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OTL29-18, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 02.02.2018
Position: 54°49‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: N 2
Air Temperature: +15

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

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

At 5:10 pm we were summoned by Expedition Leader Cheryl to a mandatory briefing in the Lecture Room on Deck 3. She welcomed us on board and introduced Third Officer Warren, who gave an all-important Safety Briefing and Lifeboat Drill. Now we are aware of what we should do if we see a fire or man overboard, and know precisely what to grab and where to go in the event of the ship’s general alarm going off. Seven short and one long blast calls us (warmly dressed) to the Bar, which doubles as our muster station. Once we are all there, radio communication between the bridge officers and ship’s crew keeps us informed of developments. The ‘abandon ship’ signal is a verbal command given by the Captain or Chief Officer, and we hope that today is the only time we hear it, followed by the reassuring words “for practice only”…Filing outside in orderly fashion and gathering next to the lifeboats completed the drill; we were then free to continue our explorations of the ship, or come out on deck with our cameras to enjoy Ortelius’ departure from Ushuaia and progress down the Beagle Channel.

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

After dinner Dr. Veronique was available in the ship’s hospital to hand out seasick medication and valuable advice. A stroll on deck to watch Humpback whales flipper-waving and the local bird population on the wing, a cup of tea or something stronger, and then most of us fell into bed after a busy and exciting day, hoping for smooth seas to lull us to sleep. Tomorrow morning will find us well on the way to our first stop – the Falkland Islands.

Day 2: At Sea towards the Falkland Islands

At Sea towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 03.02.2018
Position: 54°03’S, 064°09’W
Wind: NNW 5
Air Temperature: +12

We woke to our first sea day well rested after a good night's sleep in our new beds. We had made our way down the Beagle Channel, and turned towards the East, sailing along the southern edge of South America, finally passing Isla Estados, and coming into open water. The Ortelius picked up a barely discernable gentle roll, indicating we were in the Southern Ocean and on our way to the Falklands.

The keen birders in the group had been out on deck late last night and they were up and about again early this morning, making good use of the tea and coffee station in the bar. Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrels and Cape or Pintado Petrels were with us last night and they were with us again this morning. The Southern Ocean was good to us and the day started calm and warm. In the morning, we were all called to the Lecture room on deck 3, where we collected boots and lifejackets, so that we would be ready for action when we reached the West Falklands. After storing our new equipment in our cabins, we headed back to the Lecture room to hear from Cheryl all we need to know about the Zodiac operations on Ortelius. This was followed by biosecurity cleaning of all our outer gear - it was a bit of an odd and unusual sight; all of us vacuuming inside our camera bags, pockets, and hats.

Our first lunch buffet was a great opportunity to start to meet some of our new travel-mates, and was quickly followed by (sometimes unintentionally) a short afternoon snooze. Those who stayed awake went out on deck, where the wind was starting to pick up a bit, to enjoy the birdlife around us.

In the early afternoon, Victoria invited us down to the first of our educational talks and spoke on the History of the Falkland Islands. These small spots of land in the far Southern Ocean have had a very busy past, with many different countries visiting, claiming and working on the islands. Following quite quickly after Victoria's history talk, Martin spoke about the Wildlife of the Falkland Islands. This was a great introduction to what we could expect to see in the next few days, and helped a lot to get us thinking about the species we might see. These isolated islands have a few very special endemic species, which we hope to find during our visit!

Most of us managed to get outside at some point in the afternoon, and the warm, windy day encouraged us to stay out. We found the big Southern Royal Albatross (or it found us, really), along with a good range of storm petrels, shearwaters, prions and even some Peale's Dolphins.

Our first recap and briefing was held just before dinner, and it was exciting to think about the plan for tomorrow, when we would arrive in the West Falklands, with hoped for landings at Carcass and Saunders Islands. Cheryl gave us all the information to help us prepare for landing in the morning, then we all headed down to the dining room for another great meal.

The long daylight hours encouraged us to get back up and out on deck after dinner, and many of us stayed for a lovely gold and orange sunset before retiring, or joining Rolando in the bar for a chat and warm drink, then finally heading to our cabins to rest before our first landing.

Day 3: Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Date: 04.02.2018
Position: 51°18’S, 060°34’W
Wind: NE 3
Air Temperature: +18

After a day at sea we arrived at Carcass Island on the eastern part of the Falkland Islands. The island is known for its high number of breeding birds as it is one of few islands in the archipelago that is free of introduced rats. Blue sky and light wind made landing onto the white sandy beach easy and it was almost as if we have arrived on a tropical island somewhere near the equator as we walked over the white beach along the turquoise water in the bright sun light. Almost immediately, we encountered a few curious Cobb´s Wren along with Striated Caracaras, two bird species only found on a handful of islands around Falkland Islands. On our walk from the beach to the other site of the island we found many Magellanic Penguins together with Gentoo Penguins, Ruddy-headed Geese, Kelp Geese, and Upland Geese as well as Black-chinned Siskins and singing Long-tailed Meadowlarks. After a 4 km walk we reached a small settlement with a couple of houses were the local farmers made us tea and coffee together with a wonderful selection of newly baked pastries.

Once back on the ship we had a brief lunch as we sailed through the beautiful Falkland archipelago. Our second landing for the day was on Saunders Island, known for its large colonies of Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguins. The weather remained sunny throughout the afternoon and once again we had an easy landing onto the sandy beach of Saunders Island. The beach was full of Gentoo Penguins and King Penguins, but with the knowledge what we would be able to spend more time with these on South Georgia we went straight up to the Rockhopper Penguin and the albatross colonies. To our delight the rockhopper penguins certainly do jump between the rocks and it’s both amusing and impressive to see these little penguins climb their way up through the steep cliffs on their way from the ocean up to their nests. The Black-browed Albatrosses had fairly large chicks at this stage and only a few of the adults were at their nests. As we left Saunders Island early in the evening, our last wildlife sighing of the day was a couple of Sei Whales surfacing close to the ship.

Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 05.02.2018
Position: 51°41’S, 057°51’W
Wind: SW 6
Air Temperature: +12

Overnight, we had made our way across the Northern shores of West, then East Falkland Islands, and turned South towards Port Williams, the outer harbour for Port Stanley, the only town in the Falklands. Cheryl woke us with a gentle voice to let us know we were approaching the tiny entrance to Stanley, accurately called "The Narrows", and conditions were good. It was sunny and calm. The colourful town soon came into view, running along the Southern shore of the harbour. We dropped anchor closer to the Northern shore, where the names of guard vessels of the Royal Navy are spelled out in white rocks on the hillside - Barracouta, Beagle, Protector, Endurance, Dumbarton Castle and Clyde.

By the time we had our zodiacs in the water, the weather had changed. It was a little windy, making the waters a bit bumpy, and rain could be seen to the West of town. We disembarked after Falklands customs came on board and stamped our passports. It seemed strange to have to worry about cars and money again after just a few days on the ship. Most of us walked up to the museum where we learned about life in Stanley and in Camp along with a lot of local history. Walking back from the museum, we checked out the gift shops and coffee shops along the waterfront, read the plaques on various historical relics and monuments, and watched the bird life around us. A few even sneaked off to have a pint in a very English pub.

We had to come back on board before lunch, and once we were all back, we turned and sailed away from town, through the outer harbour, and set off for South Georgia.
We had a quiet afternoon with Martin giving us a great lecture about the seabirds all around us, titled "Masters of Sea and Sky". He gave a fabulously illustrated discussion on how they manage to be so successful at surviving out here in the open Southern Ocean. Some of us got out on deck, where the weather warmed to a balmy 13oC and the day was a wildlife success, as we found both birds (Soft plumaged Petrels) and cetaceans (Peals and Commerson's Dolphins) new to us on this voyage. Some of us caught up on sleep with a little nap in the afternoon. Then it was recap time and we had a drink while discussing our time in the Falklands. Most of us disappeared quite quickly after dinner, looking forward to a good night's sleep after all the activity in the last couple of days.

Day 5: At Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea towards South Georgia
Date: 06.02.2018
Position: 52°20’S, 051°58’W
Wind: NE 2
Air Temperature: +10

We awoke to the most beautiful morning. Blue skies, sunshine and smooth blue seas continued most of the day. Standing up on the Bridge gazing ahead of the bow, the South Atlantic Ocean seemed so benign; it was difficult to realise that we were heading off the map, for one of the world’s most remote and inaccessible islands…

After breakfast most of us joined Victoria in the Lecture Room for her talk on the ‘History of South Georgia’. In this she included its discovery, exploration, administration, use as a scientific base and (most important of all) its sealing/whaling industry (more whaling to follow!). It was a more happening place than most of us realised, and as we cross the Antarctic Convergence (Antarctica’s biological boundary) we feel we have ‘arrived’ even though South Georgia remains part of the Falkland Island Dependencies, and therefore British.

After a coffee, time on deck or a visit to the Bridge on Deck 7, Kurtis summoned us back to the Lecture Room for his session entitled ‘Photography Basics’. Of interest to all, Kurtis shared with us some tricks of the trade and gave us compositional hints and inspiration to produce the best possible photographs we can with our equipment – whether a huge apparatus with lots of massive lenses, a small point-and-shoot or even just a phone!
By then it was lunchtime – a delicious pork dish, with a range of salads on offer as always, followed by a lavish cheese plate. No time for a siesta afterwards however, as Martin was down in the Lecture Room from 2 pm to tell us all about the ‘Life of a Penguin’ – a subject close to all our hearts, especially as he focused on King penguins, a huge number of which call South Georgia home.

Today’s briefing and education programme was indeed intense, as this was followed by another mandatory briefing, this time from Cheryl, who passed on to us the recommendations and guidelines of IAATO (the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, which controls human behaviour on the White Continent). We have to follow certain procedures to keep ourselves and the wildlife of the region safe both in South Georgia and later in Antarctica itself. Although a lot of the regulations are logical, it is important to emphasize the distances we need to keep from wildlife, and to reinforce the message that the indigenous population of animals always has right of way; we take nothing and leave nothing behind. We are just visitors here, and want the place to remain as we found it – a peaceful haven, affected as little as possible by the rest of our planet.

A second biosecurity session followed immediately on this briefing, in which we ensured there were no seeds or any foreign material on our outer layers of clothing, with a special focus on backpacks, pockets and Velcro. Vacuum cleaners were again at our disposal, as we were called deck by deck to prepare ourselves for arrival on South Georgia. We do not want to introduce any hitch-hiking species from the Falklands there.

Once bio-secured we were free to make the most of the good weather and calm sailing conditions. Those who spent time out on deck (and there are many serious Bird-watchers among our passengers) were also rewarded by several glimpses of whales through the course of the day, including one dynamic sighting shortly before Recap & Briefing, which eluded definitive identification by staff. If only we could see MORE of the whale above the water surface; but they are so well-adapted to their environment that they never need to leave the sea at all, even to breed.

Recap & briefing at 6.30 pm mainly focused on what we’ve seen and done today, though Cheryl reported on our progress south to date and talked of tomorrow’s rendezvous with Shag Rocks in the late afternoon. Otherwise Victoria told us about Cook’s disappointment on discovering South Georgia in 1775 and learning that it was NOT part of a great Southern Continent; Kurtis explained the dynamics of the Convergence to us, and Eduardo talked about the depths of the ocean bed beneath Ortelius.

DJ announced dinner at 7 pm, and we hastened downstairs to be seated, trying hard to remember what we had ordered at lunchtime. It was a delicious and convivial meal and we enjoyed time on deck again after it was over. But the Bar was not as crowded tonight as last. There is a very simple explanation for this: we lose an hour this evening as we set our watches and clocks to South Georgia time. This calls for an early night, but only after a bit of star-gazing of course, with Eduardo. We are looking forward very much to seeing land again tomorrow at some stage, though we have another day at sea to build up our energy levels for landings the day after tomorrow.

Day 6: At Sea towards South Georgia & Shag Rocks

At Sea towards South Georgia & Shag Rocks
Date: 07.02.2018
Position: 53°11’S, 044°35’W
Wind: N 6
Air Temperature: +7

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

The morning dawned with a clear sky but with a stronger breeze than the day before. No wildlife was seen around the ship except for the occasional Giant Petrel and Black-browed Albatross passing close by. After breakfast at 8 o’clock, Victoria delighted us with stories of Shackleton and his men who undertook an ambitious expedition to cross Antarctica from the bottom of the Weddell Sea to the shores of the Ross Sea Before their trip really began, they became trapped in the ice and had a harrowing story to tell by the end of it.

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

After lunch, Martin gave us an introduction to the Birds of South Georgia, getting us
ready for the vast numbers of penguins, albatrosses and petrels we were to soon see. After his talk, most of us went out on deck to look for wildlife. We passed from very deep ocean into shallower waters, which makes this area to a hotspot for both seabirds and marine mammals. After an hour on deck or so we could see the Shag Rocks on the horizon - the first bit of land in between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, a favourite place for South Georgia Shags to nest and call home. The Captain and his team slowed the ship to give us more time to admire the rugged cliffs covered in birds and guano. Although the sky was grey and with strong wind whipping the sea, we enjoyed abundant wildlife around the ship including the first King Penguins and Antarctic Fur Seals along with Wandering Albatrosses, Soft-plumaged Petrels, White-chinned Petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels.

Cheryl’s early evening re-cap (on tomorrow’s potential landing activities) was well-attended and Kurtis provided us information on why the Antarctic convergence offers such rich marine life. That night we closed up our portholes to keep the light in (to prevent birds from being attracted by the lights and crashing into the ship) and we eagerly anticipated the morning when we would wake in the Bay of Isles ready to step foot on land with hundreds of thousands of King Penguins.

Day 7: Salisbury Plain & Prion Island, South Georgia

Salisbury Plain & Prion Island, South Georgia
Date: 08.02.2018
Position: 54°03’S, 037°19’W
Wind: NW 6
Air Temperature: +8

We woke this morning with low clouds around the ship. South Georgia was barely in sight, it’s peaks, shrouded in mist, rose from the ocean ahead of the ship. As we sailed into the Bay of Isles, small islands came into view and finally a long low-lying beach, Salisbury Plain. After breakfast, we lowered the zodiacs onto calm waters with a gentle swell and headed ashore to a beach crowded with young Antarctic Fur Seals and King Penguins. Many, many seals and penguins. As soon as we stepped onto the beach, our senses were overwhelmed, the shear number of animals combined with the smells and sounds had us stopped in our tracks. A path of red poles led us back away from the beach onto the grassy plain, a little less crowded than where we landed, but we still had to watch for sleeping fur seals and groups of King Penguins standing around preening in the light rain. The farther along the path we went, the louder the penguins got until we were standing at the edge of the colony. Somewhere around a quarter of a million penguins live at Salisbury Plain and most of them stay in a close-knit colony that stretches a long way across the flats and part way up the hill behind the beach. Adults, chicks, juveniles all together in a sea of orange black and white.

Back on the ship we moved a very short distance over lunch to Prion island just north of Salisbury Plain. The rain and breeze of the morning gave way to glassy, calm, and sunny conditions which revealed mountain peaks and glaciers rising from the interior of South Georgia. In store for us this afternoon was a little and special island, home to a breeding colony of Wandering Albatross. We split into three groups and took turns coming to the beach on the island, making our way past the Gentoo Penguins, Fur Seal and South Georgia Pipits onto a narrow boardwalk that took us up the muddy tussac slope with ease to two viewing platforms overlooking the three-meter wingspan giants on their nests. Thirteen or fourteen albatrosses were in view, most of them were sleeping or preening, but a few were walking around heading to or from their nests. Occasionally one would land back home after a feeding trip and reunite affectionately with their partner. Along the boardwalk many other curiosities greeted us, a very cute Brown Skua chick with it’s unbothered parents close by, nursing Fur Seals, South Georgia Pipits and South Georgia Pintails. If the island’s inhabitants weren’t enough, the skies were filed with soaring Wandering Albatross, Light Mantled Albatross, Giant Petrels and Brown Skuas all set against a remarkably beautiful mountain backdrop.
What a first day in South Georgia! The buzz in the bar after the excursion carried over into dinner - a testament of the excitement from the day and the anticipation of things to come tomorrow.

Day 8: Stromness & Grytviken, South Georgia

Stromness & Grytviken, South Georgia
Date: 09.02.2018
Position: 54°10’S, 036°42’W
Wind: Light airs
Air Temperature: +15

We sailed overnight across the north East part of the main island of South Georgia, aiming to reach Fortuna Bay early in the morning. Named after the Fortuna, the first whale catcher to operate out of Grytviken in the early 1900, the east beach at this site is where the Shackleton Walk starts.

The Shackleton Walk is a route that retraces the final leg of Shackleton's desperate journey across the island. We had 32 people registered for their own attempt at what is arguably the easiest part of the historic route across the island. The day broke impressive with clear skies, calm ocean and very little wind. Therefore, at 04:00 AM activity on deck started with the crew preparing the gangway and the zodiacs. Soon, the zodiacs were on the water and in them were Cheryl, Kurtis, Daniel and Veronique the doctor who would be the staff guides for the hike along with all the participants. They all moved swiftly through the tussac grass slope that follows the beach and soon they climbed above the beach. As they gained altitude they saw the ship leaving Fortuna Bay and heading to Stromness with the rest of the guides and guests.

The walk took them over a moraine and soon they were walking along the slopes up to an altitude of about 240 meters above sea level where they encountered Crean Lake along the way. From here the group went through a scree slope which led down to the Shackleton Falls and the Shackleton Valley.

At this point during the walk, at about 10:30, they encountered the group that remained on the ship and then walked from Stromness to the Shackleton Falls.
The trip to Shackleton Falls took about 1 hour and about 30 of our guests made it to the cascades. By 11:45 most of our guests had been shuttled back to the ship and the last ones left the shore around 12:15.
On the way back to the ship we further observed the shattered whaling station of Stromness from a different perspective. All of us were able to appreciated the wildlife on the beach near Stromness which consisted mostly of Fur Seal pups, some Gentoo Penguins as well as King Penguins.

Lunch was prepared as usually under the directions of our Master Chef, Khabir, and after it, our guests took a moment for rest.
Meanwhile Captain Ernesto directed the ship into the Cumberland Bay aiming to enter King Edward Cove and officially enter into South Georgia and to visit the old whaling station of Grytviken and it’s museums, post office, church and the remains of the whale processing machinery. The crossing from Stromness to Cumberland Bay was smooth and quick and we arrived shortly after 14:00. Shortly after that the gangways were deployed and a zodiac was sent to collect the officials from King Edward Point as well as the director of the South Georgia Museum and her aids. Once all they were onboard the Officials proceeded to clear our ship for port and to inspect our ship for rats. Meanwhile, the personnel from the South Georgia Museum gave a brief presentation of the Rat Eradication Program which has managed to successfully eradicate rats from the entire island of South Georgia.

Once our ship was cleared our visit to Grytviken started at the Cemetery were we pay tribute to Ernest Shackleton by making a toast to his memory. Later we visited the remains of the whaling station as well as the post office and the Museum. Many of us took the opportunity to send post cards and buy souvenirs from the island. Shortly after 17:00 our first guests started to return to the ship and by 18:00 we were all back onboard including three guests from the South Georgia Heritage Trust who came onboard to enjoy a rewarding BBQ prepared by the galley. The BBQ was served on the heli-deck located in the aft of the ship and we all enjoyed the meal outside thanks to the good weather that prevailed.

Day 9: Godthul & Ocean Harbour, South Georgia

Godthul & Ocean Harbour, South Georgia
Date: 10.02.2018
Position: 54°18’S, 036°18’W
Wind: Light airs
Air Temperature: +9

The day dawned rainy, but there was no wind, so we were blessed with being able to land on South Georgia yet again. We were off the eastern shore of the Barff Peninsula, at the Eastern edge of Cumberland Bay. People who wanted a long walk were in the first zodiacs, those of us keen on birds came second. Later, the people who wanted a stroll along the beach with the elephant and fur seals, and those who wanted a zodiac cruise came down the gangway. We all landed on a small beach covered in whale bones, and the remains of an old whaling shore depot consisting of rusting machines, rotting buildings and old drums sloped up the hill in the tussac.

The first steps of all the walks were tricky: a narrow steep ravine, with mud, tussoc grass and slippery edges ran about 100 metres up to a gentle grassy plain with Gentoo Penguins nesting in the mist. Most of the chicks were almost fledged and often very curious about us They came up to check out their visitors and flapped their flippers in excitement. Our birders were pleased to find South Georgia Pipits, South Georgia Pintails and a variety of petrels around us, including Giant Petrel chicks on their nests waiting for parents to return and feed them.

The people who joined the longer walk went out to the small Lake Aviemore, which was full of Gentoos and pintails enjoying the summer weather. Fog rolled in and out, and we had constantly changing views, with rolling tussac covered hills, scree and mountains coming into and out of view as the clouds passed by. The long walkers passed the lakes and tussac, and moved up onto the slopes of Edda Hill, looking back to incredible views of Godthul on the Northeast and Horseshoe Bay on the Southwest. After a tough scramble up a very solid scree slope, the group disappeared above the clouds and made it to the summit at an elevation of 302 metres.

As we all made our various ways back towards the landing site, the sun almost came out, bringing out the greens and golds of the vegetation, and making everything sparkle a bit in the light mist. st.
Over lunch back on board the Oretellius, we headed a little further down the coast to Ocean Harbour. Once we had our fill of chicken schnitzel, chips and salad, we headed out on deck to watch our arrival to the mouth of the long, narrow bay we planned to cruise and land. Again, the remains of the whaling days were visible, with the wreck of the ship, the Bayard, located near the head of the bay. This vessel had been used as a local carrier, and ran aground during a storm. Made of iron, it is slowly rusting into the sea, but in the meanwhile, the local shag population is taking advantage of it as an excellent nesting site and they have a very large (by local shag standards) population of approximately 80 nests. On shore, there is a rusting train locomotive, as well as quite a bit of old track and a small shed. As we arrived, we discovered that we were not alone, and one of the dog teams that are checking the island for signs of rats was camped on the flat. The team was very welcoming, happy to talk to us about their experiences. So far, they have not found any signs of rats, so the little dog is occasionally rewarded with the smell of a bit of frozen rat to keep him from becoming bored looking for rats that are not be found!

The zodiac cruise around the wreck and along the cliffs was a lot of fun, with a Light-mantled Albatross nest spotted at a distance and a lot of Fur Seals popping in and out of the water around us. It was good to have a rain-free afternoon, though the wind did start to come up while we were off the ship. On shore, we walked towards the wreck and saw some Elephant Seals, and there was also a couple of blond Fur Seal pups on the shore.

Getting back on board was a little more challenging than usual, with a bit of swell at the gangway making the timing of stepping from Zodiac to ship important. But we are all practiced at this now and everybody made the step with no issues. We all had a good day and you could tell in the bar - it was very loud as everybody showed each other photos and talked about their experiences during the day. At recap, we found out how early we would be starting the next day so it was a quick dinner and straight to bed for many of us!

Day 10: Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia

Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia
Date: 11.02.2018
Position: 54°37’S, 035°56’W
Wind: S 2
Air Temperature: +6

Our final day of activities in South Georgia dawned – overcast and drizzling, but the rain certainly wasn’t heavy. In fact the day had only VERY recently dawned when we first got up, since wake-up call was at 5 am…There were pastries in the Bar (thank you DJ), which combined with a cup of coffee helped a lot!

Soon we were at the gangway, watching daylight strengthen over beautiful Gold Harbour. The Bertrab hanging glacier dominated the backdrop of probably our most scenic landing site on South Georgia. The beach was backed by steep tussac-covered slopes and FULL of wildlife of all kinds – Fur Seals yipping and running at us (rather more aggressive than we have so far encountered, so it’s lucky we’re used to them now), Elephant Seals lazily snorting in wallows, Gentoo Penguins parading the beach, skuas and Giant Petrels making sudden descents and wanderings, but the stars of the show today were again King Penguins.

This was our farewell to the King Penguin. How to sum them up? They have a gorgeous, but subtle color scheme of black and blue and orange. They often seem to regard us with eye-blinking/neck-stretching curiosity, splash in and out of the ocean with loud squawks, and march along the beach in twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, quarrelling with flipper-batting regularity. They preen, shake drops of moisture from their beaks and feathers, trumpet their news and views to the heavens, feed the occasional fluffy brown chick, and patiently stand incubating an egg on their feet in the midst of their friends and neighbours. A scene that stretches away like a carpet made of birds. Endlessly fascinating and unforgettable.
Some of the birders bravely followed Martin and Kurtis upward in a quest for Light-mantled Albatross nests high up in the tussac grass. It was a slippery, challenging climb and the homes of these glorious birds did not materialise – but what a view. There was still time to enjoy the beach-life on their return to the beach and then a long de-burring and picking-off-of-grass-seeds session was started before boarding the last zodiac home to Ortelius (where the tubs of Virkon, brushes, fingernails and shower hose finished the job) before our 8:00 am breakfast. We were more than ready for it.

Catching up on sleep would have to wait until this afternoon since we were soon off towards the exposed shores of Cooper Bay to try and find the elusive Macaroni Penguin, which would be the icing on our South Georgia cake. As predicted, the wind speed was rising and our Captain was on the Bridge, focusing intently as we came into position amidst gusts of wind and decreasing visibility. We could make out the shores and rocks of Cooper Bay and the water was alive with penguins – both Macaronis and Chinstraps. , those who ventured out on deck and were wrapped up for the weather were well rewarded with glimpses of these elusive species as they porpoised and dived around the ship – in their element. Through binoculars we could also see the Macaroni rookery itself perched on a rocky part of the cliff face ahead of Ortelius. Captain Ernesto held the ship in position for about 15 minutes before continuing on to our final South Georgia destination - Drygalski Fjord.

This was an extra spot on our itinerary since we had not been able to launch zodiacs at Cooper Bay. We sailed into the Fjord for 45 minutes or so until we sighted the glaciers at its end while we enjoyed skimming Snow Petrels all around us as well as rugged rock faces, waterfalls and patches of lingering snow on towering slopes to either side. Kurtis was on the Bridge to fill us in in terms of geology and glaciology – one side of Drygalski Fjord consists of completely different rocks (as regards both type and age) from the other, so rocks ruled announcements until lunchtime.
Now it really was time to bid South Georgia farewell. We turned our bow towards the open ocean as our buffet lunch opened and we headed for the South Orkney Islands and Antarctica. Ortelius began to move immediately, so we were grateful to finish lunch before the serious stuff began. The best way to tolerate the rocking and rolling of our afternoon’s progress was of course to take a long and well-deserved siesta during the afternoon (we have already packed a whole day of activities into a morning after all!). We emerged at tea time and to watch an excellent documentary movie called ‘Shackleton’s Captain’. This was based on the life of Frank Worsley, especially on his part in the Endurance expedition, and it brought home to us the importance of the other key players in bringing all of Shackleton’s men safely back in one piece. Our admiration for this champion navigator deepened as we watched some of Hurley’s wonderful cine-camera film which brought Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914 - 17 to life.

The Bar was full of passengers celebrating our successful sojourn in South Georgia with a few drinks and a great deal of conversation before Recap. After a brief look at the next few days’ plans with Kurtis, Eduardo told us all about the German (International Polar Year) expedition of 1882 – 83 that came to South Georgia to observe the transit of Venus. Our resident astronomer helped us understand both the significance and the success of this scientific venture. Then Victoria continued the German theme with some nuggets of information on the Drygalski and Filchner expeditions of the early 20th century – expeditions not fully recognized for their scientific contributions because of the contemporaneous growth of extreme German nationalism. Photographer and film-maker Pedro then showed us some of the impressive material he has produced so far.
And so dinner time arrived and with it the knowledge that we can sleep late tomorrow with a sea day ahead of us.

Day 11: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 12.02.2018
Position: 56°52‘S, 038°35‘W
Wind: W 7
Air Temperature: +3

The night before and indeed the bridge had to slow the ship through the night on account of the rough seas. The galley team, undisturbed by the conditions produced us an excellent breakfast as usual before the start of our day.
The birders found a warm perch on the bridge anxious to spot new species as we made our way towards the ice, others occupied themselves sorting out photos or playing cards in the bar. In the morning many of us gathered with Victoria to hear all about the greatest race Antarctica has ever seen - Amundsen and Scott’s epic adventures as they both vied to reach the South Pole. After lunch, Eduardo spoke about some of the science happening around Antarctica and why it is such an important place for research. Later in the afternoon Kurtis took us back in time with a whirlwind 400-million-year history of the Antarctic continent and some of the geology we have been seeing throughout our trip so far and what we expect to see in Antarctica.

The wildlife watchers were rewarded in the afternoon when a pod of Hourglass dolphins made an appearance, spending quite a bit of time playing around the ship giving many people a great viewing.
All in all, we had a very relaxing day and everyone had a moment to start letting the sights, sounds and experiences of South Georgia sink in an experience none of us will soon forget.

Day 12: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 13.02.2018
Position: 59°15‘S, 044°55‘W
Wind: WNW 7
Air Temperature: +3

Today when we woke up, we were still crossing the Scotia Sea. The Scotia Sea is known for its rough waters and when Kurtis made the wake-up call at 07:30, he announced an overcast sky with winds up to 40 kts, not very inspiring to say the least, however this is the typical weather conditions for this area of the world.

Our ship was making about 10 kts, rolling, pitching and plowing against the wind and the swell. The waves had white foam on top of their crests and despite that the ocean looking so hostile for us, there were still many birds apparently impervious to the conditions such as Antarctic Prions, Wandering Albatross and Cape Petrels and White-chinned Petrels. They kept on flying around us throughout the day and accompanying the ship on its way south.

In the morning Victoria gave an excellent lecture about the Antarctic Treaty. The Antarctic Treaty is the legal instrument that regulates all the activities done in Antarctica by the signatories of the treaty. Together with the protocols annexed, signed and ratified by the signatory nations, it declares Antarctica as a place devoted to peace and science, prohibiting for example the introduction and test of any type of weapon, or prohibiting commercial extraction of its resources. The treaty was signed during the cold war and is a true jewel of diplomacy. To this day it has endured and continues to provide protection for Antarctica and the wild ocean that surrounds it.

In the afternoon we had two more talks. The first one, given by Kurtis, was about the Oceanography of the Southern Ocean. In his talk he discussed in detail the circulation of water around Antarctica and how this allows for the transportation of cold water with high nutrient content and high salinity into the depths of the ocean and how later, this cold deep water mixes with less dense, more warm water creating the global circulation of water around the world.
The second talk was given by Daniel, and it was devoted to Adelie Penguins. In his talk he related his first hand experiences dealing with these birds during his stay at the French Station Dumont D'Urville. Adelie and Emperor Penguins are the only two species of true Antarctic Penguins, i.e. penguins that live their whole lives in Antarctica. He focused his talk in the reproductive and foraging habits. The talk was full of anecdotes and curious facts about the Adelies and concluded with interesting reflections on how global warming can affect these birds.

After dinner, we were shown the second part of the documentary from BBC titled Britain’s Whale Catchers, a sad but revealing film that describes the rise and fall of the whaling industry as well as the lives and places in which whalers used to work in South Georgia.

The end of the day was dark and foggy among the rough conditions of the Scotia Sea

Day 13: At Sea towards Antarctica

At Sea towards Antarctica
Date: 14.02.2018
Position: 61°28‘S, 052°05‘W
Wind: NW 5
Air Temperature: +2

The morning dawned surprisingly early. Now that we had sailed so far South, the days are much longer, and sunrise was at 5:00, so most of us got up long after the sun! The air temperature was only 2 degrees C, and water temperature right at freezing - we were definitely getting closer to Antarctica. Sea conditions were not too bad, we started with a moderate swell, but there was still some movement of the ship, which did increase over the course of the day.
After breakfast, Kurtis gave us a great talk all about glacier ice and icebergs - but moved it up to the bar for comfort. With cups of tea and coffee in hand, we learned about the Antarctic ice sheets and how icebergs are formed.
By lunchtime, the weather had picked up, and we were in near gale force winds with rough to very rough seas. With 30+ knots of wind, the outer decks were closed for our safety. This sent many of us to the bridge so that we could watch the bird life that was enjoying the blustery conditions. We had four types of albatross: Wandering, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled, as well as many of the smaller seabirds and two rorqual whale species over the course of the day.

After lunch many of us had a little southern siesta, but were happy to be roused by Daniel. He spoke on Biomimicry in the Polar Regions, a fascinating field where observation of the natural world helps us with more efficient, effective and ecologically sound design. Afternoon tea was - as usual - very popular, as was Martin's talk on krill, the Antarctic's main source of energy. These tough little crustaceans drive a very big ocean, and feed some very big animals! We also learned a bit about the seal species found in Antarctica, who survive in a very tough environment.

In the evening, DJ, Sava and Head Chef Kabhir, produced a special Antarctic Valentine's Day dinner for us, complete with sparkling wine and beautiful pastry plates for desert. So many of us took our time over the meal that we had to delay the start of the evening entertainment, which was the movie "Happy Feet", complete with fresh popcorn and soft drinks provided by our hard working Hotel Team.
All in all, it was a great day, full of relaxation and learning, and we were all happy, rested and excited to reach Antarctica tomorrow.

Day 14: Esperanza Station & Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula

Esperanza Station & Brown Bluff, Antarctic Sound,  Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 15.02.2018
Position: 63°23‘S, 056°59‘W
Wind: WSW 4
Air Temperature: +4

The sun rose on our first day in Antarctica. For the early birds, before breakfast we could see the profile of D’Urville Island. We then entered the Antarctic Sound, and quickly moved into Hope Bay, where the Argentinian station of Esperanza (“hope” in Spanish) is situated. The weather was amazing, sunny and no wind. We landed on a tiny beach because the pier was occupied by Adélie Penguins chicks and a it was a bit too high at low tide too. We were welcomed by the newly arrived station personnel, who kindly designated 3 guides for us. Our Argentinian guides were seconded by Eduardo, Véronique and Daniel who provided their talent as translators. We learned that the station was soon expecting the arrival of spouses and kids of the personnel currently on the base in time for the start of the school year at the beginning of March, which coincides with the schedule of schools in the province of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Thirteen kids ranging from 1 1/2 to 17 years old will be arriving and will be in school together for a year in Antarctica. The station is famous for having had the first kid born in Antarctica, but the kids that will be arriving are belong to the personnel working on the base. Our visit started by visiting the stone refuge built by the three men of the Nordenskjold expedition who ended up surviving 8 month there in 1903. Many of us pondered about surviving an Antarctic winter in this stone hut that was no higher than 1.5m, on a stony beach, surrounded only by penguins…

We then had a look at the “open air museum”, a collection of sledges, vehicles and other artefacts of the station’s history since 1952 and then the indoor museum where we found a collection of stuffed birds from the hope bay, the sled used for the first Argentinian going to the South Pole, and an assortment of various objects that were difficult to identify or understand why they were in the museum! We then visited the school where the teacher gave us a warm welcome and a speech describing the school from kindergarten to secondary school. The secondary schooling will be done online directly with teachers in Buenos Aires. We were allowed to stroll in the classes that were in their final stages of preparation for the incoming arrival of the kids. Finally we had a quick look at the small chappel dedicated to St Francis of Assisis before joining others in our group for some biscuits and juice, and perhaps buying some souvenirs. Outside of the station, we enjoyed view of beach at low tide covered in ice floes, one hosting a leopard seal, and lots of Adélie and Gentoo Penguins chicks. Meanwhile, the birding group was treated to a Zodiac cruise where they enjoyed a lots of hunting leopard seals and wildlife in Hope Bay behind the station.

We enjoyed another excellent lunch on our way to Brown Bluff, a few miles down on the eastern side of the Antarctic Sound right at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. On our arrival, the weather was still quite beautiful, sunny and no wind, but the concentration of gowlers and bits of ice along the coast prevented the ship from moving close enough for a landing so we opted for a zodiac cruise. The ice bits and large majestic icebergs were everywhere and there were four species of seal (Fur Seal, Weddel Seal, Crabeater Seal and Leopard Seal) found during the cruises plus many were treated to an elusive humpback whale playing around the strips of drifting debris ice. In the distance the layers of periglacial volcano ash layers of Brown Bluff were clearly visible with an alternance of black and rusty colours.

After returning to the ship and enjoying various hot liquids (tea, soup and showers), we were treated to another one of Kabir’s dinners while the ship headed slightly north and then southwest, along the coast of the Peninsula on its way to our second day of discovery in Antarctica.

Day 15: Mikkelsen Harbour & Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula

Mikkelsen Harbour & Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 16.02.2018
Position: 63°54‘S, 060°47‘W
Wind: ENE 3
Air Temperature: +2

Our second day in Antarctica proper also saw us reaching our furthest point south - 63°54‘S. It seems to be our pattern for this trip that we should have glorious sunny weather interspersed with occasional morning drizzle. And so it was raining when we left the ship after breakfast and headed to a tiny island in Mikkelsen Harbour which is surrounded by a huge glaciated Antarctic vista.

We were greeted by Fur Seals, a beach full of whale bones, and the skeletons of several water boats left from the whaling industry of the early twentieth century. Red poles marked our challenging route over the top of the small island to the opposite side. There were patches of penguin guano and patches of crusted snow where it was easy to sink in or alternately easy to to slide! After a fair amount of concentration on our trail we reached the opposite beach. Along the path and at the end of the trail we were surrounded by slightly soggy Gentoo Penguins, mainly chicks in the final stages of fledging. Sometimes they approached us which made for great photos.

enough the rain stopped and the light brightened. There was plenty of penguin activity going on – hungry chicks chasing adults (who may or may not have been their parents) demanding food, other chicks pecking at each other experimentally, a few confused adults trying to build nests with pebbles (wrong time of year!), and a number of individuals moulting, patiently waiting until new feathers had replaced the old and they could head out to sea again. There were even a few newly-formed courting couples, getting a head-start on next season’s relationship! At our end of the island was a bright red/orange Argentine emergency refuge hut. It was surrounded by penguins, one of whom appeared to be standing on the back step waiting to be let in. There was some space on this little beach to spread out and enjoy the views, the wildlife (skuas were also in evidence), and the daily routines of the Antarctic world.

After a pleasant morning we returned to Ortelius for lunch and a short rest. Our officers and crew took us to our next stopping point in Cierva Cove. This is a favourite spot for zodiac cruising (no landings are allowed as the area is reserved for scientific study by the personnel of the nearby Argentine Prima Vera Base). We found a variety of wildlife in the waters in the cove, not to mention being surrounded by an incredibly beautiful rock-and-ice-landscape and icebergs in all shapes and sizes.

We were out for over two hours and it was a wind-free, sunny afternoon – absolutely perfect for being out and about in Antarctica. Ten zodiacs loaded up at the gangway and headed out to see what we could find and we found plenty! Amidst good-humoured repartee and a lot of photography, the zodiac drivers paused to give us time to enjoy all the major sights available all while imparting information about the ice and the animals and always willing to answer any questions, from simple to complex. During the course of the afternoon from the zodiacs we saw large, tabular icebergs in the process of tilting, turning and melting; smooth, white icebergs, blue, jagged icebergs, an amazing iceberg arch, combinations of dirty and transparent ice, and bergy bits in a huge variety of forms. Small, clear chunks of ice were lifted into our zodiac to be admired and tasted (very refreshing!). Then there was the wildlife. Chinstrap Penguins on one shore; Gentoo Penguins cascading into the ocean in front of Prima Vera Base, seabirds swooping through the air and a diving Blue-eyed Shag; seals and penguins in the water, and most magical of all - two logging (sleeping at the surface) Humpback Whales, with their regular blows, fins and backs steadily breaking the air, and then sinking back beneath the sea.

We were back on board around 5 pm, looking forward to a hot drink and editing our many photos! There was just time to sample ‘sweet of the day’ after changing clothes and soon it was time for our daily Recap & Briefing. We were eager to hear what Cheryl had to say about our last day of activities. It seems we will attempt to cram an awful lot in tomorrow, beginning with a 4.30 am wake-up call at Deception Island and ending with a polar plunge just before lunch! Many of the staff had things to say too. Victoria regaled us enthusiastically with the history of Deception Island (whaling, flying and scientific). Kurtis explained why ice can be blue. Lynn talked of sea ice and weather (including wind speeds) and Eduardo spoke of an important historic transit-of-Venus observation. We all headed to dinner as we sailed into the Bransfield Strait and headed for the South Shetland Islands. We went to bed early in order to get enough sleep to fuel our early start on the approach to Deception Island tomorrow.

Day 16: Deception Island & Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands

Deception Island & Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 17.02.2018
Position: 62°43‘S, 059°55‘W
Wind: SW 5
Air Temperature: +3

Yesterday Cheryl had warned us at the recap, “be careful what you wish for… “ We had wished for Deception Island and we were going to see Deception Island… the trick was that the tour would start at 4:30 am!

So there we were, all (most?) of us up at 4:30, gazing at Neptune’s Bellows. Not that the King of all Seas suddenly decided to show up and present us his belly… it’s just the name of the very narrow pass that allows a ship to enter the sunken caldera of Deception Island, one of the only four places in the world where you can sail in to a caldera. After we passed by the high cliffs on both sides of the ship, we looped into Whalers Bay, a semi-circular ‘notch’ on the east side of the island, where the old whaling station was located which subsequently became a station of the British Antarctic Survey. This site includes a number of oil tanks, buildings, and the plane hangar that was use for the first flights over the peninsula and to the South Pole. From Whaler’s Bay we could see Neptune’s Window, the opening into the high eastern cliff of the island where you can see the peninsula on clear days. This is the place where Nathaniel Palmer stood in 1820 and saw the peninsula, thinking he was the first to see Antarctica. It turned out that Bellingshausen, and then Smith and Bransfield 3 days later, had actually spied the continent about 10 month before Palmer peered through the window on Deception.

We then did a long round along the shore of the caldera, the volcano’s crater, marvelling at the cliffs, sometime of volcanic stone but also of ice. There were glaciers still there, hidden under a layer of volcanic ash that made them look like normal hills and slopes. We then made our way back through Neptune’s Bellows again after cruising past the Argentinian and Spanish stations inside the island. We were once again on the outside of Deception Island after a tour of about two hours.

Setting course to the northeast, we followed the south coast of Livingston Island before turning into Moon Bay, where we anchored just off of Half Moon Island. As the name suggests, the island has the shape of a crescent moon and we anchored right in the middle of it. To our east was another Argentinian station - Camara. To our south was the landing beach were we were greeted by lots of Chinstrap Penguins, quite a few male Fur Seals, and a young Elephant Seal. The paths delineated by our guides took us to a beach on the other side of the island facing the impressive glacier and ice cliffs of Livingston Island to the south. The other path led to a particular Chinstrap colony where a lonely Macaroni Penguin was moulting after spending the entire season hoping for a mate to appear. This particular Macaroni Penguin has been named Kevin. For a number of years Kevin has come to this colony of Chinstrap Penguins. He finds himself a spot to spend the summer and patiently waits for a mate to show up. He may be waiting for a while because the next macaroni penguin colony is probably in South Georgia, some 800 nautical miles away.
There are many theories regarding why Kevin is here. Some theorize that Kevin is some kind of Scott or Amundsen of the penguins and he has ventured further south than any of his peers and maybe claiming the peninsula for the Macaroni Kingdom. Others feel that he maybe an offspring of a pioneering pair of Macaronis that bred here one year and Kevin is just demonstrating the tendency of penguins to return to their birthplace when they are in age to start breeding. Finally others surmise that he is just lost and does not care. He has found it spot and is going to stay there patiently waiting for someone like him to come along one of these days.

Before leaving the Island, some of us had the courage to go for one last adventure and experience the waters of Antarctica as penguins and seals do - by diving in head first and feeling the cold water all over your plumage – sorry, your fur - sorry, your bare skin! The Polar Plunge they call it. Nearly 30 of us dared to take a dip in the water. We were helped in our resolution by the sunny, almost windless beginning of the afternoon at the end of the our landing time. The pebbles on the beach were not cold to the feet. The air was fresh but quite ok even in swimwear. But DIA (Dis is Antarctica!) and the waters in which we plunged were still at 0°C (around 32°F), prevented from freezing only by their high content in salt. Antarctic Coastal water temperatures can get down to -1.8°C, the limit at which the sea ice forms, and remain that cold for months on end. We shouted, frantically waived our arms, and went out after an average of about 20 seconds in the water! But we did it!

Shortly after that we were all back on board, and our beloved Ortelius sailed again, northeast along Greenwich and Robert Island and then into Nelson Strait. By this time everybody was back on the deck, looking around and saying goodbye to the Antarctic with last pictures and last long looks at the monumental ice caps of the islands around, and soon behind us. The Drake welcomed us with quite a bit of swell, and wind, reminding everyone that we were still well under 60° South in one of the windiest and waviest places of all the of the world’s oceans! In the afternoon after the last observation of Antarctica had vanished behind the ship the pitching of the ship calmed down a little and we were treated with a lecture from John about Leaving and Working in Antarctica.

Day 17: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 18.02.2018
Position: 59°49‘S, 061°57‘W
Wind: S 4
Air Temperature: +3

After leaving the South Shetland Islands, we set course for Tierra del Fuego where we begain our journey over two weeks ago. We sailed over a region that was up to 200 m deep as we left the archipelago. Overnight we started to enter the deepest parts of the Drake Passage, a region known as the South Shetland trench which reaches a depth of up to 5500 m below sea level. We crossed over other features such as the Shackleton Fracture Zone and the West Scotia Fracture zone as the day progressed. This was done under very good sailing conditions although with mostly overcast skies. By the end of the day we were sailing over the Yagan Basin, a smooth abysal basin 4500 m deep that dominates the depths of the Drake Passage. Weather conditions continued to improve and we enjoyed the great weather. We had very little swell and the ship was quite stable among the waves.

Our penultimate day was packed with activities onboard. In the morning, Victoria gave a great lecture about the Aurora Expedition, the obscure story of Shackleton's men who were trapped in the ice for over one Antarctic winter at the Ross Sea. This expedition is also known as the Ross Sea Party and was intended to set up supplies for the ill-fated Antarctic traverse of proposed by Shackleton. They were finally rescued with the loss of 3 men after waiting for Shackleton for a year.
After lunch Daniel, one of our biologists, gave an original video presentation narrating his experiences as penguin researcher at the French Antarctic Station Dumont D'Urville in East Antarctica. He described the life at the base as well as the science and techniques used by his colleagues to undertake science in this isolated Antarctic outpost. His presentation was full of anecdotes and experiences combined with music from the 80's and 90's.

Then in the late afternoon we had a small panel about Global Warming. We had presentations from Eduardo, Kurtis, Daniel, Martin and Sergio, one of our guests. Eduardo talked about what global warming is and how our atmosphere has reached thermal equilibrium. He explained about the importance of ice on the surface of the earth and how it acts as a thermal regulator reflecting large quantities of radiation back to space thus preventing the earth from overheating. Then Kurtis gave an excellent description about the scientific evidence we have about the thermal history of the atmosphere. He also mentioned that the mean temperature of the Earth is currently above any maximum observed or registered in the past and that present records show that the ice in West Antarctica, as well as the Arctic Ice, are decreasing at an alarming rate. He showed that our planet has been warming at an alarming rate since 1950. Martin spoke about how this warming is affecting the most basic forms of life and how this is going to affect the food chain of our world. Dainel mentioned some statistical data about the probabilities of the models for long term weather forecasts. Sergio gave a eloquent explanation of how the tourist industry is producing large quantities of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, mainly due to the large numbers of passengers that travel using different means of transportation.

This evening we had our daily re-cap. In addition, after another wonderful dinner, we had a quiz about our trip in the Bar. The competion consisted of 45 questions written by all our staff members, split into 5 categories, Falklands and South Georgia Islands, Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, Our Ship Ortelius and Photo-Audio Questions. The quiz was hosted by John and we all had a good time trying to figure out the answers to questions like “how much cheese was served on the cheesboard during the course of our voyage?” The first and second place teams were named "The wandering sea pigeon at 2:30" and the "Spagueti Pinguin”.

Day 18: At Sea, Drake Passage

At Sea, Drake Passage
Date: 19.02.2018
Position: 56°19‘S, 066°52‘W
Weather: W6
Air Temperature: +7

The Oceanwide flag on the bow of the Ortellius continued to lead the ship north throughout most of the morning. Sea conditions and wind picked up a bit from the previous day and by the time we found ourselves just off Cape Horn late in the moring, the wind had picked up considerably. Because we had made such good time across the Drake Passage, we were able to detour from our intended route back to Ushuaia a bit.
We all enjoyed seeing Cape Horn where we observed the memorial to all the sailors who perished while rounding the Horn in the distance. The memorial is a sculpture composed of two offset triangular metal plates that when viewed from the south produce the distinctive silhouette of an albatross. The following poem by the Chilean poet Sara Vial is inscribed on the sculpture –

I am the albatross
that waits for you
at the end of the Earth.

I am the forgotten soul
of the dead sailors
who crossed Cape Horn
form all the seas of the world.

But they did not die
in the furious waves.

Today they fly in my wings
to Eternity
in the last trough
of the Antarctic wind.

We also enjoyed seeing many Black-browed Albatrosses and Sooty and Great Shearwates manouvering around the ship during the day. We were entertained by Victoria and Eduardo one last time. Victoria provided a review of Mermaids in martime history and Eduardo expanded our knowledge of Ferdinand Magellan. We also were able to watch the short film about one of the last square-rigged sailing ships to make the journey around the Horn. A couple of pods of Peal’s Dolphins even stopped by for a visit as we slowly made our way to the mouth of Beagle Channel to pick up our pilot who will guide the ship the rest of the way through the channel and to Ushuaia early tomorrow morning.

Day 19: Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 20.02.2018
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: 3186 Nautical Miles

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


Tripcode: OTL29-18
Dates: 2 Feb – 20 Feb, 2018
Duration: 18 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Fortified for both poles of the planet, the ice-strengthened Ortelius is thoroughly outfitted to provide you an up-close experience of the Arctic and Antarctic.

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