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PLA31-16 Trip log | Antarctica, Whale Watching

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
Date: 17.03.2016
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.

Day 2: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 18.03.2016
Position: 056°38’ S / 065°35’ W
Wind: W 7
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +5

During the early hours of the morning the motion of the ship changed a little as we started to make our way out into the Drake Passage and with the wind blowing at 25 knots and increasing things were beginning to get quite uncomfortable on board and many people didn’t make it to breakfast, choosing to sensibly stay in their bunks.

Due to sea conditions the outside decks were closed but we could still use the Bridge wings for fresh air and bird watching. The students from St Andrew’s University were busy during the morning looking for whales and dolphins and doing bird surveys. It was also a good opportunity to get used to the motion of the ship, getting those ‘Sea legs’ which are essential in the Drake Passage. On our way south we were joined by some albatross, Wandering albatross and Black browed albatross were seen throughout the morning as well as the tiny Wilson’s storm petrels.

At 10:30 Christian invited us to the Lounge to give a presentation about the Seabirds of the Southern Oceans and this gave us a huge amount of information about the birds we are likely to see on this voyage, including tips on their identification out at sea. Most of these birds spend the majority of their lives at sea and watching the albatross afterwards it was easy to see how at home they are out here in the Drake Passage.

Just before lunch some Hourglass dolphins were spotted near the ship. These small black and white dolphins have distinctive white markings on their flanks and, being oceanic dolphins are often seen in the Drake Passage.
After lunch there was time for a bit of a siesta or time to enjoy the views from the Lounge and Bridge before Ali invited us back to the Lounge for a presentation about the non-flying seabirds, the penguins. She talked about the different species we are likely to see when we get to Antarctica and also about how these birds are so perfectly adapted to life on and around the frozen continent of Antarctica. We’re all looking forward to seeing them for ourselves in the coming days.

After the daily afternoon tea treat Sebastian gave a presentation about the geography of Antarctica; how the continent was formed and about the mountains and ice that are now the main features of the continent.
By early evening it was time for the daily re-cap, which is a chance to gather together and look back on the day as well as look ahead to the next day of the trip. Seba outlined the plans for tomorrow – another day at sea in the Drake Passage and Sonja talked about the Hourglass dolphins we had seen during the day. She had a fabulous life size fabric cut out of the dolphin. Christian then talked about identification of male and female birds here in Antarctica, with a little video clip to finish! After re-cap it was time for dinner and so our first day in the Drake Passage had passed by pretty well, for most of us anyway!

Day 3: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 19.03.2016
Position: 060°15’ S / 069°50’ W
Wind: WSW 5
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Another day of navigating the Drake Passage en route towards the Antarctic Peninsula and during the night the winds had eased and everyone was feeling much happier as they made their way to breakfast. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and the world seemed a better, more comfortable place than yesterday. There were some bigger swells still and some unfortunate passengers were still feeling unwell and remained horizontal in their cabins.

After breakfast the outside decks were opened and there was time to go out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine before the first presentation of the day. At 10:00 we joined Seba in the observation lounge and where the lectures were optional to attend yesterday, this briefing was mandatory for any passengers wishing to go ashore during our voyage. Sebastian briefed expeditioners on Zodiac safety, as these rugged, inflatable vessels would be the link between ship and shore, taking us from the Plancius to the various areas we plan to do landings and also on Zodiac cruises. Seba also briefed passengers on the appropriate behavior ashore, including the distance to keep from the wildlife we are likely to encounter there. This briefing is put together by IAATO – the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators – and is a requirement for any of its affiliate operators.

The briefing is followed by a self-audited biosecurity cleaning – vacuuming of all shore gear and packs – in order to limit the risk of bringing any foreign seeds or specimens into the pristine Antarctic environment. After a morning of housekeeping and working up a sweat with the vacuum cleaners, we are quite happy to hear Andre’s voice ring across the public announcement system with news of lunch.

After lunch the vacuuming continued and mid-afternoon everyone had cleaned their gear and were ready to go ashore in Antarctica.
The clouds built up a little during the afternoon but it was still very pleasant out on deck although there wasn’t much in the way of seabirds or marine mammals despite the efforts of the students and keen birders on the Bridge wings.

At 15:30 Sonja invited us to the Lounge for her presentation about whales explaining about the toothed whales and baleen whales that can be found here in Antarctica. She explained about their life cycle and breeding as well as giving tips on identification at sea.
Seba concluded the day with a recap, explaining our plans for the following day. Lars talked about the Antarctic Convergence and the circumpolar current and Sonja explained the importance of avoiding the introduction of non-native species in Antarctica. By this time it was dinner and everyone went downstairs in an excited mood looking ahead to our first landing in the morning.

Day 4: Portal Point and Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

Portal Point and Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica
Date: 20.03.2016
Position: 064°08’ S / 061°29’ W
Wind: W 2
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -3

This morning as Sebastian made the wake-up call we emerged from our cabins to find that we had finally arrived in Antarctica. We’d survived the Drake Passage and made it! We could see the mountains of the Antarctica Peninsula on our Port side, the left hand side of the ship and with icebergs scattered in the Gerlache Strait and occasional humpback whale blows seen it was a great start.

Charlotte Bay was filled with icebergs and is one of the most beautiful spots along the Peninsula, rivalling Paradise Harbor in beauty. It’s named for the fiancée of the second-in-command of de Gerlache’s 1897–99 expedition. The activities for the morning included both a zodiac cruise in the bay area and a landing at the Antarctic continent itself, this point being the “portal” to the exploration of the interior of the continent. This is the former site of a British Antarctic Survey hut, built in 1956, now relocated to the Falkland Islands/Malvinas Museum in Stanley. All that remains are the concrete foundations where the hut once stood. As the first group went ashore they were met by members of the Expedition team and Gentoo penguins, Crabeater and Antarctic fur seals. From the landing site we were able to take a walk up on to the top of the little peninsula and look out over the bay, although visibility wasn’t the best with snow falling quite heavily. Near the landing site juvenile male Fur seals were play fighting with each other and sliding in the snow providing endless entertainment as we enjoyed our first landing here in Antarctica.

Out in the zodiacs everyone was enjoying the opportunity to get closer to some of the icebergs that were stranded in the bay. Crabeater seals were found hauled out on the ice which gave great photo opportunities from the boats. A few shy humpback whales were reported from the bridge, yet proved very difficult to find in the zodiacs. This situation would reverse during the afternoon………

During lunch, Plancius sailed further south navigating into the waters of Wilhelmina Bay in search of wildlife, especially the promised Humpback whales. During this navigation, Enterprise Island was seen, a place that along with Nansen Island was first charted as one feature and named “Ile Nansen” by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition under Adrien de Gerlache in 1898. The islands became well known to whalers operating in that area in the early 1900’s, and the names North and South Nansen were used to distinguish them. Since Nansen Island has now been established as the larger island, the new name was given to the smaller, commemorating the “enterprise” of the whalers who made the anchorage at the south side of the island (Foyn Harbor) a major center of summer industry from 1916-1930. On the east side of Enterprise Island is a small bay called Gouvernøren Harbor, so named by the whalers because of the whaling vessel Gouvernøren I, which was wrecked there in 1915. Soon after passing the wreck, crabeater seals started to be spotted on the ice floes. Soon after, a good number of humpbacks was found and the decision of launching the zodiacs was made. In two groups, all guests had the chance of getting that “close encounter” with whales they longed for. Humpbacks at few meters, under the zodiacs, plus many more crabeater seals on the ice. With a sea surface starting to freeze, it was time to return to Plancius. Before dinner, the daily recap took place at the lounge, and the activities for the next day were presented as well as a short lecture on Krill. During the night Plancius was repositioned to the south as the intention was to cross the Lemaire Channel in the early morning.

Day 5: Vernadsky Station and Petermann Island, Antarctica

Vernadsky Station and Petermann Island, Antarctica
Date: 21.03.2016
Position: 065°05’S / 063°58’W
Wind: ESE 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

We had the usual wake-up call from Sebastian at 7.15 and it was a cloudy and foggy day as we made the final approach to the entrance of the Lemaire Channel. This is a very narrow scenic passage which has often been referred to as the ‘Kodak Gap’ due to the thousands of photos that have been taken by tourists over the years. This morning, however as we made our way through it was a snowy morning and we couldn’t quite see the tops of the mountains such as Cape Reynard and Scott Peak. It was a very monochrome black and white landscape with fresh snow adding to the true Antarctic landscape. By the time we were half way through though the fog had lifted and we saw Antarctica for the first time in spectacular early morning light.

After our lovely breakfast we dressed warmly and jumped into the zodiacs in two different groups, Penguins and Seals! The plan for the morning was for a split landing at the Ukrainian base of Vernadsky and a visit to the historic Wordie Hut situated on nearby Winter Island. The research station situated in one of the Argentine islands used to be the British base, Faraday up until 1996 when they sold it to the Ukrainians for £1:00. The first group went ashore at the base where the base personnel gave us a very warm welcome and gave us a guided tour around the base. We saw their accommodation and science area and, leaving the best for the end we were invited to chill out at the bar of the station famous for the Vernadsky Vodka. The bar itself was built by the British when they owned the base. The wood used was supposed to be for a new jetty but bad weather and heavy snow prevented the building and so much of the wood was put to good use in the construction of the bar! There was a chance to buy and mail postcard as well as buy some of the handmade souvenirs that had been made on the base by the staff. The last thing to do whilst ashore was to get an Antarctic/Ukrainian stamp in our passports! There were lots of Gentoo penguins around the station and an Adélie penguin too.

The second group went to Wordie House. This again was a British Antarctic Survey hut which was in use between 1947 and 1954 and is it now maintained by the Antarctic Heritage Trust as a museum. It was fascinating to have a look around the base and imagine what it might have been like to be based here for a year. From the hut we were able to walk to the top of the island where the views were awe-inspiring, despite the strong wind and blowing snow. After an hour or so the groups swapped over so that everyone got the chance to do both landings.

After this we were ready for coming back for another lunch on Plancius and to prepare the afternoon. Originally we were planning to go to the Yalour Island but the wind was blowing strongly still so Sebastian made the decision to go to Petermann Island instead. Petermann lies at 65°10,5 South, and is the southern most point of nesting Gentoo penguins. The island was discovered by a German expedition in 1873-4 and is named after the German geographer August Petermann.
At 14.30 we were ready for the action on Petermann Island going with the zodiacs around the icebergs until the little bay that was the landing spot. Some of the last boats were lucky enough to see a leopard seal looking for a nice Gentoo penguin meal.
Once on shore most people made their way to where Ab and Christian had found some Adélie penguins, which was the main target for landing here, although we all really enjoyed the Gentoo penguins as well. The young penguins were very curious about us and many people had some lovely close encounters as they came for a look and a peck! Ali had flagged a route through a narrow gap to the other side of the island where the views were beautiful looking into the iceberg filled bay behind and across the Penola Strait to the Antarctica Peninsula.

Back down at sea level we could walk along towards the memorial cross which was erected in 1982 after 3 British Antarctic Survey men died travelling over the sea ice. They set out on a crossing and never returned. All too soon it was time for us to return to the ship but the day wasn’t over by any means.

On our sail out through the Lemaire Channel came across two orcas (Killer whales) that were chasing some Crabeater seals who all jumped onto and ice floe looking for safety from these top Antarctica predators. It was a tense moment as the Killer whales circled the ice but in the end they left the seals alone and made their way further towards the Lemaire Channel. On the way we saw lots of Minke whales and Humpback whales in the area so three species of marine mammal in the same bay which was brilliant for everyone.
Sebastian decided to postpone re-cap as we made our way back through the Lemaire Channel and then he cancelled it completely as the sunset at the end of the channel was stunningly beautiful. What an amazing end to a fantastic day here in Antarctica.

Day 6: Paradise Harbour and Neko Harbour, Antarctica

Paradise Harbour and Neko Harbour, Antarctica
Date: 22.03.2016
Position: 064°50’ S / 062°58’ W
Wind: Light Air
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

At 7:15 Sebastian once again made the wake-up call and as we made our way towards Paradise Harbour it was a little windy but the visibility was much better than it had been in previous days and it looked promising for a good day in Antarctica. As we approached the bay the weather was clear and without wind. The Captain brought the ship close the Argentinian station, Almirante Brown and after a short briefing we were ready to do the second landing on the Antarctic continent.
The plan for the morning was to do a split landing and cruise with the Seals group visiting the station first and the Penguins group making a zodiac cruise in the area nearby in Skontorp Cove. The plan was to swap over after an hour and 15 minutes so that everyone could visit both places.

The group ashore followed a flagged route through the deep snow to reach a small viewpoint which gave beautiful views out over the bay. With the sun shining and no wind it felt warm enough to just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet that only Antarctica can give. Down by the base there were huddles of Gentoo penguins standing by the buildings and rocky outcrops. They were all moulting and looking a bit scruffy as their old feather came out, being replaced by new feathers for the coming months at sea during the winter.
Back down at sea level the zodiac cruisers were having an equally beautiful morning out on the water. The boats cruised past the high cliffs, seeing Antarctic cormorants on their nesting site in the shelter of the cliffs. Round in Skontorp Cove we were able to approach some beautiful icebergs that had been sculpted by wind and wave to produce towering peaks. There was also a great piece of deep blue ice floating in the bay. Some ice floes had Crabeater seals resting on them, seeming to enjoy the warm sunshine too. Paradise Harbour really lived up to its name!

After the beautiful views of Paradise Bay we back to the ship for lunch and continue our trip to Neko Harbour.
We arrived to Neko Harbour at 15.00 and the Captain once again found a good anchorage near to the landing site but the weather conditions really changed from the morning. The wind was beginning to get very strong as we went ashore in the zodiacs and by the time everyone was safely on the beach it was blowing over 30 knots in the bay and with gust much stronger than this on shore. This was katabatic wind coming down from the Deville Glacier above.

Members of staff had flagged a route near the shore, past the Gentoo penguins and up onto a viewpoint giving a beautiful view of the giant glacier very close to us. At times as the gusts blew down we had to huddle together like penguins to avoid being blown off our feet. It gave everyone a real sense of what Antarctic weather can be like and in such a contrast to the morning spent in Paradise Harbour. Down at the beach people were beginning to get into their lifejackets once more and we started back to Plancius a little bit early due to the strong wind and cold. The staff and crew drivers did a great job of getting us back to the ship safely, even if we were a little wet by the time we got there!

Back on board there was time for a hot shower and coffee before we sailed through the beautiful Errera Channel. Here we stopped for a while in order to drop the anchor which had picked up a large rock while we were at Neko Harbour. With the rock successfully dislodged we continued on our way out into the windy Gerlache Strait where we could observe some Humpback whales very close to the ship. They were slapping their tails and pectoral fins on the surface of the water, almost like they we saying goodbye as we sailed further north towards our destination for the last day, the South Shetland Islands.

Then Sebastian gave a shore re-cap for tomorrow and Christian spoke about the Charcot expedition that had been here in 1902. Then it was time for dinner.

Day 7: Whaler’s Bay and Half Moon Island, South Shetlands

Whaler’s Bay and Half Moon Island, South Shetlands
Date: 23.03.2016
Position: 062°58’ S / 060°33’ W
Wind: ESE 3/4 3
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: -1

Seba made the wake-up call at around 07:15 as at 07.30 this morning we were at the entrance to the flooded caldera of Deception Island, Neptune’s Bellows. This is the only place in the world where vessels can sail directly into the centre of a restless volcanic caldera. The area inside had a long history of human activity since 1820, including exploration, scaling, whaling, aviation and scientific research. The narrow entrance required precise navigation by the Captain due the presence of a rock in the middle of the channel called Raven Rock.
After breakfast we went ashore on Whaler’s Bay, for a visit of the remains of the Norwegian Hektor whaling station, the cemetery and other artefacts some of which pre-date the whaling station are the most significant whaling remains in the Antarctic. Also in Whaler’s Bay is the former British “Base B” which was established in the abandoned whaling station. This was the first base of the secret World War 2 expedition “Operation Tabarin”, the forerunner to the British Antarctic Survey.
On land we encountered lots of Antarctic fur seals along the shore. These are very nice animals but you have to keep your distance from them as they are all young males that are testing their place in the hierarchy of the seal world and are always keen to chase and mock charge anyone walking past. The group was split up into several smaller groups to visit the site. Sonja took a guided walk which started from the landing site and went through the remains of the whaling station. Ali and Ab led a hike past the aeroplane hanger to the summit of Roland’s Hill which provided us with views over the Whaler’s Bay and the caldera known as Port Foster. It was a bit blowy and visibility wasn’t always great at the top but it felt very Antarctic as we stood and enjoyed the views. From the summit there was a chance to walk through the buildings of the station and visit the cemetery situated near the base of the base.

Back at the waterfront was the time come to take the Polar dip. Last night we counted 30 people who were doing the dip, but there was even a shortage on towels. Lots of people were brave enough to take a dive in the cold water of the flooded caldera of Deception Island where water temperatures were recorded by the Las at 0.9°C!

By midday we had to be back on the ship, for lunch and because we had a few hours of sailing time ahead of us to reach our final landing site of this voyage on Half Moon Island. On the way we were lucky to see some whale blows and these were identified as Fin whales which are the second largest of all the whales. There were also lots of Grey headed albatross flying near the ship and resting on the water.

Half Moon is a 2 km long, crescent shaped island between Greenwich and Livingston Island. On the island is a colony of Chinstrap penguins and also the Argentine Antarctic summer station Camara. The station was already closed when we arrived today but the Chinstraps were there, and in big numbers. Hundreds, maybe thousands of moulting birds were standing on the rocks waiting for their old feathers to drop out and the new ones to grow through.

From the landing site we could walk the flagged route to the other side of the island where our luck continued as Christian found one Macaroni penguin between the many Chinstraps. The walk wasn’t easy as there was ice and snow between the rocks and the Fur seals seemed to take great pleasure in chasing people as they walked along the shore. They were sometimes a bit aggressive but always great to see and we could stand and watch them play fighting with each other, building their skills for the future when they will have to defend and harem of females for real. The landing was superb, a great one to finish with but unfortunately time flies and we had to get back to the ship and start heading back across the Drake towards Ushuaia.

But this day was not over, during the re-cap Sonja showed us some of the animals we have seen during this trip, real life sized and made out of fabric and the hotel department organized a Tropical Antarctica Party in the lounge. A great party with cocktails and DJ Seba that went on into the late hours of the night. We have been very lucky people on this trip and have some amazing memories of our time here in Antarctica.

Day 8: At Sea in the Drake Passage

At Sea in the Drake Passage
Date: 24.03.2016
Position: 060°19’ S / 061°42’ W
Wind: NW 5
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

During the night the motion of the ocean had increased a little as we made our way out into the Drake Passage but considering this is classed as one of the roughest stretches of water on the planet we were doing very well and with only 20 knots of wind, conditions were good.

There were a few spaces, however at breakfast but this might have been due to the ‘end of landings Caribbean party’ that had gone on until the early hours of the morning rather than being due to seasickness!
At 09:30 Ali invited us to the Lounge for her presentation entitled ‘Ice Maidens – Women in Antarctica’ which looked at some of the women behind the men who travelled here at the beginning of the 20th Century with the aim of reaching the South Pole, men such as Shackleton and Scott. She also talked about the struggle women had to gain access to Antarctica and what they are now achieving in Antarctica in the 21st Century.

There was time for mid-morning tea and coffee before the next talk of the morning which was given by Sonja. She talked about the history of human exploitation of the Southern Oceans, the whaling that took place during the early part of the 20th Century and the current fishing that is taking place in Antarctica and the ocean surrounding this continent. Like all living resources management if essential if the resource is to remain viable for future generations.
By the time the talk was over it was almost time for lunch and after lunch it was very quiet around the ship as most people had an afternoon rest or sleep after what had been busy Antarctic days.

Later in the afternoon, guest speaker Lars from St Andrew’s University invited us to the Lounge for a presentation of his work with seals. For nearly 10 years now he has been tagging Elephant seals and, more recently Weddell seals with data loggers which collect information from the oceans as the seals move around foraging and feeding. They can collect data from places that humans cannot reach and as a result can collect valuable information about the state of our oceans. It was a fascinating talk which was briefly interrupted by some Hourglass dolphins swimming near the ship!

The last presentation of the afternoon was given by Christian who talked about Seabirds and their conservation. For many years the populations of albatross and petrels have been declining due to incidental mortality caused by fishing boats. Many birds have been hooked by longline fishing boats and then drowned as the line sink in the ocean. He talked about the mitigation methods now employed to avoid this.

There was time for a short re-cap before dinner where André explained about settling accounts and Seba outline the plans for tomorrow. It was then the turn of the St Andrew’s students who did a fabulous job at explaining the work they have been doing on board and showing some of their preliminary findings. Well done to them all for their hours spent on the Bridge and their contribution to the voyage. It has been great having you all on board. The dining room was as lively as ever and the bar full of chatter at the end of the evening.

Day 9: At Sea towards Ushuaia

At Sea towards Ushuaia
Date: 25.03.2016
Position: 056°39’ S / 065°08’ W
Wind: NNE 6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

The weather conditions had been a little bumpy during the night with some quite big swells and most people spent the night rocking and rolling in their bunks and not really sleeping too much. Most people however, made it to the dining room for breakfast as the motion of the ship was still quite comfortable with just big rolling swells rather than strong winds.

The first presentation of the day was given by Lars who tackled the subject of climate change and the effect that the changes in temperature are having on the oceans, ice and indeed the species living in these southern oceans. This subject always creates lively debate and today was no exception with lots of discussion both during and after the talk.

Out on the Bridge wings a number of species of seabirds could be seen flying around the ship. We saw our familiar friends the Cape petrels, Giant petrels and Black browed albatross but we also had a Wandering albatross pass by on a number of occasions which are always fantastic to see. With their 3.5 metre wingspans they are big, majestic birds.

After lunch it was time to settle our on board accounts with André and Thijs. Sadly all those drinks from Charlotte’s bar and souvenirs from the ‘Ship Shop’ have to be paid for at some point and with this, the last afternoon of our voyage it was time to find credit cards, Euros and Dollars from depths of our cabins and settle up. During the afternoon the wind began to increase once more but by this time we were in the shelter of Cape Horn and the big oceanic swells had decreased making for a much smoother motion on board. Many of us were out on the upper decks to enjoy the afternoon and the approach to the Beagle Channel.

With the weather conditions calmer staff were able to open to boot room for the collection of rubber boots which had been invaluable in keeping our feet warm and dry and penguin poop free!
During the late afternoon an episode of the BBC documentary, Frozen Planet was shown in the Lounge. This series looks at both of the polar regions and it brought back memories of our recent days in Antarctica. The programme was interrupted by the sighting of Sei whales and some very acrobatic Dusky dolphins that swam very close to the ship and gave us an amazing show!

With Captain’s Cocktails it was a chance to toast our voyage and the many people who have made this trip such a success, from the Captain himself and his deck crew to the Expedition staff, to the members of the hotel department, those in the engine room and even the laundry staff. It has been a team effort and as a result a successful and enjoyable voyage. Nacho had put together a lovely slide show and movie of our trip allowing us to relive the memories together with new found friends and travel companions.
Cheers everyone!

Day 10: Disembarkation in Ushuaia

Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Date: 26.03.2016

Today is disembarkation day in Ushuaia. Coming alongside, we were boarded by the Argentine officials who cleared our vessel and allowed us to disembark. On the pier we bade farewell to many of the friends we have come to know over the past 10 days, and had one last look at the Plancius, the ship that took us safely on such an incredible voyage from Ushuaia, across the infamous Drake Passage to Antarctica. We have been lucky enough to have some amazing wildlife encounters with whales and penguins and have seen all sides of Antarctica in terms of weather, from heavy snow to bitter wind to calm sunny conditions. This is a very special continent and we are privileged that we were able to travel here and experience Antarctica at its best. This trip will last us a lifetime – in our memories, our imaginations, and in our photos!

Thank you all for such a wonderful voyage, for your company, good humour and enthusiasm. We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage:
Nautical miles: 1664 nm
Kilometres: 3081 km

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Levakov, Expedition Leader Sebastian Arrebola and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.


Tripcode: PLA31-16
Dates: 17 Mar – 26 Mar, 2016
Duration: 9 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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