Trip log, OTL21-17 Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp

by Oceanwide Expeditions


Day 1: Embarkation, Ushuaia

Embarkation, Ushuaia
Date: 04.11.2017
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: NNW 1-3 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 9

We gathered from all points on the globe on a windy summer day in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. The mountains behind were topped with snow, but in town, wind and drizzle was more prevalent. We wandered town's cobbled, steep and random footpaths, had coffee and lunch, then in the afternoon many did some last-minute shopping before joining the Ortelius at the main dock. Met by our Hotel Manager DJ and Assistant Hotel Manager Sava, we were led to our cabins by the hotel crew. Once on board, we settled in to our cabins, and later found our way to the Lounge on deck 6. Once we had all gathered, Third Officer Louis presented the mandatory safety briefing to show us how to use the big orange lifejackets and how to muster in case of emergency. Immediately after the briefing, we had our safety drill, to ensure we knew how to muster in the lounge. We finished up with DJ and Sava showing us how we would go to the lifeboats if ordered to by the Captain. Following the drill, we were again invited to the Lounge. Our Hotel Manager Dejan (DJ) helped us settle in with more information about how the ship works, and Captain Mika Appel spoke a few words of welcome and proposed a toast to our voyage. Meanwhile, we sailed from Ushuaia, through the Beagle Channel and towards the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Sebastian (Seba), our Expedition Leader, introduced the Expedition Team, and after a few helpful hints from Sarah, our ship Doctor, we went to the dining room for our first meal on board. There, we sat at shared tables, making new friends and wondering what would come in the days ahead. Finally, tired from the travel, we retired to our cabins to rest and get ready for our first full day of our ad-venture.

Day 2: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 05.11.2017
Position: 56°32.9‘S, 065°52.4‘W
Wind: WNW 11-16 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 7

When we were woken by our expedition leader Sebastian, we found ourselves completely surrounded by open water. We were in the Drake passage and she was kind to us. There was about 20 knots of wind, cre-ating a gentle swell and a bit of movement of the ship. Nothing too bad, and most of us weren’t too both-ered by it. After breakfast we were called to the lecture room to collect our rubber boots and life jackets. Both of these items needed during our landings and other activities. After this, Bruce called us to the bar, where he gave an introduction to photography. It was good to get some tips on how to improve our pho-tography at the beginning of this very special trip. After lunch a series of briefings was starting: snowshoe-ing, camping, kayaking and mountaineering, all these activities were introduced and we were given im-portant information on how to take part in these. Our excitement got even bigger and we couldn’t wait to do any of these things in the spectacular surroundings of the Antarctic Peninsula. Meanwhile outside several birds were seen. Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Albatrosses were seen flying around the ship, as well as several Blue and Cape Petrels. As there was little wind, the numbers weren’t very big, as these birds need wind to fly. But it was still well worth spending some time on the bridge or the outside decks watching for what the ocean had to offer. After all these briefings, it was time for our daily recap. Here Sebastian explained the plans for the follow-ing day and showed an ice chart for the area. We would most likely see some is tomorrow, how exciting!! After this Bill urged us not only to look, but also to see and even to think about what was out there. As an example, for this, Arjen showed us some of the birds seen today and told us what to look for if someone wanted to identify them. When this was over it was time for a lovely dinner after which it was time to go to the bar, where the party lasted long after the bartender had gone to bed…

Day 3: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 06.11.2017
Position: 61°00.8‘S, 063°22.0‘W
Wind: WSW 11-16 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 2

Excited passengers awoke to a bright sunny morning with hints of large ice on the far horizon and decaying white lumps of various sizes dotted across the sea. Ortelius had a gentle motion and most were relieved that the ‘Drake Passage’ had been kind to them. A few macho souls had been hoping for a storm to test their reaction to rough seas. Early morning risers were rewarded when a Humpback was spotted before breakfast. Our ever vigilant Oceanwide guide Arjen looking, seeing, thinking as always, captured a beautiful photograph of an enor-mous bright halo in the clouds on the horizon and throughout the day, the species sightings sheet received steady ticks as passengers identified more whales, assorted birds and some fur seals. Reports of large amounts of ice drifting into the intended track of Ortelius resulted in the bridge team instigating a course change to avoid the ice, the vessel swung onto a track slightly more east to maintain good speed towards the Boyd Straight. The major highlight of the day was the compulsory IAATO briefing and biosecurity check. Clothes and equipment were brought up to the lounge for this mandatory cleaning exercise. In the morning the vacuum cleaners on Ortelius were deployed as passengers enthusiastically and ecstati-cally poked noisy nozzles into every pocket, seam and compartment of jackets, trousers, rucksacks and boots. Only brand-new equipment escaped this rigorous treatment. Contorted bodies squatted on the floor and hunched over tables deftly manipulating vacuum hose and noz-zles to efficiently suck up from the inner depths of fabric and leather, out-of-date crumbs of food, remains of sweeties from 2009, assorted seeds from various plants from across the globe, shreds of tobacco and numerous unmentionable substances. It was obvious from the energetic response that everyone had ab-sorbed the IAATO educational video. In the afternoon Lynne delivered an extremely well received, highly informative introductory lecture on Antarctica covering a wide range of topics. The varied questions at the end exemplified the degree of pas-senger interest. Before dinner headed back to the lounge for a recap and plans for the next day. The ship was filled with enthusiasm for the following days activities. We are ready.

Day 4: Orne Harbor/Cuverville Island/Ronge Island

Orne Harbor/Cuverville Island/Ronge Island
Date: 07.11.2017
Position: 64°38.3‘S, 062°31.3‘W
Wind: ESE 4-6 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +4

Today was the first day of landings and activities. Excited to get off the ship everyone geared up for various activities. The mountaineers were first to depart, followed by the kayakers in their goofy outfits, then eve-ryone else kitted out in Muck boots and outer gear ready for a zodiac cruise. Although it was cloudy the weather was quite nice. The mountaineers were dropped off at a landing site by Zodiac for their activity. Kayakers skirted the southern bay and had much fun paddling with kayak guide Shelli. Zodiac cruising was a blast this morning in Orne Harbor. For most of us it was the first time to see huge icebergs close up. Most boats also took a tour past the Chinstrap and Shag colony below Spigot Peak. Above the climbers worked their way up the ridge line while we enjoyed the views down below. After about an hour and a half of cruising we headed back to the ship for a warm lunch and the short ship transit into the Errera Channel for our first landing in Antarctica. In the afternoon we had our initial landing of the trip on a small island called Cuverville. This is the largest Gentoo penguin colony on the Antarctic peninsula, home to some 4,000 nesting pairs. This was the first time to be close to a Gentoo penguin colony, everyone had a lot of fun observing the penguins. Cameras of all shapes and sizes were taken out, capturing images and video of pictures of the charming Gentoo pen-guins. Soon it was time to return to the ship, we headed in for the evening recap, a delicious dinner, and for some gearing up in anticipation for a night on the ice! A fantastic day. S Soon Sea Kayak Orne Harbor After two days at sea, the kayakers group 1 and 2 were ready for action. The Drake passage had been very kind to us, and the first morning in Antarctica was even better. The Gerlache straight was decorated with navigable gems of ice bergs and as we entered Orne Harbor glassy calm waters reflected the glaciers and mountain peaks around. Having been outfitted the night before with our kayak gear, we were quick to first do a “dry run” on deck. Adjusting the foot pedals for steering the double kayaks, as a rudder system was a key way to navigate these Antarctic waters. We also did a quick practice of putting on and taking off the spray skirt, as many of us had never used one before. Once this was finished, we headed off to the gang way, turned our tags and quickly found ourselves in the zodiac. All the kayaks had been craned off the ship and attached and towed behind our zodiac. It wasn’t long and we found calm water and distance from both the ship and the other zodiacs cruising about when we began to enter the kayaks. This was a first for many of us! Loading direct into the water from the water. It was very safe, as our Guide Shelli supported us from one side and the safety driver from the other, we were safely sandwiched between the pontoon of the zodiac and the guides kayak. Efficiently all 12 of us were soon floating and paddling in Antarctic waters! We headed off in the direction of the small Chinstrap penguin colony below Spigot Peak, meanwhile en-tranced by the beauty of the ice and surrounding glaciers. As a group we approached the coastline and had our first views of both penguins, Antarctic shags, Antarctic terns, Kelp gulls, and of course the majestic Snowy sheathbill. The conditions remained calm and we made a crossing back toward the North Bay also in the direction of the ship. A circumnavigation of one of the large bergs was our finally before entering the zodiac and heading back to Ortelius. Cuverville Island The afternoon’s weather remained brilliant with calm waters around Cuverville Island. After completing all the same steps of outfitting, boat fitting and getting sorted. Group 2 was underway. We launched not far from the ship, large ice bergs creating a nice slalom course to weave through, however the bigger feature was the largest Gentoo penguin colony in all of the peninsula. We could see it, we could hear it, and yes we could smell it! Originally our guide Shelli had hoped to attempt a circumnavigation of this small island, however the amount of beautiful yet very thick brash ice coming out of the Errera channel changed this plan. We spent some time at the edge of the shore, observing the penguins before looping back around past the landing site and into the small channel between Rongé Island and Cuverville. In route we saw a rock which suddenly turned into a slumbering Weddell seal in the water. The seal was not disturbed by our presence and it was a great opportunity to observe this wonderful animal. As we continued around the back side of the island, the pulse of Ortelius’ engine was muffled and we took the opportunity to have a few minutes of Antarctic silence. Soon it was time to return to the ship. Due to all the majestic and large icebergs between us and the vessel, we could not actually see how far it was to paddle, but everyone had great energy and we continued on in good spirits. However, rounding one of the bergs we were able to get a vantage on the location of Ortelius which was somewhere mid Gerlache straight. Thus, taking advantage of our safety zodiac, we piled in and motored the next kilometer or two. Back on-board spirits were high, after returning our gear we all headed to the lounge for the evening recap and information in what was in store for tomorrow. A fantastic first day for everyone. Climbing Spigot peak, Grade PD 8 mountaineers were the first to set off from Ortelius after the long crossing of the Drake passage. Antici-pation was heavy in the air as we set foot on the continent for the first time. Steady progress was made up to the col overlooking Orne harbour where we had our first encounter with penguins; we were clearly not the first mountaineers here! From the col we snaked and weaved our way up the sometimes-sinuous snow arete until we were stopped by blue ice. From this point Owen and Tim took different paths; Owen climbing a short, steep but direct ice pitch and Tim following the exposed but less steep ridge. Both belayed on snow stakes before a final push to the summit. A few summit photos later we all descended directly down the ridge (reversing our line of ascent) and then back to the shore high after a great first Antarctic summit. Kerr Point, Grade F A further 10 passengers left the ship for their first Antarctic landing that day. In lowering visibility and ‘moist conditions’ we were dropped off in two Zodiacs. Harnesses were donned and we zig zagged up the slopes in two teams; towering seracs and crevasses ever present. A high point was reached (a cliff barred the way) before we descended again to the shore. Camping night 1 Kerr Point After a lovely dinner in our local restaurant in Ortelius, we had half an hour to prepare everything for the first night of camping at a place called Kerr Point on Rongé island. Kerr Point is a nice gentle slope sur-rounded by glaciers just in front of Cuverville island. The weather was on our side, an agreeable cloudy night without wind was waiting for us on shore. Our camping guides delivered the gear to the passengers on the ship and prepared the other equipment to be off loaded into the zodiacs and then shore. Everyone was super excited about spending the night out-side. At this time of the season there is no full darkness, however we did manage to see some stars be-tween the clouds, the waters surrounding the camping area was filled with medium and little icebergs The campers started to dig they own “graves“ for shelter, also building snow brick walls to keep them away from the wind. Many tripods and cameras were taking time lapses of the alive landscape. Our guide says, “don’t lose to many temperature, everyone jump to the sleeping kit to keep enjoying the view.” Earlier than ever, the wakeup call by Nacho was at 5 am, just to have the enough time to organize the kits and fill the holes. The first zodiac arrived and we started to shuttle back to the ship in perfect timing for the breakfast and the long day ahead full of activities!

Day 5: Danco Island/Georges Point

Danco Island/Georges Point
Date: 08.11.2017
Position: 64°43.7‘S, 062°37.0‘W
Wind: N 4-6 knots
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: +7

The morning began with favorable weather and after breakfast we loaded into the zodiacs and headed ashore to Danco Island. This was another opportunity to spend more time with the endearing Gentoo Pen-guins and enjoy the beauty of the scenery. Many of us strapped on snowshoes and hiked up to the top of the Island with Bill. Here we took a moment to enjoy the incredible silence of Antarctica and have the op-portunity for looking, seeing and doing as we contemplated the vastness and mystery that is Antarctica and how fortunate we are to be able to experience such a special place. At the end of the landing it was time for the polar plunge and many crazy souls stripped down to their bathing suits (or less) and threw them-selves into zero-degree Celsius water. Then it was back to the ship for a hot shower and another tasty lunch. Our afternoon landing brought us ashore at George’s Point on Rongé Island. The weather had changed to a rain and strong winds, giving us a taste of how quickly things change in Antarctica. Several Weddell seals were hauled up on the snow above the beach, one of which was very curious and came over to check out the landing sight. The snowshoers hiked up to a view point and were lucky enough to find sev-eral chinstrap penguins. Conditions continued to deteriorate and although it was still safe to operate the excursion, many of us headed back to the ship a bit earlier to dry out and savor hot cups of tea before at-tending the evening recap. Sea Kayak Danco Island The morning of our second day in Antarctica was a kayaker’s dream. Glassy calm waters greeted us and after the exercise of gathering the gear we were off and away. Swiftly we were in the kayaks and paddling in “penguin soup”. Hundreds of Gentoo penguins were just coming to shore in large rafts of 20-30 individu-als. It was entertaining to what them launch up out of the water onto the snow bank, like little rockets. The leap was at least half a meter for some. Heading north some ways we encountered a small island with a slumbering Weddell seal we were all able to have a nice view before heading off to play in the brash ice. Again, the terrain of the island was able to block the rumble of Ortelius’ engine and we observed the sounds of Antarctica. The crackling of ice, distant avalanches, but mostly the orchestra of calls from the penguins in the water. At times we were surrounded by not one but three different rafts of penguins. Thankfully they are not an aggressive bird. Soon however, it was the time to take a Polar Plunge if so de-sired. Most of us headed into the zodiac and to the landing site to mindlessly throw ourselves into 0˚ C wa-ters, but what an opportunity! A dynamic morning indeed. Climbing Danco Island, Ice Climbing, Grade WI 4 – 5 10 lucky passengers were chosen to experience climbing vertical glacier ice in Antarctica. We were dropped away from the main group and set up 3 ‘top ropes’ on the towering blue ice cliffs of Danco Island. A few hours were spent hacking, kicking and clinging on to bare ice with guests ‘belaying’ and lowering each other to ensure team bonding! Ronge island, George’s Point, un named peaks near Mount Tennant. Grade PD 12 passengers made their way through the Gentoo colonies of George’s Point before roping up on the glac-ier. This was followed over wind features and ridges before a col was reached. Here the teams reduced in size to tackle the exposed and technical arete ahead with Tim and Owen climbing it twice each. A rare ascent of a little climbed peak. Camping night 2 Danco Island (Canceled because of rain ) This time after recap of our day, our camping guides told us to stand by and pay attention to the an-nouncements. Some rain was trying to ruin our night of camping. Anyway, we manage to get out and give a try like always. After the dinner, campers met on the Heli-hangar to pick their gear. The rain was there, but we decide to at less try for one hour to see if it would stop. We played with snow-balls to keep busy, Nacho’s juggling show with shovels entertained us and we also dug some holes to at least practice for a camping night. The rain didn’t wait for us and became stronger after forty-five minutes. We had to make that “call”, Orte-lius was almost halfway to reposition, but they turn toward to Danco again and dropped zodiacs and start the operation to take everybody from the shore. At this time everyone was thoroughly wet enough and happy to return!

Day 6: Almirante Brown & Skontorp/Waterboat Point

Almirante Brown & Skontorp/Waterboat Point
Date: 09.11.2017
Position: 64°53.4‘S, 062°53.2‘W
Wind: SE 9-11 knots
Weather: overcast
Air Temperature: +5

The day dawned with a 40 knot wind, it looked cold and unpromising at first, as Ortelius made its way through a sea dotted with ice to the first continental landing of the voyage at the Argentinian research sta-tion Almirante Brown. The weather changed however as the wind eased away to nothing and the morning became quite pleasant. Guides landed to investigate a spot for landing and created a mini-harbor with cut steps in the over-hanging ice and snow shore. Two Zodiac loads of climbers landed first, fitted their snow shoes, clutched their ice-axes, then in a long line climbed steadily up the slope at the back of the station. All the other passengers were divided into two groups, one cruised the glacier lined shore the other landed for a short walk marked by red safety poles to observe and photograph the Gentoo penguin colony at the boarded-up station. The location provided stunning views in every direction. Numerous Weddell seals were spotted in the water and hauled out on ice flows. One leucistic [ less pigmented] penguin was seen on the point. The next landing after lunch, was to be at Stony Point but this was cancelled due to poor visibility and greatly increased wind. The ship then appeared deserted as everyone had a lie-down in their cabins after eating the usual superb fare. A new destination was selected …the Chilean station Gonzalez Videla. After arrival, Zodiacs were launched and the climbers transported to hike uphill on Mount Hoegh at the edge of a glacier at the far side of the bay. Kayakers paddled along the coast whilst all other passengers were giv-en alternating experiences… half the group were landed at the buildings and walked a route guided by red marker poles to observe and photograph the colonies of Gentoo penguins clustered on every outcrop. The others Zodiac cruised at safe distance along the faces of the crumbling glaciers and explored the dramatic contorted shapes created by hundreds of grounded berg bits and large icebergs in the bay. Unfortunately for the scheduled late-night activity, just after the B&Q dinner the wind increased to over 30 knots as Ortelius approached Kerr Point the intended overnight camping destination. Considering that eve-ryone would be soaked by the Zodiac transfer even before the camping started, on the grounds of safety the landing was cancelled. Sea Kayak Paradise Bay We woke in the morning with the wakeup call from our expedition leader Sebation. As he announced the weather of 30+knots of wind, our hopes of paddling deflated. However, as we rounded the entrance to Paradise bay, it was indeed paradise. Flat calm waters greeted us decorated with a smack of icebergs, ab-solutely beautiful and our spirits rose again. After getting kitted out with the kayak gear we headed for the gangway and started the morning in style. The rest of the ship was either zodiac cruising or landing near Brown station. We slipped silently past them, taking a few moments to observe the Antarctic shag colony below the cliff and continued on parallel to the shoreline. It was a fantastic to both see and hear all the birdlife, between nesting shags, Antarctic terns, and the gurgling laugh of Cape petrels. Our timing couldn’t have been better, as we entered Skontorp cove the last of the zodiacs were just departing and we were able to enjoy the quiet loud of Antarctica without human sounds. We spotted a slumbering Weddell seal deep up on the fast ice, and fast asleep. The skies were overcast, but it brought out the blue in the ice even more; the glacier at the end of the bay was a stunning view. Time seemed to vanish and all to soon we needed to head back to the ship. It was an absolute pleasure to have had the chance to get on the wa-ter in such sublime conditions. Waterboat Point/Gonzalez Vidal Station Group six was ready, having prepared the equipment after lunch we were excited to get out. Unfor-tunately, the conditions had changed dramatically since the morning. Again, we had 25+ knots of wind, blowing sleet and snow: not good for kayaking. Our expedition leader thought this as well, and although it took a little more time, we changed our rerouted the ship and moved to Waterboat Point where we were able to find calm water and less wind. What a relief. We started the paddle by exploring a few large bergs before heading in closer to the shoreline. The shoreline was in fact a glacial face, so we kept our distance but got a little more sheltered, and also witnessed a nice calving. Soon we were in amongst remnant sea ice and brash, making for some dynamic paddling. As always, the time ran out and we turned and pushed into a head wind for as long as it was still enjoyable then hopped into the zodiac for an easier ride back to the ship. Climbing Peak and Glacier above Almirante Brown station. Grade F 17 passengers donned snow shoes and harnesses before zig zagging above the slope above. We all stopped at the corniced ridge, just underneath the imposing peak above. One at a time we mountaineered along the exposed but easy ridge to pose for pictures feeling on top of the world! We then roped up in 3 teams (some passengers leading their own rope) and circumnavigated the glacial ice cap overlooking Skonthorp Cove. Finally we dropped down on to the fast sea ice and crossed this still roped up before finally returning to base. Duthier’s point, un named satellite peak Mount Hoegh, grade F A long Zodiac crossing traveling North from Ortelius through the Aguirre Passage .The cloudy conditions made it difficult see our objective. Six passengers teamed up in 2 roped parties to cross the long gentle glacier before the rising slopes of our chosen peak steepened. Moving in to the cloud Tim picked a line continuing on snow shoes and Owen moved to traveling in boots up a short ridge both teams meeting at the summit. Unfortunately, no views were possible but the team were happy to have reached their first Antarctic summit. Camping night 3 (Cancelled because of the wind) As we were aware about the weather conditions at Stony point (the place we were supposed to camp). We decided to go back to Kerr Point to try and find a good place for the camping. After being at the bridge talking with the captain and checking changes in the wind speed and weather conditions for most of the hour before our departure, just 5 minutes before the activity disemarking we decided not to do it because the wind speed had increased up to 28 knots. As the camping team has only 2 guides, Nacho was with Sebastian and the Captain, and Ben was at the Heli hangar with the passengers, waiting for the final decision. Fortunately, everybody understood the risk of going out in such conditions and graciously accepted the wise decision from the expedition team.

Day 7: Goudier & Jougla Pt/ Damoy Point Weincke Island

Goudier & Jougla Pt/ Damoy Point Weincke Island
Date: 10.11.2017
Position: 64°49.6‘S, 063°30.8‘W
Wind: SW 9-11 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

Today some early risers saw us sail through the spectacular Neumayer Channel, a narrow passage be-tween Anvers and Wiencke Islands. Most of us however, were woken by Sebastian while we were ap-proaching a bay between Wiencke and Doumer Island. As we rounded the corner we could see coming into view the structures of Port Lockroy on Guidier Island. As these buildings were still closed, we landed at Jougla Point, another Gentoo penguin colony. In contrast to the previous days landing sites, where the pen-guins were sitting on snow, waiting for the first bits of snow free land to appear. These penguins were al-ready further along in their breeding cycle. At several locations there were rocks sticking out above the snow and the penguins immediately had started to make nests on them. These nests were made with small pebbles and at this moment these small pebbles are the most sought-after commodity. With most of the area still snow covered, there were only few available. This resulted in many penguins stealing pebbles from the nest of others and bringing them to their own. A very funny sight. All of this happened under blue skies with small patches of dramatic clouds and surrounded by spectacular mountains rising high above the sea. The peaks on Anvers Island were particular stunning, and the highest peak in all the Peninsula Mt. Francais 9,258 ft shone brightly with a fresh splash of snow. After we had a good time with our funny penguin friends, we headed back to the ship to have lunch. Fol-lowing lunch, we went out again, this time just around the corner at Damoy Point. Our plan A was to land in a little bay, Dorian Bay, but this was not possible as a large part of the bay was still frozen. However, the point was suitable to land on and we proceeded with the plan. Again, we saw many Gentoo penguins and a very lazy Weddell seal was hauled out on the ice a little beyond the penguins. Bill took those of us who wanted to get some exercise out on a walk with our snowshoes. We past the historic British hut and up a hill where we could enjoy the spectacular scenery once again. At recap Sebastian explained the plans for the following day and Shelli told the story of this strange, chick-en-like bird we had seen around the penguin-colonies: The Snowy Sheathbill. When this was finished, it was time for another good meal. We definitely wouldn’t lose weight on this trip with all these delicious meals. After dinner it turned out that, once again, fate wasn’t with the campers. Where the weather had been gorgeous during the day, it quickly cooled down (due to the lack of cloud cover of course). And, more im-portantly, the wind had picked up considerably creating whirling snow drifts at the camping location. Un-fortunately, Nacho had to cancel this night of camping as well. A few campers however, did not agree on this, and decided to sleep outside on the top deck of Ortelius. Sea Kayak Guidier& Jougla Pt. Our first sunny day! After a rather stormy night of wind and rain/snow we woke to blue skies and magnifi-cent views. A strong wind and a thick band of ice was out in the Neumeyer channel causing us to keep a vigilant watch on conditions. We launch the kayaks anyways and headed for the lee side of Doumer island and the Peltier channel. Finding a small sheltered cove, we loaded into the boats and sailed off with the wind at our back. A few Gentoo penguins were spotted loafing about, but the magnificent scenery domi-nated the excursion. The peak of Mt. Francais was clearly visible standing tall at 9,258 ft, the highest peak in all the Antarctic Peninsula. Heading into the fast ice that completely secured Weincke Island to Doumer Island several seals were noted deep across the sea ice and next to the glacier, why they go so far? Who knows… We took the opportunity to “park” our kayaks in the ice, pull out cameras and observe and preserve in pix-els this stunning landscape. Looping back towards the ship’s direction we paddled with strength into the headwind. Timing and comfort however led us sooner back into the zodiac and then the ship, with happy smiles and rosy cheeks. So nice to have the opportunity to paddle in such a magnificent place. Damoy Pt. The sun was still shining with force and the wind blowing the same in the afternoon. The ship had reposi-tioned just a short way around from Port Lockroy, to Damoy Pt. on Weincke island. Here was a Gentoo penguin colony, as well as a small hut from the British Antarctic and another opportunity for people to land and walk about. Group Eight however was keen to kayak, and piled into the zodiacs with kayaks towed be-hind in pursuit of calm water. Thick ice lurked about the ship, and although it looked fun and inviting to paddle in, actually was quite dangerous. Off we went to a small island just across from the point where we found a small cove sheltered from the breeze and loaded into the kayaks. Our first test was to exit the cove and navigate the small crossing to Damoy Pt. proper, this unfortunately proved more challenging for some. It was obvious the wind would test our navigation skills. We attempted with our guide’s encouragement to paddle first into the wind and observe the colony and coastline away from the bustle of the landing. How-ever, this also proved unsuitable; abandoning this plan we turned and with the wind at our back sailed along into the shallow cove west of the landing. A smack of penguins swam around us, and small icebergs stranded in the shallows made for fun views. Fallowing the glaciated shoreline, we continued to sail to-wards the Neumeyer channel, until our guide Shelli called us back and we reluctantly returned to the ship. A stunning afternoon of sun, mountains, and Antarctic splendor. Climbing Near Doumer Hill After traveling west across the Gerlash straight and hooking round under Wiencke Island, the Ortelius en-tered the Neumayer Channel and held position off the west coast of Doumer Island. With a team of 18 pas-sengers wrapped up in cold weather gear we found a fine landing point below the slopes of the huge ice cap. The clouds of the previous day had started to part and the day was showing promising weather, lifting the sprits of our merry band of mountaineers. In 3 ropes parties we made our way circumnavigating the high point of this part of the Island. Now under a blue sky the impressive peaks of the Fief Mountains loomed over head. Jabet Peak, Grade PD With 8 eager mountaineers eyeing up the fine looking Jabet Peak we made our way through the penguin colonies and out on to the glacier. Good progress was made on snow show to a steepening where cram-pons became necessary. Snow conditions were perfect with the colder weather having firmed up the snow making good foot placements. Once at a col and with steeper glacier slopes ahead we moved carefully to a point where a short climb up a gully lead to the south summit. Fine views of Mount William and Borgen Bay were had under a cloudless sky. A brisk wind and the ice closing in across the bay meant little time to dwell in such a vista. So, we made a rapid descent, pausing only briefly to help 2 of the team remove themselves from an unseen crevasse. Camping night 4 (cancelled by weather conditions) We got a little bit spoiled with the weather during the day by doing all the activities, so we thought that was going to be our opportunity for camping. As every other day, we consider the camping until the last minute and we briefed the 4th group during recaps and arranged a meeting time for starting at 8:30 pm. It was very easy to feel how the wind was hitting us, making the work of putting a zodiac in the water very risky, but it was also going to be super hard to set the camp up in the wind, even if we could make the landing happen. The good news about that evening was that the captain allowed the camping group to spend the night at the upper deck behind the bridge, so they could get the experience of camping in Antarctica. After cancel-ing the activity most everyone in the group decided to go to the bar and enjoy the comfort of Ortelius and try a few drinks made by Rolando. This included everyone but 2 people who still took the opportunity of sleeping outside. We decided to set up the bivy bags inside the Heli hangar and then take it to the “camp-ing deck”. Nacho and Ben spent the night taking rounds to see how they were dealing with the wind and cold on top of the deck. In the morning they had a genuine early morning wake up at 04:20 by their guides, the morning “pick up” was quite simple, as all they needed to do was pack up their gear and walk down-stairs.

Day 8: Neko Harbor/Stony Point/Almirante Brown

Neko Harbor/Stony Point/Almirante Brown
Date: 11.11.2017
Position: 64°50.4‘S, 062°32.8‘W
Wind: NW 4-6 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 0

We woke to clear skies but a windy morning, in the Gerlache Strait. The Captain brought the ship into Andvord Bay, where we were afraid there might be to much sea ice blocking our passage. While the ice was all around us, it was not too thick for navigation, and we made our way into the back of the bay. Our destination was Neko Harbor, a small indentation on the coastline of Andvord Bay. As we approached, Se-ba made sure we were aware that there was quite a bit of brash ice along the coast, and we would have to be patient, as the landing would take some time. Climbers came first, setting off towards higher slopes, then the rest of us (except kayakers, of course!) came ashore for a landing on the Continent proper. Arriving to the beach was a challenge, as the drivers had to negotiate the boats through a thick field of brash ice that was constantly surging back and forth. Many of us followed Bill up the hill to the viewpoint, which was spectacular, allowing us to sit with glaciers and snowy mountains all around. Ortelius looked small in the distance, and the amount of snow and ice all around was very impressive. Some of us opted to spend the time lower down the hill, watching the Gen-toos go about their business. There was courting and calling, squabbling and stone-hunting happening all around, as the penguins prepared for the Antarctic summer. They needed to be ready for their new chicks they hoped to meet at the end of December. In the icy water, a Weddell seal and a few Crabeater seals swam near shore, as sparkling clean Gentoos popped out of the sea and scrambled up the beach every so often. Back on board, lunch was the order of the day, with some of us taking our time to eat and others rushing the meal to sneak a very short nap in before our next excursion. It was a slow passage through to Paradise Harbour and our afternoon landing at Stony Point. At the northern entrance to Paradise Bay a giant iceberg was blocking our way. The Captain navigated the ship around the ice and South, and we finally arrived at Stony Point about an hour later than we had hoped. It was not a problem, as we had a great time on the ship watching our progress, and also got a short “polar nap “in. When we arrived, again the polar condi-tions slowed us a bit, and this landing site was definitely a challenge! Bill set up a rope for us to do our own mountaineering, without Tim and Owen's assistance. We climbed a wall of winter snow to the top of a small dome, donned our snowshoes, and headed uphill again. At the top, a few brave (or foolish) folks stripped down for photos, while the rest of us enjoyed the Gentoo-free peace and quiet, with only ice and snow cracking and moving around us. Down near the landing site, a beautiful mottled grey Weddell seal posed on a bit of pristine white snow, with blue sea and glaciated mountains behind. By the time we were back on board, the weather had closed in, and the snow had come down low enough to block the views, so we were all happy to change into warm, dry gear and make our way to the bar for the briefing, a chat, and a visit with Rolando. The most exciting part of Recap was the draw for spots on the camping list. Nacho enlisted Bill to assist, and the lucky campers were drawn by lottery. We reposi-tioned the ship a little bit North, to the Argentine Base Brown, and in light snow, took our camping team to their home for the night, while the rest of us had another drink or cup of something hot, a leisurely dinner, and spent a bit more time in the Bar socialising before retiring to our warm, dry bunks. Sea Kayak Neko Harbor The morning brought calm waters and the beautiful landscape of Andvord Bay. The ship negotiated the icy waters for a clear approach to Neko harbor; the destination for the morning. We were in high spirits as this would be the last full day of excursions. Putting in a safe distance from the glacial face we paddled out into the middle of the bay, sightseeing some of the larger bergs and taking in the surroundings. The conditions were so calm it was very optimal to go where ever we wanted. This was a slightly different paddle in re-gards to the language spoken by everyone but our guide. However, the enjoyment translated in any dialect. Stony Point, Paradise Bay The afternoon proved to be just what we needed. Back in the southern entrance to Paradise Bay, calm water, remnant sea ice and light snow made for a very atmospheric scene. It was finally Group 4’s chance to get in the kayaks! Having been canceled or “post ponded” on day two of excursions, it was much anticipated. We headed off into the ice, with the destination of a petite island in Ferguson Channel harbor-ing a small Gentoo penguin colony. In the shallows around the island many ice bergs had been grounded and we were able to safely weave in and out of this icy playground. The reflections were astounding and we felt at ease and relaxed, enjoying the independence of a small group and good friends. Climbing Neko Point, Grade F After most of the ship had seen what a great time the mountaineers had had under such fine weather the previous day there was a mini gold rush for the available places on this trip. With the objective looking steep and with a degree of uncertainty we approached with 9 passengers in 2 roped teams. Crampons were needed for progress on firm snow and as the flanks guarding the summit steepened, Tim took a line to the right carefully navigating a circuitous passage. Owen opted for the steeper face with a pitched a rope length up the ice. Both teams were eventually turned around due to the difficulty of the terrain, leav-ing the summit un visited. The teams had an exciting first mountaineering experience having used their ice axes and crampons to good effect. Hauron Peak, Stony Point Grade F In the afternoon Ortelius steamed round to Andvord Bay, a wonderful inlet with crashing glaciers tumbling in to the sea. Here we took 12 passengers on a snow shoeing glacier trip on the flanks of Scheipflug Nuna-tak. This proved to be very good sport with several enormous crevasses needing to be carefully negotiated. On the way down the wind dropped causing the sea to be glassy smooth offering outstanding reflections of the surrounding peaks, only made more tranquil but the light snow fall. Camping night 5 – Spared night (Almirante Brown station) As we had to cancel 3 nights of camping in a row, we decided to make a lottery and randomly select 30 people who missed the chance to do it due to the cancellations. During the recap of the day, Nacho made the lottery assisted by Bill and his amazing sense of humour. Finally, 30 passengers got the opportunity to go. As every camping night, we met the campers at 8:30 pm at the Heli hangar to brief them and give all the necessary gear. All the lucky winners were very excited to go, but at the same time the snow falling turned into rain and then snow again, even with some doubts about it we headed to Almirante Brown sta-tion with the happy campers to get this amazing experience. No wind we could feel, the snowfall started slowing down little by little and the conditions went optimal for a great night. As soon as we landed there, some people started digging the graves for setting their bivys and others just decided to leave that for later and enjoy the wonderful evening Antarctica was giving to us. There was such a good atmosphere at the campsite, not only weather conditions were amazing after 3 nights of cancellations, but the passengers were so happy specially when they got the wake up call. Between smiles, jokes and some work to put the camp down and leave everything as it was before, the first zodiacs appear to take the group back to Ortelius and with that nostalgy but happiness at the same time, we said good bye to our “home” for at least one night.

Day 9: Foyn Harbour/At Sea

Foyn Harbour/At Sea
Date: 12.11.2017
Position: 64°39.9 S, 062°55.7‘W
Wind: NE 28-33 knots
Weather: snowing
Air Temperature: 0

After a very early morning pick-up, the campers were safely back on the ship around 5:00am. The ship con-tinued sailing towards the planned excursion in Foyn Harbour, located between Nansen and Enterprise Is-lands in Wilhelmina Bay. This is the site of whaling ship wreck, the Governoren, which caught fire and was run aground in 1912. We planned to Zodiac cruise and kayak there. In route we encountered a lot of ice and strong winds, causing the ship to slow down. By the time the ship got close to Foyn harbour, weather conditions was not suitable for zodiac cruising nor kayaking. The Captain proposed a ship cruise of the bay, but visibility was so poor it was deemed best to cancel the activities and commence our way back towards Ushuaia. Hotel manager DJ opened the ship shop for a little retail therapy before lunch. A little disappoint-ed, but still in high spirits, we began to sort our photos, continue to swap stories and drink copious amounts of tea and hot chocolate. After lunch the skies had cleared, we found the decks were covered with several centimetres of fresh snow. Several of us took to the activity of sculpting snow people on both the bow and the stern of Ortelius. We even lent them some fashionable outfits. In the afternoon, Arjen gave a very interesting talk about Birds in Antarctica. Just as the evening Recap was about to begin, a group of humpback whales appeared next to our ship. The bridge was very kind to slow down and change course, so we could have the opportunity to view the whales for a greater amount of time.

Day 10: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 13.11.2017
Position: 60°42.85‘S, 062°54.61‘W
Wind: SW 16-20 knots
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 0

Everyone had the opportunity for a bit of a sleep in this morning as we had no wakeup call, aside from DJ rousing us for breakfast. The Drake Passage had also woken up a bit and the increased movement of the ship kept some in bed most of the morning. Those that were feeling well had the opportunity to absorb more Antarctic knowledge form the days lectures. Bruce talked about seabirds and what it takes for them to survive life in the open oceans. Wisely, Bruce had moved his lecture to the lounge for the comfort of all of us. His lecture concluded when a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross flew past the lounge windows. Outside from the decks we watched the majestic albatross as well Cape Petrels, Blue Petrels, Antarctic Prions, Giant petrels and Black-browed Albatross. In the afternoon Bill shared insights into the history of the whaling industry and Lynn explained the dynam-ics of the different types of ice that are found in Antarctica. Thoughts and conversations were drifting more and more often to our future travel plans and feelings of home. We gathered in the lounge for recap, our plans were fairly clear about the following days activity: head North to Ushuaia. However, Hotel manager DJ needed to pass on a few housekeeping items: account remedying, disembarkation timings etc. Then Bruce again stunned us with bird dynamics, this time a physi-cal demonstration (a piece of string), of just how long some of the sea-bird’s wingspan are. Before we headed off to dinner, Arjen presented a wonderful gift of a small film he had compiled during the voyage. The footage was all ours and we were grateful for this addition token of remembrance.

Day 11: At Sea

At Sea
Date: 14.11.2017
Position: 56°55.96‘S, 065°35.43‘W
Wind: NW 9-11 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

Our second full day at sea was still very gentle and we had been making good time overnight, now expect-ing to be in the Beagle Channel by early evening. Ortelius had rocked us through the night and we woke up well rested ready for shipboard activities. In the morning the mountaineering guide Tim presented an in-formative lecture on some of his other employment, working with BAS (British Antarctic Survey). Following lunch we said goodbye to our trusty Muck boots and lifejackets. Super handy this Antarctic foot-wear, but nice to relieve the space in our cabins. It was time to start organizing our belongings, packing up and preparing for leaving tomorrow morning. The afternoon we paid our bills, exchanged addresses, and made loose plans for the future. The evening was quite merry, at recap we cast our minds back to the be-ginning of the voyage through photographs and stories, made a toast to Antarctica and headed down to a final delicious dinner.

Day 12: Ushuaia

Date: 15.11.2017
Position: 54°48.6‘S, 068°17‘W
Wind: NNW 1-3 knots
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

All good things come to an end, as they say. Today was our last morning on Ortelius. After a last night in our cabin, which had started to feel like home already. We put our suitcases in the corridors this morning as instructed so the crew could take them out and off the ship. After one more breakfast it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to our ship and its crew and staff, and to our new friends. Appointments were made to stay in touch and farewells were said. We could look back to a very nice and successful trip. We went out for mountaineering and kayaking trips, some of us went camping on the white continent and all of us marveled at the sight of many Gentoo Penguins and the spectacular scenery. At 8:30 we handed in the keys to our cabins, picked up our luggage from the pier and walked towards Ushuaia. Heading for new adventures and with many great memories in our pocket. 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! Furthest South: 64°54.38‘S 062°55.39‘W On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Mika Appel, Expedition Leader Sebastian Arrebola, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.