OTL31-18, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 03.03.2018
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Air Temperature: +8

Boarding Ortelius started late in the afternoon and we were soon checked in by our Hotel Manager and his assistant (DJ and Sava). We were shown our cabins and had some free time to get unpacked and settled in. Lovely to know that we don’t have to change our ‘hotel’ again until we’re back in Ushuaia. We soon began exploring our new home; perhaps the most important place to find was the Bar on Deck 6, where coffee/tea can be accessed 24/7 and where our bartenders can often be found if we fancy some-thing stronger. Of course, doors to the outside deck-space were also important to locate, so that when ‘al-batross’, ‘whales’ and other delights are announced, we know how to get out there as quickly and efficiently as possible. A bit later we were summoned by Expedition Leader Lynn to a mandatory briefing in the Lecture Room on Deck 3. She welcomed us on board and introduced Third Officer Warren, who gave an all-important Safety Briefing and Lifeboat Drill. Now we are aware of what we should do if we see a fire or man overboard, and know precisely what to grab and where to go in the event of the ship’s general alarm going off. Seven short and one long blast calls us (warmly dressed) to the Bar, which doubles as our muster station. Once we are all there, radio communication between the bridge officers and ship’s crew keeps us informed of develop-ments. The ‘abandon ship’ signal is a verbal command given by the Captain or Chief Officer, and we hope that today is the only time we hear it, followed by the reassuring words “for practice only”…Filing outside in orderly fashion and gathering next to the lifeboats completed the drill; we were then free to continue our explorations of the ship, or come out on deck with our cameras to enjoy Ortelius’ departure from Ushuaia and progress down the Beagle Channel. Before dinner we again gathered in the Lounge/Bar on Deck 6 in order to meet key crew/staff and learn about ship routine during our voyage. Hotel Manager DJ imparted useful information about mealtimes, Internet/Webmail access and treating the toilets nicely. He was followed by Expedition Leader Lynn, who introduced Captain Ernesto – the person who will get us there and back again safely – and then handed over to her team of staff for self-introductions. We raised a glass of bubbly (or orange juice) to the success of our voyage and then it was time for our first dinner aboard. After dinner Dr. Irene was available in the ship’s hospital to hand out seasickness medication and valuable advice. A stroll on deck to watch the local bird population on the wing, a cup of tea or something stronger, or the starry night, and then most of us fell into bed after a busy and exciting day, hoping for smooth seas to lull us to sleep. Tomorrow morning will find us well on the way to our first stop.

Day 2: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 04.03.2018
Position: 61°01‘S, 063°05‘W
Wind: NE 6 bft
Air Temperature: +4

The first morning on board the Ortelius begun with Lynn`s wakeup call followed by DJ who announced the breakfast buffet to be open. The que at the buffet was not as long as one could have had thought, as quite some of us experienced what seasickness is like. Nevertheless, those adventurous people who wanted to join mountaineering and kayaking had to attend the mandatory briefings for the respective activities. As we had crossed the Antarctic Convergence, it was no wonder that the first big birds were spotted sailing around the ship. Is it an Albatross? Is it a Petrel? After Lunch, these and a lot more questions were an-swered in Arjen’s lecture about the tubenoses. Now, knowing what we are seeing flying around the ship all our enthusiastic photographers wanted to photograph the southern birdlife. To make sure everybody gets the best out of their cameras, Renato gave a lecture about nature photography and how to get the birds sharp in flight. After the lecture, it was time to practice on the outside decks before gathering in the lounge for the first daily recap of the trip.

Day 3: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 05.03.2018
Position: 61°01 S, 063°05‘W
Wind: NE bft 6
Air Temperature: 0

We start our last day at sea before our arrival in Antarctica, the anticipation is building and we are all get-ting excited for our adventures to come. Early in the morning we passed the convergence which marks our entry into geographical Antarctic waters. The air is getting colder it is now 3 degrees centigrade and the water temperature has dropped to 1 de-gree centigrade. We all needed more clothing to keep warm today. Which only adds to our spirit of adventure. We attended mandatory briefings and learned how to behave and what to expect when we arrive tomorrow. The seabird numbers increased around the ship. We saw Albatross, Cape Petrels and other Petrels majesti-cally flying near to the ship. It is amazing to see these birds. Some don’t look large enough to survive whilst others fly for hours without flapping their wings. Late in the day we passed Smith Island which marked our first sight of land. The islands were magnificent on the horizon. Covered in snow we marvelled at a yacht passing in the rough seas how do they do it? Tomorrow our activities begin we cannot wait!

Day 4: Cuverville / Orne Harbour

Cuverville / Orne Harbour
Date: 06.03.2018
Position: 64°37‘S, 062°36‘W
Wind: NE 6 bft
Air Temperature: 0

After crossing the Gerlache Strait we approached Cuverville Island. Conditions were good and everybody had the first close up meeting with the stars of the place, Gentoo Penguins! People can’t stop to take pic-tures of them! Thousands of them nest on the island, and we were able to see all the care to the chicks, the exchanges of the parents on the nest, the feeding, and the continuous shuttles up and down the slopes of Penguin parents coming and going from feeding trips. Gentoo’s are very curiously and friendly as we can see in the pictures. In the afternoon, we had a zodiac cruise for everyone at Orne Harbour. The weather had gotten a little rougher than in the morning, but the enthusiasm of the passengers had not been cooled down. It was the first time in this voyage that we had seen Chinstrap penguins, hearty little birds that prefer to live on rocky cliffsides and scree slopes, in places inaccessible to us for landing. After cruising the Chinstrap shore, we drove deeper into Orne Harbour, and checked out the icebergs and sea ice which had been trapped at the back of the bay by the wind and current. The icebergs and ice foes were carried to the back of the bay, and the zodiacs also drifted with the ice in this amazing snowy scene. Kayaking With 25 knots of wind around the ship we were surprised when our kayak guide Christian announced that he actually wanted to try to paddle this morning. But, on the Southern side of Cuverville Island we found surprisingly nice shelter from the wind and waves. We did not even have all of our kayaks on the water when a group of Humpback whales passed us and gave us a splendid show among the icebergs. In addition, we met both an enormous fur seal and watched Gentoo penguins én route to their colony; below our kay-aks, above and in the water. In the afternoon a group of experienced kayakers was able to paddle in the swell around the chinstrap penguin colony. We followed the shoreline into the bay and saw several Crabeater, Fur and Weddell Seals. We were further proceeding through the ice and a really Antarctic scenery before we could see straight in the face of an enormous Leopard seal. A visit of a Humpback whale finished off this great outing. Mountaineering Morning – Georges Point After 2 days of sea crossing we awoke with excitement to see the shores of Antarctica. The weather in the weeks earlier had been warm and wet but as we crossed the Drake Passage a cold storm had brought fresh snow to the Peninsula giving the mountains and glaciers we could see a fresh duting of new snow. With a stiff breeze at our backs the mornings climbing team, comprised of passengers without crampon compatible boots, made a shore landing at Georges Point. The seas here were a bit rough so we moved slightly from the normal landing site to a more sheltered one where we ended up accessing the glacier directly. The glacier here was free from snow and down to bare white ice - with no crevassing evident the team were able to walk in snow shoes (for grip) higher on the glacier where we roped up and made our way to a short col low on the flanks of Mount Tennant – for a non-technical group this was an amazing journey that required them to cross a few interesting crevasses and a short medium angled slope. Amazing views - photo opportunities - good laughs and a glacier excursion were exactly what was needed after 2 days of sea travel! The return to the shore was faster than the climb up and shortly after we were eating a well deserved lunch and coming to the realization that we were actually in Antarctica! Afternoon – Spigot Peak A smaller team was pulled together for the afternoons journey up Spigot Peak. Conditions on the peak were testing with firm hard rain frozen snow covered in places by a fresh dusting of wind driven snow from the previous 2 day storm. A colony of Chinstrap penguins call Spigot peak their home – these sea-going flightless birds are mountain-eers in their own right – and to see them ‘surf’ the snow slopes to ocean below to go hunting for fish to feed their chicks. Some of these birds can be found more than ½ way up Spigot Peak! Given the conditions the team had to make their way between the hard, icy surface and the exposed rocky snow filled terrain. Steep exposed crampon work with Andy and Mal using short roping techniques allowed the team the sneak their way past the dinner plate hard ice to make the final summit – the 360 degree views of ORNE harbour and the Gerlach Strait were amazing - even with a rapidly greying sky, stiffening breeze and dropping temperatures. But here we were only ½ way - we still had to descend – so carefully retracing our ascent route we made our way back to the shore where our zodiac was waiting to take us back once more to our warm home - Ortelius.

Day 5: Danco Island and Neko Harbour

Danco Island and Neko Harbour
Date: 07.03.2018
Position: 64°49‘S, 062°36.9‘W
Wind: SE 2 bft
Air Temperature: +1

Neko Harbour is a beach and small rocky outcrop on the shore, backed by towering peaks and surrounded by glaciers - which are heavily crevassed. The glaciers surrounding the bay regularly calve. The foundations of an Argentine refuge hut are still visible. Following weather damage in 2010 the hut was removed and the site cleared. Some passengers enjoyed spend time with Gentoo’s chic. Was extraordinary how close they could be. Danco Island is a one mile long island in the southern part of the Errera Channel. Its north shore is characterised by a wide flat cobbled beach with a long snow‐free slope behind it which rises up to the island’s ice‐covered summit. Permanent ice dominates the top and south side of the island. Iain, one of the guides, led people to the top, where we spent some time on the fresh snow. We felt the spirit of this place and an amazing view of the landscape and some Gentoo’s climbers. Kayaking Neko Harbour was at its best this morning. The glacial scenery was almost like a mirror and our beginner kayakers could not have asked for better weather. We were proceeding through the small pieces of ice and passed some beautiful blue icebergs. Just as we enjoyed the silence of the scenery, a couple of jumping penguins and a swimming seal were spotted. After kayaking we also got the chance for a short landing on the Antarctic continent. At Danco Island the skies became darker and we were prepared for the worst. But when we set out in our kayaks we enjoyed a fantastic peaceful scenery. Snow was slowly falling down on us while we were enjoy-ing a full silence. But, we also spotted a Leopard and a Weddell seal. Penguins were constantly jumping around us, and we could even see them “flying” under water. The glacial icebergs around us were the big-gest we had seen so far, and they felt even bigger from our tiny kayaks. Mountaineering The views were again incredible as we approached Neko Point - as we arrived we could see our route which makes its way up the broad shoulder to a large rock buttress. We need to come ashore and walk gently past the Gentoo’s penguins who were very inquisitive about our equipment! Its not advisable to let a penguin peck your rope to pieces! After roping up we made our way up onto the glacier – conditions were again very firm underfoot to start with and with so little snow it was possible to see the uncovered crevasses lower down on the glacier – however as we climb higher there is a little more snow which means of course that the crevasses are now hidden from view. Staying roped up allowed us to remain safe with Mal and Andy leading each rope team – occasionally find-ing small crevasses to put their legs into they lead us safely past the larger, deeper and open crevasses we began to encounter as we got higher. After about 1 ¾ hours we reached our high point where we could look down on Ortelius - our friends on shore and the Gentoo colony. Suddenly the serenity is shattered by the roaring sound of the glacial serac cliffs collapsing about 1.5 km away from us. Where we are was quite safe but the view of thousands and thousands of tons of car and bus sized blocks of ice crashing down onto the glacier below is a good remind-er why we don’t travel under these towering ice cliffs. The descent is much faster only interrupted by Mal and Andy once again finding a few covered crevasses to put their legs into. Back on shore we changed into our muck boots and we were whisked back to Ortelius for another tasty lunch. The weather was looking a bit variable with a snow storm approaching so rather than walk up high onto a glacier where we could have been whited out – we instead found a short ice cliff on the side of Danco Is-land where 11 lucky expeditioners had the chance to experience climbing ice for the first time with the ocean lapping their feet. Mal and Andy quickly climbed up and built anchors for the team and then gave instruction on how to safely belay a climber with the assistance of a back-up belayer. Next came instruc-tion on how to use ice axes and crampons to best effect on the moderately angled ice wall. With three separate ropes set up we were unleashed on the ice everybody got the chance to climb at least 2-3 times as the snow storm arrived. Ice climbing with the ocean at your feet / snow falling on your shoulders AND in Antarctica? Sounds like this afternoons activity was definitely a winning combination. Everybody did a good job of packing up swiftly and then back on board showed great teamwork in getting all the equipment cleaned before heading off to get out of our climbing gear. Great day everybody – thanks very much!

Day 6: Lemaire Chanel / Vernadsky Station

Lemaire Chanel / Vernadsky Station
Date: 08.03.2018
Position: 65°02‘S, 063°53‘W
Wind: NE 2 bft
Air Temperature: +4

This morning we headed to the Lamaire Channel. The expedition team dropped off zodiacs at the begin-ning of this narrow channel and cruised around icebergs and brush ice. The scenery was breathtaking and we spotted a number of seals, a leopard seal resting on ice and a couple of minki whales purposing in the calm waters. After a wonderful morning in excellent weather conditions we got back on board for lunch to get ready for the afternoon activities. In the afternoon we visited the Ukrainian Vernadsky station (formery the British Faraday station) situated on a very small rocky peninsula called Marine Point, Galindez Island (part of the Argentine Islands). This station is the oldest operational station in the Antarctic Peninsula re-gion, with continuous meteorological records, which have been collected since 1947 till present. The station was transferred to Ukraine in 1996 and renamed after academician Volodymyr Vernadsky. The station consists of the main double-stored working and accommodation block, and of ten auxiliary buildings. Our guests, after receiving a briefing by the station leader on arrival, were shown how the Ukrainian sta-tion operates and how resident staff lives all year around. After the visit to the station we popped over the Wordie House, which was initially used as the main station before it was expanded and relocated to Vernadsky. The older station still has the original tools and equipment. Kayaking Even for our guide Christian this was the first time kayaking through Lemaire channel. We started off with our Zodiacs in quite heavy and cold headwind. But, as soon as we boarded our kayaks and turned down-wind, conditions turned out wonderful. We could feel the currents and eddies and were stunned by the movement of the ice. Also, we were able to watch a couple of Fur and Crabeater seals on our way. But mostly we were just enjoying the enormous mountains of the Lemaire. What a place to kayak! Again, conditions seemed quite rough this afternoon, but inside the little channels of the Argentine Islands we found good shelter. But, we also found surprisingly much wildlife. We got close contacts with Skuas and some seals were as interested in us as we were in them. We also got a good view on the climbing activity of our mountaineering group and were happy to warm up at the Ukrainian research station of Vernadsky. Mountaineering Morning - Lemaire Channel We awoke to close to 20cm of new snow settling on the decks of Ortelius. With the new snow and poor visibility it wasn’t safe for us to venture into the terrain available to us in the Lemaire for Avalanche Safety reasons, instead a Zodiac Cruise in the Lemaire Passage was able to be enjoyed – a rare experience! Afternoon – Vernadsky Station / Winter Island Low visibility / a stiffening breeze and dropping temperatures meant that we chose to stay closer to Ver-nadsy Station instead of a long open water crossing to some longer terrain, that and of course the chance to visit the famous Vernadsky station! We made our way up narrow channels to find a suitable ice cliff – however instead of starting from the bottom of the cliff, Mal and Andy set up anchors at the top and low-ered the 12 climber down to near the waters edge to then climb back up to the top. A few climbers were a little nervous of being lowered down but after the first try everybody was able to reach the top with huge grins and rounds of applause from the rest of the team – or perhaps the applause was our way of staying warm in the cold temperatures! We enjoyed a short visit to Vernadsky before head-ing back to Ortelious again for a well deserved hot shower and to relax and chat with our fellow expedi-tioners in the resturaunt over dinner. Camping After a great day visiting the snowy playground that is Antarctica we got ashore to camp. It was a real treat to camp next to an historic site. The base was built by the British in WW2 under operation Tabarin. This base was part of a series of bases including Port Lockroy. It was imaginatively called Base H. It be-came part of the base Faraday run by the British Antarctic Survey after the war. Later it was sold to the Ukraine government to continue research to the present day. However, it is maintained the British Antarc-tic Heritage Trust. We left the ship in a strange gloom which marked how far South we had travelled. We got ashore with a little light left and unloaded the Zodiac as fast as possible to beat the diminishing light. We pitched camp on the slope at the back of the base we put together our warm bivvies’ and set up camp. Building walls with the snow made for a more comfortable night. The Potty was set up and we explored close to our camp with the remaining light a proper adventure. Our bivvies’ were comfortable and we soon dozed off into a slumber into the Polar Night. When we awoke we found that our bivvies’ had a layer of fresh snow on them. We felt like true Antarctic explorers. Around 5.30am we broke camp and removed all trace of us being at the site. We loaded the Zodiacs and re-joined the ship outside the bay containing Vernadski Station. What an experience.

Day 7: Pleneau / Petermann

Pleneau / Petermann
Date: 09.03.2018
Position: 65°12‘S, 064°10‘W
Wind: 0 bft 0
Air Temperature: +2

Once Ortelius had its full compliment of Argentine Island campers back on board we began our leisurely journey northwards with a day once more filled with activities. First stop was Petermann Island, home of the ubiquitous Gentoo but also the first opportunity for the passengers of this voyage to see the Adelie penguin. Named by Dumont D’Urville during his voyage in the 1840’s after his wife Adèle these are the ‘Happy Feet’ penguins many associate with Antarctica. Having spent time with many of these birds, I can assuredly say they are my favourite and seem to be fuller of personality than many of the other penguin species we encounter down here at the upside down end of the world. Despite these moulting avians being rather subdued on our landing, they delighted all and will feature in many a photo album from the trip! To the west stands a simple wooden cross remembering a team of British Antarctic Survey men lost to the sea ice between Petermann and the peninsula. The winter sea ice is a fickle beast and the cross acts as a stark reminder of the perils of travelling across such terrain. However, spare a moment to imagine this scene during the depths of the freeze when the wind is calm, the sea is frozen to the horizon and the call of the Gentoo is silent. It is eerily beautiful and all one’s senses find trouble computing the ice cold charm of it all. A post prandial landing on Pleneau Island gave guests an opportunity for a longer stretch of the legs. Whilst modest in altitude, the terrain on this wee hill was decidedly slippery following the recent snowfall and cunning route finding was required to ease the difficulties. To add to the challenge, Gentoo penguins seemed to litter the route frequently and positioned themselves in such a way as to thwart upward access via the easiest routes! However, for those sufficiently skilled to negotiate penguin alley, the view from the high ground was breathtaking. Mighty peaks towered over us to the north and east, whilst icefalls tumbled downwards chaotically from the high plateau of the peninsula shedding their load in colossal calving events, the debris from which lay to our west in an iceberg graveyard. An archipelago of small islands, a leopard seal flaying it’s victim and icebergs crumbling were all treats that entertained those who ventured up into the lofty heights of Pleneau! The day will perhaps be remembered by two particular individuals best as their anniversary. A pre-dinner sail around the cirque of ice that is Girard Bay was deemed a suita-ble backdrop for the Captain to perform the necessary rights to pronounce them man and wife! So a day for Happy Feet and a Happy Couple! Kayaking Conditions were considerably calm this morning, but we enjoyed a lovely swell at Petermann Islandp; thus, being lifted up and down calmly by the waves. We followed the Eastern shoreline of the island and after visiting the place of Jean B. Charcot’s second Antarctic overwintering with the “Pourquois Pas” we spotted two solitary Adelie penguins, one of them nicely posing for us. Our great outing was finalized by watching not less than eight crabeaters seals either lying on an iceberg or swimming by us. In the afternoon we found beautiful small and sheltered channels to paddle in. In addition, beautiful blue icebergs invited us for a photographic session in our kayaks. The scenery around us was just wonderful and we spotted both Crabeater and even a Leopard Seal on the ice floes around us. After a little paddle upwind, we finished off downwind with the view towards huge icebergs and the Southern entrance of the Lemaire channel. Mountaineering It had snowed again overnight and the morning was cold – the mountaineering team departed for the North East corner of Peterman island where we first had to get ashore! After making shore via a narrow cleft in the rocks and gaining the snowfield we then changed boots and got into our climbing boots and crampons to start our way up the frozen slopes above us. Temperatures had dropped enough overnight to freeze the water running off the rock and icicles were hanging from multiple rock overhangs with at least another 10 cm of new snow. With boots and crampons securely fitted we roped up to make our way to a short steep snow lead that gave us access up and onto a series of rocky, snow covered ledges. Careful footwork with the occasional rest on broad ledges to have a look at the amazing views beneath us brought us to the wide open summit of Peterman – the local birdlife had laid claim to the very true summit though with a cheeky Skua giving the mountaineering team an inquisitive look – retracing our steps again was fast than the ascent and a lower tide made it easier to reboard or zodiac for the ride back to our now very familiar Ortelius. In the afternoon, for those that had not brought boots that would fit crampons Hovgaard island provided the perfect opportunity to go out onto glaciated terrain once again using snowshoes – the new snow actu-ally provided the perfect surface for the snowshoes to give us excellent footing. The broad open shoulder rises up to a long summit ridge – however significant crevassing meant the going to the very true summit with a team of 13 wide-eyed new mountaineers and 2 Guides was not the best option. Instead - after finding a few ‘interesting’ crevasses for us to look into, Mal and Andy brought us to an amazing viewpoint the overlooked the Ortelius and large rock / cliff band that fell steeply away to the shore below us. Obligatory group photo’s, hugs and laughs were had before we began to get too cold – whilst it was warmer back at the ship – where we were was sitting below freezing with an increasing wind. A faster descent and a rapid pack up of our gear and equipment was done and before we knew it our Zodi-acs were there to whisk us back to hot showers. A fantastic day with amazing views and great people once again. Camping We made a second night of camping at Hovgaard after a great day doing other activities. We left the ship with stomachs full of food from the BBQ. The weather was overcast but the sky looked to be clearing so we hoped for a starry night. We spent an hour setting up camp putting together our sleeping bags mattresses into the Bivvyie bags. Then we settled down for a cold but spectacular night on the ice. The weather was chilly but it was fairly calm wind wise. With the odd clear patch showing a star or two. After another hour the skies opened and the whole starry vista appeared. It was beautiful with stars visible that light pollution filters out at home. We were watching satellites travelling across the sky when an explosion oc-curred shooting sparks into the night sky. After this amazing show we settled down to sleep listening to silence broken by a Humpback Whale making noises in the back ground. At 5.am Peter and Michael woke us and we returned to the ship. We were welcomed back onboard with Pastries and Hot Chocolate.

Day 8: Foyn Harbor & Wilhelmina Bay

Foyn Harbor & Wilhelmina Bay
Date: 10.03.2018
Position: 65°112‘S, 064°10‘W
Wind: NE 6 bft
Air Temperature: +3

This morning we passed by Damoy point, where we originally planned a landing. Due to inclement weather we had to continue on to our next destination. In the afternoon we arrived at Foyn harbor, where the weather conditions were significantly better. As soon as wearrived we set off for a zodiac cruise in this area, which is renowned for being a feeding ground for whales. A number of humpback whales was spotted and we had the opportunity to see the bubble-netting (feeding). Left the whales, we headed to visit a Norwegian ship wreck in Wilhelmina Bay, off the West coast of Gra-ham Land. The Norwegian whaling vessel Solstreif was moored to during 1921-22. We then returned on board for the usual recap of the day and briefing for the following day’s activities. Mountaineering Foyn Harbour The weather caused us to change plans this morning – we were eying up a climb of Jabet Peak in Dorian Bay but the strong winds and approaching snow storm told us that we had better relocate further to the north. So instead we devised a plan to head onto a small island near the wreck of a whaling ship factory ship, The Governorn which was scuttled in 1912 due to a fire onboard. Near here we were able to scope out a 40 meter high ice face which would present us with an exciting challenge. We first had to climb off the beach by a small snow-covered rock step and then up onto the wide dome above. Mal and Andy were able to quickly assess the best site to give us an amazing experience! We were first lowered down to near the ocean – as the first climbers neared the shore a number of penguins came out from under the overhanging ice where they must have been sheltering. For a while we were ice climbing with the penguins swimming directly beneath us in the shallow water! For most of us being lowered over the edge of a 40 meter high cliff was definitely a first but our confi-dence was bolstered by Mal and Andy’s assurances that we would be more than safe with strong solid snow anchors and steady hands at the belay as we were lowered down. By the time we had been up and down the face a number of times were all feeling much more confident and had begun to move with style. Iggy was on his way to pick us up so we packed up and got ourselves safely back to shore and our muck boots to await our ride but to the familiar site of Ortelius! A HUGE THANK YOU from the Mountaineering Team for being so keen and able to deal with the changing conditions – remember an adventure is an activity with an unknown outcome and when you are on an Ex-pedition to Antarctica its always and Adventure! Camping We made a second night of camping at Hovgaard after a great day doing other activities. We left the ship with stomachs full of food from the BBQ. The weather was overcast but the sky looked to be clearing so we hoped for a starry night. We spent an hour setting up camp putting together our sleeping bags mattresses into the Bivvyie bags. Then we settled down for a cold but spectacular night on the ice. The weather was chilly but it was fairly calm wind wise. With the odd clear patch showing a star or two. After another hour the skies opened and the whole starry vista appeared. It was beautiful with stars visible that light pollution filters out at home. We were watching satellites travelling across the sky when an ex-plosion occurred shooting sparks into the night sky. After this amazing show we settled down to sleep listening to silence broken by a Humpback Whale making noises in the back ground. At 5.am Peter and Michael woke us and we returned to the ship. We were welcomed back onboard with Pastries and Hot Chocolate. Thank You for coming camping with Oceanwide Expeditions

Day 9: Halfmoon Island

Halfmoon Island
Date: 11.03.2018
Position: 62°33 S, 059°54 W
Wind: NE 5 bft
Air Temperature: +3

After the wonderful spectacle of breaching Humpbacks the previous afternoon, it was somewhat a dis-heartening start to our last day south when we awoke to grey skies, low cloud and rain. We call it dreich weather in Scotland! Ever optimistic though, the expedition team still packed some towels for the promised polar plunge… Half Moon Island was used by sealers and whalers from as early as the 1820’s and a old wooden boat from this period still lies on the beach. Now it is home to an Argentine station that first opened in the 1950’s and after a period of closure was reopened in the late 1980’s as a summer only re-search station named Camara after a naval aviator. It’s outline should come as no surprise being curved and containing a bay named crescent. We landed on the southern side and split the landing into two groups. Those who still had not had their fill of penguins wandered along a short distance to see the Chinstrap colony and Kevin the elusive, resident Macaroni. A large contingent though, headed north around the bowed coast and then higher to gain a different perspective of the island. The higher summits of Half Moon remained shrouded in mist initially so we opted to wander along the shorefront sadly littered with plastic. After our debris-free landings further south, this reminder of mankind's far reaching effect was poignant to many. The mist though began to lift, so a few chose to continue the hike up the hill to a skua infested vantage point. From here we could see the raised beaches on the western side of the island and interesting geomorphological features underfoot caused by the effects of the permafrost. As a back-drop, Livingstone Island was beginning to show itself. Much more glaciated and spectacular than many of the South Shetlands, it is more reminiscent of the Peninsula we left behind and a fitting sight to take from this great continent. The final act of the voyage was the polar plunge, a fearless leap into the icy cold wa-ters of the Antarctic. A feat many will be unlikely to repeat, more due to sense rather than circumstance! After an estimated twenty five hands were raised during recap we had closer to sixty ‘swimmers’ and had to request more towels from the Ortelius. From the whoops and squeals of delight, I gather those that went for a dip had a good time? And so ends our sojourn to the Antarctic Peninsula and we begin the journey north once more. Sailing up and away from the South Shetland Islands, they were revealed in all their glory - icy mountains, glaciers both chaotic and calming, blue skies and sun! Makes you want to come back, doesn’t it?

Day 10: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 12.03.2018
Position: 59°53.1‘S, 066°13.7‘W
Wind: NNW 5 bft
Air Temperature: +3

Today was a full day at sea with no sight of land and not much in the way of wildlife, although there were several Cape petrels following the ship throughout the day, swerving amongst the waves of the Drakes pas-sage. The Drakes passage, notorious for being extremely stormy and rough was pleasantly calm to moder-ate. Only a slight swell throughout the day meant almost everyone could move around the ship without suffering from seasickness. And as a bonus the early morning fog lifted to give relatively clear skies and sunshine. We were all able to have a slightly longer sleep with no wake-up call (other than the announcement for breakfast… So not a particularly long lie!) After breakfast the day was kept full with presentations from Christian on whales and their adaptations for surviving in Cold waters, followed by Arjen on the non-flying bird varieties (penguins). Iain Rudkin then gave the final presentation of the day on his experiences of working and living in Antarctica, with experiences of life on a station and of life in the deep field living in small pyramid tents. Now as I write this, several people are walking past in thick outdoor coats ready to stand on the back deck and gaze up the stars- with no light pollution the stars at sea can be really clear and beautiful! Those of us living in the Northern hemisphere also get to see many stars we never get to see back home.

Day 11: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 13.03.2018
Position: 56°04‘S, 065°50‘W
Wind: N 8 bft
Air Temperature: +10

Another day at sea started a little bit bumpy in the Drake and our passing by Cape Horn was disturbed by the sea and weather conditions. Luckily the sea calmed down quite fast and we enjoyed the sunshine on the outer decks. We made good progress on our course to Ushuaia and before we entered the Beagle Chanel, dolphins have been spotted dead ahead of the ship. What a great sighting in beautiful sun glitter. Late in the afternoon, we arrived at our pilot station where the pilot was picked up and navigated the Orte-lius safely to the pier in Ushuaia.

Day 12: Ushuaia

Date: 14.03.2018
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Air Temperature: +8

All good things come to an end, as they say. Today was our last morning on Ortelius. After a last night in our cabin, which had started to feel like home already. We put our suitcases in the corridors this morning as instructed so the crew could take them out and off the ship. After one more breakfast it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to our ship and its crew and staff, and to our new friends. Appointments were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. We could look back to a very nice and successful trip and all of us marveled at the sight of many Penguins and spectacular scenery during all the activities. At 8:30 we handed in the keys to our cabins, picked up our luggage from the pier and walked towards Ushuaia. Heading for new adventures and with many great memories in our pocket. Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be! Furthest South: 65°13‘ S 64°14‘ W Total Distance Sailed: 1679 NM On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Lynn Woodworth, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.