|Position:||042°45’S / 065°01’W|
Puerto Madryn is a small coastal town wedged between the South Atlantic Ocean and the Patagonian desert. Traditionally this town was based on fishing and whaling but in recent years the whales have brought revenue into the town in the form of tourists. As the main access point to the Valdez Peninsula the town attracts visitors from all over the world to see the Southern right whales that calve and raise their young in the bay during the mild summer months, penguins and seals. Many of us had spent a few days in the area prior to joining Plancius in order to see some of the wildlife along the coast.
At 15:00 members of the Expedition team met us at the start of the pier to begin to assist with our luggage and ensure we were able to get the bus along to the end of the pier. Although the weather conditions were bright, sunny and warm the strong winds blowing across the bay were making conditions quite unpleasant with sand and dust blowing around. The pier itself was very exposed and it was a windy walk for some along to the ship. Once our luggage was scanned we embarked our ship the MV Plancius which would be our home for the next 20 days where we met hotel managers, Natasha and Thijs and were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of the Filipino crew. A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on Deck five to meet Expedition Leader Jim Mayer, who welcomed us on board the ship.
The first briefing in the lounge was a familiarisation of the ship as our floating hotel from Natasha our hotel manager which was then followed by the SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) presentation and Lifeboat Drill, given to us by Chief Officer Hannes who was assisted by the crew and staff. On hearing the alarm we reconvened for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill, donning our huge orange life jackets and after a muster call we were taken to see the lifeboats.
Once the official briefings were finished we had plenty of time to explore the ship, have some afternoon tea, unpack our bags and enjoy some time out on deck. The deck crew and bridge officers worked extremely well together to ensure a safe departure from the pier where the wind was blowing us back onto the pier as we edged away. It was a successful manoeuvre and before too long we were turned around and heading in the right direction. There was plenty to see from the decks with Southern giant petrels flying close by the bridge wings and cormorants flying close to the surface of the water but the stars of the show were the Southern right whales which could be seen blowing and even breaching just in front of the ship. What a fantastic way to start the trip!
By 20:00 the sun was beginning to set and the light was beginning to fade and dinner was served in the dining room. It was a chance to meet some of our fellow passengers and share stories of previous travels and hopes for this expedition to the Falklands and South Georgia. It should be a great adventure!