PLA28-20, trip log, Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 19.01.2020
Position: Ushuaia Port
Wind: WNW 6/7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +12

We had 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. Further, 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 Ali is from the UK. Before working onboard expedition ships, she used to be a schoolteacher and member of the conservation department in the Falkland Islands for 15 years! Michael, also from UK, is Ali’s assistant. He mainly works as diving guide and Polar guide. The rest of the team is composed of Andreas, glaciologist from Germany currently living in Norway, he will also be translating to German on this trip; Règis, French researcher and bird specialist; Johanne, oceanographer from Norway; Chloé, from France but based in Norway where she works as guide and diving instructor; Hélène, from Marseille, France, where she works with sea birds; Joselyn, a botanist and ecologist from the USA and Nicole, a landscape ecologist based in Germany and Netherlands. 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! After dinner Ninette, the ship’s doctor, was available in the Lounge 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 Falkland Islands

At Sea towards the Falkland Islands
Date: 20.01.2020
Position: 53º 51.0’S / 063º 52.4’ W
Wind: W 4/5
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +13

We woke up to Ali’s voice wishing us a good morning, and our life at sea had finally begun. Some of us were fit and ready to go outside to enjoy the view of the sea and feel the fresh salty air. Sea birds were flying alongside the ship, surfing the wind. Others were still in bed fighting sea sickness or just getting used to the rocking and moving of the ship. Hopefully by the end of this trip we will be well used to this, maybe even miss it when we arrive home. We were invited to the Lounge for a lecture by Ali, who introduced us to the Falklands Islands. Ali lived and worked in the Falkland Islands for almost 15 years so was the perfect person to give us an introduction into this isolated archipelago that many of us knew little about. She spoke about the history and economy of the islands and some of the flora and fauna we could expect to see. She also told us about what took her to the islands in the first place and some of her experiences as a travelling teacher on the remote farms of the Falkland Islands. Ali continued the talking a bit more, with the mandatory Zodiac briefing which gave an overview of our Zodiac operations and how we should embark and disembark the small rubber boats both at the gangway on the ship and on shore. After which we headed downstairs to collect our rubber boots to get ready for our wet landings. The staff were on hand to ensure we all got the correct sizes and were ready for our first landing in the morning.

Day 3: Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands
Date: 21.01.2020
Position: 51º 10.9’S / 060º 03.1’ W
Wind: N 5
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +17

We were woken up earlier this morning as we were sailing through Woolly Gut, a narrow strait, with beautiful green hilly landscape welcoming us to the Falklands Islands. With a good breakfast aboard, we were ready for our very first landing, on the Carcass Island. Here we were shuttled to a beach on one side of the bay to visit a penguin colony followed by a leisurely hike around the bay to a small settlement before returning to the ship. For those of us who wanted to enjoy this amazing place from the settlement had an opportunity to be shuttled straight there. Upon arrival, we quickly noticed the rich wildlife that inhabits these islands. Several birds of different species were welcoming us, some Tussac birds and Cobb’s wren came very close and were busy picking on bits of kelp lying along the beach. Further inland walking in a grassy open landscape there were more species of Falkland Islands birds along the way including Caracaras, Oystercatchers, Upland geese, Crested ducks, Snipes, and Magellanic penguins nesting in their burrows. Everywhere different species of birds were moving around and making their unique noises, quite an experience. We arrived by the Gentoo penguin colony where the chicks were already grown quite large by now, running around after their parents. This is a way the parents are telling them that soon they need to take care of themselves. Passing more birds and Magellan penguins strolling around we had a look along the beach on this side of the island. A lovely white sandy beach where Magellanic penguins were having fun in the small cruising waves. The hike continued along a small path around the bay where we discovered even more species of birds. And when we finally arrived at the settlement, a full table of various cakes and biscuits and coffee and tea were prepared for us. This we knew before hand, but we were still surprised by how lovely it all looked. Jumpers and jackets were taken off, we didn’t expect it to be this warm. In the sunshine with the view of something that looked like palm trees we might as well have been on a tropical vacation. Back on the ship the lunch was served, although we were already a bit full of all the cakes. And on we went to our next location on the program. Due to the wind conditions, Ali decided to change the landing location to West Point, a bay more sheltered for the wind. As we waited by the gangway to be shuttled to shore, we got sight of some Commerson’s dolphins playing around along the ship, they seemed to like the zodiacs and to follow them when they were speeding up. Onshore we walked a short hillside and got a view of a landscape of green vegetation. A short walk in the wind got us to a cliff edge where Black-browed Albatrosses were nesting with their chicks in grey soft down. They were surrounded by rockhopper penguins with their chicks jumping around on the rocks. Another extraordinary sight of activity, albatrosses taking off and flying in circles, sometimes just above our heads. We spent quite some time observing their behaviour and interrelation.

Day 4: Stanley – At sea

Stanley – At sea
Date: 22.01.2020
Position: 51º 41.2’S / 057º 51.1’ W
Wind: W 4
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +14

The sun was shining this morning. At 8:30 everybody was ready for a nice landing in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands. This small city is full of colours. Just after we arrived on the jetty, we were invited to visit the “visitor centre”, where we could find maps and information about Stanley. Then everyone was free to take a walk in the streets. We found the shops and coffee places along the main street that followed the coast line. A bit further we could visit an interesting museum about the history of Stanley and the Falklands. We could see some reconstruction of the inside of the house in the settlement and shops of the beginning of the last century. Upstairs, we could visit the marine and wildlife part of the museum. We realised the size of the animals that we saw around. We saw the jaw of a leopard seal, and elephant seal. Very impressive! Then there was a model of the famous ships that came to Falklands during the last centuries. Then, we came back to the ship for a nice lunch on board. In the afternoon, the ship was now sailing towards South Georgia. We had an impressive lecture by Michael about the war in the Falklands. He explained to us, how he got involved in the conflict between British and Argentinian soldiers as a 20 year old working on a British navy ship. This was his personal story about happen during the year 1982 in the Falklands. Then we continued to look outside and to search for wildlife around the ship or we enjoyed a nice cup of tea before the recap of the day.

Day 5: At Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea towards South Georgia
Date: 23.01.2020
Position: 52º 29.1’ S / 050º 50.5’ W
Wind: NNE 6/7
Weather: Rain
Air Temperature: +7

After a good night’s rest, we woke up at sea once again, on our way to the craggy isle of South Georgia. To help us understand just what was in store, Ali gave a lecture sharing with us an overview of the natural and cultural history of the island with many special insights based on her time working and living on the island. Then we got into some serious business: biosecurity! In order to not bring non-native plants or even potential diseases to the special places we are visiting, we need to be sure all of our gear is free from seeds and dirt before arrival. So, after a briefing by Ali to explain the need and the process, we came in groups to the lounge with all of our outer clothing (and even boots!) to vacuum out the pockets, the Velcro, the mesh… anything and anywhere that could trap a seed or dirt. There were plenty of paper clips and tweezers on hand to help clean the small crevices in the boots and the mesh of backpacks… it was amazing how much could hide in there and how difficult it was to see! Many avid adventurers were turned back a few times for more cleaning or boot scrubbing but in the end everyone “passed” a staff check and signed the official paper that their gear was clean and ready to enter South Georgia. It was a long process that continued before and after lunch… but finally we all were ready to relax and watch one of the BBC Frozen Planet documentaries and enjoy a bit of afternoon tea. Then after enjoying watching the ocean from the lounge windows, or perhaps even a bit of time on deck, the team gave a small recap before saying “bon appetit” when we enjoyed another excellent meal by the galley team.

Day 6: At Sea towards South Georgia

At Sea towards South Georgia
Date: 24.01.2020
Position: 53º 12.7’ S / 043º 59.0’ W
Wind: NW 7
Weather: Overcast/rain
Air Temperature: +8

This morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast since we knew we didn’t have to get dressed in our layers for a landing or zodiac cruise. The staff had a number of lectures planned for us to keep us occupied. Régis taught us about Penguins so we could learn more about the different species we hoped to see during our voyage. Jocelyn gave a lecture on Plants and animals adaptation to understand how life can survive in extreme environment such as Antarctica. Then Johanne told us about ocean currents. For those who decided to go outside on deck, a variety of albatross and petrels were sighted. At 4.30 pm there was a BBC documentary frozen planet, with commentary by the legendary David Attenborough, shown in the lounge, about Antarctica and the Sub Antarctic Islands, which only added to the excitement about the forthcoming days. Finally, the usual daily briefing started at 6:15pm. Hélène gave us an interesting talk about invasive animals’ impact on remote places. It was followed by a mandatory South Georgia Government documentary about our responsibility as visitors to the island. The video was about to finish when suddenly, a scream in the lounge: “ORCA!”. The ship was surrounded with killer whales! Killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family and can be up to 8 metres long. We all rushed outside to see them playing at the bow of the ship. Surprisingly some of them had a yellowish-brown coloration. Their colour is in fact due to a thick accumulation of diatoms on their skin. As if the spectacle wasn’t amazing enough, a couple of fin whales also joined the spectacle. Dinner was served at 7.00 pm, which finished the day’s formal program. Not many people stayed up late since we were all keen to be fresh and prepared for our first South Georgia landing tomorrow.

Day 7: Salisbury Plain – Fortuna Bay

Salisbury Plain – Fortuna Bay
Date: 25.01.2020
Position: 53º 59.9 S / 036º 42.5’ W
Wind: S 3
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +8

Today was the day for our first visit to South Georgia. We couldn’t wait to see the spectacular wildlife that this island holds. Salisbury Plain was supposed to be our first landing, but due to wind and swell conditions we did a zodiac cruise instead. Even from the zodiacs, we could observe the abundance of life on the beach and in the water. King penguins and fur seals were spread out all over the beach, some sleeping, some fighting, and some feeding in the water. Kindergartens of tiny fur seals were playing in the breaking waves. Sea birds were also doing their thing adding to the spectacular scenery. Every now and then katabatic winds were pushing down from the glaciers hitting us in the face, and the moment after the sun would shine through and the atmosphere changed again. After lunch we finally got on shore and could experience the wildlife up close. The guides took us ashore using stern landings, where the zodiacs were turned upon arrival at the beach to avoid breaking waves crushing into the zodiac. We had to be quick and listen to orders from Ali to get out of the zodiac in the calmer moments between the bigger waves hitting the beach. Once ashore we found ourselves in the midst of a bunch of fur seal, some of the babies were quite tough trying to scare us away. Suddenly a parade of king penguins came strolling past us and then the fur seals again. Such a special experience being so close to these animals of the far south. We walked along the beach just to discover even more fur seals and king penguins, some elephant seals were sleeping in a grassy area. Following the red poles put up by the guides, we crossed a plain full of fur seals and king penguins spread out before ending up by the main king penguin colony. And what a sight! King penguins close together as long as the eye could see, all busy with something or picking on their neighbours. Quite bizarre to think about, how all this life goes on in this remote place all while we’re living our human lives all over the world. It was like jumping right into one of David Attenborough’s planet earth episodes. Back at the ship we made it just in time for wind to pick up and dark clouds rushing in. What a wonderful first day in South Georgia.

Day 8: St. Andrews Bay – Grytviken

St. Andrews Bay – Grytviken
Date: 26.01.2020
Position: 54º 26.1’ S / 036º 10.3’ W
Wind: ENE 2
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

We were woken at 6.30 as Plancius dropped anchor off St. Andrews Bay. We were all relieved to hear from Ali that the landing would go ahead. The beach can be difficult to land on as big swells often create huge surf onto the beach and katabatic winds from the glaciers and mountains are common. We followed a flagged route up to the moraines overlooking the main colony of King penguins. As we made our way up the last slope to the viewpoint the noise of the penguins increased. What a mind-blowing view: Thousands of penguins and chicks stretching out as far as the eye could see. St Andrew bay is home to over 300 000 pairs of king penguins! In the afternoon, it was time to discover Grytviken, South Georgia’s first whaling station! Before going ashore, we first had to pass a severe bio-security check. After a short briefing onboard by the South Georgia representants, we were called by deck at the gangway for them to carefully looked for potential seeds on our Velcro and under our boots. We successfully passed the screening and everyone was finally allowed to visit this truly special place! We first had some time to visit the South Georgia Museum. The expositions covered all aspect of the discovery of the island, the sealing and whaling industry as well as maritime and natural history. We were then invited to follow a guided tour of the historical settlement. It was fascinating to walk around the decaying rusty whaling station and imagine when it was live in action. We finished our visit in the cemetery in front of Shackleton’s grave. Ali happily coordinated the whisky toast to “the boss”, commemorating the incredible endurance and adventurous mindsets of both these men. And after such a day, what better thing to do then to eat out on deck, feasting on delicious BBQ-food!

Day 9: Rookery Point – Godthul

Rookery Point – Godthul
Date: 27.01.2020
Position: 54º 17.2’ S / 036º 17.6’ W
Wind: N 4
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

When we woke up, Plancius was at anchor in the middle of Godthul Bay. After breakfast, the expedition team were waiting for us at the gangway for a zodiac cruise. Once on board, we sailed with our guides along the coast towards the outside of the bay. We were then exposed to the swell of the open sea. This didn’t prevent us from enjoying a magnificent panorama. As we moved forward, we approached a colony of South Georgian Shags, then Kelp Gulls clustered on a rocky escarpment. The highlight of the outing was undoubtedly the possibility for us to discover a new species of penguin for the first time of the trip. In front of us, hundreds of Macaroni penguins were busy descending large rocky plains from which they seemed to hesitate to dive to reach the open sea and capture the food necessary for their chicks. The swell that sometimes washed the area made most of them fall, which does not seem to bother them for all that. As we moved backwards, we could see the imposing and visibly busy colony emerging between the vegetation. Shortly afterwards, a few daring zodiacs ventured into a cave beaten by the swell. On our return, we entered a small cove sheltering elephant seals and fur seals. A sooty light-backed albatross even did us the honour of flying over us. Back at the ship, it was time for lunch. In the afternoon, we left from the same place but this time we disembarked on land for a hike that took the bravest of us to a sumptuous viewpoint embracing the open sea and discovering the coast. The less daring took advantage of the Papuan penguin colonies and even a superb lake at lower altitudes. After this ascent, it was time for Ali and her team to recapture the day. Once the meal was over, a well-deserved rest awaited us!

Day 10: Gold Harbour – Cooper Bay – Drygalski Fjord – At Sea

Gold Harbour – Cooper Bay – Drygalski Fjord – At Sea
Date: 28.01.2020
Position: 54º 48.3’ S / 035º 49.8’ W
Wind: NE 4
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +7

It was 5:00 am and the alarm clock was at dawn this morning, to take advantage of the morning light. The weather was a bit capricious. We were hoping to land in Gold Harbour for one last stopover in South Georgia. After a first zodiac landed the shore it was decided to cancel the landing, as conditions were deteriorating. However, we enjoyed the view of the glacier and the bay, with the many king penguins and elephant seals in sight. We enjoyed breakfast on board with some adventures to tell. Later in the morning we arrived in Cooper Bay. This time we took advantage of a zodiac cruise to approach a large colony of macaroni penguins. A continuous stream of penguins were climbing the slope. The penguins are looking for a place away from predators to nest, but also clear of snow. They're able to climb great distances up the rocks. At the bottom of the colony many fur seals were swimming. The wind was strong and the swell powerful. After a good meal on board, we entered in Drygaslki Fjord. We sailed along the glaciers to the end of the fjord. This time the blue sky and the sun had returned. The wind had died down. We could see some weddel seals on the edge of the fjord, and snow petrels. We stayed in the end of the fjord to contemplate the glacier and the different geological formations. Then mid-afternoon we started sailing towards the south, towards South Orkneys.

Day 11: At sea

At sea
Date: 29.01.2020
Position: 58º 10.2’ S / 040º 59.0’ W
Wind: NE 5
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

After a celebratory night—what an amazing time we had on South Georgia! —many of us were thankful for a quiet night at sea that allowed for a good night’s rest. The morning brought another good lecture from the team: Chloe gave us a glimpse at the variety of life floating in the water around us. It was interesting to see photos of these often-microscopic organisms so we can appreciate the diversity and abundance of these little marine creatures. If we ever forget about the plankton, though, we always go back and watch for the krill in Happy Feet 2! After a short tea break, Ali brought us into the lounge again for the mandatory IAATO briefing about Antarctica and how we should behave as visitors. It wasn’t so different from South Georgia except for the idea of penguin highways and making sure we don’t block their way to the sea or back to the nest to feed their chicks. And of course, going to a new place, we had to do biosecurity checks again--- another vacuum party! This time was easier though as we all know how things need to be clean so it was quite quick to bring our gear to the lounge, look quickly for seeds and dirt, and get everything checked and cleared by a staff member before signing again that we had done our part to prevent introducing non-native plants and diseases to Antarctica. After the “housework” was done, we then relaxed in the lounge watching another of the BBC Frozen Planet episodes, even while peeking out the windows for birds and whales. What a nice way to spend an afternoon! Our daily recap prepared us for the potential landing tomorrow in the South Orkney Islands, and Ali shared with us some images and memories from her time living on South Georgia as the postmistress. It was nice to see what the winter scenery might look like—lots of snow! —and get an idea of what it might be like to get out and hike and even camp in more remote places… not for the faint of heart! Then after another excellent meal prepared by the galley team it was an easy choice to share stories and pictures in the bar, or sneak away to the cabin for rest, knowing that tomorrow would bring another chance for exploration.

Day 12: Shingle Cove, South Orkney Islands – At sea

Shingle Cove, South Orkney Islands – At sea
Date: 30.01.2020
Position: 60º 39.1’ S / 45º 33.0’ W
Wind: E 4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +2

In the morning we landed at Shingle Cove, a place with a huge variety of things to see. From Glaciers to Adelie Penguins this landing didn’t disappoint. We left the ship in blustery conditions but as Ali predicted the wind soon abated. Then it began to snow making for a proper introduction to Antarctica. The landing beach was rocky and had quite a few Fur Seals on it and a couple of Elephant Seals. We passed these on our way to the Glaciers Ice Tongue which went down to the sea. The Glacier had a nice meltwater stream plus the brash ice was very photogenic on the beach. After exploring the marked area, we went for a walk out to the Adelie Colony where we saw mainly young birds at the end of losing the down feathers. They were quite comical with their tufts of down on top of the head. Amongst the Penguin were Skua chicks, little balls of fluff quite unlike the adult bird. Too soon it was time to go back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we enjoyed our transit through the large Icebergs some of them were really huge. Later we had lectures on Shackleton in English and German. To finish another day, we enjoyed our daily recap with Ali and the team. Another great day with a relaxing afternoon.

Day 13: At Sea – Elephant Island

At Sea – Elephant Island
Date: 31.01.2020
Position: 61º 04.3’ S / 054º 39.2’ W
Wind: ESE 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

Today the morning started with Chloé telling us about whales, the difference between baleen whales and tooth whales, how they sing and can be heard over long distances at sea, and we even learnt that the sperm of large animals are smaller than those of smaller animals. The morning continued with whale watching out of the decks with the penguins entertaining between the whale surfacing. We were now approaching Point Wild where the crew of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s shipwrecked Endurance expedition camped for four months. We could see the bust of Captain Pardo who lead the rescue of Shackleton’s men. Quite astonishing witnessing this wild and rough place thinking about how these men could possibly survive here living on penguins and keeping the hopes up. After a proper assessment of the swell conditions the caption and Ali decided to give it a try to lower the zodiac, and luckily for us it went well. We could enjoy a zodiac cruise around the Point Wild and along the glacier. The large swell waves made the experience quite special being in the elements riding the waves and seeing them crush against the cliffs. Chinstrap penguins were gathered around the steep cliffs and every now and then some of them would make the brave jump into the waves. Some of us also got a glimpse of a leopard seal in between the wave peaks, sometimes a bit too close for our preference. In the end of the cruise a small calving took place from the glacier, pieces falling into the sea below and making an echoing crash in the bay. After a rather late lunch we were once again sailing the ship gently rolling from one side to the other. Hélène and Régis invited us to the lounge to share with us their experience over-wintering on the sub-Antarctic island, Kerguelen.

Day 14: Paulet Island – Brown Bluff

Paulet Island – Brown Bluff
Date: 01.02.2020
Position: 63º 34.3’S / 055º 47.6’ W
Wind: SW 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

The day started beautifully. We woke up surrounded by tabular icebergs for some, and more original shapes for others. No wind, we were outside taking pictures when the killer whales appeared. Then breakfast was served and we got ready to set foot on Paulet Island. Another island engraved in history, which was home to the Swedish crew of the ship "Antarctic" caught in the ice and crushed in 1903. This volcanic island was beautiful. It is home to a huge colony of Adelie penguins. Many chicks were flocking around. Others were resting on the remains of the hut that sheltered the expedition during the forced wintering. We spent three hours watching the birds and enjoying the beautiful landscape. The show was endless. We ended the morning with a mini zodiac cruise that allowed us to approach the icebergs on which the penguins were perched. After another good meal on board, we had time to take a break while we sailed to the next stopover. In the afternoon, we disembarked at Brown bluff. Luckily, with the zodiacs we were able to make our way between the icebergs and the chunks of ice that were accumulating in front of the beach. Some of us had a superb hike to the glacier with Andreas who gave us lots of explanations about glaciers and their formations. Meanwhile, others were still enjoying the presence of Gentoo and Adélie penguins in large numbers on the beach. The end of the afternoon was cool! It started to snow but that didn't stop many of us from taking to the water! Polar plunge was for the bravest of us who took a swim! Everyone was happy to get back on board to enjoy a hot shower before dinner. After the meal, we had the presentation of the program for the next day. It was time to sort out the pictures of the day!

Day 15: Weddell Sea - Devil Island

Weddell Sea - Devil Island
Date: 02.02.2020
Position: 63º 46.8’S / 057º 19.2’ W
Wind: NW 3
Weather: Light snowfall
Air Temperature: +3

Today was a Weddell sea expedition day! We started the day visiting Devils island. The island was named after its shape: the two peaks located at either end of the island separated by a low-lying valley looks like horns. The zodiacs had to slalom between numerous pieces of ice in order to get us to the landing site. Once ashore we walked along the shoreline to get closer to the 15 000 pairs of Adélie penguins. Some of us walked across the island to get a view of Cape Well Met and the bravest climbed to the top of the south western peak. Michael experimented with infrared photography revealing the temperatures of the penguins relative to their surroundings. In the afternoon, Plancius headed south in the Weddell sea. Most of us were outside on the decks enjoying the great weather and the landscape when a couple of whales made their apparition around the ship. First, a couple of killer whales gracefully passed by. Then it was the turn of humpback whales to continue the show. Humpbacks can easily be identified by their obvious hump at the base of the dorsal fins. We could observe them quietly breathing at the surface. From time to time they would dive showing us their large and impressive tail flukes. Each individual has unique patterns on the trailing edges and undersides of their tail flukes. Scientists use this particularity for photo-identification. They can follow their migration over time. As we continued our cruise surrounded by massive icebergs, Zsuzsanna surprised us with wonderful hot chocolate on the sun deck. The scenery around us was surreal. We felt so small next to the big tabular icebergs. After dinner some passengers and staff met up at the bar where we could still observe some humpback whales around the ship. Another day had passed in Antarctica.

Day 16: Half Moon - Yankee Harbour

Half Moon - Yankee Harbour
Date: 03.02.2020
Position: 62º 35.5’S / 059º 54.5’ W
Wind: NNW 3/4
Weather: Partly Clouded
Air Temperature: +4

This Monday was probably a little more special than the others. It was our last day before sailing through the Drake Passage. So, everyone was determined to make the most of this day to conclude this magnificent voyage in style. During the night the ship made its way to the South Shetlands and here it was anchored facing Halfmoon Island, the objective of our morning excursion. In order to make us enjoy the typical fauna of these regions one last time, our guides opted for a tour in the wild part of the island, the other part being occupied by an Argentinean base. In turn, the zodiacs dropped us off on a dark pebble beach from which we set off to explore higher areas and then switch to the other side. During this short trip, we moved between jagged rocks and scree slopes, crossing some Chinstrap penguins here and there, busy following their path, some with immaculate plumage coming back from their fishing session to bring back some food for their chicks, others more ... dirty, coming down from the colony and probably impatient to be able to do a bit of toi let! Back at sea level on the other side, we discover a splendid panorama. A few meters further on, after crossing a few male fur seals too busy sleeping, our guides had established a viewpoint to admire a colony of Chinstrap penguins. The many chicks were waiting for their parents to return, on a somewhat sticky ground, feeling the end of the breeding season ... Among them, an "intruder" was hidden. A Macaroni Penguin. Regularly observed here, he seems to return to his adopted colony every year. He's so different, with his yellow egrets and wide beak, he's quickly spotted. Further down, in the foreshore, a Weddell Seal was looking for its place between rocks and seaweed to prepare for its nap. Back at the landing point, after scrubbing and cleaning our boots, everyone returned to the ship to enjoy a good meal. It was not a long drive to the site scheduled for the afternoon. The ship was therefore quickly positioning itself for our new objective: Yankee Harbour. A tongue of land advanced into the sea, creating a sheltered bay through which we reached a beach by zodiac. From there, there were many choices. Go right to the point to observe elephant seals and fur seals, go left to join the colonies of Gentoo penguins and their very curious young chicks, stop to photograph a leopard seal asleep on the ice stranded in the bay ... Or simply sit down somewhere and soak up the atmosphere, the landscapes, one last time, enjoy to the fullest. When we got back on board, Ali and her team welcomed us for the daily recap. We learned more about the intelligence of the birds with Régis, the volcanism of the Shetlands with Andreas, and the state of the sea in the Drake passage with Ali!

Day 17: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 04.02.2020
Position: 59º 35.7’S / 062º 24.4’ W
Wind: SSE 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

While we sailed back across the Drake Passage, life onboard took a new pace. No early wake up call. No more rush in the corridors with life jackets and bags for a landing. Most of us watched our photos, and thought about all the good memories we had made the last 17 days. Today, while Plancius slowly moved, the expedition team prepared a series of lectures. In the morning, Ali did a very interesting presentation about the amazing lives of the first women in Antarctica. Some of the women had incredibly strong characters to be able to support their husbands as they were exploring unknown territories. In the afternoon, Jocelyne told us about the year she spent in the south pole and the logistics on the base during the few winter months when the base is completely isolated from the rest of the world. Late in the afternoon, Michael described the underwater life in the Southern Ocean and what divers get to see during dives in Antarctica. We then enjoyed a very nice dinner. During the dinner, our Hotel Manager Zsuzsanna introduced the Galley and Cleaning crew. A good way to discover hidden staff and important jobs for the onboard life.

Day 18: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 05.02.2020
Position: 55º 05.3’S / 066º 36.5’ W
Wind: W 6
Weather: Rain showers
Air Temperature: +9

This morning we were woken up to a special wake up call. Adame and her mom Julia were wishing us a good morning and thanked us all for a great voyage before they sang a wake-up song together. A nice way to start the very last day sailing in the Drake Passage. We entered the Beagle channel and could finally see Argentinian land. Régis gave a lecture about sea birds and we could enjoy some time watching the scenery out from the Lounge or from the outer decks feeling the sea breeze and salty air and watching the sea birds fly by. In the afternoon we were invited in the Lounge once again for a pub quiz with questions related to what we had seen and learnt on this voyage. The winning team was the Aliphant Seals for best score, and for the most creative team name, the Los Bilinguins were the winners. Before dinner, for our last recap, we all raised our glasses of champagne with our dear Captain Evgeny Levakov, for one last toast to our great adventure. Ali had created a slideshow, of all of our unique experiences in the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 19: Ushuaia - Disembarkation

Ushuaia - Disembarkation
Date: 06.02.2020

Today we were woken by the last wake-up call from our Expedition Leader Ali and got ready to disembark in Ushuaia. The last 18 days have taken us on an eye-opening journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the frozen continent Antarctica, 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 bergs or making new friends, they are memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Total distance sailed on our voyage: 3429 Nautical miles Most southerly point: 64o 20' 1" S, 056o 29' 7" W On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Evgeny Levakov, Expedition Leader Ali Liddle and all the crew and staff, we thank you for travelling with us and wish you a safe journey home.


Tripcode: PLA28-20
Dates: 19 Jan - 6 Feb, 2020
Duration: 18 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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