PLA31-23, trip log, Antarctica - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Ushuaia, Embarkation Day & Beagle Channel

Ushuaia, Embarkation Day & Beagle Channel
Date: 08.03.2023
Position: 54°48’S / 065°17’W
Wind: N3
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +11

Finally, the day arrived to start our once in a lifetime adventure! Many of us have waited a long time for this day. We embarked the little blue and white Plancius, our home for the next 12 days at about 4pm. It was a fabulous day in Ushuaia, the sun got interrupted by rain and we could observe fantastic rainbows around the area.

We were welcomed by the Expedition Team and the Hotel Team at the Plancius’ gangway. After we had been shown to our rooms, we started to explore the ship and our new environment, soon followed the briefing for the mandatory safety drill and drill itself. It was interesting to see the 100 fellow passengers in the bulky orange lifevests.

Before dinner Claudio, our expedition leader, invited us to the lounge where we went through some basic information about life on the Plancius, the general plan for the trip and the weather forecast for the upcoming days. Volodymyr, our Hotel Manager, gave us useful advice about practicalities of life on board. We also met Captain Ernesto and we had a drink to celebrate the upcoming voyage!

For many the travel days to reach the remote town of Ushuaia were long, so most of us went to bed shortly after the fantastic buffet, others enjoyed still the last hours of the day in the beautiful Beagle Channel, heading down to the new place called Antarctica.

Tired and happy, we enjoyed settling into our new temporary home and cannot wait for the adventures that will begin soon.

Day 2: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Date: 09.03.2023
Position: 57°26’S / 065°29’W
Wind: NW6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +7

In the morning our Expedition leader Claudio woke us up to our first day in the famous Drake Passage. Today the Drake does not feel like a Drake-Shake luckily. Plancius is moving very gently through the swell despite quite a lot of wind. Many of us came to the breakfast and just a few decided to stay in bed due to seasickness.

Already in the morning we got a glimpse of the amazing wildlife in the Southern Ocean. We saw the first Albatrosses and later the most special ones, the southern royal albatross and the wandering albatross, enormous birds with a wingspan up to 3,4m.

Some of our fellow passengers also spotted the first whale blows.

We met the Expedition Team in the morning, and they gave us a small introduction about themself and their specialties...nice bunch of people. After the introduction the activity guides presented their activity. Richard talked and explained more about the mountaineering, Paolo advertised the camping in Antarctica and Zet gave us good insights how the kayaking works.

That was a busy morning, but we all felt well, even when the sea slightly starts to shake our little Plancius a bit more.

For the afternoon we got the chance to sign up for certain days for the extra activities. We got called by group with interesting names like Whales, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. We almost feel part of the Antarctic Fauna.

Everything runs really well and smooth. Claudio called us before dinner for the daily recap and told us more about the weather situation for the upcoming days, Martin gave us some explanations about the birds we could observe during the day and Steffi explained us how different people define the Antarctic borders.

After another fantastic dinner, we let the evening end with some drinks in the bar. The first seaday is done and it was not too bad.

Day 3: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Date: 10.03.2023
Position: 62°02’S / 068°38’W
Wind: N6
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +6

The second sea day started with a wakeup call of Claudio. The sea was moving but not as much as many of us expected. Well we took it, seasickness is not so much fun.

During the morning we got called to the Lounge for many mandatory briefings, but first we got an introduction of the Expedition Team. We had 11 guides, 2 of them are in charge of mountaineering and one for kayaking, but we saw quick, almost everybody helps with everything. It seemed to be a nice team.

The briefings that Claudio gave us included the briefing to be allowed to step on the Antarctic continent. Many little things were included, distances to wildlife, no peeing on shore an much more. All was quite clear and to finish the briefing Claudio explained us the Zodiac Operation.

When this was done the next thing to do was biosecurity. In order to not introduce alien species or illnesses to Antarctica all our outer gear needed to be clear and the shoes disinfected afterand before every landing. The Expedition Staff supported us to clean our equipment, they called it the “Vacuum cleaning Party”, we never thought vacuum cleaning could be fun.

Besides that the day passed by, we saw many seabirds, got to know our fellow passengers and enjoyed the amazing food prepared by Headchef Khabir and this team. Seadays are not too bad, but we get more excited as closer we approached the continent so far south.

Day 4: Danko Island and Willhelmina Bay

Danko Island and Willhelmina Bay
Date: 11.03.2023
Position: 64°38'S/ 62°35'W
Wind: NE4
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +3

Good morning good morning and welcome in Antarctica! We woke up surrounded by glaciers in Cuverville Island. After breakfast it was time to put on the life jackets, with the help of the doctor, and get in a zodiac to go to shore.

We were immediately greeted by fluffy moulting Gentoo penguins shaking their wings to accelerate the moulting, very cute! We had to be extra careful around the moulting penguins, as they are not able to swim during that period, so they are very vulnerable. It was also our very first encounter with the lovely smell that surrounds the penguin colonies and the fact that you can barely see any rock underneath all the penguin poop. Because the penguins have to move around the area a lot they created a ‘penguin highway’ along the shore and up the hill to make it easier for them. We had to make sure we did not block any penguins whilst they were on the highway. Alternatively, a human highway was created to get to the top of a steep, slippery hill, following red poles in the snow. At the summit we found another penguin colony posing for our pictures.

In order to visit a memorial of an old research station a ‘human road’ was created, but unfortunately not many of us were able to go there as the wind picked up very quickly and ice was drifting into the shore. The captain called us back to the ship as soon as the ice started to come close to the ship. The waves were very high, and it was difficult to get on to the gangway, but we all made it back safely and didn’t have to spend the night spooning with penguins to stay warm.

After this first adventure, a warm lunch was very welcome. Because it was still very windy in the afternoon, we put plan b into action and found a sheltered area in Wilhelmina bay where we could zodiac cruise. The bay was full of glaciers and a few islands with Gentoo penguins and fur seals. The penguins were swimming between the zodiacs, jumping in and out of the water like dolphins. Whilst we were cruising through the brash ice of the glaciers on our way back to the ship the last three zodiacs suddenly saw a whale! We turned around and called the other zodiacs so we could all watch the Humpback whale do its whale things close to the glacier.

When the whale moved further away, we admired a huge dragon-shaped iceberg up close before going back to the ship. Whilst having a coffee and cake to warm up more humpback whales were spotted incredibly close to the ship. They were constantly showing their fluke and gave us a magical show and an amazing finale to our first day in Antarctica!

Day 5: Errera Channel, Paradise Harbour and Stony Point

Errera Channel, Paradise Harbour and Stony Point
Date: 12.03.2023
Position: 64°45'S/ 62°38'W
Wind: Calm
Weather: Snow
Air Temperature: 0

We woke up this morning to horizontal snow and high winds. The decks were covered in snow which meant that it was dangerous for us to be outside. Breakfast was at 7.30 and that gave our intrepid crew time to clear the snow from the decks.

Due to the adverse weather conditions plans were constantly changing, the only sensible option was to sit the storm out in the relative shelter of Danco Island.

Koen gave another fascinating insight into the world of photography while we waited for the weather to improve.

At 1030 things were beginning to look much better and whales were spotted which gave the expedition team and crew the chance to launch the zodiacs, we all had the chance to get off the ship and zodiac cruise the Errera Channel.

Immediately the Humpback Whales were spotted, and everyone had great views of the feeding whales. With the zodiacs stationary we watched in awe these massive animals feeding. A mixture of Fur Seals and Gentoo Penguins were also seen along with the magnificent land and icescapes around us.

We returned to the ship for another delicious lunch, whilst we were eating the ship was being repositioned in Paradise harbour for our visit to Stony Point.

At 14:15 the Zodiacs were launched in much better weather. The sun made an appearance, and everything were looking positive for a great afternoon. Once ashore we were given the option of wearing snowshoes or not and then an uphill walk, our mountain guides laid a marked path to the top of the hill and to a spectacular viewpoint. The views in every direction were awe inspiring and left several of us speechless. We also had the chance to go on another zodiac cruise and a Crabeater seal was seen on an ice floe drifting past. We also saw good numbers of Gentoo Penguins at a colony on a small island opposite Stony Point. Then the weather changed, within a few minutes the wind had increased and there was a return to the horizontal snow. The increase in wind moved the sea ice around and the ship had to reposition to clear water, everyone was quickly returned to the safety of the ship.

After recap where Paulo explained about the weather and Steffi told us all about Snow Algae before we went for dinner. Another great meal had been prepared which was enjoyed by nearly all. The exceptions being those who decided to interrupt dinner for the pod of Killer Whales that had been spotted just off the ship. We all watched the pod harass a Humpback whale until it was too dark to see.

An interesting end to what had been a fantastic day.

Day 6: Neko Harbour, Paradise Harbour, Almirante Brown Station and Isla Hanka (Leith Harbour)

Neko Harbour, Paradise Harbour, Almirante Brown Station and Isla Hanka (Leith Harbour)
Date: 13.03.2023
Position: 64°50'S / 62°34'W
Wind: N4
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

Today we wake to stereotypical Antarctica. When we thought of this trip, most of us imagined this! Lots of brash ice floating over dark blue waters all surrounded by an amphitheatre of steep rock and ice. After some consideration by the scouting team we decide to push through the ice with our zodiacs and in small groups land at Neko Harbour in the Danco Coast of the Arctowski Peninsula. A calving glacier nearby requires special attention. As soon as the guides land to break trail a pod of Orcas swims by in tight formation. What a treat! From the ship we can see them scouting the ice for a meal. Here we hike to two different high viewpoints and gentoo penguin colonies whilst the mountaineers get their snowshoes and rope up to a much higher point place, lucky them! Neko has plenty of whales we can see from the coast and also we get to enjoy a zodiac cruise to spend some time with the whales before heading back to the ship. Magical!

We then head back to Plancius for our usual midday feast as we slowly cruise to Paradise Harbour and the Argentine, ‘Almirante Brown’ Scientific Station. Wow, the landscape is jaw dropping. Grease seas, pancake ice and thick snowflakes falling all around us makes for a very atmospheric zodiac cruise. The visibility is heavily reduced, and we move in a tight group skilfully navigating through ice floes, growlers and a fast freezing sea.

This year, due to COVID regulations we can’t visit scientific stations, but we were lucky to see some of the base personnel on the pier and they were happy to tell us about their scientific research from land whilst we were drifting with in our zodiacs. A great moment shared between all.

The mountaineers also headed out and we had the most beautiful pick up amongst heavy snow. A leopard seal came to check us out as we moved slowly and gave us the chance to admire its size and confident attitude. As we head back to the ship, there are smiles all around. Today was a special one.

Day 7: Damoy Point, Port Lockroy

Damoy Point, Port Lockroy
Date: 14.03.2023
Position: 64°48'S/ 63°29'W
Wind: ENE
Weather: Smooth
Air Temperature: +3

We got up early and finally the weather conditions were looking really nice. The sun started to rise above the glaciated mountains around us and the light was incredible. Quick we got out of bed and enjoyed the scenery with blue sky and changing light before breakfast. While we had breakfast, the Expedition team was heading towards our landing spot for the morning preparing everything.

When we arrived the scenery was just stunning, no wind, blue sky and finally sunshine. Wow what a day. We got the chance to walk a nice trail around the aera visiting several groups of gentoo penguins and ending up on a super beautiful lookout point. We could see the Seven Sisters and Jabet Peak above our landing site. On the way back to the landing site we visited the hut which is maintained by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is the old emergency hut, which was used, while the glacier was used as an airstrip. Using the Airstrip, scientist could get supplied earlier with provision and equipment via plane and they had longer season to learn more about the environment of Antarctica. As the runway the glacier was used with snow planes. We got a closer look of the hut, and we got a good idea that they probably had also a quite nice time waiting for the next weather window to operate planes.

Right when we started the preparation for our famous Polar plunge the wind started to pick up. Real explorers do not mind and go anyway. Many of us got prepared, grabbed a towel, put on the bathing suit, and jumped into the Antarctic water with 0°C water temperature. We were awake and we quickly went out of the water to get ready and head to our warm showers. What fun it was to observe and listen to the comments while our fellow passengers entering the cold waters. 80 of us went for a swim, that explains why this groups are just outstanding, and we are all happy to be part of it.

For the afternoon, the plan was to visit Port Lockroy, the southernmost post office and a historic monument also operated by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Unfortunately the post office was closed, the team just ended the season right before our arrival. Nevertheless still nice to see that hut in brown and red and the little penguins where quite entertaining as well. Additional we got the chance to have a short Zodiac cruise around the bay where we could see some seals.

But the highlight came in the evening. Finally it was time for camping, after the Expedition Team tried so hard to get us of the ship for a camping night, this was the night. Perfect conditions! After optimising the groups to get everybody interested out, everything went really quick, and we got ashore on a beautiful place. We got setup on our campsite and could enjoy the sunset and the amazing light around our home for the night. We were well protected as a Chilean warship was anchored in the bay, but no problem, we can share this beautiful place with others.

We were left on the beach and while the stars got more and more visible, we realized how amazing the sky can be without any pollution of light or emission.

What a day and while some enjoy the camping spot, the others enjoying the drinks in the bar and the warm and cosy beds on our beloved Plancius.

Day 8: Peterman Island, Port Charcot and Salpetrie Bay

Peterman Island, Port Charcot and Salpetrie Bay
Date: 15.03.2023
Position: 65°10'S/ 64°07'W
Wind: NNE2
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +5

This morning started early for 50 happy campers, we woke up at 3 o clock after spending a beautiful night out at our camping site. Our Zodiacs started to arrive at the landing site, between smiles and sleepy faces we wrapped our gears and returned to the ship. Hot drinks and delicious pastry were waiting us.

A few hours later, with a delicious breakfast in the dinner room, we prepared ourselves for the landing on Peterman island. Peterman Island stretches 1,8 by 1,2 km (1.1 by .7 miles), rising to a height of about 250 meters (820 feet). In 1909 the French explorer Jean-Martin Charcot wintered his ship, Pourquoi Pas, in a small bay on the southeast side of the island.

The beautiful landscape was even more breath taking with some fur seals and a little colony of Gentoos, they gave us some cute moments. Just in front of our landing site, we be able to watch some humpbacks swimming.

After this amazing morning, we return to the Plancius to enjoy a well-deserved lunch buffet.

Pleneu Island was waiting for in the afternoon where we made a beautiful zodiac cruise. We saw different kind of icebergs, with the most incredible shapes and tone’s of blue. A bunch of crabeaters seals was giving us a nice and natural moments to share later with all the pictures that we took. They were just “chilling” on the icebergs, sometimes looking up just to lay again. One leopard seal gave us the opportunity to take a lot of pictures. Our return to ship was exiting! a little wind and waves make our trip even more special and a little bit wet.

Once in the lounge Steffi told us about “Penguins circle of life” on the recap. Keechy hold a short recap about glaciers and iceberg, “Ice ice baby”.

Every day we had surprises, and today was one of them! At the afternoon we had an amazing barbecue waiting us on the deck. The most special way to end this magnificent day!

Day 9: Portal Point, Foyn Harbour

Portal Point, Foyn Harbour
Date: 16.03.2023
Position: 64°30'S/ 61°44'W
Wind: S1
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: +2

Rise and shine and welcome to another beautiful day in Antarctica! After a lush breakfast we went out to enjoy the blue skies on Portal point. Between the ship and the landing some humpback whales were spotted so a detour was made to enjoy the whales up close. After this amazingly close encounter with a mother and a baby whale we went on shore and were greeted by a fat Weddel seal, that was occasionally scratching its head. There were a few fur seals behind the Weddel seal, with one that was very active. The fur seal kept running back and forth on its tail and front fins and tried to bark at the other sleeping fur seals as if to wake them up and join him to play outside. The other fur seals, however, just lifted their heads and barked back as if they were trying to say ‘go away let me sleep’ 😉. This was a very entertaining show to observe.

Marked with the red poles in the snow, a path was marked behind the Weddel seals and fur seals to walk up a hill and enjoy a stunning view of the glaciers, ice bergs and the Plancius. As a bonus, the humpback whale and its calf were still swimming between the ship and the shore and in front of the glaciers. The spectacle was a true feast for the eyes. When we all got our steps in for the day, we got back on the zodiacs to commute back to the ship, but of course not without stopping by the whale again to enjoy a final meeting.

After the tasty lunch, some rest, and a coffee, we went outside again to continue to enjoy the sunshine, this time on a zodiac cruise through Foyn harbour. This location was full of history from the whaling period early 20th century, with the main attraction being a half-submerged wreck of the ship ‘Governoren’. The crew of this ship had been whaling for an entire season and gathered a lot of whale oil in the ship. Fully loaded and happy to return home to their loved ones and the comfort of their own homes, they decided to have a party before the long way back. Unfortunately, one of the candles fell over and the ship, still full of whale oil, burst into flames and the captain made a quick decision to ground the ship and safe all of the crew.

We also found remnants of waterboats (full deck wherry’s), that were used both for obtaining ice and snow to melt as a source of fresh water and to aid with the cutting of the whales and transport parts of blubber and coal between the shore and the ship. Even though these boats were made from wood, they were still in really good condition. This is because wood does not occur naturally in Antarctica, and there is therefore no microbial community that would degrade these wooden ships. We also found remnants of an old wall that was used to store the coal on land, as these ships often used a lot of coal. After trying to search for the lifeboats, that were supposedly somewhere on the land to, some of the zodiacs went to the icebergs on the other side of the island and others went to see some whales up close. All of us felt like we could use a moment of silence during all our busy adventures and just silently enjoy the beauty that surrounded us. We turned the engines off and just floated around listening to birds, whales, popping ice bergs and feeling peaceful with nature. As we all got carried away a bit, we were a bit late to go back to the ship and the silence was countered with a speedy and fun drive back to the ship.

As always, a coffee/tea and cake were waiting for us and we enjoyed a recap from Martin with a fascinating presentation about why penguins can see under water, and Paolo explained more about the remnants from the whaling periods that we had observed that day.

This good weather day was a welcome break after the strong winds we encountered the day before, every adventure is unique!

Day 10: Deception Island, Whaler’s Bay, Half Moon Island

Deception Island, Whaler’s Bay, Half Moon Island
Date: 17.03.2023
Position: 62°41.5’S / 059°52.5’W
Wind: WSW4
Weather: Clear
Air Temperature: +5

The day started very early with a delicious breakfast. We were early so we could enjoy a landing at Deception Island - Whalers Bay. From the beginning we knew that’s its was going to be a very special landing. We arrived to this ring-shaped island, which is actually the caldera of an active volcano. The caldera has a narrow entrance, just 230 meters (755 feet) wide, called Neptune’s Bellows.

Since the Deception Island volcano is active, geothermal activity still takes place inside the caldera. Sea water temperatures of 70°C (150°F) have been recorded, and eruptions occurred as recently as 1970. Sealers, whalers, explorers, and scientists have been sailing into the island’s Port Foster since 1820, and remains of these expeditions can still be seen. Our Landing started with different remains of all the history that has this island. From buildings from the Whalers, and the British Base B that acted as the center for the Falkland Islands Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition.

The beauty beach with steam, gave us the opportunity to take amazing pictures. Along the beach were some fur seals; they were little curious about us, and with some “noises” they just were telling us to maintain distance.

Just at the end of the beach and after a little hike we reached a viewpoint above Neptune’s Window and Southeast Point. From this summit, we enjoyed great views of Port Foster and little rock columns called the “Sewing Machine Needles”.

After this amazing morning, we return to the Plancius to enjoy an amazing buffet.

In the afternoon Claudio prepared us for our last Landing in Antarctica. We arrived in ours Zodiacs to Half Moon Island. Just on the beach some gentoos, fur seals and an elephant seal were waiting for us to get some last great photos. We found as well, an old boat from the whaling era, more than 100 years old. Going up from the beach we were surprised with an amazing view of a magnificent glacier. Walking a little more we finally found a group of Chinstraps penguins! Also a lot more fur seals and three sleepy elephant seals that were chilling on the beach.

Now it’s sadly time to say goodbye to this beautiful beach and return to Plancius.

One more surprise was waiting for us, hot chocolate at the deck, where we started to share stories and laughs, all with the magnificent landscape as a background.

Once in the lounge we listen carefully to John, one of our dear passengers, that shared his knowledge about volcanos and geology in a very interesting lecture.

To finish this amazing day, we enjoy a gorgeous dinner sharing stories. Today is also Saint Patrick’s Day. Plancius small Irish community make the most of it and everyone where green and green beer is served in the bar until late in the night.

Day 11: Crossing the Drake Passage

Crossing the Drake Passage
Date: 18.03.2023
Position: 59°16’S / 063°00’W
Wind: NW7
Weather: Light rain
Air Temperature: +4

When we woke up this morning Plancius has sailed a fair bit into the Drake passage. We are lucky and the weather is fair and waves still not too high so we make good speed north and the rocking of our ship is gentle. We start to see the great sea birds again. Albatrosses and storm petrels are cruising amongst the waves, souring on the wind.

Koen follow up is photography lectures with a photo editing lecture in the morning. He taught us about Lightroom and easy fixes of photos that might not be perfect. Before lunch Steffi also managed to squeeze in a lecture about whales. This trip we have been very lucky and seen a lot of humpback whales almost every day.

The sea conditions were still good so the buffet lunch was easy and enjoyable.

After the coffee Magnus had a lecture about the history of whaling and a little bit about how oceans are regulated internationally nowadays.

Now we have left the Antarctic and we return our borrowed equipment so in the afternoon all the boots and clothes are collected in the boot room.

Before the recap in the late afternoon Keechy told us glaciers and climate change, a follow up to her recap about ice. In the recap Steffi shows a short film about Deception Island and another one about Gentoo penguins steeling pebbles from each other.

The sea is still moderate so the dinner is calm and nice and we enjoy a few hours of socialising in the lounge before going to sleep.

Day 12: Crossing the Drake passage

Crossing the Drake passage
Date: 20.03.2023
Position: 55°31 S / 066°00’W
Wind: SW8
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: +4

Today Drake is shaking us a bit more. We wake up to gusts of more than 40kt and 4,5 meter high waves. A lot of us still make it to breakfast but now chairs fall over and it’s a little tricky to get seconds. Despite of that most of us actually feel great and gather for Martins presentation about bird ringing in the mid-morning.

Fittingly enough Paolo have lecture about weather after Martin. Paulo is an expert on weather, so he tells us about how weather routing is done.

The conditions are still rough but we manage to enjoy a great lunch with the waves splashing on to the dining room portholes.

After lunch Plancius have come to shallower water on the continental shelf and slightly behind the famous Cape Horn which gives some shelter from the waves. Plancius is moving more gentle and we can all sit in the lounge to listen to Valerie’s lecture about the explorer Otto Nordenskjold. In the evening we have a final toast with captain Ernesto and guides to celebrate a fantastic expedition to one of the most remote places on earth!

Day 13: Ushuaia

Date: 20.03.2023

While we enjoyed a last breakfast on board, our suitcases were taken off the ship. It is a sad moment to disembark from the Plancius, which has been a comfortable and cozy home during this unforgettable journey. We have shared many unique moments together, seen a range of rarely sighted wildlife, and made new friends. Loaded with fond memories we now must head home. We will continue our adventures, whether it be returning home or experiencing what South America has to offer. On the pier, beside our little blue ship moored alongside in Ushuaia, we say our goodbyes, many hugs, and a few tears… and until next time, we wish each other good health and fair winds.

The expedition team has enjoyed exploring together with all the guests. Of course, these operations only run smoothy due to the coordination between all the departments on board Plancius. So, to all the dedicated and determined individuals involved in this adventure, we all give our thanks and appreciation.


Tripcode: PLA31-23
Dates: 8 Mar - 20 Mar, 2023
Duration: 12 nights
Ship: m/v Plancius
Embark: Ushuaia
Disembark: Ushuaia

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