OTL28-18, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 23.01.2018
Position: 54°49‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: SW 6
Air Temperature: +10

So finally, the much-awaited departure day was upon us! We woke up in Ushuaia to blue skies and sunshine (which – typically - changed to cloud and rain intermittently throughout the day), full of excitement and anticipation at the thought of boarding the Ortelius for our forthcoming adventure. For many of us today signified the culmination of a lifelong dream.

We spent the morning exploring this lovely Patagonian city, soaking up the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism, but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia, which stands for “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue, clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting.

It was a breezy afternoon with a light drizzle of rain as we made our way along the pier to the ship at around 4 pm, ready to board our new floating home for the next 11 days. We were greeted by members of our expedition staff who directed us to the reception, where we were checked in by Hotel Manager DJ and his assistant Sava, and then the friendly hotel team showed us to our cabins. There we found our luggage and in no time at all we had unpacked and started to explore our new surroundings.

At 5 pm we convened in the lecture room on Deck 3 to meet Expedition Leader Cheryl, who welcomed us on board the ship. Third Officer, Warren, then acquainted us with the safety features of the vessel and with the essential dos and don’ts on board. He was followed by Hotel Manager DJ, from whom we learned about ship routine during our voyage; he imparted useful information about mealtimes, Internet/Webmail access and treating the toilets nicely.

Soon afterwards it was time for the mandatory safety drill and we gathered in the Lounge/Bar, donned our big orange lifejackets and went through a roll-call to make sure everybody was there. We were then escorted outside to take a look at the lifeboats, but were left confident that we would have no reason to do this again in the next 11 days!

At 6.45 pm we met in the Lounge/Bar on Deck 6 in order to get to know the expedition staff. Expedition Leader, Cheryl, introduced Captain Mika – the person who would get us there and back again safely. He spoke a few words and explained that we were welcome on the Bridge during daylight hours, which is a great viewing platform for bird-watching and also the place to find out from officers on watch what life is like at sea. We raised a glass of bubbly (or orange juice) to the success of our voyage and then Cheryl told us a little about our future plans before handing over to her team of guides for brief self-introductions.

Shortly afterwards we were invited to the Dining Room to enjoy the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Head Chef Khabir and his team. There was a real buzz in the Dining Room, as we got to know each other and talked about our hopes and aspirations for this voyage.

Our first evening was occupied with more exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements and settling into our cabins before retiring for the night.
In the early hours of the morning we reached the entrance of the Beagle Channel and headed out into the open waters of the Drake Passage - our Antarctic adventure was now fully underway!!!!

Day 2: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica
Date: 24.01.2018
Position: 56°08’S, 065°59’W
Wind: NW 7
Air Temperature: +10

From about 3 am we became aware of a bit of movement on board Ortelius, as we emerged from the Beagle Channel and headed out into the Drake Passage. Still, most of us slept well, tired from our long journey to the bottom of South America.
Breakfast was served from 8 – 9 am and it was reasonably well attended, considering we were all developing our sea legs still. However, as conditions worsened slightly during the morning, Victoria decided to hold her 10.30 am lecture in the Lounge/Bar rather than the Lecture Room; the Bar is in the stern of the ship, so suffers less movement than the Lecture Room, which is right in the bow.
The history topic today was ‘An Antarctic Peninsula History’ and dealt with four expeditions to precisely the region of the Antarctic Peninsula we will ourselves be visiting; these voyages are little known compared with the famous exploits of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen, which was something our on-board historian was determined to rectify! An hour later, Gerlache, Nordenskjöld, Charcot and Rymill were never-to-be-forgotten names by Ortelius passengers!
Next up was a mandatory meeting for all divers – who got together with their diving guides (Henrik, Michael and Catherine) in the Lecture Room to find out how their exciting operation was going to work in Antarctica. The rest of us can’t wait to hear from them what’s going on under the waves while we focus on the wildlife and scenery on the ice and above ground.
And then it was lunchtime. DJ had decided that the ship was rolling a little too much to serve a buffet lunch on our first day, so he and his galley team got us all into the Dining Room at the same time for a plated lunch. Much safer! Most people made it, though seasickness is affecting some. The best solution is either to go out on deck and admire the sea birds, whilst staring fixedly at the horizon; or to go to bed and stay horizontal…
A few of us took a siesta after lunch while we had the opportunity. After all, once we arrive at the White Continent we hope (weather permitting) to be very busy. We also had another important activity to fit in – receiving our rubber boots for Antarctic landings. We were called to the Lecture Room by deck and were able to try on a few different sizes until we knew we had the best fit possible; Kurtis and Martin were handing out zodiac life-jackets on the way out, which are much smaller and more comfortable than the huge emergency ones we practised trying on yesterday during our Lifeboat Drill.
This afternoon was a good time to visit the Bridge and get to know some of the officers and crew who work at the nerve-centre of the ship – great views of birds also, without getting cold out on deck, though when the wind dropped in the afternoon, there weren’t so many about.
At 2.30 pm we reconvened in the Bar to hear Kurtis, our resident geologist and glaciologist, deliver a fascinating talk entitled ‘Ice Ice Baby’. Unsurprisingly we heard about glaciers, icebergs and sea ice, which got us in the mood as we sailed ever southward towards Antarctica.
Shortly after this the kayakers met up with Louise for an important briefing prior to setting out for their first paddle, hopefully the day after tomorrow. At around this time we discovered that at 4 pm every day there are fresh cakes/cookies available in the Bar – maybe a discovery it would be better NOT to have made so early in the trip. Temptation is a terrible thing, but ‘sweet of the day’ goes so well with our afternoon coffee/tea.
The afternoon’s entertainment continued at 5 pm with Martin’s lecture on ‘Sea Birds: Masters of the Sea and Sky’. This talk was timely, as it is good to be able to put a name to the species we saw flying around the ship, especially this morning when there was quite a lot of wind.
And so we came to the last organised activity of our first day on Ortelius – Recap & Briefing at 6.30 pm. We like to meet just before dinner in order to summarise what we did and saw today, and to give Expedition Leader Cheryl a chance to preview tomorrow. This is also an opportunity for passengers to ask specialist staff questions in their field, and for said staff to impart important information connected with where we have been or are going. And Rolando was behind the bar, awaiting our drinks orders! By dinnertime we knew a lot more about Sir Francis Drake (of Drake Passage fame) and were getting excited about crossing the Antarctic Convergence in the night.
Dinner followed, with a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian dishes. People continued to enjoy being out on deck and socialising in the Bar/Lounge during the evening. Tomorrow will be another sea day, so we won’t have to get up too early.

Day 3: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Antarctica
Date: 25.01.2018
Position: 59°59’S, 064°41’W
Wind: WNW 7
Air Temperature: +7

The night passed peacefully, with the winds dropping considerably, so most felt well rested when the wake-up call came at 7.30 am. Outside, there was a cool breeze, the clouds were hanging low and a little fog was lingering, which was no surprise as we were approaching the Antarctic Convergence, which would signify the crossing into Antarctica waters - based on the biological boundary.

The day started with a mandatory IAATO briefing in the Lecture Room, where we found out how to interact with the wildlife without causing the animals distress. The excitement built as we all realised what we are going to see and do. This was followed by the mandatory biosecurity check-up; clothes and equipment were brought up to the Lounge to be carefully checked for seeds and other substances alien to Antarctica. Vacuum cleaners were deployed as passengers enthusiastically poked noisy nozzles into every pocket, seam and compartment of jackets, trousers, rucksacks and walking boots. Only brand-new equipment escaped this rigorous treatment.

Soon afterwards lunch was served and it was great to see a good turn-out in the Dining Room; it appeared people were finally finding their sea legs and adjusting to the ship’s movements. However, there was no time for a mid-afternoon nap as we had to reconvene in the Lecture Room, this time for a mandatory zodiac-safety briefing, where Kurtis explained how zodiac operations would work over the forthcoming days.
After that it was time for the campers’ meeting, in which Ben told us all about sleeping out on the ice and answered any questions the group had. As expected there were a few surprised faces when he appeared with the bivy bags and the potty toilet!

With a cup of coffee in one hand and a delicious piece of homemade cake in the other, most people settled in the Lounge to listen to Sara’s presentation about ‘Polar Photography’, where she gave us some useful tips on how to improve our pictures. She explained how it is not just picture-taking, but more about picture-making - how we can arrange the horizon and where to put our picture’s main component. She also introduced us to some of the technical terms and settings, such as f-stop, shutter speed and ISO, and which to use for what kind of picture. On Sara’s recommendation, many people headed out on deck afterwards to play with their cameras and get acquainted with some of the techniques she had spoken about.

At 5 pm, Martin invited us to his Penguin presentation in the Lecture Room, which provided us with an overview of the breeding cycle, habitat and seasonal changes affecting several species of penguin. He looked at the challenges and pressures involved in reuniting with a partner from previous years or finding a new one, setting up home with a good nest, finding food and avoiding predators. All of this has to be achieved in the short Austral summer and the penguins do it, not with ease, but with great determination and courage in a very difficult environment. His lecture only served to boost our excitement as to what we might see over the next few days.

Time to go out on deck and get some fresh air and sea views, before rounding up our second sea day with our daily Recap & Briefing in the Lounge, in which Cheryl explained the plans for our first day of activities in Antarctica, creating a huge wave of anticipation amongst us all. This was followed by a short talk from Victoria abut Captain Cook’s Antarctic explorations and a brief look at seabird wing span from Martin.

After dinner many of us made our way up to the Bar for a nightcap and to watch the film that Daniel made, documenting his time at Dumont D’Urville (the French Antarctic Base in the Ross Sea). He added a spoken commentary to it and it was good to get a glimpse of what it was like spending a whole year on an Antarctic base. After this most of us retired for the night, in preparation for our first action-packed day on the mighty White Continent!

Day 4: Cuverville Island & Paradise Harbour

Cuverville Island & Paradise Harbour
Date: 26.01.2018
Position: 64°17’S, 064°01’W
Wind: NE 4
Air Temperature: +3

We awoke early as we reached the first signs of the Antarctic Peninsula - the Melchior Islands on the Port Side, and Anvers Island on the Starboard… Good light and amazing views for our first eye contact with the Far South.

A few hours on, after crossing the Gerlache Strait we approached Cuverville Island. Conditions were good and everybody had a first close-up meeting with the stars of the place, Gentoo penguins! Thousands of them nest on the island, and we were able to see all the daily concerns of a penguin rookery - care of chicks, the change of shift on the nest, feeding, and the continuous shuttles up and down the slopes of penguin parents coming and going from the ocean.

In the afternoon we transited to Brown Station, an Argentine-managed research base in the aptly-named Paradise Harbour. Zodiac cruises offered some close-up views of Crabeater seals in the water and Antarctic cormorants on the cliffs, and a nice calm atmosphere and smooth seas in Skontorp Cove, with snow falling slowly and silently on ice-floes and scattered iceberg debris. Those of us who climbed the snow hill behind the research station had an astonishing view over Skontorp Cove and the enormous glacier behind.

Excitement was running high at Recap & Briefing that evening; not only were we eager to hear about tomorrow’s Peninsula activities, but nearly 30 aspiring Campers were hoping to spend the night out on the ice. Conditions stayed good and they shouldered their sleeping gear and all headed out around 9 pm, in good spirits. There was much speculation back on board as to how they would feel in the morning…

Day 5: Neko Harbour & Danco Island

Neko Harbour & Danco Island
Date: 27.01.2018
Position: 64°51’S, 062°33’W
Wind: SE 3
Air Temperature: +5

The fifth day of our Antarctic adventure got off to an early start at 4.45 am, when some of us woke up in our sleeping bags to a beautiful, calm morning on Leith Cove Island. As soon as everyone was back on Ortelius we set course to Neko Harbour, in order to spend some time with the local Gentoo penguins breeding there on the stony hillsides above the bay. On our way, we enjoyed views of the striking blue sea under snow-covered mountain peaks and marvellous icebergs.

The weather remained good throughout the morning, with little or no wind and sunshine. In Neko Harbour we climbed a ridge behind the beach to look out over an amazing glacial landscape and to watch the Gentoo penguins as they went about their daily lives - feeding their fledglings, bringing stones to their nests and defending themselves from hungry South-polar skuas.

During the afternoon we relocated to Danco Island, which is about a two-hour journey north of Neko Harbour. On our way, we encountered a few distant Humpback whales together with Snow petrels, Southern fulmars and Wilson’s storm petrels – all viewed from the outer decks or in comfort from the Bridge.

As we approached our afternoon’s landing site the weather changed dramatically and snowfall, together with increasing wind, reduced visibility; still, for those of us who climbed to the top of Danco Island the reward was a 360-degree view of stunning Antarctic landscape, with a couple of Minke whales swimming in the background of the bay. At 6 pm the last zodiac left the beach, just as the wind increased again and fresh snow started to fall. We had enjoyed the best of the afternoon.

Unfortunately, due to rising wind and snow, the second round of camping was cancelled in the evening. Still, that meant we could enjoy a social time at the Bar instead after Recap & Briefing and dinner.

Day 6: Pleneau Island & Petermann Island

Pleneau Island & Petermann Island
Date: 28.01.2018
Position: 65°07’S, 064°02’W FURTHEST SOUTH = 65° 11 ‘S
Wind: N 3
Air Temperature: +5

This morning, we were woken from our restful sleep after yesterday’s excitement a little bit early, since we were leaving the Southern Gerlache Strait and heading towards the Penola Strait. The route in between took us through the thousand-metre-deep, hundred-and-sixty-metre-wide, highly picturesque Lemaire Channel. It’s only nine km long, but this was one leg of our journey that was well worth getting up for. The passage is notorious for having large icebergs inside, so we tentatively pushed ahead weaving in between the ice, finding a path just wide enough for our ship to glide through; after half an hour or so, we came out the other end into a large bay, the northern end of the Penola Strait. A quick trip inside for breakfast.

Outside, with our bellies full, the ship arrived to the shores of Pleneau island where we were met by some windy weather. The drivers lowered the zodiacs and we all piled in for what promised to be a much wetter ride to shore than we were used to up to this point! Onshore Gentoo penguins formed a fabulous foreground to the magnificent backdrop of Booth Island rising up into the clouds. We spent half of the excursion onshore and for the other half, went back into the wavy bay and continued on, further away from the ship into Iceberg Alley. This bay was a complete mass of towering icebergs, each a sculpture shaped by the wind and waves, blown into this protected harbour by storms and trapped in the shallows. Massive arches fractured by time seemed ready to crumble and fall down at any minute. The now familiar Crabeater seals were lounging on icebergs, digesting their latest feed of krill. A long drive back to the ship, cutting through the waves, brought us back to the warm and dry Ortelius!

Lunch was very welcome.

Outside again, we moved around the corner and farther down the Penola Strait to Petermann Island, the farthest southern point of our journey. A little less windy than the morning, we went ashore to find a Weddell seal sound asleep right at our landing site, where he would remain during our whole excursion. The main aim of visiting this island is to view the Adelie penguin, one of the true ‘Antarctic’ penguins. Along with the Adelies, Gentoos and Antarctic shags also call Petermann Island home. The Adelie colony here is being studied and so we couldn’t approach too close; a little patience however was rewarded, and we saw many Adelies, meeting us along the trail in the middle of their commute from nest to sea. Afterwards, a walk up the hill and around the corner gave us a much-appreciated leg stretch and fantastic views of a small ice-choked bay on the other side of the island. From the end of the island we gazed south, towards the Pole…a mere 1500 miles away!
Recap & Briefing was all about tomorrow’s activities, contained some more information about Petermann Island, and solved the puzzle of why ice is often blue.

Dinner was a special treat – an Antarctic BBQ, albeit in the Dining Room. The weather forecast for this evening had been too uncertain to set up outdoor grills and tables. Still, we feasted and toasted our voyage courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions – unless we were going camping, that is…

A few brave souls (17 in all) then got dressed once more to head outdoors, re-boarding the zodiacs with sleeping bags in hand to go and spend a night off the ship and on the icy shores of Hovgaard Island. Sleep tight!

The rest of us watched ‘Penguin Post Office’ in the Lounge, to prepare us for a possible landing at Port Lockroy tomorrow. Then we got tucked into our comfortable beds on board, a very full day behind us, and anxious to see what tomorrow would bring.

Day 7: Port Lockroy, Neumayer Channel & Wilhelmina Bay

Port Lockroy, Neumayer Channel & Wilhelmina Bay
Date: 29.01.2018
Position: 64°50’S, 063°34’W
Wind: NE 6
Air Temperature: +4

As soon as all campers were back on the ship after a night on Hovgaard Island we set sail for Port Lockroy. Unfortunately, the wind picked up significantly on our way there.

At 9 am, wind gusts of more than 40 knots were swiping the sea around the island, which made it impossible for us even to launch our zodiacs into the water. After a few hours of waiting for the wind to come down, and with the red building of Port Lockroy not more than a kilometre away, we gave up.

Instead, we continued our journey first through the beautiful, scenic Neumayer Channel, and then through the Gerlache Strait, aiming at Wilhelmina Bay to get some shelter from the gale-force wind.

Through smashing waves, we crossed the Gerlache Strait and despite poor visibility we managed to find a few Humpback whales. As we turned into Wilhelmina Bay the sea eventually calmed down and after an hour or so, we were cruising through flat calm water, with scenic glaciers and icebergs surrounding the bay. Humpback whales were frequently spotted fluking around the ship and a few of us were lucky enough to see at least two Humpbacks breaching not far from Ortelius. Other wildlife encounters included Crabeater seals in the water, and a Leopard seal resting on the ice along with both Snow petrels and Wilson’s storm petrels.

Recap & Briefing was held at 6.15 pm, attempting to fit it in between Humpback whale sightings (this area is known for them). Cheryl managed to brief us about tomorrow’s projected landings, but Victoria was just getting underway with her Deception Island history when ‘Humpback whales ahead of the ship’ was announced and the Bar emptied! It was well worth it of course. Wildlife always wins.

Dinner followed, and the Bar was lively until fairly late, with passengers and staff alike excited about tomorrow’s landings in the South Shetland Islands.

Day 8: Deception Island & Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands

Deception Island & Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 30.01.2018
Position: 62°59’S, 060°34’W
Wind: NE 5
Air Temperature: +2

An early wake-up call was needed to ensure that we could make the most of our last day in Antarctica. We began with a very scenic and careful navigation into the volcano’s crater that forms Deception Island, through Neptune’s bellows. Divers made their way out first looking for a good diving spot, and the rest of the passengers got ready to go right after that. It wasn’t a long zodiac drive to the beach, but it was possible to feel the wind blowing, reminding us that we were still in a really remote area.

Once ashore, everybody made their own way around the buildings, artefacts and detritus at Whalers’ Bay - buildings that tell a story of the past whaling, flying and scientific activities that took place here. Some of the constructions show that there are no barriers against the rough conditions of nature. As we were expecting, some Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins welcomed the groups, with some Fur seals hauled out at the other end of the beach from the floating dock. The option to walk up to Neptune’s window was very tempting, and as it turns out, not only for the views: there was a surprise plan about to happen with the help of staff members - a proposal of marriage! After 10 years of being together. We hear that the reply was ‘yes’…

And the morning didn’t end there. There was still time for the brave swimmers to take the polar plunge in these cold waters.

Back on Ortelius, a very nice, big breakfast was awaiting us, to warm us up and welcome us back from this windy island. During the rest of the morning we headed further up the South Shetland Island group to our final landing of the voyage – at Half Moon Island.

Right after lunch it was possible to see our landing site, but with weather making operations a bit more complicated than usual. The wind was fairly strong, and with a lot of swell this made gangway operations and landing on the beach slightly challenging. However, many of us had a goal that afternoon, to make it all the way to the Chinstrap penguin colony nesting on that island and try to find “Kevin”, a single Macaroni penguin who has been going for many years to that place by himself. Unfortunately, not everybody was able to see him, but some people were able to take really good pictures of him to show others. It was amazing and lucky that he hiked across the island from the other side to visit us.

Weather conditions remained constant throughout the landing, and the way back to the ship was as bumpy and wet as the drive ashore. The professionalism and good driving of the staff brought all the passengers, safe and happy, on-board once more. It was a bitter-sweet feeling since our Antarctic experience was coming to an end now as we headed out once again into the Drake Passage. Doctor Veronique held a surgery to advise on precautions against seasickness and we all met together for our evening Recap & Briefing well contented with all we’ve seen and done, but slightly apprehensive about the weather forecast for the crossing. Victoria and Louise summarized the history of Deception Island for us and after dinner, the bar was busy until late. No one has to get up early tomorrow morning after all.

Day 9: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Ushuaia

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Ushuaia
Date: 31.01.2018
Position: 59°53’S, 062°08’W
Wind: SW 6
Air Temperature: +2

We were grateful for Captain’s poignant sounding of the ship whistle last evening as we left the last view of Antarctica behind. It made us pause and take stock of all that we’d experienced in the previous days. It seemed like a punctuation mark at the end of a long and glowing sentence.

A type of nostalgia has been felt around the ship today, as we roam the corridors of Ortelius – indeed, as we gaze at the huge portrait of the man himself on the stairs near reception. We found ourselves reflecting on the amazing experiences we’ve had, the numerous species of birds and marine mammals and all the outstanding scenery we’ve seen. Perhaps most memorable on this trip was the hour and a half we spent cruising through the massive icebergs, grounded to a halt on the bottom of Pleneau Bay. It was like a giant sculpture garden of fantastic and unimaginable shapes.

The first day at sea is one of rest and relaxation as we unwound from the delirious whirling and twirling of the zodiac cruises and time on shore.

Set as a backdrop for this reflection time was a variety of lectures. First up in the morning, Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition, told as only Victoria could do, with her humorous and insightful perspective.

Passionate Martin shared with us deeper knowledge of the pinnipeds of the Southern Ocean, along with a revealing talk about the plight and tenuous future of the tiniest of food sources - krill.

And then the sun came out, dazzling and beautifully lighting up the entire scenery. Now suddenly sullen grey turned into beautiful dark blue ocean, with brilliant contrasting white caps and blue sky overhead.
In the afternoon Kurtis talked about the complex, yet simply elegant, geography of Antarctica…a massive continent brought about mostly by upheaval from volcanoes.

And Henrik and Michael shared with us their numerous diving experiences in these frigid waters. It was amazing to see how many species of unusual creatures inhabit this frozen world…from bright red ‘devil’ cod to huge isopods, to multi-limbed and gigantic starfish. An other-worldly experience, for sure.

We ended the day by coming back together once again in the Lounge for our final Recap. These Recaps have been nearly as informative as the lectures and are always delivered with enthusiasm, so dedicated are our guides! Sara told us all about how we can help with ‘Penguin Watch’, and Daniel reminded us about the deep, deep dives of which penguins are capable.

By then dinner was upon us and a convivial evening enjoyed by all. Tomorrow our thoughts will be turning to packing, but tonight we are still sailing the Drake Passage, wondering if the weather is going to deteriorate during the night as suggested by Captain Mika…

Day 10: At Sea, Drake Passage towards Ushuaia

At Sea, Drake Passage towards Ushuaia
Date: 01.02.2018
Position: 55°49’S, 065°47’W
Wind: W 8
Air Temperature: +9

And so our last day on Ortelius dawned bright and beautiful. A sunny morning met our gaze
when we went out on deck before breakfast to greet the day. The ship was rolling considerably more than yesterday, but certainly not as much as we had anticipated, which enabled us to enjoy the remainder of our time on board.

Today Victoria and Louise brought our lecture programme to a close. They addressed us in the Lounge/Bar rather than in the Lecture Room, since it is a more comfortable location for all when the Drake is a little rougher than average…Victoria’s theme was ‘The Antarctic Treaty System’. Now we have all stepped on the continent of Antarctica, the most isolated and extreme location on the planet. We have stood among penguins and icebergs, awed at our privilege in visiting this last place on earth. But who owns Antarctica? Everyone or no-one? And who controls and conserves it? Well, some of these questions at least were answered during her presentation and quite a few passengers felt enthused to find out more once they are back home with normal Internet access once again.

After a coffee break Louise was in the Lounge ready to share with us a tale of ‘Early Whaling History’. Her great-grandfather was whaling down here in the early 1900s, even presiding at a Deception Island funeral. Her account brought life on board an early 20th century whaling vessel vividly before our eyes.

By now it was nearly time for lunch, which was a delicious, yummy Bami Goreng – Asian style stir-fried egg noodles, with chicken, vegetables and soya. By this time Ortelius had reached the shelter of the Beagle Channel, where she awaited a pilot to take us into Ushuaia during the early hours of tomorrow morning.
In the early afternoon we gathered again in the Lounge. First up was a couple of short videos about Oceanwide trips in the north, beautifully made and shown by passenger Frederique, who has travelled on Ortelius before to Fair Isle and Svalbard. Now we all want to try out those trips too! Frederique’s slideshows were followed by a fascinating movie called ‘Rounding Cape Horn’, in which cine-camera footage of one of the last square-rigged ships to round the Horn is commentated – hilariously - by Captain Irving Johnson, who sailed on her as a young man.

Another – rather less welcome – adventure began at 3 pm as we were summoned deck by deck to settle our accounts in reception. DJ and Sava made it as pain-free as possible, but there were no doubt some surprises! At around the same time, we were called down to Deck 3 to return our rubber boots and life jackets – the voyage is truly nearing its end. Suitcases need to be packed, photos and email addresses exchanged with new friends, as we head into our final evening.

As a mirror image to our Captain’s Welcome Cocktails on Day One, we met together for the last time in the Bar on Deck 6 to toast the success of our voyage at Captain’s Farewell Cocktails, and to listen to a few words from Captain Mika. He has enabled us to see some amazing sights and share this great adventure with him and his officers on Ortelius’ Bridge. This was followed by a superb video/slideshow of our voyage compiled by Sara, with help from passengers and staff alike.

So the time for our last supper came around. The Dining Room was full of noise and conviviality as usual and we prepared to make the most of the last night in our floating hotel home. A drink or two at the Bar (Rolando accepts cash!) and to bed. Tonight we head to bed at the Pilot Station in the Beagle Channel. Tomorrow we will wake up at the pier in Ushuaia.

Day 11: Disembarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 02.02.2018
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: 1658 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: OTL28-18
Dates: 23 Jan – 2 Feb, 2018
Duration: 10 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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