Lets go! Down to the ice.
Trip Start Dec 07, 2010
66Trip End Jan 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
Leaving Usuahia port bound for the frozen continent
The previous evening I was going to attend the meet your fellow passengers and help celebrate the New Year in but decided to get an early night sleep.
Saturday is 1st day of a New Year. Happy New 2011 everyone.
My holiday or main purpose of coming to South America starts at 4 pm today!
It was really windy outside so I decided to have a rest day in the warmth of Hotel Ushuaia our overnight transfer accommodation with time to catch up on e-mails and trying to update my now week long overdue blog not helped by being unwell but now really looking forward to the next part of this adventure.
Most of the GAP party have no doubt gone into Tierra del Fuego National Park on an organised bus trip, a few are still in the hotel and rest no doubt downtown supporting the local economy with their souvenir shopping in the few shops that decided to stay open.
The welcome letter that Nadia gave us all the previous day asked us to meet again down by the wharf later in the day. 4 pm finally came around and we boarded the 3 buses to be driven the short distance to the MS Expedition which we could easily see tied up. Only 2 small cruise boats were in getting ready for their passengers.
A well polished drill with the ship and GAP staff positioned to easily herd us into the Expedition Lounge so that we could then get to the reception in small groups to receive our room allocations and hand in our passports. A staff member then took us individually to our cabins with bags outside waiting and explained the basics.
The cabin does not feel small and I was quite surprised at the level of finish at the ship's refurbishment in 2009.
A neat ergonomic small bathroom finished off the 15 sq metre cabin.
Having read some on-line advice I unpacked instead of exploring the boat.
At 5 pm we had the compulsory lifeboat drill. Detailed as it has to be considering that GAP's previous ship MS Explore sunk.
An announcement told us that at 6 pm we will be casting off and away we left with the sun still high in the background.
While windy it wasn't that cold.
Then into the next meeting where Julio the Expedition leader introduced us to the GAP crew as well as daily life on board the ship. GAP has certainly put together a very experienced group of specialists in their respective areas who are only too willing to share their knowledge.
Dinner at 8 pm and while enjoying a plated meal in sailed the 644 foot / 196 metre "The World", the largest privately owned yacht with just 165 private apartments and approximately 200 - 300 residents and their guests who are looked after by some 250 crew numbers. My next cruise?
Besides my own blog, I'm going to insert at the end of my blog both the posted Daily Programme (which changed) but more importantly the Expedition Log prepared by Scott and Osi, two of the ship's crew. An excellent recount of some of the trip details. I hope they don't mind! Thanks a million for reminding me of the wonderful times we all had on board the ship, the many animals we saw plus place names we visited.
Saturday 1st Jan, 2011
16:00 Embarkation begins – welcome on board!
Shortly after everyone is on board we will have a Safety Briefing and Life Boat Drill. This will be followed by an introduction to the staff and an overview of the trip's itinerary.
All of our briefings and lectures are held in the Discovery Lounge on deck 4 forward of reception.
19:00 The M/S Expedition is expected to set sail.
21:00 Relax with our Bar Team in either the Polar Bear or Expedition Bar.
Name history: Statistics:
1972-1978: M/S Kattegat Tonnage: 6,336 GRT
1978-1985: M/S nf Tiger Length: 105.20 m (345 ft 2 in)
1985-1986: M/S Tiger Beam: 18.93 m (62 ft 1 in)
1986-2008: M/S Ålandsfarjan Draught: 4.71 m (15 ft 5 in)
2008 - present: M/S Expedition Speed: 15 knots
Capacity: 124 passengers
by Scott MacPhail & Osi Shahaf
Saturday, 1st January 2011
"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless.
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."
John Steinbeck "Travels with Charley''
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
What a welcome sight it was! There she was in her glorious red and white colours alongside the quay in Ushuaia, the M/S Expedition, and our new home for the next 9 nights.
She stood out on the busy dock, surrounded by other ships, as we made our way up the gangway. We were welcomed on board by the smiling faces of her crew, and shown into the ship’s lounge, where sandwiches, cookies, tea and coffee were laid out for us.
After being shown our cabins and breathing a sigh of relief that our luggage had arrived safely, we went about trying to orientate ourselves around our new surroundings. It was humorous to count how many times we actually passed reception in our quest to make it back to our cabin!!
It was a sunny day, and so nice to go topside to look out upon Ushuaia and ponder what lay ahead of us. At 17:20 our mandatory S.O.L.A.S. (safety of life at sea) drill was held in the lounge in order to familiarize ourselves with the lifesaving equipment on board.
The last rope was cast at 18:11, the Kelp and Dolphin gulls came out in their masses to take easy pickings of small crustaceans that were churned up by the ship’s thrusters as the M/S Expedition left the port of Ushuaia. The motto being "End of the world but the beginning of everything" We proceeded eastwards along the Beagle Channel. Our adventure had begun. We were back in the lounge shortly after that, for a meeting with our Expedition leader, Julio, and the rest of the staff. During dinner we spotted terns, shags, albatross and Magellanic penguins following the ship, as she sailed smoothly down this beautiful channel. With mountains on either side, Chile was on our starboard side as we passed Puerto Williams the most southerly town in the world and Argentina was on our port side. The Argentine pilot boat retrieved the pilot during the evening before we headed out into the open water.
After a tiring day it was a welcome relief to retire to our beds and drift off to sleep dreaming of a smooth Drake Passage.
.... Sir Francis Drake was not only an explorer, but was also an extremely successful pirate. September 26th 1580, Drake sailed into Plymouth England after completing a journey of 2 years and 10 months, with pirated treasures worth over 10 million dollars. It was for this plundering that Queen Elizabeth knighted the wayward explorer.
Sunday 2 January 2011
The dreaded Drake Passage - a lake or a ????
Around 3.30 am we will be well clear Cape Horn and time start to cross the dreaded Drake Passage. Will it be up to its usual renown white cap waves or a lake? Yes, I had hoped for a lake. I had taken my sea legs plus put on the acupressure wrist bands. Still had the herbal tablets plus cotton wool in the ear to use. During the night I could feel the boat rolling a little bit and thought that it was rough outside but when pulling side the curtain to the window (no, not a porthole cabin) at 4.30 am saw that it was very light outside and also that it not rough at all but had a rolling swell. This must be the Drake Lake and sure enough all day long it was one of the smoothest crossing that the crew said had experienced for a while. Will our luck hold out for the return crossing? I hope so but realistically was not expecting it to be so. Time will tell.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet affairs and more than enough hot and cold food to choose from. Dinner is a plated meal with at least 3 main options. Last night I downed a sirloin steak and tonight the fish.
During the day we had the opportunities to attend lectures. Today the four were on the various birds, long tail penguins, geology and the historian expert Scott shared Ernest Shackleton's remarkable story which I had heard before.
The kayakists assembled and to my surprise only 5 had joined up. I somehow suspect that others were wanting to go but had not been informed of this option. Outfitted with our dry suits and booties, adjusted the foot pegs plus told of some of the basics and we were ready for our first outing in 1 day's time. We could have anywhere between 3 and 6 outings each lasting anywhere between 2 - 2.5 hours long. We will be the last group to leave and the first group to return to avoid congestions in the mud room. The mud room is where one gets ready for disembarking the ship. Each person has its own 40 cm of space to use, hook for the life jacket and wet weather gear, plus bench space for the booties, Wellingtons.
Sunday 2nd January, 2011
The Drake Passage
Sir Francis Drake was born in Devon, and at the age of 13, he began traveling to the West Indies. Between 1577 – 1580 he sailed around the world - the first Englishman to do so – looting Spanish ships and creating nautical charts of the new territories he navigated. On September 6th, 1577, Drake completed his pass through the Magallenic Straits, however the next day he was caught in a big storm that pushed his ship, The Golden Hind, below 57 degrees latitude south. It was here that he found the meeting of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the turbulent area that is now known as the "Drake Passage". This also proved that Tierra del Fuego was not a part of Tierra Australis Incognita, a fact that the cartographers of those days refused to accept for a long time.
09:30 Lecture: Join Frank Todd for his lecture, Southern Seabirds, in the Discovery Lounge. Here you will learn about the birds that we may see in the Drake Passage.
11:00 Lecture: Join Roger Benedict for his lecture, Introduction to Antarctic Geography, in the Discovery Lounge. Roger will describe the formation of the white continent.
14:30 Lecture: Join Scott MacPhail for his lecture, Ernest Shackleton: 1914 Voyage. Scott will tell the captivating story of the famous explorer and his heroic expedition.
16:30 Lecture: Join Frank Todd for his lecture, Penguinology 101: Introduction to the Long-tailed Penguins.
18:45 The Discovery Lounge will be closed temporarily
19:00 Captain’s Cocktail: Captain Asparuh Chorbadzhiev welcomes you aboard and raises a glass to our voyage.
21:30 Movie: Frozen Seas (BBC: Blue Planet Series)
by Scott MacPhail & Osi Shahaf
Sunday, 2nd January 2011
"For sheer downright misery, give me a hurricane, not too warm, the yard of a sailing ship, a wet sail and a bout of sea sickness"
Apsley Cherry Garrard
What a nice feeling it was, waking up after a good night’s sleep and realizing that the Drake was not the doom and gloom we had been led to imagine. In fact most of us would not have not known we were at sea, as we slept so peacefully during the entire night.
Due to the light winds, there were very few seabirds out over the water. They had all left this area to find a windier spot where they could glide along the waves.
Hopefully on the way back we will come across these magnificent fliers.
Appropriately the first talk of the day was given by Frank who went into more detail of the seabirds and others we will see in Antarctica.
Later in the morning Roger introduced us to the geology and formation of Antarctica.
After lunch Scott gave us a talk about "The Boss’’ - Sir Ernest Shackleton and his amazing 1914 expedition in which his men escaped almost certain death after their ship "The Endurance" was crushed by the ice in the Weddell Sea.
Throughout the day many of us took a chance on guessing when we would cross the Antarctic convergence. The one who could correctly guess the approximate time of crossing would win a bottle of champagne. The convergence is the natural boundary between the relatively warm sub-Antarctic surface water and the cold Antarctic surface water.
Frank wound up the day’s educational program with an informative presentation on the long-tailed penguins that we are all waiting to see down south. It is amazing to think of the short window of opportunity these birds are given in order to complete their hurried breeding season and their busy life style of bringing up their young before the Antarctic winter sets in again.
Before dinner we were all invited to the lounge, where the Captain and his officers welcomed us on their beautiful ship. During dinner a few of us were lucky to spot some Pilot whales swimming beside the ship before they submerged. We had made great time during the day and we were looking forward to spotting land tomorrow.