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OTL31-19, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation -Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation -Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 16.02.2019
Position: 54°54 ‘S, 067°57 ‘W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +12

Boarding Ortelius started around 4pm and we were soon checked in by our Hotel Manager and his assistant (Sigy and Melany). We were shown to our cabins and had some free time to get unpacked and settled in. 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 Paulo 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 whales and other delights are announced, we know how to get out there as quickly and efficiently as possible. At 5 pm we were summoned by Expedition Leader Troels to a mandatory briefing in the Lecture Room on Deck 3. He welcomed us on board and introduced Third Officer Igor, who showed an all-important Safety video. 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 given by the Chief Officer, and we hope that today is the only time we hear it. 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 watch Ortelius’ departure from Ushuaia. Before dinner we again gathered in the Lounge/Bar on Deck 6. The Expedition Leader Troels, introduced Captain Mika – the person who will get us there and back again safely. We raised a glass of bubbly (or orange juice) to the success of our voyage and then it was time for our Hotel Manager Sigi to give useful information about mealtimes, Internet/Webmail access and treating the toilets nicely. He was followed by the doctor Linda and expedition team staff for self-introductions. Then came the time for our first dinner aboard. Due to the strong wins earlier in the day, our departure was delayed slightly until after dinner. We waved our goodbyes to this city (almost) at the end of the world and headed down the Beagle Channel towards the open ocean. After dinner, a stroll on deck with binoculars looking for birds, a cup of tea or something stronger, and then most of us fell into bed after a busy and exciting day.

Day 2: At sea to the Falkland Islands

At sea to the Falkland Islands
Date: 17.02.2019
Position: 54° 39‘S, 064° 50‘W
Wind: NW 6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +11

At sea en route to the Falkland Islands and our journey begins! Leaving the calmer confines of the Beagle Channel in the early hours and sailing out into the South Atlantic passing the evocatively named Tierra del Fuego on our port side, it is with a sense of anticipation that we embark upon this odyssey. Thoughts of the Falkland Islands and the notoriously difficult landings on South Georgia lie to the fore of our minds whilst the South Orkney Islands and Antarctic Peninsula seem a long way off. Boot fitting, life jackets and mandatory briefings are an unavoidable necessity for what is to come. Whilst in themselves they are neither glamorous nor memorable, they all hint towards that sense of an adventure beginning. So much of the next three weeks are as yet unknown and could maybe even remain so until the day they occur. But that is what is so magical and special about taking a step away from the conventional. There will be days of unbroken sunshine, wildlife to marvel at yet we will inevitably encounter a storm or two along the way. This blank canvas awaiting us will slowly become stitched with experiences to leave a rich tapestry of memories we can take home to share with family and friends. So much of what lies ahead is uncertain; weather, ice conditions and sea state will all play their part before our fate has been sealed. One thing is for certain though, this will for be for most a journey never repeated and yet will remain ingrained in memory for a lifetime. Scenery, wildlife, wild ocean and a land of ice await us over the next three weeks, anticipation levels could not be higher!

Day 3: Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Date: 18.02.2019
Position: 51°18’S, 060°38’W
Wind: SW 4
Air Temperature: +9

After a day and a half at sea and an easy crossing, surrounded by numerous seabirds, we made it to our first destination; The Falkland Islands, and our fist landing site on Carcass Island. In the morning before arrival we spotted some Sei whales in a narrow passage Ortelius passed through close to Westpoint Island. It was a sunny and warm morning and shortly after our arrival the deck crew started to prepare the Zodiacs for our landing at an old landing pier close to the settlement. As the first zodiac group pulled away from Ortelius, we experienced the first winds that were breezing out of the sheltered bay. As we arrived at the old pier there was a lot to discover and we had a nice morning walk to the settlement. The group was splitting up and half of us went inside for a very good cup of tea and delicious cake. Whilst the others went for a longer walk along the beach and up to a small hill for a good view over the bay. Tussacbirds, Cobb’s Wrens, Mangellanic Oyster Catchers, Blackish Oystercatchers, Crested Ducks and different species of geese were around and it was a good time sitting and taking photos of the first wildlife impressions. And some of us experienced the endemic Cob´s Wren that is only living on the Falkland Islands. Out on the water we even saw Giant Petrels and the Falkland flightless Steamerduck. With these first impressions we returned back to Ortelius for lunch. During lunch we sailed to our second destination of Saunders Island, as Ortelius approached the white, sandy beach at the Neck, to drop anchor for our afternoon landing. The wind was slightly picking up but it was still warm and sunny. So we decided to land. We went ashore and were greeted by the islands owners - and thousands of penguins, that included Magellanic, Gentoo, King Penguins and several Rockhoppers on a rookery at the hillside coming ashore and hopping up the cliffs to their nesting site, on the other side of The Neck, where we also found Caracaras scurrying amidst the grasses that lined the broad beach. Finally we made our way to a Black browed Albatross colony and spend some time sitting and watching the big Chicks sitting on the nests waiting to be fed by their parents. The tide started to rise, signaling it was time to return to Ortelius. So the Expedition team started to shuttle us back to the ship shortly after five o´clock. Troels, Zet and Daniel were standing in the high incoming waves to catch the Zodiacs, turning them around and making it easier for us to hop on. The good driving team managed to get us all back safely but everybody got a good watersplash on the transfer. Wet but happy we returned to the ship. During the daily recap Troels told us about our plans for the next day and our visit of port Stanley. After a lovely dinner we crawled one after another in our beds tired but excited for what is coming on the next days.

Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 19.02.2019
Position: 51° 33‘S, 057° 39‘W
Wind: NNW 4
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +12

This morning we woke to clear, pale skies and calm seas, a welcome change after the sporty weather yesterday afternoon! From the ship we could see the charming coloured rooftops of Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, and we couldn’t wait to disembark and experience this small port town for ourselves. It was a brief Zodiac shuttle to the jetty where we enjoyed our second (and last!) dry landing of the voyage. From here we fanned out to explore Stanley. Some of us made a beeline for the nearest coffee shop for our first real espresso in several days, or tucked into the cosy warmth of a souvenir shop to pick up some penguin paraphernalia. Many of us wandered down the quiet main street towards the Falkland Islands’ museum to learn more about the islands’ colourful maritime and terrestrial history. Others opted for a different kind of education, participating in a traditional British pub crawl and sampling some of the local brews. Keen birders were rewarded with some special sightings among the coastal grasses before we left the Falkland Islands behind. As we departed, we were treated to the antics of a local sea lion lolling around at the end of the jetty. We arrived back on board in time for a delicious buffet lunch served up by our wonderful kitchen staff. After lunch we began the serious business of pre-South Georgia biosecurity, with an extended vacuum party in the bar. It wasn’t long before our gear was spick and span and ready to visit this unique wildlife haven. At our daily recap and briefing Troels shared some information about the kinds of foreign seeds we hope to avoid introducing to South Georgia through our collective vacuuming efforts, and Pippa offered a helpful explanation of the difference between a sea lion and a fur seal - it’s not always easy to ID these perky pinnipeds! We finished the day with another delicious dinner, thanks to our wonderful chefs.

Day 5: At sea to South Georgia

At sea to South Georgia
Date: 20.02.2019
Position: 52° 14‘S, 052° 19‘W
Wind: NNE 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

With a relatively mild ocean the Ortelius sailed on the early morning in the direction of South Georgia. The birders who were out on deck, got the first sights of the soft plumaged petrels and grey back petrels that would follow us for the rest of the day. After a lovely breakfast, Pippa passionately shared her knowledge about the whales that we might see during our expedition at the southern ocean. The morning started foggy and grey, but right after 11 o’clock the sun came out. We all swarmed out to the outer decks and enjoyed the sun like we were on a Caribbean cruise. Meanwhile spotting several birds and on a constant look out for cetaceans. Lunch gave us a mandatory break from the leisuring, but soon everybody was out again relaxing in beautiful conditions on the North Scotia ridge. Around four o’clock Nina treated with us with a lecture on the life and adventures of the world famous explorer Shackleton and his relation to South Georgia. As we are setting sail for Grytviken, Nina got everyone quite excited for the upcoming days. Later in the afternoon, we got a good look at 5 pilot whales passing close to the ship, but the greatest excitement was the discovery that we encountered a pod of at least 100 Southern Right Whale Dolphins making their way towards the ship. We could not believe our eyes, it was a breath taking sight and we all cheered happily. Those who were standing at the bow of the ship even got a close up look of one of the dolphins that was riding the bow waves. Troels our expedition leader, got immediately on the intercom with great enthusiasm and urged everybody who wasn’t outside yet to do so and witness this sighting of these rarely seen cetaceans. Only around this latitude, is it possible to see the Southern Right Whale Dolphins, and they are only seen a handful of times a year, and only few times in Oceanwide history. A dolphin species that is so rare even our whale expert Pippa has never seen them. By 7 o’clock we all gathered in the bar to talk about the dolphin and whale encounters and the plans for the next day. The pictures that Pippa took of the right whale dolphins were greeted with a big applause. To end this beautiful day a delicious dinner was served by chef Heinz and his team. With ice cream for the desert, we had everything we could wish for.

Day 6: At sea to South Georgia

At sea to South Georgia
Date: 21.02.2019
Position: 53° 12‘S, 044° 34‘W
Wind: NNW 4
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

We continued to sail the open ocean on our way to South Georgia. Same calm seas am sunshine as yesterday. After breakfast Daniel gave us a lecture on photography in cold places. We learnt the importance of composition, shutter speed and more. The incredible photos Daniel showed us inspired thoughts for our own pictures we might take on our adventures. During the day we kept a constant look for cetaceans and birds from the bridge and outer decks. By now we all can recognise or at least have seen most of the baleen whales we learned about at Pippa’s lecture a few days ago. The treat of the day was when we reached Shag Rocks, an area renowned for great whale and bird sightings. The rocks are and impressive 70 meters high, piercing out of the middle of Southern Ocean. Snow Petrels, White-bellied Storm petrels and numerous Prions are seen darting amongst the waves, in addition to the odd Antarctic Fur Seal bobbing about the surface. In the afternoon, Troels briefs us on how to avoid bird strikes in South Georgia. The island is home to millions of nesting birds, which are attracted to ships lights at night. To avoid them potentially, and often fatally, flying into the ship, we are briefed on how to keep the ship dark whilst we are sailing around South Georgia. At our 18.30 recap Troels told us about the plans for the next few days, and our first landing on South Georgia tomorrow. The anticipation of landing on this wildlife rich island is felt by all, and we all become excited about the coming days.

Day 7: Grytviken & West Cumberland Bay, South Georgia

Grytviken & West Cumberland Bay, South Georgia
Date: 22.02.2019
Position: 54° 02‘S, 036° 48‘W
Wind: NW 5/6
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

In the small hours of the morning Ortelius entered the coastal waters of South Georgia and as the first light spread across the eastern horizon the brooding coastline hove into view. Many of us made it onto the decks before breakfast to watch penguins and fur seals leaping from the rolling swell all around the ship. As the light grew the details of the coastline began to emerge; we found ourselves in a monochrome world. Glistening rivers of ice plunge from the black mountains all the way to the sea. The island is bounded by imposing cliffs and steep, dark beaches; fringed by white plumes of spray from the breaking Atlantic waves. By mid-morning we were entering the calm waters of Cumberland Bay, the clouds lifted from the mountain tops as we entered the small bay at Grytviken and our arrival was greeted by the first rays of sun. We welcomed the staff from the South Georgia Heritage Trust aboard and Dani gave a short presentation about this special island and their important work in caring for it. In the mean time Ortelius was cleared by the customs officer from King Edward Point and once we had passed our biosecurity check it was time to head ashore! Our first stop was the beach by the cemetery, and a chance to show our respects to some heroes of Antarctic exploration. Troels led a toast to ‘The Boss’ and we drank half a dram of whisky, sharing the other with Shackleton. As we wandered away from the graveyard we were confronted with hordes of wildlife. Fur seals roamed everywhere, King Penguins lined the shore, and a large group of Elephant Seals slumbered on the grass, waking only to stretch occasionally. The weather was glorious; warm, sunny, and barely a breath of wind. As we explored into the rusting equipment from the old whaling station it was hard not to struck by the incongruity of the day; here we were surrounded by the apparatus of wholesale slaughter, yet we basked in the sun on a beautiful summer day—a thoroughly surreal experience. Grytviken is both achingly beautiful and hauntingly sad. After a long afternoon ashore it was time to head back to Ortelius and, as dinner was served, we weighed anchor heading into West Cumberland Bay. In the early evening we cruised into the upper-reaches of the fjord system. We made it all the way to front of Neumayer Glacier, and a strong katabatic wind from the icefield was funnelled through the fjord. The glacier is one of the largest in South Georgia and is retreating rapidly, several metres a day on average, as the climate warms. At our closest position to the glacier we were within the are covered by ice just 7 years previously! We lingered in this spectacular fjord admiring the contorted sandstone walls and towering cliffs of ice; but as the evening drew in it was time to head out once more. As we left lenticular clouds hovered over the distant high peaks and the evening sun drenched the landscape in pastel colours; first in yellow and orange, and, once it was below the horizon, the purples and blues of Alpenglow. A fittingly beautiful end to a magical day in South Georgia.

Day 8: Salisbury Plain & Prion Island, South Georgia

Salisbury Plain & Prion Island, South Georgia
Date: 23.02.2019
Position: 54° 01‘S, 037° 11‘W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +3

We awoke in the morning approaching one of South Georgia’s ‘big 3’ beaches; Salisbury Plain. As we dropped anchor and prepared the zodiacs for our landing at this spectacular King Penguin rookery, we enjoyed curious penguins swimming around the ship, diving gracefully under the water and popping back up, looking at our big blue ship. Soon after breakfast we zoomed into shore and landed on a busy beach full of King Penguins, Fur Seals and some juvenile elephant seals. As we were led along the beach towards the rookery we took in the many sights sounds and smells; many Fur seal pups scattered across the beach and grass, giving an occasional growl as we passed. We even spotted a leucistic Fur seal pup – a ‘blondie’ – one in every 1000 Fur seals are born ‘blonde’. At the rookery we took in the incredible number of King Penguins who call the glacial outwash plain their home; approximately forty thousand breeding pairs. Last years chicks wander around with patchy brown fluff as they moult their chick down feathers and gain their sleek adult feathers. This year’s chicks are a fraction of the size, and call constantly to their parents for food. Some of us zodiac cruised the shoreline and got a unique perspective of the rookery, with many curious King penguins coming close to the zodiacs for a look. Others walked up above the rookery for a view down on to the vast penguin numbers. All to soon it was time to head back to Ortelius for lunch and our short transit to our afternoon landing site; Prion Island. Prion Island is one of the jewels in South Georgia’s crown. This small island in the Bay of Isles is home to 60 breeding pairs of Wandering Albatross, of which half breed on the island any given year. We are split into different groups for an early and late split zodiac cruise and landing due to the small numbers restricted to visit the island at any one time. With driving snow showers, the cruise was cold, but the sight of Fur seals in the water, Blue eyed shags on the rocks, and the swaying kelp were a first for many. Some of us were lucky enough to see a Leopard Seal feeding on a Fur seal pup in the water – an incredible sight of this predator in action. The landing at Prion, took us on to a boardwalk, which took us up the hill towards the Wandering Albatross nests. On the way up we saw many Fur seal pups (both on and off the boardwalk), as well as the endemic South Georgia Pintail duck and Pipit. With beautiful views from the top over the Bay of Isles, we continued to the top platform where we could observe the incredible Wandering Albatross flying over head or sitting on its nest. By the time we got back to the ship, we were all ready to get warmed up; this was aided by the fantastic hotel staff providing hot chocolate (with an optional nip of whiskey) on our return. As the snow continued to drive in, we settled in the warmth of the ship, enjoyed an evening recap from our expedition team followed by another delicious meal.

Day 9: Cooper Bay, Gold Harbour & St Andrews Bay, South Georgia

Cooper Bay, Gold Harbour & St Andrews Bay, South Georgia
Date: 24.02.2019
Position: 54° 41‘S, 035° 40‘W
Wind: Light
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +8

4:30am… the alarm bell tolls signaling the start of the working day… this had better be worth it… It is not usual on an expedition cruise to try and pack so much into one day but weather conditions dictated we try to pull off the unfeasible and cruise Cooper Bay, land at Gold Harbour and finally visit the enormous rookery at St Andrews Bay. Many visitors to South Georgia manage to land at just one of these sites in a four day trip. To have a sea state that makes it even remotely possible to attempt all three in a day is a rare occurrence on this remote and storm ravaged South Atlantic island. It was with a happy heart then that the dawn which greeted us on that Sunday morning was well worth the twilight awakening. Launching the Zodiacs into this tranquil and serene bay was a real pleasure and slowly circumnavigating the bay taking in the wildlife one could argue wasn’t really work. Kelp fronds snaked dreamily downwards into the deep blue depths whilst Macaroni penguins porpoised purposefully around the boat, businesslike on their daily commute to feeding grounds out at sea. The Bay and Island behind is named after an officer on HMS Resolution who sailed here with James Cook during its discovery. One can only wonder how different it looked back then, if at all… After everyone had a chance to break their fast back on board Ortelius, we set out once again under azure skies for possibly one of the most photographed landing sites in South Georgia. Gold harbour, a colloquial name which has stuck given by sealers of the early twentieth century due to the colour of the glacial landscape during the dawn hours, was kind to us allowing everyone to get ashore and appreciate this King penguin rookery close up. Mountains, hanging glaciers, elephant seals and fur seals lounging around in amongst grassy tussocks provided a backdrop second to none. The day culminated at St Andrews Bay, arguably the most famous penguin rookery in the world. Even to those for whom birds were not the main reason for visiting South Georgia, it is impossible to not be left awestruck by the shear amount of life present here. Whether stopping at the riverside penguins or continuing to the elevated vantage point overlooking the main bulk of the colony, there was a sensory overload with the noises, smells and sight of this visual feast. The river crossing provided a manageable crux to a day not without its potential challenges and if wet feet were the price we had to pay to achieve todays ambitious programme it was well worth it! Many thanks to the expedition staff, ship’s crew and most importantly you, the passengers, for helping us manage the impossible! We hope the day was as enjoyable for you as it was for us. 18:30pm… it was!

Day 10: At Sea to South Orkney Islands

At Sea to South Orkney Islands
Date: 25.02.2019
Position: 56° 48‘S, 036° 10‘W
Wind: SE 7/8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

As we managed to escape the incoming storm around South Georgia, Troels gave us the regular wakeup call in the morning and we were starting a very slow and relaxed day. The conditions outside the ship were not very pleasant and attractive enough to stand out on the decks for a long time. Therefore, we went to breakfast and enjoyed it for a nice and long time. At 10 o’clock in the morning Pippa was talking about the history of whaling in Antarctica. It was a very interesting lecture with a lot of information we didn’t know. Especially educational was the highlighting of Grytviken whaling station following our visit there a couple of days before. After the talk there was plenty of time to walk around the ship, having coffee or tea and interchanging with other travellers. Time passed by while Ortelius was rolling through slightly rough seas. After lunch Iain gave a very special talk about overwintering on an Antarctic research base. He spent 3 years on British Rothera Station. Outside the ship the conditions haven’t changed much. We kept on moving slowly through the day. Shortly before dinner Troels invited us to join the Expedition Team for our daily recap and briefing for the next day. After recap a nicely presented dinner was waiting for us and most of the travellers went to bed early, tired of the long seaday and the ship’s motion.

Day 11: At Sea to South Orkney Islands

At Sea to South Orkney Islands
Date: 26.02.2019
Position: 59° 10‘S, 042° 22‘W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -1

Today our fine ship Ortelius managed again to stay ahead of the storms brewing to the north-east and south-west, finding fair seas and following winds for our second day sailing the Scotia Sea. Days at sea are always a welcome opportunity to rest and recuperate, and after our epic three-landing bonanza in South Georgia a couple of days ago, many of us were thankful for another opportunity to sleep in a little, indulge in some delicious meals, relax over a cuppa and enjoy the day’s scheduled activities on board. We began our day with the customary morning announcement from Troels, which segued smoothly into another appetising breakfast buffet. Thanks to the amazing team in the galley! In the morning we congregated in the lounge for the much anticipated ‘Part Two’ of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition story. Having left the story with a catastrophic cliff-hanger just before South Georgia, we were on tenterhooks waiting to find out what would become of Shackleton and his 28 men on the Weddell Sea. After lunch we gathered with Troels and the expedition team in the lounge for an update on the weather and our future plans. Then we joined Laurence to learn about glaciers and glaciation. He offered a fascinating and introduction to the world of ice, managing to make this esoteric and complex scientific field accessible and interesting to even the least ice-inclined among us. Not to be left to wallow in our cabins for too long, we all crowded into the bar once more before dinner for an auction that promised to be equal parts fun and fundraising. The purpose of the auction was to raise money for the South Georgia Heritage Trust, a not-for-profit organisation that supports environmental, conservation and preservation initiatives in South Georgia. It turned out to be a riotous affair, with Iain, dapper dressed in a suit and bow tie, keeping us in stitches with his antics as Auctioneer. We can proudly say that together we raised over 750 Euros for the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and had a good time while doing it! We cruised past South Orkney Islands during and after dinner; with views of Orcadas station and Signy Island. Now we head west to the Elephant Island.

Day 12: At Sea to Elephant Island

At Sea to Elephant Island
Date: 27.02.2019
Position: 60° 55‘S, 049° 02‘W
Wind: SW 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -3

We woke up with the familiar voice of Troels wishing us a lovely morning on this journey. The Ortelius continues sailing west of the Orcadas heading for Elephant Island. The very special place where Shackleton and his men reach land after 472 days at sea and ice. After breakfast most of us went up to the bridge for some whale watching as their blows have been filling the horizon for a while. For the first time on our journey temperatures dropped to 0 degrees. Dressed up warmly, a few polar explorers made it outside to deck 5 on starboard side with camera’s and binoculars. Bird watching is always rewarded and this morning a beautiful light mantled albatross floated alongside on the ships wind at eyesight. A sighting we would experience quite a lot this day. At 10 o’clock Meike invited us for a lecture in the lounge on the penguin species we had encountered and may encounter on the rest of our journey to the peninsula. With lots of pictures and stories she informed us about their breeding ecology and habits in their penguin life. Meanwhile the wind had picked up to over 44 knots, and the bridge was by far the best spot to experience this day at sea. Among the high waves. were lots of whale blows that got closer to the ship. Troels made a whale announcement to make sure everybody could witness the whale bonanza that was about to take place. We were treated to an incredible sighting of fin whales surfacing at the bow, showing their heads, fins and tails and we responded with lots of ‘’ooooohs’’ and ‘’aaaaahhhs.’’ After lunch Nina gave us a lovely lecture on Antarctic explorers who adventured during the previous centuries over the globe to discover these southern waters. An interesting break from our day at sea while making our way to Antarctica ourselves. By the late afternoon the wind picked up and reached wind speeds of over 60 knots at times, making us hold on to the ship with both hands. Outside the seabirds did not seem to mind and the Southern Fulmars floated on the bow winds, like the many Cape Petrels, Prions and the odd Blue Petrel. Around 5 o’clock Ian gave an in-depth presentation of his ascent of Mt Vinson - Antarctica’s highest peak. A very adventurous story that fitted perfectly in our day at sea heading for the 7th continent. Following the daily recap and plans for the next day we made our way to the dining room. Big cheers for the chef and his team who served us a delicious meal on these rocky and bouncy waves.

Day 13: Elephant Island & At Sea to Antarctica

Elephant Island & At Sea to Antarctica
Date: 28.02.2019
Position: 63° 04‘S, 054° 46‘W
Wind: S 9
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: -1

We awake to the sound of howling wind and the sight of driving snow showers. Located 2 miles off Point Wild on Elephant Island, we shelter to the North of the Island as hurricane force winds bring swell from the cold South. This little beach where Shackleton’s men spent 4 months waiting for Shackleton to return with help. Todays weather conditions are very bad. Can’t see land and the winds are strong. During the morning it builds up to hurricane force 70 knots. It’s impossible to do any activity off the ship. After breakfast most of us stand on the bridge where we have the best view of the hurricane that beats up the sea. Before lunch Pippa gives a lecture about seals. Now everybody knows the difference between a true seal and eared seal. Most of us take a short rest after lunch and when we wake up again, we feel how the ships is moving. First by the coast of Elephant island where we see lots of Fin whales. When we start heading south the wind has decreased and we start our way towards the Antarctic continent. Before dinner we get the daily briefing from Troels and have a fun quiz up in the bar.

Day 14: Brown Bluff & Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula

Brown Bluff & Antarctic Sound, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 01.03.2019
Position: 63° 10‘S, 057° 03‘W
Wind: SW 2
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: -1

Our day started early today with a special 05:30 wake-up call from Troels; he suggested we join him on the top deck to watch the particularly beautiful sunrise. Before long we were outside, the miasma of sleep soon dispelled by the fresh morning air. The sun slowly rose in the east, lighting the horizon above d’Urville Island gold. Below us the waters of the Bransfield Strait were perfectly still, and a band of sea ice from the Weddell Sea extended out into the channel, pushed north by yesterday’s strong winds. As the sun burst over the horizon, the highest peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula were illuminated by the soft morning light. As the colours of the sunrise faded into a bright morning most of us returned to our cabins, a chance for a short rest before breakfast. Before long we were in the shadow of Brown Bluff, our landing site for the morning. Brown Bluff is an impressive mesa; its cliffs rise to more than 300 m above sea-level and it was formed by explosive volcanic activity around a million years ago. We boarded the zodiacs under clear blue skies and bright sunshine and soon we found ourselves stepping onto the pebble beach, and the Antarctic Continent! Gentoo roamed the beach and occupied a small rookery at the base of the slope. We also go our first glimpse of a few Adelie Penguins, although most members of the Brown Bluff colony had already completed their breeding cycle, heading out to sea in order to fatten up for the long winter ahead. Iain led a walk up a large moraine behind the beach, it was quite a steep scramble over loose rocks and snow patches, but the view from the top was spectacular; we could see over the adjacent glacier and all the way to the islands on the far side of Antarctic Sound. In the afternoon we ship cruised amongst the pack ice; from our vantage points on the decks we admired the shifting, swirling maze of ice. The floes were alive with animals, Gentoo and Adelie penguins were moulting. Others were packed with Weddell and Crabeater seals, and we also had a few close encounters with large Leopard Seals hauled out on the ice to rest. By mid-afternoon we had made our way deep into pack ice and we boarded the zodiacs for a cruise amongst the ice floes; a unique perspective of this spectacular and inhospitable environment. Our little flotilla of zodiacs cruised among the ice, spotting seals, sea birds, and even some Humpback Whales. We also saw a feeding frenzy of Wilsons Storm Petrels; these beautiful little birds had flocked to a productive patch of water in the lee of a large ice floe. Through the afternoon the weather changed dramatically. The wind got up as the sky clouded over and it became quite cold out on the water. We headed back to Ortelius for a fortifying Hot Chocolate (thanks Siggi!), and before long we were warm and dry again. In the evening, as we wined and dined, Ortelius made her way out of Antarctic Sound and into Bransfield Strait once more, bound for new sites and new adventures.

Day 15: Half Moon Island & Whalers Bay, Deception Island, South Shetland Islands

Half Moon Island & Whalers Bay, Deception Island, South Shetland Islands
Date: 02.03.2019
Position: 62° 34‘S, 059° 49‘W
Wind: Light
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +6

The day dawned a bit cloudy but that did not dampen our spirits, especially for those who were keen to stretch their legs after the long passage from South Georgia and Elephant Island to Halfmoon Island. Many of us made our way to the gangway to be part of the trekking party on Half Moon led by Laurence this morning. Onshore, everyone enjoyed the chance to see chinstraps close up and personal at their nesting site. The geology and lichens were interesting to inspect at a closer distance as well as the fur seals and elephant seal on the landing beach. Half of us were going for a Zodiac Cruise around the Island watching whales and a Leopard Seal feeding on a Penguin. It was possible to take some time to just step aside of the main group and enjoy some quiet and space, to have an Antarctic moment, taking in the grand backdrop of the white and craggy mountains of Livingston Island. After the hiker group came ashore, they spent just a few minutes with the seals and chinnys before their sights turned towards the other side of the island. After an overall briefing of the plans for the walk, the group headed out in single file so to minimize impacts on the fragile moss growing between the rocks. The group paused for photos and a bit of a windbreak at the Argentine Camara base before continuing their way back and to the opposite side of the island. Before the Zodiacs were prepared to bring us back to the ship, the Expedition Team offered us a very unique experience. The so called ‘Polar Plunge.’ More than 20 of us were brave to go for this very cold swim in the Antarctic seas. So we undressed and jumped into the calm but cold water. Daniel got some nice photos of our frozen faces. After another fine lunch by the hotel team, there was time to go to the outer decks to appreciate the calm passage to Deception Island. We looked out for whales and the first sights of the famed active volcano we’d be entering. Low clouds obscured the island’s heights but the varied colours of the caldera’s walls were no less impressive. The bridge was closed in preparation for sailing through the narrow opening of Neptune’s Bellows and all cameras were trained on the steep vertical walls passing only a handful of meters from the ship. Once inside the caldera, the captain placed the ship right in front of our landing zone at Whalers Bay. As usual we did our split landing and some of us went out for a Zodiac Cruise through the Neptunes Bellows with spectacular views on the steep rocks. The rest of us had the chance to take part in a guided walk with Pippa and Meike to the Neptunes Window. The opposite far end of the landing beach offered us very interesting sights of the old Whaling station and the old broken huts and remains of tanks and boiling gear for cooking the blubber. After our successful landing our Captain decided to have a little ship´s cruise in the big Caldera of Deception Island. We then continued to the far side of the caldera, passing the Spanish and Argentine bases. As we continued past an impressive glacier front, entirely covered by volcanic debris from previous eruption events, we headed back around to Whaler’s Bay and finally exiting through the Bellows again. Waving farewell to the chinstrap colony that guards the caldera’s entrance the Captain took us past beautiful formations on the exterior cliffs of the volcano before setting course towards our next destination- Cuverville Island. The expedition team met us in the bar at 18:30 for our daily recap and gave us some information about our next days and plans. Then it was high time for a good dinner after an exciting and long day. Good night.

Day 16: Cuverville Island & Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Cuverville Island & Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 03.03.2019
Position: 64° 39‘S, 062° 37‘W
Wind: Light
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +4

With landings scheduled at Cuverville and Port Lockroy, today promised to be a truly Antarctic delight. We were gently roused from a restful slumber by the dulcet tones of Troels over the loudspeaker, inviting us to leave our warm beds behind and embrace the icy, mountainous and whale-filled landscape that surrounded us. After a quick breakfast we followed what has become a familiar procedure, waiting in reception and then out on deck for Zodiac operations to begin. The morning’s landing at Cuverville would take us to a delightful dome-shaped island in the Errera Channel, known for its gentoo penguin colony (the largest in Antarctica!) and the lush green mosses that drape its upper slopes. As we approached the beach, we noticed a beautiful leopard seal lounging on an iceberg, taking a moment of rest after dining on the local cuisine. For those who stayed on land, this was an opportunity to spend some time communing with the gentoo penguins, perhaps taking a moment to sit quietly and allow the penguins to approach on their own terms. For those who opted for a Zodiac cruise, the Errera channel promised icebergs, porpoising penguins, leopard seals and whales galore. In the afternoon Troels and the team offered a split landing and Zodiac cruise at Port Lockroy, the site of Base A, which was established as part of the secret British Operation Tabarin during World War 2. Today Port Lockroy houses a post office, souvenir shop and museum, as well as a colony of extremely inquisitive gentoo penguins, quite unconcerned by our presence and eager to engage. It was a pleasure to spend some time among these little moulting birds in the cool, fresh afternoon. Our Zodiac cruise gave us the opportunity to take in the grandeur of our Antarctic surrounds, with the dramatic Mt Francais soaring skyward and smooth glaciers tumbling towards the sea. We passed Jougla Point (some of us even landed briefly!), which is home to small gentoo penguin and cormorant colonies. Some of us were also fortunate to see a Weddell seal and some whale bones on the shore. As we returned to the ship, we could smell the BBQ the hotel staff had put together for us on the Heli-deck. Although it began to rain and the wind picked up, most of us persevered and enjoyed our true Antarctic BBQ in the cold- although dessert was had in the warmth of the bar.

Day 17: Danco Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Danco Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 04.03.2019
Position: 64° 44‘S, 062° 37‘W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

Early Monday morning, Captain Mika sailed the Ortelius safely through the brash ice into the Errera Channel. As every morning Troels started our day with the wakeup call but this time mentioning that there were many humpback whales cruising the bay. After breakfast everybody got warmly dressed for a true Antarctic experience with wind, choppy waves and some rain for the last disembarkation of the ship in the Antarctic Peninsula. We departed in two groups, with 4 zodiacs whale watching while the other group of passengers landed at Danco Island, to swap over after an hour 1.5. The island is named after Emile Danco, a geophysicist on-board “Belgica” during Gerlaches’ expedition of the late 1890’s. Most of the explorers who landed that morning on Danco climbed to the top of the island. Passing a Gentoo rockery were the chicks were only 4 weeks old and were still guarded by their parent while the other parent was out in the ocean getting food for her family. High upon the cliffs the Gentoo’s were in a much earlier phase of their breeding ecology than the previous ones we had encountered during this voyage. In the bay among the sound of calving ice and turning icebergs, some serious whale encounters went on. As a dream come true, we were treated with lots of close sightings and encounters of a family of Humpack whales. Some zodiacs even had 2 whales visiting for over 30 minutes, spy hopping, waving their flippers to everybody’s excitement. All good things come to an end, also this morning. We were welcomed with warm chocolate at embarking the Orthelius and realized sadly that this was the last landing in the Antarctica Peninsula. While having a warm and lovely lunch, Captain Mika sailed out past the Melchior Islands. Most of us spend the afternoon in the lounge looking at their pictures and videos of the awesome and unforgettable whale encounters they had. Pippa’s inspiring lecture about the ocean of sound was a very welcome tribute to this morning’s experiences. The daily recap for the next days and in particular the Drake passage was all about green and blue, our favourite colour by far. Some important questions were answered about the critters that were found on the beach at Deception Island. Was it krill, prawns or amphipods? Amphipods! Life at sea has never a dull moment as Troels pointed out when we sailed passed a “smoking” Iceberg that was about to turnover. At dinner many more stories were shared that evening. Stories of a true Antarctic experience

Day 18: At Sea to Ushuaia – The Drake Passage

At Sea to Ushuaia – The Drake Passage
Date: 05.03.2019
Position: 61° 37‘S, 064° 12‘W
Wind: NE 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

By now we are getting used to Troels voice for wakeup. Today we are out on the Drake Passage on our way home to Ushuaia. The wind map is Troels’’ favourite colour blue but there is still some old swell on the sea, but fortunately for us, this swell was gentle. After breakfast Nina gives us a lecture about politics in Antarctica. A brilliant insight into the sovereignty of Antarctica and about the Antarctic Treaty. Before lunch we make the finishing touches to our competition entries; tonight the staff will hold a photo, poetry, and video competition. In the afternoon we discover Daniel has been around the ship taking pictures of Ortelius’ hidden places and after lunch Daniel, Sigi and Chief Engineer Guntis give a presentation about the inner workings of our ship. Meike give us the last lecture of the day in the late afternoon; Albatrosses, the coolest sea birds there is. We learn about their wing spans, life cycle and the current threats of these magnificent birds. We have a short recap before dinner where Sigi tells us of the plans for disembarkation and how to settle our bills- time to pay for all those beers! After dinner we gather in the bar to enjoy and judge the trip photography, poetry and video competitions. There were many great entrants in all categories, with many of the passengers being skilled photographers, poets and videographers! The competition also gave a really lovely overview of our incredible adventures on our expedition.

Day 19: At Sea to Ushuaia – The Drake Passage

At Sea to Ushuaia – The Drake Passage
Date: 06.03.2019
Position: 57° 33‘S, 065° 49‘W
Wind: W 5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

Our last day in the Drake Passage began with calm rolling seas and sunshine. The time to hand back our trusty muck boots and lifesaving jackets had come and we filed in to the lecture room to give back these handy travel companions. Most of the morning, and indeed the day, was spent out on decks, enjoying the sunshine and ever increasing temperatures as we push northwards. By the middle of the afternoon we were starting to see familiar faces as we welcomed the return of the Albatross and Shearwaters, both accompanied by the ubiquitous Wilsons Storm Petrel. Later in the morning the film ‘Around Cape Horn’ was aired in the lounge. An adventurous tale of a stormy trip rounding this notorious stretch of water. Later in the afternoon Iain and Laurence gave a lecture about the current research on the Antarctic ice shelfs, followed by a question and answer with us all about it and the effects of climate change on the continent. As we began to pack up our belongings and share our last photos, the good ship Ortelius headed ever closer to South America. The sunshine continued outside and we spotted Peale’s Dolphins close the ship; a sure sign we were getting closer to land. Troels gave our lasting briefing in the lounge followed by a toast from Captain Mika, and thanks to the crew and staff. After a toast of champagne and a sunny group photo on the bow, we headed to our last dinner on board. The remainder of the evening was spent sharing a few drinks, photos and memories in the bar. A truly fantastic adventure was had on our Oceanwide expedition.

Day 20: Disembarkation - Ushuaia

Disembarkation - Ushuaia
Date: 07.03.2019

At 6am we approached the port of Ushuaia ready to disembark for the final time, no zodiac ride ashore and a dry landing. The last three weeks have taken us on a remarkable journey from the Falkland Islands, to South Georgia and to Antarctica, and allowed us a glimpse of life in these remote and sometimes inhospitable places. We will al have different memories of our trip but whatever the memories, whether it was King Penguins at St Andrews Bay or the sight of icebergs for the first time, they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home. Total Distance Sailed: 3721 Nautical Miles

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