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PLA27-20, trip log, Antarctica Peninsula and South Shetlands Islands

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 09.01.2020
Position: Ushuaia Port

We spent days dreaming about our voyage to come, hours shopping, reading, preparing logistics, excitedly chatting with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about our atypical trip choice, then spent hours, days, traveling by planes, cars, buses… Finally, we got our first glimpse of Plancius. She awaited us quietly amongst other expedition ships –smallest, but fiercest. Her bright blue hull contrasted with the grey waters of the Beagle channel, and we proudly boarded the ship, greeted by a warm “welcome onboard!” of crewmembers that took care of our luggage and showed us the way to our cabins.

We readily started exploring the ship, striding along corridors and decks, excited like kids discovering a new playground. We rapidly found our way to the restaurant, the reception, the bridge, or the observatory lounge. We gathered in the latter for a mandatory security briefing given by our chief officer, François. Plancius negotiated a tricky exit of the pier and a U-turn. As she started to head down the Beagle channel, we complied to the drill, necessary simulation of the ship’s evacuation in case of an emergency. We then enjoyed a brief presentation of life onboard by our hotel manager Zsuzsanna, and were introduced to the ship’s captain, Evgeny Levakov, a tall Russian man who has been sailing polar regions for the past 25 years, and the expedition team. Our expedition leader David is from the Canada. Before working onboard expedition ships, he used to be a mountaineer guide. Daniel, from Germany, is David’s assistant. Mainly based in Iceland, Daniel spends most of his time working as a naturalist guide all over the world. The rest of the team is composed of Andreas, glaciologist from Germany; Règis, French researcher and bird specialist; Johanne, oceanographer from Norway; Chlòe, from France but based in Norway where she works as guide and diving instructor; Michael, from UK where he works as diving guide and Polar guide; Helene, from Marseille, France, where she work with sea birds and Alexis, kayak guide, who settled in a small mountain village in Argentina, veterinarian surgeon and owner of a kayak and trekking company at Villa La Angostura, Nahuel Huapi National Park. What an international team! All its members are “bipolar”: these passionate fellows, badly infected by the infamous polar virus, spend most of their time hopping from one pole to the other!

We are also informed that despite weather forecast announcing a rather smooth Drake passage, Idris, the ship’s doctor, will stick around after dinner to distribute sea sickness pills. Debates ensues: to take medicine, or not to take medicine? That is the question.

Day 2: At Sea towards the Antarctica Peninsula

At Sea towards the Antarctica Peninsula
Date: 10.01.2020
Position: 56º 50.5’S / 065º 28.5’ W
Wind: SW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +9

Drake lake or Drake shake…?

Who said sailing to Antarctica will be easy…? We woke up to fairly calm seas even though we expected a big storm. The keen ones of us were already up and around when Dave made the first wake-up call of the voyage, but for those of us still being gently rocked in our beds it was time to get up and see what the day would bring. Smooth sailing gave us the opportunity to find our sea legs as the Drake was not fully awake yet for our first day onboard. A few Cape Petrels, Fulmars and Giant Petrels were gliding around the ship. Birds habitually follow ships at sea looking for food brought up to the surface by the wake, but also to enjoy the uplift created by our passing ship.

At 09:30 am we were invited to the library for the kayaking briefing hosted by Alexis. He gave a thorough explanation of the equipment we will need and use and the type of conditions and skill level needed for different trips during the morning and in the afternoon during the entire journey. The excitement of Antarctica started to fill the room. That was followed by Seabirds lecture presented by Règis.

As we sailed further south, the Drake started to wake up. A North West swell of about 2,5 meters started to test the sailor in all of us. After the lunch was served we enjoyed the company of new friends and start to know more of the background of some of the guides during that time. The Drake shake is living up to its name.

In the afternoon, Helene gave us an interesting talk about Invasive species and their impact on the Islands.

Finnally we issue boots at the boot room and conducted a rental gear swap… Everything almost ready for the next days!

Recap of the day was hosted by David before we headed for another delicious dinner. The ship kept rolling throughout the night and as we snuggled into bed for our second night onboard.

Day 3: At Sea towards the Antarctica Peninsula

At Sea towards the Antarctica Peninsula
Date: 11.01.2020
Position: 62º 25.5’S / 62º 58.8’ W
Wind: NE
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

This morning we woke up to the ship moving from side to side, which we were told were fairly “calm” waters for the Drake. Some passengers were waiting for stormy conditions. Some were quite happy with the situation…

After breakfast, we met in the lounge for a mandatory safety briefing. Our Expedition leader, David shown us how to wear the lifejackets for the zodiac cruises and how to get on and off the zodiacs down the gangway. Something we were looking forward to do after the long crossing.

In preparation for Antarctica we filed into the lounge to learn about environmental awareness and correct behaviour in Antarctica - no food ashore, clean your boots, and keep your distance from the penguins.
The theory was followed by practice as we had to vacuum our outer clothes, backpacks and camera bags. Expedition staff members were on hand to help and advice how to rid our gear from seeds and dirt. With numerous vacuum cleaners going at once in the lounge it was noisy but fast.

During the day we enjoyed wonderful views of various sea birds as they accompanied the ship on its way, including Cape Petrels, Fulmars, Giant Petrels, Black-browed Albatross and the largest of all, the Wandering Albatross.
In the afternoon, Michael gave us a great introduction to camping, preparing ourselves to do our best to our first Antarctic camping experience. Helene talked about The French explorer, Jean Baptiste Charcot, his life and his achievements; Chloe about drifting life in the oceans.

Day 4: Errera Channel - Cuverville Island – Danco Island

Errera Channel - Cuverville Island – Danco Island
Date: 12.01.2020
Position: 64º 43.469’S / 062º 37.058 ’ W
Wind: Calm
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +9

This morning we made our first landing in Antarctica at Cuverville Island. We were all mesmerised by the Gentoo penguin breeding on the beach. The scenery was beautiful with high mountains on all sides of the island. The sea was very blue and clear so clear we could see Salp in the water and penguin approaching the beach, Too soon it was time to head to the ship for lunch but as we walked along the beach back to the zodiacs we past many remnants of the old whaling day with bones on the beach.

In the afternoon we landed at Danco Island just like this morning a beautiful place again with many penguin and Skua looking to take advantage of an lapses in concentration. The chicks here were very cute as the begged food from their parents. Too soon we had to return to the ship.

Some of us returned to the shore to spend the night on the ice for a night of camping the light was amazing and whilst it was chilly it was a comfortable night punctuated by Weddell Seal singing on the rocks on the beach. We campers returned to the ship at 5am for a well earned breakfast ready for another day of adventures.

Back on board, it was time to share our first feelings about our first Antarctic day. David gave us more details to prepare the next day and it was already dinner time.

Day 5: Neko Harbour – Port Lockroy

Neko Harbour – Port Lockroy
Date: 13.01.2020
Position: 64º 42,45’S / 063º 08,0 W
Wind: WNW
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

At 8’o clock everybody was ready at the gangway. Some campers came onboard early this morning, after a nice fresh night at Kerr point.
This morning, we headed in direction of Neko Harbour. The landscape was wonderful, we were surrounded by glaciers and high cliffs of snow.

We first arrived on an island and directly started with a nice walk up in the snow to a plateau. Many gentoo penguins were nesting here, and most of them were lying on an egg, but some of them were also protecting their little chicks. We had to watch out when crossing the penguin highways, they always had the priority!

We continued the ascend towards a flat area with an amazing view of the glaciers. An extraordinary show happened in front of us, when a big piece of ice broke loose and fell from the glacier to the sea, creating a big wave. During this time, some of us were doing a short cruise in zodiacs to enjoy the show of humpback whales and had to take caution for the waves. We were then are back at the ship for the lunch.

In the afternoon we did a landing on Port Lockroy Island, an old English station, where still, few people live. They propose a postal service, the southernmost in the world. We visited a small interesting museum, showing the old way of life in these stations in the 1950s. Outside the old building there was a nice colony of gentoo penguins nesting. We enjoyed the view of the big chicks, very cute. Two giant petrels were also resting on the end of the island.

Then, again we took the zodiacs for a very short trip to Jougla island, very closed by. This island also hosts a colony of gentoo penguins. A small group of chinstrap penguins took a rest on a rock. In the centre of the island we could see a whale’s skeleton and many remaining old whale bones. The whale had probably been stranded onshore a long time ago. Between the rocks we could also see a weddel seal.
After this day full of adventures and discoveries, we had a nice barbecue time outside on the back deck.

Day 6: Peterman Island – Pleneau Island

Peterman Island – Pleneau Island
Date: 14.01.2020
Position: 65 12,1’ S / 64 08,3 ‘ W
Wind: Calm
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

The wake-up call was early this morning. But that for a good reason. At 7 AM we were sailing through the Lemaire Channel. What a spectacular sight. Once through it felt like arriving in Antarctica for real. Glacier covered mountains, dark rocks and a cold wind in a bay full of icebergs.

Our first landing of the day took us to Peterman Island. The place where J.B. Charcot once overwintered during his Pourquoi pas expedition. Nowadays there is a small Argentinian refugee hut on the island and lots of penguins, of course. Both Adelie and Gentoo penguins call this desolated place their home. We were rewarded with wonderful views down on the iceberg alley and lots of small penguin chicks. A good morning.

In the afternoon, our ship positioned only slightly and we went for a Zodiac cruise around Pleneau island into the iceberg alley. Magnificent icebergs of all sizes, colors and shapes were waiting for us. But not only that.
Leopard seals were resting on ice pieces, as well as Crabeater seals. A lonely Weddel seal came to check out one of the Zodiacs and penguins were swimming through the water.

A few whales were spotted as well. After this interesting Zodiac cruise, we went back to the ship for the daily recap before dinner.
The recap was however interrupted by some special effects and we were lucky to observe several Orcas swimming close to the Plancius. Just another day in Antarctica.

Day 7: Wilhemina Bay –D’Hainault Island and Mikkelsen Harbour

Wilhemina Bay –D’Hainault Island and Mikkelsen Harbour
Date: 15.01.2020
Position: 64 26.6 S / 61 51,6 W
Wind: no wind
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

As usual we woke up by the voice of David´s wakeup call in English and French. We arrived the scenic area of Wilhemina Bay early in the morning. It was very calm outside and the sea looked like a mirror.

The plan was to go on a very early Zodiac cruise before breakfast. Half of us signed up for this special morning experience the night before. The rest of us was then ready after breakfast to go out and enjoy the silence of Wilhelmina Bay.

After a cup of coffee, we were ready to go and it was an amazing morning. The Zodiacs spread out and went in different directions to have a look for nice shaped and colored icebergs and of course whales and other wildlife. And

it was a very successful cruise. All boats had close whale sightigns and some of us saw three different types of seals very close. Leopard Seal, Weddell Seal and Crabeater Seals… It was georgous. Far away from our little home Plancius the drivers of our Zodiacs turned the engines off and we experienced an Antarctic silent moment. No talking, no cameras… For most of us it was a very emotional moment to hear just the sound of nature. How the air bubbles melt out of the icebergs and make a remarkable sound, the whale blows in the distance… To sit there in the middle of nowhere was unique. Later on, fog came down from the mountains into Wilhelmina bay and the visibility got poor during the second “after breakfast group”.

So it was time to head back to the ship and get warm again after a long and nice morning on the boats.
Due to our plans for the afternoon there was no rush on the ship. It should be six hours sailing in between our two activities of the day. So we all had a nice warm shower and a good cup of coffee and tea in between. In the meantime the Expedition team gave us some nice presentations about intelligent birds, glaciers and more life in the wide and open seas. After lunch it became very quiet on the ship. We all went to our cabins for a good long afternoon snooze before our next landing.

In the late afternoon then we arrived at Mikkelsen Harbour. Our planned afternoon landing. The weather was still perfect for the activity and shortly after the small island was in sight the Anker of Plancius was dropped. Time to get ready again. The Zodiacs were on the water already as we came to the gangway.

Our landing was on D´Hainaut Island. The Island is situated in Mikkelsen Harbour a 3km wide bay, lined with stunning ice cliffs, intending the south side of Trinity Island between Skottsberg and Borge Point. As we arrived on the little island we had the opportunity to explore an Argentine refuge hut, a lot of whale bones bleached by the sun and dry air of Antarctica. Remains of the old whaling days and a reminder of a dark era. We also saw an old waterboat that was used for hunting the whales. These small boats were launched from the bigger ships to harpoon the whales from a close distance.

On the little hills of the island we saw a lot of Gentoo Penguins taking care of the big and fat chicks. Hauling out on the beach part we came very close to a young Elephant Seal and some Wedell Seals. In the cold air we could even see the steam coming up from the Seal´s fur as they must be very warm from the inside. It was hard to turn back to the ship and leave this beautiful place behind on our second last day of landings in Antarctica. But we had to go and the ship´s Crew was already preparing the ship for an overnight sail to the South Shetland Islands where we should have our last excursion day of this voyage. After the daily recap and a rich dinner most of us went to bed very tired as we were up since the early morning but so happy about this beautiful day full of special and very individual moments.

Day 8: South Shetlands Islands Half Moon Island – Barrientos Island

South Shetlands Islands Half Moon Island – Barrientos Island
Date: 16.01.2020
Position: 62º 34,6’S / 59º 42,5’ W
Wind: Variable
Weather: cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

The morning started off at normal times today and hopefully we had all recovered a bit from yesterday’s early morning and amazing sights of orcas and humpback whales.

A nice breakfast was waiting in the restaurant to fuel us for the last day of exploration. We now found ourselves in South Shetland Islands, further north of the Antarctic Peninsula. We were going ashore on a small rocky island with interesting rock formations and terrain. Here colonies of Chinstrap penguins were nesting, a third species of penguins we were now getting to know. Gentoo penguins were also present along the beach, but further up the steep rocky hills Chinstrap penguins were crossing in rocky penguin highways. As we approached closer to a larger colony, we could observe the dynamics of the penguins as they nest together very close to each other.

Chicks were protected by the parents and every now and then several penguins would raise their beaks to produce a huge spectacle of noise. Suddenly, one penguin in the very middle of them all revealed itself as quite different to the others with yellow hair on either side of the head, it was a Macaroni penguin, nicely sleeping with its beak under its wind. Also, this landing came to an end and we made our way back to the ship for lunch. In this bay the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, was accompanying us this morning with the aim to perform some research including micro plastic pollution in the ocean and influence on the animals living here.

To celebrate life and became real Ambassadors, many of us did the Polar Plunge!

After lunch we had moved to a different location. Outside the sun was shining and a barren landscape with hints of green vegetation could be seen. The lack of ice and snow and stronger winds revealed that we were now further north out into the sea. Ashore, once again we could enjoy colonies of Chinstrap penguins nesting, with quite large chicks jumping around. Among the penguins, a Fur seal revealed itself now and then putting its head up to check us out, seemingly enjoying the company of its smaller friends.

Some Gentoo penguins were also to be seen walking around on the beach always making some sort of show for us as they came in and out of the water. We could also enjoy the sight of some Elephant seals were resting quietly along the beach. As the wind started to pick up, we had to slowly move back to the landing site in order to get back to the ship before the conditions worsened. In lovely sunshine and sparkling water we said goodbye to this extraordinary place and set course out to the Drake Passage and open waters again for our journey back to civilization.

Day 9: At Sea towards Ushuaia

At Sea towards Ushuaia
Date: 17.01.2020
Position: 59o03, 8’S / 62o53.7’W
Wind: NE
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

While we sail back accross the Drake Passage, life onboard takes a new pace. No more early wake up call. No more rush in the corridors with life jackets and bags for a landing. Today, while Plancius slowly moves, the expedition team prepared a serie of lectures.

In the morning, Andreas tell us more about ice, Antarctica and global warming.

In the afternoon, Michael describes the underwater life in the Southern Ocean.

Later, while sea gets rougher, Alexis dressed as a gaucho, explains how to make a good mate. He shows us accessories and presents this part of Argentine culture, after what curious passengers can even taste this traditional drink.

It's then time for the daily recap. David explains the planning for tomorrow and gives us a few words about our disembarkation the day after. Weather forecast shows a rougher sea for tomorrow … Then Andreas talks about some incredible secrets of penguins life !

During the dinner, our Hotel Manager introduces the Galley and Cleaning teams. A good way to discover hidden staff and important jobs for onboard life.

Day 10: At sea towards Ushuaia

At sea towards Ushuaia
Date: 18.01.2020
Position: 55º 06.9’S / 062º 31.9’ W
Wind: W
Weather: Partly clouded
Air Temperature: +12

The morning had quite a subdued atmosphere on board, as people perused their photos and quietly chattered and reflected over what an incredible trip they had had and how lucky we had been with weather and sightings. The wildlife, glaciers, weather and personal experiences were only really just starting to filter through as our reflection on what we had just seen and done finally hit home.

We were given a number of updates about the expected weather on our transit north – it seemed that whilst the weather was not going to be the “Drake Lake” we had experienced on the way down – the full “ Drake Shake” would not reach us until we were all mostly asleep late in the evening.

The first lecture of the day was given by Johanne, which was about Antarctic Convergions.

As we sailed north, we were again joined by the Antarctic birds – using the ship for a bit of added soaring advantage as they cruise the seas between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. In some cases, it was almost like they were waving the ship goodbye.

Our Lunch was served at the entrance of the Beagle Channel. In calm waters. We are all excited about it, watching the distant scenario of the shore.

The afternoons Lecture was delivered by Regis, was about the penguins of Antarctica. During the afternoon Alexis talked about “The life of the Indigenous of Tierra del Fuego, The Yamanas” during our cruise ship on the Beagle Channel.

After dinner Szuzsanna introduced all the hard working hotel staff that were behind the scenes making all the wonderful meals and ensuring all were passengers were taken care of.

Day 11: Ushuaia- Disembarkation

Ushuaia- Disembarkation
Date: 19.01.2020
Position: Ushuaia Port.

Today we were woken by the last wake-up call from our Expedition Leader David and got ready to disembark in Ushuaia. The last 11 days have taken us on an eye-opening journey to the frozen continent and allowed us a short glimpse into an environment that most will never see. We all had slightly different experiences but whatever the memories, whether it was our first-time onboard zodiacs, hiking in rubber boots, seeing massive ice cliffs or making new friends, they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1671 Nautical miles

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Evgeny Levakov, Expedition Leader David Begg and all the crew and staff, we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home.

Details

Tripcode: PLA27-20
Dates: 9 Jan – 19 Jan, 2020
Duration: 10 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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

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