4th.-21st.February 2012, Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula
This tour was only the third voyage of the Ortelius under the new management of Oceanwide Expeditions, a Dutch company, and the first voyage open to the general public. The other two were charters, one to a Chinese company. Participating in this trip were Dutch, Germans, English, French, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and several other nationalities. Rolf Stange, the expedition leader was German as was Elke Lindner, the assistant expedition leader, so the language although officially English was a bit mixed sometimes. Rolf also leads expeditions in the Artic and has written several books in both languages, see www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com
The first port of call was the Falklands, already more than 24 hours sailing time from the departure port of Ushuaia in Argentina. Unfortunately because of very windy weather we were not able to make the first two planned landings. However this was at least partly compensated by an extra land excursion the following day.
Another two days sailing brought us to South Georgia Where we had a good three days in mostly fine if again windy weather on the whole. According to the regulations the ship must make all its landings within a 72 hour period as it works its way along the North coast from East to West. We had some long days to make the best use of the available time and achieved a total of 7 landings. This gave us plenty of opportunities to experience the amazing wildlife which is present in huge numbers and is completely unafraid of humans.
The crossing to the Antarctic Peninsula took place in stormy conditions and almost everybody suffered for three days. Once we had arrived the programme there was just as busy and strenuous as that in South Georgia, if not more so. It was daylight 17 hours a day and one tries to do something with every minute of it. There were rapid changes of weather. It was overcast on land on the first day, when we visited penguin colonies, but better over sea. Then after the morning of second day we could enjoy the fantastic Antarctic scenery in almost perfect weather.
The final return crossing of the infamous Drake Passage to Cape Horn and Ushuaia did not seem quite so stormy, but maybe that was because we had got our ‘sea legs’ by then.