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02/15/2008

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

We converged on the small city of Ushuaia, all of us arriving from distant reaches of the planet for the same reason: to embark on an expedition to experience the magnificent Antarctic continent firsthand. As our flight approached Ushuaia, the majestic clouds parted at times to provide us with striking views of the southern Andes. The glaciers, glacial lakes and towering peaks had to be seen to be believed. When we arrived at “El Fin del Mundo” (as Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, is locally known), we found a growing outpost with plenty of restaurants and shops catering to adventurous travelers. In addition to investigating the town, some of us explored the windswept forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park (home to one of the largest woodpeckers in South America – the Magellanic Woodpecker), while others relaxed along the waterfront, peering out at the ship that would soon become our home: the Explorer II.

In the afternoon, we arrived at the dock and were welcomed by the ship’s staff and crew. After settling into our staterooms and getting familiar with the ship a bit, Captain Giovanni Biasutti called us together for a lifeboat drill. Later we joined our Cruise Director, Jannie Cloete, and our Expedition Leader, JD Massyn, in the main lounge for an introduction to the ship and her staff. As each member of the Expedition staff gave us a welcome and some background on themselves, it became clear that their passion for Antarctica and their desire to share it with us would make this a grand adventure indeed!

Our day drew to a close over dinner and some live piano music in the Shackleton Lounge. The warm air and magnificent mountains lured many of us outside onto the pool deck, which was the idyllic place to contemplate what lies ahead. Cameras clicked as the sun set over the last green trees we would see until the end of our journey, and we sailed down the Beagle Channel in fading light on our way to the open ocean.

   

The port town of Ushuaia from the air

Our first penguins are to be found on the streets of Ushuaia!

Expedition leader, J D Massyn, Cruise director, Jannie Cloete and Assistant cruise director, Sally Escanilla greet the incoming guests at the Explorer II gangway.

Finally we can sit back and relax on the Pool Deck and sip champagne

A curious Dolphin Gull poses in front of a rainbow as we leave port, truly an auspicious beginning to our voyage


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