|Position:||054°48.52’S / 068°18’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.
It was a very windy day even by Ushuaia standards so it was a challenging walk down the dock to where Plancius was moored at the end of the pier. Most passengers, however were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next 19 days. We were greeted at the windswept gangway by members of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet Hotel and Restaurant Managers, André and Thijs. 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 our Hotel Manager André who gave us an overview of the hotel side of Plancius explaining about the layout of the ship and about meals etc. After this briefing we had a slight delay to our departure as the port authorities had closed the port during the day due to the very strong winds that had started during the morning. The wind, however had eased by this point and we were soon underway and heading out into the Beagle Channel. Shortly after our departure from the pier, 2nd Officer Matei, 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.
Our final gathering was a celebratory one, a chance to meet our Captain, Alexey Nazarov and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco and formally meet the members of the Expedition team who will guide us during our voyage. At 20:00 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chefs Heinz 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 heading towards our first destination on this trip, the Falkland Islands.