PLA26-19, trip log, Antarctic Peninsula

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 28.01.2019
Position: 54°50’S / 068°10’W
Wind: SE 7
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +9

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll be going south...a long way south. But for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (lit. “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of warmth before heading off on our adventures. For many of us this is the start of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each unique person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart on a journey to the Great White Continent of Antarctica. Most passengers were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for our Antarctic adventure! We were greeted at the gangway by members of our Expedition staff who sent us on board to meet Hotel and Restaurant Managers, Zsuzsanna and Alex. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew. A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet First Officer Francois, who led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, assisted by the crew and staff. Shortly after our first briefing we departed the jetty of Ushuaia and entered the Beagle Channel with an escort of black browed albatross. On hearing the general alarm, we reconvened at the ‘muster station’, the lounge, for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should the need arise. After all the safety drills were taken care of we were invited once again to the lounge to meet our Hotel Manager Zsuzsanna who gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next 10 days or so. We then met our Expedition Leader, Ali Liddle and the rest of the Expedition Team who will guide us in Antarctica. This was also a chance to meet our Captain, Artur Iakovlev and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco. At 19:30 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chef Ralf and his galley staff. This first evening on board was occupied with more exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, and settling into our cabins. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into the open waters of the Drake Passage!

Day 2: At sea to Antarctica – Drakes Passage

At sea to Antarctica – Drakes Passage
Date: 29.01.2019
Position: 56°33’S / 065°33’W
Wind: WNW 5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +7

A few of us were already up and about when Ali 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 an overcast and breezy morning (about 15 knots of wind), but we were making good progress across Drakes Passage. After breakfast many of us wrapped up warm and headed out on deck to gaze at the birds that were flying around the ship. Birds habitually follow ships at sea looking for food brought up to the surface by the wake, 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 wonderful photographic opportunities. At 10:30 we gathered in the lounge to learn a little more about these sea birds from Regis who delivered a very informative presentation about the different species, how we monitor them and what is being done towards their conservation. Those hoping to kayak during this voyage met with Alexis, the kayak guide, in the library where they were briefed on the operations involved with paddling in Antarctica. After lunch Sara gave a lecture about Penguins; it 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. At 4:30pm Pippa, Nicole, Celine and Sara gathered the campers in the dining room to explain how their night on the ice would work logistically and of course help answer the inevitable questions we had like – ‘how cold will it be? and what happens if a bathroom break is required ashore?’. As we were still being blessed with relatively calm conditions it was decided that the rubber boot distribution would take place so we were called by deck to proceed to the boot room on deck three to collect them. The staff were on hand to ensure 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 Antarctica the day after tomorrow. The final official event of the day was our first daily Recap & Briefing session. Ali explained the plan for tomorrow and showed some weather charts so we knew what to expect for our second day in the Drake. The expedition team also took this opportunity to introduce themselves properly and tell us a little about the role they hope to play in our voyage. 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. Our first sea day was drawing to an end and we went to bed dreaming of albatross and penguins...

Day 3: At sea to Antarctica – Drakes Passage

At sea to Antarctica – Drakes Passage
Date: 30.01.2019
Position: 61°15’S / 062°59’W
Wind: ENE 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

Our second night onboard the Plancius was spent crossing the Drake passage as we steamed towards Antarctica. Ali, our expedition leader woke us up and told us what the weather was like and our position, this call was followed by our hotel manager, Zsuzsanna calling us to breakfast. After breakfast we went to the lounge for our mandatory IAATO and zodiac safety briefings. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators briefing explained how we should behave whilst in Antarctica to ensure the protection and conservation of this incredible, but very fragile environment. It is important that we follow certain protocol to ensure that we leave no trace of our visit and only take away nothing more than memories. In order to ensure we follow these protocol, we had to vacuum our outerwear; ensuring no seeds or plant material is hiding in our pockets and Velcro. The process is complete by mid afternoon and we are able to head back out on deck to enjoy the birds and look out for any other sightings. We had enough time to get accustomed to the movement of the ship and in the afternoon Pippa gave us a lecture about Whales of the Southern Ocean; we learnt of what whales we could hope to see and their status, range and diets. We were all super keen to see these giants of the ocean and were soon rewarded of some excellent sightings of humpback and fin whales, we also had some great bird sightings including Wandering and Grey-headed albatross. Our first sighting of the Humpback whales was pretty special as we watched them lunch through the water feeding on dense patches of krill – an incredible sight, and an incredible welcome to Antarctica! Later in the day Eduardo gave us his lecture about science in Antarctica which gave us some facts about the region as well as what science work is carried out in the region by the different Antarctic Treaty nations. We now had the first land in Antarctica in sight as well as large tabular icebergs and smaller bergs of varying shapes. We had a re-cap where Ali told us of the plans for tomorrow and we then eagerly went to dinner full of excitement at what the following days would bring.

Day 4: Cuverville & Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Cuverville & Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 31.01.2019
Position: 64°36’S / 062°35’W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

Having finally crossed the Drake Passage (for now!), Ali woke us up early at 6:30am, for a 7:00am breakfast: Today we would have our first landing, and on the Antarctic Continent no less! At 8:00am, the expedition staff were ready for us at the gangway in the Zodiacs, and our first stop brought us to Cuverville Island. This is one of the biggest Gentoo penguin colonies on the continent, with some 5000 pairs. Upon landing, in which we practised our newly acquired Zodiac disembarkation skills (slide – face the driver – swing legs over – disembark), the staff had marked two paths for us which we were able to follow in either direction from the landing site, and which gave us beautiful views of a glacier and interesting observations of gentoos and their adorable offspring on the one side, and an unexpected young elephant seal on the other side in the middle of the penguin rookery! As it was the first encounter with penguins, we couldn’t stop to take pictures of them! We were able to see all the care to the chicks, the exchanges of the parents on the nest, the feeding, relationships with neighbours and the continuous shuttles up and down the slopes of Penguin parents coming and going from feeding trips. After that we shuttled back to Plancius for lunch and a snooze or a bit of relaxation before we got ready for our second landing of the day, after some three hours of navigation. Our journey took us to Port Lockroy where we visited Base “A” located in Goudier Island among hundreds of Gentoos penguins nesting around and under the buildings. One member of the Port Lockroy team had come on board before our landing and introduced the site. The small, low-lying rocky isle is designated as Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty and is operated by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust as a living museum. Additionally, it has a post office and a gift shop – two very important facts! Many postcards were sent, many a souvenir bought, and plenty of photos taken. Half of us landed at Port Lockroy first, and the other half were invited on a zodiac cruise around in the area before the swap of the two groups. It gave us opportunities to observe Blue eyed shags nesting, crabeater seals resting on small icebergs and a minke whale crossing the bay. Some of us even saw our first Leopard seal swimming through the water and around the zodiacs. After this first very active day, we got our daily re-cap at 6 :30pm but it was not the end of our activities ! 30 of us had signed for a camping night on the ice in Antarctica ! Ali, our expedition leader, had planned it tonight for good meteorological reasons! So, just after our dinner, we joined a part of our expedition team, Pippa, Celine, Nicole and Jodie, our lovely doctor, ashore on Dorian Bay (Damoy Point). Some tents were put on, but for most of us we were going to use bivie bags, and experience the true sensation of sleeping on the ice in Antarctica. After some chatting and walks around, it was time to enjoy this unique night and try to sleep… until 4 :15am – the time of the wake up call to get back to the ship! Kayakers Log Morning The kayakers first opportunity to get onto the water came about during the expeditions first landing on Antarctic Peninsula at Cuverville Island. It was a full zodiac of all 14 kayakers plus Alexis Bellezze (guide), Francoise (Chief Officer and proactive Zodiac Cruise Driver) and Ferdinand (Zodiac Cruise driver). We had the best weather conditions, we were able to do a nice trip around the bay, had a nice chat with a Finnish couple who were travelling the world on the Saruma sailing boat. It was a nice first contact with Antarctic waters and was super fun and we did it well. The highlight of the day: we were able to see from very close and quiet a sleeping Humpback whale. Afternoon: Beautiful weather conditions. Second chance to appreciate the beautiful landscape of one of the most visited places, Port Lockroy (known as Base A by the British Antarctic Survey). Now it is a small museum with a post office with hundreds of Gentoo penguins around. We paddled in a completely quiet Bay, looking at sea birds that are in the middle of the breeding season feeding the chicks, primarily the Blue-eyed shag. The kayakers started to feel more comfortable with the paddle techniques, inside the cockpit and with the gear.

Day 5: Petermann Island, Planeau Island & Port Charcot, Antarctic Peninsula

Petermann Island, Planeau Island & Port Charcot, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 01.02.2019
Position: 64°52’S / 063°40’W
Wind: NNE 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

As most of us were still waking up, some of our guests already started this new day in Antarctic as they were camping at Damoy Point. They were collected in the early morning. Then we all enjoyed a transit through the very scenic Lemaire Channel, to reach our next destination; Petermann Island. This is the most southerly position for our trip. There, we had the chance to walk and discover Gentoo and Adélie penguin colonies. Both species were raising chicks; the Adélie ones were already big and near fledging, some of them moulting before a soon departure. The short and accelerate breeding cycle for Adélie (October to February) is one of the reasons. We could stand and watch the penguins as they went about the busy process of feeding their hungry chicks. Many of the chicks were just lying in the sunshine waiting for their parents to come back from sea with food but those that were with their parents created a wonderful show as the chicks chased them around the colony, desperate for some food before they went away again. It was wonderful to watch. In the afternoon, we then had the chance to land on Pléneau island. The expedition team had arranged a split landing and cruise with half of the passengers going ashore first and the other group going out into the bay for a Zodiac cruise. Pléneau island is 1.2 km long mainly covered by ice. One more time to watch the busy life of Gentoo penguins. On the cruise we sailed between huge and splendid icebergs. On many of them we found a great number of Crabeater seals relaxing and even some Leopard seals. Before dinner, during our daily recap, we learnt more about Seals and the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot. And now we even know why ice is blue! Kayakers Log The group definitely had a fantastic kayaking experience. The weather was excellent but we had 15 knots of wind which is the top of the safety standard at the beginning. We face the wind and we did it well. It was our first contact with ice packs surrounding us and we managed them very well. After an hour of paddling close to the shore the weather conditions get better and we receive the permission to cross the Lemaire Channel to our vessel, the MV PLANCIUS. We were excited and we did it all together, as a solid group of beginner kayakers in one of the most beautiful landscapes to do it. It was a glorious morning.

Day 6: Damoy Point, Brown Station & Skontorp Cove, Antarctic Peninsula

Damoy Point, Brown Station & Skontorp Cove, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 02.02.2019
Position: 64°52’S / 063°40’W
Wind: NNE 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

Many people were up and out on deck long before the wake-up call this morning and it was well worth it. It was a clear sunny morning as we sailed towards Damoy Point and with the sun rise making the tops of the snowy peaks glow pink and the moon setting behind the mountains it really was a stunning start. At Damoy two snow shoe hikes of different length were being offered. Eduardo went with his group a shorter round down to the hut of Damoy bay, where under the historic hut Gentoo penguins found a cosy nesting site. The group enjoyed a break of several minutes silence, taking in the beauty and spirit of the Antarctic surrounding. Ali was leading the snow shoe hike up onto the long ridge overlooking the bay. This ridge used to be used as a ‘ski-way’ by the British Antarctic Survey from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Staff would arrive by ship and then be flown by small twin otter planes, with skis attached, down to Rothera Base further south. From the top of the ski-way there were stunning views all around and we could look down into Port Lockroy where the cruise ship LÁustrale was anchored. The group walked to the point where the slope got steeper and then made their way back down the slope to Damoy hut. The Damoy Hut, at the bottom of the hill used to be the accommodation hut for passengers waiting to fly, especially if there was bad weather. This hut is now maintained as a little museum by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust. On the way back we passed Gentoo penguins on the higher rocky outcrops near the shore and then near the landing site. It was a lovely morning for a hike and both groups enjoyed the fantastic scenery, brilliant sunshine and moving through the snow. Back on the ship, lunch was offered as Plancius made her way to Paradise Bay, one of the hot spots for visitors to Antarctica. Once there, several options were offered: landing, zodiac cruise, and more kayaking. The landing took place at the reconstructed Argentine Station Brown, once partially destroyed by fire after the base doctor refused to spend another winter there. For the last 4 years the area has been cleaned and buildings repaired, with scientists carrying out a range of biological work at the station. Many guests opted for a hike on the high snow towards the higher viewpoint, while the rest were cruising across Skontorp cove, observing nesting Antarctic shags, petrels and terns; Weddell, Crabeater, and Leopard seals hauled out on the ice floes, and the amazing glaciers and icebergs. One elusive Minke whale was seen from the viewpoint, as usual, the animal was moving fast and reappearing in unpredictable places. Some very lucky passengers even witnessed humpback whales feeding from the zodiacs. After more than an hour both groups would swap places, thus appreciating both activities. After an afternoon with sometimes blue skies and great moments, everybody returned to Plancius, where a recap by Ali was offered and a great surprise awaited us. The Antarctic dinner turned out to be a barbeque on the back deck! While some of us opted to eat inside, the majority took to this open-air dinner with music, very good food, lots of laughter and dancing. It was the grand finale of a very special day in Antarctica. Kayakers Log Morning: This time we decide to do a navigation in more dense ice packs and in between stable icebergs that were in other parts of Damoy. We had the opportunity to stay very close to another Humpback whale but she was moving away from us so we decided to see her from afar. A flock of penguins was jumping in between. The Planet Nine, a beautiful ship, was very close too and at the end we go back to the mothership to have a time of relax after this emotive second whale encounter. Afternoon: The waters surrounding Brown station were full of beautiful icebergs, and was a nice place to enjoy the silence of this kind of bay. Calm waters, different ice shapes, lights emerging from them giving us the most incredible views. We paddled for more than an hour in the absolutely peaceful environment. After that, we visited Brown Base.

Day 7: Danco Island & Orne Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula

Danco Island & Orne Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 03.02.2019
Position: 64°43’S / 062°35’W
Wind: Variable
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +6

In the early hours of the morning, we continued with our sailing plan, which took us along the Gerlache Strait. We cruised without problem enjoying the occasional sight of a whale, and the menacing icebergs. The Gerlache Strait is the strait that separates the Palmer Archipelago from Antarctic Peninsula. The Belgica Expedition, under command of Lt. Adrien de Gerlache, explored the strait in January and February 1898, naming it for the expedition ship Belgica. The name was later changed to honor the commander himself. This strait is characterized by amazing views of the mountains in the peninsula, as well as the spectacular icebergs that cross the strait. Shortly after an early lunch, we arrived to our destination for the morning, Danco Island. Danco Island is 1 mile long, and lies in the South part of the Errera Channel, of the West coast of Graham Land. It was originally charted by the Belgica Expedition, under command of Gerlache (1897-1899) and named after Emile Danco, a Belgian geophysicist member of the Belgica Expedition who died on on board the Belgica in the Antarctic. He was a very popular and admired scientist on board this expedition. As usual, the first to land ashore were the members of the expedition staff, who opened the route to access the lower gentoo penguins and further on to the top of the hill where yet another colony of gentoo penguin nest. The people who opened the route were Adam and Sara who made some steps in the snow aiming for the summit. Once the routes were established, we proceeded to head ashore. The majority of us climbed up, all the way to the summit of the small mountain that rises up to 160 m above sea level (circa 525 feet above sea level). We enjoyed very nice weather, sunny blue skies, and almost no clouds above. From the top we also enjoyed the spectacular scenery of the Errera Channel. This channel was named after Leo Errera, a professor at the University of Brussels who was one of the supporters of the Belgica Expedition. From the top we could appreciate the snowcapped mountains with imposing glaciers, showing an endless collection of crevasses, seracs and bergschrunds. A parade of icebergs showed up below in the waters of the channel. The guests who opted to stay next to the beach were rewarded also with the calm waters of the channel, as well as with the spectacular views of the icebergs and their endless blue-green colors. Certainly, these guests were not disappointed since they probably enjoyed a long and quiet moment in which they were hear only the gentle splash of the waves, the distant call of gentoo penguins or the murmur of the wind. All this was interrupted twice by the thunderous sound of a couple of avalanches that happened in the mountains opposite to the landing site. On this landing, due to the shallow and quite waters where we landed, we had the option of having a polar plunge. For a perfect polar plunge: a) the subject needs to find courage to remove his or her clothing, b) the subject has to obligate herself or himself to walk towards the cold, cold, COLD, COLD! water and submerge her or his head under the water. Normally you are allowed to scream (or howl in some cases) in pain or euphoria (you choose which). The aforementioned description for the perfect "polar plunge" was followed by many and at the moment of writing, everyone reported to have enjoyed it very much. As soon as the polar plunge was done, our guests were returned to the ship either to look for a hot shower (those who did the polar plunge) and/or to have a nourishing lunch. Orne Harbour Landing in the Afternoon. While our guests were having lunch, the navigation officers repositioned the ship in Orne Harbour, a small cove, 1 mile wide which indents the west coast of Graham Land, 2 miles south west of Cape Anna. The cove was discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under command of Gelache in 1898. The name Orne Harbor was probably in use by Norwegian whalers, because it was used by Scottish geologist David Ferguson following his geologic reconnaissance of this area aboard the whaler Hanka in 1913. The site is dominated by Spigot Point, a sharp 289m above sea level sharp, ice corniced peak. Here we offered our guests two activities. For those willing to have a closer look to whales and wildlife along the coast and cliffs, we offered a zodiac cruise. For those wanting a closer encounter with chinstrap penguins, we offer the possibility of a short but steep hike up the ridge where this kind of penguins nest. The hikers were confronted with a steep snowy trail, that led to a rocky ridge from where it is possible to appreciate the Errera Channel, the Gerlache Strait as well as Anvers and Brabant islands. A number of chinstrap penguins were nesting in the ridge and from this height it was possible to contemplate some penguin highways going all the way up. From here we also had the chance to spot some humpback whales in the distance. Those taking the zodiac cruise were delighted with the nice colors of the mosses and lichens decorating the steep cliffs of Spigot Point as well with the different nests of birds visible from the shoreline. Here nesting at the edge of the cliff, we were able to contemplate different species of birds such as Blue-eyed shags, Antarctic terns and yet more Chinstrap penguins, all of them nesting. Spectacular glaciers and a Weddel Seal were also encountered. All the zodiac cruises had the chance to encounter a few Humpback whales which, in some instances, came really close to the zodiacs. This was the highlight for many of us. Almost all of us had the chance to take a zodiac cruise, and those who were in the last one, had the chance to enjoy an atmospheric afternoon, with grey clouds enshrouding Spigot Point. Kayakers Log Sunny morning in Antarctica. We did a completely different trip. Heading to the southern part of Danco, we saw the crevasses at the top of the island and many of big icebergs in a clear blue sea. We stop paddling to see how the melting iceberg succumb at the burning sun of the morning. With no wind, it was not even cold. We were delighted to be in this delicate and pristine environment.

Day 8: Portal Point & Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula

Portal Point & Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula
Date: 04.02.2019
Position: 64°23’S / 061°46’W
Wind: NNE 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

Overnight we had sailed North to Charlotte Bay which was filled with large icebergs, the grey, cloudy weather added to the drama of the landscape. To make the most of our final day in Antarctica Ali woke us at 5am and a light breakfast was served in the lounge. As per other days we split into our designated groups, the ‘Whales’ went ashore first to the snowy dome of Portal Point and the ‘Penguins’ started the morning with a zodiac cruise. Portal Point is a small peninsular connected to the main Antarctic Continent which was used during the first East West crossing by Sir Wally Herbet. It is set within a panorama of high cliffs and snow fields so most walked to the top of the dome to enjoy the spectacular vista, which was only enhanced by the beautiful early morning light. Close to the landing site there were two beautifully marked Weddell Seals hauled out that kept the wildlife enthusiasts and photographers very content. Those cruising were entertained with yet more feeding humpback whales, they really were proving to be the stars of the show on this voyage with countless encounters. A few seals (fur, crabeater and Weddell) were also spotted on a rocky outcrop whilst cruising round the grounded icebergs, which appeared in all sorts of shapes and sizes due to their various phases of melting and erosion. Back on board there was a full breakfast to enjoy while the ship sailed North to our final destination in Antarctica, Cierva Cove. At about 11:30 it was announced we were pulling into the ice filled bay and it would be worth our efforts to dress warmly and head out onto the deck to enjoy the views as we were going to do a ships cruise of the area. In front of us we could see a vast glacier at the back of the bay and to the right-hand side the Argentinian summer base, Primavera. Alex and some of the expedition staff were on the top deck serving a rum fortified hot chocolate to keep us warm which was much appreciate as there was quite a chill in the air. There was a lovely atmosphere out on deck and it became quite a social event with lots of group picture taking and jovial banter. After lunch many of us headed out on to deck to enjoy our last views of Antarctica as we made our way through Boyd Strait, before hitting the infamous Drake Passage. At 3:30pm Pippa gave a presentation about the History of Whaling, quite a sobering subject but very relevant considering the wonderful whale encounters we had over the past few days. It seemed a very fitting end to our time in Antarctic to have Happy Hour at the bar before recap as we certainly had lots to celebrate, we had been blessed with incredible weather and wildlife sightings from the very beginning. At recap Ali showed us the weather forecast for the Drake Passage before teaching us a little more about krill, the cornerstone to almost all life in the Southern Ocean. This was followed by Pippa who explained more about the different types of feeding techniques humpback whales use and Eduardo concluded with some very interesting biomass figures. After dinner the bar was of course open. We celebrated our entry into the Drake Passage with a nightcap and then headed for bed, wondering what tomorrow’s weather would bring. Kayakers Log Everybody was ready at the early wake up that Ali, our EL, set specially for this morning. Of course, kayakers were ready at six am to start an amazing trip at Charlotte bay with the most beautiful grey light of the morning. Icebergs bigger than our ship surrounding us, a fur seal waiting for these curious paddlers let us stay very close to her. More seals on our way back to the ship visiting some beautiful ice, like moving sculptures in the meantime. It was simply wonderful, breath taking.

Day 9: At sea to Ushuaia – Drakes Passage

At sea to Ushuaia – Drakes Passage
Date: 05.02.2019
Position: 60°40’S / 063°20’W
Wind: WNW 4
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

A change from our usual start to the day- no wake-up call- this morning we were awoken by Zsuzsanna calling us to breakfast at 8 o’clock. Our first sea day on the return across the Drake Passage after our amazing time in Antarctica. We awoke to the movements of Plancius pushing her way through the swell which had built up after the area of low pressure that had been in the area before our arrival. The ship was surrounded by dense fog for most of the day, making spotting anything difficult, however we were occasionally visited by a few birds. Breakfast was served with acrobatic grace and poise by the hotel staff and we then made our way to the lounge for a lecture by Ali. ‘Ice Maidens’ looked at the women behind the explorers such as Scott and Shackleton as well as the struggle for equality in working in the Antarctic regions and exploits of those such as Felicity Ashton who was the first solo female to cross Antarctica. Adam then gave us his presentation on the ‘Quest for the South Pole’ looking at the background, participants and events of the Norwegian and British attempts to become the first to the geographic South Pole. We enjoyed lunch in slightly calmer seas and after Sara gave her presentation on ‘Seals of the Southern Ocean.’ She told us of the range, status, behaviour and breeding of the seals that we have seen on this trip. Eduardo then astounded us with his presentation ‘Eternal Darkness – Exploration of the deep-sea floor’ looking at life and research at phenomenal depths. The afternoon offered a chance to relax in the lounge or our cabins and we then had the daily recap and dinner. The fog cleared to reveal a beautiful evening sky and sunset, after enjoying the clear evening; Ali showed ‘The Penguin Post Office’, a documentary of a summer season at Port Lockroy where we had visited on our first day.

Day 10: At sea to Ushuaia – Drakes Passage

At sea to Ushuaia – Drakes Passage
Date: 06.02.2019
Position: 56°33’S / 065°33’W
Wind: W 4
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +10

Our last day at sea began with some more gentle rolling, which we will not miss, as by the end of the day we would be in the lee of South America as we head for the Beagle channel. Celine began the lecture programme with an incredibly interesting lecture on ‘Seabirds – The invisible threat.’ During our voyage we have seen many seabirds, from the large albatross to the small storm petrels. Celine tells us how they are under threat from pollutants and contaminants, and how we can help. Later in the morning we are treated to a lecture by one of our fellow passengers – Professor Will Steffen. Will is a Professor at the Australian National University, and is an expert in the field of climate change. The title of his lecture; ‘Anthropocene - Surviving the age of humans’. The lecture told us how he has described this geological era, which is viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. We learnt about the main drivers of climate change, where the environment is at, and how we can help prevent further global warming. The talk was very insightful and left us all talking in to the afternoon about the topic. With the sea calming many of us enjoyed the sunshine out on deck during the afternoon. A little later in the afternoon Eduardo talked to us about Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who completed the first circumnavigation around the world and named many of the places and species in South America. The talk was fitting for the area we are sailing towards today. Eduardo’s passion and enthusiasm for the exploration age shone through as he told us about this exciting era. We said goodbye to our rubber boots in the late afternoon, and many of us packed up our belongings to prepare for our departure in the morning. Great fun was had in the evening with a toast to the voyage from Captain Artur, thanks given to Ali and her expedition team and fantastic slide show shown of our incredible trip to the Antarctic Peninsula. The rest of the evening was spent reminiscing and discussing travel plans while we sailed up towards the start of the Beagle channel, often with an escort of Dusky dolphins surfing the waves and bow riding the ship. A colourful sunset gave us a beautiful end to our incredible adventure.

Day 11: Disembarkation - Ushuaia

Disembarkation - Ushuaia
Date: 07.02.2019

At 6am we approached the port of Ushauia ready to disembark for the final time, no zodiac ride ashore and a dry landing. The last 10 days have taken us on a remarkable journey to Antarctica and allowed us a glimpse of life in this remote and sometimes inhospitable place. We will all have different memories of our trip but whatever the memories, whether it was the Gentoo penguins at Danco or the sight of icebergs for the first time they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1780 Nautical Miles On behalf of everyone on board we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home.

Have you been on this voyage?