You will be warmly greeted by the crew and expedition staff as you embark Plancius in the afternoon. Sailing down the Beagle Channel, we will settle into shipboard life and enjoy our first meal on board, and set our course for the Falkland Islands.
At sea, in the Westerlies the ship is followed by several species of albatrosses, storm petrels, shearwaters and diving petrels.
In the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) we plan to spend the whole day on the fascinating western side of the archipelago. A hike along the shore of Carcass Island will give us views of Magellanic and Gentoo-Penguins, as well as close encounters with water fowl, Night herons and passarines. In addition, on Saunders we will be able to observe four species of breeding penguins (Gentoo, King, Magellanic and Rockhopper), Black-browed Albatrosses and King Cormorants.
In Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, we can experience Falkland culture, which has some South American characteristics as well as Victorian charm. In Stanley and the surrounding area, we can see quite an important number of stranded clippers from a century ago. All passengers are free to wander around on their own. We recommend a visit to the local church and museum.
At sea, on our way to South Georgia we will cross the Antarctic Convergence. Entering Antarctic waters, the temperature will drop by as much as 10 degrees C in the time span of only a few hours. Near the Convergence we will see a multitude of southern seabirds near the ship: several species of Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Petrels, Prions and Skuas. You may decide to join the whale watchers on the bridge, or just relax and read a favourite book.
In the afternoon of day 7, we will arrive at our first landing site in South Georgia. We might visit the bay of Elsehul, with its very active fur seal breeding beach; and then set course to Right Whale Bay, Salisbury Plain, Godthul, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay and Drygalski Fjord, to give you a good opportunity to see a wide spectrum of landscapes and wildlife, like the introduced Reindeer, Elephant seals, Fur seals, King and Macaroni Penguins. One of the highlights might be our visit to Prion Island, where we will witness the breeding efforts of the huge Wandering Albatross and enjoy watching their displays. At Fortuna Bay we might try to follow in the footsteps of the great British Explorer Ernest Shackleton and hike over to Stromness Bay. There, and at Grytviken, we will see an abandoned whaling village, where King Penguins now walk in the streets and seals have taken over the buildings. At Grytviken, we will also offer a visit to the Whaling History Museum, as well as to Shackleton s grave nearby. We will depart from South Georgia in the afternoon of day 10.
Leaving South Georgia we head across the Scotia Sea in a south-westerly direction towards the South Orkney Islands, a stunning group of islands, remote and alone jutting out of the sea. At some point we might encounter sea-ice, and it is at the ice-edge where we might have a chance to see some high-Antarctic species like the McCormick Skua and Snow Petrel.
We are aiming to visit the Argentine Orcadas Station on Laurie Island (South Orkney Islands). Orcadas Station is the oldest continuously operating weather station in Antarctica. The friendly base personnel will show us their facilities and we can enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding glaciers.
Today we set course for the Weddell Sea. Time to reflect and enjoy the lectures on board.
We will sail into the Weddell Sea through the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound. Huge tabular icebergs will announce our arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. We plan to visit Brown Bluff where we may set foot on the Continent. Charlotte Bay on the west coast of Graham Land was discovered by Adrien de Gerlache during the 1897 99 Belgica expedition and named after the fianc e of Georges Lecointe, Gerlache's executive officer, hydrographer and second-in- command of the expedition. At Portal Point, there used to be a Falkland Islands Dependency Survey (British Antarctic Survey from 1962) hut which was built there between Brabant Island and the Danco Coast in 1956. The hut has been removed to the Falkland Islands Museum in Stanley. Portal Point served as the gateway for a route to the polar plateau. Immediately behind the low point on which the hut was located, the (usually snow-covered) land rises steeply upslope toward the plateau. The topography of the surrounding area is mountainous, with nunataks rising through the ice. Charlotte Bay is often filled with icebergs. Mostly we will see seals on fls in Charlotte Bay, and occasionally, kelp gulls, skuas, shags, or penguins. From the slope above Portal Point, and at its highest point, there are excellent views of Charlotte Bay. In Wilhelmina Bay we will admire the rugged ice coated mountains of the Arctowski Pensinsula. At Deception Island, we will try to land at Baily Head, home to a colony of ten thousand Chinstrap Penguins (please note this landing is not always guaranteed and is only possible in good weather conditions). Good walkers may hike from Baily Head over the ridge of the crater into Whalers Bay, while our ship braves its entrance into the crater through the spectacular Neptune's Bellow into the ring of Deception Island. Deception itself is a sub-ducted crater, which opens into the sea, creating a natural harbour for the ship. Here we will find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, thousands of Cape Pigeons and many Dominican Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns. Wilson's Storm Petrels and Black-bellied Storm Petrels nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. We will leave from here to the open sea towards Ushuaia.
While at sea there is ample opportunity to observe the sea birds that follow the ship. This is a time for reflection and discussion about our many experiences with shipboard friends.
During the early morning we will cruise up the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia. It is a busy time, with people saying farewell to our crew and others who have shared the intensity of being in a magnificent white wilderness. We will head off in our different directions, hopefully with a new found sense of the power of natural forces.