Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands: Photography Adventure Trip Log: January 3–20, 2023
January 5, 2023 | Ushuaia, Argentina
This is the day so many of us have dreamed about for years — embarking on a cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. After an early start in Buenos Aires, we flew south to Ushuaia.
While enjoying a delicious lunch overlooking the Beagle Channel, the excitement among A&K guests was palpable. Given the onset of wind was expected, we departed aboard ‘Le Lyrial’ sooner than initially anticipated.
After a warm welcome from Expedition Director, Suzana D'Oliveira, and Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, our Cruise Director familiarized us with the vessel. Then, we met our experienced Expedition Team, who hail from all corners of the globe. Clearly, they are passionate about Antarctica and are experts in their respective fields.
Upon completing a mandatory safety briefing, we were assured of calm seas en route to the Falkland Islands. Moving with the current and prevailing winds of the Drake Passage, ‘Le Lyrial’ revealed herself as a sleek, modern and stable floating luxury hotel, one assuring comfort and style throughout our travels.
January 6, 2023 | At Sea en Route to the Falklands
As we sailed across calm seas, there was a good showing for today’s early morning stretch class. Once guests ensured their parkas, boots and waterproof trousers were a good fit, ornithologist, Patri Silva, gave a passionate talk about the seabirds of the Southern Ocean.
After we received our Zodiac safety briefing, we viewed a beautifully narrated video by Sir David Attenborough, enlightening us to important considerations on land.
Later, Order of Canada recipient, Nikon Ambassador and photo coach, Michelle Valberg, shared some of her exquisite images and provided helpful tips on photographic composition, light and exposure, enabling us to best capture the raw beauty that awaits. Capping things off, our Expedition Team let us know what to expect during our time on the Falkland Islands
Prior to a gala dinner on deck two, Captain Julien Duroussy introduced his senior officers to us A&K guests. Taking in the beautiful sunset, we were abuzz about tomorrow’s landing on Albatross Island.
January 7, 2023 | West Point Island & Grave Cove, Falklands
Early this morning, we dropped anchor off West Point Island, situated on the northwestern corner of the Falklands archipelago. Its dramatic, west-facing cliffs — sand dune-like in appearance — are the highest in the Falklands, with Cliff Mountain rising some 1,250 feet. The breathtaking drop-offs and cliffs stand in stark contrast to the windswept landscape of Stanley itself.
As we approached the landing site — much to the delight of bird enthusiasts — we saw Magellanic penguins; steamer ducks; Patagonian crested ducks; and upland, kelp and ruddy-headed geese, as well as oystercatchers, striated caracaras, austral thrushes and turkey vultures. Once ashore, we walked or rode in Land Rovers to encounter the albatross and penguin colonies.
As we explored the island’s western cliff tops, we enjoyed sightings of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatrosses, which share space to raise their young. Interestingly, the albatrosses — their eggs or chicks on raised nests — issue an elaborate beak-clicking greeting. As seabirds rode the wind, we took in ocean vistas at every turn. The was a scene so stunning, it was hard to encapsulate in words.
Changing gears, we then sat down to a sumptuous afternoon tea at a nearby farmhouse, the perfect pause to appreciate the day’s magnificent blue skies and balmy temperatures.
Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we continued onward to Grave Cove, its grim name nodding to the sealers who are buried in remote graves in the sheltered bay. Gaining insight from the cove’s landowner, we witnessed prolific birdlife, including fascinating gentoo penguin colonies.
As the evening wound down, a screening of “The Endurance” — Shackleton's incredible survival story — was shown, with original footage from Frank Hurley.
January 8, 2023 | At Sea
Spending the day at sea, calm waters prevailed. Geologist, Jason Hicks, delivered an enriching talk about the break-up of Gondwanaland and how the continents were formed. Marine mammals lecturer, Pierre Richard, then spoke entertainingly about the region’s seals.
Meanwhile, our crew prepared our boots for the upcoming landing on South Georgia, ensuring no foreign organic matter would be introduced to the pristine landscape. After a chocolate-laden afternoon tea with live music, guests took in additional photography tips from our resident photo coach.
All told, it was a special day on the ocean, from dawn until dusk.
January 9, 2023 | At Sea
Our voyage west toward South Georgia continued on calm seas, while an enrichment presenataion chronicled the history of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to reach the South Pole on December 14, 1911.
This afternoon, we passed Shag Rocks, a tiny fragment of the Andes left in the middle of the ocean when the continents drifted apart. Fin whales were seen frolicking about the ship, along with hundreds of Antarctic prions and imperial shags.
Richard Harker shared tips on shooting quality photos of South Georgia using an iPhone. The most spectacular and mountainous of all the Sub-Antarctic islands, its scenic beauty and biodiversity beggar belief.
January 10, 2023 | South Georgia
Arriving at the sheltered bay that harbors the photogenic Stromness Whaling Station, we headed ashore on our Zodiacs — cameras at the ready. Rain and windy conditions notwithstanding, everyone was in awe of nature’s beauty. Upon making land on the beach, Antarctic fur seals were seen by the thousand, with pups gamboling about. We witness elephant seals and a multitude of birds as well.
Taking in all this splendor, we walked up the valley to view the waterfall explorers Shackleton, Worsley and Crean descended as the last obstacle during their epic hike across South Georgia from King Haakon Bay.
Back onboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we cruised into the adjacent bay during lunch, where we viewed the remains of Leith Whaling Station, the largest on South Georgia. The afternoon was spent at another photographer’s delight — Fortuna Bay, named after the Norwegian-Argentine vessel that was instrumental in establishing South Georgia Island’s first whaling station.
We then made the mile-long walk to see a colony of 9,000 breeding pairs of king penguins. Next to the landing site, a cave offered evidence of sealers, who plied these waters long before the whalers did. A large leopard seal followed a Zodiac back to the landing site. While it inquisitively bobbed about the moored boats, fur seal pups put on an amusing show.
Reflecting on the majesty at hand, we later learned about stationary lenticular clouds, which resemble UFOs, and the complex breeding arrangements of king penguins, who usually have this year's and last year's two chicks at their feet.
After dinner, classical pianist, Uliana Chubun, gave a magnificent performance — a beautiful end to an extraordinary day.
January 11, 2023 | Grytviken & St. Andrew's Bay
Upon approaching Grytviken and King Edward Cove under windy conditions, South Georgia’s government officials were on hand to complete biosecurity checks. While we waited for the wind to die down, Storyteller Rob Caskie gave an illuminating, hour-long presentation on Shackleton, who lies buried at Grytviken.
As mother nature’s power prevailed, astronaut, Susan Kilrain, and photographer, Michelle Valberg, stepped in to provide us with enriching talks that further lent a sense of place.
Having found calmer waters, our Expedition Team recapped today’s weather events and said they were hopeful for a beautiful morning in Gold Harbour.
January 12, 2023 | Gold Harbour & Drygalski Fjord
Although we anticipated a landing at Gold Harbour this morning, plans changed on account of the ongoing swell. So, our Captain quickly repositioned ‘Le Lyrial’ into Moltke Harbour, a mile-wide bay on the northwest side of Royal Bay. Thanks to our Expedition Team’s “can do” attitude, we enjoyed sightings of elephant seal, fur seal and a large colony of nesting gentoo penguin.
Back onboard, we ventured south toward dramatic Drygalski Fjord, which is situated on a major fault line. Geologist Jason Hicks discussed its geologic significance and highlighted the differences between the sides of the fjord. Later, storyteller, Rob Caskie, relayed the events of Scott's journey to the South Pole and the resulting deaths of all five men.
This evening, the atmosphere aboard was buoyant, guests enthralled by the magic of South Georgia, excited about the Antarctic adventures to come and pleased to turn their clocks back on account of changing time zones.
January 13, 2023 | At Sea
Luck was on our side this Friday the 13th as we proceed southwest toward Antarctica on very calm seas.
Geologist, Jason Hicks, gave a fascinating, timely presentation on ice, during which we learned 90% of Earth's fresh water is held in Antarctica's ice. Naturalists were also on hand to assist with bird identification on the outer decks. Meanwhile, our photo coaches shared additional tips and tricks, which proved especially helpful for capturing images of prions and snow petrels, known for their rapid flight patterns.
Next, our entertaining ornithologist, Patri, shared a spot-on imitation of penguins' calls; marine mammal expert, Pierre Richard, discussed whales and dolphins of the Southern Ocean; and our very own British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Base Commander, Russ Manning, gave an insightful, entertaining talk about life at an Antarctic station. His firsthand expertise is clear, having spent 36 years working in Antarctica, including two back-to-back winters on the White Continent.
All in all, our day at sea further highlighted the immeasurable insight from A&K’s Expedition Team, who has around 400 collective years of on-the-ground experience in Antarctica.
After some A&K guests attended a private Marco Polo cocktail party with the Captain and senior officers, it was time to review our day at sea. The gathering was a lively, laughter-filled affair, with a chance to view some of our prized photographs from the journey thus far.
January 14, 2023 | Crossing the Scotia Sea
Today was another peaceful day at sea, punctuated by enrichment lectures, wonderful food and whale sightings.
To start the day, our team delivered presentations on some of Antarctica’s lesser-known characters. Resident astronaut Susan Kilrain then spoke about the Space Age.
Part of the afternoon was spent ensuring we are all biosecure for our entry into Antarctica. This involved cleaning our outer clothing, zippers, Velcro and boots.
As we reflected on the day and days to come, naturalist, JD Massyn talked about Herbert Ponting's poem, “The Sleeping Bag” and the Expedition Team sang a song about the men who sheltered beneath two upturned lifeboats on Elephant Island, where Shackleton's team first made landfall late in April of 1916.
While approaching Elephant Island this evening, Jason Hicks spoke about the island’s geology and storyteller, Rob Caskie, delved deeper into Ernest Shackleton's ‘Endurance’ crew, who camped at Point Wild until their rescue on August 30, 1916. He then, on request, shared a suggested reading list for guests.
Well worth delaying tonight’s dinner, we spotted a pod of huge fin whales nearby. After all that excitement, guests went to bed in preparation for an early morning on Penguin Island in the South Shetland Islands.
January 15, 2023 | Fort Point & Deception Island
We anchored in the South Shetland Islands early this morning — our first Antarctic landing. Excitement about our visit to Penguin Island was palpable, as was the enthusiasm about walking up Deacon Peak, a 560-foot volcanic caldera.
A scouting Zodiac left ‘Le Lyrial’ at 6:20am, only to return with news that wind and brash ice along the shoreline would make landing impossible. So, our crew quickly pivoted to plan B and we traveled three hours south to Fort Point. Situated at the southeast edge of Greenwich Island, the sheltered landing site was anticipated to have north/northwesterly winds.
Our Expedition Team’s intimate knowledge of the region proved correct, and we began landing on Fort Point around 11am. The swell around the ship was impressive, though our experienced Zodiac drivers and deck hands did an incredible job of loading and unloading guests.
Once on solid ground, exposed, rocky crags contrasted beautifully with massive ice fields and glaciers, making it a dream replacement for Penguin Island in every sense. Beyond the breathtaking scenery, nesting chinstrap and gentoo penguins provided much interest.
Back aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we proceeded toward Deception Island, home to one of only two active volcanoes in Antarctica. Setting it apart from neighboring islands, its narrow entrance — called Neptune's Bellows —allows ships into the water-filled caldera.
Once a sheltered anchorage used by sealers and, later, whalers, Whaler's Bay was later the objective of Operation Tabarin — a secret British expedition during WWII that established bases here in 1944. However, all activities ceased in 1969 after a violent volcanic eruption destroyed the bases, swept away the cemetery and considerably altered the landscape with a four- to-six-foot layer of ash and cinder.
We initially cruised around Port Foster, observing remains of the whaling station and photographing the landscape where ice and snow were blanketed in ash and oxidized material.
Capping the day’s unforgettable experiences, we embarked on a Zodiac tour around Whaler's Bay before returning to our beautiful ship for a late dinner. It was a magnificent start to our visit on and around the White Continent.
January 16, 2023 | Wilhelmina Bay & Cuverville Island
This morning, we embarked on a Zodiac tour of the confluence of the Leonardo Glacier and Wilhelmina Bay. Enroute, an adult minke whale swim beneath the craft, surfacing to observe us in detail. In true A&K style, guests in each Zodiac toasted — Champagne flutes in and — to the White Continent and this unforgettable experience.
Once aboard ‘Le Lyrial,’ we partook in the world’s southernmost barbecue before viewing "On Thin Ice.” Narrated by David Attenborough, it emphasized how climate change is affecting the Polar regions.
During the afternoon, we landed on Cuverville Island. Earlier snow melted considerably, leaving the surface rocky. From this vantage point, we watched humpback whales cruise amid abundant icebergs. On the way back to the ship, we were delighted to see a leopard seal up close.
Before gathering this evening, a massive tabular iceberg with a symmetrical arch presented a great opportunity for budding photographers. Rob Caskie then spoke about secretive Operation Tabarin, during which the British established permanently manned bases down here to deter Germany during the war.
As luck would have it, we next observed a pod of orca nearby our vessel. Entering Dallmann Bay, situated between Brabant and Anvers Islands, we observed a group of humpback whales as they lunge fed — a fitting end to another spectacular day in the Antarctic.
January 17, 2023 | Neko Harbour & Port Lockroy
Our morning began early in Neko Harbour, a particularly scenic bay with an actively calving glacier. Upon reaching the landing site, snow and freezing temperatures made for slick conditions. Needless to say, the walking poles provided by A&K came in handy.
Gentoo penguins went about the day as we hiked up the hill to a higher penguin colony. The views over the bay were spectacular, with glaciers and mountains abundant in all directions. Meanwhile, our Zodiac drivers cleared a channel through constantly shifting ice along the shoreline and ‘Le Lyrial’ repositioned to avoid large, mobile icebergs.
Before returning to the ship, guests snapped pictures in front of the number seven sign, commemorating their visit to the seventh continent. The Zodiac ride back was invigorating, as snow fell from the sky.
We continued onward through the beautiful Neumayer Channel in the Palmer Archipelago. Thanks to the favorable conditions, guests were blessed with an Antarctic wonderland.
Around 1:30pm, we disembarked at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island, discovered by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1903. Before Operation Tabarin established Port Lockroy Station A in 1943, its bay was used for whaling. Today, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust runs a museum and gentoo penguin research project here. It’s also the site of the world's most remote post office, affording guests the chance to send postcards from Antarctica.
Curious skua and sheathbill penguins put on quite the show, while humpback whales lent further excitement during our Zodiac tour.
Tonight, two members of our Expedition Team — one an Iditarod participant with 40 canines — discussed dog racing, mushing, nutrition and the history of dogs in Antarctica. Next came a hilarious — and memorable — red-jacket albatross presentation.
Tonight, we began our 48-hour journey back to Ushuaia, crossing the Drake Passage over what we hope are smooth, calm waters.
January 18, 2023 | Crossing the Drake Passage
After a bumpy evening crossing the Drake Passage, the sea was considerably calmer today. Astronaut, Susan Kilrain, began the day with a talk about her past roles as a Navy test pilot and space commander. Our Expedition Team gathered our borrowed books, jackets and waterproof trousers, which will remain on ship when we disembark in Ushuaia.
Expedition Leader, Marco Favero, and ornithology lecturer, Dr. Patricia Silva, then spoke about the importance of seabird conservation in fisheries. A subject very close to their hearts, it’s also one meaningful to A&K, which has donated to assist ongoing efforts. Next, photo coach, Michelle Valberg, shared tips on how to process our images.
This afternoon, our Captain and crew welcomed 20 guests for a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at operations aboard ‘Le Lyrial’ — the perfect precursor to tonight’s festive farewell dinner.
January 19, 2023 | Crossing the Drake Passage & Beagle Channel
Bridge visits continued today on calm seas. Meanwhile, our onboard marine mammals lecturer, Pierre Richard, offered a presentation on Polar marine food webs, comparing Arctic and Antarctic environments.
Once we received our disembarkation briefing, we viewed a beautifully assembled video and photographs from our voyage. Sitting down to crêpes Suzette — and stylings of pianist Volodymyr Talakh — we partook in afternoon tea. Capping the day’s enrichment offerings, storyteller, Rob Caskie, next spoke about Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Otto Nordenskiöld of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition (1901–1904).
After we enjoyed some caviar, the members of our Expedition Team auctioned off the vessel’s wind-whipped A&K pennant, with the proceeds going to an A&K Philanthropy project. As a lovely bookend to an amazing journey, JD Massyn shared a poignant visual memoir of our voyage together — and a reminder of the importance of ongoing Antarctic conservation.
Dinner was an animated affair on deck two, complemented by a live dance performance. As the evening wound down, guests were reluctant to go to bed, knowing this was the last night of an unforgettable Antarctic experience with A&K.
Wildlife Sightings on This Journey
- King Penguin
- Gentoo Penguin
- Adelie Penguin
- Chinstrap Penguin
- Rockhopper Penguin
- Macaroni Penguin
- Magellanic Penguin
- Southern Royal Albatross
- Wandering Albatross
- Black-browed Albatross
- Grey-headed Albatross
- Light-mantled Albatross
- Southern Giant Petrel
- Northern Giant Petrel
- White-chinned Petrel
- Cape (Pintado) Petrel
- Snow Petrel
- Southern Fulmar
- Great Shearwater
- Sooty shearwater
- Blue Petrel
- Prion sp.
- Antarctic Prion
- Slender-billed Prion
- Black-bellied Storm-petrel
- Wilson's Storm-petrel
- Common Diving-petrel
- Blue eyed-shag
- Rock Shag
- Chilean Skua
- Brown Skua
- South Polar Skua
- Parasitic jaeger (Arctic skua)
- South American Tern
- Antarctic Tern
- Dolphin Gull
- Kelp Gull
- Kelp Goose
- Upland Goose
- Ruddy-headed Goose
- Flightless Steamer-duck
- Patagonian Crested Duck
- South Georgia Pintail
- Speckled teal
- Chiloe wigeon
- Turkey vulture
- Chimango Caracara
- Striated Caracara
- Black-crowned Night-heron
- Blackish Oystercatcher
- Magellanic Oystercatcher
- Snowy Sheathbill
- Blackish Cinclodes (Tussac Bird)
- South Georgia Pipit
- Dark-faced Ground-tyrant
- Austral Thrush
- Long-tailed Meadowlark
- Black-throated Finch
- Fin Whale
- Sei Whale
- Minke Whale
- Humpback Whale
- Southern Right Whale
- Commerson´s Dolphin
- Peale's Dolphin
- Weddell Seal
- Leopard Seal
- Southern Elephant Seal
- Antarctic fur seal
- Southern sea lion
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