PLA25-24, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Ushuaia - Embarkation Day

Ushuaia - Embarkation Day
Date: 23.12.2023
Position: 54°48.6’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: Light Air
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

Finally the day had arrived, and our expedition to Antarctica was about to begin! We found ourselves in Ushuaia, in the most southern part of Argentina, also called the end of the world. During our expedition, we would go even farther south.

We were not expected to embark Plancius until 16:00. That gave us time to recover from the long journey south and explore the town of Ushuaia. This small town offers a lot of coffee and cake cafes as well as many outdoor shops. Ushuaia makes for a cozy town and is ideal for buying last-minute items like hats, gloves, or another layer to keep warm.

At 16:00 it was time to make our way up the gangway of Plancius. We were greeted at the dock by members of the expedition team, and the hotel manager quickly checked us in. There was not a lot of time to relax, as at 17:15 a mandatory safety drill was scheduled, so our presence in the lounge was required. We were welcomed by expedition leader Pippa, and the chief officer guided us through a safety video and drill procedure. Then we all sat in the lounge, wearing our bulky orange life vests. When we heard the abandon ship alarm, we made our way outside to the lifeboats where the second officer informed us further.

With the mandatory drill done, it was time to release the ropes, start the engines, and leave the port of Ushuaia behind. The captain came down to the lounge and greeted us with a glass of champagne, speaking some warm words of welcome. Pippa then gave us more information about the program for the days ahead. Soon it was time for dinner. The galley team had prepared a delicious buffet, and the dining room was buzzing with excitement. The members of the expedition team also joined for dinner, and this offered a first opportunity to get to know each other. After a long and intense day, it was time for a good rest. Some of us decided to spend some time on the deck to enjoy the beautiful golden light

Day 2: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 24.12.2023
Position: 57°06.7’S / 065°17.8’W
Wind: SSW 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

We started the day at 7:45am, with the voice of our Expedition Leader, Pippa. “Good morning, good morning...” She told us about the weather outside and invited us to breakfast, our first breakfast on board.

That morning we awoke to a moderately calm sea, a good start of our voyage toward Antarctica. We felt the movement, and some of us experienced seasickness, but luckily we had our great Dr. Patricia on board to provide us with medication.

After we enjoyed our first breakfast on board, we were ready for all the upcoming briefings that would prepare us for our activities.

At 9:15am we started with a mandatory briefing about Zodiac operations, along with the rules and guidelines from IAATO, presented by Pippa. After that we could enjoy a coffee and a look outside, where we could see the Albatrosses and Petrels flying around our ship.

At 11am it continued with the next briefing for those who were interested in mountaineering. Dave and Owain were our Mountaineering Guides and explained to us the different options we had and how the operation works. We got more and more excited to arrive in Antarctica.

The morning activities weren’t over yet, so we had to collect our muck boots just before lunch. These lovely boots we would wear for all landings. Then we were hungry, so we headed down to the dining room for a delicious meal.

After a short break, at 2pm Marco and Brian briefed us about camping. We learned what we needed to do for our camping experience. We would need to dig a pit to sleep in for the night.

Shortly after that, we got our briefing from Erin about kayaking in Antarctica. The whole briefing presentation ended with Koen’s tips about photography. Now we were ready for the next day of activity sign-ups. The first iceberg was spotted by a young fellow passenger right before our next meeting. We were getting closer to Antarctica!

At 6pm we had our first recap in which we heard some additional information about the wind and the waves in the Drake. Then we got the plans for tomorrow before we had dinner. After dinner, the staff prepared a real Xmas warm up. We got to have a movie night with “Home Alone” and the Popcorn was not missing.

Day 3: At Sea – Drake Passage, Boyd Strait, Bransfield Strait

At Sea – Drake Passage, Boyd Strait, Bransfield Strait
Date: 25.12.2023
Position: 61°30.4’S / 062°55.9’W
Wind: SW 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

"A warm Merry Christmas to all of you" was the wake-up call by Pippa this morning. It was an unusual Christmas for us all while on our second day across the Drake passage. During the night the persistent rolling of the previous day finally decreased. The Antarctic Convergence had been crossed a few hours prior to our waking up call, so we found ourselves already inside the political and biological boundaries that define Antarctica.

Among the many ways to define Antarctica, two are mostly used by the general public: The political definition of the white continent includes all land and ice south of the 60-degree parallel. On the other hand, from a biological perspective the boundaries are set by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), one of the main oceanic currents that flows around the Antarctic Continent in a clockwise direction and helps keep at bay the warmer tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. This creates the perfect conditions for life to thrive in the Southern Ocean

The day took off with the activity signing up in the lounge room; among keen mountaineers, excited campers, and avid kayakers, we continued the morning with biosecurity for all the gear and equipment which will be using on shore during our next days in Antarctica.

After the usual delicious buffet lunch, the day carried on with Marco’s introductory lecture about the Antarctic Peninsula.

After that, Carina introduced us to the incredible world of penguins, the flightless seabird we would find in the Antarctic Peninsula. Meanwhile, the wind and swell had picked up again. Almost approaching the Boyd Strait, between Smith and Snowy Island in the South Shetland, gusts were up again to 36-38 knots and our ship was visibly and physically leaning 14-16° to the portside. It was awkward to walk along corridors, inside rooms and in the lounge. However, that didn't prevent us from listening to the last recap of the day.

Entering the Bransfield Strait was a relief. The swell had diminished; a nice and glimmering light was on the tabular icebergs. Expectations were high and everyone was looking forward to waking up the next day in the calm waters of the Gerlache Strait.

Day 4: Wilhelmina Bay and Neko Harbor

Wilhelmina Bay and Neko Harbor
Date: 26.01.2024
Position: 64°35.6’S / 062°14.2’W
Wind: W 3
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +10

Our first day in Antarctica, and what a day to wake up to! Blue skies, abundant sun, and hardly any wind. The scenery looked stunning, with the rugged mountains covered in meters of snow and amazing icebergs floating in Wilhelmina Bay.
Wilhelmina Bay was named by Belgian expeditioner Adrien de Gerlache, who named it after the queen of the Netherlands. The reason was that the Belgian government didn’t support Gerlache’s expedition, and the Dutch government did.

When we started our Zodiac cruise, we first got to practice how to embark in the small rubber boats. While cruising among beautiful icebergs and glaciers, we also got to see and hear our first whales of the expedition. A few adult humpback whales were spotted, but also a mother and her calf were seen. This was probably the first time for this young humpback to visit these food-rich waters, as humpback calves only stay with their mothers for about a year. The calves are born in warm tropical waters before they migrate south to the feeding grounds with their mothers.

Some Zodiacs went across the bay to check out our first penguins on the continent. But upon coming closer, it turned out they were actually Imperial Shags, or Blue-Eyed Shags. We later saw our first penguins: Gentoos and an Adelie posing for us on a piece of ice.

In the afternoon, we visited Neko Harbour. Neko is known for being close to a glacier, so you can have stunning views of Gentoo penguin colonies with the glacier in the background. And this glacier is quite active, so pieces break off regularly. Last night Pippa informed us not to hang around at the beach site to avoid sudden waves, and she was right: a big piece of ice broke off the glacier and created big waves. Penguins were running to higher ground while we witnessed this spectacular event.

On land a few Weddell seals were resting, and at one point one even started making amazing sounds. It’s hard to describe it, but it reminded us of sonar. Fantastic to hear this.

Neko offered a beautiful loop around the Gentoo colonies, and we also spotted a single Chinstrap penguin and again an Adelie. We had seen the three species of penguins expected for this trip already on day one!

 

KAYAKING

 

Wilhelmina Bay 26th AM

 

Our first kayak could not have been more perfect. Plancius headed south around the island, and we would take the northern channel and navigate through thick ice to meet her on the southwest side. As we kayaked around the island, we found a Weddell seal sleeping on an iceberg and even an Adelle penguin taking a rest before heading back to their nest.

 

Neko Harbour 26th PM

 

As we paddled away from the ship, we heard a thunderous crack as a glacier calved. A huge wave crashed ashore. Out in the bay we felt the wave, but it was only a gentle rocking. Brash ice crunched as we broke through to clearer waters. A sleeping seal enjoyed a large iceberg, and penguins bounced in and out of the water all around us. We heard the blow of a whale in the distance, and as we got closer we caught a glimpse of its fluking tail.

 

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Neko Harbor 26th PM A fabulous mountaineering circuit of the icy slopes overlooking Neko Harbor.

Dat 5: Paradise Bay, Brown Station and Danco Island

Paradise Bay, Brown Station and Danco Island
Date: 27.12.2023
Position: 64°53.3’S / 062°52.4’W
Wind: Light air
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

The day started with sunshine coming through the windows in our cabins. We were ready for the next day in Antarctica. We went to breakfast, where the hotel department prepared a lovely breakfast for us. Shortly after, we dressed up to go out for all the activities.

We were going to a place called Brown Station, an Argentinian Research base that wasn’t occupied. We learned from George that the original base was burned down by the station doctor, who was very desperate to go home.

We were split into two groups. It was a landing and a Zodiac cruise on the same morning. As we arrived at the station, we were lucky to walk between the buildings and up the hill to the viewpoint. And there was a surprise waiting for us. We were allowed to slide down the hill, very excited to touch finally some snow and enjoy the funny part. As there was no wildlife around, they allowed us to sit and slide (not only in the Zodiac) down in the snow. During the Zodiac cruise, we saw a lot of wildlife, like a Minke whale, a humpback, Weddell seal, Antarctic Cormorants (Shags), Penguins, Cape petrels, Antarctic terns, and more. It was a great morning.

Back on board, we were hungry and ready for lunch. We were sailing through the Aguirre Channel and could see (on our starboard side) the Chilean station, Gonzalez Videla. After lunch we visited Danco Island, which has its summit around 120m (ca. 390 feet) above sea level.

We could go for a little walk around the island and see several rookeries from Gentoo Penguins. We had a great overview of the Errera Channel and could see the next island, Cuverville. When we arrived at the landing site, it was surrounded by big icebergs, an impressive view. As we were walking up from the beach towards the lifejacket’s bags, we had to take our snowshoes with us. We put on our snowshoes and walked slowly up towards the first colony. After we left the first colony, we had to cross the first penguin highway, and penguins have the right of way.

 

KAYAKING

 

Paradise Bay 27th AM

 

This sheltered bay is a fabulous place to explore by kayak. The ice-choked waters make navigation a challenge, but luckily only the bottoms of the glaciers were out of reach for the kayakers. We paddle bellow steep cliffs, home to many shags and even a few cape petrels. We watched the mountaineers summit the snowy peak above our heads, enjoying the stunning views all around the bay. Penguins washed their feathers around our kayaks, and we paddled along the coast, home to many nesting gentoo penguins. After a beautiful paddle, we went to shore for our first continental landing.

 

Danco Island 27th PM

 

Just as we climbed into the Zodiac for our kayaking adventure, the wind decided to begin blowing. We navigated the strong winds and current in the Zodiac and tucked ourselves behind a huge iceberg for shelter. Here we could safely climb into the kayaks to start our journey. We stayed close to the shores of Danco Island, using the tall coastline to shelter us from the wind. As the wind dropped, we made the crossing to a small rocky island, home to at least eight sleeping seals. We had to navigate over a shallow reef, which was a little challenging, but we all made it through. With time running out, we made the long crossing back to Danco and got to enjoy incredible views of rafting penguins.

 

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Brown Station 27th AM

 

We enjoyed great weather on our journey behind Almirante Brown research station. Our sunny and airy high point rewarded the team with a bird's eye view over Skornttorp Cove. Danco Island 27th PM A great counterclockwise circuit up to the top of Danco Island. Our teams enjoyed magnificent summit panoramas. On our descent, we were treated to the sight of the highest of the Gentoo penguin colonies on the island and its never ending “Penguin Highway.”

CAMPING

 

Lefévre Point, Doumer Island

 

At around 21:00, right after dinner, we got ready to get on shore. We were welcomed by Marco and Brian, our camping guides. We received our sleeping kit and a shovel and got ready to dig the snow pits that were going to be our shelter for the night.

The evening was lovely, with the sun setting to the southwest, casting some beautiful orange and pink shades on the mountain peaks in front of us. Soon after we slipped into our sleeping bags, we could hear a couple of humpback whales feeding alongside the coast. They kept on going for about two hours, a truly and unique Antarctic experience.

Day 6: Peterman Island and Pleneau

Peterman Island and Pleneau
Date: 28.12.2023
Position: 65°10.6’S / 064°07.5’W
Wind: S 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

Over breakfast we sailed to our next destination, Peterman Island, which is the southernmost point of our journey. After two hours, we passed the beautiful entrance of the Lemaire Channel. The Lemaire Channel is one of the highlights of our voyage. Steep cliffs hem in the iceberg-filled passage, which is 11 km (6.8 mi) long and just 1.600 meters (1.970 ft) wide at its narrowest point. It was the Gerlache who first explored Lemaire Channel and this area of the Antarctic Peninsula in 1898. Gerlache named the channel for his countryman, Charles Lemaire (1863 - 1925), a Belgian explorer of the Congo.

Sailing through the Lemaire Channel, we were lucky to see some more Humpback Whales surrounded by a fantastic mountainous scenery.

After breakfast we got ready for our landing on Peterman Island. It was a bit overcast, but sun was coming out on the right time during landing. Peterman Island was discovered by a German expedition of 1873-74 and named after geographer August Peterman. Charcot’s second French Antarctic expedition wintered aboard the Porquois-Pais at this location. On the landing site there is an Argentine refuge hut and commemorative cross for three members of the British Antarctic Survey who died attempting to cross the sea ice in 1982.

Close to the landing site, we were lucky to see a two Southern Elephant Seal from the Zodiac. The Southern Elephant Seal is the biggest species of seals. They are the deepest diving air-breathing non-cetaceans and have been recorded at a maximum of 2.388 meters (7,835 feet) in depth. Just stepping out of the Zodiac on land, we were able to see another Southern Elephant Seal relaxing close to the shore.

Peterman Island also has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports a breeding colony of about 3,000 pairs of Gentoo Penguins. The island also has a colony of some Adelie Penguins and Imperial Shags. The Adelie Penguins had some cute little chicks. We were able to watch these fluffy little penguins in incredible mountainous scenery.

In the afternoon, we were jumping into our Zodiacs for a stunning cruise around Pleneau Island in Salpetriere Bay, what’s known as an “iceberg graveyard.” First we encountered hundreds of Gentoo Penguins in the water. We switched the engine off to not disturb them. Our cruise took us next to some Weddell Seals that hauled out on the snow.

One highlight of this cruise was the Crabeater Seal. We were able to watch him for a bit while he was resting on an ice floe. After three hours of cruising in a glacial scenery, we headed slowly back to Plancius. On the way back, we were able to find another Humpback Whale feeding in this area.

Back onboard we had a short recap before a delicious BBQ dinner. We took the dance floor and had a nice little party until the late evening, still in the Lemaire Channel. What a perfect finish to an incredible day!  

 

KAYAKING

 

Petermann Island 28th AM

 

Today at Petermann, we were hoping to see a whale. Well, within 10 minutes, we got our wish. Two whales swam our way. We followed them for a few minutes, then two more whales joined them, a mother and calf. They were a little more excitable, and we even watched them breaching. We also watched penguins and baby shags from the coast. Petermann is home to both Gentoo and Adelie penguins. As we paddled farther around the island, we found an elephant seal sleeping on the rocks and 4-5 Weddell seals on the snow.

 

Planaeu Bay 28th PM

 

Icebergs towered above our kayaks. We found a leopard seal sleeping on an iceberg, totally unaware of our presence. We navigated the icebergs for more than two hours before we had to find our way back to the ship.  

 

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Hoovgard Island 28th AM

 

The summit that is always that little bit further away and never seems to get any closer! Our climbing teams put in a strong performance with both teams making the summit and returning to our landing site in good time.  

Day 7: Damoy and Orcas

Damoy and Orcas
Date: 29.12.2023
Position: 64°46.6’S / 063°25.0’W
Wind: Light air
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: +8

Welcome to Damoy! This spot used to have an airport from which scientists and expeditioners flew out. The old “waiting lounge” is still there in the form of a simple hut. The weather in Antarctica is not often as good as it is today, so planes could not always land on top of the glacier hill. Today the hut is a museum maintained by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The staff had flagged a big loop taking us to Gentoo colonies and beautiful views. Some of us decided to do a workout and did several loops. And on snowshoes, this wasn’t too easy.

This afternoon a cruise around Cuverville Island was planned, but we never reached Cuverville. On the bridge, the staff spotted a pod of Killer Whales, so we readied the Zodiacs and cruised over for a closer look.

Half of the Zodiacs were with a single orca, and the others were with two large males. But with the help of Owain and a pair of binoculars on the bridge, we were soon informed of large pods in the area.

We set course into that direction and then the magic happened: three hours of cruising with dozens and dozens of orcas!

 

KAYAKING

 

Dorian Bay/Damoy 29th AM

 

We woke to the calmest waters. The mountains were mirrored in the waters, not a breath of wind could be seen. We only needed to travel 100m from the ship before we could climb into our kayaks. Within minutes we stopped to enjoy a sleeping Weddell seal on the rocks in front of the landing sight.

We followed the coast before making a short crossing to the island, which was home to hundreds of gentoo penguins. The water was so clear you could even see them swimming below our kayaks. We tucked in close to the shore and paddled into a bay with two more sleeping seals. Further along the coast we spotted Port Lockroy, home of the southmost post office. In the bay, we caught a fleeting glimpse of a minke whale.

 

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Damoy Glacier Trek 29th AM

 

A fantastic glacial trek behind the Damoy hut. The weather was amazing, with not a breath of wind. For the mountain guides, this was a real day of contrasts from their last tour of this site; the wettest day they had experienced in Antarctica!  

 

CAMPING

 

Damoy Point, Dorian Bay

 

After the incredible afternoon, Plancius was repositioned back to Dorian Bay. This time the landing site would have been used for our second night. The weather conditions were excellent again, and an incredible night awaited us. After dinner we were shuttled ashore by our expedition team, whilst Marco and Brian had set up the camping site for the night. The snow was crispy when we started digging our snow pits for the night, and the cloudless sky anticipated a bright although cold night. Once again the sunlight casted fabulous hues of yellow and pink on Mount Français and Mount Agamemnon, the highest peaks of Anvers Island.

Day 8: Jougla Point (Port Lockroy) and Peltier Channel

Jougla Point (Port Lockroy) and Peltier Channel
Date: 30.12.2023
Position: 64°49.6’S / 063°30.4’W
Wind: SE 5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +5

After lunch we had visitors from Port Lockroy come on board to give a presentation about the work they do there. Because of bird flu, the British Heritage Trust decided that Port Lockroy must be closed for visitors. After the presentation, we were split in two groups. One went ashore at Jougla Point, and the others could do some shopping in the dining room at the pop-up shop.

At Jougla Point, we were able to see lots of Gentoo Penguins and chicks. After the landing, we went for a short Zodiac cruise around the Island to see Port Lockroy.

After returning to Plancius a little soggy and cold, we enjoyed another sumptuous lunch offered by the galley. We dropped the mountaineers on Damoy and sailed south into Peltier Channel for a nice ship cruise. The Peltier Channel was discovered by the French Antarctic Expedition, 1903 - 1905 and named by Charcot for Jean Peltier, noted French physicist. We were cruising in a beautiful glacial scenery, and we spotted some penguins on the shore. We also saw calving glaciers and a couple of Humpback Whales.

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Jabet Col 30th PM

 

A long tough hike to this spectacular high col on the mighty Jabet Peak. We did not linger for too long due to the strong fresh winds blowing through the col. The long and winding snowshoe road home demanded our concentration and tested our tired legs!  

Day 9: Orne Harbor, Palaver Point, and Spert Island

Orne Harbor, Palaver Point, and Spert Island
Date: 31.12.2023
Position: 64°27.5’S / 062°14.5’W
Wind: Light breeze
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

The last official activity day in 2023, and we already spotted some Humpback whales. The whales have certainly become more active in this past 10 days.

We started the day with a continental landing at Orne Harbour. The mountaineers were going to the top of the Spigot summit. This is a beautiful mountain with a steep snow slope on just one side, and steep black cliffs on all the others. Everyone else still got an uphill hike to the colony. These chinstrap penguins have incredible stamina. Their nests are high up on the ridge and every time they want food, they slide down on their bellies to the bottom before the hike back to their nests. These penguins have the penthouse suite of all nesting sites. Some of us had a wonderful Zodiac cruise with Steffi and the kayakers going with Erin around Orne-Harbour.

On our way back to the landing site, the landing site got filled by some brash ice. So the drive back was an adventure. After we came back on to the ship, we had (again) a wonderful lunch and a beautiful cruise with the ship across the Gerlache Strait. We were able to see a lots of bunches of Humpback whales. It was like a big Humpback party. They surrounded the Plancius and it seemed like they had a lot of fun. We saw fluking tails, and some of us were able to see some breaching whales.

In the afternoon, we had a very nice landing at Palaver Point in beautiful glacial scenery. After landing we made our way to the first stunning viewpoint, where we were able to see a few Chinstrap Penguins. The hike up to the upper viewpoint was a little bit steeper, but this was worth it. We were standing next to another very active Chinstrap colony. Also, on the third and last viewpoint, we were able to take a lot of nice pictures of Chinstrap Penguins with a beautiful glacial scenery in the background. The highlight of this landing were the cute, small, fluffy Chinstrap chicks. We were also able to see a big calving of the glacier which created a little wave.

Back on board, we enjoyed a short drink and recap before heading off to the dining room for another delicious dinner. But this was not the end of the day. During dinner we sailed north to a mystic place called Spert Island and every one of the staff were excited, because for the most of them was it the first time in this beautiful spot. In Spert Island we jumped into the Zodiacs again and we had an incredible Zodiac ride with a lot of swells in this mystic place. We were surrounded by steep cliffs, and we crossed very narrow and shallow channels. We encountered a stunning sea arch, and we crossed it a few times. It was a big adventure to ride through this narrow arch. On our way back to Plancius, we speeded the Zodiacs up and found two Adelies and two Gentoos on a big iceberg.

Back on board, the crew prepared some drinks and snacks for us, and we got ready for the New Year countdown.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2024!

 

KAYAKING

 

Orne Harbour 31st AM

 

The weather finally allowed us to go kayaking again, and Orne Harbour is a beautiful spot. We headed down wind to the huge cliffs of spigot mountain and followed the coast around to a small chinstrap colony. Nesting kelp gulls hung around on the cliffs. We nipped in and out of a few icebergs, enjoying another entry and exit point for the mountain climbing chin straps. It looked like such a long hike up to their nests. We spotted a fluke or two from some feeding humpbacks before using the Zodiac to cruise back upwind to the ship.

 

Palaver Point 31st PM

 

We have been so lucky with the weather so far and this afternoon’s kayaks was no exception. Flat calm waters around Palaver are rear, but for us a unique opportunity. We briefly navigated the shores of palaver to enjoy the chinstrap penguins, but we spotted a humpback whale feeding not too far out in the bay. What a great opportunity to enjoy whales from our kayaks! As we paddled out an almighty crack and rumble, warned us of a glacier calving. Luckily, we were far enough out at this point we were safe from the wave. We carried on paddling into deeper waters and before long we were playing guess where he’ll come up! We must have enjoyed a solid hour of watching our whale, blowing and fluking before disappearing again.

 

Spert Island 31st PM

 

What a rare opportunity. The swell is not often small enough to allow us to explore Spert! With only 6 remaining passengers left to kayak, our small team climbed into the kayaks for a evening paddle. We headed straight for the canyons between the rocks, narrow channels choked with icebergs, with towering cliffs on either side we were remined how tiny we are. On occasions waves would roll down the channels lifting our kayaks and making our stomachs flutter with excitement. As we rounded the corner to the point, we were surprised to see an amazing sea arch. If only it was clam enough that waves weren’t breaking in the waters beneath. Not a friendly place for kayaks just now. On our return along the headland, we explored once again the steep channels, a mere four metres wide in places. Just before we had to climb abord the ship we had a final surprise, four sleeping seals.

 

MOUNTAINEERING

 

Spigot peak 31st AM

 

Perfect conditions for the ascent of Spigot Peak. This airy summit stands proud, and sentinel like at the entrance to Orne Harbor. We experienced virtually no wind and perfect underfoot snow conditions for our mountaineering crampons to reassuringly bite into. The recipe for success on this often-aloof summit.

 

Palaver point 31st PM

 

The last mountaineering outing of our Plancius 25 Basecamp. After several days of activities a few tired legs could be found amongst our climbing teams. Regardless we made it to the summit, our journey interrupted by the sound of huge ice cliffs crashing into the seas below.

Day 10: Pendulum Cove and Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island

Pendulum Cove and Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island
Date: 01.01.2024
Position: 62°43.9’S / 059° 54.5’W
Wind: W 6
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +6

We welcomed 2024 aboard Plancius while navigating to the treacherous waters of the South Shetlands. Overnight we had reached the southern shores of Deception Island, one of the most active volcanoes of the white continent and objective of our visits during our last day in Antarctica.

The wind was calm whilst gloomy low and thick clouds hoovering the hills surrounding Deception were adding an eerie touch of mystery and unknown.

Soon the captain directed the bow of Plancius straight into the narrow gap that separates the outer waters of the Bransfield strait with the sheltered waters of Port Foster. M/V Plancius sailed graciously through the Neptune Bellows into the active caldera of Deception Island. A small crowd had meanwhile gathered in the outer decks, awakened by Pippa "Happy New Year" wake-up call, admiring in awe the impressive basaltic cliffs bursting with birdlife and beautiful reddish-to-orange layers, which told us of the violent history of this volcanic island.

Deception Island is one of the most active volcanoes of Antarctica and over the past century it had undergone several eruptions, the most recent ones happened in 1968-70. It is located on the Bransfield basin, where extension over the last 4 million years (of a rate of 10mm/year) has caused the opening of the Bransfield Strait, together with persistent volcanism in the area. The rifting is connected to trench-rollback which is related to the adjacent subduction zone. The volcanism is mainly below sea level but three of these volcanic centres make it above sea level: Deception Island, Penguin Island and Bridgeman Island. These islands form the youngest emerging land of the South Shetland archipelago.

Our fist landing for the morning was Pendulum Cove, named in remembrance of gravity measurements made here by the British with a pendulum in 1829, is located about 7 km on the northeast shore of Port Foster. It is located at the northwest side of an eruptive caldera about 1 km in diameter and it's the place where the Chilean research station "Pedro Aguirre Cerda" was heavily damaged by the eruption in 1968 and subsequently destroyed by ash lahar in 1970. However, for us Pendulum cove means the perfect setting for a New Year POLAR PLUNGE; apparently a tradition in Scotland, the Netherlands, United States, Canada and many other countries in the world. The participation was beyond expectation and even our brave staff joined the plunge after most of the participants had been shuttled back to the ship.

Brunch was served in the restaurant, whilst M/V Plancius was maneuvered to the southeastern corner of Port Foster. Soon we started seeing the old buildings of the old Hektor whaling station, the big hangar used by Hubert Wilkins for his first flight above the Antarctic Peninsula and the steamy shoreline of Whaler's Bay. Trained by our previous days operations we quickly set foot on land and found ourselves hiking to the high viewpoint of the Neptune window. From this vantage point we could enjoy magnificent views over the entire caldera and towards the outer sea, down at the shoreline a sleepy Elephant seal and a single-flipper Leopard seal added some wildlife encounter to this historical site.

At 14:30 we wrapped up the land-based operation and with started our way north by sailing out through the Bellows, passing the southeastern shore of Livingston Island and through the beautiful and treacherous Macfarlane strait dotted with impressive towers of basaltic columnar joints. After the usual briefing and dinner, we set sail to Ushuaia.

Two long days awaited us across the infamous waters of the Drake Passage, however the weather forecast seemed to be on our side.

Day 11: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Date: 23.07.2024

The first day of going back to Ushuaia, after an incredible voyage in Antarctica. Yesterday afternoon we started to sail back and start the crossing of the Drake Passage. The sea conditions were pretty good. We experienced some rolling during the night. But luckily the most of us are now used to the moving ship and have some good sea legs.

The night was pretty good for some people and other experienced some early seasickness. Luckily, we have a great doctor on board who had giving us some seasickness medication.

Today was the first day we had no wake-up call, so we could take some extra rest. The only “wake-up call” we had was for our breakfast at 0800 by Alex the hotel manager.

After breakfast we could enjoy the beautiful weather outside. Before we get into the Conversions, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue. It was still windy outside. We were welcomed by some Black-brown Albatrosses and Cape Petrels.

At 09:30, Expedition staff Steffi gave us an interesting lecture about the seabirds and how they live at the sea for such long periods of time. After this lecture Pippa the Expedition leader tells us more about Seals and Whales and the main differences between the whales and seals.

After a delicious lunch (again) Koen give us a final lecture about Photography and how to edit our images in post-production. Quite interesting in what you can do with a picture and how you can make the best picture of this wonderful environment. After this Lecture Assistant expedition leader George gave us a lecture about geopolitics and the complexities of the treaty was created and how it works for all these different nations who stake a claim in Antarctica.

During the day we experienced a very smooth Drake passage.

At 1800 we had the Recap of the day and HAPPY HOUR at the bar.

At 1900 we had a plated dinner. It was delicious (like always) and after dinner some of us went straight to bed and some enjoyed a nice evening in the lounge.

Day 12: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Date: 03.01.2024
Position: 55°36.6’S / 065°59.4’W
Wind: N 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

We awoke for our final day aboard Plancius to the rolling seas of the Southern Ocean. A three-meter swell and 35knotts of wind buffeted our port side, disturbing sleep for some, whilst rocking others into an even deeper slumber. Nevertheless, we arose to another day of lectures, food and wildlife aboard Plancius as we drew ever closer to Tierra del Fuego.

After another delicious breakfast from our galley team, Steffi offered her lecture exploring the amazing krill in Antarctica. Following Steffi, Pippa offered a lecture exploring her experience as a whale researcher. We learnt about the history of whaling in Antarctica, as well as the various species that call the Southern Ocean home. As Pippa talked, many of us kept a keen eye on the horizon, not only to ward off any sickness, but hoping to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures of the deep as we sailed ever further north.

Then, after lunch, we watched a documentary about the incredible adventures of Sir Ernest Shackelton. After that, Erin shared her story about her 40 days rowing race through the ocean. Then we finally could spot some Dusky Dolphins. The session of lectures ended by George sharing his lecture exploring the future history of Antarctica. He described the challenges facing the Antarctic Treaty System and opportunities to improve ecological protection and strengthen collaborative governance across this great frozen continent.

As the day ended, Tierra del Fuego appeared off our bow, and we gathered for a final time in the lounge for our Captains farewell. After a rousing speech, the captain offered a toast to this incredible voyage and Pippa thanked the team and crew for their efforts during. The festivities finished with a beautiful slideshow – a fitting memory of a truly amazing Antarctic basecamp. As the sun fell ever lower in the sky, we retired to the dining room one last time to enjoy a special meal prepared by Head Chef Khabir and his team, including everyone’s favorite dessert – crepe suzette. As the day drew to a close, we gathered in the bar for one final drink from Raquel, before returning to our rooms to pack and enjoy one last evening aboard Plancius before finally disembarking in Ushuaia tomorrow morning.

Day 13: Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day
Date: 04.01.2024
Position: 54°57.3’S / 066°54.0’W
Wind: WSW 3
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +14

We docked back at Ushuaia early in the morning, while many of us enjoyed our last sleep on board Plancius. With our bags packed and left outside our doors for the staff to collect, we enjoyed our final hearty breakfast from the galley team. Following breakfast, we disembarked the ship and said goodbye to Pippa and all the team. Whilst many of us leave with some sadness, we are grateful to be back on solid ground and with our hearts full of fond memories and unforgettable experiences from our exploration Antarctica Peninsula.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support, but most of all for joining us on this adventurous Antarctica Basecamp voyage. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed: 1770 nautical miles

Farthest South: 65°10.6’S / 064°07.5’W

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Ernesto Barria, Expedition Leader Pippa Low, and her team, Hotel Manager Oleksandr Lyebyedyev, and all the crew and staff of M/V Plancius, it has been a pleasure traveling with you!

Details

Tripcode: PLA25-24
Dates: 23 Dec, 2023 - 4 Jan, 2024
Duration: 12 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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