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.
During these two days, we will sail across the Drake Passage. When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we will arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area we may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels. Near the South Shetland Islands, we will glimpse at the first icebergs. The Master of the vessel may decide to sail the narrow English Strait, between Robert Island and Greenwich Island, if the conditions are favourable. We will then be in sight of Aitcho Island at the South Shetlands in the late evening of the third day. If the conditions do not allow us to manuvre through the English Strait, then we will continue sailing south of Livingston. These volcanic islands or the South Shetlands, are windswept and often shrouded in mist and fog, but do offer subtle pleasures. There is a nice variety of flora (mosses, lichens and flowering grasses) and fauna; such as Gentoo Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins and southern Giant Petrels.
We may start our first day in Antarctica with a landing at Hannah Point, where we will find a nice variety of Gentoo Penguins, Chinstraps and southern Giant Petrels; as well as Elephant Seals hauling out on the beach. At Deception Island, we will try to land. 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; plus 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. 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. On our way further south, we will sail to the Orne Islands with large colonies of Chinstrap Penguins, and a beautiful view across the Gerlache Strait; or to Cuverville Island - a small precipitous island, nestled between the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and Danco Island. It contains a large colony of Gentoo Penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. In Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay, with its myriad icebergs and deep cut fjords, we have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent. We shall have the opportunity for zodiac cruising between the icebergs in the inner parts of the fjords. We will sail through the spectacular Lemaire Channel to Petermann Island, offering Adelie Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags. We will also try to land at Pleneau Island, with Elephant Seals and fair chances to encounter Humpback, Minke and Fin Whales. We will then head south along the Argentine Islands to Crystal Sound, south of the Polar Circle. The landscape is very impressive, with very high mountains and huge glaciers. At the Fish Islands, we will land at one of the southernmost Adelie Penguin and Blue-eyed Shag colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula. At Detaille Island, south of the Polar Circle, in Crystal Sound we will reach probably our farthest point south. Sailing north again through Neumayer Channel and Gerlache Strait, we will arrive at the Melchior Islands with a very beautiful landscape with icebergs; where we may encounter Leopard Seals, Crabeater Seals and whales.
In the Drake Passage, we will have again a chance of seeing many seabirds, and to take advantage of the knowledge of our lecture team.
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.