Diaries from Antarctica – A Labyrinth of Ice
Original post: Another World Adventures
Sailing in Antarctica is the experience of a lifetime! Since 2013, we have partnered with some of the most incredible operators sailing in the southernmost continent of our planet. In 2021/2022/2023, you can join a historic tall ship and visit glaciers and view the amazing wildlife in what is known as the Earth’s last true wilderness.
One of the guest crew sums it up perfectly “What a childhood dream to sail to Antarctica with such a ship, to see with my own eyes what I had only seen in books or on photos. All the sights and sounds and smells came together in one awesome journey that will be difficult to explain to others that have not seen it themselves. A picture can capture the moment but not the real scene of atmosphere that surrounds you down here. It truly is another world, spectacular in every meaning of the word. PS: and a little bit cold.”
We couldn’t put it better ourselves. Read on. Be inspired. And then get in touch!
JAN 30, 22:03 GMT – 54°48.57 S, 068°18.03 W. Compass 002.
Our new guests have landed and have arrived on board safely. A nice and well-mixed group of people. Crew included, we are 32 now. Tomorrow (Friday) our last stores will arrive and the ship will be loaded with fruits, vegetables, drinking water and fuel. Ready for departure. We look forward to going to sea again, especially to the Antarctica.
Yesterday we took the afternoon off to visit the National Park Lapataia. We saw huge beaver-dams, flooding large areas. And finally we saw a condor, gliding along a snowy mountainside. In the evening we had a farewell party for our leaving crew members Taco, Pieter and Bertus, and for the ‘Europa’, departing to the Açores. Many were late in going to bed. And now we go for the ice.
JAN 31, 16:02 GMT – 54°49.16 S, 068°14.85 W. Compass 106.
We have left at 12:30. With a N 5 Bft we can sail comfortably into the Beagle Channel. A blue sky, exciting clouds and cold.
FEB 2, 11:29 GMT – 58°40.89 S, 063°07.91 W. Compass 154, 7 knots.
We used the first day, in the Beagle Channel, to explain the rigging and sailing, and for the security instructions. This was concluded by a fire drill, which is always also fun with everyone running around with life-jackets, the stretcher or hoses. Always useful, these exercises.
At Isla Martillo hundreds of Magelanic penguins look at us from the beach, and we look at them. A nice opportunity to give all those video- and photo-cameras the first test. A couple of hours later, when the Beagle Channel opens up to the ocean, we are welcomed by 15 Peale’s dolphins, playing in our bow-waves.
While we go out into the open, the clouds are changing their colours in the setting sun. A great first day. The waves on the first part were not easy for all, but a bit later the wind almost disappeared and the swell stayed low. So, at dinner time, all were able to be present at the table.
We now are nearing the convergence zone (boundary between the warm water from the north and the cold water from the south); maybe tonight we will have the first icebergs,
FEB 4, 15:20 GMT – 62°24.69′ S, 059°44.41′ W. Compass 110.
Last night we arrived at the Antarctic Peninsula, we anchored at the Aitcho Islands, after a great and quiet crossing. Just before that, we were greeted by a very blue iceberg, with chinstrap penguins on it, by huge table icebergs and by humpback whales, who showed their tails. And all this under a blue sky, sunny and a moderate N. Next, we entered English Strait in the fog; heavy currents pushed us in, under sail.
Very mysterious and exciting, all the mountain tops disappearing in the clouds and a big iceberg exactly in our way. Although we had some drizzle by then, we payed a quick first visit to the island, the penguin smells showed us the way. And then we sat around the wood stove, drinking Glühwein and telling stories. This morning again a very sunny day; the sun made the ice produce all kinds of light.
We walked all across their island, amidst belching and farting elephant seals, curious baby pinguins picking at our boots and giant petrels. This voyage is already successful. This afternoon we will sail on a bit in the direction of Hannah Point, on Livingstone Island.. We have a W 4 Bft.
FEB 6, 19:43 GMT – 62°58.49′ S, 060°35.61′ W. Compass 162, 7 knots.
Winds of 0 to 7 Bft brought us to Half Moon Island; huge glaciers streaming through the dark mountains like whipped cream. Many humpbacks on our way.
On Half Moon Island we discovered a rockhopper penguin in a group of chinstrap penguins. We also found a wrecked wooden boat, just to far gone to restore. During sunset we were caught by a great array of amazing colours and some great lenticular clouds. Everyone gets a load of impressions, and in the evening all is reviewed on the video cameras.
On Feb 5 we payed a visit to Hannah Point, known for its many macaroni, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. We saw a hunting skua and giant petrel take a big penguin chick.
Live and let live, in all its cruel consequences.
We walked to a glacier wall, over the moraines. The ice cold and ages-old water was poured out in waterfalls. The beach was almost blocked by a group of fat elephant seals, who had nothing better to do than to lie in their own excrement.
Today we left early for Deception Island, an old volcano with a crater that can be entered by ships. First we visited Bailey Head, with its many chinstrap penguins. Then to Pendulum Cove, where at the beach hot water rises to meet the cold water of the crater’s sea, big clouds of steam covering the area. Where cold and hot meet, is a very agreeable place to take a dip.
It didn’t take long for everyone to get out of the clothes. As an extra we also went to Whaler’s Bay today; on the shore a deserted whaler’s station. Nothing to complain about; even the weather favours us.
FEB 9, 16:46 GMT – 64°49.22′ S, 062°51.10′ W. Compass 011.
On Feb 7 we leave Deception Island’s crater at 18:00, to cross to Trinity island. At first we have a half wind at 4 Bft, but a while later, just after we hoisted all the sails, the wind goes and the fog comes.
Lots of ice on the sea, small bergs and lots of ice cubes. At 16:00 we arrive at the narrow cut between Spert Island and Trinity Island, a place that is like a graveyard of grounded icebergs.
Paul H: “In the zodiac we go through a labyrinth of ice. The light shines right through the ice and lightens the caves that the waves have scooped out at the water level. The effect is amazing: blue and turquoise light, and many other less definable hues. Would it be possible to catch all these different colours on film?
There are leopard seals, fur seals and a couple of penguins. It is a fairy tale, hard to take for real. Loaded with all the impressions, we return to the ‘Oosterschelde’, where another delicious dinner is waiting for us.”
The night of Friday to Saturday is not a quiet one: a strong wind and a dragging anchor. We leave at 08:00. Graham Passage is next, a narrow sound with great ‘ice-art’. But, a few miles before entering, some 4 humpback whales decide to give us a live show of 1,5 hour; they won’t be disturbed by our screams and the clicking of all the cameras. During the night, we anchor at Cuverville Island.
In the morning some icebergs threaten to block our exit, and we leave early. Today we will visit Paradise Harbour. First we pay a visit to the Chilean station ‘Gonzalez Videla’, at the northern entrance, and we plan to anchor for the night in the southern part of this paradisiacal harbour.
FEB 11, 14:19 GMT – 65°14.79′ S, 064°16.05′ W. Compass 165.
At Waterboat Point, at the Chilean station ‘Gonzalez Videla’, we set foot on the main land for the first time. A bit later we do it again at another location, where we climb a mountain to enjoy a tremendous view of Paradise Harbour. Around us many huge glaciers stream down, but no breaking parts this time. Some us go back down on their behind, sliding in the snow. Because of bergy bits we have to change position during the night.
The next morning brings a shining sun and a blue sky. Everything lightens up. Everywhere one looks, it is great. The snow is like white pudding on the dark mountains, and the glaciers are like slow ice-rivers, wow. All morning we let the ship float between the small and bigger icebergs that came off of the glaciers during the night, our cameras clicking. In the afternoon, on our way to the Lemaire Channel, there is another humpback show, not as playful as the previous one, but the sun makes their backs so shiny.
In the Lemaire Channel a minky whale plays around the ship like a dolphin. We pass oddly shaped icebergs in the diminishing light of the evening. Rather spooky. In the evening we have a party because of reaching the most southern point of our voyage: 65°15′, on the Argentine Islands. There is champagne and we have strawberries, served by ‘real’ penguins, and then there is disco.
Lisette: “Where do the whales come so close to your ship that you are almost able to touch them? Three times they came playing with us, and we ran from port to starboard. This is great.”
FEB 14, 02:33 GMT – 64°49.49′ S, 063°29.09 W.
Today is our last Antarctica day; we will go out into the Drake Passage. On Feb 11 we visited Petermann Island, just SW of the Lemaire Channel. There we saw our first Adelie penguins; everywhere around us they glided on their bellies and we watched them for hours. The young of the blue-eyed cormorants tried almost to dive into their parents’ stomachs to have their food. Next we went back north through the Lemaire Channel, and we stayed at Doumer Island for the night. On Feb 12 we went to Port Lockroy, via the Peltier Channel. Two British keep an old British station, and they run a small post office.
They came to the ‘Oosterschelde’ and sold their stuff to us; we bought and wrote our postcards. Near Port Lockroy we climbed Jabet Peak, like real mountain climbers we were linked by ropes. Great weather, and great views from the top. Once we were down again, our caterers surprised us with hot chocolate and rum, prepared over a wood fire.
Sierra speaks: “What a fantastic way to spend our last day on Antarctica. After a delicious brunch we took the dingies ashore and walked across polished granite rocks to a hut, with penguins always nearby. From here we roped up into 3 groups and set off to do a little mountain climbing on Jabet Peak. 9 of us climbed until the route became a little to unsafe. But from here we enjoyed glorious views of snowy peaks in all directions and our ship far below. On return to the hut we were treated to hot chocolate and cake, we are always so well taken care of. And now we sit in the warmth of our home, the ‘Oosterschelde’, celebrating with a toast with iceberg ice 100s of years old.”
Sep: “Anchor watch between Three Little Pigs and Indicator Island, Feb 11 and 06:00 in the morning. The pen almost produces no ink below the convergence zone; I have to hold it in the hot air of the heater to get it to work. No penguin in sight. The sky is covered by clouds. The rigging is humming in the wind. For some hours now some light shines through the thin plush of white and purple clouds. Below the powdered dark mountains, all gray turns into green, red and brown because of the lichens and the algae.”
FEB 16, 13:47 GMT – 62°05.17′ S, 064°27.43′ W. Compass 004, 5 knots.
On Friday we sailed in heavy snow through the Neumayer Channel (SE of Anvers Island), between Anvers Island and Brabant Island, along the Melchior Islands and then out to the ocean. Before we were there, the sun broke through and some humpback whales accompanied us. For the last time we had a good look at the high white mountains and the almost luminous icebergs. Slowly the ocean swell started to rock us.
In the beginning we had just a light wind and it came from the wrong direction; so we used to engine to assist the sails, and some progress was made. In the evening our speed decreased because of the crossing waves, and some people had to go to their cabin. Always a bit difficult, the first day at sea. On Saturday many Cape petrels around us on the high waves. A last penguin is seen. Since sunrise today, Sunday, the wind direction has changed, the swell is agreeably long, and the progress is fine again. 375 miles to go to Cape Horn.
Anthony speaks: “What a childhood dream to sail to Antarctica with such a ship, to see with my own eyes what I had only seen in books or on photos. All the sights and sounds and smells came together in one awesome journey that will be difficult to explain to others that have not seen it themselves. A picture can capture the moment but not the real scene of atmosphere that surrounds you down here. It truly is another world, spectacular in every meaning of the word. PS: and a little bit cold.”
FEB 18, 18:07 GMT – 57°10.35 S, 067°03.48′ W. Compass 002, 7 knopen.
Finally we sail with all sails up, after some days of wind against and uneasy waves. The sun is shining and our speed is 7,5 knots. The swell is long, beautiful, deep and blue. 70 miles to go to Cape Horn. Wandering, black-browned and sooty albatrosses are gliding around the ship. Everything is fine now. At first we had an unusual area of high pressure that brought us a N or a NW, but now we have a more usual low passing us in the north and that brings us a favourable SW. We plan to pick up the pilot, at the entrance of the Beagle Channel, at 15:00 tomorrow. He will go with us to Ushuaia.
Carolien speaks: “Force 4 Bft, the engine stopped, all sails set, and a halfwind course. It is a strange experience to see the sun going from the west through the north to the east. After our first rough days, everyone is up and about again, the conversations lighten up and there are many laughs again.”
Hans: “Today everything goes. Yesterday I couldn’t hold my food. Everyone is glad now because the seasickness has gone. Coffee and home-made cake on the poop, in the sun; that’s what we do right now.” Martijn & Kees: “After a rough start of this crossing, finally the seasickness has disappeared. Sails have been set and the engine is stopped. The only sounds are produced by the wind and the waves. All around us are the albatrosses, gliding along. We are all out on deck, enjoying the sunshine. We wait for Cape Horn to appear at the horizon.”
FEB 20, 20:19 GMT – 54°48.60′ S, 068°17.87′ W. Compass 054.
Sailing in a warm air with and nice speed; that’s how we arrived at Cape Horn in the evening. Thanks to the still rather full moon, the notorious cape stood out sharply against the sky. And we glided by, before the wind, with a glass of wine in our hands. Amazing how things can go.
That morning, in the rising sun, we sailed between the first big islands, near the entrance of the Beagle Channel. To make it all complete: we were surrounded by Peale’s dolphins. We had to wait for the pilot, but it didn’t matter. Anchored, lying in the sun, 16°. Almost like the Caribbean. We even had some naked torso’s and sunburn lotions. We arrived late last night, 01:00. For some just in time to go into town for the well deserved beers.
After 5 days of Drake Passage a man needs a beer.
Today is shopping day, and packing and e-mailing and phone calls. And yet we had enough time to go to the national park ‘Lapataia’, all of us, to have a look at another world: green, trees, the singing of birds. Tonight we will have dinner all together, Argentinian food. Tomorrow captain Eliane, after three months, will hand over the ship’s command to Gerben. Taxis will take those that go home to the airport at 08:00. Those that go to Schiphol Amsterdam will arrive there on Sunday morning at 11:15, in a flight from Madrid.
Inspired by this journey? You can join the one of our Antarctica expeditions in 2021/ 2022/ 2023. No sailing experience is needed. Just a passion for adventure.
Sail from Montevideo, Uruguay via South Georgia on a tall ship Antarctica expedition where you are guest crew
Hi I’m Larissa, a Co-Founder of Another World Adventures. Welcome to my blog Adventure365 where I curate a weekly pick of the best adventure travel writing and storytelling from around the web and share original stories from our team and adventure community. Think unusual destinations, expeditions, slow, solo and sustainable travel and epic journeys! Enjoy!More about me