|Position:||054°48.52’S / 068°18’W|
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.