Feature photo: Ushuaia. Photo courtesy of Bei Maarten.
2nd December: Ushuaia
The Drake passage flexed some muscle as we crossed it to begin our voyage south. Winds raged above 84 knots as we sailed south and it rocked and rolled us. The Ocean Diamond managed the conditions masterfully but it moved us and not all wanted to rise from the horizontal resting position.
Our second sea day still provided some seas but the violence had decreased and with the gentling weather we were pleased to see some fin whales and then an avian orgy as we were joined by four elegant light manteled Sooty Albatross, a group of Antarctic petrels and a squadron of Cape petrels.
Early risers enjoyed the splendid glacial views as we sailed into Wilhelmina Bay. Our climbers were dropped off and began their ascent. Soon we were all zodiac cruising this magnificent bay in bright clear calm conditions. Chinstrap and gentoo penguins decorated the islands and ice floes. A magnificent introduction to the scale and grandeur of the icy wilderness, Antarctica.
We climbed ice steps to be on the mini "polar plateau" at the gentoo colony. We enjoyed a march of and with the penguins as they stepped, skidded and slid their icy highways. Nest building and fortifying was in full swing as was energetic copulation.
Skiers ascended Ronge island and looked over an array of icebergs and icy mountains in all directions.
Kayakers paddled and drifted around the island enjoying shaggs on rocks, seals on ice an torpedoes of penguins.
At 21:30 the campers were boated to shore with simple supplys to celebrate an experience and survive a night on the ice. The sky was clear and as the light softened the temperature dropped. The icy crystal beds were a cool experience and the night for some seemed endless. Soon after six in the morning the boats returned to recover survivors and although there were many stories there were no regrets and no one perished!
Stay tuned for more exciting voyage updates!