|Position:||042°45’S / 065°01’W|
So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well, from Ushuaia we’ll 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. For many of us this is the start of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each unique person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart on a journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. 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 gangway by members of our expedition staff, having just returned from Antarctica that morning. Our luggage was already on board so after a short wait on the wharf we made our way up the gangway and onto the good ship Plancius. We were met at reception by Sebastian and Michael, our hotel and restaurant managers. We were then checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous Filipino crew. A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet First 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. 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. After this lifeboat drill we returned to the outer decks to watch our departure from the jetty of Ushuaia and the last of city life for a while. We entered the Beagle Channel with an escort of black browed albatross. Once we were on our way into the channel we were invited once again to the lounge to meet our expedition leader, Andrew Bishop and hotel manager Sebastian who gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next few weeks. We then met the rest of the expedition team, an international bunch who will guide during our voyage, driving us ashore, giving lectures and ensuring we get the best possible experience during our trip. This was also a chance to meet our Captain, Alexey Nazarov, and toast our voyage with a glass of prosecco. At 19:30 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chef Heinz and Sean and their galley staff. In the early hours of the morning we would be out into open waters and heading north-eastwards towards the Falkland Islands.