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Trip Logs

Antarctica Discovery: Beyond the Antarctic Circle Trip Log: January 18–February 1, 2023

Trip Logs

Antarctica Discovery: Beyond the Antarctic Circle Trip Log: January 18–February 1, 2023

By Rob Caskie with photography by Michelle Valberg | January 26, 2023

January 20, 2023 | Ushuaia and Beagle Channel

The dawn has finally broken on the day many A&K guests have dreamed about for years — travelling to Antarctica. Thus far, our stay in Buenos Aires, the “Paris of the South,” has been magnificent, with various optional tours to enjoy. We transferred to the airport early to board a charter flight to Ushuaia, pausing enroute for lunch at the Arakur Hotel, with its splendid views over the city and Beagle Channel.

It was a stunning day — sunny and warm, with no wind to speak of. In the busy, ship-lined quay, our luxurious vessel, ‘Le Lyrial,’ appeared more like a huge, private yacht than an ice-strengthened, purpose-built, ecologically green expedition ship.

Our Expedition Team, Captain and crew welcomed guests onboard and showed us to our suites, where luggage, parkas, waterproof boots, backpacks and water bottles awaited.

Champagne flowed freely while we explored the ship. At 7:15pm, a mandatory safety was carried out and we sat down to a sumptuous meal in on of two onboard restaurants, preparing for Antarctica to cast her magic spell.

January 21, 2023 | Across the Drake Passage

This extraordinary voyage takes us south of the Antarctic Circle at 66.6 degrees south, into rarely visited areas, including Marguerite Bay. What a luxury it will be to spend seven uninterrupted days in Antarctica. Little wonder this departure has proven so popular. Today, we were introduced to our Expedition Team, one of the most experienced in Antarctica.

Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, and Expedition Director, Suzana D'Oliveira, began working in Antarctica in 1986, offering 74 years of combined experience between them alone.

Ornithologist, Patri Silva, gave a magnificent talk on birds of the Southern Ocean. Of note were her impressions of various flight patterns, which are sure to assist us with bird identification. Next, Jason Hicks, our resident geologist, brought down the house during an afternoon presentation on how Antarctica was formed from parting continental plates. Storyteller, Rob Caskie, next shared the story of Amundsen’s arrival to the South Pole, with clinical planning, experience and dogs, dogs, dogs!

Tonight, we attended our Captain's welcome cocktail party and dinner, complete with an introduction to his senior officers. All told, it was a magnificent day at sea onboard ‘Le Lyrial.’

January 22, 2023 | At sea on the Drake Passage

We began crossing the Drake Passage comfortably on fairly benign seas, enjoying three enriching talks that leant a sense of history and place.

Mandatory Zodiac, safety and International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) briefings prepared us for safe entry and exit, as well as adherence to environmental standards. Life jackets were then handed out to all of us in preparation for our first landings in Antarctica in the morning. Needless to say, our excitement was palpable.

This evening, Frederique Olivier — an expert in wildlife and expedition cinematography — explained the importance of the Antarctic Convergence Zone, the marine belt encircling Antarctica. When cold, salty, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic, the zones mix and upswell. As a result, marine productivity is high, especially when it comes to Antarctic krill.

Storyteller, Rob Caskie, lent more context to our journey, from discussing the positioning of the South Pole to history of how Marguerite Bay was named; the significance of the Adelie penguin; and fate of Shackleton's ship ‘Endurance,’ which sank in the Antarctic in 1915.

Excitement remains high, as we anticipate arriving on Jenny Island tomorrow around 9am.

January 23, 2023 | Jenny Island & Bongrain Point

We crossed the Antarctic Circle just after midnight, awaking in breathtaking Antarctica. Truly, nothing could have prepared us for a morning like this — brilliant sunlight, not a breath of wind and Antarctic whiteness as far as the eye can see.

Given today’s ocean swell, our Expedition Team worked to find the perfect landing spot on Jenny Island. Upon reaching the shore by Zodiac, elephant seals lounged on the stony beach. Glorious white mountains towered behind them, while huge icebergs punctuated the bay.

Later this afternoon, we made a second landing at Bongrain Point, at the entrance to Dalgliesh Bay on Pourquoi Pas Island. Breeding Adelie penguin colonies populated the beach, delighting us with their jet-black heads and white eye-rings. Southern fulmars and snow petrels soared above their nesting sites, which were set high upon cliff faces.

Before returning to lovely ‘Le Lyrial, we navigated through icebergs and brash ice by Zodiac, seeing three local seal species — Weddell, crabeater and leopard.

Back aboard, on a perfectly calm seas, whales surfaced all around the ship — both before and after dinner. Already, ours was an Antarctic expedition for the ages.

January 24, 2023 | Adelaide Island & The Gullet

At 67 degrees south, the days are long — the sun rises about 3:30am and sets around 11:30pm.

The day began with a Zodiac cruise around large, snow-covered Adelaide Island, situated within the Argentine, British and Chilean Antarctic claim areas. Amid this icy landscape, we observed many seals on ice floes, not to mention humpback whales, who obligingly showed their flukes. As we marveled at the beauty before us, storyteller Rob Caskie shared a presentation on Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole.

Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we proceeded toward The Gullet, a narrow, long channel first explored in 1909 by the French Antarctic Expedition under Jean-Baptiste Charcot. Geologist Jason Hicks shared enriching Antarctic insights while we cruised past the boundless ice and snow-covered landscape.

Capping an unforgettable day, dinner was enjoyed while huge, dancing snowflakes fell from twinkling Antarctic skies.

January 25, 2023 | Red Rock Ridge & Stonington Island

Since our planned landing at Red Rock Ridge was thwarted by the ocean swell and ice along the shoreline, the crew quickly repositioned ‘Le Lyrial.’ Within the hour, we were led by Zodiac to the Debenham Islands, discovered and named by the British Graham Land Expedition.

Beautiful weather prevailed and a massive glacier provided a magnificent backdrop for up-close observations of crabeater seals and views of the year-round, Argentine San Martín Base.

Returning to ‘Le Lyrial’, we tucked into the world’s southernmost barbecue on the outside deck, watching the striking scenery scroll by. Before embarking on our afternoon excursion, we viewed "On Thin Ice.” Narrated by David Attenborough, the poignant documentary shared the ways climate change is affecting the Polar regions.

Disembarking at small, rocky Stonington Island, site of the oldest American research station in Antarctica, we were treated to an extraordinary afternoon. After exploring East Base, where the first women in Antarctic history overwintered, we proceeded to nearby Base E, built by the British in 1946 as part of secret Operation Tabarin.

January 26, 2023 | Lallemand Fjord and Detaille Island

This morning, we anticipated an exploration of Lallemand Fjord, with its fascinating, rare wildlife. However, it was impossible to enter the narrow inlet due to conditions. Not missing a beat, our Expedition Team had another Zodiac excursion in store — one to sparkling, equally stunning Crystal Sound, where scientists research ice crystal behavior.

Due to unfavorable sea ice, our planned afternoon landing on Detaille Island required the same level of flexibility. Site of a former British Antarctic Survey research station, Detaille Island was used to conduct meteorological studies, gather geological data and map the area — until it was hastily abandoned in 1959, ironically, for the same reason.

With our schedule quickly altered, we instead enjoyed other forms of enrichment, including a presentation on Polar food webs by marine mammals expert Garry Stenson and tips from photo enrichment coach Michelle Valberg. Rounding things off, storyteller Rob Caskie spoke about Shackleton's Endurance Expedition, a failed mission to cross the Antarctic on foot, leaving 28 explorers stranded.

After the day’s recap and dinner, our onboard musicians weaved magic and Cruise Director Paul Carter hosted an interactive trivia game at 9:30pm. All told, today was a testament to our team’s ingenuity and diverse Antarctic knowledge.

January 27, 2023 | The Argentine Islands, Port Charcot and Lemaire Channel

Snow fell gently as we embarked on an early Zodiac tour of the Argentine Islands, discovered during the French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-1905. Traversing the narrow channels presented views of the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base. Managed by the National Antarctic Scientific Center (NANC), its scientists conduct ongoing environmental studies and research on gentoo penguins and chicks.

Upon entering Port Charcot — an indentation at the northwest end of rugged, Y-shaped Booth Island — we enjoyed two hours ashore, choosing between hikes, observing gentoo and chinstrap penguins, and marveling at the exquisite Antarctic scenery while large snowflakes danced in the sky.

This evening, ‘Le Lyrial’ sailed through the breathtaking Lemaire Channel, a strait between the Kyiv Peninsula in the mainland's Graham Land and Booth Island. One of the most majestic locales in Antarctica, it nearly took our breath away.

January 28, 2023 | Neko Harbour, Cuverville Island and Wilhelmina Bay

On a glorious, calm morning, we visited Neko Harbour, steering clear of an actively calving glacier. Named for a Scottish whaling boat, it was discovered by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache during the early 20th century.

Finding the perfect landing spot, we disembarked and hiked up the hill, delighted by colonies of gentoo penguins, many of them marching along the water’s edge, nonplussed by our presence. The vistas were exquisite — a boon for photographers and casual observers alike.

While proceeding to Cuverville Island, we sighted whales alongside ‘Le Lyrial.’ Disembarking on the rocky island, it was a treat to observe a lively gentoo breeding colony — complete with eggs and chicks between one day and three weeks old. A few chinstrap penguins added to the magical experience. We then hiked uphill, seeing additional colonies and beautiful viewpoints.

Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ ornithology expert Patri Silva offered a complementary gentoo penguin presentation and Expedition Leader Marco Favero detailed tomorrow’s plans, noting a low-pressure system created windy conditions in the South Shetland Islands, our intended destination. As a result, we continue our explorations in the Gerlache Strait, between the Palmer Archipelago and Antarctic Peninsula.

This evening, we cruised leisurely through Wilhelmina Bay. Known for its whale population, the destination did not disappoint. As if the surrounding icebergs, vistas and reflective water weren’t enough, massive cetaceans fed near our vessel.

January 29, 2023 | Fournier Bay and Orne Islands

As predicted, we awoke to windy conditions. Our ship eased into Fournier Bay, seeking — with success — a sheltered position for Zodiac operations. On a calm sea with brash ice as far as the eye could see, ‘Le Lyrial’ came to a stop. Visible behind us were the windswept, dark-blue water of Gerlache.

Zodiacs were lowered and we set out to explore by sea. Seeing Brabant and Anvers Islands — with 9,055 Mount Français in the distance — our assemblage of nine boats were secured to form a single, continuous raft. It was a stunning setting for a Champagne toast.

Despite our planned landing on the Orne Islands, our Expedition Team quickly altered course due to shore conditions. Instead, we proceeded to Danco Island at the southern end of the Errera Channel, off the west coast of Graham Land. Once ashore, we ascended the slope, viewing nesting gentoo penguins before sliding — or walking — back down to the landing site, mindful this was our stop during an incredible Antarctic journey.

While snow steadily fell this evening, our capable Captain steered ‘Le Lyrial’ northward to mitigate turbulence crossing the Drake Passage. Meanwhile, storyteller Rob Caskie spoke about the discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance, which occurred exactly 100 years after he was laid to rest. Capping today’s enriching discussions, our resident ornithologist brought down the house with her hilarious presentation on the albatross. Further adding to the festivities, we danced the night away, enjoying the stylings of our crew band and the DJ prowess of Cruise Director Paul Carter.

January 30, 2023 | Crossing the Drake Passage

Our Captain’s prediction for calm morning seas thankfully rang true. Storyteller Rob Caskie began the day with a talk on Antarctica’s lesser-known heroes, including English explorers Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard and Edward Adrian Wilson; British Polar Medal recipient William Lashly; Henry Robertson Bowers, a member of Scott's polar party; and Irish seaman and Antarctic explorer, Thomas Crean.

Our Expedition Team then collected any remaining waterproof trousers, boots and lifejackets, a reminder that this singular journey is nearing an end. After an inspiring presentation on the importance of seabird conservation in fisheries, Tanuja Valmik, an A&K travel consultant, was available to share information about future journeys, which include upcoming A&K departures to Egypt and the Seychelles.

Geologist Jason Hicks followed with a discussion on climate change, complemented by marine mammal lecturer Garry Stenson’s presentation on how environmental changes are impacting marine species. Wrapping up the perfectly full afternoon, we partook in an indulgent macaron tea.

Tonight, to our delight, we met many crew members who work behind the scenes and attended the Captain's thoroughly enjoyable farewell party, finding it hard to believe we’ll soon say goodbye.

January 31, 2023 | Drake Passage and Ushuaia

It’s a morning of mixed emotions, as we reached the final day of this extraordinary voyage. Amid a rolling sea, everyone packed their bags to fly onward from Ushuaia.

Between enriching discussions, we received disembarkation details. Then, A&K’s pennant — hung from the bow of ‘Le Lyrial’ — was auctioned off, fetching an impressive $7,100 for the Crew Welfare Fund. Independent auctions raised additional funds for it — and an albatross conservation fund. Both are worthy causes, indeed.

Afterward, JD Massyn presented a magnificent visual memoir of our journey, featuring photos assembled by our Expedition Team.

By 7:30pm, ‘Le Lyrial’ pulled alongside the quay in Ushuaia. Many chose to explore the frontier-style town at leisure, whether to shop or enjoy a cocktail at a local bar.

No one seemed ready to leave our Antarctic “cocoon’ and return to daily life. However, it is certain we will return. As Frank Wild said, “You cannot escape the ‘little voices’ that keep calling you back.”

Wildlife Sightings on This Journey


  • Gentoo Penguin
  • Adelie Penguin
  • Chinstrap Penguin
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Royal Albatross
  • Black-browed Albatross
  • Southern Giant Petrel
  • Northern Giant Petrel
  • White-chinned Petrel
  • Cape (Pintado) Petrel
  • Snow Petrel
  • Southern Fulmar
  • Blue Petrel
  • Antarctic Prion
  • Black-bellied Storm-petrel
  • Wilson's Storm-petrel
  • Blue eyed-shag
  • Imperial Shag
  • Rock Shag
  • Brown Skua
  • South Polar Skua
  • Chilean Skua
  • South American Tern
  • Antarctic Tern
  • Dolphin Gull
  • Kelp Gull
  • Magellanic Oystercatcher
  • Snowy Sheathbill


  • Humpback Whale
  • Weddell Seal
  • Crabeater Seal
  • Leopard Seal
  • Southern Elephant Seal
  • Antarctic fur seal

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