The cruise, er, “expedition”, started in Ushuaia, Argintina. Which I believe is the southern most city in the world. Upon boarding the ship and casting off we headed east through the Beagle Channel towards the Atlantic. Destination for this leg is the Falkland Islands. The crossing was a bit rolly-polly as while we were going northeast the wind was from the northwest and it raised some decent size swells. So, for the better part of a full day the ship rolled back and forth, back and forth, along its long axis.
The Falklands were far more interesting than I expected. The locals were very nice and welcoming. At one stop we had a lunch outlay of cakes, assorted baked goods, and, of course, tea. I thought it had been brought ashore from the ship. But, it turns out the locals baked it all. Very goodly.
Our first meeting with penguins and other assorted birds.
SOUTH GEORGIA —
I had very little knowledge of South Georgia prior to this trip. I knew it was the location where Shackleton landed to find rescue for his men, but was about it.
The island is home to some of the largest King Penguin colonies in the world. The first one we visited had several 10s of thousands of breeding pairs. The last one has 150,000 breeding pairs. That is 300,000 adults plus 75,000(?) or more chicks.
We stopped at a couple of historic sites, old whaling stations and even Shackleton’s grave.
A fair number of people on the ship felt that this island was the highlight of the entire voyage. While I doubt that I would ever head back to the Antarctic, I wouldn’t mind another visit to South Georgia.
SOUTH ORKNEYS —
We left South Georgia and sailed to the southwest. About halfway between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula lay the South Orkneys. Back in ’82, the United Kingdom and Argentina fought a war over the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina. Included in that struggle was control of South Georgia and the Orkneys. The Brits won and today they have total control over the Falklands and S. Georgia. However, the situation in the Orkneys is a bit different. Both the UK and Argentina have research basis there. Neither recognizes the other’s claim to the islands.
We visited the Argentine base of Orcadas. In exchange for some sacks of onions and potatoes they welcomed us with a tour of the facility and biscuits and tea.
There were some chinstrap and adelie penguins in the bay, and sea lions eating same. So, we did a zodiac cruise to view them.
After another day+ of sailing in fairly fine weather we closed in on Antarctica. But, first we took a small detour to visit an iceberg. Not just any iceberg, but the largest iceberg in the world — A68A.
A68A formed in 2017 when it broke free of the Larsen Ice Shelf. It is 50% larger than the state of Delaware and measures 90 miles long and 30 miles wide. We spent hours passing very near to it.
In the video you’ll little black dots on top of the berg at various places. Those are seals. I even got to witness a significant caving. The iceberg forms a back-drop in the video of all the passengers standing at the bow of the ship waving. The captain had stopped the ship and pointed the bow at berg.
ANTARCTIC PENINSULA —
My roomy was an 80 year old commercial property developer from Orange County, California. He was a very nice guy and we got along well enough that neither tried to kill the other, but both were undoubtedly happy to transition from 20 days of share accommodation on the voyage to a private hotel room at the end of trip.
Prior the trip he and his wife had take a cruise through Patagonia. He was very impressed with the glaciers there. But, when we got to Antartica he quickly shifted his impressions to the locale. There were some amazing glaciers and ice walls and seracs. Many times on our landings you’d hear a loud distant explosion. At first I thought it was glaciers calving. Then I realized it was most likely seracs collapsing. Ominous.
We did two excursions per day. Sometimes making a landing and sometimes cruising in the zodiacs.
Following our time on the 7th Continent we headed north across Drake Passage. For our crossing it was the Drake Lake, mostly. The weather was fine enough that as we approached Chile we obtained permission to sail past Cape Horn, something I was hoping we would do. While getting permission from Chilean Navy we were told that just yesterday they had clocked the wind at over 150 miles per hour.
Next stop was our return to Ushuaia!
The video was produced by the cruise company, Quark. It used photos and vids from the staff photographer as well as those contributed by passengers. I modified it somewhat and changed the soundtrack. When I have time I’ll make another post with more vids and pics of my own.