PLA22-16, trip log | Basecamp Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 18.11.2016
Position: 042°45’S / 065°01’W

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll be going south of south...a long way south. But for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights.
Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (lit. “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of warmth before heading off on our adventures.

For many of us this is the start of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each unique person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart on a journey to the Great White Continent of Antarctica. Most passengers were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next 11 days.

We were greeted at the gangway by members of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet Hotel and Restaurant Managers, Johnny and Katrin. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew.
A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet First Officer Jaanus, who led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, assisted by the crew and staff. On hearing the alarm we reconvened at the ‘muster station’, the lounge, for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should the need arise. After this lifeboat drill we returned to the outer decks to watch our departure from the jetty of Ushuaia and the last of city life for a while. We entered the Beagle Channel with an escort of black browed albatross. Once we were on our way into the channel we were invited once again to the lounge to meet our Hotel Manager Johnny who gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next 10 days or so. We then met our Expedition Leader, David Berg and the rest of the Expedition Team who will guide us in Antarctica in order for us to enjoy the various Basecamp activities that are on offer: kayaking, mountaineering and camping amongst others.

This was also a chance to meet our Captain, Evgeny Levakov and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco. At 19:30 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chef Ralf and Sean and their galley staff. This first evening on board was occupied with more exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, and settling into our cabins. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into the open waters of the Drake Passage and heading South towards Antarctica.

Day 2: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 19.11.2016
Position: 056°23’ S / 065°10’ W

The morning started with a bit of rolling, although the “Drake Lake” welcomed us very gently. The first sightings of giant birds exited us very much and kept people looking out for more wildlife. After a while, the first whale sighting was recorded. Most of us felt well so that we used the day at sea for an introduction to the Polar Regions by Lynn. After Lunch, and some more hours of wildlife watching Michael gave us an introduction into the adaptions of animals to the polar environment.

Before Dinner, we got our Muck Boots handed out and met for a recap and outlook of the first day with action and landings.

Day 3: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 20.11.2016
Position: 060°20’ S / 060°47’ W

We spent the day relaxing, watching the sea and settling in to life on board Plancius. We sailed under calm conditions, with very little wind or swell, so most of us were very comfortable, spending time in the Lounge chatting and getting to know our fellow passengers. During the morning, our guides Ignacio (“Nacho”), Bernice, Tim, Rocio and Paul briefed us on our Basecamp activities of Camping, Mountaineering, Snow-shoeing and Kayaking, and everybody was full of questions and enthusiasm, looking forward to getting out and doing everything. During the morning, whales were spotted, and we all rushed out onto the outer decks when David made the call. Some of us had never been whale watching before, but we spotted the blows easily, as the whales were quite close to the ship. Captain Evgeny and the Officer on watch, plus the helmsman, did a great job of getting us close, without ever stressing the whales. They swam and fed in front of us, then after about half an hour, decided it was time to move on, so we let them go on their way and we returned to our path to Antarctica. Later in the day, the excitement rose when we confirmed one of our three whales to be a Blue whale, the largest animal to ever live!

After a leisurely lunch, many of us got out on deck and did some bird-watching, identifying some of the Antarctic species we have not seen before, including the incredible wandering and royal albatrosses, with their 3 metre wing-span. During the night, we had crossed the Antarctic Convergence, so we were truly in Antarctic waters! New species, including penguins, started popping up. After a little nap for many of us, it was time for the mandatory briefing required before going ashore in Antarctica. David, our Expedition Leader, filled us in on the dos and don’ts while ashore, making sure we knew how to behave around penguins and other wildlife. He then gave us some information on the Zodiacs, the fleet of black rubber boats we will use to go to shore and go cruising around the ice, and how to safely use the gangway and get into the boats. Following on from that, we learned about biosecurity, and how we have to vacuum our gear! Brains full, we went to our cabins to sort out our gear and figure out what needed to be cleaned. We were called to the lounge in small groups, where we put the vacuum over our gloves, hats, fleece, backpacks and everything else we could think of that might be carrying seeds or dirt. Many crumbs, crackers and bits of fluff (and the odd sock and glove) disappeared down the gullet of the machines, and the lounge was full of the roar of several vacuums for the rest of the afternoon. Cleaning completed successfully, we signed the form and went back to our cabins to reassemble our gear. Recap came just before dinner, where we were given the low-down on our plans for tomorrow, and some great info on the whales we had seen by our very own whale expert, Beau. When Johnny called us, dinner was taken and enjoyed with great enthusiasm, though most of us had not done anything energetic all day, and had no excuse for being hungry after the big lunch we had. A few of us had a nightcap in the bar, but the racers amongst us rushed to bed to try to rest before the first running day at Bellingshausen tomorrow.

Day 4: Bellinghausen, King George Island (South Shetlands)

Bellinghausen, King George Island (South Shetlands)
Date: 21.11.2016
Position: 062°12’ S / 058°55’ W

Today we have our first landing after crossing the Drake Passage at the King George Island (South Shetland Islands) at Bellinghausen. At this lovely little island close to the Antarctic continent, Russia, Chile, Uruguay and China have their research station. The morning starts very early for some of the staff and the runners the latter will try to get 100 kilometres on their card here. The Basecampers are welcomed ashore by a bunch of Gentoo penguins; a couple of Crabeater seals are also lying here and there in sunshine. The morning starts with a snowshoe hike with Bernice in sunny weather conditions. The Mountaineering group starts of for their first trip with Rocio and Tim at the Collins glacier near the Uruguay station.

After lunch we are invited to visit the Chilean Navy and the Russian station here at Bellinghausen and everybody who took his passport ashore can get a stamp from the King Geroge Island. A little later in the afternoon the Basecampers get a zodiac cruise over to Ardley Island where Gentoo penguins are nesting. Some lucky campers even spotted one Adelie penguin snooping around between the Gentoo´s and couple of Chinstraps. Now it is time to head back to Plancius for dinner and later in the evening also the runner´s returning completely exhausted as some of them run up to 90km today. We´re leaving King George Island at around 9 pm, next stop Deception Island.

21st November King George Island. A pleasant hike on King George Island getting dropped off at Collins Glacier near the Uruguayan Antarctic station and walking back to Bellinghausen Base.

Day 5: Telephon Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica

Telephon Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica
Date: 22.11.2016
Position: 062°55’S / 060°38’W

The day started dramatically as before breakfast Plancius slid through ‘Neptunes Bellows’ the narrow entrance to Deception Island. It was apparent that this was an apt name, as the massive expanse of the hidden flooded caldera came into view.
The vessel anchored off Telephon Bay, dropped Zodiacs and in excellent conditions, the 4 Deserts and Base Camp operations continued. As usual the track setters landed first and laid out a route along the lava gravel shore and up into the snow line at the base of the mountains fringing the bay. The climbers equipped with snow shoes followed next and led by Tim tackled a higher route overlooking the running course. Kayakers commanded by flotilla leader Paul and escorted by their reassuring Zodiac, paddled along the shore-line and into an intimate beautiful sheltered bay. The remaining Base Campers had the option of Zodiac cruising or snow shoe hiking.

It was interesting watching the runners stopping regularly to whip out their cameras and photograph the admiring enthusiastic audience of penguins or the dramatic scenery unfolding throughout their route. The route setters should have laid out passing places at these critical view-points.

All were intrigued by the out-of bounds twisted remains of the burnt-out Chilean Research Station and atmospheric sight of clouds of steam rising from the shore line. Both serving as a constant reminder of the volcanic origins of the landscape.
A highlight of this landing was the polar plunge.

As Plancius departed in the afternoon, the vessel sailed past the rusty historic remains of the Whaling and Research Station at Whalers Bay. Passengers noted the brilliant colours of the red iron oxide and yellow sulphur tinted mountain-sides.
During recap Lynn gave an account the history of the bay and David outlined the Oceanwide Expedition plans for the next day.

A full day hike starting and finishing in Telefon Bay. We hike up to the summit of Goddard Hill, taking in the views on the opposite side of the Deception Island. We walk along the rim of the old volcano and descend back down to the bay.

22nd November 2016 – Deception Island – Team A
A brief calming in the weather allowed Team A to get out for a paddle at Telefon Bay during the afternoon. We initially ventured into one of the small coves to hide from the wind & get into our kayaks. Soon after the wind dropped with gave us the opportunity to circum-navigate the cove, taking in the Weddell Seals & Gentoo Penguins as we went. Once back out in the main bay, we hugged the shoreline, making our way back to the zodiac landing point where all the runners were coming through. Many more Weddell Seals were passed on the shoreline, oblivious to our presence. After watching a few of the runners pass by the start/finish line, we headed out towards Plancius where we rafted up before getting back onto the zodiac to conclude our session – only a few ‘beach whale’ entries into the zodiac!! A nice afternoon was had by all...

Day 6: Paradise Harbour; Almirante Brown & Stoney Point

Paradise Harbour; Almirante Brown & Stoney Point
Date: 23.11.2016
Position: 064°54’ S / 062°54’ W

The day started off dark and brooding, clouds hovering overhead as the Plancius wove its way through the ice and water towards the days landing site. As David’s strong Viking voice danced its way through the airwaves and into our ears, rousing us from our sleep, wafts of tastiness from the kitchen crept its way up our nostrils of varying cleanliness and cloggy-ness. A full day! It was to be, a landing at Almirante Brown for the basecamp passengers, while the marathon runners had a track built for them on Stoney Point by the always energetic Bill & Beau. Almirante never fails to deliver, with its fantastic views of glacial goodness, an intrepid hike up the hillside, as well as the ever present Gentoo penguins languishing about in the sunshine (hidden by the clouds as it were). Then also a short but sweet zodiac cruise, around in Skontorp Cove with views of cliffs and ice and fantastical beasts of the deep.

As lunchtime wove its way into the day, the runners kept the pace going while only stopping momentarily for a hot package of noodles while the sleet and damp snow pounded down upon them. The basecamp guests enjoyed a luxurious buffet of food prepared by Chef Ralph, our husky German chef who is never on short supply of warm tasty creaminess known as soup.

And then back out in the boats! Shouted the ever gregarious Scotsman Bill. Only a few dared the wet and cold for a zodiac cruise out around the bay, while the mountaineers tried their hand at Mount Banck, and the kayakers yet again headed out to splash and play in the wet soupy ocean.

And the runners you ask? They kept on running, how smashing! Through the wet, through the cold, through the soggy snow clinging at the track and their clothes, they pushed on through thick and thin determined to prove their worth to the South Polar Viking gods who rained down the elements upon them, determined to break them like ever so many fragile branches on a tree.

As the day wound to its end, the runners came crawling back the ship, some still fit as a fiddle and ready for more, while others groaned and moaned in agony as their muscles seized up and foot blisters popped with joyful glee. The base-campers however were all a-shiver with excitement; this would be a camping night out at Stoney Point! Camping in Antarctica, how curious. As they headed out to the designated camping spot, the runners had their turn to laugh as they enjoyed all the comforts of home aboard the Plancius that night.

Morning: Paradise Bay, Almirante Brown
We hike up a small peak above the Argentinean Antarctic base and walk along glaciated terrain to get away from it all and access some of the best views of Skonthorp Cove.

Afternoon: Barbaro Point
A long glacier trek across glaciated terrain leads to Barabro Point, in a commanding position above the Ferguson Channel. We named this un named peak ‘Mount Cherry’

The day began with Team C heading out to Base Brown in poor visibility but calm waters. WE headed directly to the Base to check out the Gentoo Penguins. After taking a few photos, we headed into the cove behind the Base, which had opened up some what. WE checked out a few lazy seals before moving out back to the Base & onto Skontorp Cove, passing the nesting Shags on our way. The cove had opened up to which allowed us some exploration before eventuall getting back on board the zodiac to head back to the ship for lunch.

After lunch, it was Team B’s turn to head out. We started at Stoney Point, watching the Race the Planet runners. From hear we headed down the channel in calm waters but soon the conditions changed with winds reaching Force 3 and a degree of swell. Pre-empting a further increase in wind, we bid a hasty retreat to the zodiac and back to the ship. Fortunately we all stayed dry!
Another great day in Paradise!!

We had a full house with people from basecamp who wanted to camp on shore. During the day we noticed some weather moving in with some clouds and light snow but of no concern for a night camping out. A few guests came to us wanting to have a tent for the night and we got together 11 tents for people who didn’t felt comfortable camping out in a bivi sack. After dinner we shuttled passengers to the shore. Once everybody arrived people were setting up their sleeping situation by digging into the snow and building a wall to protect themselves from the wind. A few people wanted to have a tent and we helped them set it up. The tents are not that easy to erect and need some instruction. Most people were happy because the wind had dropped completely and temperatures were well above freezing. Once everyone was settled into their own cave, people hiked up the hill to get a great view of Paradise Bay. We placed the toilet facilities right where the runners had used the area before. During the night we got a little snow and lots of sounds from glaciers and icebergs breaking and moving. The night went well; no one came in and wanted to go back to the ship or complained of being wet and cold. At 5 AM the ships horn blew and 20 minutes after that zodiacs came to fetch us back to the ship. Everyone was back on board by 6 AM.

Day 7: Damoy Point & Dorian Bay, Wiencke Island

Damoy Point & Dorian Bay, Wiencke Island
Date: 24.11.2016
Position: 064°45’ S / 063°18’ W

The day started snowy and wet, with not much visibility and a light but biting wind. The campers were sleeping - apparently comfortably! - through all of this, and the Bridge had to blow the ship’s horn to wake them up and get them packing. We got everyone back on the ship not long after 05:00, and were soon under way for Damoy Point and Dorian Bay. The sailing through the fog, snow and choppy waters full of ice was very atmospheric, those of us that were not in a hot shower or warm, soft bed enjoyed the steely grey views and glimpses of the Gerlache Strait as we navigated westward towards Wiencke Island and our proposed landing site of Damoy Point. The weather cleared a bit while sailing, and the Neumayer Channel was a glorious sight, with glaciers coming down around us and icebergs floating on mirror-flat waters. The reflections in blue and grey were stunning, and a good chance to practice some landscape photography.

As soon as we arrived at Damoy Point and Dorian Bay, the Captain dropped the anchor between the point and the bay, and Expedition Leader David set off in a zodiac to find a place to get us on shore. There was no chance of landing on Damoy Point, but the landing team dug a set of stairs through a couple of metres of snow, and we finally landed at Dorian Bay. Or, at least some of us did. A few of us also decided to stay on the ship and rest up after camping! But a small group of hearty explorers set off with Michael to check out the ice and then the Gentoo penguins on shore. Our runners started a bit later than usual today, as the course took quite some time to set up. Mountaineering Guide Tim made good time on a single lap, and checked the whole route, ensuring the glaciers were safe, and the end result was a long track in quite deep snow, sloping upwards to a ridgeline with spectacular views.

After lunch, the ship began to reposition a nautical mile from Dorian Bay around Damoy Point to Port Lockroy, but before we even got there, we turned around and returned to Dorian Bay to end the running due to ice and wind. Wind was blowing sea ice towards the landing site, and so we had to get everybody off Dorian Bay while it was still safe to do so. We put a few extra boats in the water, and quickly packed up the race, loading up the zodiacs with racers, then all the paraphernalia of flags, toilets, garbage bins, sledges, snowshoes and water. Once everybody and everything was back on board, we put our nose around the corner again, but the sea ice was also coming in on the Port Lockroy side, and all potential landing sites were fully blocked by sea ice. While we were sad to miss out on a shopping opportunity on shore, Johnny provided a great range of goods on the ship - he and Katie suddenly had a whole selection of clothing, books, and cute stuffed penguins on display, and we took advantage of that and added to our souvenir collections.

We were sailing the beautiful Neumayer Channel, the narrow waterway between Anvers and Wiencke Islands and the views could only be described as spectacular. Our ice-experienced Russian Captain took the ship into heavy mixed brash and sea ice, and we crunched and bumped our way through what looked like solid ice. Surprisingly blue glacial icebergs stood above the white sea ice, seals and penguins rested on the ice, looking up as we sailed past. All of us were out on deck, then warming our hands in the lounge, then back out again. Beau called out when he spotted Leopard seals on the ice, these huge-mouthed predators hardly noticing the ship as we sailed past. A little after the Leopard seal call, we heard Nacho's voice over the speakers, announcing "Orcas ahead!" Orcas, or Killer Whales, had been spotted. Everybody inside went back out, and we hung over the rails of the ship for about an hour, while a spread-out pod of Orcas cruised the Neumayer Channel with us. The first animals we saw were huge males, with big triangular dorsal fins reaching almost 2 metres out of the water. They swam alongside the ship, checking us out and showing off their beautiful black and white pattern when they surfaced. Cameras clicked, videos recorded, and everybody bounced about from port to starboard as the different individuals surfaced around the vessel. Captain Evgeny, Chief Officer Jaanus and Helmsman Teresito ("June") did a brilliant job of staying close to the Orcas but not bothering them, and we had over half an hour of quality time, with amazing close up viewing of at least three males and a small calf in light ice. After a good look, and many, many photos, we left the whales in peace, and turned back to our original course. After the Orcas, many of us came in for a coffee or hot chocolate to warm our hands and tummies, but it was such an amazing day we all went back out again, too. Finally, we crossed the Gerlache, and entered the Errera Channel from the south, with the taller mountains of the continental peninsula looming over us on the right and the Captain holding the ship tight against Ronge Island to our left, in the deep part of the narrow channel. We sailed past our destination for tomorrow, dodging giant icebergs and shallow water, and finally put the anchor down between Danco and Cuverville Islands. Everything was still, the light was soft, the weather had improved, and it was a glorious evening.

While everybody wanted to hear from David about our plans for tomorrow, everybody really paid attention when Beau did his part of Recap, telling us about the amazing Orca sighting. He explained about the different types of Orcas in Antarctica, all about little Bs and big Bs, as well as how to tell male from female, identifying individuals by their dorsal fin, and other fascinating facts on these marvelous mammals.

24th November Damoy Point Glacier
We hike up an easy angled glacier on the old runway where they used to land planes on skis and continue up to a col just below Jabet Peak. The views from here down into Port Lockroy and beyond are exceptional.

24th November 2016 – Dorian Bay / Damoy Point – Team B
As we got ourselves ready on aft Deck 3 & began lowering the kayaks, ice floes came in & engulfed the ship, which presented us with a few problems. A number of the ABs came to our rescue and we continued lowering. Within 10 minutes the ice floe had gone again & we were able to get onto our zodiac. We headed out to a safe point, jumped into our kayaks and headed along the shoreline towards Damoy Point, taking in the many Gentoo Penguins as we went. Stopping briefly at Damoy Point we retraced our steps before venturing off between the icebergs and around the island close by. Picking our way through the ice floes, we headed back into Dorian Bay to find some shelter, before jumping back on the zodiac & heading back to the ship to get warm. The weather may have been mixed but the journey was wonderful.

Day 8: Danco Island, Antarctica

Danco Island, Antarctica
Date: 25.11.2016
Position: 064°43’ S / 062°36’ W

Danco Island welcomed us in a beautiful light and mirror like sea. Big icebergs surrounded the little island and brought some blue colours into a black and white scenery. It was the day of accomplishments. The runners went out very early in the morning, so that the first 4 runners could finish their 250Km before lunch. The mountaineers decided to have a technical day and went vertical to conquer a glacier. Our kayak enthusiasts were very lucky as Neptune was very friendly and welcoming to them. The hikers had a wonderful hike up the hill which granted them with an amazing view over the bay, which was explored from the zodiacs later on.

Antarctica at its best – sunshine and clear air in the morning. Snow, fog and thick clouds in the noon and the sunniest afternoon one could ask for in the afternoon. We set the sails early as the tomorrows destination, Halfmoon Island is quite far away, and took the chance to get Bernice to speak about climate change.

25th November Danco Island Ice Climbing
A more technical day with a taster session practicing ice climbing techniques on the side of the glacier on Danco Island. We climb the seracs of Danco Island using axes and crampons.

Danco Island - 25th November 2016 – Team A + a few others
Given the wonderful conditions on the water today, it was a great opportunity to circumnavigate Danco Island. Permission was granted by the Bridge. Armed with an Iridium Phone for when the radios lost reception on the backside of the island, we were off, with our zodiac for back up. The sea was super calm and the wind non-existent. The sun was shining and temperatures were very reasonable – a no glove day! We made steady progress around the backside of the island and as we turned the corner at the base of the island, the whole Errera Channel opened up to us. What a wonderful view! Our route back towards the ship required a degree of concentration as we negotiated the many small bergs. We came across our mountaineers who were ice climbing on the seracs, followed by the Race the Planet runners who were hard at it. After a few more photos we continued on around the island to complete our 6km journey. Another great venture in Antarctica!

Day 9: Half-Moon Island, South Shetlands

Half-Moon Island, South Shetlands
Date: 26.11.2016
Position: 062°35’ S / 059°59’ W

Wow! Last day of 4 Deserts running and Oceanwide Base Camp activities as Plancius dropped anchor in calm waters of Half-Moon Island in brilliant sunshine. What a magnificent setting…snow capped peaks rising high in the distance, rocky outcrops festooned with Chin-strap penguins, and as we later discovered, a lonely Macaroni penguin.

Zodiacs launched and the first to land were the 4 Deserts course setters, followed by Tim and the mountaineers who were deposited several miles away to climb high on a glacier clad mountain.

Kayaks experienced perfect conditions for a leisurely meander with Paul around the bay. Runners and the remainder of Base Campers were next.
Once everyone was on shore and had received the safety, keep clear of historic remains and wildlife briefings, all were free to either run the carefully prepared route or explore the Oceanwide guide monitored areas.
National flags fluttered, people cheered and yelled encouragement and the organisers announced that 7 runners had followed super-man Kyle and completed the magic 250 kms total. What a great effort and demonstration by all concerned of physical prowess and stamina. Magnificent medals ….[ Quite the best that anyone had seen! ] were issued to all runners who completed the event.

Highlight of the day was the wedding at 11am of Karen and Nicholas. Both appeared on shore elegantly clad in sophisticated black contrasted against the multi- coloured outfits of the runners and fluttering flags. Captain Eveny officiated, and conducted the ceremony both professionally and sensitively. He confessed that he was quite proud that it was his third wedding in his career as captain.
After lunch all attended a champagne fuelled cake cutting party in the lounge and Bill presented the happy couple with a drawing signed by all on board.

What a superb day as the last day of a highly successful fun filled cruise in Antarctic waters.

By mid-afternoon, Plancius upped anchor and motored out in the beautiful light for ‘ The Drake Passage’ As the vessel left sight of land, dark rocky outcrops thrust aggressively from the ocean and contrasted against the startling white of massive bergs.
With this last landing, Oceanwide Expedition Leader David could hardly have had a more satisfactory voyage in terms of weather and brilliantly achieved outcomes.

26th November Livingstone Island exploration
Today we have a couple of options: a smaller team will climb a technical snowy couloir (Jonny’s Gully) to a rocky summit and the more gentle hike will be to a col high above with impressive views along the way across to Half Moon Island.

Day 10: The Drake Passage

The Drake Passage
Date: 27.11.2016
Position: 059°21’ S / 060°39’ W

We are on the way back to Ushuaia and the Drake Passage is still very polite to us, but for precautions ropes were set up in the lounge area for walking. The morning started with a late breakfast and a talk by our Scotsman Bill about whaling in the Arctic and Antarctica. The racing the planet people organized a little quiz after lunch which was followed then by a talk of Bernice about her experiences skiing to the South Pole. Later in the afternoon Michael invited then for a talk about the sea ice and its importance and Brownies were served in the lounge. Recap at 6.30 pm and dinner at 7 pm as usual and the evening finished very calm compared while the sea got rougher…

Day 11: Drake Passage

Drake Passage
Date: 28.11.2016
Position: 055°38’S / 062°42’W

The day promised to be calm. Slight rolling, mediocre winds, everything seemed fine for the day. The odd white-chinned petrel & fulmar glided about the seas, the lack of wind keeping the horizon relatively empty of bird life. David’s sultry voice glided through the airwaves, announcing the start of the day.

Time for breakfast! Shouted Johnny. Eager passengers piled into the dining room, all wanting a taste of chef Ralph’s warm creamy white porridge. Afterwards, Bernice gave her talk about her expedition to the South Pole. Slowly the winds increased, the waves got higher, the storm picked up in intensity. Guests rested in their cabins, the odd one popping up the bridge to take photos and videos of the waves crashing over the bow of the ship.

As lunch slowly crawled into view, the storm increased. Waves got higher, some up to 9 meters in height. After lunch at 3pm sharp, account settlements started and guests were called down deck by deck to reception to pay their bills from the voyage. At 5pm, Beau played the classic film Around the Horn, a 40 minute black and white silent film from the 1920’s, narrated in the 80’s by the original film maker on the ship. As the storm increased, the captain’s cocktail was postponed until after dinner sometime, as the motion and rolling of the ship was too dangerous to risk handing full champagne glasses out. But eventually the ship came into sheltered waters, the entrance of the Beagle Channel at last. As the guests and the expedition team toasted to a successful voyage, the captain Evgeny Levakov thanked everyone for their cooperation in making the voyage a success. As everyone settled down into their beds that night, knowing that this was the last time they would sleep on the good ship Plancius. Unless they booked another trip on board, possibly to the Arctic…

Day 12: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Date: 29.11.2016
Position: 056°21’S / 064°28’W

Today is disembarkation day in Ushuaia. Coming alongside, we were boarded by the Argentine officials who cleared our vessel and allowed us to disembark. On the pier we bade farewell to many of the friends we have come to know over the past 10 days, and had one last look at the Plancius, the ship that took us safely on such an incredible voyage from Ushuaia, across the infamous Drake Passage to Antarctica. We have camped, kayaked, mountaineered and simply enjoyed the wildlife and scenery of this very special continent and are privileged that we were able to do so. This trip will last us a lifetime – in our memories, our imaginations, and in our dreams.

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!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: Nautical miles: 1769 nm, Kilometres: 3276 km

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Evgeny Levakov, Expedition Leader David Berg and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Tripcode: PLA22-16
Dates: 18 Nov – 29 Nov, 2016
Duration: 11 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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