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OTL29-24, trip log, Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Date: 02.02.2024
Position: 54°53.7’S / 067°43.9’W
Wind: SE-4/5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

Having explored the sights of Ushuaia, the Southernmost city in the world, we began arriving at the pier to embark on the MV Ortelius, which would be our home for the next twenty days. We were welcomed on board and shown to our cabins. We then gathered in the lecture room for our mandatory safety briefing and practiced a general alarm with Chief Officer Sven. Once that was done, we were invited to the bar to toast to the voyage with Captain Per and to meet the Expedition Leader Sara and the Expedition Team. We then had a buffet dinner as we got to know our fellow passengers. After dinner we watched the mandatory IAATO briefing and the mandatory zodiac safety briefing so that we could make the most of our travels in a safe way and know how to have a minimal impact on the pristine landscapes we would be travelling to. We then had free time to enjoy the views as we sailed through the Beagle Channel where we could see black-browed albatrosses and giant petrels soaring around us, and Magellanic penguins bobbing in the water. After days of travelling, we went to bed early to catch up on sleep and to get ready for our adventures to come!

Day 2: At Sea, towards the Falkland Islands

At Sea, towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 03.02.2024
Position: 53°54.5’S / 063°35.4’W
Wind: SW-6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

Wow what an eventful day yesterday was, boarding the magnificent Ortelius. Last night we had some much-needed sleep and today we felt bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for the next three weeks of adventures in the Southern Ocean. After filling up on a huge breakfast we were called to the lecture room to collect our rubber muck boots. These would now be the new home for our feet for these 19 days and something we would get well used to when leaving the ship to board the zodiacs. At 10:30 we had our ‘wildlife watch’ activity outside and amazingly as the sun sparkled on the ocean two groups of Long Finned Pilot Whales swam over to the ship. We watched in awe as they powered through the waves. Then ‘the bird man’ Simon enlightened us with information on which bird species we may see in the Falklands, as we were arriving there tomorrow, and we needed to get prepared!

We piled our plates high with lunch and cheese at midday, and then some of us had a quick power nap which was followed by a fascinating talk from Jess on the Whales and Dolphins in the Southern Ocean. As the day rolled on, we started to get into ship life, but unfortunately for some the seas became too much and we were a little seasick. To take our minds off it, Sara gave us a lecture on Photography which only made us stare in awe at her beautiful photographs.

At 18:15 at recap we had the plans for tomorrow followed by Andres talking about seasickness and Ben telling us facts about the ship. As the day grew older the light became less and less as the sun started to set. This meant the sky grew bright orange and Giant Petrels flew around the ship making stunning silhouettes. The third meal of the day; dinner was the best so far, a 3-course plated meal fit for a king, we chatted and only wondered what might await us tomorrow at West Point Island at 06:00.

Day 3: West Point Island and Carcass Island, The Falklands

West Point Island and Carcass Island, The Falklands
Date: 04.02.2024
Position: 51°20.5’S / 060°35.4’W
Wind: NW 8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +11

We awoke to equal amounts of excitement and trepidation; excitement for our first operation of the trip and trepidation over the weather warnings for the day. While it was breezy the sheltered landing site at West Point Island offered a wonderful calm oasis for us to land and enjoy the first morning. The excitement took over as we arrived at the jetty in the Zodiacs and we were faced by a fine array of Falkland Islands birdlife with Night Herons, Blackish and Magellanic Oystercatchers, Tussock birds, and Falkland Flightless Steamer Ducks on view as soon as our feet touched land, all watched over by inquisitive Striated Caracaras. It was a hard job to tear ourselves away from this spectacle up the hill towards the main event of the morning! As we walked up and over the hills in front of us more birdlife came to greet us including Long-tailed Meadowlarks, Dark-faced Ground Tyrants, Upland Geese and Turkey Vultures. It was a bird-filled paradise through which we roved on the way to an even more impressive destination.

As we approached the other side of the island we still couldn’t really see what we were here for but as we casually strolled down a slope through head-high Tussock Grass, slowly but surely loud, ecstatic bird calls could be heard just in front of us and at the very last minute as we poked our heads through the long grass our senses were assaulted by the sounds, sights and smells of a busy, fantastic Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguin colonies.

It was incredible to watch as just meters in front of us fluffy Rockhopper chicks milled around in big, noisy gangs waiting to be fed by their parents and the far more sedate white but equally fluffy Albatross chicks sat peacefully in their nests, also waiting for the return of their food-laden parents whilst gazing bemusedly at the antics of the raucous Penguins. There were two viewing areas where we marveled at the albatross soaring in the air and landing with a bump at their nest sites.

Too soon we had to drag ourselves away from this incredible place and walk back over the hills towards the jetty, but it wasn’t home-time yet as the inhabitants of the island had produced a sensational spread of cakes along with lashings of tea and coffee which we all enjoyed in the beautiful sheltered English countryside-style garden as the smells of the guano covered colony were replaced by the Honeysuckle in full bloom. The morning concluded with a thrilling Zodiac journey out of the calm waters of the bay into the windswept open ocean where Ortelius was anchored allowing the staff to show off their impressive driving skills.

The planned landing at Carcass Island in the afternoon was in the balance right up until go time as the wind had increased but again some confident and skillful maneuverings from the Captain, Expedition staff and AB’s allowed us to make a landing at the sheltered jetty by the settlement on Carcass Island.

A brilliant afternoon followed, consisting of tracking down the endemic Cobb’s Wrens as they foraged on the beaches and getting point-blank views of the full spread of the other Falkland Islands specialty birds with Tussock birds feeding around our feet, Magellanic Penguins coming and going, some wonderfully confiding Magellanic Snipe amongst far too many other encounters to list here! The word came through though that the wind was increasing, and we had to leave the island quickly through even rougher seas with some even more impressive driving skills and the supreme confidence of the AB’s at the gangway gave us a day to remember!

Day 4: Stanley, The Falkland Islands

Stanley, The Falkland Islands
Date: 05.02.2024
Position: 51°41.3’S / 057°51.4’W
Wind: SW7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +12

Good morning, good morning, good morning!

It was a really moving night. Waves crashed against the hull, wind howling through the rigging. Passengers are advised to stay in their cabins for safety. Despite the turbulent weather, the ship's crew and our Captain Per managed to keep us on course, navigating through the storm with expertise.

The storm began to subside, the waves calmed as we approached Port Stanley. Lightning flashed in the distance, illuminating the silhouette of Chinese fishing ships, coming to the Falklands for the squid fishing season, navigating through the rough seas. The first light of dawn broke over the horizon, casting a golden hue across the water. The storm clouds dissipated, replaced by clear blue skies.

We docked at Stanley Port, greeted by the warmth of the morning sun. It was a great day to visit. We went to the Post Office to send postcards home, the gin distillery, famous for its Kelp gin, the souvenir shops, and the fantastic museum.

We also admired the typical colorful houses and the historic church. We bought the local newspaper, penguin news, with a full front page about the Falklands football team visiting Chile. We also did a beautiful walk over the coastline on the way back. Our guide Chloe, a true biology expert, joined us as we waited on the jetty for the zodiacs to shuttle us back. We gazed down into the water at the big, long brown algae and Chloe told us about the importance of kelp in the ecosystem of the port. We learnt about the intricate relationship between the kelp forests and the diverse marine life they support. Our guide shared fascinating insights into the role of kelp in maintaining the health of the coastal ecosystem.

We then returned to our beloved ship Ortelius, every day feeling more like our home.

After that, we gathered at the ship's bar for a mandatory briefing. The atmosphere was lively as passengers shared stories of their adventures and experiences during the rough night and the day in Stanley.

At night the mood became even more festive as our Expedition Guide Andres unleashed their creativity, drawing sketches of the breathtaking scenery we encountered during our journey. The bartender concocted specialty drinks inspired by the flavours of the sea, adding to the sense of camaraderie among the passengers.

As the night wore on, laughter filled the air as we continued to bond over shared experiences and newfound friendships. The aim is now the amazing South Georgia.

Day 5: At sea, towards South Georgia

At sea, towards South Georgia
Date: 06.02.2024
Position: 52°33.2’S / 050°27.8W
Wind: NE6
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +9

What a wonderful day to wake up to – relatively calm seas and full sunshine, with the whole day to spend time on deck, enjoying shearwaters, petrels and albatrosses, that followed the Ortelius from time to time – and share stories and experiences with all the other Antarctic seafarers.

Not long after our breakfast Expedition Guide Charlotte gave us a presentation all about the fascinating seal species we can see on our journey. Her talk was interrupted because we had the privilege of seeing a single Southern Right Whale swimming by, recognizable by its “double blow” and callosities on the head – the unique form of the latter giving each whale its own personal “fingerprint”.

Twice during the day, a group of Hourglass Dolphins came close enough to the ship to let us enjoy their beautiful black and white patterns, while they playfully danced in the clear blue ocean.

Many passengers came by the bridge to enjoy the view, talk to the officers and get some details on all the information seen on all the screens, radars and dials – and a perfect place to rehearse the skills in identifying the penguins, albatrosses and sea mammals we have seen – and will see on our expedition.

In the afternoon Expedition Guide Ben gave a lecture all about whaling in the 1950’s and afterwards Expedition Guide Jens gave a talk all about Shackleton’s incredible expedition on Endurance to the icy continent.

In the late afternoon we were approaching the Convergence Zone. The Antarctic Convergence is an invisible ocean boundary where the cold waters of the Antarctic meet the relatively warmer waters and this line runs all around the Antarctic continent. Thick mist replaced the sunshine – but gave us time to start cleaning our boots and outer layers, preparing for the biosecurity check that must be done prior to our landings at South Georgia.

After the recap and “plan for tomorrow”- including the weather forecast – it was time for the delicious dinner in the dining room. Since the weather didn’t offer any opportunities for stargazing, our warm and cozy bar was the perfect place to have a popcorn movie night with the Shackleton story and enjoy a drink and a chat with our newfound friends.

Day 6: At sea, towards South Georgia

At sea, towards South Georgia
Date: 07.02.2024
Position: 53°31.5’S / 042°14.3’W
Wind: N8
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +7

Early this wonderful morning we were woken by the thrilling sounds of the ships’ fire alarm. Was there a fire? A secret cabin smoker or a chef brûlée at work? Luckily not, after a split second our chief officer informed us that it was a false alarm.

As if she was standing on the bridge already, we soon heard Sarah’s soft gentle voice glide down our cabins. Just to let us know we were more than welcome to wake up for a bright new day! The PA system had a busy morning as Volodymir followed shortly after to inform us about a delicious breakfast waiting for us in the restaurant. Time to get cracking!

Today was a sea day, meaning we had the opportunity to get skilled in walking as a drunk man on land while Ortelius kept on rolling on the relentless ocean of waves. It was a gentle roll this time, not as vigorous as we had experienced two days ago. To expedition team kept us entertained with all sorts of interesting lectures during the day.

Chloe’s started off with a mesmerizing talk about plankton. Her love and passion were clearly present, especially as she made it clear that the lecture could be regarded as mandatory. Latecomers were frowned upon and were lucky to enter the class. On a serious note, it was a most interesting presentation, who knew plankton was such a diverse and fascinating subject.

Julian then gave us a talk about the geology of South Georgia, where there are some fascinating rock formations.

Shortly after lunch something came into sight. Both visually and in smell. The Shag Rocks appeared out of the dense fog. The triangular rugged rocks veered out of the wild ocean as a row of giant sharks’ teeth. The shag colony breeding on the rocky cliffs were the only animals able to get a foothold on the steep basalt formation. As the ship steered near, we could definitely smell that it was not a small colony living there.

Later that day Sara had a lecture about the Penguins of the Antarctic and the sub–Antarctic Islands.

There is no high without a low. Adventures included. In the afternoon we were called deck by deck into the lecture room. The spacious room turned into an inspection area for all our clothing. All staff members were to check our fabrics and shoes we were planning to use on land. Since South Georgia is such an unspoiled natural area it is absolutely forbidden to bring along possible seeds, bacteria, or spores into the area. A good rub with the vacuum cleaner was therefore necessary, from hat to shoe.

Later Sara provided us with information about tomorrow’s activities. It seems we will have an exciting first day on South Georgia, let’s hope we can get ashore and see the king penguin. But first, dinner!

Day 7: Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay
Date: 08.02.2024
Position: 54°05.6’S / 036°41.5’W
Wind: NW8
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +8

Today we woke up to the sound of Sara’s voice at 07:15 and she informed us that after herself and Chloe inspected Fortuna Bay it was safe for landing! Yes, this was excellent news, as weather conditions and the Avian Flu have made landings at South Georgia a rare occurrence. We boarded the zodiacs in groups of 10 and were met by Sara at the beach for our briefing. There was already a bit of swell at the beach, so we had to be quick in exiting the zodiac. Immediately we were welcomed by King Penguins and Fur Seals in and out of the water, wow. There was unique wildlife everywhere. The staff had set out a route with the poles, so we followed that all the way to the colony of 12,000 King penguins. There were so many amazing animals and beautiful scenery to stop and look at on the way, whether it was a small group of molting penguins, a very cute Fur Seal pup, and an aggressive male trying to assert his dominance, it was all go go go at Fortuna Bay! The bird watchers of the group were very happy to also have excellent views of the South Georgia Pipit. But it was spectacular, it is hard to put into words how incredible this place looked, even the thousands of photos we must have taken collectively did not do it justice.

By Mid-morning the wind and swell started to pick up even more, so we had to head back to the landing site because we had to evacuate. There were only 3 drivers shuttling, we had to be in groups ready at the beach to quickly jump in the zodiac because big waves were crashing on the beach. We made it back to the ship safe and sound, a little soggy from the rain, but with huge smiles on our faces from the spectacle we had just witnessed.

We warmed up with soup and hash browns as the ship re-positioned to Hercules Bay. The wind was pumping to 50 knots and the swell was huge, so unfortunately, we could not do a zodiac cruise, but it was amazing to see the colony of Macaroni Penguins on the rocks. We then made our way around to Stromness, Leith and Husvik to see the remains of the old whaling stations, and we could view them from the ship. It was very impressive seeing these stations which were once a hive of activity, killing and processing so many whales in the 20th Century.

At 17:00 we had to do biosecurity again in preparation for our inspection at Grytviken the following day. We meticulously picked out any little pieces of sand, mud, or vegetation that could potentially impact the delicate ecosystem here in South Georgia. This was shortly followed by the daily recap where Sara told us the plans for tomorrow. Charlotte and Sara also gave us some more information about the beautiful king penguins that we had been admiring during the day, we learnt about their unique breeding cycle and their vocalizations. We had a delicious dinner which finished off the day very nicely.

Day 8: Grytviken and Godthul

Grytviken and Godthul
Date: 09.02.2024
Position: 54°13.8’S / 036°18.2’W
Wind: NW9
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

We arrived at Grytviken, the home of the South Georgia Government and British Antarctic Survey base at King Edward Point early in the morning. Instead of the benign conditions and light winds that the forecast suggested, we were greeted with the now familiar strong winds sweeping down from the hills above the whaling station and threatening skies. The conditions were too much for our initial timings, but a short wait produced a slight drop in the windspeed, enough for Chloe to venture out and collect the government officer from King Edward Point to come onboard and undertake the biosecurity checks and immigration checks for our landing.

The staff went ashore to set up the landing site whilst the wonderful passengers scored a perfect 100% in the biosecurity examinations but unfortunately the wind picked back up and soon became beyond our operational limits – even the government officer who was still onboard was contemplating being stuck here! Luckily for him we managed to get him back home in a little weather-window a short while later but unluckily for us it was not enough for us to resume our plans and we were left with distant views of the whaling station, the base at King Edward Point and the cemetery housing the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

We weren’t, however, deterred by this setback and were soon planning our afternoon activities, trying to find that sheltered bay or little calm weather window and it soon presented itself in a little bay called Godthul. It was a fine site, a calm spot, surrounded by steep, tussock encrusted hillsides echoing with the sounds of a rich South Georgian ecosystem.

We landed on a small beach with all the classic ingredients of another awe-inspiring afternoon ahead of us; King Penguins calling to each other, Fur Seal pups playing in the surf, Elephant Seals grunting and grumbling in the grass, South Georgia Pipits foraging along the tideline and flocks of South Georgia Pintails wheeling around the bay. If the beach was the spectacle, then the walk up through the Tussock Grass was the adventure with every step further into the maze of vegetation filled with uncertainty, at risk any second of being mauled by some fearsome beast as it leapt out at us!

When the angry, growling monster hidden in the grass did reveal itself though it was nearly always a small Fur Seal pup, equal parts angry and curious at our disruption to its routine of playing, sleeping and suckling! Fur Seal pups are seemingly born super-feisty! After we had braved the Tussock-jungle and not been savaged by the vicious little pretend Sea-otters we followed the ‘path’ miraculously found by the perseverance of the Assistant Expedition Leader Chloe up to the picturesque Gentoo Penguin colony overlooking the bay – a fine conclusion to another expedition-style day, full of highs and lows, wonderment and disappointment combining to create an emotional rollercoaster!

Day 9: St Andrew’s Bay and Ocean Harbour

St Andrew’s Bay and Ocean Harbour
Date: 10.02.2024
Position: 54°15.5’S / 036°11.3’W
Wind: W6/11
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

At 5am we started the day at Saint Andrews with an early morning Zodiac cruising expedition, despite the rainy and cold weather. We witnessed the awe-inspiring sight of approximately 300 thousand penguins, creating a mesmerizing spectacle against the backdrop of the South Georgia landscape. We saw young elephant seals play fighting on the beach and we could here the calls of male, female, and juvenile king penguins. It was cold and very rainy but was still an excellent start to the day.

At 9am we arrived at Ocean Harbour where we went for another zodiac cruise. Here we encountered the shipwreck of the Bayard. Our guides explained to us that she was built in 1864. She was moored at the coaling station in 1911 when a gale blew her loose across the bay. Ocean Harbour was also the site of the first introduction of reindeer to South Georgia in 1911.

Ocean Harbour has a small cemetery with eight graves including the oldest known grave on the island!! We were surrounded by abundant and hair like kelp moving in the waves. Amidst the rugged beauty of the landscape, we were delighted to spot a little colony of King Penguins, adding to the richness of the experience. Additionally, we observed a whaling station, a poignant reminder of the region's history. The air was filled with the graceful flight of Antarctic terns, and when we were about to leave we made a turn into a little cove and suddenly elephant seals where there admiring at us! A little hidden family, enhancing the sense of adventure and exploration.

There was some excitement on the way back to the ship as one of the zodiac engines malfunctioned, so Jess and her passengers enjoyed the novelty of being towed back to the ship by Ben and his passengers.

In the afternoon we headed to Leigh Harbour, the biggest whaling station of South Georgia. Despite our anticipation to disembark, we were unable to do so due to strong winds. Undeterred, we redirected our journey to Hercules Bay, where we had the opportunity, thanks to our beloved Captain Per, to observe Macaroni Penguins up close in a ship cruise, their vibrant plumage a striking contrast against the stone with moss and kelp surroundings. Throughout the afternoon we all thoroughly enjoyed watching the incredibly strong winds whipping up shapes and patterns across the water with rainbows forming over the mountains.

As the evening arrived, we embarked on our journey towards Antarctica, filled with anticipation and excitement for the adventures that lay ahead. The tranquil beauty of the Antarctic landscape, combined with the memories of the day's encounters, served as a fitting conclusion to an unforgettable day of exploration in one of the world's most remote and captivating regions.

Day 10: At sea, sailing towards Antarctica

At sea, sailing towards Antarctica
Date: 11.02.2024
Position: 55°31.5’S / 039° 38.2’W
Wind: SW8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

Still with the memories of porpoising macaroni penguins in the sunlight, the whirlwinds of water driven by katabatic winds of up to 98knots/180km/h, and the most beautiful rainbows in our minds, we woke up to a wavy day, but at least with a decent visibility and a good chance to spot some of the cetaceans roaming these southern waters. Not long after our breakfast and morning coffee and tea, a fin whale passed by, not far away from the ship. Also a few albatrosses and giant petrels showed their graceful flying skills among the waves.

Expedition Guide Ben began the days lectures by talking to us about the Antarctic convergence and divergence, giving us an explanation to how Antarctica’s climate is today is so cold and windy.

We gathered on the outside decks for the mornings ‘Wildlife Watch’ which has been lovingly nicknamed ‘Fog-watch’.

Then Expedition Guide Simon gave us a talk on the birds we might see on the Antarctic Peninsula (other than the famous penguins) such as snowy sheathbills, snow petrels, and Antarctica petrels.

It was also the day, where we had to “clean up” after South Georgia and another round of biosecurity. This is something that all members of IAATO must do to avoid any invasive non-native species from destroying the ecosystem in Antarctica. We do this every time we go to Antarctica, but now Bird Flu is so prevalent in the Southern Ocean, it is all the more important to make sure we are not spreading harmful pathogens.

The bumpy and wet weather meant that the day turned into a nice opportunity for a nap or enjoying a good book from the library and a cup of hot chocolate while looking outside every now and then, maybe spotting the first icebergs. Many people were unfortunately feeling seasick, so it was a relaxed and quiet day onboard.

In the afternoon Assistant Expedition Leader Chloe gave a presentation about scuba diving in Antarctica and all the amazing wildlife that can be seen under the water.

After a delicious dinner the stage was set for entertainment! A request in our question box for a karaoke night in the bar was fulfilled and both guests, crew, staff and our captain participated – not sure that all of us would be chosen to participate in “Ortelius’s got talent”, but there was a lot of laughs, a lot of pictures taken and videos made – and unlike Shackleton, Captain Per would definitely not be voted as the worst singer among us all!

Day 11: At Sea, and Sanderfjord

At Sea, and Sanderfjord
Date: 12.02.2024
Position: 59°39.5’S / 043°52.6’W
Wind: NE5
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +2

This morning, we were allowed to sleep in, as we were switching to the South American time zone and said our farewell to the South Georgian hour. Enough reason for a nice late morning. Then again, when onboard with Sara Jenner you never know if things will go as planned.

At around seven o’clock we were woken from our slumbers by our Expedition Leader. A killer whale was spotted. Time to jump out of our bunks and head towards the upper decks! Not long after we could see something else… Beaked whales! Right of the ship’s bow! What a sight to see. As the cetaceans disappeared into the dark blue ocean, we kept our eyes out in anticipation of some more action, and it wasn’t long before we saw some small pods of Hourglass dolphins too. Forget that sleepy morning.

In the back of our heads, we were still at Karaoke evening. It was a great success, who knew that our captain could sing! Songs were played late into the night. The Karaoke high score was scored by birthday girl Jess, scoring a whopping 100 points. But we all must agree that the best entertainers are amongst our Filipino crew, they really knew how to liven up the party with their grand performance.

After breakfast we were up for a lecture by Julian, he explained to us all there is to know about meteorites in the Antarctic. Who knew the moon is scattered with meteorites from Earth!? All the while Ortelius made its way towards the South Orkney islands, through the fog we hope to sea a glimpse of it. Only the evening will tell if the weather will improve for a possible zodiac cruise or landing.

In anticipation of what is coming Sara already announced that recap and dinner will be set early so we can optimize our chances to get off the ship. Ortelius is a great expedition vessel, nevertheless it would be nice to be out in the open skies for a different scenery.

And oh my, how lovely when a plan comes together. In the restaurant we could see that the guides were in quite a rush as they gulped in their starters and mains, leaving dessert deserted on the countertop. They clearly were in a rush to offload all zodiacs in time.

We lucky few had all the time in the world to finish our wonderful 3 course dinner. Then getting dressed warmly and boarding the zodiacs with said guides, now in a more docile state of mind. The site we visited was called Sanderfjord and home to nearly 50.000 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguin. We could certainly smell them from a distance.

As we found ourselves along the shores buzzing with penguins, guano and a chilly breeze, we were all of a sudden surprised by the visit of a Leopard Seal, and another one, and one more. My god the place was filled with the teethy creatures. Treating us with a grim smile, the reptile-like creatures swarmed around our zodiac seemingly trying to figure out if we would be food or foe. Luckily, we passed as neither and could observe them as they disappeared into the swell, only to appear right next to us while scanning the surroundings for penguins. As the sun set we were treated to a magnificent sight: The evening sun colored the skies beautifully with a background of large tabular icebergs on the horizon. Yes. This zodiac cruise was a wonderful way to finish the day.

Day 12: At Sea, Sailing towards Antarctica

At Sea, Sailing towards Antarctica
Date: 13.02.2024
Position: 61°08.7’S / 051°06.5’W
Wind: NW8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

Today we woke up early to the sound of Simon ‘the bird man’ telling us there was an Emperor Penguin on an iceberg, what! We ran outside to see this species which is a lifer for many! It was quite far away so it was hard to make out, but still an amazing species to observe. We then woke to Sara’s voice to tell us to get out of our beds to seize the day of lectures and wildlife. But the day always has to start with coffee and breakfast. This was shortly followed by Expedition Guide Charlotte’s fascinating talk on feeding, breeding and diving of Whales, flowed by Andres’s gripping lecture on ‘Diseases of the Sea’, which delved into the realm of scurvy, hypothermia and frost bite. In the midst of these two lectures, we were approaching A23a; at 40 nautical miles long by 32 nautical miles wide it is currently the largest iceberg on the planet! This large piece of ice broke off in 1986 from the Filchner Ice Shelf and has been moving North with the current. It was absolutely awe-inspiring and such an incredible sight. We sailed the ship along the side of it for 4 hours. Many pieces had already broken off and the side of the berg was forming many arches from sea erosion. We slowly left it and headed towards Elephant Island. As we got closer to Point Wild on Elephant Island, we realised there was too much swell to do any activity and due to the bad weather we would be arriving much later than expected, so we swiftly moved onto the South Shetland Islands.

In the afternoon Chloe spoke to us with her graceful voice about ice of Antarctica. Then just before recap, Jess spotted some Type A orcas from the bridge. They were moving very fast and it was difficult to get a good view of them in such a rough sea state, but some of us managed to snap some pictures. Shortly afterwards we had the plans from Sara and the team regarding the following day at the South Shetlands. The three-course dinner went down swimmingly yet again, so we geared ourselves up for tonight’s auction! Of course, happy hour was a must to get everyone in a good mood for the items for sale. Ben was the auctioneer who did a fantastic job of auctioning off the items. It was a slow start, but things started to get moving and the drinks were flowing. Everything was sold and we managed to make £1505 for South Georgia Heritage Trust. Happy days.

Day 13: At sea, and Deception Island

At sea, and Deception Island
Date: 14.02.2024
Position: 62°43.3’S / 058°21.8’W
Wind: N8
Weather: P. Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

First thing in the morning we approached our plan A location of Penguin Island. Upon arrival it was clear that a landing would not be possible. Although the sun was out and shining (this has been a rarity on this trip) the wind was nearly gusting 70 knots and the shallow beach landing on the island is a nightmare in even the smallest swell. After some quick re-jigging of plans and checking of weather on the bridge, a viable plan B was produced which saw us quickly turn the ship around to head south, hopefully for an afternoon landing at the wonderful Deception Island – an active volcano that we can sail inside of!

During the long transit south there were some inspiring talks. Carol Masheter, one of our passengers, told us all about her conquest to summit the seven largest peaks in the world including Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica. Sara then gave us a lecture detailing the history of women explorers, adventurers and pioneers in the deep south. Between lectures, folks who spent time on the bridge or on the outside decks were rewarded by some excellent Humpback whale action including some breaching individuals and some equally good seabird action especially with some close Grey-headed Albatrosses.

As Deception Island appeared on the horizon and gradually became closer and closer, it seemed the fickle weather was to play another trick on us poor adventurers. The wind picked up, bringing with it some driving snow, reducing our visibility. We slowly edged our way through the impressive Neptune’s Bellows, the entrance into the huge caldera. We did this in the midst of a full-on blizzard and some soul-destroying strong winds, but as we inched further into the volcano the captain assured us that we would find some shelter at our destination of Telefon Bay; at that moment it seemed unlikely!

However, as soon as we reached our anchor-point the wind dropped off to almost nothing and the snow eased. We were soon ashore on the side of a bleak but beautiful old volcanic crater where we walked a long circuit right around the rim, affording us spectacular views of the entire island from the Bellows in the distance to the Spanish and Argentinian research bases and the ring of snow-covered peaks surrounding it all. The walk also included a stroll along the beach to a chilled out and relaxed big fat Weddell Seal and some much more active Fur Seals, perfectly illustrating the difference between ‘eared’ Seals and ‘true’ Seals.

Once back on board it was time to reflect upon a very fine plan C (or was it D or E?) and a perfect Valentine’s Day afternoon. The day’s entertainment was not over by a long shot as after dinner we all enjoyed a brilliant pub quiz [loosely] based around this most romantic [and commercial] of days cunningly devised and presented by Jess.

Day 14: Foyn Harbour and Orne Harbour

Foyn Harbour and Orne Harbour
Date: 15.02.2024
Position: 64°30.0’S / 062°62.2’W
Wind: SW5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

Good morning, good morning, good morning!!! Finally, a day of clear skies and calm waters!!! We disembarked from the ship for a zodiac cruise expedition at Foyn Harbour. Foyn Harbour is a known popular spot for whale to feed in, so we were hopeful to find them.

First, we eencountered the impressive shipwreck of the Governoren, a Norwegian factory whaling ship that run aground after catching fire in 1915. The ship has remained there ever since, partially submerged and rusting. It’s a beautiful sight but a haunting reminder of the prolific whaling era. It has now been taken over by Antarctica terns who have made their nests on top of it. We also spotted a large number of fur seals and Weddell seals lounging on the rocky shores, some of which we could smell before we could see them!

After that we were surprised by a spectacular sighting of humpback whales. There were many of them, with some coming remarkably close to the zodiacs. We could clearly hear their blows and see their fins, they were very relaxed and were curious to investigate our zodiacs. They dived for a final time, allowing us to see their beautiful tail flukes, providing an unforgettable experience for all.

In the afternoon we headed to Orne Harbour, our first continental landing on mainland Antarctica!!! Of course, all our activities have been on the Antarctica continent, but there is something special about stepping foot on the mainland.

It was a sunny, with a mild breeze. We posed with a flag of Antarctica, an exciting moment for people who were visiting their seventh continent. We then made our way up the zig-zag slope to a very scenic chinstrap penguin colony at the top of the hill. There were plenty of chicks still, little chunky grey blobs with their parents taking care of them. Some of them were quite big and were already moulting into their adult plumage, and we enjoyed witnessing their daily activities and interactions.

While returning to the ship, we encountered two magnificent whales surfacing, just near the landing site! Adding to the days already impressive wildlife sightings.

In the evening Sara began the daily recap session, discussing the day's highlights. But Recap was momentarily interrupted by the thrilling appearance of orcas nearby!! Capturing everyone's attention and providing a mass stampede out of the bar. We watched the pod of around nine individuals, including males, females, and juveniles, swimming and spy-hopping. It was the perfect end to an extraordinary day of exploration.

Overall, today's experiences in both Foyn Harbour and Orne Harbour showcased the incredible diversity and beauty of Antarctic wildlife, leaving us in awe of nature's wonders.

Day 15: Peterman Island and Damoy Island

Peterman Island and Damoy Island
Date: 16.02.2024
Position: 65°04.3’S / 063°56.8’W
Wind: SSW4
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +1

This morning we received an early wakeup call as we were entering the very narrow Lemaire Channel and quite a few of us skipped sleeping in or snoozing to get out on deck – or staying inside the nice and warm bridge, to follow the tight navigation needed to get through the narrow strait. The Lemaire Channel has been nicknamed ‘Kodak Gap’ because it is such a picturesque spot. Visibility was maybe not the best, but the water was completely calm, mirroring the snow and glacier covered mountains, theirs peaks visible in the mist. A landscape worth getting up early for!

Just after a hearty breakfast, we arrived at our southernmost destination on this expedition; Petermann Island, named after a German cartographer, back in 1873. We were here to see our first Adelie penguin colony. A slight slippery landing was overcome, and we could enjoy the view of more than 100 Adelie’s and among them quite a few very active and almost fully fledged chicks. There was a lot of tobogganing, flapping flippers and quarrels with nearby youngsters, while the parents stood absolutely still, saving energy – thinking “ahhhh kids”. Lots of Gentoo penguins were in our landing area too, and there were many chicks who were just about ready to leave the safe haven of the nesting site to begin their real penguin life in the ocean – what a treat it was!!

We then travelled back north through the Lamaire Channel for our more historical landing at Damoy Point. Again, colonies of Gentoos welcomed us on the shore and we sometimes had to patiently wait to cross a “penguin highway” when the cute little fellas on their stubby feet went to or from their nesting sites on the rocks to feed their impatient and hungry chicks. The landing also offered a visit in the “southernmost” waiting room in the world! For 20 years -from 1973 to 1993, the hut was used by British Antarctic Survey-scientists, waiting for a flight that was a further 350km’s south to the Rothera-base. The “runway” was a gently sloping ridge behind the hut, and operations needed thorough pilot skills and good weather, and the latter would often delay operations for several days. This meant lots of stores of food were needed in case up to 15 people would strand there for several days. Everything was left as it stood in 1993, so it was a good chance to see what was on the menu 31 years ago!

Another good day with lots of wildlife, history – and sun in our faces from time to time!

Day 16: Brown Base and Danco Island

Brown Base and Danco Island
Date: 17.02.2024
Position: 64°53.4’S / 062°51.6’W
Wind: N4/5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

This day was amazing. In short: We cruised a fair bit in the zodiac, saw crabeater seals, one krill, Weddell seals, loads ‘o birds, almost lost a zodiac to an inquisitive leopard seal. Jens spotted a jellyfish. This is how it went:

Breakfast was another success this morning, the galley team really knows how to get us all out of bed with their creations. It is sometimes hard to resist the ‘second breakfast’ as a few hours later lunch will be served, only to repeat the urge to go again for a second. Then again, it is a holiday. Live it. Eat it.

The plan for this morning was to zodiac cruise along Brown Station. The Argentinian research station is located on the shores of Paradise Bay. The station has been rebuilt almost completely as once upon a time the station’s doctor refused to stay for another season. To make his point clear he burned the place down to the ground.

Today happened to be the 40th anniversary of the station and as we cruise by, we reflected on what it must be like to stay for the winter in this remote area of the world. Along the shores we drifted in our zodiacs. After waving goodbye to the friendly inhabitants of Station Brown we could see Shags nesting on the steep rocky coastline and we enjoyed watching cape petrels and Antarctic terns flying.

We heard an exciting call on the radio. Chloe had found and caught a krill! A remarkable achievement and celebrated by us all. It was kept in a bucket and passed from zodiac to zodiac. If the krill only knew what joy it had brought this morning. Some say tears of joy could be seen rolling down Chloe’s cheeks.

We then went our separate ways to explore the area. Pairs of zodiacs found their own routes along the rocky shore and ice-infested waters, leading towards an impressive glacier front. As the glaciers debris got denser it proved more difficult to get the zodiac through the fields of drifting ice. The scenery was impressive and once the engine was stopped one could endure the silence of the Antarctic. If only we could have some of this silence at home.

Some pairs of zodiacs got lucky and had an encounter with a leopard seal, swimming curiously around the zodiacs. Another pair got up close and personal with two crabeater seals. The adult mother was laying on the ice as the almost mature pup played around and tried to get on the ice too. It was wonderful to see the interaction between mother and pup. The radio crackled and Jens proudly mentioned he found a jellyfish the size of a small fridge. It’s colorful tentacles dancing through the water. A successful cruise it. In the afternoon we were supposed to land at Danco Island, a godforsaken rock covered by a thick hump of ice, home to several colonies of Gentoo penguins. Sadly, bird flu had been detected by another ship that morning and we had to change our plans. Plan-B was launched, a zodiac cruise in the area. We can say it was quite thrilling as we all had an encounter with a massive leopard seal. The apex predator took its time to swirl around our zodiac’s, dive under and pop up at unexpected places. Making us feel like penguins on an ice floe. It was strange to experience how it feels to be hunted. What started as curiosity became a bit more serious as he started to nibble and bite the zodiacs, not quite desirable as his sharp teeth can easily penetrate the inflated tubes. As we took distance from the animal it could easily keep up our pace, even when going full speed. We could see the animal in our slipstream underwater, only to breach and completely leap out of the water, what an impressive animal. The cruise ended perfectly with a group of feeding humpback whales.

In the evening we had a BBQ on the helicopter deck. A wonderful place to eat and drink with an almost surround view of Antarctica. The rain did not matter to us. We ate and partied into the night, while humpback whales and leopard seals passed our ship (are they following us?!) Even the Australian’s among us hadn’t endured such a unique BBQ.

Day 17: Cierva Cove and Palaver Point

Cierva Cove and Palaver Point
Date: 18.02.2024
Position: 64°09.7’S / 061°19.3’W
Wind: SW4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

Today we woke up knowing it was our last day in Antarctica. We were feeling sprightly and excited for the day ahead but also a little sad that it was would be our last chance to soak up this unique place. We ventured out for a zodiac cruise at Cierva Cove; a huge bay with ginormous icebergs. It is also where Primavera Base is, an Argentinian base which was set up in 1954 first by the Argentinian navy and then turned into a research station in 1977 to do scientific studies on birds, mosses, lichen and aquatics. There were plenty of Leopard Seals around. Whether they were on ice or in the water it was equally incredible seeing them in their habitat. The icebergs were stunning as they towered above us, their blue colour contrasting with the dark grey skies. We could see some of the researchers out on their zodiacs carrying out their studies, which was very interesting. We also enjoyed watching groups of very dirty chinstrap penguins gather at the shoreline, readying themselves to jump in all together. They like to wait and all jump in together as there is safety in numbers and you are less likely to get snapped up by a leopard seal.

In the afternoon we visited Palaver Point, our last landing of the trip. This was also a Chinstrap Penguin breeding site with many adults and chicks dotted around on the rocky outcrops. It was a perfect spot where we could really stretch our legs and admire our last views of Antarctica. The route expanded right to the top of the hill giving us a spectacular view over the bay and glacier and in the distance, we could see groups of Humpback Whales. Many Skuas were nesting with their chicks, one pair even had a very small chick right at the top of the hill. We finished off the landing with a polar plunge! 25 brave souls dived in the icy cold water to experience the Antarctic waters. It was chilly and refreshing to say the least, but we felt invigorated and alive! That evening we heard the plans from Sara and the team followed by a recap from Charlotte on the Drake Passage and the impacts of warming temperatures in the Antarctic from Sara. Dinner just about finished us off, we were absolutely shattered, but overjoyed from the last few days, so out came the wine to celebrate a fantastic trip. It was not without its challenges, but this is what the Antarctic is; a tough environment filled with magic that we were able to see just a snippet of, wow what a place.

Day 18: At sea, The Drake Passage

At sea, The Drake Passage
Date: 19.02.2024
Position: 60°51.1’S / 064°34.5’W
Wind: WNW9
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

We woke up to the sound of a different voice today! Assistant Expedition Leader Chloe played a trick on us by waking us up at 5.45am to tell us breakfast wound be ready at 6am! This was not true! So, we curled back into bed to enjoy a lie-in until real breakfast which was at 8am.

We were very lucky that our sea day was more of a ‘Drake Lake’ than a ‘Drake Shake’ but there was still a lot of movement and mealtimes were a little quieter than usual. The lectures started in the morning with a joint lecture from Jens and Julian. Jens was talking about dynamic soaring in Albatross species and how that has been and could be applied to aircrafts. Julian then spoke about biomimicry and how the humpback whale’s physiology has inspired the design of his paraglider.

Afterwards we went out on Wildlife Watch for half an hour before reluctantly returning our muck boots that we had grown strangely attached to. At midday Ben gave us a short presentation combined with a quiz about the sounds of the ocean.

In the afternoon Chloe gave another inspiring talk about how polar animals perceive the world around them. She talked about how seals can track down fish with their whiskers and how echolocation in cetaceans works.

Many of us spent the day seeing if we could spot any more bird species either from the bridge or on the outside decks, while others spend time editing the thousands of pictures we’ve taken, reading, napping, or planning our next adventures.

The polar plungers of the group gathered on the helideck for a celebratory picture.

We gathered for recap in the bar where more questions from the question box were answered. Miraculously, two emperor penguins were spotted! But it turned out to just be Charlotte and Jess in very convincing costumes… After dinner, many of us then gathered in the bar to savour one of the last few nights of being with our new friends.

Day 19: At sea, The Drake Passage and Cape Horn

At sea, The Drake Passage and Cape Horn
Date: 20.02.2024
Position: 56°09.9’S / 067°20.1’W
Wind: NWW 4
Weather: P.Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

Our final full sea day on board had arrived! Who can believe that just nineteen days ago we set off from Ushuaia, full of hope and anticipation.

Some beautiful Wandering albatrosses and Southern Royal Albatrosses visited us during breakfast. These huge and special seabirds soared all around the ship. It was nice to see them using their dynamic soaring techniques to glide effortlessly above the waves just as Jens had described in his lecture the day before.

After breakfast Simon kick started the lectures with a talk about the work he has done with bird ringing and how it can contribute to bird conservation and science. Jess then gave us a lecture about the ways in which whales can store carbon and contribute to the nutrient cycle and ocean mixing.

After our last buffet lunch, we had an unexpected surprise. We were given permission to be able to sail around the famous Cape Horn. Cape Horn marks the Northern point of the Drake Passage and is famous for rough seas. It is thought that approximately twenty thousand sailors have lost their lives here due to the storms. A sailor’s tradition was to get a tattoo of a sail ship once you had sailed around the horn, so now we can all get one!

After visiting Cape Horn, Captain Per joined us in the bar for a question-and-answer session where we could ask him about the ship and his career in the maritime industry.

At 3.30pm we were all invited onto the top deck outside for another surprise. This time it was hot chocolate with a warming splash of rum in there, not that we needed warming up as the weather was beautiful and clear.

Then Sara gave us a talk about some of the other destinations that Oceanwide sails to. If we were not entirely convinced about maybe visiting the Arctic in the near future, then we certainly were after this.

The evening appeared very quickly, and we gathered in the bar for a special recap. There were cocktails and we toasted to celebrate what turned out to be a very successful trip. Julian showed us a wonderful slide show of photos from the trip which really made us reminisce and think back to our amazing experiences in the Falklands, South Georgia, and of course Antarctica. We had a fantastic final meal together, during which we got the chance to meet and thank some of the staff behind the scenes in the galley, restaurant, and housekeeping departments. We then enjoyed a final few drink in the bar with mixed emotions, happy to head onto further exciting travels, or reunite with loved ones, but also sad that this special experience was coming to an end.

Day 20: Ushuaia – Disembarkation

Ushuaia – Disembarkation
Date: 21.02.2024
Position: 54°53.7’S / 067°43.9’W
Wind: NWW 4
Weather: P. Cloudy
Air Temperature: +13

We heard the words ‘Good morning, good morning, good morning’ for a final time as we woke up. Most of us had packed up our belongings the night before and left our suitcases outside our rooms to be collected before heading to our last ever breakfast. We were sad to say goodbye to the restaurant team, especially the amazing Maria. We gathered our belongings and headed to the gangway where we said goodbye to the expedition team and our new friends. The wildlife and landscapes we have seen on this trip have been truly inspiring and we hope that you continue to care for and protect the world’s precious ecosystems and special places like Antarctica.

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

Total distance sailed: 3561.4 nautical miles.

Farthest south: 65°11.2’S / 064°07.9’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Per Anderson, Expedition Leader Sara Jenner, and her team, Hotel Manager Volodymir Cherednychenko, and all the crew and staff of M/V Ortelius, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!


Tripcode: OTL29-24
Dates: 2 Feb - 21 Feb, 2024
Duration: 19 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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Aboard m/v Ortelius

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

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