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PLA24-18, trip log, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 22.12.2018
Position: 54°53’S / 067°52’W
Wind: NNW-6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +15

Ushuaia! ‘The End of the World; the Beginning of Everything’ as a rather splendid wall-painting proclaims. Most of us had time to explore this dramatically-located settlement before boarding Plancius between 4 and 5 pm. Gusts of wind around 50 knots and little drizzle of rain welcomed us on board. We were shown to our cabins to unpack, and then excitedly checked out our new home for the next 19 days. Locating the whereabouts of the bar and 24/7 coffee/tea station was the most important task. At 5:15 pm we were summoned to the Lounge/Bar by Lynn Woodworth, our Expedition Leader. She introduced herself, welcomed us on board, then showed us an important safety video about what to do in emergencies at sea. It is important that we keep ourselves and others safe as we sail to remote destinations, with little or no medical help. Chief Officer Miia supplemented this information with a few details specific to Plancius and our voyage. At about 6:00 pm we heard the seven short and one long blasts alerting us to the all-important life boat drill, which must be held before we reach the open sea. Because of the strong wind that was into the harbour, we did the drill still tied to the dock. We mustered in the Lounge, a roll-call was taken and then we were all led out to the life boats. Now we know precisely what to do and where to go in the unlikely event of an emergency. We also had the chance to have a look inside the life boats. Before dinner, we had the Captain’s cocktails, where our nice Captain Artur Iakovlev, the Master of the Vessel and the man responsible for getting us all safely to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica – and back again - gave a short speech. We drank to the success of our voyage. We then met Zsuzsanna, the Hotel Manager. She talked about life on board from dinner to wifi and room cleaning. All the expedition staff introduced themselves and talked a bit about their background and their love for the polar regions. Finally, Moniek Mestrom, our lovely doctor, introduced herself and tried not to scare us with sea sickness. 7:30, it was dinner time. The Dining Room was buzzing, and we enjoyed our first meal on board. Around 9 pm, the wind dropped down and stopped pushing us onto the dock. The Argentinean pilot gave us the go and we were off down the harbour and into the Beagle Channel. With the sunset and calm waters, we had the chance to enjoy the view, with a few terns and petrels flying around the boat and we even sighted some Magellanic penguins diving near the ship. Afterwards, a few passengers and staff adjourned to the bar, but it was a quiet evening socially. Most of us spent some time on deck admiring the scenery and wildlife, before heading for bed and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we will wake up in the open ocean, our Plancius Bridge team in sole control, well on our way to the Falkland Islands.

Day 2: At Sea en route to the Falkland Islands

At Sea en route to the Falkland Islands
Date: 23.12.2018
Position: 54°20’S / 064°27’W
Wind: W-6
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +12

Many of us were already up and around when Lynn made the first wake-up call of the voyage, but for those of us still being gently rocked in our bunks it was time to get up and see what the sea day would bring. It was a bright morning, with a strong tail wind of about 25-30 knots which was pushing us along very nicely. After breakfast many of us wrapped up warm and headed out on deck to enjoy the sunshine and gaze at the birds that were flying around the ship. Some birds habitually follow ships at sea looking for food brought up to the surface by the waves, but also to enjoy the uplift created by our passing. We found plenty of Cape Petrels skimming the water close at hand, and further afield Giant Petrels and several species of albatross glided, using the air currents to demonstrate their skill at dynamic soaring. Every now and then they would fly right past the deck or bridge window, allowing for some good photographic opportunities. At 9:30 am Lynn gathered us in the lounge for the mandatory IAATO briefing, which provided us with all the ‘dos and don’ts’ for us to consider during our landings over the next couple of weeks. Shortly afterwards, Sonja gave a very informative lecture entitled ‘Marine Critters of the Falklands’. This was the perfect introduction as to what wildlife we might encounter over the next day or so. She also explained why there is such an abundance of life in the Southern Ocean. Most people headed back outside after lunch to continue enjoying the favourable conditions we were being blessed with and were rewarded with our first whale sighting - a small group of Sei Whales. Although they were some way off, you could clearly see the large blows hanging in the air as they came to the surface to breathe. At this time of year, it is not uncommon to see Sei Whales in this stretch of water as they head South to feed in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Antarctica. At 3 pm, Sara gave a lecture about Penguins, it was structured in such a way that it probably answered many of our initial questions about these charismatic little creatures, giving us more time to just sit and enjoy their funny and very endearing antics. Tea time came and went, following by today’s mandatory briefing session - Zodiac safety. Lynn told us everything we needed to know about safe Zodiac operations, as we would need to use these newly-acquired skills in the morning to make our first landing of the voyage. After which, we headed downstairs to collect our rubber boots ready for wet landings on shore. The staff were on hand to make sure that the system ran with the utmost efficiency, with boots of all sizes being passed along the line to ensure everyone got the correct size ready to go ashore in the morning. While this was all happening, others were out on deck enjoying the distant blows of more Fin or Sei whales. The final official event of the day was our first daily Recap & Briefing session. Lynn had a lot to tell us about the next couple of days and you could feel the excitement and anticipation growing as she spoke. Adam then gave a short summary of the history of the Falkland Islands, in fact he was able to condense 500 years of history into 15 min. There was a lot of enthusiastic chatter as we descended to the Dining Room afterwards, as people shared their hopes and expectations for the forthcoming days with one another. After dinner a lot of us decided to enjoy the beautiful sunset from the outside decks. From here we got magnificent views of the Southern Giant Petrels and albatrosses that were following the ship, which made for wonderful photographic opportunities, it was truly the perfect was to conclude our first day at sea.

Day 3: Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Carcass Island & Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
Date: 24.12.2018
Position: 51°27’S / 060°56’W
Wind: W-4
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +14

We awoke to a strong breeze but sunshine today, and most of us headed on deck to take in the views of the approaching Falkland Islands! We sailed through a narrow gap between West Point Island and West Falkland called The Woolly Gut. This gave us our first opportunity to see penguins as they porpoised through the water around the ship. We also saw ducks, geese, cormorants and terns as we passed close to the islands. Some early risers even got a quick sighting of Commerson’s dolphins. Our first landing of the day, and indeed of the trip, was Carcass Island, owned and operated by Rob and Lorraine McGill. The island sits in the northwest of the Falkland Islands Archipelago. Getting off the ship proved a little challenging as there was a big swell at the gangway bouncing the zodiacs up and down. Yet we all mastered our first attempts of getting into the zodiacs for the shuttle ride ashore. The staff told us that this would be great training for the destinations ahead. Most of us decided to head off on a long hike from Dyke Bay to Leopard Beach and then along to the settlement, while the rest of us were transported straight to the settlement in order to explore the surroundings at a more leisurely pace. Along the hike we were able to see our first penguins: Magellanics and Gentoos. The Magellanics were burrowing in the ground, incubating their eggs, but we saw many coming up from the beach or standing guard outside their burrows. The Gentoos nest in the open, and we kept a good distance to the colony, being reassured by our guides that we would see plenty more Gentoos in the days to come. We walked down onto the beautiful Leopard Beach, with its gorgeous white sand and turquoise waters, strongly contrasting with the black and white of the penguins coming out of it. On the beach we found many Upland Geese shedding their feathers. The walk to the settlement along farm tracks afforded great views of beautiful scenery and wildlife alike. We spotted Magellanic oystercatchers nesting high up on the slope, and there were many more Upland and Ruddy-headed geese mixed in, as well as a few sightings of the beautiful Long-tailed meadowlarks (the males have a stunning crimson-red chest). There were many groups of Flightless steamer ducks having a snooze on the higher slopes, while those with chicks were paddling about in the shallow waters below. A welcome committee of the mischievous Johnny Rooks (i.e. Striated caracaras) was jollying about near the settlement. This is the home of Rob and Lorraine, who, along with their Chilean staff, had put on a spread of fantastic fancy scones, cakes and biscuits. We were all delighted to sip tea, sample the variety of cakes, and exchange stories with these Falkland locals. The balmy conditions invited many of us to settle down outside in the sunshine. All too soon it was time to head back on the Zodiacs to Plancius for lunch; though some of us were not requiring too much lunch after all those cakes! During lunch Plancius sailed on to another island for our second landing of the day - Saunders Island. Saunders was chosen as the site of the first British settlement on the Falkland Islands in 1765 and is one of the larger islands within the Falkland Islands Archipelago. It is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, notably large numbers of nesting Black-browed albatross, and four different species of penguin: Gentoo, Magellanic, King and Rockhopper. It was sunny but with very strong winds and the ride ashore had the zodiacs surfing the waves, accompanied by very friendly Commerson’s dolphins. We landed on a shallow sandy beach known as the Neck and were greeted by the island’s owners, the Pole-Evans family who have lived on the island since the 1980s. A short walk gave us great views of nesting Gentoo and King penguins, with a backdrop of rolling blue surf on the north side of the island. Most of us headed up the hill past the Magellanic penguins and the sheep to sit by the Black-browed albatross and Rockhopper penguin colonies and enjoy the views and the amazing wildlife. We got to observe many interesting behaviours such as changing of the guard parent on an albatross nest, tender bonding of the parents or feeding of chicks. On the way back, some of us took a detour along the sandy northern beach to watch the Rockhopper penguins live up to their name surfing and hopping ashore on a rocky slope. Watching those feisty penguins rock climbing, sliding and tumbling afforded us with amazing photo opportunities and their comical penguin antics certainly drew a crowd. The wind had finally calmed down little as we returned to the ship for dinner and drawing to close such a beautiful and memorable first day in the Falkland Islands!

Day 4: Stanley, Falkland Islands

Stanley, Falkland Islands
Date: 25.12.2018
Position: 51°41’S / 057°51’W
Wind: NE-2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

Christmas Day! We were awoken today by Lynn, our Expedition Leader, and she told us that we were in Port William approaching the Narrows (the narrow channel leading to the inner harbour of Stanley that lies between Engineer and Navy Point). It was a bit of a cloudy day, but, at least, the lack of wind made the temperature comfortable on the bridge. We had the chance to sight some Sei whale blows on the way in, but it was still far away from the boat. The wake-up call was followed by Zsuzanna telling us the dining-room doors were open and we could go to breakfast. Bon appétit! At 8:30 am, the zodiacs were ready, and we left the Plancius to have a look around the capital of the Falkland Islands. Stanley was previously known as Port Stanley and became the capital city in 1845 after the main settlement was relocated from Port Egmont. We were able to wander around and, even if it was Christmas Day, some of the shops were open, as was the museum and post office. We were able to send letters and buy some souvenirs of the island, but also visit the inside of the cathedral. The weather held, and we enjoyed a dry yet overcast morning. The area around the visitor centre and museum became busier as the morning progressed with the arrival of guests from other ships that were visiting. As we returned to the ship, around 12 pm, the head chef Ralf and his galley team were hard at work adding the final touches to our Christmas lunch which was enjoyed by all. However, the weather began to deteriorate with gust of wind around 40 knots, and we were glad to be back inside. The Plancius’s anchor was heaved up and we headed back out the Stanley Harbour into Port William. Nicely, the team let us have lunch in calm sea before heading out into the open ocean in direction of our next destination, South Georgia. It was nice to have a delicious Christmas lunch before starting the two days of crossing in the open ocean. During the afternoon, Adam gave a short talk on the ‘Albatross Taskforce’ and their work. During this talk, we learned that the method of mitigation introduced by this taskforce greatly reduced albatross loss caused by fishing. After a short interlude, we had an extended recap talking about birds of the Falkland Islands, the Argentine perspective on Falkland history, Funny and unexpected facts and geology, all of this while drinking hot chocolate with a little extra served by Santa Zsuzanna and penguin Bobby. Another sunset with the gliding silhouettes of the various birds around us saw the end closing of the day with us heading towards South Georgia and in the knowledge that in a day or so we would be crossing the Antarctic convergence and entering the Southern Ocean.

Day 5: At sea, en route to South Georgia

At sea, en route to South Georgia
Date: 26.12.2018
Position: 52°18’S / 057°51’W
Wind: WSW 6-7
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

While the day started for some, with the wake-up call at 7:30 am, others have already been out on decks to enjoy the sunny morning and to watch the bypassing albatrosses and petrels. From 8:00 am we enjoyed the lovely breakfast buffet. Soon after, Fritz presented in his lecture on the most prominent seabirds of the Southern Ocean to prepare us for the next days, when we expect a couple of new species will appear. Meanwhile, some spectacular bird species like the Wandering and the similar Royal albatross showed up and we watched them majestically soaring around the ship right after the talk. Because the Plancius was rolling a bit, a delicious plated lunch was served in the dining room. After lunch, some of us went straight on watching birds and were finally rewarded with the first Blue and White-chinned petrels showing up nearby the ship. The afternoon was really nice with temperature up to 16°C and sun shining through the clouds. We spent most of the time on the bridge deck where we had a nice little snooze rocked by the motion of the waves, tried to sight whale blows, or attempted to identify the birds Fritz had presented to us before lunch. It is a hard task because they all look pretty similar, but, armed with our binoculars, we started to see the differences between them. At 3 pm we listened to Sara’s presentation “How to take photos you are happy with” in the Lounge. Immediately after that some of us started to change our camera settings in order to give our next shots the chance to get even better. In the late afternoon, we listened to Sonja’s highly interesting talk about Whales of the Southern Ocean. She introduced the most important whale species of the southern seas to us and decorated her presentation with fascinating facts about the ecology of whales and research findings. After the daily recap hosted by the Expedition team and Lynn’s presentation of our plans for tomorrow, we went down to the dining room for dinner. During the delicious meal we noticed that the sea calmed down significantly. This is the best requirement for a restful sleep after a short bar visit and some chats with fellow guests and staff members.

Day 6: At sea, en route to South Georgia

At sea, en route to South Georgia
Date: 27.12.2018
Position: 53°10’S / 042°52’W
Wind: W -5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

At 7:30 am everyone on the ship heard a familiar voice waking us up in the speaker. It was Lynn our Expedition Leader, calling us from Plancius’ bridge. It was our second day of sailing since the ship left Stanley in the Falkland Islands, heading towards South Georgia. Shortly afterwards, breakfast was announced. After breakfast Adam delivered his presentation about South Georgia. He covered many topics introducing this tiny rock at the bottom of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Before lunch time we still had time for one more lecture and this time Sonja went into detail to explain the different seals of South Georgia, Fur Seals and Elephant Seals. She presented the difference between the two animals, reproduction cycle and fun facts about these two fascinating animals. At the end of the talk, she introduced a tracking device that scientists are putting on elephant seal heads to monitor their migration and movement all year around. After lunch, on our way to Shag rock, Humpback whales were sighted by at least three passengers on the starboard side of the ship, with several blows observed and some really good approaching. We saw beautiful tails of whales diving around the ship with different types of birds including Imperial shags, giant petrels and prions, flying around as well. The whale sighting disturbed a little bit the program, but we finally managed to start the vacuuming of our gear. We did the Biosecurity Vacuuming in the Lounge—the cleaning of our outerwear and personal backpacks—which was a mandatory activity before arrival in South Georgia, in order to prevent the transmission of invasive species from other regions of the world. To reward us after this fastidious task, we received a nice book, which introduces South Georgia. At 6:30 pm Lynn kicked off our Recap & Briefing with some final details on how we need to behave whilst on South Georgia. She talked about the South Georgia environment, its historical heritage and our personal safety while in the Zodiacs and on shore. Dinner was served at 7:30 pm, which finished the day’s formal program. Afterwards some passengers and staff met up at the bar for a more informal chat before bed. However, not many people stayed up late since we all wanted to be fresh and prepared for our first South Georgia landing tomorrow.

Day 7: Salisbury Plain & Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

Salisbury Plain & Fortuna Bay, South Georgia
Date: 28.12.2018
Position: 54°03’S / 037°19’W
Wind: SSW -5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

The day of our arrival in South Georgia has come, after a bumpy crossing from the Falkland Islands, we were all eager to get off the ship and experience the wildlife and landscape that we had been keenly anticipating. Our first landing was near the King penguin colony of Salisbury Plain. Around 7 am, Lynn, our Expedition Leader, made the wake-up call over the tannoy system and gave us the latest weather information, which was followed by Zsuzsanna inviting us for breakfast. After we filled our bellies with a delicious breakfast, we went to the gangway where the zodiacs were waiting for us. We got ashore, landing at the beach and being greeted by hundreds of Antarctic fur seals (some were friendlier than others). We followed a marked route along the beach to an area laced with small streams and ponds. Salisbury plain was created by the glacial outwash from the retreating Grace glacier and takes its name from Salisbury Plain in the U.K. It is one of two ‘plains’ on South Georgia, the other one being Hestesletten (Horse Plain in Norwegian) located near Grytviken. Estimates indicate that there are 60,000 breeding pairs of King penguins and during the molting season a total of 250,000 could be present. We stayed along the edge of the colony and could absorb the scale, beauty and wonder of our first landing. As we looked above the tussac grass, we could see the chicks and hear them whistling for their parents’ attention. We could see the elegant carriage and poise of the adults preening themselves and just standing amongst their kind, but we also saw that somehow they manage to maintain their elegance while wading through the sloppy mud that forms part of the intricate lacework of the plain (some of us were not so lucky when we went off of the paths!). As our eyes reached the furthest extend of the colony, inland, we saw the scree covered slopes giving way to become snow-covered giants that reached into the cloud with rugged charm and helping us appreciate how truly unique South Georgia is. After we had made significant reductions to our cameras’ memory cards, it was time to head back to the landing site. Again, we went through the tussac and ran the fur seal gauntlet with the ever-watchful expedition team ready to intervene. A short zodiac ride back to our floating home, base and refuge, the Plancius, followed and it was then time to have a clean off our boots and enjoy a well-earned lunch. Laying at the east of the Bay of Isles and Salisbury Plain is Fortuna Bay. It is the bay where Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean began the final stage of their overland crossing to Stromness whaling station to seek help following the entrapment and sinking of their ship the ‘Endurance’ during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Eventually, all other members of the expedition were rescued with no loss of life. We were taken ashore in zodiacs and walked from the beach towards the King penguin colony, the route led us to a small hill formed by the moraine that gave us an amazing view across the colony and towards the glacier in the background. The weather was nothing other than great and most of us sat at the view point for a short time to enjoy the tranquility and splendor of the site. The colony of King penguins is thought to be home to an estimated 7,000 pairs and it was great to see the creches formed by the chicks. We walked down the beach and could see pups ranging from less than a day to several weeks old. Also, we saw giant petrels and skuas waiting for an unguarded egg or placenta to become available for them. Towards the end of the walk we saw some King penguins that had come from the colony. Fortuna Bay takes its name from a whale catcher called ‘Fortuna,’ built in Sandefjord, Norway in 1904. She weighed 164 gross tonnes and was 30.3 meters long. She was one of the 3 original ships brought to South Georgia by Carl Anton Larsen who started whaling at Grytviken. At 6:00 am on the 14th of May 1916 she ran aground at Hope Point, near Grytviken and sank. The helmsman had just received 2 letters and was reading them at the time, wreckage can still be seen on the beach. After this amazing afternoon, we were taken back to the Plancius, all a bit tired after our first day on South Georgia. Lynn gave us the plans for the following day, followed by dinner and we all went to bed full of eager anticipation for our next day.

Day 8: Cobblers’ Cove & Grytviken, South Georgia

Cobblers’ Cove & Grytviken, South Georgia
Date: 29.12.2018
Position: 54°17’S / 036°17’W
Wind: Var -2
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +12

Plancius traveled overnight, aiming for Godthul, a small, very sheltered bay tucked into the outer coast of the peninsula flanking Cumberland Bay East. We woke up to calm waters, with a relatively flat sea around us, hardly any wind, but fog in the upper mountains. Just a few Cape petrels coasted on the still air beside the ship, but the other birds were out of sight. During breakfast, the staff took two scout Zodiacs out to explore, testing the conditions and investigating for activities. As conditions were excellent, we were going to take advantage of the situation and aim for Cobblers’ Cove, a tiny indentation just north of Godthul. This minuscule bay was to be the drop-off point for a long, steep walk to see Macaroni Penguins, which were located up, over the ridge and then further along the coast, at a place called Rookery Point. Those who did not feel like a steep climb, took the option of a Zodiac cruise around to Cobblers’ Cove, then Rookery Point. The walkers were the first into the boats, out into open water and around the corner into Cobblers’ Cove. Passing through the tiny entrance of the bay, we immediately heard the Fur and Elephant seals calling, as well as a few Gentoo penguins. Landing on a small fur seal-infested beach, we immediately headed straight up the steepest part of the walk, including some slightly tricky scree surfaces. Katja led us on a zig-zag path uphill into the fog, stopping briefly when we reached the ridge before heading down the other side of the hill toward the long-awaited Macaronis. Most of them were breeding but the first chicks have been hatched. Meanwhile, the rest of us cruised in the Zodiacs around to Cobblers’ Cove. Here, we watched the action on the beaches, with mum and pup Fur seals calling, big males rushing each other, whimpering and occasionally barking and growling, and everything and everybody seemingly shuffling around in constant motion. The Elephant Seals, while quieter and slower, were just as smelly as the Fur seals, and equally entertaining. Heading out to sea again, we continued away from the ship towards Rookery Point, where the Macaronis have a very large colony high on the steep slopes of the point. While the zodiacs surged back and forth in the swell along the shoreline, we admired how far up the hill the Macaronis climbed, impressed that the stubby legs of a penguin could manage so much better than us! We were back for lunch, which everybody, especially the one on the strenuous walk, enjoyed. In the afternoon we were invited to the Lounge for a presentation by Dani from the South Georgia Heritage Trust, who gave an overview of the Habitat Restoration project to eradicate the rats from the island over the last seven years. The project was successful and South Georgia has recently been declared free of rats. She explained what we could do to help by sponsoring a hectare of the island or purchasing items at the gift shop in the museum. After the presentation, Zodiacs were ready to take us ashore in decent, but windy, weather conditions. We got onshore in almost dry clothes, but the sun will dry everything quite quickly. Mount Hodges at the back of the whaling station, and Mount Duse near King Edward Point create a natural sheltered bay and the slow wind meant that conditions ashore were decent, except when some gust of wind blew into the valley. After landing near the museum, most of us joined a conducted walking tour of Grytviken whaling station. Some of us joined Adam for a strength one hour and a half hike to the ridge of Dead Man’s Pass, from where we had a stunning view into the Bay of Grytviken. Afterwards, we had time to roam freely around the area, to go shopping and to send some postcards home to our loved ones. We also visited the church, museum and the replica of the James Caird. The reboarding of the zodiacs at the end of this landing was typical for South Georgia so far as it involved strong winds and variable conditions; some of us got wet. However, it’s just water! Finally, we enjoyed a tasty BBQ (with free drinks!) on the back deck, which rounded out the evening perfectly. A beautiful sunset sums up this amazing day. Many of us danced as if there was no tomorrow. Meanwhile, Lynn was busy working on plans for the next day. This wonderful day will long be remembered by guests and staff alike.

Day 9: Ocean Harbour & Leith Harbour, South Georgia

Ocean Harbour & Leith Harbour, South Georgia
Date: 30.12.2018
Position: 54°20’S / 036°13’W
Wind: N-3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

Our third day in South Georgia started slightly grey but reasonably calm as we took the zodiacs ashore into the kelp-covered cove of Ocean Harbour. This sheltered bay is named after the Norwegian ship Ocean which commenced whaling at this site in 1909. Although the whaling station was only in use until 1920, several remnants of the whaling period are still visible, including a rusty steam locomotive that once hauled cargo between the jetty and the station. A small hut stood solemnly in the grassy plain where fur seals and elephant seals roamed aplenty. The beach was firmly owned by several big bull fur seals and their harems while the unsuccessful bachelor fur seals and young moulting elephant seals provided some surprises for those of us who ventured inland. We watched elephant seals caterpillar along and across a small creek where fur seal pups played and learned to swim. There was seal commotion everywhere, so we had lots of interesting behaviours to watch while also having to avoid getting too close to some of the feistier furies. Back on the landing beach a whole different drama was taking place. Several giant petrels and a skua were squabbling over the sorry carcass of a fur seal pup. Each giant petrel tried to defend their meal against other scavengers by raising their tail feathers and spreading their long wings which gave them a remarkable resemblance to prehistoric archaeopteryx. On the way back to the ship we detoured through the kelp beds to get close-up looks at the wreck of the Bayard. Once a supply vessel that broke loose from her moorings during a storm in 1911 and drifted aground on the opposite shore where she had remained ever since. The wreck had now been colonized by nesting South Georgia shags which we watched commute to and from their nests. During lunch the Plancius steamed north along the coast to reposition to our afternoon destination. Several feeding humpback whales were spotted en route, some surfacing close to the ship. Plancius turned into Stromness Bay where we got to zodiac cruise towards the remains of Leith whaling station, once the biggest whaling operational base in South Georgia. Leith was established in 1909 and was named after the Edinburgh suburb where the Scottish whaling company Christian Salvesen & Co. Ltd. had its head office. Leith harbour was an ideal site as it offered sheltered anchorage, ample fresh water supply from the glaciers in the background and level ground for buildings and the flensing plan. In its heyday, this was a busy whaling town buzzing with over 300 station workers processing whales, repairing the vessels from the whaling fleet, unloading supplies and loading whale products for shipping to distant European and American markets. The station ceased operations in 1961 and had fallen into disarray since, having also been scavenged for scrap metal in the 1980s. We were not allowed to approach any closer than 200 m due to the hazards of asbestos once used in the building materials. However, our zodiac cruise-by afforded us great views from a safe distance of abandoned factory buildings, three overgrown piers, the flensing plan, storage tanks and accommodation blocks. For some this was a site of great historic importance and intense interest, for others the dilapidated buildings seemed more like a junk yard that should be removed. Whatever your views there was something to enjoy for everyone on the cruise. The ever-present fur seals had reclaimed every bit of beach space available, for breeding, squabbling, playing and resting. Several groups of seals bathed and played in the shallow water and did not mind the zodiacs at all. Antarctic terns dip-dived into the kelp to pick up small morsels of food. Several giant petrels squabbled over the tasty remains of a seal carcass, while South Georgia shags nested on rocky outcrops along the coast. A few of the geology aficionados enjoyed the great views of the twisted and jumbled layers of sedimentary rock from the Cumberland formation that towered above the shore lines. Once everyone was back aboard Plancius turned around yet again to head South for tomorrow’s adventures. There was a real buzz during dinner and later on in the bar after yet another stellar day in South Georgia.

Day 10: Gold Harbour & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia

Gold Harbour & Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia
Date: 31.12.2018
Position: 54° 37’S / 035° 55’W
Wind: Var -3
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

The morning started with a wakeup call at 4:45 am. We were supposed to land at Gold Harbour before breakfast, but the howling wind and the movement of the ship didn’t bode too well. Indeed, Lynn told us that the early morning landing was cancelled and that we could go back to bed. By 8:00 am, the wind had died down and, after scoffing down our breakfast, we were in the Zodiacs to Gold Harbour. Arriving at the beach was mind-blowing, a cacophony of belching, snorting, snarling, whistling and trumpeting greeted us. Elephant seals jostled with each other, King penguins stood either patiently enduring their catastrophic moult or flipper bashed each other while fighting for a mate, chicks were calling out for their parents or begged for food. In between fur seals chased each other and us. Adam found the skeleton of a giant Elephant seal at the beach with parts of the skin still clinging to the bones. Much cuter was the hustle and bustle at the King penguin colony further along the beach, where fluffy brown chicks mingled with adults. The big bulge at the feet of the adults told us that they were brooding an egg. It was great to wander along the beach and witness the behaviour of the animals without them taking notice of us. Back on the ship, we enjoyed our lunch while Plancius sailed eastwards along the coast of South Georgia. At the South-eastern end of the island, we entered Drygalski fjord. This fjord cuts 14 km inland and gives a good impression of the alpine interior of South Georgia. Magnificent glaciers, deep-cut valleys and sharp-pointed peaks dominate the landscape. The turquoise water was dotted with pieces of ice. On one ice floe we spotted a Leopard seal which lifted its giant head as we passed. Snow petrels flew around the ship as we got closer and closer to the Risting Glacier at the end of the fjord. Ice masses tumbled from dark rock faces. After Captain Artur turned Plancius on the spot, we sailed out of the fjord again using the stunning South Georgia mountains as a backdrop for a picture with guests and crew on the top deck. Just after we left South Georgia several whales were spotted from the bridge. As we got closer, we could see that the air above was teeming with birds. In the water were several Humpback and at least one Fin whale feeding. One whale was slapping the water with his gigantic tail. Others were ploughing the water in pairs. According to our whale expert Sonja this was how South Georgia would have looked before we started hunting whales. What a fantastic farewell from this subantarctic Island. Later in the lounge the expedition team treated us to an extended South Georgia recap. Talking about the geology, the glaciers, seals and birds we have seen in the last four days. Since it was New Year's Eve, the galley team had prepared a special dinner. Dessert was a birthday cake for everybody, three birthdays were to be celebrated. After dinner we joined into the Plancius Pub quiz. The “Killer Dolphins” took away the victory and enjoyed their prize. At midnight the hotel team served a sparkling wine in glasses that we could take with us as a souvenir. And so, we celebrated the New Year into the early hours. Happy New Year Everyone!!

Day 11: Sea day, en route to Antarctica

Sea day, en route to Antarctica
Date: 01.01.2019
Position: 57° 21’S / 039° 16’W
Wind: N 7-8
Weather: Foggy- overcast
Air Temperature: +2

After a nice celebration at the lounge the night before, between some smiles, stories, and few drinks, Lynn gave us the first lovely wake-up call of the year 2019, at 7:30, and thirty minutes later breakfast was ready. First, the fresh faces appeared and, later on, little by little the late ones arrived at the dining room with some really tired faces. It was hard to tell if the rough sea or last night’s celebrations were the main cause of these faces. A few hours later, Adam delivered his presentation about his job as a Boating Officer on South Georgia. It was full of interesting anecdotes, challenges he faced, and captured the spirit of his time there. Before lunch and to make our first day of the year very interesting at sea, Laura (our Snow Queen) lectured about the ice, the different types, the dynamics when it starts flowing and the impact of climate change on it in Antarctica. After the great meal served by the galley team, we had the chance to rest a bit from the previous night, we had a few hours free. We recovered energies and relaxed until the next talk that Adam offered about Shackleton, a story of Endurance. He not only explained about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his life before the experience that made him famous along the years for, but also the heroism and fortitude in every detail of the failed expedition that became one of the most transcendental in the Polar regions’ pioneers. To keep the nice and relaxed mood that comes from with the holidays, the talk was followed by a very special toast to the achievements to this explorer and his men. The toast was made using a special edition of the Shackleton whisky, remade from some samples taken from bottles found almost a century later in the remains of the camps used by the brave group of people who took part in the story. This toast is part of a tradition usually carried out where Shackleton is buried at Grytviken, however, because of the nasty weather when we were over there, it was held over until the later date. Adam gave emotional homage to all these great men that explored and conquered Antarctica. Cheers! This day was also a bit different from the others, because there was no recap planned. Instead the staff team, led by Adam and Sara, conducted an auction to benefit the South Georgia Heritage Trust. This charity has founded the rat eradication project on the island and is continuing to raise money for monitoring and future protection projects in the area. This time the auction had some exclusive, limited edition items that even the staff team was excited to make big bids for, to end up being the owner of one of them and contributing to the cause. At the end of the day the money raised was over 2400 euros! The auction was followed by another of Head Chef Ralf’s delicious diners and everyone went to bed early. It was a quiet evening in the lounge.

Day 12: South Orkneys & Sea day, en route to Antarctica

South Orkneys & Sea day, en route to Antarctica
Date: 02.01.2019
Position: 60° 46’S / 045° 21’W
Wind: WSW -5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +3

The day started early, for some people, with a beautiful sunrise around 3:00 am that pierced through the fog and the clouds. However, most of us were still deeply asleep. Around 6:00 am, some people decided to wake up too, to have a look at all the icebergs that were floating around the South Orkney Islands. Welcome to Antarctica! We were slowly making our way down the island to reach Shingle Cove on Coronation Island, zig zagging around the giant, mainly tabular, icebergs. With the morning light, the blue sky and the white of the ice, we could take some really colorful photos. At 7:00 am, when Lynn did her morning wake-up call, most of us were already in the Lounge or on the bridge to try to sight these white giants. Some Humpback and Fin whales were sighted around the ship, which was a nice extra to this beautiful morning. During the morning call, Lynn told us that we will reach Coronation Island around 10:00 am and we were still hopeful to be able to go on shore. Meanwhile, we went downstairs to have another delicious breakfast while looking at the icebergs through the windows. What an amazing morning! We reached the island at the right time and the weather conditions seems to be favorable for us. A bit windy, but in the bay, we were protected enough to be able to drop the zodiacs in the water. As usual, the expedition staff team went onshore first to assess the conditions. Green light for us at the gangway. We could go on shore to have a look at the Adelie penguin colony. The bay that we were anchored in was beautiful, with glacier falling into the water surrounded by big black rock peaks. When we arrived at the beach, we were welcomed by our favorite Elephant seals molting on the beach, while a Weddell seal tried to hide in with the Elephant seals … Nice try! We tried to keep a reasonable distance from them because molting takes a lot of their energy and we did not want to disturb their resting time. On our way to the colony, we avoided the cliffs because there were some petrels nesting on the rock. Finally, after a 10 min walk, we saw the little funny creatures that are Adélie Penguins. We spent most of the time observing them walking between the colony and the water and listening to the big chicks calling their parents for some food. Some skuas were flying around trying to find an easy target like an isolated chick or a weak adult for their next meal. We also had the chance to sight some Snow petrels and a fully white giant petrel that was lacking pigmentation in all but a few faethers. 12:00 pm, time to go back on board to have another tasty lunch. It was an amazing introduction to Antarctic scenery and we got more excited about the days to come. After lunch, we had a bit of free time for a short nap or to go back to the lounge/on the bridge to enjoy the view, more icebergs and hopefully sight some whales or rare birds. At 3:00 pm, Katja gave a talk about life down in Antarctica. She spent one winter and several summers down there as a scientist and she talked passionately about her experience on the different bases she worked at. In total, she spent three years of her life in Antarctica. It was a really inspiring talk about the experience of a lifetime. Later, Sonja gave us a talk about ecology and exploitation in the Southern Ocean. This talk was taking a step back in history to the sealing period, the whaling years, and into modern fishing of krill and Patagonian toothfish. This talk was really interesting and gave us a lot to think about, especially the sensitivity of the different species of the Southern Ocean to change in their environment. Finally, like every night, we were invited to a short recap. Surprisingly, Lynn kept it short, probably because the next day was a sea day. We also had Katja, who talked about the third man that seems to appear in extreme situations, Laura who explained what a tabular iceberg was and Sonja who gave us some tips to recognize different types of whale from our pictures.

Day 13: Sea day, en route to Antarctica

Sea day, en route to Antarctica
Date: 03.01.2019
Position: 61° 51’S / 052° 13’W
Wind: S 4-5
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: 0

The day started in a manner unlike others, we were woken by the voice of one of the guests, this was the result of a successful bid for the ‘privilege’ of doing the morning wake-up call at the on-board auction. The ‘lucky’ guest certainly made quite an impression with his wake-up call and seemed to enjoy his few minutes of stardom with the Plancius PA system. Outside it was a little gloomy and overcast but there were still a few birds flying around the ship and, every so often, we could also see the odd giant iceberg floating in the distance, most of which were being pushed towards us from the Weddell Sea. After breakfast most of us headed up into the lounge for the first lecture of the day, ‘An Introduction to Antarctica’, which was delivered by Katja. It was a perfect mix of geography, geology and history and modern-day politics. The last section of the talk was dedicated to some of the weird and wonderful facts about Antarctica, which only added to our intrigue and excitement for the seventh continent. The second presentation of the day was given by Sonja and it was about the ‘Ice Seals’ that we would hope to see over the forthcoming days. She explained the differences between the three main species, Crabeater, Weddell and Leopards and how they are so well adapted to their polar environment. She also spoke about their historical and future threat and, consequently, their population trends. Fingers crossed, we would encounter a few of these new species in the next few days. After lunch, we were given a very interesting talk by Ralf, Head Chef on board, about what it is like to cook for a ship full of passengers and crew in the polar regions. Everything was covered from logistics, ordering, recycling, challenges of resupply in remote places, and improvisation on board with menus and different dietary requirements. We learned a lot about how much food was used, including 4,500 eggs, 400 litres of milk - in fact 10,000 kg of food in total for our trip. No wonder we all feel so well fed on this voyage! Everyone who attended was fascinated by what Ralf had to say and he happily answered a lot of quirky questions. It certainly made our weekly shop at the supermarket seem very easy in comparison. The ocean was surprisingly calm with a light wind, which made the crossing quite comfortable. At 4 pm, it was time for our Antarctic Biosecurity, which involved us heading to the lounge to vacuum out our outer clothing and bags. Having already done this before landing in South Georgia, we were familiar with the process so was carried out with the utmost efficiency, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the obligatory afternoon tea or cake or to get some fresh air on the outside decks before the evening recap. During the biosecurity, two lucky guests had the chance to steer the ships for a few minutes. Luckily, we did not find an iceberg… Before the recap, the sun showed up and we all head out outside to try to sight some whales. We saw some blows from further. However, just enjoying a bit of sun was all we needed. During recap Lynn informed us about the plans for the next day, which was followed by two short recaps. The first was by Katja about Mount Erebus, the active volcano in Antarctica and this was followed by Fritz and two birds we saw today, the Southern Fulmar and the Snow stern. After another excellent meal prepared by our Galley Team, some headed to the Lounge for a quick night cap before heading off to bed full of anticipation for what was about to come: the Antarctic Peninsula itself!

Day 14: Paulet Island & Brown Bluff, Antarctica

Paulet Island & Brown Bluff, Antarctica
Date: 04.01.2019
Position: 57° 21’S / 039° 16’W
Wind: SE 2-3
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +2

In the morning, Plancius sailed into the Antarctic Sound. The ones that got up at 2:30 am had the chance to enjoy a majestic sunrise among the mountains covered in snow and ice. That was not the last surprise of the morning… Our specialist and bird lover, Fritz, spotted a juvenile Emperor penguin comfortably posing on an iceberg. Captain Artur and his team sailed gently in its direction. That was a “Bingo” call that we could add at our penguin list of Antarctica!! Around 9:00 am, the Captain moved the ship into position at Paulet Island, our first destination for this Sunday morning. From the Bridge, we could see the Adelie penguin colony and the remains of the hut that was left by the Nordenskjöld Expedition led by Captain Larsen on the island, back in 1903. It was a beautiful sunny morning and there were a lot of ice floating around. For safety Plancius did not anchor, so she could move quickly if needed. While passengers were still taking pictures and zodiacs were hanging on the crane, the staff members were very excited to get to our first landing in Antarctica between spectacular icebergs and wildlife. After a 5-minute zodiac drive from the vessel to Paulet, the expedition team welcomed and briefed us very carefully about how to move and were to go on this landing site full of Adelies and Shags. There were Adelie penguins everywhere going from the colony to the ocean and back. It was hard to avoid them, especially because there are around 100,000 breeding pairs sharing this tiny rock. You could see chicks that were around 1 month old and were surprisingly big in comparison to their parents. Adam and Lynn tried very hard to open a route to get to the remains of the old historical hut, but they had to abandon the mission after many failed attempts because it was impossible to walk without disturbing the wildlife. On the other side of the accessible area, Fritz showed everybody the way to the Blue eyed shag colony and pointed out some beautiful chicks. When we thought that the first landing could not get better, we got a nice surprise from the staff. During our way back to Plancius, the drivers took us on a short cruise between the icebergs and ice floes where some penguins were enjoying the great weather by jumping in and out of the bright blue water, giving us a wonderful show. Also, we carefully approached in a safe distance to a sleeping Crabeater seal. Following lunch, weather was still incredible and, during the navigation to the next landing site, clouds, tabular icebergs and birds were part of an amazing postcard picture that everybody wanted to capture. As we are all aware, weather is unpredictable and changeable in Antarctica. After an hour of sailing, the clouds appeared in the distance and just in few minutes we got surrounded by gray sky, some rain and gusts of wind picking up blowing away the chances of an afternoon landing in Brown Bluff -- a story many of the early 20th-century explorers would have found familiar! This change in the program gave the opportunity for Laura to lecture about the geology of Antarctica; a very complete overview to understand the beauty hidden under the vast ice sheet that gives the nickname of “White Continent”. The afternoon went slowly but nicely with a silvery-grey sky and beautiful views of the icebergs and the Antarctic continent. Like every day, we ended with a short recap – this time Lynn promised us a continental landing for the following day. After a delicious dinner, we went back to the bar to chat with other passengers, have a last drink or play some card games.

Day 15: Portal Point & Cierva Cove, Antarctica

Portal Point & Cierva Cove, Antarctica
Date: 05.01.2019
Position: 64° 29’S / 061°43’W
Wind: W-3
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

After a night of sailing south in fog and drifting snow, we awoke to Plancius turning into iceberg-filled Charlotte Bay, surrounded by glaciers and some of the 800 m high peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula. The snowy grey weather and dramatic icy scenery certainly conveyed to us that we were now truly in the Antarctic realm. After breakfast, we zodiaked ashore to the continent in a small rocky cove surrounded by glaciers, next to the snow dome of Portal Point where we set foot ashore on the Antarctic continent proper. Walking on shore was soft due to the white snow cover, which made for a nice contrast to the penguin poo covered gravel of Paulet Island yesterday. Most of us completed the circular walk around the snow dome to enjoy some snowy fun and spectacular views across Charlotte Bay. A rogue Gentoo and Chinstrap penguin provided some wildlife entertainment in this otherwise quiet icy world. After having worked up a sweat stomping across mushy snow, a large group of intrepid explorers took to the icy waters cheered on by a larger crowd of onlookers. To everyone who undertook the polar plunge – we salute your bravery (or shall we say craziness?). The zodiacs then quickly whisked the swimmers back to the Plancius for a well-deserved hot shower followed by another yummy buffet lunch. Portal Point also marked our southernmost point of our polar adventure at 64° 29’S. After a two-and-a-half-hour sail north, we reached the spectacular site for our afternoon’s zodiac cruise in the ice-strewn Cierva Cove. Half the group of passengers remained on the Plancius where Adam entertained them with a talk about sledge dogs in Antarctica, while the other group explored Cierva Cove in seven zodiacs. The weather was glorious yet overcast giving us excellent calm conditions for many spectacular iceberg photos as the intense shades of blue of the ice really was brought out in the soft light. We visited a small island with a colony of chinstrap penguins and watched in delight as those hardy little birds launched themselves onto the wave-washed rocks to then climb up to their nests on top of the island. After cruising, past some spectacular icebergs, we reached the Gentoo penguins nesting just next door to the Argentine summer base Primavera. A small yacht was moored in the cove below the base. The Argentine flag was flying at the mast and a couple of windows were open in the buildings suggesting that the base was indeed occupied. While cruising through brash ice, we listened to the crackling and popping of the melting ice releasing pure air trapped when the glacial ice had formed 1000+ years ago. As we cruised amongst the larger grounded icebergs, we spotted several seals hauled out on icebergs, most of them being leopard seals with a few crabeaters and one Weddell seal thrown in to test our seal ID skills. A few zodiac groups were lucky enough to witness the collapse of an iceberg from a safe distance, while others were treated to close up views of a Minke whale as well as a mother-calf pair of Humpback whales. The end of each cruise came all too soon, and everyone was reluctant to return to the ship where the wonderful hotel team welcomed us with rum-fortified hot chocolate. What better way to end such a truly spectacular day in Antarctica? We continued to enjoy the great views from the dining room during dinner, and the bar was abuzz afterwards with the sound of happy voices discussing the overwhelming experiences of the day. The gentle roll of the Plancius reminded us that we were headed for the more open waters of the Bransfield Strait which we would cross during the night to reach our next day’s destinations in the South Shetland Islands.

Day 16: Yankee Harbour & Half Moon Bay, Antarctica

Yankee Harbour & Half Moon Bay, Antarctica
Date: 06.01.2019
Position: 62° 39’S / 059°47’W
Wind: N -3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

We had an early start today; as Lynn’s voice came over the speaker, we eagerly readied ourselves for our last day in Antarctica. We had pastries that were available in the bar, which helped us to wake up on this early morning. The sun was hiding behind the cloud, but you could feel it was the beginning of another great day. We set off in the zodiacs at 5:30. We went to Yankee Harbour, a large natural harbour set against the mountains with a protective spit of cobbles and rocks stretching out toward an old navigation marker. The low-lying spit protects the harbour that was used by sealers and whalers many years ago. It takes its name from the numerous American ships that used to anchor and operate there. An old try pot used to melt seal and whale blubber lays broken at the top of the harbour and serves as a reminder of the area’s history. Nestled at the bottom of the mountain not far from the landing site is a colony of Gentoo penguins, which with their chicks made a distinctive calling noise and stinking smell. Finally, on the other side of the beach, at the end of the spit, after passing a male fur seal were two sleepy Weddell seals. We went back to Plancius just in time for breakfast and the ship was repositioned a short distance away to Half Moon Island. Half Moon is home to a large number of Chinstrap penguins that nest amongst the rocks. Also, we could also see the chicks of Kelp gulls on the outcrops, almost camouflaged in their lightly speckled downy feathers. On the other side of the landing, closer to another Argentinian base, we had two Weddell seals gracefully sleeping on the snow. Half Moon gave us the chance to enjoy a final encounter with the amazing wildlife of Antarctica amongst some great scenery. Also, it gave us the chance for a bit of exercise before heading to sea toward the mysterious Drake Passage. We headed back to our floating home and enjoyed lunch as the ship slowly made its way toward the Drake Passage. In the afternoon, Adam gave a presentation about dogs in Antarctica and Katja a lecture about climate change. At recap Sonja told us about a scientific paper that was written about penguin poo and Sara spoke about superstitions at sea, we then went down to dinner and enjoyed a relaxing evening on board and an early night after waking up so early in the morning.

Day 17: Sea day, en route to Ushuaia

Sea day, en route to Ushuaia
Date: 07.01.2019
Position: 59 °32’S / 062°11’W
Wind: SW-4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

After a smooth night, we were facing a bright shining morning. Breakfast provided us with enough energy to look out for whales and seabirds. But, because we were again so lucky with the weather, not many birds appeared. Not enough wind! A single Black-browed albatross, a Northern and some Southern Giant Petrels were around the ship. At 10:30 am, Adam started his lecture about Scott and Amundsen’s race to the South Pole. Thereby, he focused not too much on their unequal race but more on the personalities of Amundsen and Scott and their fellows. It was an incredible story about two men that try to reach one of the most inaccessible points in the world. While Plancius was moving with the swell, a delicious plated lunch was served at noon in the dining room. After that, the sun came out and some of us went straight out on decks to look for birds and whales while others chilled in the observation lounge. Despite less wind, two Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, and a couple of Wandering Albatrosses and a Blue Petrel appeared near the ship and began to soar around the ship. In the afternoon, we handed our boots over. This is another sign that the trip is in the home stretch. Around 3:30 pm, Fritz presented his lecture about the important topics of environmental protection in Antarctica and finally gave some hints of how everybody can contribute to environmental protection in general. At 5:30 pm, Sara presented the photo competition. All submitted pictures in each category, ice, wildlife and people, were presented two times. After that, everyone had the chance to vote for his or her favorite picture. At the same time there was Happy Hour at the bar, yeah! Before the daily recap, Szuszanna provided us with important information for the next day in terms of disembarkation and payments. After that, Katja spoke about the purposeful manipulation of pictures taken of the polar explorers by the photographers themselves, before the invention of Photoshop. To finish, Fritz presented a little quiz about bird records. These were indeed fun facts! As we enjoyed our delicious dinner, Plancius was softly moving from one side to the other, which was the perfect preparation for a peaceful night. For some of us, the evening had just started. We gathered in the bar and were cheering about the funny pictures of the photo competition. The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the horizon. It was another awesome day at sea, but we could feel the end of the trip which made us feel a bit nostalgic.

Day 18: Drake Passage, en route to Ushuaia

Drake Passage, en route to Ushuaia
Date: 08.01.2019
Position: 55 °53’S / 065°39’W
Wind: ESE -4
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +6

The morning started with the usual wake up and call to breakfast, whereas always, ‘the doors to the dining room are open’. The sun was shining outside, the sea was pretty smooth, and the wind was light, our Drake Passage had been pretty comfortable so far. A leisurely breakfast was followed mid-morning by Fritz telling us of his work as part of a bi-national inspection team. This involved traveling to some of the remotest areas of Antarctica for his job and inspecting activities being carried out there. A bit of free time then followed where we relaxed around the ship and enjoyed the crossing of the Drake Passage as we drew nearer to the coast of South America. We enjoyed a plated lunch in the dining room prepared for us by Head Chef Ralf and his international team. In the afternoon Adam gave us a presentation about the British wartime activity in Antarctica that concerned science and sovereignty, Operation Tabarin were the military activity that ultimately led to the first sustained use of dogs in Antarctica, the Post Office at Port Lockroy and was the building blocks of what became British Antarctic Survey. A bit of time to relax or to start packing our gear then followed, and at 6:00 pm we enjoyed Captain’s cocktails hosted by Captain Artur. After we had toasted the success of our trip, we enjoyed a slide show covering all of our trip which had been made by Sara; this brought to the front of our minds the emotions we felt, the experiences we had and the friends we had made over the past 19 days. We were called to dinner for the last time of this trip on board Plancius. We were slowly sailing down the Beagle Channel, and after dinner we could begin to distinguish the lights of Pto Williams, then finally the lights of Ushuaia. Most of us went up to the lounge for a last night on the ship while the vessel was approaching the harbour.

Day 19: Disembarkation in Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembarkation in Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 09.01.2019
Position: 54 °53’S / 067°52’W

We awoke this morning in Ushuaia, Argentina. As we disembarked it seemed strange not to be getting into zodiacs, not to be wearing life jackets, not to be turning our tags and to be heading for our first dry landing in weeks… We are back in the real world; back from our remarkable journey to the Falkland Islands, to South Georgia and to Antarctica. Our glimpse into life in these remote (and sometimes inhospitable) places is something we will treasure for the rest of our lives as we meander through our photos and revisit memories of penguins, seals, whales and shipboard friends from Plancius. So, breakfasted and clutching our passports, we descended the gangway and headed our many different ways – into Ushuaia for final souvenir shopping, to hotels or straight to the airport. May our journey home go smoothly. Total distance sailed on our voyage: 3566 Nautical Miles On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for traveling with us and wish you a safe journey home.

Have you been on this voyage?