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Trip Logs

Antarctica Discovery: Beyond the Antarctic Circle Trip Log: January 19–February 2, 2024

Trip Logs

Antarctica Discovery: Beyond the Antarctic Circle Trip Log: January 19–February 2, 2024

Photography by Michelle Valberg | January 22, 2024

January 21, 2024 | Ushuaia

It has been a rather long — yet very exciting — day, one that began early at our hotel in Buenos Aires. After a quick breakfast, we transferred to the airport for our charter flight to Ushuaia — the world’s southernmost city — in Southern Patagonia.

Stepping off the plane, we were whisked to a hotel high on the mountainside for a sumptuous lunch. We then made our way to sleek, luxurious ‘Le Lyrial,’ where our luggage awaited.

Champagne flowed while the wind howled outside. After meeting our Expedition Team — boasting about 400 years of combined Antarctic experience between them — we set sail on an extraordinary voyage, knowing we’re in the best of hands.

January 22, 2024 | At Sea Across the Drake Passage

Last night was bumpy and today followed suit. Fortunately, ‘Le Lyrial’ was well-equipped for the conditions, handling the swell with grace.

As we continued crossing the Drake Passage, we sat down to a talk on seabirds of the Southern Ocean. Following were tips from our photo coach — a Nikon Ambassador — on composition and creativity in photography.

Then, afternoon presentations centered around the creation of Gondwana and Roald Amundsen, perhaps the greatest Polar explorer of them all.

A wonderful evening followed with Captain Michel Quioc's welcome cocktail party and dinner, after which we retired for a good night’s sleep on calmer seas.

January 23, 2024 | At Sea Across the Drake Passage

This special A&K voyage takes us down to Marguerite Bay and seldom-visited sites. Although covering 850 nautical miles from Ushuaia takes time, enriching activities filled our time.

This morning, our marine mammal expert gave a beautifully illustrated presentation on the cetaceans of the Southern Ocean, punctuated by filmed interactions. After a briefing on Zodiac safety and Antarctic protocol in anticipation of tomorrow’s landing, our photo coach gave tips on iPhone photography. Then, our resident ornithologist discussed the diversity of penguins.

Throughout the day — and in the evening light — guests at the ship’s stern marveled at passing icebergs and albatross sightings, among them the light-mantled variety.

Around 2 a.m. tonight, we anticipate crossing the Antarctic Circle at 66° 33' south, first crossed by James Cook on January 17, 1773.

January 24, 2024 | Jenny Island, Antarctica

We crossed the Antarctic Circle early this morning, skirting the southern end of Adelaide Island beneath sunny skies. With icebergs bobbing all around us, we set out on a Zodiac tour, landing on Jenny Island with its high cliffs.

We walked around in awe of our surroundings, with ice-covered mountains as far as the eye could see. Elephant seals lounged on pebbled beaches on both sides of the landing site, while Adelie penguins and a sleek Weddell seal lent further interest.

Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we proceeded to Bongrain Point, a headland forming the southern entrance to Dalgliesh Bay, on the west side of Pourquoi Pas Island. Sunshine notwithstanding, the wind was cold, but it failed to affect our experience in any way. Cliffs, colonies of Adelie penguins, a massive glacier, nesting skuas, kelp gulls and Weddell seals delivered a visual feast.

During the afternoon excursion, our storyteller discussed British navy officer Robert Falcon Scott, who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions — the Discovery expedition (1901–04) and the Terra Nova expedition (1910–13). Exhausted by their trek, they arrived at the South Pole only to learn Roald Amundsen beat them by about a month.

After a fascinating discussion about the discovery of Antarctica, our Captain announced humpback whales could be seen lunge-feeding all around ‘Le Lyrial.’ Dinner was forgotten as we rushed to the outer decks to witness the wondrous creatures. What an exquisite first day in Antarctica.

January 25, 2024 | Stonington Island and the Debenham Islands

It was another breathtaking day on the White Continent, beginning with a morning on rocky Stonington Island at the southern end of Marguerite Bay. Under sunny, blue skies, we viewed two historic bases ¬— East Base (U.S.A.) and Base E (British). Many Antarctic Peninsula surveying missions were conducted from these bases, both by sled dog and aircraft. The surrounding glacier — once attached to the island — is so photographic that a couple among us chose to renew their wedding vows.

In the afternoon, we hoped to visit Red Rock Ridge, a red-hued promontory that’s home to a large Adélie penguin colony. Alas, the winds were gusting at 40 knots, making the journey unwise. We continued to the Debenham Islands, appreciating their exquisite icescapes instead. After appreciating a mighty glacier and myriad icebergs, we observed the year-round Argentine San Martin Base; Weddell and crabeater seals; and nesting blue-eyed shags.

Tonight’s recap was a lively, fun affair that carried past dinner when we enjoyed a tribute to ABBA by our onboard musicians.

January 26, 2024 | Laird Island

Today was full of surprises. We awoke to thick fog, heavy snow and rough seas. We abandoned plans to visit Chrystal Sound and instead made our way to nearby, mountainous Laird Island.

The fog lifted to reveal pack ice and upward of 200 crabeater seals. We explored by Zodiac, as brash ice was pushed about by 30-knot winds. The water’s surface was choppy, causing us to get wet — an exhilarating experience indeed. Meanwhile, rare snow petrels with white plumage and black bills soared above.

After returning to our ship, some doughty souls braved a dip in the heated onboard swimming pool. In the afternoon, we attended a deeply informative talk about the cryosphere, followed by a discussion on Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Those belonging to A&K's Marco Polo Club then attended a private cocktail party. After dinner, onboard dancers put on a rousing — and thoroughly enjoyable — show.

January 27, 2024 | Argentine Islands

The morning’s sailing was breathtaking as we navigated myriad icebergs on calm seas with icy mountain peaks in all directions. We heard a presentation on seals of the Southern Ocean, the most evocative of which focused on the leopard seal. Next came a talk on experienced sealer Nathaniel Brown Palmer of Stonington, Connecticut, who discovered the mainland of Antarctica.

We spent the afternoon cruising the Argentine Islands aboard Zodiacs. Pausing, we paid a visit to Winter Island. Under John Riddoch Rymill, the British Graham Land Expedition built a hut while based here. Destroyed in 1946, the British Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey then established a permanent base on the same site (Base F). Its main building — Wordie House — is now a protected historic site. After viewing its restored rooms filled with period artifacts, we continued navigating the channels, seeing penguin colonies and two beautifully marked Weddell seals lying on the snow. After dinner, we enjoyed a lovely piano recital. It was the perfect end to a magical day.

January 28, 2024 | Petermann Island

We were met with varied weather conditions today, beginning with a calm ocean and sunny skies. We were soon met with heavy snow, which fell throughout the morning. Undeterred, we landed at stony, partially glaciated Petermann Island off the northwest coast of the Kyiv Peninsula.

We observed blue-eyed cormorants; breeding Adélie and gentoo penguins; and a cairn high above the sea erected by Jean-Martin Charcot’s men. In 1909, Charcot wintered his ship Pourquoi Pas? in a small bay on the island’s southeast side.

Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we continued to Port Charcot, a small bay at the north end of Booth Island. Charcot established the French expedition’s winter base here in 1904. A humpback whale and all three types of brushtail penguins — gentoo, Adélie and chinstrap —entertained us during the visit.

Continuing onward, we sailed the breathtaking Lemaire Channel (Kodak Gap), where sheer cliffs hem in the iceberg-filled passage. Poor visibility didn’t allow for the exquisite views we hoped for. Still, it was an extraordinary day in Antarctica, again.

January 29, 2024 | Danco Island and Neko Harbour

It was calm and sunny as we landed on Danco Island along the picturesque Errera Channel. The snow was hard and crisp as we walked up the hill. While observing a gentoo penguin colony from above, we spotted humpback whales. Returning to our Zodiacs, we set out to see the frolicking behemoths up close.

Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we cruised the Errera Channel — the Antarctic Alps — at a leisurely pace, taking in the scenery outdoors and enjoying a luxurious seafood buffet.

Our afternoon was spent on land amid beautiful Neko Harbour, known for its striking, calving glacier; penchant for avalanches; and myriad icebergs. As evening approached, a large, unhurried pod of orca surfaced around the ship, including males with impressive, six-foot dorsal fins. Antarctica continued to take our breath away.

January 30, 2024 | Anvers Island

We ventured out by Zodiac in cold, snowy conditions, observing moss and lichens around Torgersen and Litchfield Islands.

After lunch, we paid a visit to the Palmer Station, a United States research station on Anvers Island. Here, A&K Philanthropy aids the Antarctica Climate Change Project, which studies the effects of climate change on the Southern Ocean’s polar marine life. To our surprise, a massive iceberg grounded itself just off the station’s new pier. Some chose to explore the mountainous island, while others viewed the BBC documentary “Seven Worlds, One Planet” aboard ‘Le Lyrial.’

This evening, our dancers performed in the lounge after dinner. Then, we hit the dance floor, with DJ-fueled moves of our own. As the breathtaking scenery scrolled by, 9,055-foot Mount Français revealed her western flanks as a glorious Antarctic farewell.

January 31, 2024 | Crossing the Drake Passage

Last night, we entered the open water of the Drake Passage. Gentle, comfortable, rolling movement began on the ship and continued all day today.

Our storyteller shared tales of survivors Otto Nordenskjöld, Jean-Martin Charcot and Douglas Mawson. Next, naturalist Russ Manning — a British Antarctic Survey Base commander — relayed his personal and professional experiences during his time spent in Antarctica, from climbing into deep crevasses to making rum-spiked truffles.

Next, our ornithologist spoke at length about seabird conservation and the role fisheries play protecting species, such as the albatross and petrel. Current mitigation measures include setting long lines at night and employing bait capsules.

At teatime, we indulged in French macarons, followed by a presentation on migratory humpback whales. These guardian angels of the sea deliberately disrupt killer whale hunts, preventing other species from falling prey.

Our Captain's farewell cocktail party and dinner was a wonderful finale to an amazing journey, as was the crew’s talent show — and karaoke fun with fellow travellers.

February 1, 2024 | Crossing the Drake Passage and Beagle Channel to Ushuaia

On a voyage bursting with superlatives, our Captain surprised us again, announcing we’d pass the rocky headland of Cape Horn in southern Chile's Tierra del Fuego, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Historically, passages around Cape Horn were dangerous, wrecking some 800 ships and killing upwards of 10,000 sailors between its discovery and the 20th century. Until the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it nonetheless was favored over routes. Sailing around Cape Horn is the maritime equivalent of summiting Everest, so viewing the coast from a safe distance was an unexpected, singular bonus.

After a talk on being stewards of the earth amid global warming, we returned our borrowed boots and waterproof trousers; viewed a video of our voyage; and watched the film, “Around Cape Horn,” showing life onboard the square-rigged, bark ‘Peking.’ We then heard a humbling, sad story about the five women closest to Scott’s polar party. Wrapping up an enriching day, we watched an exquisite video documenting our journey, courtesy of our photo coach.

As we arrived in Ushuaia, the wind was howling at 50 knots, so the port was temporarily closed. ‘Le Lyrial’ stood off a few hours, while we enjoyed a happy dinner onboard. By 11 p.m., we pulled alongside the quay. It was an interesting end to our extraordinary journey south of the Antarctic Circle.

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