OTL25-24, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Date: 12.12.2023
Position: 54°48.561’S / 068 18.070’W
Wind: NW 2-3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +12

Today the weather started with beautiful sunshine. This matched our mood as we embarked on the beautiful M/V Ortelius. One hundred ten guests boarded the ship at 4pm. We didn’t know what to expect on this 12-day Antarctic basecamp adventure, but we were welcomed by a smiling crew and staff. We were already off to a great start.

We immediately had a mandatory ship safety briefing from Chris and Mikael, which was shortly followed by donning our bright orange life jackets for the practice abandon-ship drill. The ship finally came away from the port at 19:00, and we were finally off!

The evening was beautiful and made the Beagle Channel look even more spectacular. The sky was bright pink, and a lot of people were out on deck enjoying the scenery. Tonight was a buffet dinner followed by the last order of the day, a mandatory Zodiac briefing. We were all excited but exhausted, so we went to sleep early to rest up for the adventure to come.

Day 2: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 13.12.2023
Position: 56°55.75’S / 66°12.6’W
Wind: W 7-8
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +5

Our first day at sea began with Chris’s wakeup call at 7:45. The sea state was not so bad - however, for many people this was the first time they had experienced this ocean and its movements. The number of people at breakfast was less than for dinner the night before: sea sickness had begun! The conditions during the day slowly got better, however, and out on deck and in the bridge we spotted many seabirds soaring across the ocean.

Our first day at sea was rather busy. Muck boots were handed out, and we got our first lecture from Lucia about the Penguins we would soon be seeing. Zet, the fantastic Kayaking guide, gave us our first mandatory activity briefing, and after lunch the ever-enthusiastic camping guides, Valeria and Andi, told us all we would need to know about what we needed to bring to enjoy a night out camping.

As the seas slowly eased, we had another afternoon lecture from Andi on the Dolphins and Whales we might see on our voyage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula.

All in all, it was a slow day for most of us as we gained our sea legs. Being out on deck to watch the waves or marvel at the birds was a good way to feel better!

Day 3: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 14.12.2023
Position: 61°25.4’S / 064°36.0’W
Wind: NNW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

We woke up to a much calmer Drake than yesterday. Most of us still felt a little shaken by the sea. Directly after lunch, the mountain guides had their mandatory briefing. Next up was for everyone to plan their activities with the activity guides: mountaineering, camping, and kayaking. After a tasty lunch in the dining room, it was time for the next mandatory briefing before we were allowed to land in Antarctica. All outer layers needed to be cleaned and vacuumed. That afternoon we were lucky to see a lot of wandering albatrosses, Light-mantled sooty albatrosses, and a few grey-headed albatrosses. At 4 pm Juan had a lecture on photography, helping us get our composition and light balance right for polar conditions.

Day 4: Melchior Islands and Orne Harbour

Melchior Islands and Orne Harbour
Date: 15.12.2023
Position: 64°30.15’S / 062°49.8’W
Wind: NE 5-6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

On that beautiful morning, we finally arrived at the peninsula. The expedition leader woke us up at 7:30 AM, and after breakfast we headed to our first operation, which was a Zodiac cruise around the Melchior islands.

A little bit of snow and clouds welcomed our first activity, but we managed after only a few minutes to find a hauled-out Weddell seal and our first chinstrap penguin. We were close to an Argentine research station, which was not used at that time. The Melchior Islands were surrounded by icebergs of every shape, ranging from white to blue. We continued our Zodiac cruise to a narrow channel surrounded by a glacier front and found at least 20 Weddell seals hauled out. After observing them for a while, we slowly made our way back to Ortelius.

During our nice lunch, our ship repositioned to Orne Harbour, where we were planning to have our first landing on the continent. But the sea got very choppy due to katabatic winds dropping from the glaciers, so we cruised the Zodiacs near shore. We encountered chinstrap penguins, gentoo penguins, and a seal surrounded by beautiful mountains.


After two days of bouncing around on the Drake, it was great to get our feet on solid ground again. We anchored up that morning in the Melchior Islands, a spot our guides Mal and Andy had scouted during their previous voyage to the Peninsula. They’d identified a range of options and elected Gamma Island for our first mountaineering foray. It was snowing, and Ortelius drifted in and out of the cloud as we made our way cautiously to the highpoint of the island.

During lunch we sailed to Orne Harbour. Under normal circumstances, the summit of Spigot Peak would be the objective. However, the landing site was choked with brash ice and wind was blowing strongly from the northeast. We managed to find an alternative landing just a few hundred meters left of the standard one. The guides then brought a line to a rock buttress before traversing to the chinstrap penguin colony on the ridge. Here the winds increased from strong to rough, and one of us was blown over twice. It was an easy decision for Mal and Andy to forgo the summit and make a journey across to the more sheltered westerly side of the ridge for a pickup in the Errera Channel. As we traversed across, we saw a medium-sized slab avalanche release from the ridge. Prudent terrain management meant that the debris were hundreds of meters away, but nevertheless it was a strong indication of latent instability in the snowpack. This would influence many of the choices later in the week.


On our first day in Antartica, fifty-three happy campers would spend the night with the sky as their roof! Andi, Lucia, and Valeria were waiting for us in our “home” for the night. After climbing a snowy hill, we started digging out our shelters. After that, we put our bivibag, mattress, and sleeping bag inside. The landscape was more beautiful than we could have imagined. A spectacular glacier surrounded our camping site. After some ice calving and a lot of pictures, we fell asleep one by one.

We had a little rain during the night, but we were warm and dry in our beds. At 4:30 in the morning, Valeria woke us up. We covered all the holes that we made during the night, as it is important to keep this place pristine. Our Zodiacs started to arrive at the landing site, and we wrapped our gear and returned to the ship. Around that time, a beautiful humpback whale gave us a show close to Ortelius. What a magical moment!


Day 5: Cuverville Island and Orne Islands

Cuverville Island and Orne Islands
Date: 16.12.2023
Position: 64°40.15’S / 62°38.2’W
Wind: W 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

The day began with a hearty breakfast in the dining hall of Ortelius. The anticipation among the guests was palpable as they geared up for an adventurous day exploring the wonders of the Antarctic Peninsula. After a brief safety briefing, the expedition team lowered the Zodiacs into the icy waters, and guests embarked on an exhilarating journey to Cuverville Island. The island is famed for hosting the largest gentoo penguin colony on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Ashore on Cuverville Island, the landscape unfolded in a breathtaking display of pristine beauty. Guests marvelled at the sight of gentoo penguins, their raucous calls filling the air. The expedition guides provided informative narratives about the region's unique wildlife and geography.

The adventurous spirit reached its peak as some daring guests opted for a polar plunge into the icy Antarctic waters. Laughter and cheers echoed against the towering glaciers as participants embraced the thrill of the moment.

The return journey to Ortelius was marked by an unexpected twist—the landscape was engulfed in a thick blanket of fog. Navigating through the misty waters added an element of mystery and excitement to the expedition.

Back on board, guests gathered in the dining hall for a delicious lunch, sharing tales of their morning adventures and savouring the warmth of the ship. Ortelius then set course for the Orne Islands.

Once ashore, guests encountered a captivating scene: majestic chinstrap and gentoo penguins waddling against a backdrop of pristine ice and rocky outcrops. The expedition team allowed guests to observe and photograph the wildlife while immersing themselves in the unique Antarctic environment.

As the sun dipped low on the horizon, Zodiacs ferried guests back to Ortelius. The day's adventures were summarised during the daily recap, outlining plans for the next day's exploration. A sumptuous dinner awaited guests in the ship's dining hall. The day's experiences were shared over delicious meals, creating a sense of camaraderie among the travellers. The expedition leader provided insights into the day's discoveries and outlined the plans for the upcoming adventure. Guests retired to their cabins, eager for another day of exploration in the vast and enchanting Antarctic wilderness.


We arrived at Cuverville Island in the morning, and after a scout by EL Chris we set off for the summit from a landing spot on its west coast. Given the instability we’d seen the previous day, Mal and Andy dug a snow pit to investigate the structure of the snowpack. This revealed a couple of weak layers, more reason for caution given the warmth of the day. We reached the summit plateau before returning to the beach, where some of our party swapped mountain clothing for swimwear for their polar plunge.

In the afternoon, we crossed the Errera Channel to explore behind the Sable Pinnacles. It was only the second time this area has been visited by Oceanwide, so the afternoon had a pioneering feel to it. It was still very warm, with clouds drifting around, and the mountains rumbled constantly with wet snow avalanches. We reached a col that gave us incredible views of Cuverville Island. On the way down, Andy checked out some large crevasses and reported them to be deep and therefore best avoided.


Kerr Island was the name of our camping site during the second night of camping. Beautifully surrounded by a shore full of icebergs, we started to dig out holes for our sleeping bag. It was lightly snowing, but it stopped a short time later. After we finished shoveling, we enjoyed the magnificent view and the peacefulness of our camping site.

Soon we laid ourselves to rest. Every now and then, you could hear avalanches and the sound of faraway penguins. We were woken up at 4am: we would have to leave the camping site, because of the precipitation that had been constant for a few hours. We filled in our dugouts, packed our equipment, and the Zodiac brought us back to Ortelius. We were happy to have had such a unique experience.


Day 6: Orne Harbour and Lemaire Channel

Orne Harbour and Lemaire Channel
Date: 17.12.2023
Position: 64°39.7’S / 062°54.0’W
Wind: SSW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

In the morning, we set out for our inaugural continental landing at Orne Harbor. Climbing to a vantage point with views of the Errera Channel, we were treated to the sight of chinstrap penguin colonies. At the summit, a delightful surprise awaited us as we witnessed a humpback whale playfully interacting with our kayakers.

Our afternoon plans for a Zodiac cruise around a useful island took an abrupt turn when an unusual sighting captivated our attention: orcas on the horizon!

Soon Ortelius found herself surrounded by roughly 50 magnificent orcas. We marvelled at the presence of young orcas displaying a distinctive yellow coloration, a phenomenon attributed to the proximity of their blood vessels to their skin surface.

Later in the evening, our expedition staff surprised us with an extraordinary experience—launching the Zodiacs for a cruise through Lemaire Channel. This unique adventure, reserved for a fortunate few, took us through a stunning passage flanked by steep cliffs and filled with icebergs. The channel, discovered by the German expedition of 1873-74 and named by Adrien de Gerlache in honor of Belgian explorer Charles Lemaire, unfolded its beauty before us. Along the way, we encountered Weddell seals, penguins, and magnificent icebergs.

The climax of our cruise came with the humbling sight of humpback whales feeding near our Zodiacs. As the wind picked up, we reluctantly returned to the warmth of Ortelius, feeling frozen but content. What a day filled with adventure and wildlife, a spectacle that made every frozen moment worth the experience!


Day 7: Yalour Islands and Lemaire Channel

Yalour Islands and Lemaire Channel
Date: 18.12.2023
Position: 65°12.2’S / 064°08.4’W
Wind: N 4-5
Weather: Overcast/Snow
Air Temperature: +1

Chris Woke up early in the morning. We arrived at our landing site at Plaineau Island. A true Antarctic day was waiting for us, 50 knots of wind and more than one-meter swells. But we were on an expedition, so we knew how to change plans fast.

We would have a morning with amazing lectures. Waiting until the first lecture, we took the chance to spend time at the bridge, and the view was breathtaking. Chloe presented “Plankton-Drifting life in the Southern Ocean,” and explained to us why “Krill Rocks.” It was a funny and informative lecture, and from then on everybody loved krill.

Pierre presented “All about Humpback whales,” where he explained every detail about these amazing animals. Then the lecture was interrupted: humpbacks came to our ship as though they had overheard the lecture!

After lunch, we spotted more whales. This day was getting more exciting by the minute. The winds stopped a little, so Chris and Chloe launched a Zodiac to confirm the landing plan. Great news came from the bridge: we were going to visit a new site.

We made a split landing. Yalour Islands has a limit of passengers per time, so half of the passengers went to the landing site and the other half had the opportunity of learning more about “Birds of Antarctica, from Ushuaia to the Peninsula” with Galina. A few hours later, we swapped groups, so everybody had the chance to do the landing and assist the lecture. The landing was amazing! A big colony of Adelie penguins was waiting us. These penguins are so beautiful, refined, and funny… we could not stop taking pictures. At the end of the afternoon, three humpback whales were waiting for us next to the landing site.

Day 8: Danco Island and Neko Harbour

Danco Island and Neko Harbour
Date: 19.12.2023
Position: 64°44.95’S / 062°35.2’W
Wind: NW 6-7
Weather: Overcast/Snow
Air Temperature: +1

Chris woke us up to a windy and snowy morning. We were supposed to go to Damoy Point, but there were 50-knot winds, so we redirected the ship towards a more sheltered destination: Danco Island. This would give us the best chances for a morning activity.

After breakfast and a little delay because of the repositioning, Ortelius anchored in a sheltered area and we were shuttled to shore through wind and snow and swell. The landing area was actually quite sheltered as well, and we could choose to wear snowshoes if we wanted to make our way to the top of Danco, or not to wear them if we decided to stay at the lower penguin colony. Our mountaineers got to the very top but had to come down quite quickly because of the blizzard. The mountaineering guides decided to close the upper section as well because of the risk of frostbite. We still managed to carry out our landing until the end, and we all got back on board - quite soaked from the ride through the snow and swell.

After a delicious lunch, we repositioned the ship to Neko Harbour, where the wind conditions were slightly better and it was not snowing. We all got on land, our mountaineers did their climb ,and even the kayakers went out with Zet. But in the middle of the landing, it started to snow again, and the wind also increased. The glacier in front of Neko Harbour calved a couple of times, and we also witnessed a massive avalanche over the glacier. We all made the most out of the landing, but were also happy to go back to the warmth of the ship.

After recap we all headed to the heli-deck for the barbecue, and as if on cue, the weather improved, the sky cleared, the snow stopped, and we even got a little bit of sunshine. The food and the views were amazing, and we all partied until 11pm. What a dream to be able to spend a day in real Antarctic weather and to eat outside. Somebody even spotted a killer whale for a brief moment… the cherry on top of the cake!


As we approached Danco Island from the south, Mal and Andy’s eagle eyes spotted evidence of recent avalanches and strong winds blowing on the summit. Ortelius stayed on the more sheltered easterly side of the island, and we had a spray filled approach to the beach on the opposite side. The plan was to explore the length of the island but, as we approached the summit, the wind was gusting over 70 km/hour.

There was plenty of snow transportation going on too. Andy dug another quick pit to check the snow and give us a rundown of the recent changes. Every day is a school day if you let the mountains teach you a lesson. The afternoon found us at Neko Harbour, with its spectacular glacier fronts calving directly into the ocean. We had our continental climb up towards an impressive rock wall, while snow blew past our feet as the wind got up. A squall of fog and snow that almost looked like a scene from a cataclysmic end of the world movie closed in from the north. Time for us to retreat to Ortelius.


Day 9: Foyn Harbour and Portal Point

Foyn Harbour and Portal Point
Date: 20.12.2023
Position: 64°30.3’S / 61°54.1’W
Wind: WSW 3-4
Weather: P. Cloudy
Air Temperature: +1

Our day started with the traditional “good morning, Ortelius, good morning,” from Chris, but today was a bit different: he announced that there were humpback whales breaching and feeding around the ship. We woke up to a wonderful sunny day as we anchored at Foyn Harbour, next to Enterprise Island, surrounded by ice that forced the captain to change the position of the ship several times.

We went out on a Zodiac cruise to explore the growlers and icebergs floating on the perfect glass-like ocean. As soon as we departure the ship, we started spotting humpback whales, and before we could even start counting how many, we realised we were surrounded by them! Apparently, they were feeding, so we could clearly see their feeding technique.

After whale watching for a while, we were taken to see the Guvernoren, an iconic piece of history of the Antarctic whaling times. It is a 131m Norwegian whaling ship that caught fire over 100 years ago and now sits in the Antarctic shallow waters. We were able to observe the part of the ship that is standing above the surface and even ride our Zodiacs right over the sunken part. This shipwreck is nowadays taken over by Antarctic terns that use it as a place to nest, and even though they seem quite annoyed about our presence, they allowed us to surround their nests and enjoy the view.

We even found a Weddell seal on the shore and had fun watching the mountaineers climbing the glacial and the kayakers paddle among the whales. After more than two hours cruising, we came back on board for an abundant lunch and some ice cream.

In the afternoon, we sailed north towards Portal Point, a beautiful continental landing. The weather was still unbelievably good, probably the best weather we have had so far, so we all enjoyed walking on the snow up and down the hills with less layers than usual.

Portal Point was a really fun day, with the deep snow trapping our boots as we walked around. We spotted gentoo penguins and a Weddell seal. On the way back to the ship, we had the opportunity to cruise around this area of beautiful icebergs. We then had the daily recap in the bar, listening to Chris and the expedition team talk about the plans for tomorrow. We were heading towards an active volcano!


Finally we had some good weather, so it was time for a team of mountaineers to land at Foyn Harbour on Enterprise Island. We roped up and climbed above the wreck of the Governoren whaling ship for amazing views across the sound to the east. On the way home to the ship, we were treated to two humpback whales emerging from the placid sea and showing double flukes. Magical.

In the afternoon, we were at Portal Point for our last mountaineering objective. There was evidence of crevasses even on the well-established track, so vigilance and careful rope management were in order for our climb up to the ridge. We gazed over the ocean, getting a new perspective on the Antarctic landscape.

Day 10: Telefon Bay & Whalers Bay, Deception Island

Telefon Bay & Whalers Bay, Deception Island
Date: 21.12.2023
Position: 62°59.3’S / 60°33’W
Wind: WNW 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

Chris woke us up with his calming voice. We were entering Neptune’s Bellows, the entrance of Deception Island, our place of stay for the two landings of the last day. After breakfast the first landing was in Telefon Bay, where we went on a hike on volcanic grounds up on a ridge. There we had some nice views of the crater area and the melt water lake. The weather was partially cloudy, with not too much wind. We discovered a humpback whale inside the crater area, which is uncommon. The walk on the beach brought us to some hauled out Weddell seals.

After lunch we landed at Whalers Bay, which first was a whaling station back in the early 20th century and became an airplane landing strip for the British Antarctic Survey in the 50s. There we found many rusty relics, like the tanks where whale oil was stored before shipping it back to the UK. Also, we visited the flight hangar and cemetery. Some whale bones were still on the beach. At the other end of the beach, there was a leopard seal sleeping on shore, and we could climb all the way up to Neptune’s Window. We had a windy view of the Bransfield Strait, where the continent of Antarctica was supposedly seen for the first time. After we got back on the ship, we recapped our last day in Antarctica and had a lovely dinner.

Day 11: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Date: 22.12.2023
Position: 60°23.1’S / 63°55.1’W
Wind: W5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

After so many days of adventure, there was a feeling of sadness as we left the Antarctic Peninsula to start our voyage home. We knew what was ahead of us – two days of sea passage on the Drake, with potentially rough seas, but there were still plenty of lectures to keep us entertained and educated.

EL Chris gave us an insight into life on the Antarctic continent from his work at Scott Base. Sticking with the interior, passenger Carol talked about her ascent of Mount Vinson, one of the seven summits of each continent that she completed in her 60’s. Very impressive. Zet the kayak guide presented a historical session on the race between Scott and Amundsen to be the first to reach the South Pole, and finally Juan ran a workshop on post processing of all those wonderful photos.

Sticking with the photographic theme, the eighty plus entries to the photo competition were playing on a loop in the bar, with a wide range of subjects and interpretations of our experience over the last ten days. The winners were selected with the clapometer in the bar that evening as the sea state gradually built up to a moderate “Drake Shake.”

Day 12: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Date: 23.12.2023
Position: 56°09.5’S / 67°19.8’W
Wind: SW8
Weather: Cloudly
Air Temperature: +6

We woke up after a rough night in the Drake. The waves were about 5m high, and we were rocked throughout the night. Most of us were woken up every half hour or so by a new large wave. But eventually we were woken up for breakfast, and for most of us our newly developed sea legs prevented us from getting seasick.

After breakfast we were asked to go to reception to settle our accounts. It was then time to head to the bar to listen to the Captain answer our questions. This was very informative and funny at the same time. Chloe gave us a lecture about her experience diving in Antarctica. This piqued the interest of a few divers among us.

It was then time for lunch in the restaurant. Thankfully, the sea was already calming. This made it quite easier for all of us to move around the buffet with our plates. At around 2pm we were invited to the bridge for a small celebration of passing Cape Horn. Chloe and Chris read us a poem about albatrosses, which embody the souls of seamen lost at sea.

After that, Andi gave us an interesting lecture about avalanches. We were very fortunate to observe some during our trip, but from a safe distance. And at 4pm it was Lucia’s turn to give us a lecture about the history for a better understanding of Argentina. Time was flying by on our last day at sea, and we then headed to the bar at 6:15pm for our farewell Captain’s cocktail and the viewing of Juan’s slideshow.

After our last delicious dinner on board, we all headed back to the bar to enjoy our last evening together, exchanging experiences and pictures. What an incredible voyage we just had!

Day 13: Disembarkation Day - Ushuaia Port

Disembarkation Day - Ushuaia Port
Date: 24.12.2023
Position: 54°48.561’S / 068 18.070’W
Wind: SW6
Weather: P. Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

As we woke up on this fine day, we realised we were already docked in Ushuaia. We packed the last of our bags and put them outside the cabins for the staff to heave up the stairs. After breakfast we were called to disembark the ship and went to the gangway to say our final goodbyes. It was sad, but we hope to be back one day very soon.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support, but most of all for joining us on this adventurous voyage. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed: 1807 Nautical Miles

Farthest South: 65°13.55’S / 64°08.9’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Per Anderson, Expedition Leader Chris Long, Hotel Manager Volodymyr Cherednychenko, and all the crew and staff of Ortelius, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!


Tripcode: OTL25-24
Dates: 12 Dec - 24 Dec, 2023
Duration: 12 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Ortelius

The ice-strengthened Ortelius is thoroughly outfitted for polar exploration and, when necessary, helicopter flights.

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