prions, cape petrels and albatrosses flying around the ship. Lunch gave us a mandatory break from the leisuring, but soon everybody was out again relaxing in beautiful conditions on the North Scotia ridge. Some of the bird species we were lucky enough to see were the black-browed albatross, the beautiful light-mantled albatross, and the austral wandering albatross. We also saw the Northern giant petrel, the blue petrel, the white-chinned petrel and the sooty petrel. A definite highlight was the sighting of hourglass dolphins swimming towards the bow of the ship breaching repeatedly. This was definitely a first sighting for most of us! During the day we had a talk from Christian about the penguin species we will expect to see in South Georgia. His specialist insight gave us information about the origin of penguins, their adaptations to life in this extreme ecosystem, and their breeding specificities. Ty gave us an introduction on Ecology and the key species in the Antarctic ecosystem. By 6:30 we all gathered in the bar to listen to Clouds’ briefing and to the recaps of the day. And at 7pm Siggi gave the ritual call for dinner. We are all waiting to waking up tomorrow with the first sight of South Georgia and all the wonders it has to offer!

Day 7: Salisbury Plain - PM Fortuna Bay

Salisbury Plain - PM Fortuna Bay
Date: 22.12.2019
Position: 54° 01‘S, 037° 11‘W
Wind: NNW
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +5

The morning activities started early, with a landing and zodiac cruise at Salisbury Plain, home of several tens of thousands King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus). The complex reproductive cycle of this animal was first studied in this area by Dr. Stonehouse in the 1950s. By monitoring a group of animals during several seasons he understood that within the apparent chaos there is an early cycle and a late one, the latter most likely to fail due to the lateness in the season and the small size of the chick as the winter arrives. During the visit many emblematic species were seen both from zodiacs and from shore: birds like both species of giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus and M. halli), South Georgia Pintails (Anas g. georgica), Subantarctic Skuas (Catharacta lonnbergi), and S. Georgia Pipits (Anthus antarcticus); the southernmost passerine, now abundant at last after the rat eradication programme in the island. Scattered among the Tussock grasses we found many families of Antarctic Fur Seal (Arctocephalus gazella), and some young Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina). The main attraction was of course the colony of King Penguins, with its mix of adults on eggs, chicks from last season, juveniles and moulting animals. After this activity, lunch was served, and soon a short briefing and recap was offered at the bar. The afternoon landing at Fortuna Bay was windy from its beginning, and again both a landing and a zodiac cruise were offered. A walk to the colony allowed the guests to see the seals up and close, and while crossing several streams many moulting kings were seen. At the colony, from a small hill everyone enjoyed an overall view of the place, with the nesting cohort in the middle and the chicks or “oakum boys” in the periphery. That name comes from the fibre used to seal wooden boat plates. In the middle of the bay the first iceberg was spotted, with a background of penguins, the glacier and mountains in the distance. With increasing wind speeds, we had to rush to the landing site and come back onboard Ortelius. Once back and safe the vessel was slowly repositioned to the next destination during dinner, navigation that would continue during the night.

Day 8: Stromness & Grytviken

Stromness & Grytviken
Date: 23.12.2019
Position: 54° 02‘S, 036° 48‘W
Wind: NW 5/6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

We awake as Ortelius sails into Stromness bay, the location for our morning landing; Stromness. Stromness is an old whaling station, which is now surrounded by wildlife. We land on a very busy Fur Seal beach, the whaling station is closed to visitors, so we do not go close, but are able to get fantastic views of this historical place from a distance. After navigating our way through the field of Fur Seals at the beach, we made our way on a walk to Shackleton’s Waterfall; located at the end of the valley. The Waterfall is the famous location where Shackleton and his men descended into Stromness on the final leg of their journey of survival after the failed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The Fur seals become fewer and fewer as we walk away from the beach, and instead we are joined by the birds; Terns, Pipits and Gentoo Penguins. As we reach the waterfall, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Most of us enjoy a seat by the waterfall and take in the incredible surroundings of South Georgia. After walking back to the beach we are whisked back to Ortelius by zodiac, and soon find ourselves sitting down to another deliciously prepared lunch in the dining room. During lunch, Ortelius relocates to Cumberland Bay, south of Stromness, where we soon spot our afternoon landing; Grytviken. It is here we are inspected for our bio-security; firstly a government officer comes onboard and inspects our boots, backpacks and velcros to ensure we are not transferring any biological material onto the island. Our inspection was very successful and we passed with 99%!! Grytviken is another old whaling station, however it has been restored and we are able to visit the remains of the station. Here, we can also visit the Museum, Post Office and the cemetery where Shackleton is buried. The lovely weather from the morning continues into the afternoon and we enjoy a beautiful sunny visit to Grytviken; accompanied by Fur and Elephant Seals, as well as King Penguins and many beautiful birds. We return to the ship to the smell of a barbecue. The fantastic galley and restaurant team have prepared a fantastic BBQ on the Heli deck. We eat in the open surrounded by the beauty of South Georgia, followed by dancing on the Heli pad into the night. Another fantastic expedition day in South Georgia!

Day 9: Godthul, St Andrews Bay

Godthul, St Andrews Bay
Date: 24.12.2019
Position: 54° 41‘S, 035° 40‘W
Wind: NE
Weather: Sunshine
Air Temperature: +3

This morning, the Ortelius dropped anchor in the bay, just in front of Godthul where the sea was calm enough to drop the zodiacs. There were a few options in this area for either a landing or zodiac cruises. After an assessment of the conditions, we aimed this morning to have a zodiac cruise in the bay to check out its inhabitants. We followed the coast of the bay and found some really good spots to view nesting Kelp Gull and nesting South Georgia Shags up close, both with chicks. A good number of South Georgia Pipits were foraging close to the zodiacs on the shore line and both Gentoos and King Penguins were standing among large numbers of playful fur seals and moulting elephant seals. After a delicious lunch, the ship set sail to the largest King Penguin colony of South Georgia in St. Andrews Bay. The zodiacs were lowered and although the swell made the transfer at the gangway pretty rough, the expedition team went to check out the conditions at the landing beach. All was set-up at the beach and we were ready to start the operation when the wind suddenly changed direction, picked up and reached very quickly 35 knots! Clouds didn’t have any choice but to cancel the landing. Luckily, we had a plan B and after a short time sailing Ortelius entered an area with a lot of Humpback Whales. At least 25 of these gentle giants were around. Some dozing at the surface and some making deep dives. Some were lunge-feeding up until the surface, some were tail- slapping at the surface, and one of the whales even breached a few times. We had some spectacular views of flukes and all in all it turned out to be a great alternative for the missed landing in the afternoon. Just before dinner we had two recaps of Pippa and Christian about intriguing vocabulary and visuals signals and cues in King Penguins. Thereafter Clouds announced that we would be getting a wake-up call at 4:00 AM on Christmas morning. Surprisingly this message was received and answered with a lot of cheering... That’s the spirit on an expedition cruise! And it didn’t take long for Sigi to announce a great Christmas dinner: “Good Evening, Good Evening, Good Evening….”

Day 10: Gold Harbour & Copper Bay

Gold Harbour & Copper Bay
Date: 25.12.2019
Position: 55° 40‘S, 036° 59‘W
Wind: NW
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

Cloud’s voice came very early on this Christmas day… 4 am !! But for a very good reason as the Ortelius was anchored in front of the beach of one of the most beautiful site of South Georgia : Gold Harbour. This site got his name by its perfect orientation at sunrise when the first rays of light paint golden reflections on the cliffs and glaciers surrounding the beach. Unfortunately, the low clouds kept us from appreciating the phenomenon but the beauty of the place was rewarding enough to motivate all passengers to disembark on the beach. On arrival, many elephant seals were moulting, some of them were the biggest we saw so far on our trip. And for the first time of the trip we saw many very curious weaners which crawled on the landing site attracted by our bags and safety barrels. A little walk flagged by red poles brought everyone closer to the king penguin colony in a fantastic landscape of sea, rock and ice. We got back on our ship for Breakfast and tried our luck in the neighbouring Cooper bay known for its constant wind. The expedition team tried a zodiac cruise which had to be called back and cancelled due to strong gusts of over 35knot compromising the safety on the gangway. Safety is always first! After lunch everyone was happy to have some rest time to compensate for such an early wake up. The Ortelius then left South Georgia and took the sea toward South Orkneys islands. In the afternoon, the expedition staff offered a quizz to the passengers to check if the science dispensed during the trip was understood. A very good moment with good spirits and good mood. Everyone got out of the bar with a smile on his face. Then it was time for Clouds to speak about tomorrow’s plans at sea. Ruben spoke about elephant seals and Pippa about the happy whale project where everyone can bring its contribution to science. The evening extended late in the night with Christmas celebrations which starting in the restaurant and finishing in the bar.

Day 11: At Sea to South Orkney Islands

At Sea to South Orkney Islands
Date: 26.12.2019
Position: 56° 48‘S, 036° 10‘W
Wind: SE 7/8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

This morning we woke up to slightly rockier conditions but all grateful for an extra hour of sleep thanks to a time change late last night. Breakfast was as delicious as usual and we were ready to enjoy a relaxing day at sea, looking for wildlife on deck or attending talks by the Expedition Team. At 9:30am Pippa gave us a fantastic talk about the seals of Antarctica. It was really good to get to know more about these marine mammals that have evolved so well to survive the harsh conditions in the Southern Ocean. We had a few minutes to get some teas and coffees before the next talk began. Our marine biologist Pierre, gave us some fascinating information on the enigmatic Humpback whales which come down here to feed on Krill. We had already been fortunate enough to watch these amazing animals feeding and sleeping close to the ship a few days prior. After the talk there was plenty of time to walk around the ship, having coffee or tea and interchanging with other travellers. Time passed by while Ortelius was rolling through slightly rough seas. After lunch, it was time for our second biosecurity check which meant another vacuum party! It was much more efficient this time round with everyone knowing exactly how, where and what to clean. Outside the ship the conditions haven’t changed much. We kept on moving slowly through the day. Our final lecture for the day was give to us by our Expedition Leader! As an expect climatologist, Clouds was able to give us some in-depth knowledge on the climate of Antarctica and how it has been changing. The talk entitled ‘’Ice, wind and waves: An introduction to Antarctica and its climate” could not have prepared us better for our upcoming visit to the Peninsula. Shortly before dinner Clouds invited us to join the Expedition Team for our daily recap and briefing for the next day. After recap a nicely presented dinner was waiting for us and most of the travellers went to bed early, tired of the long seaday and the ship’s motion.

Day 12: Orcadas Station, South Orkneys and sea journey towards the South Shetlands

Orcadas Station, South Orkneys and sea journey towards the South Shetlands
Date: 27.12.2019
Position: 60° 48,7‘S, 044° 31,7‘W
Wind: NW
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

The morning started with perfect conditions for our landing visit to Orcadas station on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys. The glaciers hugging the surrounding mountains blushed pink with traces of red snow algae. The Argentinian station team and a small group of chinstrap and Adelie penguins welcomed us ashore. The station team and us an interesting tour sharing the history and current operations of the base finished off with Argentinian hospitality of tea and biscuits. Seeing the remains of the stone hut built during the Scottish expedition led by William Spiers Bruce, where the team overwintered in 1903/04, was a highlight for everyone interested in polar history. Occupied year-round since 1905, the base became the first ever permanent station in Antarctica and the site of the longest continual meteorological data collection. Along with meteorological data the station team also conduct seismic and marine biology research. Orcadas is known as a place where occasionally lone juvenile emperor penguins are spotted. Today was our lucky day as a single juvenile Emperor sat preening in the ice- filled Uruguay Bay behind the station. This was certainly an exceptional day for seeing marine life. Many passengers who took a zodiac cruise saw leopard seals, and whilst sailing away from the South Orkneys we were surrounded by whales: fin, blue and humpback whales. Reuben’s lecture on what it was like to live at Signy Station inspired many people to want to experience living and working in Antarctica for a season. Adele’s lecture on Antarctic visual art which showed how artists have had a role in Antarctica since the earliest days of recorded exploration, gave an insight into different ways of understanding Antarctica both historically and also in the 21st century. Recap at the end of the day reminded us of the incredible day we had experienced. Staff and passengers alike were astonished and delighted to have seen the ‘top three’ (emperor penguin, blue whale, and leopard seal) all in one day. Now we sail farther south towards the Antarctic Peninsula for adventures that lay ahead.

Day 13: At sea: South Orkney Islands to Antarctic Peninsula

At sea: South Orkney Islands to Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 28.12.2019
Position: 63° 20,3‘S, 049° 04,5‘W
Wind: NW
Weather: Clear sky
Air Temperature: +2

Another full sea day gave us the time to focus on the wildlife from the outer decks. The weather was windy and cloudy which did not offer the best conditions for wildlife watching but some irreducible birdwatchers still spent most of the day on the outer decks. We did manage to see humpback whales feeding on several occasions. Even if we did not do any landing today we still saw penguins at sea, and the one species we saw was the chinstrap penguin. Some of the most interesting bird species we were able to spot were the Southern Giant petrel, the Southern fulmar, and Wilson’s storm petrels. On the cetacean side we saw minke whales and humpback whales. In the morning we listened to a talk from Pierre on the IWC and CCAMLR. This gave us an insight on the latest whaling issues and the conservation work the IWC is trying to achieve. It also provided information on the many issues that CCAMLR is tackling in trying to regulate the exploitation of living resources in Antarctic waters like the Patagonian toothfish, the Antarctic silverfish and krill fisheries, but also the bycatch mitigation measures it has put in place for albatrosses and petrels, as well as its efforts to create marine protected areas around Antarctica, like the one that was put in place in the Ross Sea 3 years ago. Hopefully it will achieve a circum-Antarctic network of marine protected areas in the future. Ty gave a talk in the afternoon about Antarctic Ecology where he went into depth about the intricate network of organisms living in Antarctica and their respective role in this large ecosystem. By 6:30 we all gathered in the bar to listen to Clouds’ briefing and to the recaps of the day. And at 7pm Sigi gave the ritual call for dinner. We are all waiting to waking up tomorrow to try to have our first glimpse of the Antarctic peninsula and hopefully our first continental landing.

Day 14: Antarctic Sound – Bransfield Strait – Penguin Island

Antarctic Sound – Bransfield Strait – Penguin Island
Date: 29.12.2019
Position: 62° 51,6‘S, 057° 24,8‘W
Wind: NW
Weather: Rainy
Air Temperature: 0

During the early morning Ortelius was at the entrance of the Antarctic Sound, named after the famous vessel of Carl A. Larsen, that was lost during the Swedish expedition of Prof. Otto Nordenskjöld (1901-03). With strong winds and abundant ice, it was unsafe to enter, so plans needed to be changed. With those prevailing winds, a sheltered option was found, this time at the South Shetland Islands: Penguin Island. While covering the distance between those points lunch was served, followed by a short briefing on the disembarkation for the afternoon. Once arrived, the weather was good in terms of wind, but menacing clouds announced rain. Disembarkation proceeded, complicated by the low tide and many guests could hike up to the rim of this dormant volcano. From that vantage point -fog permitting- the view is usually spectacular. In the meantime several groups enjoyed a zodiac cruise close to an iceberg with Chinstrap Penguins on top. Many were trying to get there, jumping from the water, others falling. During the rest of the cruise, a Weddell Seal was spotted along with many Southern Giant Petrel nests. With winds increasing over 25 knots and under the rain it was time to proceed back to Ortelius. At 6:30 the traditional recap and briefing were offered, and after dinner was served. During the night Ortelius was repositioned to the eastern end of Livingston Island, for our morning landing at Halfmoon Island.

Day 15: Half Moon Island & Deception Island - Polar Plunge

Half Moon Island & Deception Island - Polar Plunge
Date: 30.12.2019
Position: 62° 34‘S, 059° 49‘W
Wind: Light
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +6

We sailed South overnight to arrive at Half Moon Island in the South Shetland Islands. Half Moon is a small crescent shaped island, home to a large Chinstrap penguin colony. The beach is filled with Chinstrap, but also a few Gentoo, Penguins. The island was used as shelter for whalers so we also find the remains of a waterboat on the beach. A short walk up the hill and we find beauGful rock formaGons covered in lichens and moss; surrounding these rocks is the colony of Chinstraps. At this Gme of the year the penguin chicks are beginning to hatch, and we saw a few sheltered under their parent on the nest. The parents feed their chicks by regurgitaGng food they have foraged for in the sea, and the parents swap over caring for the chick throughout the brooding period. A walk out to the West side of the island takes us out to some whale bones, washed up during the whaling period over 100 years ago. The island is surrounded by incredible scenery of Livingston Island; towering mountains and calving glaciers. Over lunch the ship sails South West to DecepGon Island. The island is a shield volcano, where the side has been eroded, flooding the caldera allowing ships to sail through the gap, called Neptune’s Bellows. The volcano last erupted between 1967 and 1970, and is sGll volcanically acGve. Inside, the waters are geo-thermally heated, and there are the remains of the Hektor Whaling StaGon which was operaGonal between 1906 and 1931, and a BriGsh AntarcGc Survey Base, Base B, which opened in 1944 and closed in 1969, a`er the buildings were destroyed by a lahar (mud slide). We all head out on decks and to the bridge to watch the Captain and his bridge team impressively navigate through the bellows; an incredible sight to witness. And soon we are sailing inside an acGve volcano! Shortly a`erwards we disembark on the zodiacs and head ashore. The beach is black, with volcanic sand, and steam rises from the geo-thermally heated waters. Here we walk along to a small gap, high up on the slopes of the volcano; called Neptune’s Window; we have incredible views out into the Bransfield strait South to AntarcGca. Here we also see many nesGng Csape Petrels on the cliff slopes. Down on the beach we find a resGng Leopard seal; a rare sight to see on land, as they typically rest on ice exclusively. A walk back along the beach takes us to the old whaling staGon buildings and the old aircra` hangar; with views of historical buildings and whaling equipment. At the end of the landing some of us are brave (or silly) enough to take part in a Polar Plunge! Stripping off and plunging into the zero degrees waters of the AntarcGc was a thrilling experience. We head back to the ship to warm up and are soon being served a delicious dinner in the dining room.

Day 16: Cierva Cove

Cierva Cove
Date: 31.12.2019
Position: 64° 05,8‘S, 061° 04,7‘W
Wind: SE
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +3

What better way to mark the last day of 2019 then to touch the seventh continent? This morning as we sailed into an icy Cierva Cove, the Argentinian base commander at Primavera Station gave permission for us to set foot ashore to provide a photo opportunity on the continental mainland. Our plan was to enjoy a morning of zodiac cruising among the icebergs in the bay and end the cruise with stepping out on land. However, the sea swell was too high for a safe landing. So we had to change to Plan B, which was to drive the zodiac to the rocky shore where people could reach out and touch the continent. Gentoo penguins frolicked and porpoised around our boats as we slowly cruised around the majestic towering icebergs that were rising and falling with the swell of the sea. The fascinating sculptural shapes and the turquoise blue colour that seemed to glow from within the ice was a mesmerising sight for our final activity. As we pitched our way back to the ship through brash ice, we collected a beautiful pieces of crystal-clear glacial ice to bring back onboard to chill the champagne for New Year’s drinks later in the bar. Humpback and minke whales gracefully swimming around the ship made for the perfect end to the cruise. Back on board the high spirits continued with everyone enthusiastically joining in an auction of special items to raise money for the South Georgia Heritage Trust. Together we raised $1200! A champagne toast and a speech from the Captain got the New Year’s party started, with many passengers singing and dancing right through into 2020.

Day 17: At sea: Drake Passage

At sea: Drake Passage
Date: 01.01.2020
Position: 61° 37‘S, 064° 12‘W
Wind: NE 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

Once again, we found ourselves sailing through the Drake Passage on our way back to Ushuaia. This time, we expected that the infamous Drake would be a little rougher than our previous sea days due to a storm moving in from the West. However, this morning was still relatively calm on the Ortelius which meant that we were managing to stay just ahead of the stormy weather. Outside, cloudy conditions prevailed making wildlife viewing challenging with only the most dedicated observers daring to spend more than a couple minutes out on deck. For those few the efforts were rewarded with the occasional view of a pelagic bird species such as the Southern Giant and Cape Petrels. At 9:30 we were entertained by a lecture on penguins from Tyrone entitled: “Unusual Birds and where to find them”. Having been so lucky with our penguin sightings on this trip it was great to learn more about their behaviour and some interesting physiological adaptations for surviving the cold down here in Antarctica. We also watched a documentary. After lunch we headed back up to the bar to attend a fascinating talk on “Ocean Acoustics” by Pippa. Shortly after the lecture we headed out on deck to enjoy a few more hours of rocking and rolling in the Drake. In the evening we met once again for the Recap and Briefing of the day. Clouds gave us a breakdown of the lectures and plans for the next day, Siggy informed of some of the admin tasks that needed to be sorted out like settling our bills and Tyrone gave us a short recap on the incredible Blue Whale. Dinner was served and the food was outstanding as always thanks to the hard work of Head Chef Khabir and his team. What a great way to end another fantastic day on the Ortelius.

Day 18: At sea: Drake Passage

At sea: Drake Passage
Date: 02.01.2020
Position: 56° 29,9‘S, 065° 35,6‘W
Wind: NW
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

Another full sea day heading towards Ushuaia gave us the time to focus on the wildlife from the outer decks. The weather was relatively good and the sea conditions much better than yesterday. The big highlight was the spotting of a Southern Royal albatross. We listened to a talk from Christian about Bird Conservation and how critical it is to take measures as quickly as possible to protect marine birds in Antarctica, as some bird species have extremely reduced populations and nest in one single island, which makes them extremely sensitive to small local changes, like for the Amsterdam albatross which only nests on Amsterdam Island and has a population of about 80 individuals only! We then had the privilege to listen to a talk from Adele on her personal experience of living at Port Lockroy. After returning the boots and life-jackets we listened to Ruben’s talk about animal tracking. By 6:30 we all gathered in the bar to listen to Clouds’ briefing and to the recaps of the day. We then had our farewell drink with the Captain and went for dinner on our last evening on the ship. We reached Ushuaia at 9pm.

Day 19: Disembarkation - Ushuaia

Disembarkation - Ushuaia
Date: 03.01.2020

At 8:30am we disembarked for the final time, no zodiac ride ashore and a dry landing. The last three weeks have taken us on a remarkable journey from the Falkland Islands, to South Georgia and to Antarctica, and gave us a glimpse of life in these remote and sometimes inhospitable places. We will all have different memories of our trip but whatever the memories, whether it was King Penguins or the sight of icebergs for the first time, they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. 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: 3390 Nautical Miles On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions Captain Yury Marin Expedition Leader Claudia Holgate Hotel Manager Sigi all the crew and staff it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Tripcode: OTL25-20
Dates: 16 Dec, 2019 - 3 Jan, 2020
Duration: 18 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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