Chris and I cruised the Antarctic Peninsula with her cousin Beth Devlin and her husband David Vandyke. Beth, a veterinarian wanted to see penguin chicks, did some research, and asked if we would like to go along. We booked the cruise with Polar Cruises, who provided excellent advice and considerable help in making our way to Argentina to board the ship. After a rough start (our first flight was cancelled causing a one day delay and a lot of rescheduling) we arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina to board our ship, the Akademic Sergey Vavilov which was designed for acoustic research by the Russian Academy of Sciences, and converted to a polar adventure ship. The ship is operated by OneOcean Expeditions. We were pleasantly surprised at the ship and the accommodations, considering the ship was a working research vessel. The members of the expedition crew were diverse in their areas of expertise, with specialists in birding, wildlife, kayaking, two professional photographers and even a historian. All had extensive experience in the polar regions and were extremely helpful. The ship’s Russian crew were friendly and eager to help, even across the English-Russian language barrier. Most of the crew certainly knew more English than we knew Russian, except for Dave, who got to practice his Russian and learn a few new words from the waitresses.
The cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula starts with a trip through the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage, a voyage that typically takes two days. Unfortunately for us, we were caught in two storms where the captain had to “heave to”, point the ship into the wind and ride out the storm, resulting in taking three days to complete the transit. We were briefed on the storm conditions, which apparently were a first for this particular itinerary; Beaufort Nine conditions (50 mph winds, 35 foot seas). The expedition crew regularly adjusted the programs and sites to visit based on weather and time available. After the stormy transit we were blessed with two days of clear skies and flat seas, one day of party cloudy, and the last day of heavy overcast skies. Our transit of the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia was also stormy the first night but nothing like our trip down; however, the entire return trip was in fog, with no view of the horizon.
Our late arrival at King George Island led the expedition staff to adjust their itinerary since we had one fewer day than normal, but it’s likely not a unique situation.
The rest of this post will be divided by each day, with images taken at the sites visited. There are links below the gallery thumbnails to each post, and a link at the bottom of each subsequent post to the next.