PLA26-24, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia – Embarkation Day

Ushuaia – Embarkation Day
Date: 04.01.2024
Position: 54° 48.6’S / 66° 54.0’W
Wind: E 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +8

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 which is also call ‘the end of the world’. But during our expedition we will go even further south.

We were not expected to embark gracious M/V Plancius until 16:00. That gave us time to recover from the long journey south and to relax and explore the city of Ushuaia.

At 16:00 it was time to make our way up the gangway of M/V 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 17:30 a mandatory safety drill was scheduled so our presence in the lounge was required. We were first welcomed by expedition leader Pippa and then the chief officer guided us through a safety video and the drill procedure. Before we knew it, we all sat in the lounge wearing our big and bulky orange life vests and when we heard the abandon ship alarm we all made our way outside to the life boats 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 us. With the ship on its way, the captain came down to the lounge where he greeted us with a glass of Italian Prosecco, while speaking some warm welcome words. Pippa then gave us more information about the program and the planning 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 dinner and this offered a first opportunity to get to know each other. The next 12 days we will see each other a lot!

Day 2: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Date: 05.01.2024
Position: 57° 24.7’S / 65° 36.5’W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

Wake up call was anticipated this morning since the bridge and our Expedition Leader had spotted a pod of Long-fin Pilot Whales. Earlier than expected we then rush out to the outer decks on the portside of the ship to observe these interesting cetaceans making their way on the opposite direction. Soon after a second pod of Pilot Whales were observed and then it was time for breakfast.

The first part of the Drake passage had been good on us. Wind was down to around 16-18 knots and a very gentle rolling had accompanied us during our first night. Little by little the restaurant came alive with excitement and breakfast was served with fruits, eggs, cereals, etc.

Soon after the long marathon of mandatory briefings started at 9:15am. Zodiac operations, and IAATO rules and guidelines.

A short break for a cup of coffee or tea whilst we could enjoy the outer decks and observing magnificent seabird such as Black-browned albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels, White Chinned Petrels, Cape Petrels and Antarctic Prions soaring around our ship.

Gnarly and Dave, our Mountaineering Guides introduced us to the different options we had in the white continent and later on it was time to collect our Muck boots just before lunch.

Lunch was served and right after at 2pm Marco and Thom briefed us about the overnight stay experience; followed by lovely Erin with the kayaking activity.

Koen gave us his first lecture about photographic composition, meanwhile outside a full display of birdlife was emphasizing our approach to the Antarctic Convergence which we expected to cross overnight. More and more Antarctic species joined the dance around the ship.

Eventually at 6:15 we had our first briefing of the voyage, Pippa presenting the plan and the weather for next day; followed by Marco, Steffi and Eduardo with their interesting and scientific introductory talks about wind patterns, the open of the Drake passage and the Aurora Australis.

Day 3: At Sea – Drake Passage and Bransfield Strait

At Sea – Drake Passage and Bransfield Strait
Date: 06.01.2024
Position: 62° 05.5’S / 63° 54.7’W
Wind: N 3
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +4

We woke up founding that the gentle swell even decreased during the night. M/V Plancius was steaming her way down South at a good speed of 11,5-12 knots and had made good progress over the night. The Antarctic Convergence had been crossed a few hours prior to hour waking up call, thus we found ourselves already inside the political and biological boundaries that define Antarctica.

Among the many ways to define Antarctica, two are mostly use by the general public: a political definition of the White continent sees all land and ice south of the 60-degree parallel whereas from a biological perspective the boundaries are set by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). The ACC is one of the main oceanic currents of the planet that flows around the Antarctic continent in a clockwise direction and helps to keep at bay the warmer tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, thus creating the perfect conditions for life to thrive into the Southern Ocean.

The day took off with the activity signing up in the lounge room and among keen mountaineers, excited campers and avid kayakers, we started seeing regularly icebergs on our way down.

The morning carried on with Marco enlighten us with a beautiful and thorough "Introduction to the Antarctic Peninsula", when we not only learned about the peculiarity of the white continent, but also the geography, geology and history of the Antarctic Peninsula; that special area of Antarctica where M/V Plancius was carrying us to.

Afternoon Biosecurity followed while the sea was still calm. We did not see much seabirds, but Steffi offered an interesting lecture about these iconic birds and how they live in this vast environment.

In the evening we cruised west of the South Shetland Islands further South, dotted with glimmering and beautiful icebergs. Porpoising penguins escorted us into the Bransfield Strait that we were about to cross during the night on our way to the first landing of this Antarctic - Basecamp expedition. The next morning the calm and protected waters of Cuverville Island awaited us.

Day 4: Cuverville Island and Brown Station

Cuverville Island and Brown Station
Date: 07.01.2024
Position: 64° 41.7’S / 62° 36.3’W
Wind: NW 2
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: 0

On our first activity day we awoke to the sight of Humpback Whales and porpoising Penguins. As we turned south from the Gerlache Strait into the northern entrance of the enchanting Errera Channel, our first landing, Cuverville Island, presents itself as an eye catching, snow-capped, rocky dome. To its west we have Ronge Island and to the east, the Arctowski Peninsula, which forms the channel boundaries.

After visiting Cuverville our captain navigated the Errera Channel southwards past Danco Island before turning hard to the west to enter Andvord Bay and sail through the Aguirre Passage into Paradise Bay. Our second landing of the day was at the Almirante Brown research station (Argentinian) and the beautiful Skontorp Cove.

For our first day we had fantastic wildlife sightings. All three brushtail penguins, the Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie and sightings of Weddel, Crabeater and Leopard Seals.

Location: Cuverville island, Errera Channel
We ascended Cuverville Islands steep NW flank, gaining approximately 250 meters in height to reach the broad open summit. Thick mist didn’t deter the enthusiastic team, the cloud parting momentarily on the top allowing us views all the way to the Errera Channel.

Location: Brown Station, Paradise Harbour After roping up above the Station, we climbed the short but sharp intial snow slope by zig-zagging with strange new snow-shoe cointarptions on our feet. Beyond that we walked on less steep but still deep snow, which required a trail to be made passable. From the summit, we paused to enjoy the views and sounds of Paradise Bay. Blows from Humpback Whales passing through the Ferguson Channel were visable below, and Terns swooped above trying to deter a scrounging Skua.

Location: Cuverville island, Errera Channel
Wow what a way to start our trip. Cuverville was beautiful! A light breeze was blowing in towards the island. The kayakers tucked in behind a large iceberg to get perfect clam water for climbing into the kayaks from the zodiac. We then let the breeze blow us through the giant icebergs on the west of the island. Weaving in and out, there were penguins jumping around everywhere. We paddled along the shore of a pebble beach where many Gentoo penguins were bathing, preening and napping in between parental shifts. Navigating around a small rocky island we found two sleeping wedel seals. And we finished this fabulous paddle by pushing our way through thick ice close to the shores of Cuverville where the other passengers had landed.

Location: Brown Station, Paradise Harbour We had just climbed into our kayaks when we spotted a whale, who needs to practice kayaking skills like turning and stopping when you can catch up with 2 feeding humpback whales. One even popped up in between the kayaks no more than 3 metres from the luckiest boat. We watched for many minutes before the whales decided the krill were better somewhere else. This gave us the opportunity to carry on exploring. We found a few wedel seals napping on floating icebergs and mad a loop around the ship before finding more whales. Whale-tastic! They headed further into the bay towards the glacier, we shared them with a few cruising zodiacs, but wow what a beautiful experience!

Location: Leith Cove, Paradise Harbour
At around 21:00, right after dinner we got ready to get on shore with the Zodiacs and were welcomed by Marco, Tom and Owain our camping guides for the night. The disembarkation on the southern part of the small island was a bit difficult due to some exposed and steep rocks, until we got our feet on solid and crunchy snow.

The evening was lovely, over casted although with absence of wind. After digging our snow pits and having set up our equipment, we slipped into our sleeping bags. Meanwhile in the southern corner of Leith cove a humpback whale appeared, cruising and feeding alongside the glacier terminus which encompassed the bay forming a beautiful amphitheater of ice and peaks.

The whale stayed around for a good half an hour; the goose bumping noise of its blows and breaths echoed in the bay during the entire night. A truly and unique Antarctic experience. The following morning, we got an early wake-up call, around 5am; got dressed and shuttled back to M/V Plancius and ready to sail towards the De Gerlache strait on our way to Orne harbour. Another fantastic day awaited us!

Day 5: Orne Harbour and Damoy Point

Orne Harbour and Damoy Point
Date: 08.01.2024
Position: 64°39.2’S / 62°52.7’W
Wind: ENE 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

Overnight the navigation officers repositioned the ship to 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 Gerlache 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 Pesak, a sharp 289 m above sea level sharp, ice corniced peak.

Our day started with our wake up call from our expedition leader Pippa informing us about the location of our ship and the conditions outside. Our plans for the morning consisted of deploying our activities in Orne Harbour.

Breakfast was offered at quarter past seven and immediately after our team of Mountaineers departed the ship in a zodiac. Gnarly and Dave were the first to board and they departed without delays to try to climb their objective of the day, Mount Spigot. The conditions at the landing site were a bit challenging, because of brash ice along the shore.

Our zodiac drivers managed to reach the shore and deployed in no time the small group who unloaded their equipment from the small boat. The Mountaineers 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.

The wind was blowing hard at around 25-30 knots and it would have been unsafe for kayakers to go. Despite this, we offered the possibility to have a closer look to the Chinstrap penguins nesting here and there was a small but steep hike offered for those wanting to have a closer encounter with the chinstrap penguins. These penguins nest high above the ridge, so guests walked hike up the ridge.

Sadly due to the increasing wind, our mountain fellows took the decision of turning back from the mountain and almost at the same time, our expedition leader decided to suspend the activity for the rest of the passengers too. The risks of being trapped by brash ice were a bit high and for the safety of the operation we cancelled it. We turned back to the ship zodiac by zodiac and after about 30 min we were all back in the safety of M/V Plancius. Almost all our guests had the chance to step outside the zodiacs, and many if not all, had the chance to enjoy an atmospheric afternoon, with grey clouds enshrouding Spigot Point.

We repositioned the ship at noon sailing to our next stop of the day: Damoy Point. This is a landing that offers many interesting possibilities and here we had again a few activities to undertake. We drop first our Mountaineers. They were heading for mount Jabet and they started their afternoon sortie. Finally everyone was out for a nice leg stretching walk with snowshoes in the slopes behind the landing. Ashore we had the chance to see two historical huts, one belonging to the Argentinians and the other one recently renovated by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, belonging to the British Antarctic Survey Program of the United Kingdom. The activity was very pleasant for everybody, and we had the chance to walk under very good conditions. The wind eased as well as the fog and as the hours passed during the landing, we saw how the mountains around the area cleared up.

The weather remained like that for the rest of the evening. We had our recap when we came back to the ship. Dinner was served at 19:30 and as we had dinner our Captain Ernesto decided to sail through the Peltier Strait. This is a 6 miles long channel, that runs North East - South West direction and separates Doumer and Wiencke Islands to the South of Port Lockroy, in the Palmer Archipelago. This majestic channel was discovered by the French Antarctic Expedition from 1903 to 1905 and was named by Jean Baptiste Charcot to honor Jean Peltier a noted French physicist.

Location: Spigot Peak, Orne Harbour
Beginning the day in Orne Harbor provided enough shelter for the team to don crampons and prepare for the ascent, but strong winds and drifting snow on Spigot Peak’s south ridge was already visible from below. At the saddle the mountaineers felt the full force of the wind, but the first sighting of the equally adventurous Chinstrap Penguins was a momentary distraction. The team showed true grit pressing on up the ridge, until strong buffeting wind and the encroaching brash ice filling in the bay below threatening our chance of egress meant a swift about turn was required before the summit.

Location: Jabet Runway, Wiencke Island
Splitting into two roped teams, the mountaineers left the rocky landing and Gentoo colonies, passed above the old airway building and gained the glacial runway by a steady ascent that required a trail to be blazed in the snow. Once at the high point on the runway, views were possible down into Port Lockroy and the British Post Office.

Day 6: Petermann Island and Salpétriere Bay

Petermann Island and Salpétriere Bay
Date: 09.01.2024
Position: 65°10.4’S / 64°02.4’W
Wind: NE 3
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +5

In the morning we were early on deck as the Captain was going to steer the ship through the famous narrows of the Lemaire channel. Just before the Captain could enter the channel we were stopped by a small pod of Killer-whales, it looked like they were guarding the entrance. After a while we were granted permission and Captain navigated Plancius with great skill through the narrows. The landscape was breathtaking, a high Alpine landscape at sea level with glaciers everywhere. It was a very sunny start of the day and the weather proofed to be awesome during the rest of the morning as well.

After yet another delicious breakfast the expedition team landed us at Peterman island. On the island we could go and visit an Adelie penguin colony, and stretch our legs going to the top. The Adelies had some recently hatched chicks which were comfortably tucked away under their parent’s belly.

Close to the Argentine station building there was a group of elephant seals hauled out which we could approach. We could closely observe the resting behavior of these giants, they were lying very relaxed yawning and scratching, digesting their food and getting rid of their loose fur.

In the afternoon we zodiac cruised a so-called Iceberg graveyard round Planeau island. The weather was amazing and we observed with amazement how nature had sculpted the chunks of ice in all kinds of fantastic forms. The light played with the forms and provided us with a spectacle of colors. In the ice we encountered leopard seals and Wedel seals, a truly spectacular afternoon.

In the evening we had a recap and a quick dinner before the second group of campers were dropped off at a site called Hovgaard. Initially it was a bit windy, but when the sun dropped behind the horizon, the local winds dropped and the campers had a great night with spectacular scenery. The bridge held a close watch on a big iceberg floating towards the entrance of the Lemaire channel, but luckily it did not block the entrance during the night.

Location: Hovgaard Island, Penola Strait
Pristine weather and untouched snow made for a majestic ascent of Hovgaard Island, the summit reaching 369 meters above sea level. Clear skies allowed distant views south past the Vernadsky Islands and beyond. Some of the more adventurous members of the team even took the opportunity to explore a couple of crevasses!

Location: Petermann island, Penola Strait
The sea looked like glass! It couldn’t be any calmer. With mountains reflected in the mirror like water, we climbed into the kayaks and started our journey. The plan was to navigate the whole length of Peterman N to S and then head out into the Bay to see if we could find a Whale.

As we paddled along the coast we were met by a small gang of Antarctic Shags, clearly curious by us kayakers they came in for a closer look. After their curiosity was fulfilled, they flew off and we continued to the penguin rookery.

There were plenty of Adele penguins rafting in the water, launching and landing off the rocks and we had a fabulous view of the shag chicks on top of the cliffs. Continuing on we found a tiny wedel seal by the hut and several large wedel seals lying on the snow on the islands south of Petermann.

We finished our journey by paddling out and through the huge icebergs. One Ice arch towered above all the others. A tempting adventure, but these icebergs can’t be trusted.

Location: Pleneau island, Salpétriere Bay
With such perfect conditions the best expedition decision we could make, was to invite the cancelled Orne harbour kayakers out to play as well as the original signed up team. So, Erin had the joy of leading two teams this afternoon. The first paddling out from the Lemaire channel through the brash ice and into the Iceberg graveyard. These huge bergs really make you feel tiny! A giant tower marked the middle of the iceberg graveyard, a leopard seal sunning himself on an iceberg nearby. We continued through the maze and popped out into a deep channel where we found a crabeater seal floating on a small berg. We met George who had a zodiac full of more kayakers who had been cruising.

We did some swapping magic and ‘hey presto’ the second team of kayaks where now on the water. This team would get to paddle back across the channel and into the graveyard. The wind had picked up now and there was a bit more chill in the air. We found the huge tower using is as a navigational mark to get back to the ship. “Give it a wide berth guys” Skimming around the edge of the big bergs bay, a yacht cut through underneath the giant berg tower. CRACK! Uh-oh! Face the wave, that’s the tactic. The yacht scarily close to the berg as it crumbled had quite some near miss. Lucky Boat. But the wave was for sure going to give us a challenge. CRACK! Uh-oh. The entire tower fell into the water. “PADDLE GUYS!” this was a wave we should try to avoid. Finding a little cover from an iceberg we surfed the huge waves as we escaped. Now that’s going to be a fun story to tell back home.

Location: Hovgaard island, Penola Strait
After a fantastic afternoon zodiac cruise around Planeau and Booth islands; M/V Plancius hold on in position right in the middle of Penola strait among tabular, pinnacle and drydock icebergs. The weather was excellent as it had been throughout the day; a clear sky and whispy air. Soon after dinner our zodiac drivers shuttled us to the eastern shore of Hovgaard island. We collected our shovels and started arranging our snowpits for the night.

Across the bay views of the craggy peaks of Booth island enlighted by the warm yellow light a long Antarctic sunset, while a couple of Weddell seals were resting nearby and a few Gentoo penguins visited the shoreline. This was our special setting for our first and memorable overnight in the White Continent. Certainly an experience to rememeber!

Day 7: Jougla Point and Port Lockroy

Jougla Point and Port Lockroy
Date: 10.01.2024
Position: 64°49.6’S / 63°30.3’W
Wind: NE 4
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: 0

Today was going to be yet another exciting one. Usually that’s related to the landing spot and the type of wildlife we expect to see, but this time it was a bit different; today was a chance to get in touch with friends and family. Not so much through fast 5G wifi connections, but through a classic and proven method of communication; sending postcards through a post office! Yes today we dropped anchor in front of Port Lockroy, the most southern post office in the world.

Port Lockroy is managed and maintained by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust and is usually occupied by four people from the UK. They run the shop and museum, but they’re also involved in scientific research involving the penguin colonies around the base and neighboring Jougla Point.

Unfortunately, due to avian influenza the base is closed to visitors. However, if we can’t go to the base then we just make the base come to us. And so it happened that our ship was visited by the entire team of Port Lockroy. They gave us a brief presentation about their work and the British Antarctic Heritage Trust. Soon after they set up shop in the dining room where we could buy all kinds of memorabilia and buy stamps to send our postcards. Today’s postcard record for a single person was a stunning 47 postcards, amazing!

In the meantime, the expedition team set out a small loop on Jougla Point. It’s a place with many Gentoo penguins, but we can also find many remains from the last whaling era. Large whale bones are lying around, whereas rumors tell us that it was Jacques Cousteau himself who put a number of whale bones together to show visitors the size of these gentle giants. The conditions were perfect with no wind and not too cold. There were lots of penguins with chicks in all sizes so a great opportunity to fill those memory cards with cute photos and videos.

After a brief visit to Jougla Point, a short zodiac cruise was offered so we could all see the base of Port Lockroy and some crab eater seals on an ice flow. Not a bad morning!

The plans for the afternoon were unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather. Strong winds and snow prevented us from landing at Danco Island, instead a true expedition plan was put in motion. The weather forecast for the entire region was very poor and as such it was decided to relocate to an area with calm weather. We raised all the sails and set course to the Antarctic Sound! We never go this far north during Basecamps, so we are embarking upon a new expedition.

Location: Jabet Col, Wiencke Island
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 demands our concentration and tested our tired legs!

Location: Port Lockroy, Goudier Island
This was going to be a Seal-tastic day! From the ship we could see a handful of icebergs, with some snoozing seals. The first we found in our kayaks was the biggest leopard seal ever, Big Berther. She was a whooper. The second ice berg was home to 4 napping crab eater seals, little did they know they were on a collision course with the ship. Kenny our Safety boat driver had to push their iceberg away from the anchored ship so as not to damage the gangway. The 4 lazy seals thought nothing of this manoeuvre and carried on with their nap. The 3rd iceberg had 2 crabbies and one wedel aboard, not a single head lift as we paddled past. We continued our exploration of Port Lockroy, enjoying incredible mountain views through the low clouds, and gentoo penguins everywhere! Baby shags sat in nests on the low cliffs, and we paddled around the island home to the most southerly post office in the world.

Day 8: Duroch Islands and Kinnes Cove

Duroch Islands and Kinnes Cove
Date: 11.01.2024
Position: 63°18.6’S / 57°55.9’W
Wind: S 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +10

A magnificent day following our long transit to the far reaches of the Trinity Peninsula, the northern culmination of the Antarctic peninsula itself.

In the morning we made a Zodiac landing on Kopaitic Island (Duroch Islands). Home to hundreds of Chinstraps penguins rearing their young chicks which we were able to observe and enjoy their antics. We also noted that several of the penguins were under observation by scientists from the close by Chilean Antarctic research station, namely the Base General Bernardo O’Higgins.

In the afternoon we sailed eastwards away from the peninsula crossing the Antarctic Sound and sailing into Kinnes Cove on Joinville Island.

A full ship Zodiac cruise around the cove proved to be a visual and sensory overload for everyone. It is near impossible to articulate what we could see! Adelie penguins in their multiple thousands. A cacophony of sound and activity, indescribably beautiful.

Location: Kopaitic, Duroch Islands
This was to be a very memorable paddle, not just for the paddlers, but also for Erin the kayak guide.

We started off a little wobbly in the windy waves on the southern part of the island, but we quickly dashed through the narrow channel onto the more sheltered northern coastline. There were chinstraps everywhere! Nesting on steep rocky cliffs, landing on pebble beaches, and rafting all around our kayaks, sheer curiosity on their cheeky little faces as the swam around our kayaks.

We decided why fight the wind when you can just go with it. We down winded to the next cluster of islands and found 4 humpback whales feeding on krill. We floated in aww as we watched them feeding. Soon they realised we were there and they too were very curious. They very gracefully came and checked us out. 6 kayaks surrounded by these huge graceful creatures. We watched them dive between and under our kayaks for nearly an hour. What an incredible experience

Location: Kinnes Cove, Joinville Island
So may penguins! The hill sides of the island were alive with nesting penguins. The kayakers would paddle along the coast enjoying the penguins going about their business. The Adele’s are very entertaining. They hustle onto the very edge of the rocky coast, gathering in numbers until they are satisfied, they have enough for safety in numbers, and then they all dive in and make a dash for the deep ocean. When we sit quietly in our kayaks you can see the little black and white torpedo’s swimming beneath our kayaks. We navigated around a small rocky islands home to many baby penguins, fluffy and clumsy in their teenage stage of growing.

Day 9: Brown Bluff and Hope Bay

Brown Bluff and Hope Bay
Date: 12.01.2024
Position: 63°31.0’S / 56°52.1’W
Wind: SE 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +1

Another day in paradise, good morning! The decision to relocate further north has proven to be fantastic. Sunny skies, little wind and a fantastic landing site this morning; Brown Bluff! Brown Bluff is home to thousands of Adelie Penguins and some Gentoos here and there as well.

During Basecamps we usually only see Adelie penguins on Petermann Island, but the colony on Brown Bluff is a lot bigger and also more active. Upon landing we saw hundreds of Adelies marching on the beach, ready to plunge into the ocean for a foraging trip. Seeing them walking almost synchronized is one of the best things ever. The highway runs across the beach and some of us planted our GoPro’s and phones to capture some close up footage of these incredibly cute creatures.

Marco had set out a route to a higher viewpoint from where we had a fantastic view on the glacier and Erin was at the end of the beach where the Adelie colony was. Here we could see many penguin chicks that already had grown quite big. At the other end of the landing site we got close to the glacier and George had spotted a fur seal. Later in the summer fur seals arrive at the peninsula and we can see more and more of them.

We did not only see beautiful landscapes and cute penguins, the rock formations here are stunning as well and we could even see some geothermal activity. Tom passionately explained us more about this during recap that evening.

After a delicious lunch it was time for a zodiac cruise in Hope Bay. The weather was still great so we were all looking forward to seeing Esperanza Base before heading out of the bay to see if we could find whales.

Esperanza Base is one the few bases that are occupied year round. It is a real community with children, a school and even a bank. It is also infamously known for an incident that took place in the early 50’s. Shots were fired when a British Navy vessel came to close. Later on the Argentinian apologized for the incident claiming the commanding officer had no approval for the shooting and would be penalized accordingly. However, upon returning to Argentina the soldiers involved in the incident were treated with a heroes welcome!

George in the meantime had picked up another passenger; an Adelie penguin had jumped onto his zodiac and the little penguin was standing proudly on the bow box for several minutes before diving off again. What an amazing encounter!

Then it was time to find some whales, and whales we found. Feeding whales all around and accompanied by thousands of penguins as well. Feeding humpbacks often feed in circular patterns so all we had to do was stop the engines and wait. And our waiting was rewarded, some whales came up very close to the zodiacs or swam by at a few meters distance only. In a few occasions we could even feel and smell the whale blow, not the nicest smell though. But definitely a once in a lifetime experience and good skin treatment ;)

We wished we could have stayed out longer, but after more than 3 hours it was really time to head back to the ship. What a day!

Location: Brown Bluff, Tabarin Peninsula
Exploring new terrain, the team ascended the glaciers, weaving between moulins and crevasses, whilst the huge brown volcanic cliffs loomed above, and the steep edges of the glacier calved into the sea below. The mountain guides took a few moments to demonstrate ice screw protection to the budding new mountaineers.

Location: Hope Bay, Tabarin Peninsula
Our last kayaking session of the trip and what a cool place to explore. The Argentinean base claiming civil society on Antarctica. Schools, hospitals, a shop. Esperanza is home to 20 families. We first paddled along the coast of hope bay, the hill side covered in little black and white penguins and red with their poo. The colour highlighting all the nesting sites. They swam all around our kayaks, the water felt so alive with activity. We paddled around the point and in towards the village. A scattering of red houses with blue and white flag roofs. A few people walking around going about their daily tasks.

We continued along the coast, dashing between rocky islands. We found a small sheltered bay with several sleeping seals. One huge one asleep on the rock beside the water. We quietly snuck past. A small group of teens sat on the rocks in the sun and we waved as we passed. As the wind picked up it was time to head back to the ship.

Day 10: Deception and Half Moon Island

Deception and Half Moon Island
Date: 13.01.2024
Position: 62°37.3’S / 54° 43.5’W
Wind: E 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

We had an eerie early wake-up call this morning, it was around 5 o’clock when the captain navigated the Plancius through Neptune Bellows into the caldera of Deception Island. After a quick bite which was prepared for us by the hotel crew in the lounge, we landed in Whalers’s bay.

Here we observed the remnants of the Norwegian whaling station and the British base. We walked up to Neptune’s Window to have a great overview of the caldera and the Bransfield strait. When getting back to the landing site it was time for the :no guts, no glory” moment of the trip: the Polar Plunge. The hard wind and snowy conditions made it an activity only suitable for the true daredevils under us. After a very refreshing dip in the polar waters we were immediately rushed back to the ship for a well-deserved shower, and breakfast. After a little nap, Tom was giving a lecture about the geology of the Scotia sea and showed a mini documentary about Deception Island.

In the afternoon it was already time for the last expedition activity of the trip. We landed at Halfmoon island where we could visit a chinstrap penguin colony. The little guys were very busy running up and down the highway, and for very good reasons as high up the colony there were lots of thick fluffy chicks waiting for a fresh regurgitated meal of krill. Further on the beach we found a group of elephant seal hauled out.

These big juveniles were yawning and scratching and relaxing, a very nice scene to witness from close-by. When we arrived all back to the ship there was a sudden change of plans. The mountaineers had spotted am awkward penguin on their way back. After a scouting boat was send out it was confirmed this was a juvenile emperor penguin, a very rare sight here in the Peninsula! The expedition team managed to get everybody back on shore for a close look and a fantastic end of the expedition program of the trip.

In the evening there was a recap of Pippa about the plans for tomorrow, George talked about the law of the sea followed by Koen who gave a recap about storytelling in photography and Steffi talking about the flight of the Albatross. After another great meal in the restaurant most of us were exhausted after such a long day and went to bed early.

Day 11: At Sea – Drake Passage

At Sea – Drake Passage
Date: 14.01.2024
Position: 59°30.1’S / 62°47.2’W
Wind: E 3
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

Overnight, we left the waters of the South Shetlands and shortly after dinner we could feel the rolling and pitching of the ship among the deeper waters of the southern tip of the Drake Passage. The weather overnight was clear and during the night we could still see some nice icebergs in the distance. Weather remained favourable overnight with grey and cloudy skies. The ship rolled a bit more during the night due to the typical swell of the Drake, running from west to East. This made the night a bit uncomfortable for a few. We woke up into similar conditions and the rolling continued and sadly the movement of the ship in the Drake was a reminder to everybody on board that we were leaving behind the white continent.

Sharp at 08:00 in the morning our Hotel Manager did the wake up call. There was no wake up call today from our Expedition Leader because she wanted to let people sleep in a bit more. Shortly after the doors of the dining room opened and everybody joined the room for breakfast. At 09:30, we had our first activity on board, Pippa, our Expedition Leader gave an excellent presentation about the incredible life of the whales in the southern ocean. This presentation was followed by Eduardo who explained a bit of the science done in Antarctica. In his presentation he explained some of the most advanced experiments currently going in the white continent.

Lunch was offered shortly after noon and then we asked the passengers to return their rental gear as well as their boots. This was done swiftly and promptly by our Staff Team who cleaned and disinfected the boots afterwards.

Occasionally during the morning we saw a couple of Wandering Albatross flying around the ship and a few Black Browed Albatross as well.

Later in the afternoon we had two more lectures. Our first speaker in the afternoon was Koen, who spoke about how to touch up and refine digital images using the software “Lightroom”. This presentation was followed by George who spoke about Antarctic geopolitics and the Antarctic treaty system. Both presentations were professional and both speakers had lots of questions and comments from the public.

After George’s presentation our bartenders Rachel and Indira organized a “Happy Hour” for everybody so all drinks were at half the price. People ordered some of their favourite cocktails and enjoyed the nice views of an ocean illuminated by the light of the low Sun above the horizon.

At 18:00 we had our last daily recap. For this one, Michael our hotel manager had a few announcements to make, mostly to prepare our guests for disembarkation and about the methods to pay their bills. This was followed by Pippa who presented the plans for our next day and the weather. We are being very lucky with the weather which seems to be cooperating, so far we have had a smooth Drake passage. Pippa’s intervention was followed by Steffi who presented footage of the curious case of a penguin who devoted his life to crime stealing rocks from his neighbour. Finally George gave a very energetic recap presenting the interesting stories of the first babies born in Antarctica and how this has sparked controversy between Argentina, Chile and the other members of the Antarctic Treaty System. The controversy being the political message behind these actions.

Then, at 19:00 sharp, Michael our hotel manager make the call for dinner and everybody went to the dining room to enjoy sapper. As the sunset sat in the western horizon in the evening, our ship was still rocking among the waves making good speed towards Ushuaia. The evening sky was grey with distant patches of blue sky in the horizon.

Day 12: At Sea – Drake Passage and Beagle Channel

At Sea – Drake Passage and Beagle Channel
Date: 15.01.2024
Position: 55°31.4’S / 66°03.6’W
Wind: W 6
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +6

We awoke for our final day aboard Plancius to the rolling seas of the Southern Ocean. Three-meter swell and 25knotts 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 our friend Eduardo introduced us to the unknown and mysterious world of the depth. The history of underwater exploration, some of the engineering challenges the first underwater explorers had to go through together with the latest findings and maps of the abyss.

Eventually the long marathon of lectures culminated with George’s “Future history of Antarctica”. He described the many challenges facing the Antarctic Treaty System, as well as some opportunities to improve ecological protection and strengthen collaborative governance across this great frozen continent.

Meanwhile M/V Plancius had reached the calm and protected waters of the Beagle channel, and she was lingering around waiting for the pilot to come aboard and finally escorting us to the port of Ushuaia. 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. The festivities finished with a beautiful slideshow – a fitting memory of a truly amazing Antarctic basecamp.

Day 13: Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day

Ushuaia - Disembarkation Day
Date: 16.01.2024
Position: 54° 48.6’S / 66° 54.0’W
Wind: SW 1
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

We docked back at Ushuaia early in the morning, while many of us enjoyed our last sleep onboard 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!


Tripcode: PLA26-24
Dates: 4 Jan - 16 Jan, 2024
Duration: 12 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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