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Diary by Plancius

 


Atlantic Odyssey

19th March 2014 – 29th April 2014

On board the

M/V Plancius


 

 

MV Plancius was named after the Dutch astronomer, cartographer, geologist and vicar Petrus Plancius (15521622). Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was namedHr. Ms. Tydeman. The ship sailed for the Royal Dutch Navy until June 2004 when she was purchased by

Oceanwide Expeditions and completely refit in 2007, being converted into a 114 passenger expedition vessel.

Plancius is 89 m (267 feet) long, 14.5 m (43 feet) wide and has a maximum draft of 5 m, with an Ice Strengthrating of 1D, top speed of 12+ knots and three diesel engines generating 1230 hp each.

 


With

Captain Evgeny Levakov

and his International Crew

and

Expedition Leader – Rinie van Meurs

Assistant Expedition Leader – Brent Houston (America)

Guide/Lecturer – Ali Liddle (UK / Falkland Islands)

Guide & Lecturer – Simon Cook (UK)

Guide/Lecturer – Albert Beintema (The Netherlands)

Guide/Lecturer – James Cresswell (Wales)

With

Hotel Manager – Marck Warmenhoven (The Netherlands)

Assistant Hotel Manager – Lilian van Meurs (Poland)

Head Chef – Ralf Barthel (Germany / New Zealand)

Sous Chef – Heinz Hacker (Austria)

Ship’s Physician – Sam Crimmin (UK)

Chief Officer – Tuoma Leskinen (Finland)

Chief Engineer – Teunis Van t’Verlaat (The Netherlands)

Chief Electrician – Oleg Andreiev (Ukraine)

 

Welcome you all on board Plancius!


 

Day 1 – Wednesday March 19th 2014

Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina

GPS 08.00 Position: 35°04’S / 055°46’W

Weather: Wind Variable 2. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Overcast. Temperature: +6°C

 

So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well,

from Ushuaia we’ll be going south for a while and then we have a long way

north to travel but for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city,

savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end

of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the

beginning of onceinalifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly

growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The

dutyfree port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab

fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (lit. “bay that

penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits

from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two

oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim.

However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of

warmth before heading off on our adventures.

For many of us this is the culmination of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each unique

person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart for such a magical destination. It

was a bit of a grey, damp afternoon as we made our way along the port but most passengers were promptly at the

gangway at 16.00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next few weeks. We were greeted by members

of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet

Hotel and Restaurant Manager, Marck and his Assistant Lilian. We were then

checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous hotel crew.

A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet

Expedition Leader Rinie van Mears who welcomed us on board the ship.

Marck, our Hotel Manager, then took over the microphone and gave us a

general overview of the ship our home for the next 39 days. We then had a

chance to meet the expedition staff who will guide us on our exciting

Odyessy voyage. A short while after our departure from the pier of Ushuaia

Chief Officer, Tuoma led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety

Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, assisted by the crew and staff. On hearing the alarm we reconvened for the

mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should

the need arise. With the knowledge and comfort of knowing that we are in good hands with this multinational crew,

we returned to the outer decks to watch the Beagle’s rugged coastline glide past.

At around 19:30 we met in the lounge once again and it was chance to meet our

Captain, Evgeny Levakov who welcomed us on board and also had to explain that, due

to a severe storm passing through the top of the Drake Passage our departure would

be delayed until sea and weather conditions were deemed safe. A sensible and safe

decision. There was then time to raise a glass to toast our Atlantic Odyssey; a voyage

some very remote Atlantic outposts. A short while later we were invited to the dining

room to enjoy the first of many delicious meals onboard, prepared by Chefs Ralf and

Heinz and their galley staff. This first evening on board was occupied with more

exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, and settling into our cabins. We

have exciting adventures ahead!

 

Day 2 – Thursday March 20th 2014

Beagle Channel

GPS 08.00 Position: 055°00’S / 066°45’W

Weather: Wind NNW 8. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 4°C.

 

During the night, just before midnight the pilot, who had navigated Plancius

down the Beagle Channel had disembarked from the ship and we sailed a little

further down the channel before the anchor was dropped. The sheltered waters

of the Beagle Channel were to be our destination for now due to the big storm

passing across the northern part of the Drake Passage.

At 7:45 we heard the first wakeup call of the trip from Rinie, our Expedition

leader explaining that we were indeed at anchor and would remain so for a

good part of the day to allow the weather system to pass by. Even at anchor in

sheltered waters we could see that the sea was being whipped up by winds gusting at over 50 knots, particularly

during the snow and sleet squalls that were racing through and it was a wild scene out of the windows. There was

some motion on board but most of us made it down to breakfast before

heading up to the bridge and lounge to see what the weather was

throwing at us. During the morning Rinie gave us an update from the

bridge to let us know that we would be at anchor for the rest of the day

so we settled down to a day on board. At 10am Albert invited us to the

lounge to give a presentation entitled ‘Who Discovered Antarctica?’ His

talk gave a fascinating insight into some of the first explorers in these

treacherous waters and unknown lands, places that these days we take

for granted that we can travel to on board a comfortable cruise ship.

During the late part of the morning Marck invited us to the lounge to

explain about the email and internet facilities we have on board for those of us wanting to stay in contact with

family and friends back home. Many of us may be quite happy to be out of contact for a while…… At 12:30, lunch

was served and afterwards there was time for some rest and relaxation if it was needed before the next activity of

the day; the issuing of rubber boots. Staff invited us to the boot room and made sure we all got the right sized boots

to keep our feet warm and dry during the cold part of this long voyage.

By late afternoon Rosie had a banana cake treat on the bar for us

and then we were invited down to the dining room by Simon for a

presentation about the seabirds of the Drake Passage and

Antarctica. He had some great photographs of the species we’re

likely to encounter on the first part of our voyage and gave some

really interesting information about each of the species and their

characteristics. Birds outside the ship included Blackbrowed

Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Imperial Shag and South American

Tern. A curious female South American Sea Lion checked us out. In

the early evening we were invited to join Rinie in the lounge for an

update on our plans and of course a weather forecast. Obviously

we weren’t going to be going anywhere during the night and the Captain would assess the situation in the morning.

The weather chart showed exactly why we had been experiencing such strong winds and with the weather system

covering the whole of the Drake Passage it was certainly an exceptional storm. James then explained about the

Andes mountain chain and the formation of the Beagle Channel before we were invited to the dining room for

dinner. It had felt like a bit of a long day on board for some but hopefully the weather would be much improved by

tomorrow so we could begin our journey south. It might have not been a perfect start to our Odyssey but at least we

were safe, warm and comfortable on board Plancius.

 

Day 3 – Friday March 21st 2014

At Sea in the Drake Passage

GPS 08.00 Position: 055°00.’S / 066°45’W

Weather: Wind: WSW 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 5°C

 

Today was the day that we really set sail! After a day sitting at anchor in

the Beagle Channel we were all really hopeful that we would be on our

way before too long. Rinie gave a wakeup call at 7:45 but many of us

had already been up for a while to look at the weather and sea

conditions and see if things had calmed down enough to start our

journey south. We could all see quite clearly that conditions were much

improved and shortly after 8.00 the Captain decided to heave the

anchor and by 8.30 we were moving towards the eastern end of the

Beagle Channel. As we made our way out of the shelter of the channel

we came across huge flocks of Imperial Shags flying in long lines and

resting on the water. We had seen them struggling in the gales the day

before so they were enjoying the better weather and taking the opportunity to feed in the channel.

After breakfast Ali invited us back to the dining room for a

presentation about albatross and albatross conservation. Having lived

in the Falkland Islands for 15 years she has been lucky enough to

spend time on Steeple Jason where the world’s largest colony of Black

browed albatross is found. She explained about their life ashore

during the breeding season and explained about the problems they

encounter when they come into contact with fishing boats,

particularly long line fishing boats. She did have a good news story

though and due to the work of seabird conservation organisations

around the world, Black browed albatross populations are increasing

and they have been downgraded from Endangered to Near

Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The future looks bright for these iconic seabirds. As the presentation came to an

end we continued to head south but as we steamed farther and farther from land the waves got bigger and bigger.

Although the wind had dropped considerably, the waves created by the storm were still rolling in from the west and

some of us found things a little uncomfortable……

One of the tasks we have to do before we arrive in Antarctica is to clean our outer gear to avoid bringing alien plants

and seeds to the pristine environment. This meant that we had to vacuum clean our clothes and backpacks to

remove any seeds or plant debris. The vacuums were left out in the lounge for us to do this at our leisure.

Lunch was a very quiet affair with a lot of people choosing to stay in their cabins and rest while the worst of the

weather moved on and during the afternoon Plancius was a bit of a ghost ship. However, for those of us brave

enough to go outside there was plenty to see in the form of birds – Sooty Shearwater, Imperial Shag, Whitechinned

Petrel, Wilson’s Stormpetrel, Southern Fulmar and the first little, grey, prions. There were also five species of

albatross – Blackbrowed, Greyheaded, Lightmantled Sooty and, largest of all, Wandering and Southern Royal.

Some people were lucky enough to see some marine mammals too, which came in the form of five playful Peale’s

Dolphin, a disappearing Antarctic Minke Whale and two rarelyseen Southern Bottlenose Whales.

Due to the fact that most people were lying low for the afternoon James decided to postpone his presentation which

would have been about the Geology of Antarctica and South Georgia. It made more sense to do this when we’re all

feeling fit and well once again with suitable sea legs! By late afternoon a few people were emerging from their

cabins and a documentary entitled Oceans – The Southern Ocean was shown in the lounge. This looked at the

marine environment around southern Tasmania which was really interesting but the seas were nowhere near as big

as the ones we were sailing through! Recap was also postponed before dinner but a few people enjoyed a predinner

drink before heading to the dining room for another enjoyable meal. With the ship still rolling it was a quiet evening

on board. Next stop – Antarctica!

 

Day 4 – Saturday March 22nd 2014

At Sea in the Drake Passage

GPS 08.00 Position: 057°31’S / 061°29’W

Weather: Wind: W 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 4°C

 

We awoke this morning after our first night of being underway rather than at

anchor, even though conditions had immensely improved the swell was still

quiet large and a number of us found rolling around in our beds had made

sleeping difficult. Still, despite this there was still a good turnout at breakfast

at 8:00, where the conversation seemed to revolve around methods of

staying in one place in a bed where you’re either rolling side to side or head

to foot. There was no agreement reached as to which was the most

comfortable but what was agreed on was that silk pyjamas are not suitable

nightwear for a moving ship in the Drake Passage!

After breakfast James gave the first lecture of the day at 10:00 in the dining room. This was entitled ‘Polar Glaciation’

and was all about the glaciers and ice sheets of Antarctica, South Georgia and the Arctic. It was fascinating to learn

that Antarctica is 99% covered in ice and if it were all to melt it would add 63 m to global sea level. 75% of all the

worlds fresh water is held in the ice of Antarctica and, with some areas of ice

cap up to 4 km deep it is amazing to try and imagine the size of the of the ice

cap covering the Antarctic continent. Just as James’s lecture was coming to an

end, at about 11:00 the officers on the bridge recorded the surface sea water

temperature, which is taken by the engineers in the engine room to check

their engine cooling water. The temperature had dramatically dropped from

5°C to 2°C over a very short space of time. This is because the ship was passing

over the Antarctic convergence. This is the biological boundary of Antarctica

and is an oceanographical phenomenon caused by deep ocean waters

upwelling near to the continent of Antarctica that spread north and are forced

to submerge under the warmer sub tropical waters of South America.

At 11:30 Ali gave us an excellent introduction to the penguin species that we are likely to

encounter in Antarctica and South Georgia. They are an incredible family of birds which

have adapted to life both in the polar regions and in the tropics. Emperor penguins endure

temperatures of 60°C during the long Antarctic winter while Galapagos penguins swelter

in temperatures of + 40°C. Ali showed us some lovely photos and explained their breeding

behaviour and physical adaptations to their environment. Shortly after the presentation,

lunch was served and there was time for a post lunch snooze or to spend some time on

deck to see what birds could be seen. With less wind there were fewer birds but the keen

birders spotted a number of albatross, Common diving petrels and even a couple of

Rockhopper penguins which would have probably come from Diego Ramirez in Chile. The

best bird species was Kerguelan Petrel, of which two were seen. No marine mammals

today but hopefully calmer conditions in the next days will allow for better viewing of whales and seals.

At 3:00 Rinie invited us to the lounge for a mandatory meeting outlining IAATO (International Association of

Antarctic Tour Operators) guidelines for ‘responsible and sustainable’ tourism to Antarctica. These explained some

of the rules, regulations and recommendations on how to conduct ourselves in Antarctica and how to travel safely in

the zodiacs. The small rubber boats will take us from the ship to the shore and ensure we can get close to some of

the wildlife on zodiac cruises as well. There was some time to enjoy afternoon tea and cake before an episode of the

BBC documentary Frozen Planet was shown in the lounge. This particular episode looked at the effects of climate

change on both the Arctic and Antarctic ice and the animals living there and was a good follow up to the

presentation that James had given in the morning. At recap James explained about the Antarctic convergence while

Ali, with a little help from her students Sam and James showed us just how great (and small) the wing span of the

some of the seabirds really are. With little sense of scale out in the open ocean it is sometimes hard to believe that

the Wandering albatross have a 3.5 m wingspan.

Dinner was well attended as the sea conditions calmed even more but it was to be a short break as the wind

increased once again and Plancius began to roll once again…….

 

 

Day 5 – Sunday March 23rd 2014

At Sea & Barrientos Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica

GPS 08.00 Position: 061° 32’S / 060°31’W

Weather: Wind: S 3. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: 5°C

 

During the night the weather became stormy again. The wind picked up to 80 knots and

the ship rolled heavily. Most of us got very little sleep, so we were tired by the time

breakfast arrived. But the good news was the night’s storm had passed and conditions

were quickly settling down as we approached the South Shetland Islands. In the morning it

was Albert’s turn to take to the stage and he gave us a lecture all about the Penguin

research he used to do on Elephant Island. It sounds as if he had a very ‘colourful’ time

with both the penguins and fellow scientists……..Today there were a lot of tall, columnar

spouts seen. Most were too far away for us to glimpse the whales themselves but some of

us on the top deck were lucky and saw Fin Whales, the second largest species of whale

after Blue whales. The first Antarctic penguins were seen as well – Chinstrap penguins, of

which we would see more later on. As the ship approached the English Strait two birds,

surprisingly, were found aboard – a Southern Fulmar and an injured Antarctic Petrel. Both

were picked up from the deck and flew strongly away.

As lunch time approached we were nearly at the entrance to the English Strait, a channel

between the islands of the South Shetlands. The ship therefore slowed to allow us to

finish lunch before the dramatic entrance of the channel. The channel is bounded by

several rocky islands and towers all made of the volcanic rock basalt. These islands are

collectively known as Aitcho Islands and we were heading to land on Barrientos Island.

Aitcho takes its name from the British Admiralty’s Hydrographic Office (HO). After three

days at sea we were all very glad to board the zodiacs and get off the ship. On the beach

there were many penguins both Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. There were also many

whale bones that had been recently unearthed from the sands on the beach. It looked

as if the recent storm had reorganised the beach completely; moving cobbles and

digging into the sand. We landed at the eastern end of the island and in order to pass to

the western side of the island, we divided into groups and were guided around areas

where sensitive mosses were growing.

On the western side of the island were two very impressive

columns of rock. These columns were clearly made from basalt

and one had columnar cooling structures. On the beach James

explained that these features have been interpreted by others as

volcanic plugs, ‘the vents of volcanoes’. James however thought

they may just be sea stacks formed from the erosive action of the

sea even though the rock itself is indeed made from solidified lava

flows. Also of interest on this western side of the island were

more penguins, several Antarctic fur seals and a female elephant

seal. There was also a huge tabular iceberg wedged near to the

shore. It was explained how this iceberg would have had its origins

further south on the Antarctic mainland and had probably calved

off a floating ice shelf.

Once back on board there was time for a recap before dinner where Ali mentioned the Fur seals we had seen and

explained they had made the journey from South Georgia at the end of the breeding season and Rinie gave an

outline plan about our plans for the next day. As the ship started to make its way south across the Bransfield Strait to

the Antarctic Peninsula and Antarctic Sound we headed down to the dining room for dinner, full of chat about our

afternoon at Barrientos Island .

 

Day 6 – Monday March 24th 2014

Hope Bay, Antarctic Sound

GPS 08.00 Position: 063°99’S / 057°10’W

Weather: Wind: SSE 9. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Snow. Temperature: 15°C

 

We awoke this morning after a much calmer night than the previous night. However all

was not calm outside, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted to

16 °C. We were just inside Antarctic Sound, named from after a ship sailed by Karl Larson

on the Nordenskjold Expedition between 1901 and 1903 that initially explored the area.

This is the channel that separates the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from islands

to the north and connects the Weddell Sea with the Bransfield Strait. As we proceeded

deeper into the Sound we started encountering first and second year icefloes that were

drifting out of the Weddell Sea. Then on the radar we could see significant ice up ahead

and it was clear that we would have difficulty reaching on intended landing of Brown

Bluff. It was therefore decided to try and reach the Argentinean station, Esperanza that

lies in Hope Bay. However as the morning continued it became increasingly clear that

even reaching Hope Bay was going to be a challenge as we weaved through the ice floes.

The temperature outside continued to drop. It was now 16 °C, however when the

wind chill factor was taken into account it was actually 35° C! It was so cold that all

around us the sea was beginning to freeze. There were beautiful examples of grease

ice and pancake ice seen forming all around. On top of this the sea was steaming. This

‘Sea Smoke’ was due to the sea releasing energy to the atmosphere, this is because

there was a large temperature differential between the atmosphere and sea surface.

The air was 16 °C but the sea was relatively warm at a mere 1.7° C. Just before lunch

Esperanza came into view through the fog. We had done it! Or rather the Captain had,

we had made it into Hope Bay.

While we ate lunch our Expedition Leader Rinie and the Captain discussed whether a

landing at the station would be feasible. The trouble with the situation was ice and

currents prevented the ship from anchoring near to the station, so the zodiac ride would have been long. Added to

this was the extreme temperature and wind. The wind chill factor of 35° C could cause frostbite on exposed skin on

people’s faces, so it was decided that unless the wind dropped, thus easing the wind chill factor it would be unsafe

to attempt a landing. We therefore decided to wait for the wind to drop. However after a couple of hours there was

no improvement and it was decided it was best to get out of Hope Bay and head south out of Antarctic Sound. Why

head south? Well the weather chart was showing another severe storm

about to pass through the Drake Passage so it was felt it would be best

to wait a day before our crossing to South Georgia and this would give us

another attempt at making a landing on the Antarctic Continent itself at

Cierva Cove

As we left Hope Bay, James gave a presentation on ‘Sea Ice’. In this

lecture he explained all about how sea ice forms and the different types

you can encounter. What was really fun about this was we were all able

to look out of the window as he spoke and see real life examples of what

was being said, and we were able to use photos that were taken only

minutes before to illustrate the story. It was hoped that by the time the

lecture had finished we would now be in open water and steaming south, however this was not to be and the ice

was closing in on us. Initially the Captain tried to escape the region by navigating to the west but when the sea

blocked our path we tried to go east, but there was no way out and by dinner time it was clear we were temporally

trapped in the ice. The temperature was now 18° C and there was ice all over the ship. For the brave souls who

ventured out into the cold it was possible to get eerie photos of the ship with the ice all around. We all went to sleep

wondering what the night would bring and hoped the Captain would be able to free the ship before too long!

 

Day 7 – Tuesday, March 25th 2014

Gourdin Island & the Bransfield Strait

GPS 08.00 Position: 063°16’ S / 056°51’ W

Weather: Wind: SSE 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: 12° C

 

In the early hours of the morning many people were woken by the sound

of ice scraping along the side of the ship. Scraping ice could only mean

one thing; we were moving. The Captain’s prediction that the wind, tide

and current would allow the ice to break up a little was correct and within

an hour or so of starting navigation we were out of the ice and into open

water. We headed gratefully northwards and although there was still a

lot of ice around the sea was flat calm and was studded with icebergs.

There was no wind at all, to speak of, which made a pleasant change!

Soon we approached Gourdin Island, at the northern end of the Antarctic

Peninsula, where we had hoped to go ashore for another landing before

heading off towards South Georgia. However, there was too much ice at

the landing site in the bay so we went out for a zodiac cruise instead. Compared with yesterday, 10 seemed

positively warm!

A number of seals (including Fur seals) had already been seen from the ship

and from the boats we got very close views of several Crabeater seals

hauled out on the ice and further into the pack ice there was also a Leopard

Seal too, resting peacefully on a large floe. She was a young female and was

completely unconcerned by the presence of 3 zodiacs and their occupants.

A few penguins were seen; some Gentoos on ice and one or two Chinstraps

in the water. The star bird of the morning was Snow Petrel, of which two

were seen on ice at very close range. They blended in so well that it was

very difficult to see them until they moved. Everyone who wanted to left the ship and saw that the hull was still

covered in ice from yesterday’s much lower temperature. The morning was a great success!

As soon as the ship weighed anchor some distant whale spouts were spotted so while we were enjoying a buffet

lunch the Captain took Plancius towards the blows and, getting closer, we could see that there were two species –

Antarctic Minke, a sleek baleen whale up to 17 metres in length and Humpback Whales, rotund with long pectoral

fins and up to 15 metres long. Both species gave excellent views and both were present in some numbers. There

were perhaps 1520 Minkes and maybe 10 Humpback whales. It was the latter that we got very close to. For a long

time, as we approached, they were lifting their tail flukes high in the air when making a dive. However, when we got

closer they changed their behaviour and were only making shallow dives.

The reason could be seen on the depth sounder – a huge swarm of krill just

below the ship. Two whales peeled away but the other two, a female and a

large calf, stayed with us for a long time. Mostly they were diving to feed

but their curiosity got the better of them so they swam around the ship

several times – right below us! From above we got fantastic views of them

and the sound of them exhaling was unforgettable. Eventually they moved

away so we did too, towards the north and yet more adventures.

That adventure came very quickly! In the distance there was a tongue of

ice that had come out of the Antarctic Sound and as we sailed towards the

end of it more Humpback and Fin whales appeared and there were numerous fur seals too. However, the greatest

excitement came when some Killer Whales were spotted. There were three males that were babysitting two playful

youngsters. The ship was able to get quite close to them before they dived under the ice, only to reappear on the far

side. The calves were slapping the water with their flukes and rolling too; they also lifted their heads up to see where

they were. Most, if not all, of the whales had an orangey look – caused by minute, nonparasitic organisms on their

skin called diatoms. It was an extraordinary way to end the daylight hours before gathering in the lounge for recap.

Ali told us a little more about the Leopard seals we had seen during our zodiac cruise and Rinie played the songs of a

Humpback whale before explaining more about them and also the killers that we had been fortunate enough to see.

As the daylight faded it started snowing again, a challenge for the bridge officers navigating the ship.

 

Day 8 – Wednesday, March 26th 2014

At sea, passing Elephant Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 061°12’S/ 054° 34’ W

Weather: Wind: SSW 7. Sea State: Rough. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: 4° C

 

In the early hours of the morning there had been a little more rolling on

board the good ship Plancius so many of us were already awake and up

when Rinie gave the wakeup call at 7:45. During the night the ship had

taken a bit of a long route around a huge area of ice that was blocking our

way on a direct navigational route to South Georgia. This meant good

news and bad news. The bad news was it would make our sailing time to

South Georgia a little longer but the good news was it meant we were

further north and able to sail close by to Elephant Island, passing

between Elephant Island and Clarence Island during the course of the

morning. It was a lovely sunny morning out on deck and with the wind on

our tail we were making good speed.

Today was educational! At 10:00 Ali invited us to the dining room for a presentation

entitled ‘Ice Maidens – Women in Antarctica’. She outlined the very short history of

women in Antarctica and described the different roles and personalities of the wives of

Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. Emily Shackleton and Kathleen Scott were very

different in many ways but ultimately had to support their husbands in their ventures

south in the best way they could. She also talked about women explorers and adventurers

and the role of women in modern Antarctica. As she concluded her presentation the

clouds around the islands slowly cleared, giving us a fine view of this very inhospitablelooking

place. Covered by snow and glaciers, the island looked extremely impressive in the

sunshine. At around the same time Clarence Island was visible on the other side of the

ship. There were many more Fin Whales on view as well. In addition to the animals

identified there were many further away that remained unseen. Two of the whales did

something very unusual for fins – lifted their flukes high into the air

Yesterday the sea was flat calm and it lulled us into a false sense of security, for today we rocked and rolled a little

again. A warning was made over the p.a. about not using the heavy outer doors so we were limited. By the

afternoon however the clouds had lifted completely and the wind and waves continued to help push us on our way.

The sun shone brightly, the temperature rocketed up to +1 and even

the snow on the decks started to melt. Some of us even sunbathed,

albeit still wearing five or six layers! At 3pm Rinie gave a presentation

called “The fate of the Nordenskjold Expedition”, or “Albert, where

have you been?” (Editor’s note: cabin 426, actually) regarding the

Nordensjkold Expedition of 1903. It was a story of remarkable

achievement, good luck and good timing as members of the party

ended up separated in various locations around the northern part of

the Weddell Sea, from Snow Hill to Paulet Island and Hope Bay. They

were lucky to all be reunited after overwintering in stone huts and

shelters in these different locations.

After afternoon tea in the lounge Ali invited us once again to the dining room where she screened another episode

of the BBC documentary ‘Frozen Planet’. The particular episode showed Orca, Killer whales hunting for seals on the

pack ice in Antarctica. Having seen these ‘wolves of the sea’ only the day before in a similar environment it was

incredible to see the film footage of these animals hunting cooperatively. At recap time Ali spoke about krill, the

little pink critters that form the base of the food chain for almost all the animals in the Southern Ocean while James

explained that the area we had crossed over during the course of the day was where three global plates meet deep

under the sea. Rinie gave us a quick update on our progress and we then headed down to the dining room for

another fine feed.

 

Day 9 – Thursday March 27th 2014

At sea sailing to South Georgia

GPS 08.00 Position: 058°57’S /047°39’W

Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Clear. Temperature: +2°C

 

As the wakeup call came we were greeted with Rinie’s voice and another

fine day on board Plancius on our way to South Georgia. With a following

sea once again it was a more gentle rolling motion following behind us and

it made for a much more comfortable day on board and everyone was able

to get out on deck and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.

During the morning Brent invited us to the dining room for a presentation

about Adélie penguins. He used to work for the American Antarctic

Research programme based at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula

and he was able to give an interesting and amusing insight into life with

Adélies, the most southerly breeding penguin. Despite some technical

hitches with the computer he did a great job of sharing his first hand knowledge and experience of working in

Antarctica with penguins.

Out on deck the sun was still shining and we could see lots of whale blows in all

directions around the ship. Some whales were quite close and we were able to

identify them as Fin whales, the second largest of all the whales. A group of three

were close on the port side and were lunging and travelling at speed which gave us a

great view of these amazing animals. Encouraged by these marine mammal sightings

many people stayed out on deck for the rest of the morning, watching for blows and

enjoying the sunshine.

After lunch James gave a presentation in the dining room about the geology of

Antarctica and South Georgia. Although we hadn’t seen too much of the Antarctic

continent it was interesting to find out how it was formed and about some of the

volcanic activity that is still shaping the continent. South Georgia was a remnant of the

‘super continent’ of Gondwanaland with the southern tip made up of hard granite and

the rest of the island primarily sandstone build up behind this.

With the fine weather continuing Ali was out walking the decks and she found some

krill on the fore deck. It is believed that this came from a bird that had landed on deck and regurgitated the krill. She

took it up to the lounge for everyone to see (shrimp bar snacks!) and everyone marvelled at how this tiny creature in

the foundation of the food chain for all Antarctic species.

There were plenty of birds seen during the course of the day including

huge numbers of Antarctic prions, some Wandering albatross and a

few less common Kergualan petrels. Simon and his fellow birders were

very happy with their day on deck.

Later in the afternoon Rinie invited us to the lounge for a reminder

about aspects of bio‐security as we head towards South Georgia. The

Government of this island take this very seriously and insist that

clothing and back packs are all cleaned before arrival on the island.

Given that we had all vacuumed our kit before Antarctica we were just

encouraged to check our gear and make sure that it was still clean and

free from any seeds of bits of soil. He then showed a video produced

by the South Georgia Government which outlined some more of the

rules and regulations associated with visiting the island.

There was time for a predinner drink in the lounge (some people felt they really needed it after the video……) and

then we headed down to the dining room for another great meal courtesy of Ralf and his team.

 

Day 10 – Friday March 28th 2014

At sea sailing to South Georgia

GPS 08.00 Position: 056°24’S / 040°10’W

Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: 1°C

 

Well, after an hour less sleep during the night the wakeup call from Rinie

seemed to come pretty early for some and we emerged from our cabins to

find a grey day with wind coming from the east bringing rain, a big change

from the blue sky days we had enjoyed. Nevertheless, many people

headed out on deck after breakfast to see what was around the ship.

There were large numbers of Antarctic prions as well as White chinned

petrels and a couple of the bigger seabirds, Giant petrels. At 10:00 Simon

was on hand in the dining room to tell us a lot more about the seabirds we

are likely to find in South Georgia. As an island dominated by its remote

location in the Southern Ocean most of the birds that make South Georgia

their home in the summer are migratory seabirds but there are a few

species that are here all year round; the South Georgia pintail, a species of duck and the South Georgia pipit, which is

an endemic songbird.

Armed with new information a few more people headed out on deck to see

if they could spot some more birds but it was a bit of a wet and breezy

morning with poor visibility so not great conditions. At 11:30 Ali invited us

to the lounge for her presentation about the island we’re all looking

forward to reaching. She included aspects of history, the sealers and

whalers that arrived on the island and plundered the natural resources and

also the modern management of the island and its resources such as the

toothfish fishery and tourism. The Government is working hard to try and

take the island back to what is was before man arrived and Habitat

Restoration projects to eradicate the rats and the reindeer are vital to this

goal. Ali finished her presentation just in time for lunch, a fine feast of chicken and potato wedges.

After lunch it was a little quiet around the ship as maybe some people caught up on

that extra hour of sleep or read a book in the comfort of their cabin. A few brave

souls were out on deck despite the rain and enjoyed seeing some more albatross,

Diving petrels and best of all some more Fin whales quite close to the ship. It was

incredible to think that before the whaling industry started in 1904 these waters

used to be full of whales of all species and we had really only seen a small number in

the last few days. It is a big ocean out there and the whales are well dispersed at this

time of year. At 4:30 Ali invited us to the dining room where she was screening the

next episode of the BBC documentary ‘Frozen Planet’. Despite a few technical

difficulties at the beginning the programme was soon up and running and we all

enjoyed seeing the wildlife of South Georgia and the polar regions to the north and

south. With no recap this evening there was time for a bit of social chat in the bar

before yet another great dinner on board Plancius. We’re all looking forward to our

first day ashore on the island of South Georgia tomorrow.

 

Day 11 – Saturday March 29th 2014

Fortuna Bay and Grytviken, South Georgia

GPS 08.00 Position: 057°09’S / 036°48’W

Weather: Wind: N 2. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy/mist. Temperature: +3°C

 

Despite the fact that it was an earlier wakeup call and a bit of a grey, damp

morning everyone was excited to be up and about this morning to catch

their first glimpse of the island of South Georgia. We sailed into Fortuna Bay

during breakfast and by the time we were done the anchor was down and

staff were ready to lower boats to take us ashore after a short briefing about

the landing site. As we approached the beach we could smell the local

residents before we could see them and as we arrived on shore we were

surrounded by Fur seals playing in the surf and King penguins crowding the

beach front. What a great way to start the morning!

From the landing site we made our way slowly along the beach with Albert

leading the way to the King penguin rookery about 1km from the sea. En

route it was difficult to know where to look and what to photograph as there

was so much going on. King penguins were swimming in the lagoon and then

preening and making their way inland. Female Fur seals were suckling their

young on the tussac grass mounds and young seals were exploring the

lagoon as well, playing and fighting with each other and the penguins. Some

of the seals out on the grass were quite feisty and made walking a little

challenging as they charged at us but it was all pretend aggression and if we

stood our ground they soon ran away. On the way up the valley we came

across a ‘blonde’ seal: a leucistic seal which lacks a gene in its pigment. These animals aren’t albino but have no

brown colour in their fur. About 1 in 800 is found like this and they are always lovely to see.

As we got closer to the penguin colony we began to hear the trumpeting calls of the adults and the whistling calls of

the chicks and before long we were watching the penguins together feeding and brooding. Many penguins were still

incubating their eggs and we had to be careful were we positioned ourselves at times as they can’t walk away with

an egg on their feet. At the colony Simon found a very strange looking penguin, a black,

melanistic bird which had no white on its chest at all. The opposite of the leucistic seal

we had seen earlier. Some people took a walk up the hillside to get an overview of the

colony while others were content to stand and watch the comings and goings at the

colony. It was a busy place indeed with penguins walking to and from the sea and adults

courting and marching at the perimeter of the colony. All too soon it was time to make

our way back along the ‘penguin highway’ to the beach and climb into a zodiac and head

back to the ship but what a great morning we’d had at Fortuna Bay.

During lunchtime we repositioned towards Cumberland Bay where we would be

spending the afternoon at the old whaling station of Grytviken. As we sailed along the

coast of South Georgia we could see green tussac covered hillsides, tall mountains and

glaciers and with seabirds all around it really was a lovely sight. As we rounded the

corner of the bay we could see the modern buildings of King Edward Point on our starboard side and ahead of us the

rusted remains of the whaling station came into view. The British Antarctic Survey base at KEP currently houses 11

residents and with 2 Government Officials and some summer only building contractors it was a relatively busy little

place.

The Government official was collected and our patient was taken ashore and before too long we were in zodiacs

once again for the short ride to the cemetery at Grytviken where Albert was waiting to give a toast to Sir Ernest

Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer who was laid to rest here in 1922. From here, warmed by a tot of vodka we were

able to take our own tour of the whaling station, looking at the relics of the gruesome industry before visiting the

museum where we learnt more about the lives of the whalers and other aspects of life in South Georgia. There was

even some time for some retail therapy! A chance to buy some souvenirs and post some cards although we’re not

sure how long it will take for them to reach their destination. As the afternoon light faded to dusk we boarded the

zodiacs beside the old sealing ships, the Albatross and the Dias and headed back to the ship where we just had time

to get our dancing shoes on and go to the aft deck for our South Georgia BBQ. What a great feast of steak, sausages

and salads all washed down by complimentary drinks. We enjoyed the company of some visitors from the base and

it was fascinating to find out a little bit about life on a remote Antarctic island. By 9:30 we’d all eaten our fill and

danced the decks and it was time to head to bed after what had been a busy day in South Georgia.

King Penguins of South Georgia

There are over 450,000 breeding pairs of King Penguins on South Georgia with the largest colony estimated

at 200,000 pairs found on St Andrew’s Bay. King penguins are the second largest of all penguins standing at

95 – 100cm and weighing up to 12kg. They have a smokey, slate grey back and striking orange ‘ear patches’

and an orange neck which fades to yellow down their chest. Their long curved beak has orange plates

along each side. They have a unique breeding cycle which lasts over a year which means at any time of

year there will be adult penguins and chicks within the colony. A single egg is laid in December and after a

55 day incubation period a small grey chick will hatch. This chick will require constant protection from one

of the adults until it is around 5 6 weeks old at which point it will be left in the ‘creche’ with the other

chicks while both adults go to sea to forage for Lantern fish, their favourite food. King penguins can dive to

over 350m to feed spending up to 10 minutes under the water.

The chicks, known as ‘Oakam Boys’ have long brown down to keep them warm against the cold winds and

snow of a South Georgia winter. During the winter months the chick may only receive a feed every few

weeks so the autumn months are a critical time for the chick to build up the fat reserves needed to survive

the winter. By spring/early summer the chicks are beginning to shed their brown downy feathers and are

transformed into recognisable adult King penguins, at which point the adults will stop feeding them and go

to sea themselves for a premoult feed. The ‘catastrophic’ moult that follows lasts around 3 – 4 weeks

during which time all the feathers are replaced by new ones and the penguin will remain on shore fasting.

After the moult they return to the sea to feed once more before the whole cycle begins once again.

 

Day 12 – Sunday March 30th 2014

South Georgia to the Falkland Islands.

GPS 08.00 Position: 053°43’S / 039°09’W

Weather: Wind: NE 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Fog. Temperature: + 3°C.

 

As we woke up this morning and even before we headed up to the lounge we

could see from our windows that we were nowhere near land. Closer inspection

of the map on the TV screens revealed that we were heading west from South

Georgia and not making a landing on one of its beaches. Rinie made a wakeup

call just before 8:00 and invited us to the lounge for a meeting after we’d had

breakfast. The news was not good. Plancius was sailing to Stanley to ensure that

our patient, Mary received the medical care that she urgently needed. The

implications for our voyage were still unknown at this point but it was

disappointing for all to know that some of our trip may not happen in the way

we had hoped. There was obviously extended conversation in the lounge about

the situation but the common feeling was that the welfare of Mary was of the utmost importance and we would

support the decisions of the Doctor, the Captain, Rinie and Oceanwide.

Out on deck it was a little foggy and grey but there seemed to be a huge number of birds flying around the ship,

particularly Wandering albatross of all ages from the dark coloured juveniles to the white old adults. It was great to

see them so close to the ship. At 10:15 Ali invited us to the dining room for the next episode of ‘Frozen Planet’ which

showed the Arctic and Antarctic during the summer months. There was some fabulous footage of the beaches of

South Georgia with King penguins and Fur seals crowding the beaches along with Elephant seals. It was a real shame

that we couldn’t have spent more time on this fabulous little island. By the time the programme was finished there

was time for coffee and a leg stretch on deck before lunch. By this time the weather was beginning to improve with

the mist that had shrouded the ship all morning beginning to lift and show patches of blue sky up above.

With improving visibility we could see more seabirds around the ship and increasing numbers of whale blows could

also be seen. These were mostly Fin whales, the second largest of all the

whales and they were feeding on krill which is abundant in these waters at

this time of year. All this activity took place in the area of Shag Rocks, which

were visible in the distance. There were the usual bird suspects around; Black

browed albatross, and White chinned petrels so there was plenty to see and

the bird watching was much more enjoyable as the sun came out and the last

of the mist cleared. Wildlife highlights included Macaroni penguin, King

penguin and Hourglass dolphin. It was a breezy but very pleasant afternoon

on deck and many people spent some time getting some fresh air and

enjoying the sea views.

At 3:30 Brent gave a presentation about King penguins in the dining room. These beautiful animals with their striking

colours make South Georgia and other subAntarctic islands their home all year round. Brent was able to explain a

little more about their long complicated breeding cycle. This cycle explains why, at Fortuna Bay we were seeing

penguins incubating eggs and with young chicks at the end of summer when every other penguin species is finished

breeding for the year. There was time for a cup of tea and fabulous chocolate brownies before Ali and Sam

announced their presentation in the dining room and invited us to hear stories of their time living in South Georgia.

Ali had spent 9 months living at King Edward Point 1997 when the British military had a small base there and

conditions and communication with the outside world were basic and limited. In

contrast Sam was working as the British Antarctic Survey base Doctor for a year

and with exciting research activities taking place and modern accommodation and

communications systems things were a little different. It was interesting to hear

though the similarities of their stories; the deep snow and skiing in the winter, the

wildlife in summer and the constant desire for ‘freshies’, fresh fruit and

vegetables. It was fascinating to hear their stories.

There was time for a drink in the lounge before dinner which was a great Sunday

night roast. It had been a bit of a difficult day on board Plancius with the

disappointing news this morning and no news of what will happen to the rest of the trip.

 

Day 13 – Monday March 31st 2014

At sea sailing to the Falkland Islands

GPS 08.00 Position: 052°53’S / 046°28’W

Weather: Wind: NW 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.

 

As Rinie woke us this morning the weather was reasonable but the forecast

was for things to deteriorate during the course of the day; not good for our

arrival in the Falkland Islands. Strong winds increased and we found ourselves

being tossed around our comfy ship as the morning progressed. At 9:00 we

were invited to the lounge to meet with Rinie to find out what the plans and

implications might be for the rest of the trip. Everyone on board has their

own itinerary, travel agenda and commitments and of course everyone came

on board to see the remote islands of the Atlantic. Rinie had been in regular

contact with the Oceanwide office to try and resolve the situation. At this

stage there was no real news but just assurance that everything was being

done to try and resolve the situation. At 10:15 Ali invited us down to the dining room for the next episode of ‘Frozen

Planet’ which looked at how the animals and plants of the polar regions cope with autumn and the imminent arrival

of winter. Some of the slow motion footage of the Emperor penguins was incredible to watch as they came out of

the water and onto the ice.

By lunchtime the weather was getting much worse. The winds climbed to a

steady 50 knots and the waves were approaching 10 metres high – a full

Force 10 on the Beaufort scale. Even though the wind was whipping around

and streaking off the wave tops, there were still birds around us. Giant Petrels

strained to keep steady, but they seemed to hang nevertheless. Some

Wandering Albatross were also around, but not for long. Plancius rides these

big waves very well, however, our speed had to be reduced to minimize any

damage to the ship and the inhabitants who lie therein. Just after lunch we

heard from Rinie over the PA system that a letter was available for us in the

lounge from the Oceanwide office. The proposal was to extend the trip by 5 days thus giving us every opportunity to

continue with the voyage and visit the islands of Tristan da Cunha and St Helena. Obviously this had a mixed

reception depending on further onward plans and commitments but it gave us all something to work from even if it

did mean changing flights and plans. It was a generous offer from the company.

During the afternoon with rolling, bouncing seas it was a challenge for many of us to get around but we managed to

join Albert in the dining room for his presentation about the history of the Falkland Islands. The islands were

discovered by British explorer John Davis in 1592 on his sailing ship ‘Desire’. The motto for the islands is ‘Desire the

Right’ which links with this and desiring the right to be free. The islands are still contested by Argentina to this day.

Later in the afternoon Ali and Sam were back in the dining room to explain

about the Habitat Restoration projects that are currently taking place in

South Georgia. During the last two summers Sam has been helping with the

reindeer eradication project which is intended to remove all the reindeer

that were introduced to the island by the Norwegian whalers nearly 100

years ago. There is also a huge project to eradicate all the rats from the

island to help the ground nesting birds repopulate the islands. The project

is the largest ever attempted anywhere in the world and it is certainly a

challenging one with the terrain, the logistics of a remote island and of

course the inclement weather all creating difficulties. Phase 1 was

successful, Phase 2 was completed last summer and Phase 3 will be undertaken next year at a cost of £3 million.

During the evening there was a chance for us all to meet with Rinie in the lounge to discuss the plans for the rest of

the trip before we headed down to dinner to relax and forget about our worries for a while. The wind continued to

howl, and our speed was about 1 knot for most of the day and into the evening. Just as it got dark the squalls turned

into sleet and snow and came and went during the night. The winds dropped to about 30 knots by midnight and we

increased our speed gradually throughout the night, hopeful that Mother Nature might give a break in the weather.

During the day there was a lot of wildlife and highlights included Softplumaged, Kerguelan and Grey Petrels, King

Penguin, three Gray’s Beaked Whales and, most remarkable of all, three rarelyseen Hector’s Beaked Whales.

Reindeer of South Georgia

Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia by the Norwegian whalers who wanted them as a source of

fresh meat, a pleasant change from whale meat we would assume. The first animals arrived on the island

in 1911; 5 reindeer were brought to the Busen Peninsula to supply the whaling stations of Husvik, Leith and

Stromness while 10 reindeer, 3 male and 7 females were taken to the Barff Peninsula opposite Grytviken in

Cumberland Bay. These small herds very quickly established themselves and proceeded to flourish in the

climate and habitat and of course the numbers quickly multiplied despite regular hunting by the whalers.

The reindeer fed on the native plants, particularly the tussac grass which sustained them throughout the

leaner winter months and by the turn of the century, with no whaling and therefore no whalers the herds

totalled over 3,500.

Despite the fact that the reindeer formed part of the heritage of South Georgia it was felt that the herds

had increased to such a size that a cull was needed and indeed the South Georgia Government made the

decision to attempt a complete eradication of the herds. Obviously the reindeer were having a negative

impact on the vegetation of South Georgia, decimating the tussac in some areas as well as leaving some

areas eroded and bare. Smaller plants also suffered as did the burrowing petrels that nest along the coastal

areas; their burrows were collapsed by the herds passing overhead. Two factors accelerated the

eradication programme. The rat eradication project and the retreat of the glacial borders, particularly on

the Barff Peninsula. In February 2013, with Sami reindeer herders from the north along with a team of

marksmen, a vet and other volunteers a successful cull of 1,500 animals was completed on the Busen

Peninsula and around 1,000 of the reindeer on the Barff Peninsula. The project continued this year with

the rest of the Barff herd removed by expert marksmen. While it is sad to see the end of reindeer in South

Georgia it can only be of benefit to the island and its native inhabitants.

A sight that will no longer been seen on the

island of South Georgia – Reindeer and King

Penguins.

 

Day 14 – Tuesday April 1st 2014

At sea sailing to the Falkland Islands

GPS 08.00 Position: 059°29’S / 050°14’W

Weather: Wind: WSW 7. Sea State: Rough. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 3°C.

 

“Good morning, good morning” said Rinie over the PA at 7:45. We were at

least making relatively good speed, however Plancius was still pitching and

rolling and yawing as we plodded along in lumpy seas. After a morning

update by Rinie we each continued to contemplate what our decisions

would be when we either disembarked in Stanley, carried onto Ascension,

or carried on the whole way to Cape Verde. Would it be a 5 day extension

or a newly proposed 3 day extension?

In the meantime we had a few presentations as James told us about the

Geology of the Falkland Islands – a part of the South American continental

shelf connected to Argentina, not out in the middle of the South Atlantic.

Being Welsh James has a hard time letting Argentina claim Islas Malvinas as one can imagine, what with the war and

all, but James put aside most of his politics and delivered a fine, informative lecture.

On the wildlife side of things, once again, a very good variety of birds was seen, especially Giant petrels and Blackbrowed

albatross, but the wildlife star of the show was a marine mammal – the Hourglass dolphin, at least 10 of

which were seen. They are a very fast oceanic dolphin, beautiful and sleek with a sophisticated black and white ‘hour

glass’ pattern on their flanks. For a small dolphin they are stunningly fast

and sometimes acrobatic. They put on a great show at the side of the ship

and we all enjoyed the encounter and agreed that a day with dolphins in

it is always a good day!

After lunch there was time for a bit of a post lunch snooze as, although

the sea days aren’t busy days they can be tiring as getting around the ship

can be a challenge and getting decent sleep can also be difficult.

During the late afternoon Simon was scheduled to give his presentation

about the birds of the Falkland Islands but this was postponed by Rinie in

favour of a final update on our plans for the rest of the trip. In order to

allow some people to still make flights from Ascension Island the final, final plan was to extend the voyage by 4 days

making sure we reach Ascension Island by April 22nd. This would mean we had time in hand a little in Tristan da

Cunha in case of bad weather but it might mean squeezing time from St Helena. All we can hope for at this stage is

some following wind all the way to Tristan and calm seas when we get there. It is about time our luck changed!

At 5pm Ali invited us down to the dining room for the final episode of ‘Frozen Planet’ which looked at the polar

regions in winter. It is incredible to think that animals can endure such extreme climates and survive. The Emperor

penguins are extraordinary as the male penguins spend the winter incubating their single egg despite temperatures

of 60°C and winds of over 100mph.

There was time for a short recap before dinner where Rinie outlined plans for tomorrow and our arrival in Stanley in

the Falkland Islands.

‘Frozen Planet’

 

Day 15 – Wednesday April 2nd 2014

At sea and in Stanley, Falkland Islands

GPS 08.00 Position: 051°16’ S / 056°23’W

Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.

 

After days of bouncing slowly over the southern ocean towards the

Falkland Islands it was nice to wake up and find that sea conditions had

improved and the motion was a little more comfortable and to make the

day even better we had blue sky and sunshine. It certainly improved the

mood on board and everyone was looking forward to getting to Stanley

later in the day. After breakfast Simon invited us down to the dining room

to give a presentation about the birds of the Falkland Islands. Many

seabirds make these small islands their home, particularly the Black browed albatross of which there are over

500,000 breeding pairs; 65% of the world’s population. In addition there are a number of endemic birds including

the Cobb’s wren and the Falkland flightless steamer duck. It was interesting to see the range of birds that live in the

islands.

Shortly afterwards, with time for a coffee and some fresh air, Ali gave a presentation in the lounge about life on the

Falkland Islands. Having lived there for 15 years and now an official Falkland Islander she had plenty of local stories

to embellish information about the history and economy of the islands. Sheep and squid have been the mainstay of

the islands for many years but with oil exploration and drilling now taking place in the waters around the islands

there are changes ahead for the people living on this remote archipelago.

As she finished at midday and opened the front curtains we could see the

north eastern coastline of the islands ahead of us and with blue sky and

sunshine it was a welcome sight. Hourglass dolphins had been seen from

the ship during the morning and these were joined by other marine

mammals as we neared the islands; Fin whales on their migration north

after feeding further south during the summer months. As lunch was called

we were sailing towards the entrance to the bay that would lead us to the

inner harbour of Port William and Stanley Harbour. We could see Cape

Pembroke lighthouse to our port side and the mountains beyond Stanley

ahead of us; the Two Sisters and Mt Tumbledown.

By the time we had finished lunch we were sailing through The Narrows, the harbour

entrance and the town of Stanley lay ahead of us with its brightly coloured rooftops adding

colour to the scene. Plancius was quickly brought into position, the anchor was dropped

and Ali went ashore in a zodiac to collect the customs officials to clear the ship ready for us

to go ashore. Only a short while later we were in zodiacs ourselves for the short but damp

ride ashore to the jetty by the visitor centre where we could begin our afternoon

exploration around the capital city of the Falkland Islands. We all chose to spend our

afternoon in our own way; some people heading straight to the museum, others went to

the souvenir shops and others took a taxi down to Gypsy Cove to visit the small Magellanic

penguin colony. Whatever the choice we all had a great afternoon enjoying a walk,

exploring the town and making the most of some time off the ship.

Plancius had been out to Port William to receive fuel ready for the continuation of our voyage to Tristan da Cunha

and many of us waited in the comfort and warmth of The Globe, enjoying a beer or a cider and chatting about our

day. By the time our ship came back in it was beginning to get dark and although sea conditions were good at the

jetty it was a little different out at the ship were things were a little wet for some as we approached the gangway.

We all got back on board safely and had time to warm up and dry out before dinner was called. It had been a long

journey to get here but we had disembarked Mary and Cliff safely and enjoyed an unexpected visit to the Falkland

Islands so it had been a successful day all round.

 

Day 16 – Thursday April 3rd 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 051°14’ S / 054°08’W

Weather: Wind: SW 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.

 

Well the day started with the usual wakeup call from Rinie to rouse us

from our rolling sleep. Will we miss this early alarm when we got back

home? Hmm. Although ahead of us is a long sea passage to Tristan da

Cunha as we all started the day it was actually with a lighter mood than

we had been experiencing for the last few days, which had been tough

for everyone. It was almost like this was the start of Odyssey number 2

and we can hopefully leave bad luck and bad weather behind us. The

weather was indeed behind us as we headed on our journey and this

gave us great speed during the course of the morning with over 12 knots

for most of the day which will get us to Tristan in good time.

During the morning Albert was on hand to give his version of events

regarding Argentina and the Falkland Island entitled Argentina in the South Ooops. An alternative view of Argentine

history. This presentation certainly gave an alternative view and Albert presented it in his own very unique fashion,

as always.

Once again there were many birds with us during the day but the stars of the show appeared at midday – more

Hourglass Dolphins. Although they are one of the smallest, they are one of the most attractive dolphins, being

strikingly blackandwhite. They get their name from the sandglass or hourglass pattern on their sides and this was

clearly visible in the sunshine and clear water. For several minutes they raced along beside us and then they started

porpoising. Altogether they spent some time right beside the ship, giving us the best views yet of this exciting

species.

Being so close to the Falkland Island still meant that we had Black browed albatross with us all day and with

occasional Wandering albatross and plenty of Giant petrels there was plenty for the birders to enjoy from the top

deck.

Despite quite strong winds from the stern the motion of the ship was quite

a gentle rolling one which meant that the deck walkers could resume their

exercise, a daily routine that would become the pattern for many on this

long sea passage. We need to do something to counteract the fabulous

food that the chefs keep managing to produce three times a day!

During the afternoon Sam invited us to the dining room to give another of

her presentations about photography. She has a definite skill when it

comes to capturing images of wildlife, people and landscapes so it was

useful to learn a few tips and to use in our own photographs.

The final official get together of the afternoon was once again in the dining room with Ali who began to screen a new

documentary series entitled “The Life of Mammals’. She began with the programme featuring marine mammals,

chosen because of our sea passage ahead. This featured the largest mammal, indeed the largest animal in the world,

the Blue whale as well as seals and dolphins explaining how they have evolved for life in the ocean and some of their

incredible feeding techniques at sea.

During the evening we gathered in the lounge not for recap but just to relax and catch up. It felt like there was a bit

of a sense of relief as we began the next stage of our voyage and although we have a long way to go our thoughts

are already looking ahead to our visit to Tristan da Cunha.

Dinner was once again a great feast with some of the fresh products that our chef Ralf had ordered from the

Falkland Islands. The islands have their own hydroponic greenhouses at Stanley Growers where they grow tomatoes,

cucumbers and lettuce so we should have our own ‘freshies’ to keep us going for a few weeks.

 

Day 17 – Friday April 4th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 049°05’ S / 047°22’W

Weather: Wind: SSW 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.

 

It was a bit of a grey start to the day Rinie gave his wake up call but with the

wind still behind us the motion of the ship wasn’t too bad once again and

breakfast didn’t involve any balancing acts around the dining room, thank

goodness!

As predicted everyone began the day with their own sea day routine; some

people went for an early morning walk around the decks while others caught

up on emails back home. For some it was a chance to catch up on diaries or

just watch the seas pass by.

At 10:00 Albert was on hand once again in the dining room to give a

presentation entitled ‘The Giant Mutant Mice on Gough Island – A South

Atlantic Anomoly’. This presentation was fascinating and gruesome as he outlined the problem of mice on Gough

Island. Research scientists were puzzled by the poor condition of some of the Tristan albatross chicks during the later

part of the breeding season, once the ‘brood guard’ period was over and both parents were going out to sea to

forage for the chick. Closer investigation revealed open sores and wounds on the lower parts of the chicks. What

could have been causing such wounds? They observed the chicks during the day but didn’t see anything so they then

set up night time cameras and found that it was mice biting the chicks and creating open wounds. Blood sucking

mutant mice indeed! Albert then explained about the mouse eradication project that is underway on Gough, rather

in the same way that rats are being eradicated from South Georgia. A fascinating talk from Albert once again.

In the air around the ship today were large numbers of birds, mostly petrels but other species too. Our tally included

Softplumaged, Kerguelan, Whitechinned Grey, Cape and Atlantic petrels, both Northern and Southern GiantPetrel,

Great Shearwater, Slenderbilled Prion, South Polar Skua, Wilson’s Stormpetrel and several albatrosses –

Wandering, Blackbrowed and Greyheaded. The constant stream of birds out here in the middle of the ocean was a

constant source of wonder and admiration.

After lunch and maybe an afternoon snooze for some it was the turn of

Rinie to invite us down to the dining room for his presentation ‘Humpback

whales – My Time with Singing Whales’. He had spent three seasons on a

sail boat in Tonga studying the Humpback whales in the area the whales

come to breed. He made some fabulous recordings of the male whales

singing, their method of communicating in the vast expanse of the ocean as

well as photographing the tail flukes which in whales are as individual as our

finger prints. These images were sent to the UK to be included in a whale ID

data base. It sounds as if he had an amazing experience.

Later in the afternoon we were back down to the dining room once again,

not for food but for the next episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’. This time Ali showed the first episode of the series

which showed how this group of animals have evolved and adapted, starting with the family of marsupials which

nurse their young in their pouches and the unique Duck billed platypus which is an egg laying mammal.

There was time for recap in the lounge with staff before dinner and with such busy sea days we all had a quiet night

afterwards.

 

Day 18 – Saturday April 5th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 046°13’ S / 042°05’W

Weather: Wind: WSW 4. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 10°C.

 

“Good morning, good morning!” Yep it was the Rinie wakeup call once

again to start another day at sea. It was a bit of a grey one once again

but by checking Channel 5 on the TV or visiting the Bridge we could see

that we were making excellent speed, sometimes over 13 knots so a

little bit of overcast weather wasn’t bothering anyone.

And so the morning routine on board Plancius began once again; a

leisurely breakfast, followed by a walk or mails or just curling up with a

good book and occasional glancing at the sea racing past!

This morning it was the turn of Brent to give a presentation in the dining

room and he was on hand with ‘Seabird Research in the Southern

Ocean’. When he worked for the American Antarctic Research

Programme he not only worked with penguins but he also spent time

studying other seabirds such as Brown skua and Antarctic shags with

their distinctive blue eye ring. The skuas certainly seemed to have lots

of attitude and personality and could make working with them quite

challenging….. they defend their territory quite aggressively!

In terms of wildlife there was, once again, plenty to be seen. Even the

most casual of observers couldn’t fail to see and appreciate the

Wandering Albatross, many of which were with us throughout the day.

One immature bird in particular kept coming round and round the ship,

giving those of us on the bridge wings extremely close views. It looked

at us as we looked at it! Closing in on Tristan, we began to see birds

from that archipelago, including our first Greatwinged and Spectacled

petrels. There were no marine mammals yesterday but today there were two sightings. The first was of a group of

five Dusky Dolphins that porpoised next to the bow for a few short minutes and later in the day a single Fin Whale

was seen.

Later in the afternoon Sam was on hand once again to give us some advice on photographing wildlife and basically it

involves getting down at animal level and lying around in the sand, snow and mud to get the best shots. You have to

be dedicated and patient and spend time just watching the behaviour of the animals to see what it is you want to

photograph. Either that or take lots of photos and eventually you’ll get a good one, maybe!

There was time to enjoy the afternoon treat in the lounge once again before the documentary fans were able to

enjoy the next episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ with Ali down in the dining room. This particular episode looked at

the insect eaters such as the Giant ant eater of South America which manages to survive on some of the tiniest

creatures but it has to spend a lot of time doing so! Insects are not something we’ve had to worry about too much

on this trip so far but maybe as we head to warmer climates we’ll find bugs and flies. Life without them is quite

pleasant but of course the world wouldn’t function without them.

By the time the documentary was finished it was just about ‘drink o’çlock’ in the lounge so whatever your choice be

it G&T or just a cup of tea it was a chance to catch up with some of the news of the day. These sea days are

beginning to get a nice flow and routine and seem to be passing by quite quickly……

 

Day 19 – Sunday April 6th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 044°08’ S / 036°16’W

Weather: Wind: WSW 4. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: +12°C.

 

Well, the hour less sleep made things a little slow for some this morning but

Rinie’s voice came over the PA as usual to rouse us from our bunks. It was a

good morning to be up and about and out on deck as the sun was shining and

for the first time since we have been on board the air felt mild, no biting winds

that you needed to shelter from on deck.

Quite appropriately James was on hand at 10:00 to give a presentation about

climate change.

After the morning lecture and subsequent discussion many people headed out

on deck once again to enjoy some fresh air and watch some of the seabirds

that were still following the ship. There were a number of passengers baring their legs in shorts which is a sure sign

that we’re heading in the right direction and that weather conditions are changing from the freezing Southern Ocean

to the milder South Atlantic.

During the morning a number of spouting baleen whales were seen. However, the views were either fleeting or

distant so all that could be said was that they were either Sei or Bryde’s Whales. Just before lunch a pod of pilot

whales was seen approaching the ship. They were travelling at speed and seemed to have some quite young calves

with them. Any hopes that they might stay with us for a while were short lived as they suddenly disappeared below

the bow of Plancius and weren’t seen again. These fast moving oceanic whales are usually travelling quite quickly

and rarely slow down and acknowledge ship’s presence. Later on our first SubAntarctic Little Shearwaters and

Whitefaced Stormpetrels were seen

As well as a number of Wandering albatross staying with the ship we were

joined by some Sooty albatross which also stayed with the ship for a few hours

giving the people out on deck some great photo opportunities. Not to be out

done the Wanderers flew by at even closer range, especially the younger birds

and we had some great close up views of these fantastic birds. Today, in fact,

six species of albatross were noted: Wandering, Sooty, Blackbrowed, Greyheaded,

Lightmantled Sooty and Atlantic Yellownosed so quite a day for wildlife!

After lunch many people headed back out on deck to make the most of the fine weather although a few disappeared

to their cabins for the, now routine afternoon sleep! Whatever the choice it was a relaxing afternoon on board.

At 3:30 Albert invited us to the dining room for his very personal presentation about his lifelong search for the

Tristan moorhen. Does it exist or is it the same species found on Gough Island? It was a mystery for many years but

sadly Albert was disappointed to eventually discover that the moorhens that were found on Tristan many years ago

were probably the same species. It was a fascinating and humorous account of his quest to prove the existence of

the Island Cock.

There was time for a cup of tea and a slice of fruit bread before Ali screened

the next episode of the BBC documentary ‘The Life of Mammals’. This

episode looked at the plant predators, the grazers and how they have

adapted to life eating grass and leaves. There was some fabulous footage, as

always, of the animals on the plains of Africa.

With no recap this evening there was time for some social chat in the

lounge before a Sunday dinner, roast lamb and all the trimmings which all

went down very well; brain food for the final activity of the day, the quiz.

Up in the lounge Ali and Sam were ready with a range of questions to test out knowledge and check how well we

had been listening during presentations. There were 4 question rounds about Antarctica, South Georgia, the

Falklands Islands and the ship followed by a picture and sounds round. It was a competitive evening with some real

rivalry between teams but there could only be one winner, and it was only by half a point and that was the Mighty

Mutant Ice Mice. With only 7 points separating all 7 teams it was a close run thing that was enjoyed by all, especially

the winning team as they consumed their wine prize…….

With the clocks advancing by another hour again this evening many people headed to bed to try and get a head start

on sleep. Another sea day done.

 

Day 20 – Monday April 7th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 042°22’S / 003°19’W

Weather: Wind: SW 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 10°C.

 

Last night the conditions were a little roly again not giving everyone the

best sleep but after a few weeks at sea we’re all beginning to get used to it

a bit. Will our own beds at home seem too still when we get back to them

after the trip? After breakfast Albert gave us a fascinating lecture about

the history of Tristan da Cunha. Being such a remote island it had its fair

share of settlers from all over the world. He spoke of the Portuguese,

Dutch and British sailors who all passed by the island on their way to the

East Indies. He also told us the fascinating story of the families who settled

the island, starting with Mr Glass from Scotland. Albert always talks about

his Tristan with such enthusiasm and passion it is hard not to get excited

by thoughts of getting there in a few days time, we hope.

Once the presentation was completed many people went out on deck to enjoy the fine weather and watch the birds

that were around the ship. With less wind the bird numbers were down a little on the last few days but we still saw

some big albatross, probably Wandering albatross but they occasional had to land on the water as there didn’t

appear to be enough wind for them to continue flying at times. Far in the distance some dolphins were spotted but

sadly they didn’t choose to come and join the ship or show themselves in any close way so we continued to scan the

horizons with hopes of more.

During the morning many people walked the decks getting some fresh air

and exercise to compensate for the fabulous meals that the galley team keep

presenting to us three times a day. Every lap helps and means we can enjoy

guilt free desserts and afternoon treats!

In the early afternoon Albert screened a fascinating video entitled ‘Island on

top of the World’ which was made by Italian filmmakers who spent a few

months living on the island. In the film we were introduced to the policeman

Conrad Glass, the direct descended of the first settler who will also be joining

us later in the trip. These videos are almost like a keyhole on the island and

give a good idea what to expect when we get there, despite the fact that the

film was a few years old.

The final presentation of the day at 5pm was from Simon. After his long day

birding and watching for marine mammals he invited us to the dining room to

talk more about birds. His presentation was about albatross of the world

which was very fitting considering we have been followed by these iconic

seabirds since we left South Georgia over a week ago, not the same birds of

course! We have been lucky to see a variety of species and it has been

interesting to see new species as we head from the Southern Ocean to the

mid Atlantic. Simon has been lucky enough to travel to islands such as Midway

where he saw Laysan and Black footed albatross, to the Galapagos Islands

where he saw Waved albatross and to New Zealand where he saw the Royal

albatross.

As he finished his presentation we were invited to the lounge for complimentary Strawberry Rockhopper cocktails.

The first ones served in champagne glasses proved to be a little unstable on a moving ship and slightly top heavy

with their fruit garnish…. The bar area looked like a horror movie after some of the cocktails went crashing in

spectacular fashion! Tumblers and tall glasses proved to be much more successful and everyone enjoyed their predinner

drinks. To add to the cheery mood in the bar Rinie shared the good news that due to our fast speed – over 12

knots for most of the voyage from the Falkland Islands we might reach Tristan a day early, which for some may not

be a day too soon!

 

Day 21 – Tuesday April 8th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 040°33’S / 024°15’W

Weather: Wind: S 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 13°C.

 

After a much calmer night we awoke to a warm sunny day of 13°C. We’re

certainly heading in the right direction and everyone is enjoying the better

weather and sunshine. No more struggling to get thermals, waterproofs, hat

and gloves on just to step out on deck for a while!

The first presentation of the day was given by Albert….of course! Our island

specialist has been invaluable on these long sea days from the Falklands and

many people have enjoyed listening to his stories over lunch and dinner as

well as during more formal presentations. This particular photo slide show

was entitled an ‘Introduction to Tristan’ in which he was able to share many

of his personal experiences. It is always good to hear first hand stories and

learn more about life on these remote islands, in the same way Ali talked about the Falkland Islands. Seeing the

photos of Tristan really brought the island to life and everyone seemed to have a bit of a buzz afterwards as they

thought about our forthcoming visit.

For the rest of the morning it was the usual routine of people out on deck, some catching up with emails, other

reading and of course our birders were out on the bridge wings to see what they could spot flying around the ship. It

is amazing how we have all managed to find a routine that suits us and helps us through the long sea passage in fact

one passenger was overheard saying that if he never saw land again he

wouldn’t be too bothered! Hmm maybe sighting Tristan, Nightingale and

Inaccessible will change this point of view!

We had our usual suspects around the ship, birds not passengers with Greater

shearwaters making up the bulk of what was seen but albatross were seen

and Spectacled petrels, with their fabulous eye ring markings were becoming

increasingly common. The bird of the day was a single, diminutive, Greybacked

Stormpetrel.

By mid afternoon Albert screened another film about Tristan entitled ‘The

forgotten Island’. In this film we saw a slightly older Conrad Glass who had

since been in the UK receiving police training, and learnt more about the difficulties faced by many young people

who would like to leave the island. Conrad has written a book about his life as a policeman on Tristan da Cunha

which is entitled ‘The Rockhopper Copper’. Crime cannot be rife on this small island with a small population but

there is a prison and Albert told us a tale this morning about an inmate who was there for a while but was given a

key so he could let himself out to go home for his meals! The walk of shame was probably more punishment than

spending time in a cell.

Later in the afternoon, at 5pm Sam gave a really interesting presentation about the process of taking night photos.

Some of her incredible images, taken in South Georgia are now featured on South Georgia and South Sandwich

Islands stamps and First Day Covers. She had endured some cold nights to get a few stunning shots of the Milky Way

and Star Trails and inspired us all to give it a go when we get home although we might need to go a long way to find

such beautiful scenery and such dark night skies.

There was time today for a short recap in the lounge where Ali talked about the endemic Tristan da Cunha penguin,

the knitted variety of course, which are hand made by some of the ladies on Tristan and manage to migrate all

around the world! Albert told us about the high incidence of asthma on the island which is thought to be a result of

settlers carrying the gene and producing generations of islanders that suffer from the disease. It was quiet in the

lounge after dinner as we all anticipated another night of the clocks going one hour forward.

 

Day 22 – Wednesday April 9th 2014

At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 038°56’S / 018°29’W

Weather: Wind: NNW 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Clear. Temperature: + 15°C.

 

It was a proper blue sky day as we emerged from our cabins for breakfast. With

just a few wispy clouds and the odd white cap on the sea it was a perfect day for

sailing. It was a bit of a shame that we couldn’t be in Tristan today with such good

conditions but hopefully this will continue tomorrow and we can all get ashore

safely for the day.

After breakfast many people headed out on deck for a bit of a walk and for some

fresh air before Rinie invited us to the dining room for a presentation entitled The

Southern Ocean Food Web – a bottom up perspective. It sounded intriguing so

many of us attended to find out what drives the food chain in the rich waters of

the south. It is of course the little stuff, the phytoplankton and the krill. If you were to take this level of the food

chain away there would be a complete collapse of the ecosystem and all of the animals we enjoyed down in the

south, then penguins, seals and whales would disappear. Even though we’ve officially left the southern oceans

behind it was good reflect on what we had seen earlier in the trip.

For the rest of the morning people were happy to relax in the sunshine on deck as,

despite a cool breeze blowing across the decks it was still warm Tshirt weather. It

seemed a long way away when we were stuck in the ice a few weeks ago. For the keen

birders and photographers the aft deck was the place to be today with large numbers of

Spectacled petrels flying behind the ship along with Greater shearwaters that seem to

have been with us for days. Also following were occasional Atlantic yellow nosed

albatross which breed on Tristan da Cunha and Nightingale Island and what were

thought to be Tristan albatross. Trying to photograph these birds passed an hour or so

for many.

After lunch many once again chose to head out on deck either for a leg stretch round the decks or to soak up some

rays. It was a good day to be out that is for sure.

At 3:15 we were invited to the aft deck where Alex and Matie, officers from the bridge

were launching an ARGOS recorder. This device will travel through the water column for

the next 4 years recording data such as temperature and salinity.

Just as they were about to launch it an unidentified shark was seen swimming by the

ship and then there was a call over the PA system to let us know that a possible Blue

whale had been sighted ahead of us. Days of not much happening then everything

happens at once!

We all made our way to the bow of Plancius to see what we could see on the horizon.

The answer was some very big blows. It is always hard to get a sense of scale and size of these animals at sea but we

could see the huge blow, the long back and the tiny dorsal fin in relation to the size of the whale. We sailed around a

little as it surfaced and dived and we all got views of the blows although not necessarily good photos! What an

exciting afternoon and how lucky we were to find this lone whale in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

As we rejoined or original course to Tristan, James announced his presentation in the dining room where he talked

about the Mid Atlantic Ridge that the ARGOS device would now be

collecting data from and about the volcanic formation of Tristan da

Cunha. The island forms an almost ‘text book’ volcano shape and last

erupted in 1961 which resulted in the entire population of the island

being evacuated to Britain.

Before dinner we joined the staff in the lounge for recap where James

explained a little more about the device we had launched today, Ali

talked about some of the more interesting place names of Tristan and

Rinie outlined the plans for tomorrow…….

 

Day 23 – Thursday April 10th 2014

Arrival Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 037°15’S / 012°52’W

Weather: Wind: NW 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Clear. Temperature: + 20°C.

 

With first light, the islands came in sight! The vague outline of the totally

inaccessible looking Inaccessible Island could be made out from a fog and

cloud bank, under an otherwise blue sky, only five miles away, yet so far.

The main island of Tristan da Cunha was just another 30 miles ahead of us,

but still invisible, shrouded in clouds. One cloud stuck out higher than the

surrounding cotton wool clouds, indicating where the just over 2000 m high

peak of the island might be. All of a sudden, while we were passing it,

Inaccessible Island emerged, and the clouds lifted, revealing the immense

cliffs surrounding the island. On top of the thick cloud still covering the higher plateau, a few beautiful textbook

lenticular clouds formed. It is amazing how quickly these formations can change in shape and appearance. In the

distance we could see a cloud free Nightingale Island. With a height of less than 200 metres, Nightingale is too small

to create its own clouds, like Inaccessible and Tristan do.

Gradually, Tristan made itself visible. As we approached, we could see the all

important Potato Patches, with the little cottages people use for weekend

outings. Between the Patches and the Settlement lies Hillpiece, the small

volcano that created the settlement plateau with its lava flows, after half the

island collapsed and slipped into the sea several thousand years ago. Around

the Patches we could see all those little craters, the so called hornitos, or

freatic mounds James told us about, created by massive steam explosions

when the lava from the Hillpiece volcano flowed over wet ground. And then,

just around the corner, there was the settlement, officially called Edinburgh of

the Seven Seas, a name never used. People just say ‘Settlement’.

We were not the only visitors. At anchor was the Baltic Trader, a freighter

offloading heavy stuff, and there was a yacht bobbing up and down on the

heavy swell that had started to roll in from the northwest. Not so good for

us, because that would make landing today impossible. However, we

managed to get a delegation from Tristan on board to do the immigration

and stamp our passports, under pretty tricky sea conditions, as the wind was

steadily increasing. We also managed to load a few tons of Tristan potatoes,

to be delivered to friends and family of Tristan islanders on Saint Helena.

Most islanders left us, but Conrad Glass and his wife Sharon stayed on board,

as they are coming with us as passengers. Conrad, preferably called Connie,

is the famous policeman we all got to know so well during the past few days, as he plays a prominent role in the

documentaries Albert has shown us.

No landings today, what a disappointment. But with Connie on board, to

keep a watchful eye on us, we got permission to launch our zodiacs in

the lee of the island, to do some zodiac cruising along the shores of

Sandy Point and Stony Hill, on the southeast side of Tristan, and look for

the odd penguin for those who needed so badly to see one. The penguin

of Tristan is the Northern Rockhopper, which has much longer festive

yellow plumes hanging from the head that the ones found in the

Falklands. And yes, we found them! Only a very few, as the breeding

season is over and most birds have left the island. There is just the odd

one still standing there to complete its mould. We could not get good

close views, but at least we saw them; two or three little white specks

between the rocks on a grassy slope. The much more visible larger white specks higher up the slopes invariably

turned out to be the beautiful and elegant Yellownosed Albatross, or Molly, as it is locally known here. High up in

the air, along the edges of the immensely high cliffs towering above us, sooty albatrosses were sailing back and

forth. We also got very good views of a small group of SubAntarctic fur seals, looking very different from the

Antarctic ones we have seen in South Georgia. The adults have a more brownish colour, sometimes with an almost

orange tinge, a much paler chin, and a cute little crest on top of the head. The young ones are all dark, like the

youngsters we have seen in South Georgia.

Getting back on the ship was not easy, the sea conditions at the gangway

being really tricky, with what we call a ‘confused’ sea, choppy waves and

funny swells running in from all different directions. But we all made it safely

back on board, thanks to strong helping arms of staff and crew. Hundreds of

seabirds were wheeling around the ship: albatrosses, Broadbilled prions,

Atlantic petrels (a Tristan endemic), softplumaged petrels, and, quite

noteworthy, a fairly large number of greatwinged petrels. Greatwinged and

Atlantic petrels are closely related, both breeding during the winter months

instead of in spring. This is the time of the year they assemble around the

island to inspect their breeding haunts. They both nest on the main island of

Tristan, high up above the edge of the cliffs, where the islanders in the past used to hunt for their fat and delicious

chicks. They know the greatwinged petrel as ‘black haglet’ and the Atlantic petrel as ‘whitebreasted black haglet’

(haglet being a corruption of eaglet). Today, all species on Tristan are protected.

Speaking about delicious: our chef prepared a special meal tonight with the exquisite lobster tails obtained from the

Tristanians this morning… Yummy!!

 

Day 24 – Friday April 11th 2014

Just off Tristan da Cunha…..

GPS 08.00 Position: 037°04’S / 012°08’W

Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 15°C.

 

Today, the weather deteriorated, making all operations completely

impossible. There was nothing else to do but cruise up and down

the leeside of the island. The Baltic Trader had also left the

anchorage and came looking for shelter on the south side of the

island, suspending offloading. Some people asked whether we

could go for circumnavigation of the outer islands, Nightingale and

Inaccessible, but the Captain made it quite clear that it was

reasonably OK on this side of Tristan, but that venturing out on the

other side, fully exposed to the gale, would be no fun at all, and he

did not want to risk any more bones broken.

In the morning, Connie showed us a lengthy blackandwhite

movie on the 1961 volcanic eruption on Tristan, when a secondary

volcanic cone rose out of the ground spewing lava, just next to the

village. Consequently, the entire population had to be evacuated to England, where they were housed in Calshot, an

abandoned military facility near Southampton. The film showed their problems adjusting to modern life in Britain

where you had to lock your doors and could get mugged in the streets, and their strong wish to go back to their

peaceful island in the South Atlantic. In 1962 a Royal Society expedition was sent to Tristan to establish the state of

the new volcano. It had ceased being active, and there was only very little damage done to the village, one house

burnt, being hit by a lava bomb, and one house damaged as a result of a rock fall during the early stages of the

eruption. For the islanders the fact that the village was spared, was an act of God, and it strengthened their

conviction that they had to go back. In 1963 they returned to the island where they found their houses being

ransacked and their cattle being stolen. The events around the eruption, the evacuation, and the return to Tristan

had a major impact on the Tristan society. A group of young people did not want to go back and preferred to stay in

England, with better job opportunities. A group of 35 people found out, after their return to Tristan, that they no

longer could adapt to the isolated island life and went back to England. Quite a few of those 35 decided to come

back to Tristan some years later after all. It took years for the people of Tristan to get this going back and forth

stabilized, and to adapt again to their normal Tristan routines. On the plus side, they now imported all sorts of things

from the ‘modern world’ they had not know before, like refrigerators, TV sets, and eventually cars. The volcano

became a major turning point in Tristan life. Like older people in Europe divide their personal history between

‘before the war’ and ‘after the war’, the Tristanians talk about ‘before the volcano’ and ‘after the volcano’.

After lunch a few people braved the decks for a bit of a leg

stretch and walk but it was challenging at times, especially

when the officer on watch on the Bridge had to turn Plancius

around and head back along the coast. Being side on to these

big swells caused a few very big rolls. It was tiring and

wearing but with views of the island and lots of birds around

the ship there was plenty to watch and enjoy.

At 4pm Connie invited us to the lounge where he had some

copies of his book ‘Rockhopper Copper’ for sale. He was

happy to sign these books for everyone and took time to chat

so it was a very pleasant hour or so in the lounge. Many

people were surprised to see our little blue ship, Plancius

appear in the book. Connie had been in Holland when she

was launched as a cruise ship back in 2009.

In the late afternoon, Ali screened yet another episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ which looked at the Chisellers –

rodents and animals such as beavers which are specially adapted to their lifestyle. Around the ship, seabirds

abounded and there was the bar to keep our spirits up.

 

Day 25 – Saturday April 12th 2014

Tristan da Cunha

GPS 08.00 Position: 037°01’S / 012°12’W

Weather: Wind: W 3. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 13°C.

 

All night, the ship stayed in the lee of the island, cruising back and forth. Each time the

ship turned, swells hit the ship sideways, making it roll like crazy for a minute only, but

enough to shake everybody awake. In the morning, the wind changed further to the

south, and the sea gradually became smoother and smoother. Still, there was so much

movement, that we thought landing was out of the question. But then, quite

unexpectedly, a radio message came from Tristan, asking us at what hour we would like to

come ashore, as apparently the conditions in the harbour were fine. We also noted that

the cargo ship Baltic Trader had returned to the anchorage, and resumed offloading. So

we sailed around the corner, still beating some nasty wind gusts, finding our own

anchorage, and assessing the state of the sea around the ship, to see whether gangway

operations would be possible at all. Around the ship the sea was still quite choppy, but

closer inshore conditions looked not so bad, so we gave it a go. Let’s do it!!

Our ever so flexible chef managed to serve us an early lunch at 11 am,

so before noon we were all on the island. We finally made it! Spirits

lifted! Tourist Officer Dawn Repetto was waiting for us with maps and

instructions. Some people took a guided tour to the top of the 1961

volcano, others joined a guided walk to the ever so important Potato

Patches we had already heard so much about. Many people preferred

to just wander about on their own, visiting the tourist centre, museum,

and post office. Tristan veterans went to see some old friends in the

village. The weather turned out to be quite nice, with a few short rain

showers, but mostly sunny and surprisingly warm. People wrote

postcards to send home, had a beer or a crayfish sandwich, and

enjoyed the occasional chat with a friendly islander. Many people got themselves photographed next to famous sign

saying ‘Welcome to the Remotest Island’. In the past, the sign read ‘welcome to the loneliest isle’, but maybe twenty

years ago the people of Tristan decided they were not lonely at all – just remote. Modern Tristan society is

completely connected with the outside world with email, their own website, and many islanders joining facebook

and other social media.

Officially the harbour closes at 5 pm, but we were given permission to operate our zodiacs until 6 pm, so everybody

got the opportunity to maximize their stay on the wonderful island. We

also took on board environmental officer Trevor Glass, and two young

guides who will accompany us tomorrow, when we will make an

attempt to land on Nightingale Island, the weather forecast being quite

good. Dinner was another local meal prepared by Chef Ralf and his team

this time using the beautiful and juicy yellowtail, or cape mackerel,

which we acquired from Tristan on Thursday. As special guest we also

had Holly and Rohan, two marine biologists studying the impact of the

shipwreck of the Oliva in 2011 on the rocks of Nightingale, spilling

65,000 tonnes of soybeans on the seafloor. After dinner, Rohan gave a

guest presentation on the rich marine life around Tristan.

Tristan da Cunha

The island of Tristan da Cunha is the most isolated inhabited place on earth, right in the middle of the vast

emptiness of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. It lies 3000 km west of Cape Town, and 3300 km east of Buenos

Aires. The nearest human settlement is on the almost equally isolated island of Saint Helena, almost 2500

km to the north. Tristan and its smaller, uninhabited neighbours Nightingale and Inaccessible Island, were

first sighted by the Portuguese sailor Tristão da Cunha in 1506. Uninhabited Gough Island, a nesting site for

millions of seabirds, lies 450 km to the southeast. The islands are volcanic, the main island Tristan being

the youngest, less than one million years old. Tristan is a classic coneshaped volcano, circular, with a

diameter of 11 km and a central peak with a crater lake, a little over 2000 m high. On all sides, the

mountain is flanked by sheer cliffs, rising from the sea, up to 700 m. At the foot of these huge cliffs, there

are a few lowlying plateaus.

The largest of these plateaus is just 6 km long and about 600 m wide. This is where the people live, and

grow their potatoes in the legendary ‘Potato Patches’. Permanent settlement started in 1815, when a

British garrison was posted on Tristan to help guarding Napoleon on distant St Helena. When the garrison

left, Corporal William Glass stayed behind with his wife and two little children, together with some

bachelor friends. In 1827 five coloured women from St Helena were imported to marry the bachelors. Later

settlers, often shipwrecked sailors, chose to stay and marry one of the locally bred beautiful girls. Today

there are seven families on the island: Glass, Rogers, Swain, Hagan, Green, Lavarello, and Repetto, of

American, British, Dutch, Italian, Irish, South African, and Saint Helenian descent, with a total population of

around 250. There is only one village, officially named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, but usually just called

‘The Settlement’.

In 1961 the entire population was evacuated when the volcano erupted, and a new lava cone arose just

next to the village, damaging and burning no more than one house. After spending a year in Britain, where

to their great dismay they were turned inside out by legions of scientists and journalists, they returned to

their peaceful island, to pick up their simple life of fishing, growing potatoes, raising sheep, and knitting.

Their main source of income comes from a rich supply of crayfish around the islands, which is exploited by

a South African company, catering for markets in the US and Japan. The second source of income is from

the sales of stamps, sought after by collectors all over the world.

Together with Ascension, Tristan is part of the British overseas territory of St Helena and its dependencies,

with a governor based in St Helena and an administrator on Tristan. The admin rules together with the

island council. Council members and the Chief Islander are elected directly from the entire population for a

period of three years. Tristan has a small hospital, with an expat doctor and local nurses. Children go to

school till the age of 15. Those who choose further education have to go abroad. Tristan can only be

reached by ship, six to eight times per year, five days sailing from Cape Town. Apart from millions of

seabirds, the island host a number of unique, endemic land birds: a thrush, a handful of bunting species, a

flightless moorhen, and the most exclusive and elusive of all, the diminutive and dainty Inaccessible Island

Flightless rail, the tiniest nonflying bird in the world.

 

Day 26 – Sunday April 13th 2014

Nightingale Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 037°15’S / 012°26’W

Weather: Wind: SSE 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 14°C.

 

Before breakfast we weighed anchor and set sail for Nightingale Island. The storm had

died down and there was a mild breeze blowing from the southeast. There was still a lot

of swell running, so if it would be possible to land on Nightingale remained utterly

uncertain. At 10am the ship stopped on the east side of the island, not far from the

eastern landing rock, which lies just below the huts the islanders use during their outings

to collect eggs or chicks of the Great Shearwater. Almost the entire world population of

Great Shearwaters breeds on tiny Nightingale, with its diameter of just about 1.5 km, in

staggering numbers. The population is estimated at around 2.000.000 pairs. Several

thousand breed on Inaccessible Island and Gough, and a small population of a few

hundred pairs has been found in the Falklands. This makes it a ‘near endemic’ of the

Tristan Group, and even a ‘near endemic’ of Nightingale. Islanders have a tradition of

loading their boats with eggs and chicks of this species only, which they simply call ‘Petrel’. They are still allowed to

do so in a sustainable way. Well, from a population of 2.000.000 is does not harm to take some. There seems to be

nothing more delicious than Tristan potato cakes fried in petrel fat!

A zodiac was lowered to send a scouting team, including the Island guides, ashore to assess landing conditions. From

the ship it was already clear that there was far too much surf on the eastern landing rock, so the zodiac went to the

more sheltered site on the NW side, but to get there they had to go all the way around Middle Island, between

Middle and Stoltenhoff Island, a long way. Finally, the radio message came that the landing looked OK, but since it

was such a long ride, the ship sailed around Stoltenhoff Island to reposition to a sheltered spot, close to the other

landing site.

Around 10:30 a.m. we started to ferry the passengers ashore. From the landing site a

narrow, steep and slippery path leads up the higher plateau, so people who would fear

not to be able to negotiate the ascend, were advised to take an inshore zodiac cruise

instead. At the landing site we were greeted by several Tristan Thrushes, one of the

endemic songbirds of Tristan, called ‘Starchy’ by the islanders. Starchies are very tame

and curious, and soon they were inspecting our backpacks, boots, and other things lying

around. The rock opposite the landing place, just across our little natural harbour, was

covered in fur seals, with many playful and noisy youngsters. A little higher up, the

second endemic songbird soon showed itself, the Tristan Bunting, or ‘Canary’ as the

islanders call it. Starchies breed on Tristan, Nightingale and Inaccessible, but on Tristan

they have become very rare, possibly due to the rats. Canaries are only found on

Nightingale and Inaccessible, strictly sticking to tussock covered slopes.

From a distance, Nightingale looks like a grassy place where you could easily walk around. But the grass, an endemic

species of tussock, totally unrelated to the tussock of South Georgia and the Falklands, is two metres high, and the

peaty ground underneath is a dense maze of burrows, dug out by the millions of

petrels nesting here. Thus, the tussock slopes form an impenetrable jungle.

Fortunately, the islanders have cut a path from the two landing sites up to the top of

the island, where they have their egg and chick harvesting fields. We follow this path,

a stiff and sweaty climb. Starchies scuttle around our feet everywhere, and sometimes

it is difficult not to step on them. Canaries are flitting about in the tussock, and every

now and then we meet a young Yellownosed Albatross (which does not have a yellow

nose yet) waiting to fledge. To pass them we have to come within inches, but all they

do in response is snapping their beaks. Sometimes we see shearwaters emerge from the tussock, awkwardly

shuffling over the ground, as their legs are placed far too far to the rear end of their body, which makes it impossible

for them to stand up. Shearwaters and albatrosses happily use this manmade path as a runway to alight. The

shearwaters like to climb on a rock first, and then jump off. Rocks have been used as jumpoff points for thousands

of years, and are deeply grooved by the birds’ nails.

Finally, the path leads into a secluded forest of Phylica trees, the endemic ‘Island Tree’ of the Tristan Archipelago,

growing nowhere as high as they do here, reaching heights of 6 m, stems covered in lichens. It is in this forest that

the third endemic songbird of the island is found, Wilkins’ Bunting, locally known as the ‘Grosbeak’. This is one of the

rarest birds in world, with a world population of just about 40 pairs. There are also Grosbeaks on Inaccessible, but

these have been found out to be a different species. The birders were very happy to get a good view of this bird, and

some good photo shots could even be made. Beyond the forest, the path ends in a peaty, open bog, dotted with

albatrosses, and with inquisitive Starchies everywhere.

Some people chose to take the lower walk down to the shore by the islander’s

huts. Again they had a great view of some of the young albatross on the way

and were joined by thrushes all the way down through the tussock.

Unfortunately there were no Rockhopper penguins down on the shore but it

was nice to just sit, take in the view and enjoy some stories with Trevor, one of

our local guides. A few people would have quite fancied a weekend at one of

the huts…….

Those who did not join the climb had a wonderful zodiac cruise, offering lots of

opportunities to take good shots of the many fur seals. But the biggest price, of

course, was the Northern Rockhopper, which now could be seen at close range. Some of them had just completed

their moult and looked beautiful and fresh, with their long yellow plumes

hanging from their heads.

Back on the ship, we had a late lunch and then sailed towards neighbouring

Inaccessible Island. On the way we were incredibly lucky to come across a large

pod of Orca, Killer whales. There must have been around 15 animals in the

group and the huge fin of the male could be seen at times as they surfaced all in

a line leading away from the ship. The Captain managed to position the ship

quite well for views but these animals were travelling fast so it was difficult to

follow them. The local guides were all amazed at what we saw as they had never

seen Orca in Tristan waters before and they all had long years of experience of sailing around these islands. A lucky

sighting indeed.

As we got closer to the island Brent invited us to the aft deck where he was about to do some çhumming’. This

involves dragging a bag of fish guts and heads behind the ship which in turn

will attract seabirds to the ship. It was incredible how it worked and before

too long we had a huge following of birds from the tiniest Storm petrels to the

largest Tristan albatross. There were Giant petrels, Spectacled petrels and

Yellow nosed albatross and it was a great avian spectacle with the backdrop of

Inaccessible Island behind.

We made a short stop, just offshore Blenden Hall Beach, which might be a

landing site to look for the most wanted bird on earth, the Inaccessible Island

Flightless Rail, strictly confined to Inaccessible Island. But already fro the ship

it was clear that there was far too much surf on the beach, and that any

landing attempt would be fruitless. We sailed back to Tristan where our local guides were taken back home by Ali, a

task that proved to be interesting in the dark with swell and waves but it was completed successfully and we set sail

for our next destination: Saint Helena.

Wildlife of Nightingale and Inaccessible.

Sub Antarctic fur seal Atlantic yellownosed albatross

Arctocephalus tropicalis Thalassarche chlororhynchus

Great Shearwater Tristan Thrush

Puffinus gravis Nesocichla eremita

Wilkins’ Bunting The one we didn’t get to see………

Nesospiza wilkinsi Inaccessible Rail

Atlantisia rogersi

 

Day 27 – Monday April 14th 2014

At sea sailing to St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 034°38’S / 011°29’W

 

Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 18°C.

Having spent four days around the Tristan archipelago it was time for

us to continue our journey northwards – a relaxing day at sea

beckoned but it wasn’t to be a calm one in terms of sea conditions.

We had hoped that we would get a break from rocking and rolling but

it wasn’t to be the case at all. We had winds on our starboard bow and

it made the journey a little slower and more uncomfortable than we

all hoped it might be.

During the morning Albert invited us to the dining room for his

presentation entitled “Global Circulation – the Current Position”. This

looked at the currents which circulate the globe and bring water from

Antarctica up into the Atlantic and beyond. All these currents affect

the weather and sea temperatures around the world and it was fascinating to find out their flow and circulation and

link it where we all live.

Wildlife was not so plentiful today but there were one or two surprises in store for the hardy observers. The first

came at 09.00 when huge spouts behind the ship were seen to come from the second Blue Whale of the trip.

Another surprise was the number of albatross species seen, five. They were Tristan, Blackbrowed, Yellownosed,

Sooty and most surprising of all, a single Lightmantled Sooty Albatross. Other birds that were noted were Great

Shearwater and Spectacled, Greatwinged and Softplumaged petrels.

With uncomfortable sea conditions walking the decks was not an option, even for the hardy hikers but with the sun

shining and temperatures on deck very pleasant many people chose to sit up on deck and enjoy the fresh air and

sunshine. It was a bit like sitting on a seaside promenade except the promenade was moving and there was a

constant fine drizzle of salty sea spray in the air. Those sitting up on deck found themselves covered in a fine layer of

salt by the end of the afternoon.

At 3:30 a Connie invited us to the dining room where he gave an illustrated account of a rescue operation involving a

Humpback whale which was found swimming just off shore from the settlement of Edinburgh. The whale was seen

to be dragging a large fishing buoy and at the end of this was some fishing gear including hooks which had got

wrapped around its tail. Connie and some of his friends had gone out in

the RIB to see if they could help and after some failed approaches they

finally managed to get close enough to the whale to take the strain off

the lines and hooks and cut the mass of line off. This released the strain

on the rope on the whale’s tail and with a quick flick it was free. What a

satisfying conclusion to the adventure!

Later in the afternoon Ali screened another epic episode from the ‘Life

of Mammals’ series which this time looked at the meat eaters; the dog

and cat families that predate on the grass eaters, particularly on the

plains of Africa. There was some stunning footage of cheetahs and lions

stalking and killing their prey.

Before dinner, Rinie invited us to the lounge for a Tristan recap. He

praised passengers, staff and crew for their efforts on the gangway and looked back on our days on the islands.

James was on hand to talk about the geology of the islands, showing some photos from the volcano and the

coastline where we had been on our zodiac cruise and explaining how the features had been formed. Albert was on

hand to tell a story and this time it was the epic sailing adventures of Sven and his young lady who had eventually

landed on Tristan despite their planned destination being the Pacific. Finally Connie gave an explanation about some

of the local words and dialect found in the Tristan language.

It was then time for dinner and although conversation was animated and cheerful as usual it was very quiet in the

bar afterwards. The busy days on Tristan had caught up with everyone.

 

Day 28 – Tuesday April 15th 2014

At sea sailing to St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 030°25’S / 010°07’W

Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 22°C.

 

The weather today was much rougher than expected (just short of a gale) so we

were slowed considerably. Moderate waves and a strong wind from the

northeast were exactly what we did not want. However, there was nothing for

it but to press on as fast as possible.

During the morning a number of cargo ships and tankers were seen passing by

which was quite surreal after so many days at sea seeing nothing in the way of

other ships at all. We are passing through the main shipping lane between Cape

Town in South Africa and Brazil so it is not surprising that we had seen some

vessels on this route. One of the bulk carries was 323metres in length which

dwarfs our little Plancius.

There was a distinct lack of birds today. Most of the seabirds prefer to feed in cold to temperate waters to the south

of the islands rather than the much warmer water to the north. Hence only five

species (and very few individual birds) were seen: Spectacled, Greatwinged

and Softplumaged petrels, Whitebellied Stormpetrel and our last albatross of

the trip, an adult Yellownosed.

During the morning Albert was on stage again this time talking about “The

History of St. Helena”. Most people think only of Napoleon when they think

about the history of St Helena but there was definitely more to it than just this

lone Frenchman and Albert gave a very colourful and gruesome presentation

about some of the other events and characters of the island.

Out on deck it was quite pleasant, despite the strong wind blowing on our starboard side once again and with the

sunshine in between the squalls it was nice enough to be out on the top deck and with less spray today it wasn’t

quite so salty. The deck hikers were once again unable to do their rounds though due to the wet decks, rolling ship

and occasional waves over the bow so it was a relaxing day once again.

After lunch more people braved the windy conditions on deck, occasionally having to seek shelter from the rain

under the Bridge wings and huddle together like Emperor penguins to stay dry!

At 3:30 Connie was on hand to present a documentary about St Helena in the dining room. This short film had been

produced for the tourist board and gave a good overview of the island and the people as well as some of the things

we could expect to see their during our visit.

At 5pm it was time for the usual wildlife documentary with Ali and the series about mammals continues with today’s

episode all about Opportunists, which featured omnivorous creatures such as raccoons, rats and bears that take

advantage of every available food source to supplement their diet.

Before dinner there was time for a recap with staff once again in the lounge. As always, Albert had a story for us and

Simon talked about the albatross that we have finally left behind. We have had these iconic seabirds with us for

most of our journey from Ushuaia and they will be sadly missed as we continue our way north. Rinie gave a quick

overview of our plans for the coming days with hoped that our rough weather will finally be left behind with the

albatross and we can start to make better speed up to St Helena.

Dinner was yet another Tristan feast, this time potatoes. Connie had given us a

sack of his own potatoes a variety called White Blossom and Ralf and his team

had done a great job of preparing them in some imaginative ways. We had

potato soup followed by a Trilogy of Potatoes which included lamb and mash,

rosti and salmon and a potato and vegetable strudel. What a fabulous, filling

feast!

After dinner Ali invited teams to the lounge for another quiz. If you thought the

first one was hotly contested then this was even hotter! It was a very

competitive event where Ali had to hold her own against some challenging

banter and when the quiz ended in a draw it had to go down to a tie breaker question. The winning team was 6

Mariners and a Wandering albatross.

 

Day 29 – Wednesday April 16th 2014

At sea sailing to St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 026°18’S / 008°50’W

Weather: Wind: ENE 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 21°C.

 

The day started with rain. Rain clouds and rain showers and rain squalls

and rainy decks and rainy guests. This was our first real day of the wet

stuff. Of course we have had a lot of the frozen stuff (snow), but it was

definitely different to see so much rain. We were still rolling a little, but

nothing like we have had in the past. Rinie woke us up again at 7:45

followed by breakfast in the dining room. Midmorning Connie screened a

modern day documentary about the past, present and future of St. Helena

including some discussion on the misunderstood and controversial airport.

It gave a good insight into the island and some of the views of the local

people living there and certainly gave a good picture of the island and we

all began to get more excited about our next destination.

Those of us that had packed away our waterproofs and fleeces were found digging them back out of the wardrobe

again in order to keep warm and dry on deck. When the squalls came they were certainly tropical although in

between the squalls it was perfectly fine to be out on deck, but due to the slippery decks and persistent rain, the

“lappers” were mostly taking a break today.

After another fine lunch and a post lunch snooze for some (what else can you do on a rainy day?) we had the

opportunity to meet with our Chef Ralph Barthel for an informal (and

very interesting) Question and Answer Session. He explained about the

logistics of how to provision the ship with food, etc. on such a long

voyage. The problem of keeping things fresh is always an issue for

perishable items such as salad and fruit but with large cold store where

the temperature of the room is consistent and there is plenty of air

circulation the food stays remarkably fresh. We’ve still been getting herb

garnish on our meals, which is incredible after over a month at sea. The

story of the greenhouse in the hold of the ship was believed by many for

a few days!! It has been nice on this voyage to sample some ‘local’

produce such as the Falkland Island Toothfish, the Tristan lobster and of course their fabulous potatoes. Later in the

afternoon we had another documentary as steadfast Ali presented another segment from the “Life of Mammals”

series in the Dining Room. A small group of us have been enjoying this series immensely and it is certainly a good

way to pass an hour or so in the later afternoon.

During Recap in the Lounge, we had a special presentation by one of our fellow passengers, Clive as he presented “A

Whale and Dolphin Video Journey, and an Extraordinary Encounter with Cuvier’s Beaked Whales.” The footage also

showed a breaching Fin whale which is something none of the Expedition staff have ever seen. It was a little

unfortunate that the sound wasn’t working for the music but it meant that Clive was able to give a personal

commentary of the film which was very informative.

Dinner was excellent again as usual and still included a few of the Tristan da Cunha potatoes which always go down

well!

Ali Not quite singing in the rain!!

 

Day 30 – Thursday April 17th 2014

At sea sailing to St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 021°45’S / 007°28’W

Weather: Wind: E 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly Cloudy. Temperature: + 23°C.

 

Finally, finally, finally this morning was glorious with sunshine, pleasant

temperatures and calmer seas. We had all been hoping for this for so long

that when it actually happened some of were taken a little bit by surprise at

the heat we experienced as the day warmed up quickly as expected. There

was a bit of a cool breeze in some spots around the ship but generally it was

hot, hot, hot and we loved it!!

Albert presented our morning talk entitled, “Tragedy of a Lost World: The

Ecology of Saint Helena.” This mid Atlantic island has been overrun by

introduced species and many of the endemic plants and animals are now

extinct, lost forever from this unique island. He seemed particularly sad

about the tiny Yellow wood lice that are now almost down to single figures

and only found in a small part of the forest on Diana’s Peak.

During the rest of the morning most of us sat around in the sun reading, listening to music, reflecting on our voyage

or eagerly anticipating today’s talks. The walkers were out walking the decks but it got pretty hot by the middle of

the day and finding a shady or air conditioned spot was a must for some.

The birders on deck had quite a quiet day but were very happy to see a new species for the trip in the form of a Red

billed tropic bird. These beautiful birds have lovely black and white markings on their back, a bright red bill and a

long white tail which is around 50cm in length. They flew over the ship giving everyone a great view and then

disappeared out over the sea. Flying fish were being seen quite regularly and we were all amazed by how far these

fish can actually ‘fly’ across the surface of the water.

Also seen by those on the bridge wings was a Green turtle which passed right by the ship. As soon as the wake of

Plancius passed it by it gave a flick of its flippers and disappeared down into the deep blue. A fleeting glimpse but

great for those that saw it.

After a buffet lunch (yeah, it was calm enough at last), James gave us a talk in the Dining Room entitled, “The

Geology of St. Helena” where he showed us the layers of ash and

rock on St Helena, a very old volcano. All these islands that we are

landing on along the Mid Atlantic ridge are volcanic but they are

different ages and have been eroded in different ways to create

varied landscapes.

Time out on deck was perfect and by late afternoon a few cold beers

were being enjoyed by some and it was a real relaxed holiday

atmosphere on board. Just what we’d all been looking forward to!

During the late afternoon once again Ali presented another segment

from “Life of Mammals.” This time it looked at the ‘Social Climbers’,

some of the species of monkeys and how they have evolved to live in

family groups which have a complicated hierarchy system.

Recap consisted of Rinie giving us an idea of what to expect on St. Helena, and after dinner with partly cloudy night

skies and intermittent stars, we had the Southern Cross to our stern as we headed further north. We were all excited

to finally be approaching the island of St Helena.

 

Day 31 – Friday April 18th 2014

St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 017°07’S / 006°08’W

Weather: Wind: SE 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 25°C.

 

This morning we awoke excited about our approach to St Helena it was not

far to go now. In the morning there was time to do another lecture, and

Connie gave us a fascinating talk about how the community of Tristan da

Cunha pulls together and works successfully together when the need arises.

We saw how for example when a house is reroofed, the whole community

will assist and there will be a tea followed by a lunch and beer for everyone

to enjoy. There are some lessons that could be learned by some big city

communities in how to cooperate and pull together. Maybe if they did the

world would be a better, friendlier place…..

As lunch started the first views of St Helena were coming into sight. It started

off as just a shadow in the clouds on the horizon but the edges and sea cliffs gradually came into view and the top of

the island appeared out of the clouds. By the time lunch had ended we were suddenly there up close to the island

and there were impressive views down the south western coast of the island. The Ass’s Ears and Speery Island which

are trachyte intrusions were clearly visible as were the lava layers of the south western volcano. The ship then

proceeded along the north coast towards Jamestown.

As we sailed nearer to the island we started to see some of the seabirds

that make the island and its off shore stacks their home; Brown noddies

flew above the decks and both Brown and Masked boobies were seen

following the ship looking like gannets a species some of us are more

familiar with. A single Rough toothed dolphin was spotted riding in the

wake of the ship and then further towards the coast a large pod of Pan

tropical spotted dolphins were seen. They gave themselves away by huge

splashes and closer inspection with binoculars revealed that they were

leaping out of the water in spectacular style and putting on a great show. It

was a shame they didn’t decide to come and give us a close up show but it was good to see them anyway.

As the first houses of Jamestown, or at least Half Tree Hollow on the upper slopes, came into view we all started to

get very excited about our arrival. The Captain took Plancius quite close into the shore and after a short wait the

large team of customs officials came on board to clear the ship. They also had to clear the import of all the sacks of

potatoes we had brought from Tristan da Cunha and checking every sack of our 4 ton cargo took a while….

Before too long we were cleared to launch zodiacs and the staff were quick to get us

ashore onto the steps of the impressive wharf of Jamestown. The upper slopes have been

covered with wire netting to prevent rockfalls down onto the wharf and the historic

buildings along its length

Shortly after arrival on the dock the “wirebirders” set off in their little bus to Deadwood

Plain, on the top of the island. A clue that they were in the right place was provided by the

warning sign at the entrance to the plain. The first St. Helena Plover, or Wirebird to the

locals (due to their long, wiry legs), was spotted by “plovereyed Mike” before the bus had

even come to a standstill. This endemic endangered species is only found on the island

and is closely related to other small plovers in Africa. Their habitat is large areas of short

grass so they are relatively easy to see, unless they hide behind a clump of taller grass! By

scanning the plain other birds were located and a total of 11 was reached before the very

happy group returned to Jamestown.

For the rest of us it was a chance to take a stroll and get orientated with the town. With it being Good Friday

everywhere was shut and most of the residents had headed out of town for the weekend for the traditional Easter

camp. With everywhere shut apart from The Orange Tree restaurant it gave many of us the opportunity to climb

Jacob’s Ladder and take time to explore the quaint streets of the town. Jacob’s Ladder has 699 steps and climbs 183

metres up the cliff above the town. It was built in 1829 to allow easy access to the area above and used to have tram

lines up the side so that items could be transported in carts up to the top of the hill. These trams lines are long gone

and the only way up is to climb and what a climb it was. The 11 inch steps were a real challenge but the views en

route are spectacular so numerous stops for photos were compulsory! Of course it was worth it for the views and to

simply be able to say that you have done it.

Some people made their way back down to the wharf to cool off with a swim

by the steps while the more adventurous went out into the bay to snorkel

over the wreck of the Papanui which lies in the middle of the harbour. There

were Pipe fish and Parrot fish to see as well as the occasional Barracuda so it

was certainly interesting snorkelling.

By 7:30 on a beautiful warm evening we were all back on board for a BBQ and

party of on Deck 3 with the Jamestown and the lights of Jacob’s Ladder as our

back drop. The chefs and hotel department had done an incredible job of

producing a great feast for us and with complimentary beer, wine and punch

the party went on late into the evening with dancing on deck for those with

the energy! What a great day!

St Helena BBQ!

 

Day 32 – Saturday April 19th 2014

St Helena

GPS 08.00 Position: 015°55’S / 005°43’W

Weather: Wind: ESE 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Sunny. Temperature: + 28°C.

 

After our taster the previous evening, today it was time to do Jamestown

properly. Everyone went ashore straight after breakfast and boarded

minibuses to take them on an island tour. James’ bus went last and did

the bank run before starting the tour. The tour around the Island is a

great chance to see a bit of everything; flora and fauna, local people,

rugged landscape, wildlife and historical sights.

We started by climbing the steep hill out of Jamestown where our first

stop was at a view point over the Heart shaped waterfall. There had been

some rain in the last few days so there was a small waterfall flowing over

the heart shaped rock cliff. Continuing into the interior we had a chance

to see the wide variety of vegetation that covers the island from lush,

wooded places of beauty to wide areas of invasive flax that was previously a cash crop to places that were more

barren and dry. It is really amazing to be able to see such a large number of different environments in such a

relatively small area.

Our Island tour continued to the now empty tomb of Napoleon. His body

was repatriated to France in the 1840’s but the grave site still exists in a

quiet copse of trees which can be seen after a very pleasant hike through

the forest from the main road. It had been his first wish to be buried on

the banks of the Seine in Paris but he asked that if that was not possible

then here in the valley by a spring was his next chosen final resting place.

Longwood House, our next stop is one of the more famous locations on

St. Helena. This is where Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at the

Battle of Waterloo. In the early 1800’s it must have almost like being sent

exile to the Moon as St. Helena was such a far sailing distance from

Europe in those days. He had a great view with nice breezes and cultivated a lovely garden which still exists but likely

thought often of his former days of glory. What a fascinating museum though with so many pictures and artefacts

and quiet creepy to think you were actually in the room where Napoleon died. The walls were covered with

paintings and drawings of him on his death bed.

The tour then proceeded past the Diana’s Peak, which was shrouded in mist

to Sandy Bay valley where we had an incredible view of Lot and Lot’s Wife

and Daughters. These rock pillars are Trachyte intrusions and the youngest

rocks in St Helena. They were intruded into younger conduits of the volcano

and have been left exposed after erosion removed the softer ash layers.

On the way back to Jamestown we stopped off at Plantation House which is

the Governor’s Home. We did not stop to see the Gov but rather Jonathon

the famous (and very large), 180 year old tortoise who lives on the grounds.

He has an enormous area to roam, has 5 tortoise friends to keep him

company and also keeps the grass trimmed as an added benefit. We couldn’t

get close enough for great views as the grounds are no longer open to the

public but we could peer through the fence and saw three tortoises resting nearby. We all hoped that Jonathon was

one of them!

Our final stop was at the top of Jacob’s Ladder, where some of us had been the previous day. From here some of us

chose to walk back down the road or the ladder while the rest of us got dropped in the centre of town.

After the tour most of us took the opportunity to have a local lunch in town, either at Anne’s Place in the beautiful

park or at the Pilipino restaurant, the Orange Tree. After lunch it was free time to wander and explore Jamestown,

send some postcards, buy some souvenirs or perhaps have a drink in a local pub or go for a swim. There were other

options such as the historic tour with Peter and local guide Basil, visiting most many of the iconic buildings around

town and finding out their secrets from the past.

The afternoon and evening went all too quickly and with heavy hearts it was time to head back down to the wharf

and take a zodiac back to the ship. We were all on board by 20:45 ready to set off to our next destination, Ascension

Island but what a wonderful day it had been!

 

Day 33 – Sunday April 20th 2014

At sea sailing to Ascension Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 014°28’S / 007°22’W

Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 26°C.

 

After the excitement of the last few days it was almost quite nice to be back

on board Plancius and have a day at sea and although some of us could have

done without the wakeup call and call for breakfast we all got ourselves up

and about at a reasonable time and began the day on board. Breakfast

brought a bit of a treat; some fresh St Helenian bananas which were

perfectly ripe and sweet. A great way to start the day!

Even at 8am it was still 26°C so any walking around the decks had to be done

before it got even hotter. In some places the decks were beginning to soften

and bend a little in the heat. Thank goodness the air conditioning is working

well and with the blinds down in the lounge it was pretty cool on indoors.

The presentation this morning was once again given by Albert who talked about navigation, in particular he talked

about Longitude and how the sailors developed this navigational technique to find

their way around the globe.

Out on deck there were virtually no birds seen during the course of the morning

other than 3 Arctic terns on their long migration north and a couple of Bulwer’s

petrels flying quite a long way from the ship. The dedicated deck crew however

spotted a big male Sperm Whale in the late morning. It was easily identified by its

forward, angled spout, motionless state (logging) and characteristic outline. It

stayed at the surface for a while and then taking one last breath it dived down,

showing its tail fluke as it made the long journey down to the deep ocean to hunt

for Giant squid and other deep water creatures. It was a lucky spot as most of the time these animals are down at

depths of up to 2000 metres and only spend short period of time on the surface.

Just before lunch Marck and Lillian and of course Rosie transported the bar up to the top deck behind the bridge and

set up cool drinks on deck. It was certainly very popular and the cold beers very quickly disappeared from the box!

The ice had been collected on the previous voyage and brought all the way from Antarctica, from south of the

Antarctic Polar Circle.

Lunch was another ‘local’ treat with Wahoo fish served with rice. Ralph, our chef had done some bartering on the

wharf at Jamestown and managed to buy the fish for a great price along with a pack of bacon and some sausages.

After lunch it was siesta time although many people braved the heat on deck to

catch a bit of sunshine and make the most of the fine weather we were

experiencing. The decks were hot and there wasn’t much of a breeze but it was still

pleasant to be outdoors enjoying the experience of the tropics at sea.

At 3:30 Ali invited us down to the relative cool of the dining room to give a

presentation entitled An Introduction to Ascension Island. She talked about the

geology of the island and its discovery in 1501 and then the subsequent struggle for

people to settle there due to the lack of fresh water on the island. Shipwrecked

sailor William Dampier finally found a small spring half way up the island called

Dampier’s Drip and so began the colonisation of the island. She talked about some of the seabirds found on the

island and of course the Green turtles that go there to breed each year.

A short while later Ali screened the last episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ which was about our own ancestry and the

progress we have made to claim this planet as our own. It was thought provoking stuff.

Just before dinner we had a short recap where Connie talked about his visit to the police station in Jamestown and

James gave a quick overview of the geology of the island once again. Dinner was an incredible feast of lamb and beef

followed by a dessert buffet which was enjoyed by all.

The final activity of the day was the hotly anticipated Pub Quiz given by the winning team from the previous two

quizzes. Staff were allowed to join a team and Ali thoroughly enjoyed getting her own back with some friendly

banter and heckling! The winning team in the end was the Mid Atlantic Sunset team with Ali and they were very

happy to enjoy their winnings while the team called the Bird of Paradise will be the name of the next cocktail served

in Rosie’s bar. What a great end to a hot day on board.

 

Day 34 – Monday April 21st 2014

At sea sailing to Ascension Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 011°15’S / 011°04’W

Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.

 

Another calm day at sea, with beautiful warm weather, and a mild breeze

from the southeast, gently pushing us towards our next destination. Early in

the morning two distant sperm whales were spotted, and later some people

had a glimpse of a mysterious unidentified maybe beaked whale sticking its

head out of the water.

At 10am Ali gave us a presentation about the Green turtles of Ascension. It

is truly amazing how these huge animals swim all the way from their

Brazilian feeding grounds to lay their eggs in this island’s golden beaches,

nothing for them to eat during the whole voyage, until they return to Brazil,

where they gorge on lush sea grass beds. Only the females come ashore, to

dig the holes in which they hide their eggs, about a hundred at a time. They may land like five times over a period of

several weeks, in the end producing some 500 ping pong balls. The males stay in the water, patrolling the beaches to

have fun with the females who all so desperately want to be fertilized.

Before lunch there was time enjoy the sunshine out on deck but as we

head further north and towards the equator the sun is getting stronger

and the decks are getting hotter so for some it was much more

comfortable to relax in the comfort of the cool air conditioned lounge.

At 11:30 Ali announced that it was time to return our rubber boots to the

boot room; we won’t be needing them for the tropical landings ahead of

us but they have been invaluable on the voyage; warm, good to walk in

and above all waterproof for all the wet landings along the way. Our last

landing on Nightingale Island had been a bit of a muddy one so rather

than just return the boots straight to the boot room they had to pass Ali’s strict inspection!! The reason for making

sure they are spotlessly clean is because they will next be worn in the high Arctic, on Spitsbergen and we don’t want

to introduce any seeds or soil from Nightingale to this pristine Arctic environment. There was water and brushes for

us to give the boots a good clean and actually the cool water was very refreshing in the heat of the day. Once clean

they were inspected and lined up like soldiers on parade. A good job done!

In the afternoon, James gave a lecture on the geology of Ascension, again a

volcanic island rising from the deep oceanic seabed. The volcanic crust of

Ascension started to form over 6 million years ago but it wasn’t until 1 million

years ago that the island broke the surface of the water for the first time. What

we now see is only 1% of the whole island structure which stretches down 4 km

down to the sea bed. The island itself has around 50 volcanic cones around its

slopes with the highest being Green Mountain at around 750 m.

During the after the birders scanned the seas for birds and marine mammals but

few birds were seen other than a flock of Sooty Terns which indicated that we

are getting nearer Ascension Island, which has a large breeding population of the elegant birds. They are locally

known as Wideawake, named after their call.

At around 3:30 there came a very exciting call on the PA system – Ice cream was being served on the top deck! There

was almost a stampede to get up there and it was well worth it as Rosie, Marck and Lilian served a selection of

chocolate and vanilla ice cream ice cream, which, unsurprising was all gone in a very short time. It had to be eaten

quickly before it melted!

There was a short recap and briefing before dinner when Rinie gave a bit of an update of our plans for the next

morning with the departing passengers getting an early wakeup call to go on a zodiac cruise at Boatswainbird Island

before the ship relocated to Georgetown.

Dinner would make some people homesick for the Falkland Islands, as we had beautiful fried steaks of Patagonian

Toothfish. Yet again it was cooked to perfection by Ralph and his team and went down very well indeed.

 

Day 35 – Tuesday April 22nd 2014

Ascension Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 007°55’S / 014°18’W

Weather: Wind: W 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.

 

It was an early wake up call for some as today’s departing passengers were

woken up to go out on a zodiac cruise at Boatswainbird Island. This huge

offshore stack is home to the biggest seabird colonies around Ascension Island

with endemic Frigate birds, Boobies and Noddies all nesting on the cliffs and

the flat summit.

As we sailed nearer and the sun began to rise, so did the birds, first one, then

another and soon the sky above the island and indeed the ship was full of

birds. As the zodiac went towards shore the rest of us enjoyed the spectacle of

watching the birds around the ship and we were lucky enough to see a Red

footed booby, one of about 35 or so that nest here on Ascension Island as well as Brown and Masked boobies. Also

around the ship were a number of Bottlenose dolphins that just seemed to be waiting for some action from us so

they could bow ride the ship.

When the zodiac cruise was finished, and it had been enjoyed by everyone fortunate

enough to go, Plancius turned towards Georgetown and the dolphins finally got what

they had been waiting for. 2 were seen bow riding the ship, jumping clear out of the

water and putting on a great show for those hanging over the rail to watch.

As we travelled along the coast we could see the evidence of the volcanic landscape

that James and Ali had spoken about on our way here and as we neared Georgetown

we could see the BBC masts at English Bay then Long Beach and finally the town itself

nestled at the foot of Cross Hill.

As usual we had to wait for the customs officials to clear the ship but there was plenty to look at around the ship

with huge shoals of Blackfish swimming around the ship, encouraged by the Philipino crew feeding them bread!

Once cleared we were able to make the short zodiac shuttle ashore and before too long we were all standing on the

wharf waiting to be allocated a seat in one of the mini buses and Land Rovers that were lined up ready and waiting

to take us on the island tour.

The first stop on the tour took us through the American base at the airport to the

Wideawake Fairs at Mars Bay where the Sooty terns nest in huge numbers. It was a

short walk down through the volcanic scenery to reach the birds but when we did it

really was a spectacle to behold with terns taking to the air and defending their

nests and chicks. We could soon hear why they are called Wideawakes and their

piercing calls certainly sounds as if they were telling us to stay wide awake. There

were a number of broken eggs on the ground and at times we had to be careful

where we were walking but we all got a good view of the birds before we left them

in peace and headed back up to the vehicles.

Next stop was up on Green Mountain at the National Park centre at the Red Lion building, which was built as military

barracks in 1838. It was an interesting ride up the steep mountain with sharp

hairpin bends all the way up requiring some expert driving from our Conservation

guides and drivers. As we got higher up the hill the vegetation got denser and

greener and by the time we stopped we were surrounded by banana trees and

lush tropical plants. We were met by Stedson Stroud who is a senior member of

the Conservation team and is now responsible for the Green Mountain National

Park. One of the biggest projects in recent years has been the propagation of

endemic plants to replant these in the wild on the slopes of the mountain. In the

shade houses we were given a very informative talk about how a tiny fern that was thought to be extinct has been

rediscovered and is now being planted back into the wild. A real success story.

All too soon it was time to head back down the steep hill to the village of Two Boats where a traditional lunch was

ready and waiting for us; St Helena fish cakes, wahoo and tuna. We all enjoyed the food and a cold drink after the

hot trip during the morning. From here some of us chose to go directly to Comfortless Cove for a swim and some

beach time while the rest of us went down into Georgetown to visit the museum and Post Office and do a bit of

souvenir shopping. With shuttles running between the ship, the pier and the beach there was plenty of time for

everyone to do a little bit of everything and with the last shuttle back to the ship at 6:30 there was time for a cold

drink and shower before dinner.

The day was not yet over though as we had evening activities ashore; turtle watching. At 8:30 we all gathered at the

gangway ready to go ashore to see if we could find a female turtle laying her eggs in the sand of Long Beach. We

actually didn’t need to go any further then the gangway to see some turtles as some hatchlings had been attracted

to the lights of the ship and were bravely swimming around the steps of the gangway. Further away and just out

from the light zone dolphins could be heard blowing and occasionally a flying fish would whizz through the air having

been chased by them. A couple of them hit the sides of the zodiacs, which gave the drivers a bit of a fright!

The drive ashore was a dark one but drivers and passengers had their head torches on to be seen by the other

zodiacs and also to avoid the buoys and boats in the area by the wharf. Once ashore we were met by the

Conservation team and taken to a small building for a video about the Green turtles and a short briefing about how

we should behave once we found a female on the beach. No white lights and no flash photography please!

From here we walked along the road which runs along the back of Long Beach where the team were in radio

communication with staff who were already on the beach looking for turtles that were close to the laying stage. If

females are approached when they are digging their nest chamber they are easily disturbed but once they start

laying their eggs they go into a trancelike state and can be quietly observed without causing any disturbance at all.

As females were found we split into smaller groups to go and watch an

individual turtle and before too long we all had a turtle to watch and it was a

fabulous experience watching the process and listening to her efforts as she lay

her clutch of eggs, usually around 120 in a single clutch. One of the staff had

found a hatchling as he was walking along the beach so he brought it to a

couple of the groups for everyone to see. It is incredible to think that these tiny

turtles make their way through the crashing waves and out to the open ocean

where they, hopefully spend the next few years before finding their way to

Brazil to feed on sea grass, grow and maybe return to Ascension Island in 30

years time.

Once each female was finished laying and had begun to backfill the nest chamber we left her in peace to continue

the process and made our way back along the road to Georgetown, into the zodiacs and home. The dolphins were

still swimming around the ship and chasing flying fish so some people spent time on deck watching the dolphins and

enjoying the night sky before finally retiring to bed. What a great Ascension day!

Green Turtles of Ascension Island

Green turtles (Celonia mydas) use the sandy beaches of Ascension Island as a breeding ground spending

the rest of their time on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean feeding on the sea grass beds just off the

coast of Brazil. They are thought to have been breeding on Ascension Island for the last 10,000 years

The female turtles make this long Atlantic migration every 3 – 4 years arriving in December and staying

until July. The males are thought to come to Ascension Island more regularly to mate with the females

when they arrive.

The females haul themselves up onto the beaches of Ascension during the night and spend time finding a

suitable nesting location above the high tide mark. They then begin the laborious task of first digging out a

large primary nesting hole which can be over 2 metres across and then carefully excavating a deeper

nesting chamber in which the eggs will be laid. The nest is then covered up and she returns to the sea to

rest for 10 days or so. In each nest chamber there may be up to 120 eggs and she will lay anything up to 5

clutches during the season.

The heat of the sand incubates the eggs for the next 55 – 60 days and it is this sand temperature which

determines the sex of the turtle hatchlings. Above 29°C the eggs will be female, below 29°C they will be

male. Sand temperatures are generally above the critical temperature and so 75% of turtle hatchlings on

Ascension Island are female. With temperatures increasing this percentage could be set to rise which has

implications for turtle populations in the future.

As the hatchlings start to break out of the eggs and burrow their way upwards to the surface the

challenges facing these creatures really begin. Predators include Frigate birds, Land crabs and larger fish

and it is though that only 1 in 1000 makes it to adulthood.

In the past the Green turtles were captured for a source of fresh meat and as turtle soup became a

delicacy they were often shipped overseas, particularly to Britain to end up on the tables of royalty. There

are the remains of the turtle ponds beside Georgetown where the turtles were kept until they were

needed.

 

Day 36 – Wednesday April 23rd 2014

Ascension Island

GPS 08.00 Position: 007°58’S / 014°17’W

Weather: Wind: ESE 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 28°C.

 

During the early hours of the morning Plancius was repositioned back around the

island to Boatswainbird Island once again where we hoped to do a zodiac cruise in

the same area in which the disembarking passengers had been the day before. As

we approached the island we could see hundred of seabirds lifting off from the top

of the island and before too long we had a huge flock of Ascension Frigate birds

hovering above the ship and Boobies flying past heading out to sea to feed for the

day. Unfortunately the wind that was keeping the Frigate birds in position above

the ship was also causing a significant amount of swell at the gangway. Staff were

ready to launch the zodiacs, in fact Simon was already standing in his boat ready to

be lowered when, after watching the gangway for a few minutes it was deemed too dangerous to disembark. The

swell was nearly 3m at times, which is beyond our operational capacity, despite having done some interesting’

gangway manoeuvres in recent weeks, particularly at Tristan.

Disappointing but we saw plenty of birds from the ship and the Captain took us back

to Georgetown in the opposite direction so that we circumnavigated the island. It was

a great trip back around as we had a large group of Bottlenose dolphins once again

and they thoroughly enjoyed bow riding the ship giving a very energetic display for us.

A number of turtles were also seen swimming by the ship on the way back around the

island which was great having seen them on shore the previous evening.

Back at Georgetown we had a quick meeting to outline plans for the day but it was pretty simple really; town, beach,

BBQ lunch and a tour with James to see some of the geological formations around the island. We were all free to

plan our own schedule for the day and for many it was nice to just have time alone

to go exploring or shopping or visit the museum. The museum is located down by

Fort Hayes and although it isn’t huge and they have limited artefacts it was a

fascinating place to spend some time, particularly looking at the old photographs

of life on Ascension Island. One of the most notable things was the difference in

the vegetation cover between the early part of the 20th century and the present

day. Green Mountain is much greener these days which is increasing the rainfall

further and allowing even more vegetation to grow.

At 12:30 most people had gathered at the pier for the short zodiac ride along the coast to Comfortless Cove where

Marck and the galley team had been busy all morning preparing a simple BBQ lunch on the beach. This is one of the

only safe places to swim around Ascension Island the little cove was a perfect spot for the afternoon at leisure. In the

past the cove was where many of the sailors suffering from fever were left in quarantine so that they didn’t infect

the garrison. It was originally called Comfort Cove but it would have been hot and uncomfortable for its inhabitants

and it was later renamed.

With complimentary drinks, sausages and steaks it was a perfect BBQ lunch although Heinz, the Sous chef was heard

to remark that he hardly needed to turn the sausages as there was as much heat coming from above from the sun as

from below! It was certainly warm so most people took a swim, enjoyed the fantastic fish using the snorkel gear and

generally lounged around in the cool waters of the cove.

All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the ship where shortly after the last passengers were back on

board the anchor was lifted and we set sail on the final leg of our voyage up to Cape Verde.

 

Day 37 – Thursday April 24th 2014

At sea sailing to Cape Verdes

GPS 08.00 Position: 005°10’S / 015°31’W

Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 28°C.

 

After this wonderful beach holiday we had yesterday, the thing we all agreed

upon, was ‘RINIE, NO WAKEUP CALL’. Rinie obliged, so there was no wakeup

call this morning, for the first time this voyage. For those who snugly turned in

their bunks for another snooze, the announcement that the doors of the

dining room were open for breakfast (on time) came as a cold shower.

In the morning, Albert gave a lecture on the history of measuring the size and

the shape of the earth, starting with the ancient Greek, who already figured

out that the Earth would be a globe. The first fairly accurate estimate came

from Erathostenes, the keeper of the famous Greek library in Alexandria

which later was destroyed by a fire. Erastosthenes knew that on the 21st of

June, the sun would shine directly to the bottom of a well near present day Assouan, on the Tropic of Cancer. At the

same date he measured the length of the shadow of a pole he erected in Alexandria, thus giving him the difference

in the angle towards the sun, enabling him to calculate the circumference of the earth. In the middle ages, Chinese,

Arab, Indian and Persian scientists made good estimates, but their knowledge never reached Europe, where we had

to reinvent the wheel all over again. Starting in the 16th century, the French started measuring the size of the earth,

along the meridian that runs through Paris. In the 18th century, the French astronomer Cassini (Italian by birth) found

the earth to be prolate, meaning elongated towards the poles. At the same time, the English scientist Newton

reasoned that it should be oblate, i.e. flattened at the poles. This argument led to two colourful and adventurous

expeditions, to measure the length of a degree latitude at the equator in Peru, and at the polar circle in Lapland,

eventually proving that Newton was right.

It was a very hot day with very little breeze to be found anywhere on the

ship so although many people felt like they wanted to be out on deck to

enjoy the experience of being at sea in the tropics it really was too hot as

lunch time approached and for a while the decks of the ship were deserted

as everyone found a cool spot in the lounge or their cabins.

In the afternoon Simon gave an entertaining lecture about flippers, flukes

and fins, of all sorts of whales and dolphins. He has been lucky enough to

travel extensively throughout all the oceans of the world, not just the

Atlantic and has seen many species of whales and dolphins on his travels.

Wildlife has not been seen in huge numbers today but we’re seeing increasing numbers of Arctic Terns, on their

homeward voyages towards the far north. Equally Arctic were the few longtailed skuas that were spotted resting on

the water close to the ship as we passed by.

Finally a little respite from the heat; a swimming pool was created on the aft

deck, filling a zodiac with an endless supply of sea water and to cool off a little

more, ice popsicles were served in the bar. It might not be the biggest, most

luxurious of pools but it is certainly unique and very refreshing!

At 5pm Ali screened another documentary entitled Oceans – the Atlantic Ocean

and although it was interesting everyone agreed that it wasn’t the best so far so

another series would have to be researched for tomorrow….

During recap, James gave a wonderful overview of all the volcanic features we

have seen at Ascension, including different types of lava, fumaroles (smoke

holes), and beautiful pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass). Approaching the equator, we suddenly left the sunshine and

the steady SE trade winds, entering the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ICTZ), where the NE and Se trade winds

meet, and go up in the sky in this giant convection cell, causing condensation and rain, creating rain forests on the

continents, but at sea just showing itself as rainy clouds. Albert renamed the ITCZ into GGWC for himself, meaning

Gods Giant Watering Can, and just as he mentioned this during recap, the dark clouds outside broke, and down

came a dense downpour, as on cue. Perfect timing!

Dinner was announced and it was, as usual a great feast with lively conversation continuing until long after the

dessert plates and coffee cups had been cleared away.

 

Day 38 – Friday April 25th 2014

At sea sailing to Cape Verdes. Crossing the Equator!

GPS 08.00 Position: 000°46’S / 017°14’W

Weather: Wind: E 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 29°C.

 

Well, it was the calmest sea conditions we had experienced on the whole of the

voyage so far and we were well and truly in the ‘doldrums’. No rolling or pitching or

any other type of motion to keep us awake – very nice indeed! With no wakeup call

from Rinie it was Marck’s voice that woke us and invited us for breakfast.

After breakfast, a few keen deck walkers headed out before it got too hot but it was

still warm to tramp the decks and some people stayed on the shady side of the ship

only!

At 10:00 Albert invited us down to the dining room for a presentation entitled

Measuring the Earth or Albert and his Daughter Travel the Struve Geodetic Arc. The range of subjects that he is able

to talk about is diverse and he has certainly been a valuable member of

staff on these sea days and of course the remote islands we have been

visiting.

The rest of the morning was spent anticipating the next exciting part of

our voyage; crossing the equator! Who knows what might happen as we

pass from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. Stories

of Neptune abound and we weren’t sure whether Rinie had asked

permission to cross the equator from the King of the Ocean. Just before

12:30, as the GPS positioning system counted down we gathered on the

Bridge or in front of the TV screens so we could see the positions reach

000°00’S and turn from S to N. There was a countdown over the PA system and as we crossed the invisible dividing

line the ship’s horn was sounded and we were over. We waited to see if there was lightning bolts and tidal waves

sent from the deep but nothing, just a vast expanse of blue ocean stretching out on all sides of the ship.

Lunch was called and we all enjoyed the Baked Potato bar where we could choose our own toppings and salad.

After lunch while we were all relaxing and digesting our potatoes

there came an urgent call over the PA system telling us that we had

visitors approaching Plancius! Visitors? In the middle of the Atlantic

Ocean? And indeed there were. Approaching in a zodiac was King

Neptune himself with his brightly coloured driver bringing him up

towards the bow of the ship and boy, was he angry! At the same

time Neptune’s wife and servants came from the stern deck to the

bow. It transpired that Rinie hadn’t asked for permission (maybe

the email didn’t get through) and Neptune was furious with us for

trespassing across the equator and he was going to make us pay.

Neptune’s wife tried to plead for mercy on our behalf but it was no good, he boarded the ship and his throne was set

up on the aft deck so that he could hand out his punishment.

Ralph had cooked up one of his least appetising meals and it was this concoction that was poured, smeared,

scrubbed and rubbed into the poor souls who had dared to defy Neptune. The King himself was on hand to ensure

that the punishment was suitably handed out and his wife was alongside him to offer comfort to the poor victims as

they knelt before him.

It was a messy but highly entertaining business (for the observers at

least!) and there was plenty of liquid refreshment available to wash

away the taste of the chocolate and oatmeal concoction! The zodiac

swimming pool was a very popular location for cleaning up and Marck

was on hand with a hose to make sure we all got the gunk off before

going indoors for a shower. A great afternoon for everyone which was

drawn to a satisfactory conclusion when there was an uprising and a

mutiny against King Neptune and he got the same treatment that he

had been handing out to everyone all afternoon! Justice!

After the clean up many people continued to enjoy the zodiac pool

while other resumed positions in the lounge and back up on the Bridge wings. This proved to be a useful spot as in

the space of about half an hour a large pod of Long finned pilot whales was seen in the distance and some Beaked

whales, possibly Cuvier’s were also seen quite close to the ship. The presence of marine mammals usually brings

with it birds and a few Storm petrels were seen, both Madeiran and Leach’s so some action after what had been

quite a quiet day for the birders.

There was no official recap this evening but many people gathered in the lounge for a ‘sundowner’ and it was worth

it as we had one of the best sunsets we’ve had on the trip so far.

 

Day 39 – Saturday April 26th 2014

At sea sailing to Cape Verdes

GPS 08.00 Position: 003°36’N / 018°58’W

Weather: Wind: N 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.

 

After the excitement of yesterday crossing the equator, today was always

going to be a quiet day and with no wakeup call from Rinie, just the breakfast

announcement from his wife Lillian it was a much more gentle start to the

day on board. Having crossed into the Northern Hemisphere only yesterday

we already found ourselves in a different weather system and rather than the

South Easterly trade winds pushing us along we had a gentle breeze from the

north which created a lovely cool flow of air on deck during the day. With

some current against us and increasing temperatures in the engines, the Chief

Engineer had eased back a little on the generator power and we were making

less speed but still on schedule for our arrival in the Cape Verdes. With sea

water temperatures over 30°C it is difficult to keep the generators and engines below the critical level and indeed

the engine room itself had peaked at 45°C over the last few days. Hot work for the team of 3 Engineers and their

Motormen on their 4 hour watches, on duty twice a day.

In the cool of the dining room James was ready at 10am to give a presentation entitled ‘Globally important wildlife in

UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies’ This talk detailed the conservation issues effecting the different

territories, and how the UK government gives far more money to conservation issues in the UK than the overseas

territories despite the territories having a much higher biodiversity. If people were concerned about the issues they

were invited to become friends of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum.

During the morning the birders and ‘sea watchers’ had quite an exciting morning. There weren’t too many species of

bird to be seen; some Arctic terns on their northerly migration and some distant Storm petrels but the marine life we

saw gave everyone a real thrill as we had a pod of Spinner dolphins on the port side of the ship. They could be seen

leaping out of the water and spinning in the air in their unique way and we hoped that they might come closer and

bow ride Plancius but unfortunately apart from one dolphin that came for a quick look they kept their distance as we

passed by. Good views of them with binoculars and zoom lenses but that was all.

During the afternoon while some of us were snoozing,

some were taking a dip in the zodiac pool where the life

guard was in attendance and passengers had the chance to

try to copy the antics of the spinner dolphins, however

diving from the 10 metre board was forbidden due to

Health and Safety. Some members of the Expedition team

were busy with the dreaded end of season inventories.

Albert could be seen checking the books in the Library

while Ali was counting and repairing snowshoes on the

foredeck. Strange to be thinking about snowshoes in this

heat but they have been well used throughout the Antarctic season and needed some maintenance and repairs.

The afternoon presentation was with Sam in the dining room and she was on hand to give advice about what to do

with all the photographs we have taken on this trip when we finally get home. Some will no doubt be printed off and

filed in photograph albums, some might be enlarged and framed for the wall and others might make their way into a

homemade Internet book but the vast majority will be left in files on our computers and Ipads to be looked at from

time to time to remind ourselves of our adventures on our long Atlantic Odyssey.

There was time for gooey chocolate brownies (not made from leftovers from Neptune’s punishment!) before

documentary time with Ali in the dining room once again where she screened another episode of ‘The Life of Birds’

which looked at the evolution of flight and why some birds took to the air while others remained flightless. Before

dinner we were invited to the lounge for a short recap where James gave an update on the Argos float we launched

a few weeks ago and Albert told a story of a rare Tristan stamp that is sought after by collectors around the world

and indeed Cliff, who left with his wife Mary in the Falkland Islands, was one of those collectors.

Dinner was another lively affair complete with a birthday celebration and the conversation (and singing!) once again

continuing until long after the staff had cleared plates and glasses away.

 

Day 40 – Sunday April 27th 2014

At sea sailing to Cape Verdes

GPS 08.00 Position: 007°40’N / 020°35’W

Weather: Wind: NW 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 26°C.

 

Once again the day had a gentle start with no wakeup call, just Lillian

announcing breakfast at 8am in order for us to start our day on board

Plancius. It was a slightly cooler morning out on deck with a strong breeze

blowing onto the bow and only hazy sunshine which made conditions for the

‘postbreakfast’ walkers quite pleasant. It was quite busy on the decks for a

Sunday morning with passing places needed along the route of Deck 4 as

people walked in different directions!

At 10am Connie invited us down to the dining room where he was screening a

short documentary film about the problems of Invaders of the UK Overseas

Territories, particularly on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island. Rats and mice

have devastated the small bird populations on these islands and, indeed Albert explained earlier on during the trip

about how on Gough Island even the large birds, the Tristan albatross chicks have been attacked by mice. Invasive

species are a problem all over the world but islands are more vulnerable to the arrival of a species that the native

and endemic species are not adapted to cope with.

For the rest of the morning passengers enjoyed deck time or cool lounge

time while on the aft deck by the swimming pool Ali could be found

checking the inventory for the emergency survival bags that are used

during landings in the Antarctic and South Georgia. These bags contain

emergency shelters, ropes, a snow shovel a stove and even soups, tea

bags and emergency rations just in case weather conditions change during

a landing and passengers are stranded ashore for a while. With everything

laid out to dry it looked like an outdoor equipment shop!

Lunch, which was a very pleasant sandwich bar, was followed by more

relaxation time and for some, a cooling dip in the pool which was a little

like a washing machine today as the motion of the ship created waves

which sloshed around the zodiac pool.

At 3:30 it was presentation time once again and this time it was Simon’s turn to invite us to the dining room where

he gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘Photographic Reflection – A Touch of Glass’. We’re all going to be looking for

reflections everywhere and trying to capture some new and interesting images with our cameras.

Just as Simon finished his talk there was a strange gathering on the top deck of the ship. Passengers came from their

cabins, the lounge, the aft deck and all other corners of the ship and gathered in

huge numbers on the deck and there was an air of anticipation as 4 o’clock

approached. As the clock ticked a buzz went round the deck; ‘It’s late’. ‘Where are

they?’ and then with the arrival of Marck, Lillian and Rosie with Ice cream a feeding

frenzy began as people queued for cones and proceeded to lick and slurp and munch

on the vanilla and chocolate offerings!

At 5pm it was time for the final documentary presentation from Ali in the dining

room. It was the last episode of the series ‘The Life of Birds’ which looked at the

birds which inhabit some of the most inhospitable places on the planet and also at

conservation efforts to protect some species from extinction.

Before dinner there was time for a short recap and gathering in the lounge before

heading down to the dining room for a great Sunday dinner with lamb on salmon

offer. Another day done and only one more to go………

 

Day 41 – Monday April 28th 2014

At sea sailing to Cape Verdes

GPS 08.00 Position: 011°50’S / 022°15’W

Weather: Wind: N 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 23°C.

 

Once again there was no wakeup call to rouse us before 8am but Marck

announced breakfast and the day began, our last day on board Plancius on this

extraordinary voyage up the Atlantic Ocean.

The morning routine was unchanged for most people but at some point during

the day bags would need to be dragged from underneath our bunks and the

contents of our cabins stuffed inside – packing is always easier on the way

home as everything has to go in!

It was a little cooler out on deck this morning with temperatures only reaching

23°C but it was pleasant change from the sweltering, humid days we’ve been

experiencing over the last few weeks. The morning walkers were out once again making the most of the last

opportunity to walk the decks but probably looking forward to a walk in the park or on a beach rather than the

monotonous decks of the ship.

At 10am Albert gave his final lecture presentation which was an introduction to Cape Verde. For many of us this

destination is just the end of the journey and the departure point from this trip but the islands have a fascinating

history and vibrant culture which was very interesting to learn about.

Shortly afterwards Rinie invited us to the lounge for an informal talk about

Polar bears, animals very close to his heart. He has spent many years

working with these impressive animals both in Spitsbergen and more

recently in Churchill where he and Lillian travel every autumn to lead tours

for clients to see the bears. He has published a number of books about Polar

bears with some beautiful photographs that he has taken over the years so it

was great to hear some more about them and maybe plan a future trip to

visit the high Arctic regions to see them in their natural surroundings.

After lunch there was some housekeeping and paperwork to attend to;

settling our accounts for this final leg of our voyage from Ascension Island to Cape Verde. With just a few days to

accumulate a bill it was a little less painful than the previous account settlement prior to Ascension Island!

Later in the afternoon Clive, our on board marine mammal fan screened a documentary entitled Blackfish which was

an emotional movie about marine mammals, such as Orca, Killer whales being kept in captivity. Having been

fortunate enough to see these impressive animals both in Antarctica and near

Tristan da Cunha and also see some of the big baleen whales such as Blue and Fin

and a number of species of dolphin it is hard to believe that it is still acceptable

for any of these animals to be kept in captivity. They range far and wide over the

oceans in search of food and on long migrations so a small tank in a big city

where they have to endure cramped conditions and are often subjected to

humiliating demands to perform is pure torture for these animals.

With no documentary today there was time to relax, pack a bag and just catch up

with fellow passengers before we all go our separate ways. Some strong

friendships have been established during this trip (and maybe a few romances…..!) and we’re sure to keep in touch

with some people and from time to time meet up, catch up and share memories of our Atlantic Odyssey.

Before dinner there was time to share memories as Sam screened a movie/slide show with images of our journey

and seeing the whole voyage in the space of 20 minutes made us realise what an incredible journey we had been on

from the frozen Antarctic continent to the heat of Ascension Island. There have been some tough, rough days and

things haven’t always gone according to Plan A or even Plan B or C but we’ve got there and have been very fortunate

to visit some extraordinary places along the way.

With the Captain joining us for a final toast to our voyage it was then time to gather on the aft deck for a Bubble and

Squeak dinner! What a great way to end the trip! Cheers everyone!

 

Day 42 – Tuesday April 29th 2014

Arrival Cape Verdes

 

Total distance sailed on this voyage: 8562 nautical miles.

 

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Nazarov, Expedition Leader Rinie van Meurs

and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you and we wish you a safe

and enjoyable continuation of your journey and hope to see you on board Plancius again

soon.

 

Log contributions from members of the Expedition Team.

Enhanced and edited by Ali Liddle