OTL32-19, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula, Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 07.03.2019
Wind: WSW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

Today we find ourselves in the town at the end of the World; Ushuaia! This town marks the start of an adventure some of us have dreamt about for a long time, an adventure that will take us to the 7th continent; the big beautiful, white continent; Antarctica! It was a drizzly, wet day in Ushuaia, with occasional bouts of sunshine, typically changeable for this region. By 4pm we are heading for our home for the next 10 days or so; the good ship Ortelius. We are welcomed on board by our expedition team and soon checked in by our hotel manager and assistant hotel manager; Sigy and Melanie as well as their hotel team. We are shown to our cabins and had some free time to get unpacked and settled in. We have some time to explore the ship, and find our way around to the important areas; the bar on deck 6, the bridge on deck 7 and our restaurant for the voyage on deck 4. We meet and talk with our fellow passengers and begin to get excited about our expedition south. At 5pm we are summoned by our expedition leader Michael to a mandatory briefing in the lecture room on deck 3. Michael welcomed us onboard and introduced third officer Igor who showed us the all-important safety video; highlighting what we should do to keep ourselves safe onboard and what to do in an emergency. We run through the mandatory abandon ship drill before leaving port. This involved mustering in the bar, which doubles as our mustering station, with our lifejackets from our cabins. Once mustered we head out to the lifeboats to complete the drill. After the drill we continue to explore the ship and head out on deck to watch Ortelius depart from the port of Ushuaia……and so the adventure begins! Before we have our first dinner on board we gathered in the lounge/bar where Michael introduces our Hotel man-ager Sigi who gives us a virtual tour of the ship and useful information about mealtimes, internet access and daily life on the ship. Soon after this Michael introduced Captain Mika who gave a lovely toast, and combined with a glass of bubbly (or orange juice), we raised a glass to the success of our voyage. Then came dinner time and we were introduced to chef Heinz’ delicious cooking. After dinner we spent time on deck watching the Beagle channel pass us by as we head out towards the Drake passage. We expect some rough weather crossing the drake so our expedition team organises our activity briefings to take place this evening; everyone is briefed on kayaking, camping and mountaineering and what is expected of us in preparation for these activities. We head to bed after a long and exciting day. All in anticipation of our Antarctic adventure.

Day 2: At Sea to Antarctica!

At Sea to Antarctica!
Date: 08.03.2019
Position: 56°23‘S, 066°17‘W
Wind: W 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

Our first wakeup call comes early from Michael, our expedition leader, we awake to rolling seas, and everyone took time to get used to the ship’s movement. As we are expecting rough seas later in the day, we make our way through some essential tasks in the morning; firstly, we need to collect our life jackets and Muckboots – two essential items we will need for our adventures in Antarctica. Simultaneously to this, we also start the process of cleaning all our outer gear; this biosecurity measure is in place to reduce any possible contamination from foreign biological material making it on to Antarctica. The process involves vacuuming our outer clothing and cleaning our footwear, poles and tripods. We make it through these tasks in time for an early lunch. Again, this is to facilitate the rougher weather expected as we head further south into the Drake Passage. With quite a few of us feeling the adverse effects of being on a ship in the Drakes Passage, the afternoon is mostly filled with resting in our bunks, standing on deck with views of the horizon and many incredible birds soaring over and around the ship. We get a chance to sign up to our activities for the trip; camping, kayaking and mountaineering. Through this sign up process we meet our activity guides and get a better idea of what will be involved on our adventures. We have our first recap with the expedition team which gives us a review of the day and what to expect for the following day. We are introduced to the weather maps which will give us our daily weather on our expedition, and we are told what colours to look out for; blue being the colour for calm days, and purple meaning very windy days. Those of us that are not too sea sick head to the dinning room for another delicious Ortelius dinner.

W 7: At Sea to Antarctica!

At Sea to Antarctica!
Date: 09.03.2019
Position: 60°04‘S, 064°50‘W
Wind: W 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

When we went to sleep last night, we were still heading South across the Drake Passage and we had gusts of wind up to 60kts. The sea was very rough, reaching a sea state of 10 on the Beaufort scale. Consequently, the ship rolled and rocked with the waves and it was not a surprise that there were some cases of seasickness. The wind decreased as the day broke but the sea was still in a rough state, with waves making the ship roll. All decks were closed, so we mostly hung out in the lounge. A good place to meet the fellow travellers and share the excitement about the basecamp activities of this voyage. Just before lunch without noticing we had passed the Antarctic Convergence and sailed officially in to Antarctic waters. Some of us wandered the decks and spent time on the bridge and were rewarded with sightings of a number of bird species that followed the ship. Due to the fact that the waters south of the convergence are colder; they are more productive, meaning more food for birds and mammals. Before lunch, the rougher weather is calm enough to allow Rustyn to give us a lecture on the politics of Antarctica; including the discovery of the continent, sovereignty, and the Antarctic Treaty. The lecture was very informative, but was presented in a unique way to bring this political topic to life. Lunch was served in the dining room at 12:30 and for some of us it was the first bite to eat after recovering from the rocky waves. Taking it easy was the best option today. For those who wanted to learn more about whales Pippa gave an inspir-ing lecture about the leviathans of the Southern Ocean. Having listened to Neil’s photographic tips, keen photographers started checking their settings and making the first pictures of waves and each other as no icebergs were yet to be seen. Michael and the Expedition Team gathered in the lounge just before dinner to give their daily recap and talk about the plans for tomorrow; a day with a zodiac cruise in the Antarctic Peninsula at Orne Harbour. A lovely dinner was prepared by chef Heinz and his team. Most people went to bed early as tomorrow is a day full of kayaking, mountaineering and zodiac cruising.

Day 4: Orne Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula

Orne Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 10.03.2019
Position: 64°17‘S, 063°04‘W
Wind: E 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

A tranquil, misty dawn. Such a stark contrast to the tumultuous seas on the two-day crossing of the notorious Drake. Ice eerily begins to appear out of the retreating gloom whilst the glassy surface is occasionally broken by the blow of a humpback, unseen beneath the surface. As the clouds begin to fragment, ephemeral light dances across glaciers, ridges and mountain summits offering a trailer for what is to come. A grand unveiling of the much-anticipated continent of Antarctica. The delays imposed upon us by the Drake have hampered our start. Nonetheless, excitement still ripples through the vessel as Zodiacs are lowered one by one to glide up to the gangway, ready for Ortelius to disgorge another ten souls for whom life will never be the same again. Orne Harbour, so called for the natural shelter it gave to whaling and sealing ships from another era, lives up to its historic reputation, and we venture forth on calm seas for the adventure. As an introduction to Antarctica goes, this does not disappoint. Penguins, seals, whales and ice, so much ice. Glaci-ers tumble chaotically downwards from the peaks high above only to eject their contents into the bay without warning. The Zodiacs forge ahead through their brashy remnants to be rewarded with close encounters with a female leopard seal and spy hopping Minke whales. Earlier, humpbacks had entertained the flotilla of boats and their eager onlookers. The booming resonance of their exhalations close enough to be felt, reverberating through the body. A real joy to be close to these leviathans of the deep! And let us not forget the penguins. These comical wee avians are synonymous with Antarctica and watching them porpoise perfectly past the Zodiacs is just another part of the magical arena we are in. Switching off the engines and waiting for the wildlife, one is left awestruck by the amphitheatre surrounding us, dwarfing us in our insignificance. It provides a chance to pause, think and absorb. Once the wonderment of Antarc-tica has taken hold, it is hard not to be touched by its beauty and long from now, dream once again of being here, in this moment. When the whale blows, the ice cracks and the silence is deafening. Remember this… Kayaking We left Orne harbour behind and took the zodiac towards Cuverville. We had not even got in the kayaks before we have our first meeting with humpback whales! With beautiful conditions and nice weather, we spent 4 hours kayaking this afternoon and we met several humpback whales and all 5 seals species (Leopard, Weddell, Crabeat-er, Fur seal and Elephant seal) we can see at the peninsula. Camping Kerr Point After the first day there was a lot of anticipation for our first night camping at Kerr Point. After scouting a prime spot earlier in the afternoon, the weather could not have been more in our favour. We arrived at around 20.30 and immediately started working as a team to transform this remote camp spot into our home for the night. Crabeater seals were spread out over the beach to one side of us and Gentoo penguins had claimed the other side. Due to the tides our zodiac drop off point was on the opposite side of our camping area, so we worked out way across the snow field between all the wildlife. The sun was going down fast so everyone helped everyone dig their spot for the night. Everyone crawled into our bivys for the night and tried to get some sleep, but the glaciers that sur-rounded us were quite active all through the night and made for an eventful night’s sleep. The night sky was per-fectly clear and the stars shown so bright that no one had words to describe it. The Milky Way was in full force and the night couldn’t be more perfect. We woke up the following morning at 04.45am, and the zodiacs arrived exactly on time at 05.15am. It had dropped to -5C that night. We had a new zodiac pick up site because the tides had gone back out during the night which saved us the walk back across the snow field. Hot coffee waited for us on Ortelius. It was a great night out. Mountaineering PM - ORNE - Spigot Peak We needed to change our intial plans as we were arriving later than expected to the peninsula and our landing sites had ben swapped - we were incredibly lucky to be able to still have the chance to give climbing Spigot Peak a nudge! The sky was very grey and completely overcast with rapidly easing winds although the air itself was very wet - this meant if we moved too quickly we’d sweat and then get cold whenever we rested - better to just simply go slowly! The landing site for Spigot is normally very smll with lots of ice and often Seals and today was no exception. A small group of seals eyed us warily as we arrived onshore, changed our boots, put on our crampons and then began the short climb up to the Col above us where the Chinstrap Colony is located. Our guides used this time to observe our footwork and see how we were moving. It was important to do this because the very top of Spigot is quite ex-posed! Conditions wise the snow was basically frozen and icey meaning that as we got higher on the mountain we needed to pay particular care with our footwork. We were now roped up into 2 groups of 4 with Mal and Dan leading the way using a technique called Short Roping. Misty cloud kept coming and going however just as we reached the small summit the cloud vanished and left us with spectacular - if still grey leaden skies - of the surrounding area. Of course we still needed to get back down! moving off slowly from the summit we dropped down to the short flat shoulder before the final descent to the COL and then back to the shore for a pick up and a return to Ortelius.

Day 5: Neko Harbour & Danco Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Neko Harbour & Danco Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 11.03.2019
Position: 64°50‘S, 062°43‘W
Wind: SE 5
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

In the early hours Ortelius pressed southwards. The morning started very early for a few of us; we made our way onto the decks before breakfast to take in the approaching scenery of the Antarctic continent. We soon found ourselves surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and ice caps. With barely a breath of wind the sea was a still, dark pool, coloured by the ceiling of grey cloud and creating a suitably polar atmosphere. We breakfasted quickly and as we made our way back out onto deck the weather continued to improve, the last whispers of wind died away and the sun came out as we entered the Andvord Bay and approached our destination for the morning: Neko Harbour. Once again, we boarded the zodiacs, and after a short journey through the brash ice we were ashore at Neko Har-bour. We stepped ashore and onto the mainland of Antarctica, our first continental landing! From here we walked swiftly up the beach, wary of the possibility of glacial tsunamis close to the shore. We then ventured up the snow slope, skirting round the noisy (and smelly!) rookery of Gentoo penguins. From the top the view was breathtak-ing; the huge fjord was littered with icebergs, growlers, and brash ice. Amongst this medley of ice the surrounding sunlit mountains reflected in the bright, blue mirror of the fjord waters. During lunch Ortelius had repositioned and was now steaming into Errera Channel, a scenic channel with massive glaciers and vast snowfields. With full stomachs and a cup of coffee we were soon recharged and ready for an afternoon of activities at Danco Island. The expedition team went ashore to scout the landing and before long we were boarding zodiacs bound for the beach. Danco is a small rounded island home to thousands of Gentoo penguins, skua, and is a resting spot for seals. Once ashore we picked our way carefully up the slope, taking care to avoid the network of penguin high-ways, and stopping frequently to let the inquisitive birds waddle past us on their way to feed their young. The vantage point above the landing spot was the perfect place to take in our spectacular surroundings. Mountains more than 1000 m high form the flanks of the Errera Channel; glaciers, large cirque glaciers, and huge snow cor-nices adorn the jagged peaks. As we paused to take it all in, we spotted humpbacks out in the fjord, the noise of their deep exhalations carrying for miles in the still air. After a glorious few hours ashore, it was time to head back to the ship and we arrived just in time to take in a sumptuous buffet lunch. Aboard Ortelius once more there was time to take in the surroundings and make the most of the beautiful weather as the campers prepared to have another beautiful night put in Antarctica. Ben and Rustyn went out scouting and decided the weather conditions were good to give it a go. So, the Expedition team brought us to Kerr Point and there we experienced the magic of an Antarctic night. The backdrop was spectacular, and as the campers settled in those of us on the ship were treat-ed to a sunset that lit the mountains yellow and then pink as the sun dipped behind the huge peaks. After a few last photos of the alpenglow behind the ship and it was time for some well-earned rest, and the end to a fantastic day in Antarctica. Kayaking AM – Neko Harbour The kayaking this morning starts in the best possible conditions; sun, blue sky and no wind. The bay is full of amaz-ing ice and we make our way through brash ice and look at many incredible formations of ice. PM – Danco Island We have some stronger winds (25 knots), but that doesn’t scare us off. We enter the kayaks outside Danco Island and go with the wind towards Cuverville. Best encounter of the day was a big leopard seal that was looking at us with the same joy as we looked at it. Camping Kerr Point The wind had picked up throughout the afternoon but camping was possible for our second night out. We were dropped off on the far side of the snowfield and walked through Crabeater seals and Gentoos to out camp spot on the far side. With some clouds in the sky the daylight was disappearing fast, and everyone joined forces and helped dig out sleeping holes for the night in order to utilise the remaining daylight. The wind was strong and made it challenging to set up our equipment. But as the sun went down and the starts came out, the wind completely stopped and made for a very quite night. The temperatures dropped to -9C which made all the glaciers that sur-rounded our camp spot solid and relatively stable. There were very few ice falls during the night and the silence was incredible. The cold, icy air made for almost zero humidity which allowed the view if the Milky Way to come out in all its glory. The night sky was unforgettable. Our zodiac pick up was on shore at 05.15am to take us back to the ship - and back to a well deserved hot breakfast. Mountaineering AM- Neko Harbour Neko Harbor is always an amazing and inspiring location to go mountaineer and this morning we were also reward-ed with beautiful sunshine and calm winds …… The calm winds didn’t last very long however as a strong katabatic wind coming down off the 2000m high mountains behind us quickly began picking up the recently deposited dry, crystalized snow and began shifting it about. Drifting snow lokks a bit stranger as we walk though it - it almost makes us feel like we are moving faster than we are! The limb to our high point for the day takes us through a small crevasse field but Dan and Mal were able to take us safely both up and down through this - standing at our high point was a bit cold as the cliffs above cast long shadows in the autumn sunshine so it’s a bit like standing in a deep freeze …. then again we are in Antarctica. The climb gave us all an amazing view of the glacier pouring into Neko harbour and more of an appreciation of some of the hazards that a large Calving event can have here. We made our way back down to the shore and observed many of the moulting juvenile penguins standing around waiting to lose their down feathers so they could finally get in the water and find food! The short journey back to Ortelius was followed shortly by a well deserved lunch PM – Danco Island Ice climbing 11 ice climbers Going ashore on the edge of Danco Island, Dan and Mal setup 3 short tope ropes on the safe section of ice cliffs on the Southern aspect of the Island. This allowed us all to rotate through a few different climbs after we had been given a short introduction on how to use crampons in a vertical plane as well a few tips on the techniques need to use our ice axes. We were also shown how to Belay each other using a 3rd person (Climber - belayer + backup) as a backup safety to ensure we didn’t accidently drop each other! From our climbing position we could also see the large seracs across the bay collapsing and sending streaming ice avalanches down over the steep rocky cliffs and eventually into the sea below - a very spectacular place - there are not many places in the world where you can go ice climbing with the sea lapping at your heels!

Day 6: Almirante Brown & Stony Point, Antarctic Peninsula

Almirante Brown & Stony Point, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 12.03.2019
Position: 64°53‘S, 062°51‘W
Wind: NW 1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

This morning Ortelius sails into Paradise Bay- one of the most beautiful places on the Peninsula. Here we will land at an Argentinian station; Almirante Brown. This is an active summer station, where the main focus of research is fish population studies in the area. We are met by the base commander and ships doctor who gave us a very nice introduction to the base and it’s history. Behind the station is a steep peak, but the short walk up, past Gentoo penguin rookeries, rewards us with spectacular views over the Bay, it’s mountains, glaciers and icebergs. The views from this peak are the perfect photo opportunity, and many of us take the chance to get that ‘Antarctic shot’. Below we can watch the other half of the ship that head out on the zodiacs to cruise Skontorp Cove before swap-ping on shore. Skontorp Cove sits at the base of the active and dramatically beautiful Skontorp Glacier, here we visit nesting birds, resting Crabeater seals on ice and the incredible peaks and arches of the glacier itself as it tum-bles down the slope it rests on. After rotating through landing and cruising, we then head back to Ortelius for a delicious buffet lunch onboard. After lunch we take a longer zodiac ride to Stony Point. All the zodiacs travel together to this landing site, giving us the opportunity to get pictures of all the zodiacs on the water. Stony point is a small beautiful rounded peak, just a short walk up from the landing site, where we have panoramic views of Paradise Bay, with continental glaciers behind the peak. It is a unique opportunity to sit and take in the Antarctic silence away from the noise of the ship or zodiacs. We couldn’t imagine anything better than the views and atmosphere found here- this is true Antarctica! As we head back to the zodiacs, we encounter a resting Weddell seal on the shoreline; these cute seals often rest on the shore lines and ice flows in the area. After a quick zodiac trip back to the ship, we head back on board for our surprise dinner; a BBQ on the Zodiac deck! We are blessed with calm winds, clear skies and a fantastic sunset, as well as the fantastic food put together by the hotel team. We invited the Argentinian base personnel to join us for the BBQ and they enjoyed the food and fes-tivities with us. Kayaking Both morning and afternoon kayaking took place outside Almirante Brown Station, in an area known as Paradise Bay. We were kayaking on glass with lots of beautiful ice and both Crabeaters and a Weddell seal on the ice. Mountaineering AM - Brown Station - Canessa Point A large team set out to climb a small peak overlooking Brown Station and Paradise Harbour. We needed to travel by zodiac about 10 minutes to be dropped off on a small rocky point where we climbed up and above the incoming tide to keep our equipment secure and dry. After we had put on our crampons the group negotiated the first short steep slope that lead away from the shore – we needed to pay carful attention here as a mis-step could have put us down amongst the rocks below. From here the route to the summit looked straight forward but we actually had to move back and forwards between to lines of hidden crevasses before reaching and broad flat section just below our main summit. Just like on all previous mountain trips for this voyage the snow was very firm and icy and required good footwork on the steeper sections to ensure we had no mis-adventure. After being able to take short break for images and a change of layering we moved up the final slope to the summit where we were re-warded with amazing views of the mountains above and behind us as well as the expanding waves of a large serac collapse that was hidden down below us out of view. The weather was still and the ocean almost like a mirror! Going back to shore was faster than climbing up. Getting back into the zodiacs was a bit wetter than when we had first arrived as the tide had come in a bit - our zodiacs arrived and then before we knew it we were sitting down to yet another amazing meal on Ortelius. PM - Brown Station With Ortelius experiencing a minor issue with her anchor system we needed to change plans for the afternoons excursion. Mal had a plan to go and explore a site that nobody had ever been to before and we got to climb up along side the edge of an enourmous glacial icefall. Its not everyday that we are able to safely go into terrain like this so it was best we made use of the opportunity. Dan and Mal set up fixed lines and taught us how to move independently along them, managing ourselves as we climbed high enough to a point where the glacier flattened out and we were able to rope of for standard glacier travel. This also meant that we could go and explore and look into a few of the enormous exposed crevasses that were now visible due to the nature of the late season snowpack. As the wind began to pick up we made our way back to shore where Bill and Micheal had come to collect us in the Zodiacs – the mountaineering team had been able to be flexible enough to enjoy a slightly different mountaineering journey and got to learn a few of the tech-niques needed to survive a high altitude mountaineering expedition!

Day 7: Lemaire Channel, Port Charcot & Vernadsky Station, Antarctic Peninsula

Lemaire Channel, Port Charcot & Vernadsky Station, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 13.03.2019
Position: 65°05‘S, 063°58‘W
Wind: SE 1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

This morning, many of us woke early to witness the ship pass through one of the most spectacular sites on the peninsula; the Lemaire Channel. The steep peaks either side of the channel dive straight into the ocean and offer a safe deep water passage through incredibly close up scenery- only if the ice allows of course. We come face to face with a large iceberg, awkwardly positioned in the middle of the channel, which would not allow us to pass. We remained in the channel and awaited movement from this large unpassable piece of ice. Whilst in the channel, there was much to witness; apart from the incredible scenery leering over us from above, we were also surround-ed by many penguins, Minke whales, and Humpback whales. Shortly after breakfast the Captain and his bridge team expertly navigate around the large iceberg to allow us passage through the narrows of the channel. On the South side of the Lemaire channel is a large bay, known as Port Charcot, which is home to a large iceberg graveyard – a perfect spot for zodiac cruising. We cruise through the broken and misshapen pieces of ice, occa-sionally frequented with crabeater seals resting on the tops. We pass towering icebergs, grounded on the bottom of this bay, surrounded by tall, beautiful snow-capped peaks. A truly awe-inspiring place. Following our zodiac cruise, we have lunch on board Ortelius, as she navigates further South to Vernadsky Station; a Ukrainian Antarctic Research Base. The base is located in a sheltered bay, and while we navigate the zodiacs through the narrow entrances to this station, the snow begins to pick up, making for wintery scenes. At the station we are greeted by station staff, wo give us a tour of the base, and take us to their small souvenir shop. Here we can send postcards home and buy memorabilia made by the station staff here in Antarctica. While some of us visit the station, the others cruise through the islands and visit Wordie House, the original British station hut here; its incredible to see how these men would have lived back in the early days. After some sampling of the locally made vodka at Vernadsky we made our way back to the ship in driving snow and increasing winds. We were glad to get back on board and warm up in time for dinner. Kayaking The day with amazing icebergs. Both morning and afternoon kayak were out kayaking in icebergs graveyards. We had both Crabeater seals and a Leopard seal on the ice. Mountaineering AM – Hovegard After a spectacular trip through the Lemaire Channel it was time to once again go ashore and go for a wander over glacier covered terrain. The objective today was a short traverse of Hovegarrd Island. We landed on a small point and, after organising our lifejackets into a recognizable bag for them to be brought back to us on the other side of the Island we roped up and began our journey up and over the Island. The terrain we were in was not hard or extreme – a broad gentle slope took us slowly to a viewpoint over looking Pleneau. The mirror like quality of the water was astounding, we could see a mother and calf humpback whale sleeping in the bay beneath us, penguins generally standing about and seals swimming through the waters below. Skua were flying above us and with Orte-lius a fair way away it was hard to hear her engines – the peace of Antarctica was all around us. Also from our van-tage point we could see the Iceberg Graveyard - and slightly further to the SW the Iceberg Alley. After we had arrived at the shore and sorted our equipment ready for pickup we enjoyed a ‘quiet time’ before the sound of the zodiacs coming to collect us signalled that we would soon be back aboard Ortelius and enjoying yet another amaz-ing lunch. PM - Wordie House -Crevasse fall training As the expedition had had to make a change of plan we were in a location where there were no mountains for us to go wandering on. What to do? Our guides had plans up their sleeves – instead we would go through some technical training on how to hold crevasse falls and practice doing a group crevasse extraction. After being introduced to the process of self – arresting with our ice axes we were roped up in teams of 4 and en-couraged by our guides to simply walk off a perfectly good ice cliff ……. This would simulate the effect of falling unexpectedly falling into a crevasse. After successfully holding the fall – we were also on a back up rope that Dan and Mal were controlling incase we couldn’t hold the fall – we then were taken through the process of simply standing up as a group and man hauling the person out and over the lip. A few of us found approaching the lip to be a daunting experience but we all shared the experience at least once. After getting packed up a few of us - including Mal – joined in with a series of cartwheels and handstands before going to Vernadski Station and enjoying visiting a working station – as it was snowing fairly well outside the warmth of the station was also very welcome.

Day 8: Port Lockroy & Jougla Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Port Lockroy & Jougla Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 14.03.2019
Position: 64°44‘S, 063°30‘W
Wind: Light Air
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: 0

This morning when we looked outside, the World had a true Antarctic look. Lots of snowflakes, brash ice and a mediocre visibility. Captain Mika and his team sailed the Ortelius in front of Goudier Island; the landing site for this morning. After breakfast we arranged a split- zodiac and landing due to passenger numbers that are allowed at Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy was an old British base till 1962 and is a museum now. The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust took over the management of the Port Lockroy in 2006 and maintains the base on behalf of the UK. During the Antarctic summer the small gift shop and post office helps to finance the operation of the museum, and on-going maintenance work to the buildings at Port Lockroy. The employees had left the premises for the winter, but we were still able to visit the quaint museum. Not to forget the Gentoo’s that reside on this small island also. The other landing site for the morning was Jougla point that we reached by zodiac after a small cruise through the brash ice just behind Goudier Island. It was not only the mystical landscape that revealed itself when the clouds of snow moved away this morning. In the bay just in front of Jougla point a leopard seal was hunting Gentoo penguins. Not bothered by our presence in a zodiac the seal tore its pray to pieces to eat the best parts and leave the rest for the giant petrels, kelp gulls and skuas. The leopard seal ate not 1, not 2, but 8 penguins during this morning, meaning most of us got to witness this spectacular scene. Setting foot on Jougla point after was special too, being able to look at a whale skeleton amongst a colony of Gen-toos. Around 12 o’clock we drove the zodiacs back to the Ortelius after a morning well worth being out and about in the snow and among the wildlife. Lunch was served we got mentally ready for the polar plunge that was scheduled for this afternoon. However, as we sailed toward Damoy Point fog rolled in and the wind picked up to 30 knots. Michael our expedition leader and the Captain decided the conditions were not safe and cancelled the landing for this afternoon. We continued sail-ing the Neumayer channel and from the bridge we watched the winds and the snow hitting the bow of the ship. As an alternative, as we were stuck on the ship, in the afternoon we gathered in the lounge for the quiz with Antarctic trivia. Pippa hosted this afternoon and kept us all entertained with her witty and joyful presentation. Team “United Na-tions” made it to the finals and won the shootout; honoured with free drinks at the bar for the whole team. Michael and his expedition team recapped the events of the day with the latest news of what to expect the next coming days. Patch up! That was the advice of Tanja; our ships doctor, as the forecast for the Drake looked very rough. Kayaking AM – Goudier Island (Port Lockroy) The heavy snow have turned the whole bay into a slush. It slows down the kayaks and also absorbs all sound. In silence we travel our way around Port Lockroy. Highlight was most likely the leopard seal killing a penguin in the middle of the group of kayaks. Mountaineering AM - Lockroy Unfortunately we had to cancel our days activity for the attempt on the summit of Jabet Peak as the storm that had started the night before was still in full force. We postponed initially until later in the day - and although it looked like it was going to clear the storm re-intesified in the afternoon with winds over 35kts and more driving snow reducing visibility to nothing.

Day 9: Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island

Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island
Date: 15.03.2019
Position: 62°59‘S, 060°33‘W
Wind: NNW 5/6
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +4

Sailing into the caldera of an active volcano is surely one of the more unusual ways to awake from one’s slumber. Those up and about pre-breakfast had the pleasure of ringside seats as Ortelius carefully navigated the narrows evocatively named Neptune's Bellows. Deception Island, a lonely outpost of the South Shetland Islands, is arguably the Peninsulas most interesting site from a human history perspective having taken centre stage for commercial, exploratory and scientific endeavors during the previous century. Whalers Bay was first occupied in 1906 by Norwegian whalers who slowly developed their interests there, the re-mains of which still taint the landscape rust orange on this typically monochromatic Antarctic day. Large storage tanks stand, decaying and collapsing, whilst closer to shore in a similar state of disrepair, boilers and unidentifiable ironwork lies broken and crumpled. The remains of a factory whose sole purpose was to harvest whales. Volcanic activity has removed many traces yet enough still remain as a cautionary reminder to those who would repeat this damaging practice. In the 1930’s, Deception Island was used as the staging post for much of the early aeronautical forays over the con-tinent. Most significant of these was Lincoln Ellsworth’s flight from Dundee Island over to the Ross Ice Shelf in 1935 thereby achieving the first continental crossing. A decade later and the site was occupied by Operation Tabarin and subsequently as a scientific research station for the British Antarctic Survey. Unsurprisingly, they performed a number of seismic studies here! The low clouds and rain on today’s landing are not ideal conditions to really explore this place but it does lend a certain gloom to a setting whose very existence is down to man’s insatiability and greed, a sad reminder of the whaling during that dark period in Antarctic history. Alas the Polar Plunge couldn’t be achieved. An increase in wind caused the landing to aborted early and the beach evacuated. Perhaps an unsatisfactory end to what has been an incredible expedition. Heading out north into the Southern Ocean the ship starts to gently rock, homeward bound. Many of you will not return but hopefully the memories of this incredible place will leave an indelible mark on your life's journey. Mountaineering AM – Deception Island Our initial plan to go ashore at Georges Point was cancelled as we had to radically change our landing site - instead MAL began to take us on a short walk up behind the old Whaling Station on Deception Island. This journey was shortlived as the wind suddenly increased and the entire shore landing had to be abandoned due to safety con-cerns of be able to return safely to the ship.

Day 10: At sea to Ushuaia, The Drake Passage

At sea to Ushuaia, The Drake Passage
Date: 16.03.2019
Position: 60°54‘S, 062°44‘W
Wind: NNW 5/6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4.5

By now we are getting used to Michaels voice for wakeup. After we left Deception Island we are out on the Drake Passage on our way home to Ushuaia. The wind map promises us a very rough and bad passage with huge waves but there is only some old swell on the sea for the first part of the night. Then it calmed down a bit and most of us were able to sleep. After breakfast Meike gave us a lecture about Penguins. A brilliant insight into the lives of the non-flying birds and the threats they are facing in the last years. In the afternoon we joined Iain for his talk about his time in Antarctica on a British survey base called Rothera Station. He spent 3 winters on the station and showed us emotional moments of his daily live on the station. Before our daily recap Pippa talks about noise and acoustics in the oceans and how far and fast sound is travelling in the open waters. 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 Bill gives the last talk of the day about Paintings and Seas. As a skilled Artist it was so interesting to listen and learn more about Art. Most of us went up to the Bar after this and Neil showed us his slide show, encap-sulating the last 10 days in Antarctica. What a beautiful time.

Day 11: At sea to Ushuaia, The Drake Passage

At sea to Ushuaia, The Drake Passage
Date: 17.03.2019
Position: 57°15‘S, 065°02‘W
Wind: SE - 6
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

Another day at sea started with calm seas for a change. Thick fog was surrounding the Ortelius while she was on her way north. As outside temperature increased again, we enjoyed the outside decks and witnessed the birdlife changing. As everything good comes to an end at some point, it was time for the first farewell in the morning - we had to say good bye to our boots, our dear companions that kept us dry and warm on all our adventures in Antarctica. A lecture from Michael broke up the morning; he told us about Sea Ice and the repercussions of climate change on it. After lunch Bill gave us an in-depth overview on the History of whaling, including the stories of whalers from the Southern oceans. We made good progress on our course to Ushuaia and before we arrived at the pilot station, we had our farewell cocktails with the Captain, the department heads and the expedition team to celebrate our extraordinary trip and recap the wonderful experiences we shared with new friends.

Day 12: Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembarkation Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 18.03.2019

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 to Antarctica, and allowed us a glimpse of life in this remote and sometimes inhospitable place. We will all have different memories of our trip but whatever the memories, whether it was the sight of icebergs for the first time, whales breaking the surface of the water or pen-guins waddling along highways, 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: 1720 NM

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