|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 person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart on a journey to the Great White Continent of Antarctica. Most passengers were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next 9 days.
We were greeted at the gangway in the wind, rain and hail by members of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet Hotel and Restaurant Managers, André and Thijs. 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 Artur, 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 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 and, not too far from the ship we saw the bloated body of a dead whale, a very unusual sight here in the Beagle channel so close to Ushuaia. Once we were on our way into the channel we were invited once again to the lounge to meet our Hotel Manager André who gave us an overview of the ship, a floating hotel which will be our home for the next 9 days or so. This was also a chance to meet our Captain, Evgeny Levakov and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco. We then met our Expedition Leader, Sebastian Arrebola and the rest of the Expedition Team who will guide us in Antarctica. At 19:30 we sampled the first of many delicious meals on board, prepared by Chefs Heinz and Ivan 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 of the Drake Passage and heading South.