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Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, Jan 3 - 18, 2020
Friday, January 3, 2020: Ushuaia, Argentina
The adventure begins! After an early morning flight from Buenos Aires to the scenic port city of Ushuaia, we eagerly boarded the elegant 'Le Lyrial,' our home-away-from-home for the next two weeks and one of the most comfortable ships on the seas today. We enjoyed the opportunity to unwind after a day of travel, gathering in the lounge for a glass of champagne or taking in the sweeping views of the Beagle Channel from our staterooms. In the evening, our expedition staff hosted a ‘welcome aboard’ orientation, where we heard from our Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, Cruise Director, Paul Carer, and Expedition Director, Suzana Machado D’Olivera.
Following an overview of what to expect onboard, our expedition team took the stage to introduce themselves: from university professors to climate researchers, ornithologists, and British Antarctic Survey veterans, the A&K team is diverse, knowledgeable, and backed by over a hundred seasons of cumulative experience in the polar regions! This evening, after dinner, we enjoyed looking out as the misty fjords of South America slowly began to fade towards the horizon. Those of us on deck were treated to views of our first Black-browed albatross, dusky dolphin, and southern giant petrels! Even a few distant Magellanic penguins made an appearance as we made our way towards the Drake Passage.
Saturday, January 4, 2020: At sea, en route to Antarctica
The weather gods were on our side today as ‘Le Lyrial’ cruised swiftly from the tip of South America towards the Antarctic peninsula. With light winds and blue skies, a variety of seabirds visited the ship as we sailed South. Black-browed albatross, blue petrels and southern giant petrels made close approaches as they rode the slipstream of the ship. On deck, we even had the chance to view two of the largest flighted species of birds in the world — the wandering and royal albatrosses, with wingspans stretching up to 11 feet!
Today also kicked off the beginning of our lecture series, and we had a chance to hear from some of our expert guides. Patricia Silva, our Ornithologist, began with a topical lecture on Seabirds of the Southern Ocean. We learned about the variety of seabirds we would see on our trip, from the tiny diving petrels to the massive great albatross. These birds spend almost the entirety of their lives at sea, coming ashore only to lay eggs and raise their chicks. Later in the morning, we also heard from our photo coach, Richard Harker, who briefed us on what to expect in Antarctica as it relates to photography. Richard has spent many seasons photographing in Antarctica and shared a few of his secrets to returning from this trip with excellent Antarctic photos.
After lunch, we continued our lecture series with our Marine Mammalogist, Larry Hobbs, who offered a much-anticipated talk on the Whales of the Southern Ocean. We are all excited to look for whales during our time in Antarctica, and Larry offered insight into the variety of species we could encounter. Once we are closer to the peninsula, we hope to see humpback whales and maybe even killer whales! Further offshore, we may catch glimpses of fin, blue, sperm and right whales. We are excited to keep our eyes peeled for these magnificent animals, which are only recently making a recovery from several centuries of intensive whaling. Finally, we heard from our geologist, Jason Hicks, who provided us with a comprehensive overview of the dynamic world of ice. We can retrieve a tremendous amount of data from ice cores taken throughout the Antarctic and Greenland IceCaps, and Jason showed us through his presentation the millions of data points that have more or less recorded humanity's carbon footprint throughout the past few hundred years.
Tonight, we finished the evening with a cocktail party hosted by our Captain, Patrick Marchisseau. We were introduced to the various department heads who keep ‘Le Lyrial’ running so smoothly, and enjoyed a glass of champagne and hors d'ouvres as we steamed closer towards the Antarctic.
Sunday, January 5, 2020: At sea
We awoke to more smooth sailing as ‘Le Lyrial’ steamed through patches of fog on its southbound transit through the Drake Passage. It was markedly colder today than it had been the last several days, as during the evening we crossed over the Polar Front, an ecological boundary that divides frigid Antarctica from the milder sub-Antarctic climate. Our lecture series continued in the morning with another fascinating lecture from our Marine Mammal Biologist, Larry Hobbs, who described the species of seals that we will doubtlessly encounter as we travel through Antarctica. As we approach the continent, we expect to have the chance to encounter three species of lobe-toothed seals that can only be found in the Antarctic: Weddell, leopard and crabeater seals. These ocean carnivores can strain krill from the seawater with the assistance of specialized teeth that are perfectly adapted to life in the Antarctic. Later in the morning, we also participated in a mandatory briefing that comes from IAATO, the regulatory body that oversees Antarctic tourism. We learned how to behave in an extremely sensitive environment such as Antarctica, as well as what we should expect ashore and in the zodiacs.
In the afternoon, we continued our lecture series with talks from Rick Sammon, our photography guest lecturer, and Patri Silva, our Ornithologist. Rick showed us how we can turn 'snapshots into great shots' by focusing on the lighting, composition, and overall story in our photographs. Patri gave us an overview of the many penguin species in the world and highlighted the specific penguins that we hope to encounter on this voyage, from the lovable brush-tailed penguins (Gentoo, Adelie, and chinstrap) to the elegant king penguins we hope to see in South Georgia.
Later in the afternoon, our expedition leader, Marco Favero, came over the ship's PA: a humpback whale has been spotted! In the calm of Dallman bay, we gathered in our parkas and watched as the curious whale surfaced several times, often very close to the motionless ship. Our Marine Mammal Lecturer, Larry Hobbs, described this animal's behavior; humpbacks are in the Antarctic to feed for the summer, where they will consume huge quantities of krill before traveling North for the breeding season. We watched this humpback for just about an hour before the whale decided to move on, and we even caught a glimpse of the massive tail flukes as the animal dove beneath the surface.
Monday, January 6, 2020: Errerra Channel
We began our day in the beautifully scenic Errerra Channel, where we went ashore under clear skies and beautifully calm sea conditions. Humpback whales spout in the distance as our zodiac drivers navigated the loose icebergs to drop us off on tiny Danco Island. Here, hundreds of Gentoo penguins nested among the rocky outcrops and a few Weddell seals joined us ashore as we take in our first close-up views of Antarctica. Here in the middle of summer, Gentoo parents (both male and female) are hurrying to take care of their eggs and newborn chicks, which must be fully-fledged before winter arrives in just a few short months. The Weddell seals are ashore for a shorter time, as they come to land for several weeks after the breeding season to molt their skin and replace it with a new, fresh pelt.
This afternoon, we continued our expedition by sailing through the Errerra channel towards our next landing site, the scenic Neko Harbor. Midway through our lunch, captain Marchisseau interrupted us: our naturalists have spotted a group of killer whales! As we slowly approached these animals from the ship, the orcas turned to join us, and for half an hour we rode side-by-side. This particular group of killer whales provided us with excellent viewing, and we were incredibly privileged to see them swimming under the surface as they made close approaches past the ship. To sail alongside killer whales in the calm waters of Antarctica was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In the afternoon, we landed at Neko Harbor, a landing on the Antarctic continent. Here, Gentoo penguins nested on the rocky ledges overlooking an incredible scene of icebergs, glaciers, and mountains. Although we strolled among all this ice, the temperature in Neko Harbor was unusually high, even for peak summer. Nesting penguins sit on their nests with mouths agape, and some of them are even flopped over in the snow from heat exhaustion. With the weather like this, it's easy to understand the dramatic warming that is taking place throughout the Antarctic, and how an increase in temperature is likely to affect the local wildlife and ablate the existing snow cover.
Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Cierva Cove
This morning, we awoke to flat calm sea conditions in Cierva Cove, just off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The scenic, low-lying islands and abundant wildlife of this beautiful place provide the perfect opportunity to drop our fleet of zodiacs and explore the area. Over the course of an hour, our zodiac drivers and naturalists expertly navigated thick swatches of dramatic brash ice, and we are treated to some impressive displays of wildlife. Chinstrap penguins, another species of brush-tailed penguin, quickly darted past on their way to and from a nearby colony. Spectacular, luminous blue icebergs drifted idly by, some providing a platform for resting crabeater seals that are taking a break from foraging. Crabeater seals are quite large, and, despite their name, subsist on a diet made up chiefly of krill. A few zodiacs are treated to special wildlife sightings; Adelie penguins, leopard seals, and humpback whales pass by!
In the afternoon, the ship repositioned to the coast of Trinity Island, where we went ashore at an old whaling site known as Mikkelsen harbor. In driving wind and choppy seas, it's true-to-life expedition as our zodiac drivers maneuvered through the bay to put us safely ashore at our new destination. Here at Mikkelsen, a vast stretch of beach was covered in the ghostly white bones of whales, animals killed in the dark era of commercial whaling. Our naturalists identified several of the largest bones as the skulls of both blue and fin whales, the largest and fastest whales alive today, and now some of the rarest. During the whaling era, millions of animals were slaughtered for their oil, and today all species of whales are protected in Antarctica as their populations slowly recover. Gentoo penguins nimbly hopped among these bones on their way up to a nearby colony, and skuas patrolled overhead. It's an impressive chance for us to witness Antarctica on its own terms, and we thoroughly enjoyed a warm and dry dinner back aboard.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020: South Shetland Islands
On our last day in Antarctica, we awoke to find ourselves in the South Shetland Islands, the small archipelago lying north of the Antarctic Peninsula across the Bransfield Strait. Early in the morning, we boarded the zodiacs to head ashore at Yankee Harbor, a protected bay where early American sealers found refuge and eventually based their whaling and sealing operations. A few human artifacts dotted the beach, and an old tri-pot (a large iron cauldron used for rendering blubber down for oil) was seen along the rocky storm berm that stretches into the ocean. Yankee harbor also provided us more opportunities to see both Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins and learn about the fascinating volcanic geology of the South Shetland region.
In the afternoon, we boarded the zodiacs once more and headed ashore at Barrientos Island in the Aitcho Island archipelago, just off the coast of the South Shetlands. Compared to our other landings in Antarctica, Barrientos Island was covered in a verdant green carpet of algae. Slightly more temperate than the Antarctic peninsula, the penguin chicks in the South Shetlands were further along in their development than the ones we had seen previously. Large, fuzzy Gentoo chicks are almost ready to begin fledging the nest, and penguin parents anxiously come and go as they try desperately to keep up with the increasing appetites of their young. On the beach, a dozen or so elephant seals provided us with the opportunity to get quite close, and we observed them 'wallowing' — gathering together in muddy areas to slough their skin. Barrientos Island provided us with a very different taste of Antarctica, and we returned to the ship satisfied and excited to spend a few days at sea, processing our photos and looking back on our adventures in Antarctica.
Thursday, January 9, 2020: Scotia Sea
We began our crossing to South Georgia through the Scotia Sea under blue skies and fair winds. ‘Le Lyrial’ traveled at a fast pace, hoping to maximize the efficiency of our crossing before the weather deteriorates. We returned to 'school', with a day jam-packed with lectures and activities. Throughout the day, the spouts of fin whales reminded us that we were in one of the most productive areas of oceans on the planet. Fin whales are nearly twice the size of the humpbacks we saw in Antarctica and can travel at speeds of up to 30 knots!
Our lecture series continued in the morning with Rick Sammon, who spoke about photographing the swift seabirds we've been encountering on our journey. He talked about the best techniques to use to help capture the perfect avian snapshots. Next, historian, Bob Burton, taught us about Shackleton's voyage to the Antarctic and the decisions that he made as a leader to save his team. His story was accompanied by images and maps to help us better understand what Shackleton and his men endured.
After lunch, the lecture series continued with ornithologist, Patri Silva. She taught us more about penguins; how they evolved, and how they are adapted to their icy homes in the Antarctic, and what they must struggle through each year to raise a chick from an egg to a fledgling. Finally, we heard from our geologist, Jason Hicks, who gave us a retelling of the last several hundred million years from a geologist's point of view. We learned how the Antarctic arose in the geologic record as the supercontinent Pangea broke off into separate, smaller continents, including Antarctica, Asia, and Australia.
After dinner, our cruise director, Paul Carter, hosted an evening round of general knowledge trivia, which proved to be a huge hit for both the guests and staff. We enjoyed a light-hearted competition and learned a few interesting pieces of fun facts along the way!
Friday, January 10, 2020: En route to South Georgia
This morning we awoke to a worsening sea condition as ‘Le Lyrial’ battled her way towards South Georgia through winds and 10-15' seas. Whitecaps sent spray across the open decks, and the ship slowly pitched to and fro as it made its crossing towards one of the most remote and inhospitable islands in the world. There was a growing sense of adventure as we retraced the same route that Shackleton and his five companions sailed to make it from Elephant Island to Stromness Harbor in South Georgia. Unlike Shackleton, we were sailing on one of the most comfortable ships afloat, and our state-of-the-art stabilizers allowed us to carry on with our lecture series in relative comfort. We first heard from our historian, Bob Burton, who gave us an overview of what to expect in South Georgia. Bob is a particularly brilliant historian and naturalist, who has spent many decades working on South Georgia as the director of the museum in Grytviken and has worked closely with the South Georgia Heritage Trust since. He provided insights into the history of this remote place and explained how the island has experienced three rounds of exploitation throughout its brief human history. Later in the morning, our photo coach, Richard Harker invited us to join him for his own photographic briefing on South Georgia. Richard explained how we should set our cameras to maximize the chances of getting successful wildlife shots while ashore in this animal-rich place.
After lunch, we all gathered in the theater to hear a government-mandated briefing on South Georgia. The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands takes the increasing biosecurity risk to their islands very seriously, and a brief understanding of past ecological disasters provides some insight as to why: rats, reindeer, and many invasive plant species once called South Georgia home, and it is only thanks to several decades of intensive conservation efforts that the rats and reindeer have been wholly eradicated. All visitors to South Georgia must do their part to ensure that the island remains free of any accidental pests, whether faunal or floral. After the briefing, we gathered in the main lobby to vacuum our parkas and scrub our boots, before signing a biosecurity audit declaring our compliance with this program.
Our last lecture of the day comes from our marine mammal biologist, Larry Hobbs, who offered an enthralling talk on the dark history of whaling. It's tough to understand in today's world how reliant we once were on these massive, foreign creatures, and how aggressively they were hunted. Larry explained how the demand for whale oil continued on throughout the 1900s, and how the whaling stations in South Georgia have only recently been abandoned. Luckily, these animals are all now protected under an international treaty, and the Government of South Georgia makes sure that there are no threats to whales currently in its waters. We retired for the night as the ship continued to rock and roll its way towards South Georgia.
Saturday, January 11, 2020: Fortuna Bay
This morning we awoke to vast swathes of seabirds surrounding the ship as we continued our approach to South Georgia. The storm we face has forced ‘Le Lyrial’ to travel slower than anticipated towards the island, and we were all excited to make landfall this afternoon, once we had reached more protected waters. For now, we enjoyed watching and photographing dozens of species as they appeared off the deck: wandering albatross, white-chinned and giant petrels, prions, cape petrels, king penguins, fur seals and more all made an appearance during our morning cruise, and it's easy to understand how rich the waters in which we sail really are. We had the chance to hear again from our guest photography lecturer, Rick Sammon, who offered a talk on the power of post-processing images. Many of us think our photos are done the second the shutter clicks, but Rick showed us that there are quite clever ways to manipulate these images with software, long after we've shot them. Those of us familiar with Adobe Photoshop found this lecture especially useful, and Rick offered a few tips and tricks to ensure that we all walked away from this adventure with some framing-worthy shots.
This afternoon, ‘Le Lyrial’ dropped anchor in the protected harbor of Fortuna Bay, and we went ashore with much anticipation. Here we were greeted by our expedition leader, Marco, assistant expedition leader, JJ, and several hundred young fur seals, scattered about the beach. We haven't yet had the chance to encounter fur seals, which reminded us of the more familiar sea lions. Agile and territorial, we quickly learned that fur seals will happily defend their territory from intruders! Despite some ferocious snarls and bluff charges, however, these seals were fairly reluctant to bite, and many of them seemed far more curious than aggressive. Also in Fortuna Bay laid a small colony of king penguins, the brilliant white, black, and orange penguins that we have been so excited to see. Groups of king penguins walked among us with their heads held high, showing off their spectacular size and brilliant colors. There were photographic opportunities around every corner, but the most impressive way to experience the vastness of this place may well be to stop and stare in awe. We returned to the ship having experienced a heavy dose of sensory overload, and could not wait to continue the journey in the morning. Tonight, as a storm raged past off the coast of South Georgia, we enjoyed our evening at anchor in the calm and wind-free Fortuna Bay.
Sunday, January 12, 2020: Drygalski Fjord
We awoke to our second morning in South Georgia, where ‘Le Lyrial’ has anchored in the small bay of King Edward Cove. The whaling station of Grytviken stood solemnly against the verdant green hills and ashen rock, and officials from the Government of South Georgia boarded the ship to officially welcome us to this remote island and conduct a biosecurity inspection and assessment. We soon passed with a flying 100%, and were permitted to go ashore! Our expedition leader, Marco, welcomed us ashore and described the route he recommends we take; this includes a visit to the grave of famed explorer Ernest Shackleton, a small hike to the top of a hill, and finally a stroll through the old factory works of Grytviken itself. The rusty old oil cylinders and whale processing machinery still lie where it was once used, eerily abandoned for nearly sixty years. Several whale-catcher boats were also left behind, where they now sit beached by the settlement. We can marvel at the enormous harpoon cannon mounted on the bow of the ‘Petrel,’ and imagine the dangerous conditions that these men had to endure while working in this industry.
In the afternoon, we headed down the coast of South Georgia, hoping to make a landing at a site known as Gold Harbor. Upon our arrival, however, it became clear that the swell is too strong to safely operate the zodiacs — even the ship's marina deck was awash from the oncoming sea. We quickly retrieved the zodiacs and thought up a different plan. Continuing out of Gold Harbor, we turned south again, heading for the narrow straits of Drygalski Fjord. This stunning, narrow fjord is a geological marvel; the remains of continental Gondwana (the massive, ancient continent that our geologist, Jason, described previously in his lectures) were visible on its Northeastern slopes, while the remains of ancient sea-floor volcanics can be seen on the other. The ship cruised swiftly deeper and deeper into one of the most scenic areas of South Georgia, and we quickly realized that the light winds in this area are favorable for a zodiac operation! We eagerly boarded the zodiacs to do something that most of the naturalists on our staff have never done, for Drygalski Fjord is typically raging with sustained 30kt winds. The zodiac cruise proved to be otherworldly — from low in the water, it became clear how massive the towering cliffs are on either side of us, stretching up to the sky and out of view. Additionally, we were treated to an even more elusive sight: dozens of rare snow petrels weave through the fjord, feeding amid the dense patches of brash ice that stream from Drygalski's main glacier. These birds are known mostly from the Antarctic continent, where they may breed hundreds of miles inland on exposed rock faces. In South Georgia, a small population survives in the Drygalski fjord region, somewhere up among the snowy peaks that we can see from the water. It was truly a spectacular experience, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up close and personal to these extremely elusive birds.
Monday, January 13, 2020: Elsehul
Today we prepared ourselves for our final day in South Georgia. ‘Le Lyrial’ repositioned to the Northern section of the island, and with blue skies and light winds, we went ashore at the long, sandy beach known as Salisbury Plain. Here, several hundred thousand king penguins nested almost as far as we could see into the hills, and we navigated hordes of birds that were molting and resting on our walk to see this magnificent colony. King penguins have an interesting breeding cycle and are present in the colony year-round (as opposed to the brush-tailed penguins we've seen so far, which are present in the colony only seasonally). It is thus possible to see birds at all stages of development; some are protecting their single egg, others are brown, downy chicks, and still, others are just finishing their first molt and finally gaining their adult plumage. Wandering among it all, we found Salisbury Plain to be an absolutely overwhelming experience, one that will certainly be forever stuck in our minds. It was hard to pull ourselves from the beach on this final landing.
This afternoon, we boarded the zodiacs for a farewell zodiac cruise around the rocky bay of Elsehul. At South Georgia's extreme north-westernmost point, Elsehul receives an immense amount of nutrients carried by the Southern Ocean currents, and life here flourishes in staggering abundance. As we departed the ship, the silhouettes of albatross floated gracefully overhead; birds made their way to and from the nests they've constructed neatly in the tussock slopes far overhead. Grey-headed, black-browed, light-mantled sooty, and wandering albatross all nested nearby, and having the chance to observe these birds from the tiny inflatable boats gave us a sense for how large they truly are! Also at Elsehul, we had the opportunity to finally see the little macaroni penguins we have heard so much about from Patri. These tenacious penguins have no problem nesting on some of the most exposed and inhospitable rocky ledges on the island, and we all have the chance to see these birds coming and going from the colony, resting on the rocky intertidal zone, and staring back at us with their vibrant red eyes. Continuing around the bay, it was clear that the wildlife in this area is even richer than it appears; at every corner, we can see fur seals, elephant seals, gentoo penguins, king penguins and more. Even two uncommon birds— the South Georgia Pintail and South Georgia Pipit— made an appearance. Elsehul was the perfect sendoff, and as we re-boarded the ship and headed out from South Georgia, our heads were left spinning from the sheer volume of life we have encountered in this incredible place.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020: At Sea
Today, ‘Le Lyrial’ steamed steadily Westward, making good speed against the currents of the Southern Ocean. We began the day with more talks from our amazing lecturers. First, our marine biologist, Larry Hobbs, began with a sobering talk on Sustainability. Human activity over the last few centuries has catapulted us far beyond what the planet and its resources can sustain, and Larry's talk brought to light the challenges we face today, from overpopulation to our reliance on fossil fuels and the steps we can take towards overcoming them as we move forward in history. All scientific and empirical evidence points to the fact that a dramatic paradigm shift is what's necessary to avoid economic, environmental and social collapse over the next century. Later in the morning, we also had the chance to hear a particularly unique talk from our Captain Patrick Marchesseau, who spoke to us about his experience being boarded and held for ransom by Somali pirates as captain of the sailing ship ‘Le Ponant.’ Captain Marchesseau described what life was like being held hostage by pirates; how they boarded the ship, how they treated the crew, and how tense the negotiations were between the pirates, the crew, and the French Navy.
After lunch, our lecture series continued with an afternoon talk by our photo coach Richard Harker. Richard taught us the basics of photo post-processing, and how to handle our photographs the way some of the great, early photographers would have. Using Ansel Adams as an example, Richard showed us how we can develop a workflow in the digital age that lets us turn our 'good' photos into truly stunning works of art.
This evening, we gathered again in the theater for our daily recap, but instead of Marco taking the stage, we hear again from Captain Marchesseau — 'never a good sign!', as he jokingly surmises. Captain shared with us the weather forecast for the Falkland Islands over the next several days; a massive low-pressure system had been building, and Port Stanley is expecting winds at a sustained speed of 50 knots! This, obviously, makes it far too dangerous to maneuver the vessel or its tenders into the small port, and we would have to cancel our call in Stanley. He delivered this bad news in the best way possible, and promised to take us through this storm in the most comfortable way possible! Tonight, we enjoyed a final restful day before sailing into this waiting storm.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020: At Sea
Today will be forever remembered by ourselves, the Abercrombie & Kent staff, and the crew of ‘Le Lyrial.’ We crossed paths with an immense low-pressure weather system in the late morning, and by the early afternoon, the ship was wracked with ceaseless 70kt winds. Captain Marchesseau expertly lowered the speed of our vessel to a mere 6 knots; just enough to make safe headway into the approaching storm. As the afternoon drew on, the waves steadily began to grow — first to 20 feet, then 30, then 40! Despite the deteriorating weather, our stalwart ship pressed on, and conditions on-board were relatively mild — we were all in awe of the big sea, and quite privileged to see this place experiencing the forces that have kept it so wild and unforgiving throughout time. It was quite a feat to maneuver a vessel through such conditions, and the Captain and Crew spent the entirety of their day ensuring that we were safe and comfortable, wrapped up in our cabins with a good book or otherwise enjoying a well-deserved rest. In the evening, with waves building to over 50 feet and the ship rolling to 30º in the massive swell, it was deemed unsafe to open any of the restaurants or to continue with our lecture series. We instead were visited by our cabin stewards and stewardesses, who provided us with a selection of sandwiches and treats prepared by our kitchen staff, who had worked hard to keep us as well-fed as possible throughout the day. It was a legendary experience to be in such a storm, and the weather continued well into the night.
Thursday, January 16, 2020: At Sea
We awoke to slightly more benign conditions, Captain Marchesseau having coaxed ‘Le Lyrial’ into the lee of the Falkland Islands. Throughout the morning, we enjoyed a brief respite from the immense storm that continues offshore, and the ship moved safely into Falkland Sound, the body of water that separates the two large islands of East and West Falkland. Our lecture series continued as planned, though we were all interested in discussing with our expedition staff the intense storm that we experienced the day before. We heard from our geologist, Jason Hicks, who gave a rather interesting lecture on 'Meteorites in Antarctica.' A subject of interest for many, Jason described the history and challenges of studying meteorites throughout the globe; how we measure impact craters, where the largest and most intact meteorites are today, and how Antarctica lends itself to easy study of these alien rocks for its large size, overall icy cover, and ice's ability to 'trap' the atmospheric conditions that existed during large-scale meteor impacts. In the afternoon, our expedition naturalist, Matt Messina, hosted an 'open art' session that allowed us to explore our more creative side. Matt is an artist when not working on the ship, and he provided pencils and watercolor paints for those of us interested in creating some works of art to remember the trip by. In the evening, Captain Marchesseau invited us all to join him once more in the theater for a final farewell cocktail party. He said a few poignant words regarding our time at sea, and we also got to express our gratitude towards the entire crew of ‘Le Lyrial’ for making our journey so safe and comfortable. Overall, it was nice to have a quiet day at sea after the excitement we had experienced over the past 48 hours!
Friday, January 17, 2020: At Sea
Today ‘Le Lyrial’ swiftly approached the Southern tip of South America, and we finally came full-circle in our two-thousand-plus-mile round trip journey. In the morning, our cruise director, Paul Carter, and Assistant Cruise Director, Sally Escanilla, hosted a disembarkation briefing, where we learned what to expect tomorrow as we made our way homes from ‘Le Lyrial.’ The Abercrombie & Kent staff has made sure that the arrangements for our departure have all been taken care of, and our departure would be easy and comfortable.
This evening, we gathered one final time in the theater to hear from our expedition staff at their 'final recap.' After some final comments from the team, we were treated to an incredible, motion-picture slideshow that was shot and edited by our very own Richard 'Blackjack' Escanilla, a talented videographer as well as a naturalist and zodiac pilot. It was an emotional retelling of our epic journey, and we were quite moved as we made our way from the theater to prepare for our arrival in Ushuaia. Soon enough, ‘Le Lyrial’ came to her berth in the southernmost city in the world, where our journey first began. We enjoyed the chance to get ashore and stretch our legs on terra firma, and many of us took the opportunity to go out and enjoy our final evening at some of the impressive restaurants that line the streets of this city.
Saturday, January 18, 2020: Final Farewell
Today marked the end of the incredible journey we have had through the Southern Ocean. As we enjoyed our last breakfast aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we reflected on the vast abundance of wildlife and scenery we had the fortune of experiencing over the past 14 days. From the icy whale-rich straits and channels of the Antarctic Peninsula to the elegant and imposing scenery of South Georgia, we covered a tremendous amount of ground and had the opportunity to share in an unforgettable, life-changing experience. Hopefully, this expedition has inspired us to go on with a stronger conservation ethic and a drive to protect the wildlands around our home, wherever that may be. It's a bittersweet goodbye as the expedition staff bid us one final farewell and we boarded the buses that took us further on to more adventure!
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