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Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
  • Date: 16.01.2016
  • Position: 054°48.52’S / 068°18’W
  • Wind: WSW 5
  • Weather: Clear
  • Air Temperature: +18°C

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll eventually be going south of south...a long way south. But for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city, savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights.
Ushuaia marks the end of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The duty-free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (lit. “bay that penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim. However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of warmth before heading off on our adventures.

Arrival for most of us was by bus but for those arriving at the ship on foot it was a windy walk down to the end of the pier where Plancius was moored. Most passengers were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next 19 days.

We were greeted at the windswept gangway by members of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet Hotel and Restaurant Managers, Robert and Sava. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew.

Once we had settled into our cabins a little we were invited to the Lounge by Chief Officer Jaanus 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. He outlined aspects of safety on board the ship including Man Overboard drills and how to keep ourselves safe on board a ship moving in rough seas. On hearing the alarm we reconvened at the ‘muster station’, the lounge, for the mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should the need arise.

It was then time for the lines to be dropped and Plancius moved away from the pier to head out into the Beagle Channel. At 18:45 we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet our Hotel Manager Robert who gave us an overview of the hotel side of Plancius explaining about the layout of the ship and about meals etc. Our final gathering was a celebratory one, a chance to meet our Captain, Alexey Nazarov and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco and formally meet the members of the Expedition team who will guide us during our voyage. At 19:30 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chefs Ralf and Sean and their galley staff. This first evening on board was occupied with more exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, and settling into our cabins. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into the open waters heading towards our first destination on this trip, the Falkland Islands.

At Sea en-route to the Falkland Islands
  • Date: 17.01.2016
  • Position: 054°20‘S / 064°28’W
  • Wind: SW 6/7
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +7°C

A few of the more adventurous of us were up well before the wake up call to watch the fantastic sunrise and enjoy the relatively calm conditions with around 25 knots of wind from behind. For those of us who stayed in bed we received a special treat with Jim’s wake-up call rousing us from our slumber at 07:45 and into the first full day of our journey.

We could still see land to our port and stern however as the morning progressed these bumps on the horizon slowly disappeared from sight and we found ourselves out in the vast expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean. The first few hours of the morning were spent enjoying the sea passage and trying to become familiar with some of the seabirds that were passing by the ship. There were the tiny Wilson’s storm petrels and the larger Black browed albatross as well as a few dolphins, probably Peale’s dolphins seen by the bow.
At 11:00 Ali gave the first instalment of her two part talk on the Falkland Islands. She outlined the history of the islands, including the Falklands conflict in 1982 and explained about life and the local economy in the islands today. A licensed squid fishery is the main income for the islands today paying for roads, health care and education amongst other things. Her talk was interrupted by a passing pod of Long finned pilot whales and we had glimpses of their distinctive rounded heads and curved dorsal fin before they headed off at speed.

During the morning the clouds had dispersed and with the wind decreasing it really was turning out to be a beautiful day at sea. Following a tasty pasta lunch there was time to enjoy the sea views from the deck and the lounge and for some a chance to take an afternoon nap, rocked by the gentle movement of the ship.

At 15:00 we were invited back to the lounge where Ali was ready to give the second part of her presentation about the Falkland Islands. In this she talked about the wildlife that we might expect to see during our landings and explained about the potential oil industry which is currently in its early stages in the islands. Finally she talked about what led her to the Falklands in the first place and what kept her there for 15 years.

There was time for a quick break before Jim and Christian gave the Zodiac safety briefing in English and German respectively. It is these small rubber boats that will gets us safely from ship to shore and back again. The final task of the afternoon was to collect our rubber boots from the boot room. Staff were on hand to ensure we got the right size and a reasonable fit

Our first recap was held at 18:30 and Jim explained about the plans our first landing of the voyage at Carcass Island in the morning followed by Saunders Island in the afternoon. These landings are, as always weather dependent so fingers crossed for continued good weather. Tobias then explained about nautical miles and how sailors in the past used to calculate the speed of the ship using knots of a piece of rope hence the reason ships speed is given in knots. Andreas then spoke briefly about the albatross we had seen today, mainly Black browed albatross and identified some of the other species we are likely to see on this voyage.

Then it was time for dinner and once again the chefs had done a great job in the galley. With the sun still shining out of a clear blue sky many of us wrapped up and headed out on deck once again to enjoy the evening light and sunset.

Carcass Island and Saunders Island, Falkland Islands
  • Date: 18.01.2016
  • Position: 051°23’S 060°42’W
  • Wind: SW 5
  • Weather: Rain showers
  • Air Temperature: +10°C

After a calm night, we arrived early morning along Falkland Island shorelines. At 06:00, we passed a very narrow strait called the Woolly Gut which is between West Falkland and West Point Island. The fast current and tidal rip causes upwelling of nutrients and therefore food for penguins and dolphins. Many of us were already on the outside decks to enjoy the scenery and the potential wildlife and we weren’t disappointed. There were many penguins in the water, most of them being Rockhoppers. After a precise navigation done by Captain Alexey, Plancius headed over the bay towards Carcass Island while we had our pre-landing breakfast.

Just after breakfast Jim announced that the Zodiacs were ready to bring us ashore and so with waterproofs on and cameras packed we boarded the boats and before too long we arrived on a white sandy beach in very good conditions. Once we were gathered on the beach Ali began to lead the first group of hikers over the narrow isthmus and very quickly we saw our first penguins, some Magellanic penguins nesting in burrows they dig in the thick layer of peat. Shortly after we discovered a small colony of Gentoo penguins all gathered in the same place.

After spending some time taking photos and watching the antics of the young penguin chicks we visited Leopard Beach, a superb white sandy beach where there were Magellanic penguins lying on the sand and Falkland flightless steamer ducks along the shore. Then, we started a walk along the shore in direction of Carcass settlement. Half way, we got a surprise: an Elephant Seal sleeping between two rocks where some Striated Caracara were nesting. After almost one hour of hiking, we arrived in a king of small forest around the buildings. What a surprise was waiting for us; inside this lodge, a large table was fully covered by plates of cakes of many different kinds. After drinking a good English tea and eating a few a those cakes, it was time to embark the Zodiac and get on Plancius.

During lunch, Captain repositioned the ship to Saunders Island. Jim invited us to attend the pre landing briefing and we quickly got dressed. Once again, we arrived on a sandy beach, but with more waves than this morning.
After passing by a large Gentoo Penguins colony, we arrived close to a small King Penguins group of about twenty. Most of them were still incubated their unique egg or, for a few of them, protecting their recently hatched chick. We continued on a gentle slope to reach a Rockhopper colony. We stayed for a long moment watching them going back and forth to the sea and even around us. A few hundred meters beyond, another surprise awaited us: a colony of Black-browed albatross. Those vary large birds were looking after their unique chick snuggled up in the nest. After one hour enjoying this wildlife, we started to come back at the landing site. There, what a surprise: a Sea Lion crossing our group, not afraid at all by all those people around and the Land Rover. It faced some of us very close without being intimidated. Finally, it went slowly to the beach and sea. The expedition team resumed the zodiac boarding operation but as the wind had picked up during the landing, it became more difficult. Jim and Gérard, dressed up with waders, were holding the zodiacs in up to one meter of water. As the zodiac were leaving the beach, we were all spayed as some breaking waves arrived.
Finally everybody went back on board on time to attend Ali's briefing on Stanley, our goal for tomorrow.

Stanley, Falkland Islands
  • Date: 19.01.2016
  • Position: 051°41’ S / 057°51’ W
  • Wind: WSW 5
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +8°C

Many of us were up before the wake-up call this morning to watch our approach to the capital of the Falkland Islands, Stanley. We sailed in past Cape Pembroke, with its distinctive black and white lighthouse standing guard at the end, past the white sands of Yorke Bay and into Port William before passing through The Narrows into Stanley Harbour.

We could see the brightly coloured buildings of Stanley stretched out along the hillside as we came into our anchorage position in front of the town and as we did the clouds came in from the south but it didn’t spoil the cheery aspect of this little capital city. We could see the mountains of the Two Sisters, Mt Longdon and Tumbledown at the west end of town and the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth to the east.

As soon as we were at anchor staff and crew lowered the Zodiacs and as soon as we finished our breakfast we were able to go ashore and enjoy the delights that Stanley has to offer. We landed at the floating pontoon in front of the jetty centre which was the perfect place to begin our explorations and, armed with maps and details of Wi-fi we all headed off in different directions to make the most of the morning.

Most people headed for the shops to buy some postcards and penguin souvenirs at some of the many gift shops around town while others found coffee shops and enjoyed a drink and Wi-fi connection. The museum was also a popular destination to take a trip through Falkland history in its new surroundings near the Post Office. For a small town with a population of around 2,500 people Stanley is a busy, vibrant little place with something for everyone and a real cheery atmosphere on this warm sunny morning. What a privilege to be here.

All too soon (especially for Ali!) it was time to make our way down to the jetty to board the Zodiacs and head back to Plancius ready to begin the next leg of our voyage towards South Georgia.
Afterwards there was time for lunch and more deck time before we were invited to the lounge for an interesting lecture by Ali, who told us about the Black-browed Albatrosses and their lives on and around the islands we have just visited. For re-cap, an hour later, Jim outlined our plans for tomorrow and especially the rest of the journey. He then continued with the gripping story from a very important day in the history of the Falklands, the 2nd of April 1982, when the Argentine forces invaded the islands. It was a fascinating presentation with old photos and film clips. Andreas also told us a few things about the sea lion we saw on Saunders Island and Tobias ran through the geological history of the Falkland Islands.
It had been a wonderful visit to the islands but also great to be on our way to the next adventure. South Georgia, here we come!!

At Sea en-route to South Georgia
  • Date: 20.01.2016
  • Position: 052°18’S / 052°23’W
  • Wind: SW 6
  • Weather: Rain
  • Air Temperature: +5°C

It was Assistant Expedition Leader Ali who woke us this morning at 07:45 although many of us were already up and about and enjoying the morning out on deck or just relaxing the morning tea and coffee. It was a quiet morning out at sea with a gentle breeze, easy rolling and just a few birds lazily flying around the ship.

After breakfast there was time to enjoy some fresh air as the outside decks had been re-opened so we could get outside and enjoy watching the sea slip past. At 10:30 we had the first presentations of the day and these were the first South Georgia talks for the trip in preparation for the coming days.

Tobias was on hand to give our German speaking guests an overview of the Geology of South Georgia. The island is partly made up of a small remnant of the super continent of Gondwana which forms the southern tip with sedimentary sandstones building up behind it to form the rest of the island. As Tobias was explaining about the geological history Gerard was in the lounge to talk about seabirds and how we can identify them whilst at sea. Most of the birds we see are part of the albatross and petrels families which are all tubenose birds, well adapted to a life spent at sea.

After the talks we were able to put our bird ID to the test out on deck where we saw a Wandering albatross, some Giant petrels and some Antarctic prions. There were some fleeting glimpses of some marine mammals with two Cuvier’s beaked whales seen and a small pod of Hourglass dolphins. For those on deck it was a great sighting.

After lunch there was a little gap in the programme which allowed for some deck time for some, quiet reading time for others and an afternoon snooze for a few more! The conditions were still calm and quiet and there was light misty drizzle falling.
At 15:00 we had a whaling double act with Andreas and Beau giving presentations in English and German respectively. We haven’t seen too many of these cetaceans yet but as we get further south we hope to see Fin whales, Humpback whales and maybe even some Killer whales as they make the most of the summer season food availability, Krill for the baleen whales and seals for the Killer whales.

There was time for afternoon tea before Tobias gave his geology presentation in English and Christian repeated Gerard’s seabird presentation in German. We are lucky to have such a great linguistic team on board to ensure we all get the opportunity to access the information.

Later in the day we gathered in the Lounge for the daily re-cap where Tobias talked about the Antarctic Convergence, Christian explained about the amount of plastic waste in the ocean and the effect this can have on marine wildlife and Jim outlined plans for tomorrow, another day at sea.

At Sea en-route to South Georgia
  • Date: 21.01.2016
  • Position: 053°10’ S / 045°02’ W
  • Wind: WNW 5
  • Weather: Fog
  • Air Temperature: +4°C

We sailed all night long on very calm sea, keeping a good speed and without swell. We were amazed at how calm the seas were with many of us expecting to suffer from ‘mal de mer’, seasickness on every sea day of this voyage.
Soon after breakfast, Ali invited us in the Lounge to attend her presentation which was an introduction to South Georgia. First, she gave us some general information on this island, including historical information and about the current Government and their revenue and in the second part she gave an overview of the wildlife that we hope to find on the sub-Antarctic island, an animal paradise. This certainly got us all even more excited about the days ahead and we were more than ready to be there.
In order to prepare us for our South Georgia days the second morning's lecture was more serious; a briefing on the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) given by Jim on how to behave ashore in South Georgia and in Antarctica. Most of those rules are of common sense and easy to understand.

After Jim's explanations on biosecurity, we started to inspect our outer gear and use vacuum cleaners to clean all our garments of any seed or other biological material. As we were not able to do it all at once, we resumed this operation after lunch. During this very long operation, we also watched a movie produced by the Government of South Georgia giving more information on this island and how to visit it.

During the course of the day, the wind dropped slowly and also the sea calmed a lot. There was only a small remaining swell and conditions on board were very pleasant.
Andreas lecture was postponed to allow us to enjoy the very good weather from outside decks. When we say good, it was calm and dry but the visibility was poor as a result of the light winds and cold sea temperatures. Our route was passing by some very strange rocks, called Shag Rocks, pinnacles of rock sticking out of the sea but there was so much fog that it was impossible to see them, even when the Captain went as close as he could to them. The only sign that we were near to the rocks was the presence of South Georgia shags flying in long lines past the ship on their way back to their breeding sites on the top of the rocky islands.

During the evening recap, Jim announced the program for the day after: two contrasting landings. One to visit a big King penguin colony on Salisbury Plain and the other to visit Prion Island, home to Wandering albatross.

Salisbury Plain and Prion Island, South Georgia
  • Date: 22.01.2016
  • Position: 054°00’ S / 037°21’ W
  • Wind: W 5/6
  • Weather: Fog
  • Air Temperature: +3°C

Jim made the wake-up call at 07:00 this morning but many of us were already up and about long before that in order to watch our navigation past South Georgia – we were here at last! We could see the jagged peaks of the island on our starboard side and there were seals in the water and birds flying all around the ship.

During breakfast Plancius approached the anchorage position in the Bay of Isles, off the beach of Salisbury Plain and we had the view of the King penguin colony ahead of us. Very soon the staff were ready for us to go ashore and enjoy our first landing in South Georgia and what a landing it turned out to be.

We were met at the beach by members of the Expedition team, King penguins and Fur seals and quickly made our way to the top of the beach to leave our life jackets and get our cameras out. To begin with it was difficult to know what to photograph first with Fur seal pups, females and big breeding bulls on the beach, King penguins coming and going from the sea and the panoramic views all around. A great start.
From the landing site Beau led the way along the back of the beach making sure we avoided as many of the seals as possible and as much of the mud as possible.

He did a great job of making sure the route was safe and before too long we were at the edge of the colony and experiencing the sight, sound and smell of over 60,000 breeding pairs of King penguins and their chicks, which amounts to nearly 200,00 birds. It was certainly a busy place on a Friday morning! The chicks were very curious about the visitors to the colony and many of them came for a closer look at the edge of the tussac grass. There was adult courtship display and chick feeding taking place and as a result the sight the sound and the smell of the colony was incredible. We stayed there for a couple of hours before slowly making our way back to the landing spot, with stops along the way to enjoy the penguins in the surf and parading along the beach. What an amazing morning!

After we were all back on board, Plancius re-positioned to just outside Prion Island. We were divided into three groups for the afternoon which would involve a Zodiac cruise and a short hike along a board walk up to the incredible and almost mesmerising Wandering albatrosses. We had some of them really close by and some of us saw couples of albatrosses dancing and clapping their beaks, for making the bonds stronger between the male and the female. The beach was also teeming with life: elephant seals, fur seals, Gentoo penguins and king penguins. The cruise was also fantastic in the great weather we saw a few endemic species like the South Georgia Pipit and South Georgia Pintail. Also, we spotted some Antarctic terns, flying at low altitude, looking for some food in the kelp and all along the shore there were groups of South Georgia pintails feeding in the shallow water. Some South Georgia shags were standing on rocks by the sea, ready to grab some prey passing by.
Dinner was a lively affair with so much to talk about from our first day here in South Georgia but an early night was required in preparation for our planned early morning landing, at 4.15 am wake up call....

St Andrew’s Bay, Godthul and Fortuna Bay
  • Date: 23.01.2016
  • Position: 054°26’ S / 036°10’ W
  • Wind: SE 3
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +3°C°C

Members of the Expedition team were up before 04:00 to meet on the Bridge with the Captain and assess the weather conditions and swell conditions at the beach here at St Andrew’s Bay. It was a bit of a grey morning with low cloud over the mountains but the seas were calm and the decision was made to try and go ashore. The wake-up call duly followed at 04:15 and we had time to enjoy a pastry and a drink before getting our wet weather gear on and into a Zodiac at the gangway.

The conditions at the beach required some skilled driving and some strong muscle power to turn the boats in the surf but we all managed to get ashore safely even if we were a little wet from the waves. We were met on the beach by Jim (and a lot of King penguins!) and he pointed out the flagged route that Ali had laid to the viewpoint over the main King penguin colony. We made our way past penguins and Fur seals across the grassy plain to reach the glacial moraines, which gave us a perfect view of all the 250,000 breeding pairs of Kings, the largest colony in South Georgia. We could observe fluffy brown chicks, half fledged chicks and adults birds courting and displaying as well as adult birds sitting quietly on their precious eggs. It really was an awe inspiring view and almost impossible to photograph although of course we all tried! It was also nice to sit and watch and enjoy the scene and remember how privileged we are to be able to visit such a place.

From the moraines we were able to slowly make our way back to the beach stopping to watch the penguins along the way as well as watching some Elephant seals in a bit of a smelly wallow as they began their annual moult after the breeding season. Even on the beach as we waited for the shuttle back to the ship there was plenty to see with hundreds of penguins in the surf as well as coming and going from the sea. There were juvenile Fur seals amongst them and it was very entertaining to watch their antics in the surf. They made the process of going to sea look so much easier than ours!

Once back on there was time to warm up and head for breakfast to satisfy our appetites, which we’d worked up from our beach walk in the early hours of the morning.
It was then time for Plancius to re-position to our next destination Godthul, about 2 hours sailing away. On the way a few whale blows were spotted and we got close enough to a few of them to see that they were Humpback whales and we had lovely views of their tail flukes as they dived down deeper to feed.

Godthul translates as Good Cove and with a storm on the horizon we hoped it would prove to be a good place to be for the morning. By the time we got into the bay and the anchor had been dropped the low level clouds had descended even lower and persistent rain had started to fall. As is often quoted “There is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing” so with that in mind we donned our waterproofs once more, wrapped up well and headed down to the gangway where staff and crew were ready to run us ashore.
We were met by the usual welcome party of Fur seals and penguins (and Expedition staff) and there were options available to us with Gerard leading a hike up through the tussac and the opportunity to just ‘hang out’ on the beach. The scramble up through the wet tussac was a challenge for some but it was worth talking a bit of a leg stretch to get some elevation to see the whole of Godthul bay below us, even if it was a grey rainy picture. As Gerard led the hike further uphill the rain turned increasingly to snow and it was a real South Georgia whiteout by the time the group reached the higher Gentoo penguin colonies. We admired these birds even more for their tenacity in making the long walk every time they needed to go to the sea to forage.

Back down on the lower slopes some people were enjoying the lower altitude Gentoos who were all huddled up with their back turned towards the rain and along the beach many of us were enjoying the Fur seals and Elephant seals along the shore as well as more King penguins moulting in groups at the back of the beach.

It wasn’t the best of mornings for humans but whatever the weather the wildlife is still there and we all enjoyed our time on shore and the opportunity to take a short Zodiac cruise along the shore to the waterfall before heading back to the ship to dry out. Once on board, lunch was served and then as we made the re-positioning cruise back along the coast towards Fortuna Bay the weather continued to close in with snow, rain and increasing winds. Taking an afternoon snooze seemed to be the best activity on offer for the early afternoon and Plancius was very quiet for a few hours.

Our next stop at Fortuna Bay didn’t bring us drier weather but it wasn’t too windy at the anchorage position so the Expedition team decided to offer a trip ashore to visit the King penguin colony and enjoy some more of the wildlife that South Georgia has to offer. It was still raining heavily as we were shuttled ashore but the cheery staff were there to meet us having made a sweepstake to guess how many passengers would join them on the beach. They had all overestimated the enthusiasm and it was around 38 brave souls who stepped onto the beach with the Fur seals and penguins.

Ali led the walk along the beach and up to the colony and with so many penguins and seals along the way it was a pleasant enough walk despite the rain. At the colony many of the fluffy brown chicks were huddled against the rained looking thoroughly dejected and the incubating adults had their backs turned to the worst of the elements. We stayed a while and enjoyed just being in this location before making the return journey back to the beach, via an Elephant seal moulting wallow at the edge of the tussac. As we waited at the beach it was great to watch the Fur seal pups playing in the surf and climbing on and off the rocks; an real playground for these young seals.

Back on board there was time to warm up and dry out before Jim outlined plans for tomorrow and Robert invited us to the dining room for an indoor BBQ with complimentary wine. What a great end to another fabulous, if very wet day in South Georgia.

Stromness and Grytviken, South Georgia.
  • Date: 24.01.2016
  • Position: 054°09’ S / 036°38’ W
  • Wind: SW 9
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +3°C

During the night, the wind picked-up so Captain decided to sail instead of staying at anchor in Fortuna bay. We could feel the motion of the ship during the night which was the effects of the big storm to the north of the island. Maybe we were lucky that the worst of it was passing by at night.

Just before the wake-up call Jim and the Captain met on the Bridge to discuss the options for the morning but with so much wind blowing landing here at Fortuna and walking over the pass to Stromness was not going to be an option so we sailed along the coast heading towards Stromness.

We arrived just after breakfast in front of the former whaling station of Stromness and could see the other station, Leith off to our starboard side. The wind was about 50 knots before entering Stromness Bay, but luckily calmed down just on arrival at the anchorage position.

The staff and crew started Zodiacs operation quickly and landed just 200 metres to the north of ruins of many buildings and relics of very different kinds, including a large quantity of ship propellers. Ali led the walk through the hundreds of Fur seals lying on the beach and grass to walk up the large valley aiming to reach a waterfall described by Shackleton during his famous journey across South Georgia to raise the alarm and secure the rescue of his men left on Elephant Island. Gerard and Christian joined with the rest of the walkers and despite strong winds and some snow it was a pleasant enough walk up the valley. Half way through the morning when Ali had just about made it to the waterfall with the front group, Jim called us back because the wind was picking up and Zodiac operations were more and more difficult to make. In the shelter of the valley it was hard to believe it was so windy at the beach but we turned around and went back a bit disappointed but understanding that safety is the most important thing. Even 500 metres from the shore there wasn’t too much wind but on the beach and in the Zodiacs it was blowing a gale and it was an interesting ride back to the ship.

Once everyone on board, Jim explained what will happen for the afternoon; our visit to Grytviken where we would visit Shackleton’s grave as well as the museum and Post Office. A few highlights of this voyage for many.
We arrived two hours later with the sky clearing up and the wind going down as we entered Cumberland Bay East. Captain took Plancius inside the bay and anchored in the small cove where the former whaling station of Grytviken is located. A team from the Museum came on board to explain us the huge project of Habitat Restoration: eradication of rats to allow birds to nest without being predated by those rodents. As soon as the officer had cleared the ship we were ready to go ashore in this, the capital of South Georgia.

We had a short ride to land near the cemetery where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried and in order to make our way there we had to by-pass Fur seals and a large wallow of Elephant seals that were crowded together to have their annual moult. An unusual welcome party! At the grave Ali led a short ceremony and we drank a small glass of whiskey for "The Boss", without forgetting to give him a good part.

After this ceremony, we went to the settlement for a free roaming through all relicts of the former whaling station. Also, we were able to visit a few buildings: the Church, the Post Office, the Museum and the Gallery where a replica of James Caird is on show. It is hard to believe that this small boat made the hazardous journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the middle of winter. Also, the souvenir shop was busy for a few hours before we went back on board.

During our time ashore Plancius had re-positioned to another anchorage in the outer bay as the strong winds had caused her to drag her anchor in the inner bay near Grytviken but by the time we were heading back on board the wind had dropped and the Zodiac ride was not as wet as it had been in the afternoon. The sky had cleared, we got a beautiful view over the snow covered mountains including the highest peak: Mount Paget at 2934 metres and Mount Sugartop.

As we made our way to dinner Plancius started to sail out of the bay and by the time dessert was served in the Lounge4 the sky around the island was spectacular with a very nice scenery of lenticular clouds drawing nice waves in the sky and a full moon was rising above horizon.

Larsen Harbour and Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia.
  • Date: 25.01.2016
  • Position: 054°49’ S / 035°38’ W
  • Wind: Var 2
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +3°C

It had been a quiet night on board as we made our way down the coast of South Georgia to our next destination at Cooper Bay. There was some 30 knots of wind blowing when Jim made the wake-up call at 07:15 but we were hopeful that we might some shelter in the bay near Cooper Island. This island and the bay was named after First Lieutenant Thomas Cooper who served with Captain Cook on the ship the Resolution when he was here in 1775. As we made the final approach towards the bay we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of seabirds from the small Antarctic prions to the lager Black browed albatross and that was just in the air. In the sea there were rafts of penguins gathering up ready to make their way towards the colonies in the bay. There we Macaroni, Chinstrap, Gentoo and King penguins seen as well as the usual Fur seals.

As we made our way closer it became very apparent to everyone that Zodiac cruising and landing was not going to be an option with strong winds and high swells so the Captain navigated the narrow channel between Cooper Island and the mainland and we headed on towards Drygalski Fjord. As soon as we entered the mouth of the fjord the winds decreased and we found ourselves in bright sunshine and so a plan was made to take a Zodiac cruise into Larsen Harbour a sheltered side fjord where we hoped to find a variety of wildlife.

We were divided into two groups to cruise and at 08:30 members of the first group were on the water and heading into the hidden fjord. As soon as they did so they found themselves watching Weddell seals lazing on the snow as well as Fur seals and Elephant seals. These Weddell seals are the only breeding population outside of the Antarctic Peninsula and around 30 pups are born along the shore here each year. We were only seeing adult females as the pups have long gone and although they didn’t do too much we all enjoyed photographing their attractive, dog-like faces as they turned to watch us.

Around the Zodiacs we had Antarctic terns feeding in the kelp and along the shore we saw Kelp gull chicks as well as South Georgia pipits and South Georgia shags. As we made our way further into Larsen Harbour we came to the end of the fjord which was a sheer ice cliff. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot with mountains all around and we all enjoyed just soaking up the atmosphere here.

All too soon it was time to head back to Plancius in order for the group swap to take place at the gangway. The second group saw all the same fabulous wildlife but had to content with increasing wind and just as we were making our way back out into the main channel of Drygalski Fjord we got the call from the ship to return as soon as possible as the winds had increased significantly. It is amazing how quickly the weather changes and all credit to the staff drivers and the gangway crew who got us back on board efficiently and safely.

Once we were all on board we were offered a warming hot chocolate in the Lounge with a choice of rum or Baileys for that extra warming glow and as we sipped on chocolate and cream Plancius started to navigate the narrow scenic fjord of Drygalski Fjord. By now it was extremely windy but many of us braved the outside decks and bow of the ship to take in the amazing views of the jagged mountains and tumbling glaciers. As we neared the end of the fjord the expanse of the Risting glacier came into view and just as we made our final approach a huge calving took place with a large part of the glacier front falling into the water. This created a tsunami effect with a wave spreading out into the bay. It obviously brought krill and phytoplankton to the surface as the Snow petrels and Antarctic terns swooped down to feed on the surface.

After some time enjoying the view Captain Alexey turned the ship around and we headed back down the fjord ready to set the course for the South Orkney Islands. As we made our way out into open water some whale blows were spotted so we went for a closer look and found two feeding Humpback whales which surfaced and dived showing their tail flukes as they went. From here the Captain took us closer to a fabulous iceberg with a towering column and jagged edges around a turquoise pool. The wind was starting to blow at this point and as we left the iceberg all outer decks were closed and we hurried indoors to escape the gales.

Plancius was a very quiet ship during the afternoon as everyone enjoyed some relaxing time after the busy days in South Georgia or maybe succumbed to the motion of the ocean as we rocked and rolled our way onwards. At 18:00 we were invited to the Lounge once more for a South Georgia re-cap where Ali talked about the Weddell seals we had seen in Larsen Harbour, Gerard explained about local climate of the island and the formation of the lenticular clouds we had seen the previous night and Christian highlighted the individuality of whale tails and how whales can be identified around the world by their tail shape and colouration.

Dinner was served and then it was an early night for most.

At Sea en-route to the South Orkney Islands.
  • Date: 26.01.2016
  • Position: 057°34’ S / 039°34’ W
  • Wind: NW 5
  • Weather: Mist
  • Air Temperature: +1°C

Once again we had all been gently rocked in our bunks as the Southern Ocean continued to be kind to us and give us good weather for our sea crossings.

Tobias was in charge of the wake-up call this morning and as we went to breakfast shortly afterwards we all commented on how happy we were with the continuing good sea conditions.

During the morning there were some presentations on offer with ice being the focus of the morning, in anticipation of our arrival in Antarctica in the coming days. Christian and Andreas, in German and English respectively explained about the formation glaciers and ice caps as the snow accumulates over hundreds of years and slowly descends down the mountains. They also went on to describe the different types of sea ice such as tabular icebergs that are a result of glacial movement but also about the sea ice that forms during the winter time around Antarctica. The sea ice in winter increases the area of Antarctica by 100% which is an awful lot of ice!

Later in the morning Gerard invited us back to the Lounge for an Introduction to Antarctica which was an overview about the geology, climate, the research stations and the Antarctic treaty which governs all human activity on the continent. With all of these presentation we felt better informed for our arrival in Antarctica in the coming days.

By the time the morning presentations were done it was time for lunch after which there many people took the opportunity to have a post-lunch snooze after some busy South Georgia days.
Our final look at South Georgia took place in the late afternoon with a screening of a documentary about how the South Georgia Heritage Trust managed to do the rat eradication in South Georgia. It was a fascinating movie which really brought to life the reality of the complex logistics involved in working in such a remote environment for long periods of time, and how the dedication and skill of all the team ensured that the project had the best chance of success.

Later in the afternoon Ali invited us to the Lounge for a charity auction in order to raise funds for the final phase of the rat eradication project, the monitoring phase which will check to ensure that there are no rats left and that no incursions have occurred in the baited areas. The presence of South Georgia pipits in all of our landing sites was certainly a very positive sign.

The items up for auction were varied and all of them generated some competitive bidding and Ali, ably assisted by Christian, did a great job of keeping the bids coming and keeping us entertained. By the end of the auction £820:00 had been raised which is the equivalent of 9.1 hectares. A fabulous amount on a small ship in the Southern Ocean! Thank you to everyone who participated in the event!

After dinner there was a bit of a birthday party in the bar with balloons, drinks and dancing till late into the evening. A very good time was had by all!

Orcadas Station, South Orkney Islands.
  • Date: 27.01.2016
  • Position: 060°44’ S / 044°43’ W
  • Wind: Var 2
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +2°C

Again, we had a calm night, without neither swell nor strong winds. We have certainly been very lucky on this voyage so far with such gentle sea conditions whilst making the crossings from place to place. We Jim made the wake-up call we could already see the South Orkney Island ahead of us and with numerous icebergs all around it was a great start to this Antarctic part of our voyage.

As we approached islands we could also see another ship approaching the area. This was the base re-supply ship which was bringing food and cargo for the coming months on base. We arrived during breakfast in front of Argentinean Orcadas station, situated on a narrow isthmus in a small bay at Laurie Island. There looked to be some brash ice along the shore so the first Zodiac going ashore was a scout boat with Jim and Staff to check the conditions and organise the station visit with the "Jefe". It was icy but manageable with care by the drivers.

As their supply ship was also there, only a few of the base staff were available to guide us through the station so we were divided in four groups to rotate between the visit and a small Zodiac cruise within the numerous icebergs stranded in the bay. During this cruise, we spotted many Chinstrap penguins. Some were resting on bergy bits, and easily approached by Zodiac. Also, some icebergs were carved delicately with small caves and crevasses giving a deep blue colour to the ice.

Ashore, we did a tour guided by a staff from the station. As well as being met by staff and base personnel we were also greeted by a crowd of Fur seals on the beach. These were many of the males that would have been breeding on the beaches of South Georgia during November and December. After the season is over they make the journey south to feed on the abundance of Krill in the seas around Antarctica. The first stop on the tour was to the remains of the historical hut built by Scottish Expedition in 1902 led by William Spiers Bruce. Six men would have lived in this hut during the expedition and conditions must have been harsh. From here we walked to the flagpole and signpost at the centre of the base which showed that the base had opened in 1904 and is now the longest continuous manned base in Antarctica.

The first building we went in was the original Argentinean base which is now a little museum with rooms re-constructed to remind us of what life might have been like there in the past but there were also some ‘interesting’ specimens of penguins which had been preserved in a distinctly ghoulish fashion! It was certainly a memorable step back in time!!

Next stop was the cemetery near to the other side of the isthmus where graves of Argentineans, a Scott, a Swede and even a German could be seen. They were surrounded by Fur seals who were indifferent to the significance of their sleeping site!
Our final stop was to the main base, a warm cosy building where we were offered coffee and mate and had the chance to buy some souvenirs of our visit to the island. The staff on base were very friendly and hospitable and we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit to their home, home for only another weeks before they sail home to the mainland of Argentina.

As soon as we came on board, we started our navigation towards Antarctica. The horizon was strewed with dozens of icebergs, many of them having a characteristic tabular shape. The weather was good, with some clear sky and no wind, so many went on outside decks to watch those huge mass of clear ice and snow.

After a good nap for some, Tobias gave us a lecture on Antarctica's geology, explaining how it was formed of a big very old continental plate and a kind of assembly of several small plates being adjoined much more recently. Meanwhile Ralf was explaining to our German guests how he supplies a ship for a long cruise such as this and provides three meals a day for over 150 passengers and crew. After this lecture, the bridge told us that some whale blows were spotted ahead of Plancius. For several hours, we saw many small groups of Fin whales and Humpback whales surfacing and diving in search of food, likely a big krill swarm. At several occasions, we passed by them at a close distance. Later on there was time for a re-cap with a difference it was time a session of questions written by passengers and answered by staff. Among serious questions, a few were more silly, like "Is crew sleeping ashore?"

As yesterday, we had some birthdays on board so the lounge was decorated with balloons and garlands and many of us went there after dinner to share a good moment together.

Point Wild, Elephant Island.
  • Date: 28.01.2016
  • Position: 061°00’ S / 051°55’ W
  • Wind: E 3
  • Weather: Snow
  • Air Temperature: +1°C

A fantastic day again! It started out quite calm, but still exciting since we were steering straight towards the eastern shores of Elephant Island. It is a place where many of the crew and the guides had never been able to set foot, even after many tries so anticipation was high from staff as well as passengers! Weather conditions were good once again and there was time, after breakfast to enjoy some fresh air out on deck.

During the morning we were entertained on board in many different ways: a penguin lecture by Ali, who taught us all about these fascinating birds. Their breeding behavior, what they eat and what they look like. It was nice to get some more perspective on the life of these birds having seen so many in South Georgia and the Falklands and anticipating seeing the Antarctic species in the coming days.

After Ali’s presentations we also got the chance once again to vacuum our outer clothing so we would not take any invasive species with us from South Georgia, to the untouched continent of Antarctica. Did you remember to take all the rats out of your pocket??!
Just before lunch we started to see Clarence Island on the horizon and shortly afterwards the dramatic coastline of Elephant Island itself came into view with Cornwallis Island on our Port side. All along the coast of these islands there were whales, mainly Fin whales but occasional Humpback whales too. Our goal was Point Wild and, in the afternoon we arrived there, at the place where Shackleton and his men ended up after rowing with their three life boats from the ship Endurance, which sank in the Weddell Sea. The majority of the men were left here while Shackleton took 4 others on the boat the James Caird to sail to South Georgia, raise the alarm and organise the rescue of his men. What an incredible feat to sail there in 16 days in a small life boat, to cross the island of South Georgia and then get a ship from Stromness to collect his men from Elephant Island again.

We were fortunate enough to have almost no wind, so it seemed like a landing would be possible. The first landing site was tricky, full of brash ice close to shore and quite a big swell coming from the open ocean. We managed to get a few of people on shore before we had to change the landing site to the other side. It is a privilege to be able to set foot on such a historic place, full of Chinstrap penguins, male Antarctic Fur Seals and, in the midst of it all, a statue of Captain Pardo who was in command of the ship Yelcho that rescued Shackleton’s men from this unlikely, remote place. It was hard to imagine what it must have been like for Shackleton’s men left here not knowing if he would return but having to have absolute faith that he would return. The point itself is named after Frank Wild, Shackleton’s ‘right hand man’ who he trusted implicitly to take charge of the men left here and maintain moral even as hope and belief must have wavered at times.

With space being so limited on this narrow rocky piece of land half of the passengers went ashore while the other half were offered a Zodiac cruise towards the huge tabular ice bergs that was stranded close to Elephant Island. It turned out to be a real highlight as the sea was full of Fin whales, the world’s second biggest whale. Some of us got a very close look, sometimes a bit too close for comfort as these huge animals surfaced just next to our Zodiacs! There must have been plenty of food for all in the sea because the waters were teeming with life, Chinstrap penguins, Giant petrels and Cape petrels.

After 90 minutes or so the two groups swapped over and everyone was able to experience the best that Elephant Island and, more importantly Point Wild had to offer.
It was nice to come on board to warm up and have something warm to drink before yet another tasty dinner was served, all prepared by Ralph and the rest of the chefs in the galley. We still had calm seas all around us as we continued towards the Peninsula, and maybe, just maybe, setting foot on “the 7th continent” tomorrow.

Hope Bay, Antarctica.
  • Date: 29.01.2016
  • Position: 062°43’ S / 056°57’ W
  • Wind: NNW 5
  • Weather: Rain
  • Air Temperature: +2°C

Once again we were blessed with calm seas with just 20 knots of wind following us down towards the Antarctic Peninsula. Jim made the wake-up call in his usual cheery manner which set us all up for another great day on board the little blue ship!
After breakfast there was time to enjoy some fresh air out on deck although clear views were not on the agenda this morning as it was slightly foggy and very grey but there were a few passing icebergs and occasional seabirds flying past.

At 10:00 the morning presentation programme began with two history stories from Andreas and Christian to give us an insight into the expeditions that took place here over 100 years ago. Andreas explained about the Nordenskjöld Expedition which visited the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula in Antarctic Sound in 1902. It was a complicated tale of parties separated, groups stranded and incredible reunions in this remote corner of Antarctica. Three of the party ended up stranded in Hope Bay and it was this region that we were passing through on the way to Brown Bluff.

As we entered Antarctic Sound the fog and low cloud lifted for a short time and we caught our first glimpse of the continent itself for the very first time. Glaciers streamed down from the top of the mountains and nunataks, the tops of mountain peaks could be seen standing up above the ice fields. It was an incredible sight which we soaked up before the cloud level dropped once again to hide the views.

On our way to Brown Bluff we passed by the large Argentinean Base of Esperanza where a small community has been established over the years with families living there for a year at a time and children attending the little school there. On arrival at Brown Bluff we could see, even from some distance away that access to the beach was completely blocked by ice so the Captain turned the ship around and we headed back towards Hope Bay.

While we were enjoying lunch Jim, with some Spanish translation from Andreas, spoke to the Base Commander at Esperanza as a matter of courtesy to sail into the bay and conduct a Zodiac cruise and landing. Permission was given and we sailed further into Hope Bay to see what we could find for the afternoon.

The wind dropped and there was some sunshine and before too long a plan was hatched and we found ourselves going ashore beside an Adélie penguin colony on the continent of Antarctica. As soon as we stepped ashore we found ourselves almost surrounded by penguins busily going to and from the sea. We had to stand and wait as they passed by on their penguin highways which would lead up the rocky hills to the colonies above.

A short walk along the shore to the right took us to some Gentoo penguins while a walk along to the left took us to the edge of the Adélie colony where many of us stood for hours watching the antics of the chicks and, indeed the adults. Pairs of chicks were seen chasing their parents in order to get fed, chicks were nosing around the ice that was washed up along the shore and adults were coming and going along the beach. It was a fantastic afternoon with plenty of time to just sit and watch and smile.

Later in the afternoon we were offered a Zodiac cruise up the fjord to see what could be fond hauled out on the ice. We had already seen an Adélie penguin with a nasty neck wound, probably from a Leopard seal and sure enough, lying on an ice floe was a large, female Leopard seal. It was something many of us had been really hoping to see on this voyage and it was worth the wait as she was a beauty, sleepy but still an awesome looking predator.
The afternoon had to come to an end at some point and it was with reluctance (staff included) that we made our way back to the ship once again.

There was time before dinner for a re-cap so Jim outlined plans for the coming days, Ali talked about Krill and its place in the marine food web and Christian gave some Antarctic Treaty anecdotes. Another busy day which ended with another fabulous meal from Head Chef Ralf and his galley team.

Cierva Cove, Portal Point & Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica
  • Date: 30.01.2016
  • Position: 063°58’ S / 060°54’ W
  • Wind: ENE 4
  • Weather: Snow
  • Air Temperature: +1°C

All night long we sailed south-westward along Antarctic Peninsula and into the northern reaches of the Gerlache Strait. There had been some movement during the night and as Jim made the wake-up call we heard that the wind was blowing at around 25 knots which was certainly not what we wanted for our day in Antarctica. Visibility wasn’t great with low cloud and fog obscuring the mountains but we glimpsed occasional icebergs to remind us that we were indeed in Antarctica.

During breakfast as we were approaching Cierva Cove, aiming to do there a Zodiac cruise, the weather was windy and snowy. As we sailed into the bay a message came from the Bridge that some Killer whales, Orca had been spotted ahead of Plancius. We all put on warm clothes and grabbed our cameras to watch them from outside decks. It was a pod of about 10 animals, with 2 big males, some females and also a few young ones. For half an hour, Captain Alexey manoeuvred cleverly to give us a good view on this fantastic animals. They didn’t seem at all concerned by our presence and stayed fairly close to the ship giving us all a real thrill whether we were observing from the chilly outer decks or from the warmth and comfort of the Lounge and Bridge. After this exciting and unexpected experience we turned further into Cierva Cove but it soon became very clear that conditions were no better even away from the exposed waters of the Gerlache Strait. Jim announced that weather conditions were too windy and rough to do the planned Zodiac cruise and that we were going to continue on our way to Portal Point which was our second scheduled location for the day. We hoped we would find better conditions there for an activity. As this was going to take a few hours, Ali showed us an episode of Frozen Planet in the Lounge before lunch. This first episode in the series showed Gentoo penguins and Sea lions in the Falklands and also Killer whales hunting Weddell seals in Antarctica.

We arrived just before lunch at Portal Point in Charlotte Bay. Sadly, as this morning, there was more than 30 knots of wind and it was not possible to do any Zodiac Operation. By now we were onto Jim's plan C which was to go further South in Wilhelmina Bay so we sailed during lunch arriving during the middle of the afternoon. Why come here? Well, this area is a favourite feeding ground for Humpback whales during the summer months and we hoped we might find one or two in the area. Very quickly a call came from the Bridge that some whales had been spotted. Conditions this time were better. There was not so much wind and although it was pouring with rain Jim organised a Zodiac cruise for those people who wanted to brave the elements and head out in the boats.
Even as we were waiting for the Zodiacs to be launched we could see whales all around and once loaded into the Zodiacs, we were able to set off to make a gentle approach to some whales. There were many of them in all directions, coming to breathe and diving, showing superbly their tail flukes. After one hour of cruising, the rain stopped and it was less unpleasant to stay in the cold. The whales were still showing all around the Zodiacs and in some cases coming to breath very close to us, not disturbed by our presence. After two hours that passed by in a flash with numerous close encounters we came back on board, chilled but with many emotive souvenirs in mind.

Once warmed up on board, we were invited to the Lounge where we had our traditional re-cap and briefing with tomorrow's plans from Jim and some information about Killer whales from Beau.
What an extraordinary day of tales of whales!

Deception Island, South Shetland Islands
  • Date: 31.01.2016
  • Position: 063°01’ S / 060°31’ W
  • Wind: W 3
  • Weather: cloudy
  • Air Temperature: +8°C

The last day of expedition on our adventurous trip around the Southern Ocean. We were woken up by our Expedition Leaders soft voice (‘Good morning everyone, good morning’) at 05:00 to get ready for yet another early morning landing. We gulped down a Danish pastry and a cup of coffee before we sailed through Neptune’s Bellows, the 250 m wide gap making it possible to sail into the caldera of Deception Island. We had to be silent on the Bridge to ensure the Captain had full concentration to avoid the notorious Raven Rock which is situated in the middle of the channel. Directly at our right was Whalers Bay where we landed at a long, steaming sandy beach and where we could find remains from the whaling station. Could anyone guess what the metal construction at the beach was?

It was a cold windy morning which seemed to add to the desolation of the place but it seemed to create the right atmosphere for the island which is made up of black volcanic ash and rock. Most of us took a wander around the buildings of the station as far as the hanger and up to the cemetery and others took the opportunity for a leg stretch and walked the length of the beach. Along the way there were old water boats and the ruins of barrels and at the end of the beach a few Chinstrap penguins were resting on the shore.

After a two hour landing here we continues further into the protected caldera, to a geologically interesting place called Telefon Bay, we got another leg stretch and after about 500 metres we came up to the rim of a crater from a quite recent volcanic eruption. Those of us feeling even more energetic could go even higher up to get a good view across the whole bay, even though the fog sometimes blocked it. On then way down we could walk along the beach and say hello to two of the local Weddell seals. This beautiful little seal made wildlife spotting very easy, since they don’t seem to care at all how close you get to them. Even at 5 metres distance they just look at you. According to the scientists doing seal research this is the species of Antarctic seals that they have done the most research on since you can actually just walk up to them take a blood sample or measure the size of it without tranquilizing it!
Before going back to the ship we had two brave souls taking the Polar Plunge in the chilly waters of the bay so well done to Ian and Larissa!

It cleared up a bit and calmed down a bit as we were steering out of the caldera again heading this time for our final destination of the trip, Ushuaia. It had been an early wake-up call so there was a mandatory after lunch nap, before we could do anything else! But then our schedule of interesting talks started again. This time it was Ralf who gave his talk on how to feed 150 hungry explorers for 3 weeks in a row without running out of fresh tomatoes. Tobias also presented his lecture about the geology of the Antarctica. Given that so much of the frozen continent is covered by ice it is interesting to see what lies beneath the ice and how this remnant of the super continent of Gondwanaland was formed 500 million years ago and drifted to this current position. Later it was the turn of Jim, who gave a talk about his own book about the Shackleton’s interest for poetry and the influence it had on his life as a polar explorer.

We finished off the day with a gathering in the lounge to reveal what that thing on the beach in Whaler’s Bay really was (a floating dock!) and Gerard talked about how the big the ice bergs we are seeing really are underneath the surface.
Some people were beginning to feel the effects of the increased motion of the ship as we made our way out into the Drake Passage but it was still busy in the dining room as we all reflected on the voyage.

Drake Passage en-route to Ushuaia
  • Date: 01.02.2016
  • Position: 060°14’ S / 063°57’ W
  • Wind: WSW 4
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +2°C

It had been a bit of an uncomfortable night on board with some big swells and p0lenty of rocking and rolling as we made our way across the Drake Passage. This was the first time we had experienced any real motion on the ship so pills and patches were dispensed and slowly life on board began to feel a little better.

After breakfast the first presentation of the day was from Tobias who explained about the optical phenomena that are often found in the polar regions such as sun dogs, ice halos and fogbows. We will look to the skies with a better understanding of what is happening in the atmosphere above.

The rest of the morning passed quietly with most people catching up on rest in their cabins or downloading photos on laptops or reading. It was a bit of a wet uncomfortable morning to be out on deck so indoor time was certainly the best way to pass the morning.
Lunch was a pizza feast, perfect food for a day on a moving ship and as the afternoon wore on conditions outside began to improve and the movement of the ship subsided which was a welcome relief for some. There was a call from the Bridge during the afternoon that some Hourglass dolphins had been spotted passing by the front of Plancius but these fast moving dolphins didn’t seem keen to stay and bow ride so we soon lost sight of them in the swell and waves.

Later in the afternoon Gerard invited us to the Lounge to hear more about the Southern Ocean dynamics and it was fascinating to hear all about the sea were travelling through and about the complicated food web of the animals that call this stretch of water home.
By this time the skies were clearing and conditions both inside and outside the ship were much improved and with a few more birds around the ship, Grey headed albatross and Black browed albatross it was altogether a much nicer Drake Passage.

At 5:30 we were invited to the Lounge for the Plancius pub quiz and once we were arranged into teams the questions, ably put together and presented by Ali, could begin. With question rounds about the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica as well as a ship trip round there was plenty of bran wracking going on throughout the lounge as we tried to remember how many islands were in the Falklands (778) and what the highest peak was in South Georgia (Mt Paget). There was some ‘assisted’ answering going on but for the final picture round no books or notebooks were going to help identify the penguins, birds and seals and the sounds round was a real challenge for everyone!

With drinks and cocktails flowing it was a great evening in the bar but the eventual winners were Die 8 Polar Penguins who were gifted a bottle of Moet champagne although it later turned out that they were referring to notebooks throughout so maybe the honours should have gone to The Antarctic Shags who came second!

At the end of the quiz Robert, our Hotel Manager had another charity auction for the last can of Tonic to be found on board Plancius. The funds were raised for the crew welfare fund and raised 50 euros so thank you very much for the bids and enjoy the G&T!
Dinner was once again a lively affair with fabulous toothfish cheeks from the Falkland Islands. Another great day on board the ship and in the Drake Passage which was marked by a beautiful sunset.

Drake Passage en-route to Ushuaia
  • Date: 02.02.2016
  • Position: 056°16’S / 067°06’W
  • Wind: ENE 5
  • Weather: Overcast
  • Air Temperature: +3°C

This morning we were woken with the news that we were making very good progress and were able to see Cape Horn ahead of us. The plan was to ask permission from the Chilean coast guards to approach with the 12 mile limit for a closer look.
The wind had increased a little since yesterday but the big oceanic swells had disappeared so we were able to go out on deck to take photos of our approach to Cape Horn. As we reached the 12 mile limit Andreas spoke to the Chilean Navy on our behalf to ask for permission to go closer to land. A 3 mile limit was granted and we continued onwards towards the cape with Black browed albatross following in our wake. As we reached our 3 mile position we could see the Naval base on the right side of the headland and near to it the Cape Horn monument, a metal sculpture of an albatross, the iconic ocean wanderer at the end of the continent of South America. We stayed a while to take in the view and try to imagine the conditions here in a big storm and the struggle that sailing ships would have had in the past to round the horn against the prevailing winds.

Then we turned around and continued on our way towards the entrance to the Beagle Channel and our final navigation towards Ushuaia. This detour had been well worth it.
At 10:30 Ali invited us to the lounge for her presentation entitled Ice Maidens; Women in Antarctica and with the sound of James Brown, Man’s World as an introduction it was a lively start. She talked about the wives of Shackleton and Scott and of many of the other women who have left their mark in Antarctica for a variety of reasons. It was nice to hear a different aspect of this frozen continent after science and optical phenomena.

Shortly after Ali had concluded her talk we were invited down to the Boot Room to return our rubber boots. They have kept our feet warm and dry (mostly!) and with only a dry landing ahead it was time to hand them back.
By the time we were finished with boots it was time for lunch – our last lunch on board the good ship Plancius. After lunch it was time to settle our on board accounts with Robert and Sava. Sadly all those drinks from Cecille’s bar and souvenirs from the ‘Ship Shop’ have to be paid for at some point and with this, the last afternoon of our voyage it was time to find credit cards, Euros and Dollars from depths of our cabins and settle up.

During the afternoon we were joined by some Peale’s dolphins that gave us a great show by the bow of the ship, jumping out of the air riding the bow waves. Great fun for all!
The last presentation of the voyage was from Jim and Ali who outlined some of the other Oceanwide trips that are on offer on board Plancius and the other ships such as Ortelius and Rembrant.

Re-cap included a Pre-cap from Jim, with information about our disembarkation in Ushuaia in the morning and a chance to look back on our voyage with a short photo presentation that Ali had put together for us. It was so lovely to look back over the 19 days on board Plancius travelling to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica and it gave us all time to reflect on some amazing experiences in some very special places.

With Captain’s Cocktails it was a chance to toast our voyage and the many people who have made this trip such a success, from the Captain himself and his deck crew to the Expedition staff, to the members of the hotel department, those in the engine room and even the laundry staff. It has been a team effort and as a result a successful and enjoyable voyage. Cheers everyone!

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
  • Date: 03.02.2016

Today is disembarkation day in Ushuaia. Coming alongside, we were boarded by the Argentine officials who cleared our vessel and allowed us to disembark. On the pier we bade farewell to many of the friends we have come to know over the past 19 days, and had one last look at the Plancius, the ship that took us safely on such an incredible voyage from Ushuaia to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. This trip will last us a lifetime – in our memories, our imaginations, and in our dreams.

Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage:
Nautical miles: 3537 nm
Kilometres: 6550 km

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Nazarov, Expedition Leader Jim Mayer and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Ship info

Cabin

m/v Plancius

The ice-strengthened vessel Plancius is an ideal vessel for polar expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Full ship info

Details

Tripcode:PLA27-16

Dates:16 Jan – 3 Feb, 2016

Duration:18 nights

Ship:m/v Plancius

Embark:Ushuaia

Disembark:Ushuaia

Trip log in PDF

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