Diary by Plancius
19th March 2014 – 29th April 2014
On board the
MV Plancius was named after the Dutch astronomer, cartographer, geologist and vicar Petrus Plancius (1552‐1622). Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was namedHr. Ms. Tydeman. The ship sailed for the Royal Dutch Navy until June 2004 when she was purchased by
Oceanwide Expeditions and completely refit in 2007, being converted into a 114 passenger expedition vessel.
Plancius is 89 m (267 feet) long, 14.5 m (43 feet) wide and has a maximum draft of 5 m, with an Ice Strengthrating of 1D, top speed of 12+ knots and three diesel engines generating 1230 hp each.
Captain Evgeny Levakov
and his International Crew
Expedition Leader – Rinie van Meurs
Assistant Expedition Leader – Brent Houston (America)
Guide/Lecturer – Ali Liddle (UK / Falkland Islands)
Guide & Lecturer – Simon Cook (UK)
Guide/Lecturer – Albert Beintema (The Netherlands)
Guide/Lecturer – James Cresswell (Wales)
Hotel Manager – Marck Warmenhoven (The Netherlands)
Assistant Hotel Manager – Lilian van Meurs (Poland)
Head Chef – Ralf Barthel (Germany / New Zealand)
Sous Chef – Heinz Hacker (Austria)
Ship’s Physician – Sam Crimmin (UK)
Chief Officer – Tuoma Leskinen (Finland)
Chief Engineer – Teunis Van t’Verlaat (The Netherlands)
Chief Electrician – Oleg Andreiev (Ukraine)
Welcome you all on board Plancius!
Day 1 – Wednesday March 19th 2014
Embarkation – Ushuaia, Argentina
GPS 08.00 Position: 35°04’S / 055°46’W
Weather: Wind Variable 2. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Overcast. Temperature: +6°C
So here we are at last in Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of the world. Well,
from Ushuaia we’ll be going south for a while and then we have a long way
north to travel but for today, we ambled about this lovely Patagonian city,
savouring the local flavours and enjoying the sights. Ushuaia marks the end
of the road in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, but also the beginning – the
beginning of once‐in‐a‐lifetime adventure. During the summer this rapidly
growing frontier town of 55,000 bustles with adventurous travellers. The
duty‐free port flourishes with tourism but also thrives on a sizeable crab
fishery and a burgeoning electronics industry. Ushuaia (lit. “bay that
penetrates to the west” in the indigenous Yaghan tongue) clearly benefits
from its magnificent, yet remote setting. The rugged spine of the South American Andes ends here, where two
oceans meet. As could be expected from such an exposed setting, the weather has the habit of changing on a whim.
However, temperatures during the long days of the austral summer are relatively mild, providing a final blanket of
warmth before heading off on our adventures.
For many of us this is the culmination of a lifelong dream. The excitement comes in different forms for each unique
person, but even the most experienced of us feels genuine excitement to depart for such a magical destination. It
was a bit of a grey, damp afternoon as we made our way along the port but most passengers were promptly at the
gangway at 16.00, ready to board our ship MV Plancius, home for the next few weeks. We were greeted by members
of our Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board to meet
Hotel and Restaurant Manager, Marck and his Assistant Lilian. We were then
checked into our cabins with the assistance of our fabulous hotel crew.
A little while after boarding we convened in the lounge on deck five to meet
Expedition Leader Rinie van Mears who welcomed us on board the ship.
Marck, our Hotel Manager, then took over the microphone and gave us a
general overview of the ship our home for the next 39 days. We then had a
chance to meet the expedition staff who will guide us on our exciting
Odyessy voyage. A short while after our departure from the pier of Ushuaia
Chief Officer, Tuoma led us through the details of the required SOLAS (Safety
Of Life At Sea) Safety and Lifeboat Drill, assisted by the crew and staff. On hearing the alarm we reconvened for the
mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill donning our huge orange life jackets that will keep us safe should
the need arise. With the knowledge and comfort of knowing that we are in good hands with this multinational crew,
we returned to the outer decks to watch the Beagle’s rugged coastline glide past.
At around 19:30 we met in the lounge once again and it was chance to meet our
Captain, Evgeny Levakov who welcomed us on board and also had to explain that, due
to a severe storm passing through the top of the Drake Passage our departure would
be delayed until sea and weather conditions were deemed safe. A sensible and safe
decision. There was then time to raise a glass to toast our Atlantic Odyssey; a voyage
some very remote Atlantic outposts. A short while later we were invited to the dining
room to enjoy the first of many delicious meals onboard, prepared by Chefs Ralf and
Heinz and their galley staff. This first evening on board was occupied with more
exploration of the ship, adjusting to her movements, and settling into our cabins. We
have exciting adventures ahead!
Day 2 – Thursday March 20th 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 055°00’S / 066°45’W
Weather: Wind NNW 8. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 4°C.
During the night, just before midnight the pilot, who had navigated Plancius
down the Beagle Channel had disembarked from the ship and we sailed a little
further down the channel before the anchor was dropped. The sheltered waters
of the Beagle Channel were to be our destination for now due to the big storm
passing across the northern part of the Drake Passage.
At 7:45 we heard the first wake‐up call of the trip from Rinie, our Expedition
leader explaining that we were indeed at anchor and would remain so for a
good part of the day to allow the weather system to pass by. Even at anchor in
sheltered waters we could see that the sea was being whipped up by winds gusting at over 50 knots, particularly
during the snow and sleet squalls that were racing through and it was a wild scene out of the windows. There was
some motion on board but most of us made it down to breakfast before
heading up to the bridge and lounge to see what the weather was
throwing at us. During the morning Rinie gave us an update from the
bridge to let us know that we would be at anchor for the rest of the day
so we settled down to a day on board. At 10am Albert invited us to the
lounge to give a presentation entitled ‘Who Discovered Antarctica?’ His
talk gave a fascinating insight into some of the first explorers in these
treacherous waters and unknown lands, places that these days we take
for granted that we can travel to on board a comfortable cruise ship.
During the late part of the morning Marck invited us to the lounge to
explain about the e‐mail and internet facilities we have on board for those of us wanting to stay in contact with
family and friends back home. Many of us may be quite happy to be out of contact for a while…… At 12:30, lunch
was served and afterwards there was time for some rest and relaxation if it was needed before the next activity of
the day; the issuing of rubber boots. Staff invited us to the boot room and made sure we all got the right sized boots
to keep our feet warm and dry during the cold part of this long voyage.
By late afternoon Rosie had a banana cake treat on the bar for us
and then we were invited down to the dining room by Simon for a
presentation about the seabirds of the Drake Passage and
Antarctica. He had some great photographs of the species we’re
likely to encounter on the first part of our voyage and gave some
really interesting information about each of the species and their
characteristics. Birds outside the ship included Black‐browed
Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Imperial Shag and South American
Tern. A curious female South American Sea Lion checked us out. In
the early evening we were invited to join Rinie in the lounge for an
up‐date on our plans and of course a weather forecast. Obviously
we weren’t going to be going anywhere during the night and the Captain would assess the situation in the morning.
The weather chart showed exactly why we had been experiencing such strong winds and with the weather system
covering the whole of the Drake Passage it was certainly an exceptional storm. James then explained about the
Andes mountain chain and the formation of the Beagle Channel before we were invited to the dining room for
dinner. It had felt like a bit of a long day on board for some but hopefully the weather would be much improved by
tomorrow so we could begin our journey south. It might have not been a perfect start to our Odyssey but at least we
were safe, warm and comfortable on board Plancius.
Day 3 – Friday March 21st 2014
At Sea in the Drake Passage
GPS 08.00 Position: 055°00.’S / 066°45’W
Weather: Wind: WSW 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 5°C
Today was the day that we really set sail! After a day sitting at anchor in
the Beagle Channel we were all really hopeful that we would be on our
way before too long. Rinie gave a wake‐up call at 7:45 but many of us
had already been up for a while to look at the weather and sea
conditions and see if things had calmed down enough to start our
journey south. We could all see quite clearly that conditions were much
improved and shortly after 8.00 the Captain decided to heave the
anchor and by 8.30 we were moving towards the eastern end of the
Beagle Channel. As we made our way out of the shelter of the channel
we came across huge flocks of Imperial Shags flying in long lines and
resting on the water. We had seen them struggling in the gales the day
before so they were enjoying the better weather and taking the opportunity to feed in the channel.
After breakfast Ali invited us back to the dining room for a
presentation about albatross and albatross conservation. Having lived
in the Falkland Islands for 15 years she has been lucky enough to
spend time on Steeple Jason where the world’s largest colony of Black
browed albatross is found. She explained about their life ashore
during the breeding season and explained about the problems they
encounter when they come into contact with fishing boats,
particularly long line fishing boats. She did have a good news story
though and due to the work of seabird conservation organisations
around the world, Black browed albatross populations are increasing
and they have been downgraded from Endangered to Near
Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The future looks bright for these iconic seabirds. As the presentation came to an
end we continued to head south but as we steamed farther and farther from land the waves got bigger and bigger.
Although the wind had dropped considerably, the waves created by the storm were still rolling in from the west and
some of us found things a little uncomfortable……
One of the tasks we have to do before we arrive in Antarctica is to clean our outer gear to avoid bringing alien plants
and seeds to the pristine environment. This meant that we had to vacuum clean our clothes and backpacks to
remove any seeds or plant debris. The vacuums were left out in the lounge for us to do this at our leisure.
Lunch was a very quiet affair with a lot of people choosing to stay in their cabins and rest while the worst of the
weather moved on and during the afternoon Plancius was a bit of a ghost ship. However, for those of us brave
enough to go outside there was plenty to see in the form of birds – Sooty Shearwater, Imperial Shag, White‐chinned
Petrel, Wilson’s Storm‐petrel, Southern Fulmar and the first little, grey, prions. There were also five species of
albatross – Black‐browed, Grey‐headed, Light‐mantled Sooty and, largest of all, Wandering and Southern Royal.
Some people were lucky enough to see some marine mammals too, which came in the form of five playful Peale’s
Dolphin, a disappearing Antarctic Minke Whale and two rarely‐seen Southern Bottlenose Whales.
Due to the fact that most people were lying low for the afternoon James decided to postpone his presentation which
would have been about the Geology of Antarctica and South Georgia. It made more sense to do this when we’re all
feeling fit and well once again with suitable sea legs! By late afternoon a few people were emerging from their
cabins and a documentary entitled Oceans – The Southern Ocean was shown in the lounge. This looked at the
marine environment around southern Tasmania which was really interesting but the seas were nowhere near as big
as the ones we were sailing through! Recap was also postponed before dinner but a few people enjoyed a pre‐dinner
drink before heading to the dining room for another enjoyable meal. With the ship still rolling it was a quiet evening
on board. Next stop – Antarctica!
Day 4 – Saturday March 22nd 2014
At Sea in the Drake Passage
GPS 08.00 Position: 057°31’S / 061°29’W
Weather: Wind: W 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 4°C
We awoke this morning after our first night of being underway rather than at
anchor, even though conditions had immensely improved the swell was still
quiet large and a number of us found rolling around in our beds had made
sleeping difficult. Still, despite this there was still a good turn‐out at breakfast
at 8:00, where the conversation seemed to revolve around methods of
staying in one place in a bed where you’re either rolling side to side or head
to foot. There was no agreement reached as to which was the most
comfortable but what was agreed on was that silk pyjamas are not suitable
nightwear for a moving ship in the Drake Passage!
After breakfast James gave the first lecture of the day at 10:00 in the dining room. This was entitled ‘Polar Glaciation’
and was all about the glaciers and ice sheets of Antarctica, South Georgia and the Arctic. It was fascinating to learn
that Antarctica is 99% covered in ice and if it were all to melt it would add 63 m to global sea level. 75% of all the
worlds fresh water is held in the ice of Antarctica and, with some areas of ice
cap up to 4 km deep it is amazing to try and imagine the size of the of the ice
cap covering the Antarctic continent. Just as James’s lecture was coming to an
end, at about 11:00 the officers on the bridge recorded the surface sea water
temperature, which is taken by the engineers in the engine room to check
their engine cooling water. The temperature had dramatically dropped from
5°C to 2°C over a very short space of time. This is because the ship was passing
over the Antarctic convergence. This is the biological boundary of Antarctica
and is an oceanographical phenomenon caused by deep ocean waters
upwelling near to the continent of Antarctica that spread north and are forced
to submerge under the warmer sub tropical waters of South America.
At 11:30 Ali gave us an excellent introduction to the penguin species that we are likely to
encounter in Antarctica and South Georgia. They are an incredible family of birds which
have adapted to life both in the polar regions and in the tropics. Emperor penguins endure
temperatures of ‐ 60°C during the long Antarctic winter while Galapagos penguins swelter
in temperatures of + 40°C. Ali showed us some lovely photos and explained their breeding
behaviour and physical adaptations to their environment. Shortly after the presentation,
lunch was served and there was time for a post lunch snooze or to spend some time on
deck to see what birds could be seen. With less wind there were fewer birds but the keen
birders spotted a number of albatross, Common diving petrels and even a couple of
Rockhopper penguins which would have probably come from Diego Ramirez in Chile. The
best bird species was Kerguelan Petrel, of which two were seen. No marine mammals
today but hopefully calmer conditions in the next days will allow for better viewing of whales and seals.
At 3:00 Rinie invited us to the lounge for a mandatory meeting outlining IAATO (International Association of
Antarctic Tour Operators) guidelines for ‘responsible and sustainable’ tourism to Antarctica. These explained some
of the rules, regulations and recommendations on how to conduct ourselves in Antarctica and how to travel safely in
the zodiacs. The small rubber boats will take us from the ship to the shore and ensure we can get close to some of
the wildlife on zodiac cruises as well. There was some time to enjoy afternoon tea and cake before an episode of the
BBC documentary Frozen Planet was shown in the lounge. This particular episode looked at the effects of climate
change on both the Arctic and Antarctic ice and the animals living there and was a good follow up to the
presentation that James had given in the morning. At recap James explained about the Antarctic convergence while
Ali, with a little help from her students Sam and James showed us just how great (and small) the wing span of the
some of the seabirds really are. With little sense of scale out in the open ocean it is sometimes hard to believe that
the Wandering albatross have a 3.5 m wingspan.
Dinner was well attended as the sea conditions calmed even more but it was to be a short break as the wind
increased once again and Plancius began to roll once again…….
Day 5 – Sunday March 23rd 2014
At Sea & Barrientos Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica
GPS 08.00 Position: 061° 32’S / 060°31’W
Weather: Wind: S 3. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: ‐ 5°C
During the night the weather became stormy again. The wind picked up to 80 knots and
the ship rolled heavily. Most of us got very little sleep, so we were tired by the time
breakfast arrived. But the good news was the night’s storm had passed and conditions
were quickly settling down as we approached the South Shetland Islands. In the morning it
was Albert’s turn to take to the stage and he gave us a lecture all about the Penguin
research he used to do on Elephant Island. It sounds as if he had a very ‘colourful’ time
with both the penguins and fellow scientists……..Today there were a lot of tall, columnar
spouts seen. Most were too far away for us to glimpse the whales themselves but some of
us on the top deck were lucky and saw Fin Whales, the second largest species of whale
after Blue whales. The first Antarctic penguins were seen as well – Chinstrap penguins, of
which we would see more later on. As the ship approached the English Strait two birds,
surprisingly, were found aboard – a Southern Fulmar and an injured Antarctic Petrel. Both
were picked up from the deck and flew strongly away.
As lunch time approached we were nearly at the entrance to the English Strait, a channel
between the islands of the South Shetlands. The ship therefore slowed to allow us to
finish lunch before the dramatic entrance of the channel. The channel is bounded by
several rocky islands and towers all made of the volcanic rock basalt. These islands are
collectively known as Aitcho Islands and we were heading to land on Barrientos Island.
Aitcho takes its name from the British Admiralty’s Hydrographic Office (HO). After three
days at sea we were all very glad to board the zodiacs and get off the ship. On the beach
there were many penguins both Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. There were also many
whale bones that had been recently un‐earthed from the sands on the beach. It looked
as if the recent storm had reorganised the beach completely; moving cobbles and
digging into the sand. We landed at the eastern end of the island and in order to pass to
the western side of the island, we divided into groups and were guided around areas
where sensitive mosses were growing.
On the western side of the island were two very impressive
columns of rock. These columns were clearly made from basalt
and one had columnar cooling structures. On the beach James
explained that these features have been interpreted by others as
volcanic plugs, ‘the vents of volcanoes’. James however thought
they may just be sea stacks formed from the erosive action of the
sea even though the rock itself is indeed made from solidified lava
flows. Also of interest on this western side of the island were
more penguins, several Antarctic fur seals and a female elephant
seal. There was also a huge tabular iceberg wedged near to the
shore. It was explained how this iceberg would have had its origins
further south on the Antarctic mainland and had probably calved
off a floating ice shelf.
Once back on board there was time for a recap before dinner where Ali mentioned the Fur seals we had seen and
explained they had made the journey from South Georgia at the end of the breeding season and Rinie gave an
outline plan about our plans for the next day. As the ship started to make its way south across the Bransfield Strait to
the Antarctic Peninsula and Antarctic Sound we headed down to the dining room for dinner, full of chat about our
afternoon at Barrientos Island .
Day 6 – Monday March 24th 2014
Hope Bay, Antarctic Sound
GPS 08.00 Position: 063°99’S / 057°10’W
Weather: Wind: SSE 9. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Snow. Temperature: ‐ 15°C
We awoke this morning after a much calmer night than the previous night. However all
was not calm outside, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted to ‐
16 °C. We were just inside Antarctic Sound, named from after a ship sailed by Karl Larson
on the Nordenskjold Expedition between 1901 and 1903 that initially explored the area.
This is the channel that separates the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from islands
to the north and connects the Weddell Sea with the Bransfield Strait. As we proceeded
deeper into the Sound we started encountering first and second year ice‐floes that were
drifting out of the Weddell Sea. Then on the radar we could see significant ice up ahead
and it was clear that we would have difficulty reaching on intended landing of Brown
Bluff. It was therefore decided to try and reach the Argentinean station, Esperanza that
lies in Hope Bay. However as the morning continued it became increasingly clear that
even reaching Hope Bay was going to be a challenge as we weaved through the ice floes.
The temperature outside continued to drop. It was now ‐16 °C, however when the
wind chill factor was taken into account it was actually ‐35° C! It was so cold that all
around us the sea was beginning to freeze. There were beautiful examples of grease
ice and pancake ice seen forming all around. On top of this the sea was steaming. This
‘Sea Smoke’ was due to the sea releasing energy to the atmosphere, this is because
there was a large temperature differential between the atmosphere and sea surface.
The air was ‐16 °C but the sea was relatively warm at a mere ‐1.7° C. Just before lunch
Esperanza came into view through the fog. We had done it! Or rather the Captain had,
we had made it into Hope Bay.
While we ate lunch our Expedition Leader Rinie and the Captain discussed whether a
landing at the station would be feasible. The trouble with the situation was ice and
currents prevented the ship from anchoring near to the station, so the zodiac ride would have been long. Added to
this was the extreme temperature and wind. The wind chill factor of ‐35° C could cause frostbite on exposed skin on
people’s faces, so it was decided that unless the wind dropped, thus easing the wind chill factor it would be unsafe
to attempt a landing. We therefore decided to wait for the wind to drop. However after a couple of hours there was
no improvement and it was decided it was best to get out of Hope Bay and head south out of Antarctic Sound. Why
head south? Well the weather chart was showing another severe storm
about to pass through the Drake Passage so it was felt it would be best
to wait a day before our crossing to South Georgia and this would give us
another attempt at making a landing on the Antarctic Continent itself at
As we left Hope Bay, James gave a presentation on ‘Sea Ice’. In this
lecture he explained all about how sea ice forms and the different types
you can encounter. What was really fun about this was we were all able
to look out of the window as he spoke and see real life examples of what
was being said, and we were able to use photos that were taken only
minutes before to illustrate the story. It was hoped that by the time the
lecture had finished we would now be in open water and steaming south, however this was not to be and the ice
was closing in on us. Initially the Captain tried to escape the region by navigating to the west but when the sea
blocked our path we tried to go east, but there was no way out and by dinner time it was clear we were temporally
trapped in the ice. The temperature was now ‐18° C and there was ice all over the ship. For the brave souls who
ventured out into the cold it was possible to get eerie photos of the ship with the ice all around. We all went to sleep
wondering what the night would bring and hoped the Captain would be able to free the ship before too long!
Day 7 – Tuesday, March 25th 2014
Gourdin Island & the Bransfield Strait
GPS 08.00 Position: 063°16’ S / 056°51’ W
Weather: Wind: SSE 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: ‐ 12° C
In the early hours of the morning many people were woken by the sound
of ice scraping along the side of the ship. Scraping ice could only mean
one thing; we were moving. The Captain’s prediction that the wind, tide
and current would allow the ice to break up a little was correct and within
an hour or so of starting navigation we were out of the ice and into open
water. We headed gratefully northwards and although there was still a
lot of ice around the sea was flat calm and was studded with icebergs.
There was no wind at all, to speak of, which made a pleasant change!
Soon we approached Gourdin Island, at the northern end of the Antarctic
Peninsula, where we had hoped to go ashore for another landing before
heading off towards South Georgia. However, there was too much ice at
the landing site in the bay so we went out for a zodiac cruise instead. Compared with yesterday, ‐10 seemed
A number of seals (including Fur seals) had already been seen from the ship
and from the boats we got very close views of several Crabeater seals
hauled out on the ice and further into the pack ice there was also a Leopard
Seal too, resting peacefully on a large floe. She was a young female and was
completely unconcerned by the presence of 3 zodiacs and their occupants.
A few penguins were seen; some Gentoos on ice and one or two Chinstraps
in the water. The star bird of the morning was Snow Petrel, of which two
were seen on ice at very close range. They blended in so well that it was
very difficult to see them until they moved. Everyone who wanted to left the ship and saw that the hull was still
covered in ice from yesterday’s much lower temperature. The morning was a great success!
As soon as the ship weighed anchor some distant whale spouts were spotted so while we were enjoying a buffet
lunch the Captain took Plancius towards the blows and, getting closer, we could see that there were two species –
Antarctic Minke, a sleek baleen whale up to 17 metres in length and Humpback Whales, rotund with long pectoral
fins and up to 15 metres long. Both species gave excellent views and both were present in some numbers. There
were perhaps 15‐20 Minkes and maybe 10 Humpback whales. It was the latter that we got very close to. For a long
time, as we approached, they were lifting their tail flukes high in the air when making a dive. However, when we got
closer they changed their behaviour and were only making shallow dives.
The reason could be seen on the depth sounder – a huge swarm of krill just
below the ship. Two whales peeled away but the other two, a female and a
large calf, stayed with us for a long time. Mostly they were diving to feed
but their curiosity got the better of them so they swam around the ship
several times – right below us! From above we got fantastic views of them
and the sound of them exhaling was unforgettable. Eventually they moved
away so we did too, towards the north and yet more adventures.
That adventure came very quickly! In the distance there was a tongue of
ice that had come out of the Antarctic Sound and as we sailed towards the
end of it more Humpback and Fin whales appeared and there were numerous fur seals too. However, the greatest
excitement came when some Killer Whales were spotted. There were three males that were babysitting two playful
youngsters. The ship was able to get quite close to them before they dived under the ice, only to reappear on the far
side. The calves were slapping the water with their flukes and rolling too; they also lifted their heads up to see where
they were. Most, if not all, of the whales had an orangey look – caused by minute, non‐parasitic organisms on their
skin called diatoms. It was an extraordinary way to end the daylight hours before gathering in the lounge for recap.
Ali told us a little more about the Leopard seals we had seen during our zodiac cruise and Rinie played the songs of a
Humpback whale before explaining more about them and also the killers that we had been fortunate enough to see.
As the daylight faded it started snowing again, a challenge for the bridge officers navigating the ship.
Day 8 – Wednesday, March 26th 2014
At sea, passing Elephant Island
GPS 08.00 Position: 061°12’S/ 054° 34’ W
Weather: Wind: SSW 7. Sea State: Rough. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: ‐ 4° C
In the early hours of the morning there had been a little more rolling on
board the good ship Plancius so many of us were already awake and up
when Rinie gave the wake‐up call at 7:45. During the night the ship had
taken a bit of a long route around a huge area of ice that was blocking our
way on a direct navigational route to South Georgia. This meant good
news and bad news. The bad news was it would make our sailing time to
South Georgia a little longer but the good news was it meant we were
further north and able to sail close by to Elephant Island, passing
between Elephant Island and Clarence Island during the course of the
morning. It was a lovely sunny morning out on deck and with the wind on
our tail we were making good speed.
Today was educational! At 10:00 Ali invited us to the dining room for a presentation
entitled ‘Ice Maidens – Women in Antarctica’. She outlined the very short history of
women in Antarctica and described the different roles and personalities of the wives of
Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. Emily Shackleton and Kathleen Scott were very
different in many ways but ultimately had to support their husbands in their ventures
south in the best way they could. She also talked about women explorers and adventurers
and the role of women in modern Antarctica. As she concluded her presentation the
clouds around the islands slowly cleared, giving us a fine view of this very inhospitablelooking
place. Covered by snow and glaciers, the island looked extremely impressive in the
sunshine. At around the same time Clarence Island was visible on the other side of the
ship. There were many more Fin Whales on view as well. In addition to the animals
identified there were many further away that remained unseen. Two of the whales did
something very unusual for fins – lifted their flukes high into the air
Yesterday the sea was flat calm and it lulled us into a false sense of security, for today we rocked and rolled a little
again. A warning was made over the p.a. about not using the heavy outer doors so we were limited. By the
afternoon however the clouds had lifted completely and the wind and waves continued to help push us on our way.
The sun shone brightly, the temperature rocketed up to +1 and even
the snow on the decks started to melt. Some of us even sunbathed,
albeit still wearing five or six layers! At 3pm Rinie gave a presentation
called “The fate of the Nordenskjold Expedition”, or “Albert, where
have you been?” (Editor’s note: cabin 426, actually) regarding the
Nordensjkold Expedition of 1903. It was a story of remarkable
achievement, good luck and good timing as members of the party
ended up separated in various locations around the northern part of
the Weddell Sea, from Snow Hill to Paulet Island and Hope Bay. They
were lucky to all be re‐united after over‐wintering in stone huts and
shelters in these different locations.
After afternoon tea in the lounge Ali invited us once again to the dining room where she screened another episode
of the BBC documentary ‘Frozen Planet’. The particular episode showed Orca, Killer whales hunting for seals on the
pack ice in Antarctica. Having seen these ‘wolves of the sea’ only the day before in a similar environment it was
incredible to see the film footage of these animals hunting co‐operatively. At recap time Ali spoke about krill, the
little pink critters that form the base of the food chain for almost all the animals in the Southern Ocean while James
explained that the area we had crossed over during the course of the day was where three global plates meet deep
under the sea. Rinie gave us a quick up‐date on our progress and we then headed down to the dining room for
another fine feed.
Day 9 – Thursday March 27th 2014
At sea sailing to South Georgia
GPS 08.00 Position: 058°57’S /047°39’W
Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Clear. Temperature: +2°C
As the wake‐up call came we were greeted with Rinie’s voice and another
fine day on board Plancius on our way to South Georgia. With a following
sea once again it was a more gentle rolling motion following behind us and
it made for a much more comfortable day on board and everyone was able
to get out on deck and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.
During the morning Brent invited us to the dining room for a presentation
about Adélie penguins. He used to work for the American Antarctic
Research programme based at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula
and he was able to give an interesting and amusing insight into life with
Adélies, the most southerly breeding penguin. Despite some technical
hitches with the computer he did a great job of sharing his first hand knowledge and experience of working in
Antarctica with penguins.
Out on deck the sun was still shining and we could see lots of whale blows in all
directions around the ship. Some whales were quite close and we were able to
identify them as Fin whales, the second largest of all the whales. A group of three
were close on the port side and were lunging and travelling at speed which gave us a
great view of these amazing animals. Encouraged by these marine mammal sightings
many people stayed out on deck for the rest of the morning, watching for blows and
enjoying the sunshine.
After lunch James gave a presentation in the dining room about the geology of
Antarctica and South Georgia. Although we hadn’t seen too much of the Antarctic
continent it was interesting to find out how it was formed and about some of the
volcanic activity that is still shaping the continent. South Georgia was a remnant of the
‘super continent’ of Gondwanaland with the southern tip made up of hard granite and
the rest of the island primarily sandstone build up behind this.
With the fine weather continuing Ali was out walking the decks and she found some
krill on the fore deck. It is believed that this came from a bird that had landed on deck and regurgitated the krill. She
took it up to the lounge for everyone to see (shrimp bar snacks!) and everyone marvelled at how this tiny creature in
the foundation of the food chain for all Antarctic species.
There were plenty of birds seen during the course of the day including
huge numbers of Antarctic prions, some Wandering albatross and a
few less common Kergualan petrels. Simon and his fellow birders were
very happy with their day on deck.
Later in the afternoon Rinie invited us to the lounge for a reminder
about aspects of bio‐security as we head towards South Georgia. The
Government of this island take this very seriously and insist that
clothing and back packs are all cleaned before arrival on the island.
Given that we had all vacuumed our kit before Antarctica we were just
encouraged to check our gear and make sure that it was still clean and
free from any seeds of bits of soil. He then showed a video produced
by the South Georgia Government which outlined some more of the
rules and regulations associated with visiting the island.
There was time for a pre‐dinner drink in the lounge (some people felt they really needed it after the video……) and
then we headed down to the dining room for another great meal courtesy of Ralf and his team.
Day 10 – Friday March 28th 2014
At sea sailing to South Georgia
GPS 08.00 Position: 056°24’S / 040°10’W
Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: ‐ 1°C
Well, after an hour less sleep during the night the wake‐up call from Rinie
seemed to come pretty early for some and we emerged from our cabins to
find a grey day with wind coming from the east bringing rain, a big change
from the blue sky days we had enjoyed. Nevertheless, many people
headed out on deck after breakfast to see what was around the ship.
There were large numbers of Antarctic prions as well as White chinned
petrels and a couple of the bigger seabirds, Giant petrels. At 10:00 Simon
was on hand in the dining room to tell us a lot more about the seabirds we
are likely to find in South Georgia. As an island dominated by its remote
location in the Southern Ocean most of the birds that make South Georgia
their home in the summer are migratory seabirds but there are a few
species that are here all year round; the South Georgia pintail, a species of duck and the South Georgia pipit, which is
an endemic songbird.
Armed with new information a few more people headed out on deck to see
if they could spot some more birds but it was a bit of a wet and breezy
morning with poor visibility so not great conditions. At 11:30 Ali invited us
to the lounge for her presentation about the island we’re all looking
forward to reaching. She included aspects of history, the sealers and
whalers that arrived on the island and plundered the natural resources and
also the modern management of the island and its resources such as the
toothfish fishery and tourism. The Government is working hard to try and
take the island back to what is was before man arrived and Habitat
Restoration projects to eradicate the rats and the reindeer are vital to this
goal. Ali finished her presentation just in time for lunch, a fine feast of chicken and potato wedges.
After lunch it was a little quiet around the ship as maybe some people caught up on
that extra hour of sleep or read a book in the comfort of their cabin. A few brave
souls were out on deck despite the rain and enjoyed seeing some more albatross,
Diving petrels and best of all some more Fin whales quite close to the ship. It was
incredible to think that before the whaling industry started in 1904 these waters
used to be full of whales of all species and we had really only seen a small number in
the last few days. It is a big ocean out there and the whales are well dispersed at this
time of year. At 4:30 Ali invited us to the dining room where she was screening the
next episode of the BBC documentary ‘Frozen Planet’. Despite a few technical
difficulties at the beginning the programme was soon up and running and we all
enjoyed seeing the wildlife of South Georgia and the polar regions to the north and
south. With no recap this evening there was time for a bit of social chat in the bar
before yet another great dinner on board Plancius. We’re all looking forward to our
first day ashore on the island of South Georgia tomorrow.
Day 11 – Saturday March 29th 2014
Fortuna Bay and Grytviken, South Georgia
GPS 08.00 Position: 057°09’S / 036°48’W
Weather: Wind: N 2. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy/mist. Temperature: +3°C
Despite the fact that it was an earlier wake‐up call and a bit of a grey, damp
morning everyone was excited to be up and about this morning to catch
their first glimpse of the island of South Georgia. We sailed into Fortuna Bay
during breakfast and by the time we were done the anchor was down and
staff were ready to lower boats to take us ashore after a short briefing about
the landing site. As we approached the beach we could smell the local
residents before we could see them and as we arrived on shore we were
surrounded by Fur seals playing in the surf and King penguins crowding the
beach front. What a great way to start the morning!
From the landing site we made our way slowly along the beach with Albert
leading the way to the King penguin rookery about 1km from the sea. En
route it was difficult to know where to look and what to photograph as there
was so much going on. King penguins were swimming in the lagoon and then
preening and making their way inland. Female Fur seals were suckling their
young on the tussac grass mounds and young seals were exploring the
lagoon as well, playing and fighting with each other and the penguins. Some
of the seals out on the grass were quite feisty and made walking a little
challenging as they charged at us but it was all pretend aggression and if we
stood our ground they soon ran away. On the way up the valley we came
across a ‘blonde’ seal: a leucistic seal which lacks a gene in its pigment. These animals aren’t albino but have no
brown colour in their fur. About 1 in 800 is found like this and they are always lovely to see.
As we got closer to the penguin colony we began to hear the trumpeting calls of the adults and the whistling calls of
the chicks and before long we were watching the penguins together feeding and brooding. Many penguins were still
incubating their eggs and we had to be careful were we positioned ourselves at times as they can’t walk away with
an egg on their feet. At the colony Simon found a very strange looking penguin, a black,
melanistic bird which had no white on its chest at all. The opposite of the leucistic seal
we had seen earlier. Some people took a walk up the hillside to get an overview of the
colony while others were content to stand and watch the comings and goings at the
colony. It was a busy place indeed with penguins walking to and from the sea and adults
courting and marching at the perimeter of the colony. All too soon it was time to make
our way back along the ‘penguin highway’ to the beach and climb into a zodiac and head
back to the ship but what a great morning we’d had at Fortuna Bay.
During lunchtime we re‐positioned towards Cumberland Bay where we would be
spending the afternoon at the old whaling station of Grytviken. As we sailed along the
coast of South Georgia we could see green tussac covered hillsides, tall mountains and
glaciers and with seabirds all around it really was a lovely sight. As we rounded the
corner of the bay we could see the modern buildings of King Edward Point on our starboard side and ahead of us the
rusted remains of the whaling station came into view. The British Antarctic Survey base at KEP currently houses 11
residents and with 2 Government Officials and some summer only building contractors it was a relatively busy little
The Government official was collected and our patient was taken ashore and before too long we were in zodiacs
once again for the short ride to the cemetery at Grytviken where Albert was waiting to give a toast to Sir Ernest
Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer who was laid to rest here in 1922. From here, warmed by a tot of vodka we were
able to take our own tour of the whaling station, looking at the relics of the gruesome industry before visiting the
museum where we learnt more about the lives of the whalers and other aspects of life in South Georgia. There was
even some time for some retail therapy! A chance to buy some souvenirs and post some cards although we’re not
sure how long it will take for them to reach their destination. As the afternoon light faded to dusk we boarded the
zodiacs beside the old sealing ships, the Albatross and the Dias and headed back to the ship where we just had time
to get our dancing shoes on and go to the aft deck for our South Georgia BBQ. What a great feast of steak, sausages
and salads all washed down by complimentary drinks. We enjoyed the company of some visitors from the base and
it was fascinating to find out a little bit about life on a remote Antarctic island. By 9:30 we’d all eaten our fill and
danced the decks and it was time to head to bed after what had been a busy day in South Georgia.
King Penguins of South Georgia
There are over 450,000 breeding pairs of King Penguins on South Georgia with the largest colony estimated
at 200,000 pairs found on St Andrew’s Bay. King penguins are the second largest of all penguins standing at
95 – 100cm and weighing up to 12kg. They have a smokey, slate grey back and striking orange ‘ear patches’
and an orange neck which fades to yellow down their chest. Their long curved beak has orange plates
along each side. They have a unique breeding cycle which lasts over a year which means at any time of
year there will be adult penguins and chicks within the colony. A single egg is laid in December and after a
55 day incubation period a small grey chick will hatch. This chick will require constant protection from one
of the adults until it is around 5 ‐6 weeks old at which point it will be left in the ‘creche’ with the other
chicks while both adults go to sea to forage for Lantern fish, their favourite food. King penguins can dive to
over 350m to feed spending up to 10 minutes under the water.
The chicks, known as ‘Oakam Boys’ have long brown down to keep them warm against the cold winds and
snow of a South Georgia winter. During the winter months the chick may only receive a feed every few
weeks so the autumn months are a critical time for the chick to build up the fat reserves needed to survive
the winter. By spring/early summer the chicks are beginning to shed their brown downy feathers and are
transformed into recognisable adult King penguins, at which point the adults will stop feeding them and go
to sea themselves for a pre‐moult feed. The ‘catastrophic’ moult that follows lasts around 3 – 4 weeks
during which time all the feathers are replaced by new ones and the penguin will remain on shore fasting.
After the moult they return to the sea to feed once more before the whole cycle begins once again.
Day 12 – Sunday March 30th 2014
South Georgia to the Falkland Islands.
GPS 08.00 Position: 053°43’S / 039°09’W
Weather: Wind: NE 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Fog. Temperature: + 3°C.
As we woke up this morning and even before we headed up to the lounge we
could see from our windows that we were nowhere near land. Closer inspection
of the map on the TV screens revealed that we were heading west from South
Georgia and not making a landing on one of its beaches. Rinie made a wake‐up
call just before 8:00 and invited us to the lounge for a meeting after we’d had
breakfast. The news was not good. Plancius was sailing to Stanley to ensure that
our patient, Mary received the medical care that she urgently needed. The
implications for our voyage were still unknown at this point but it was
disappointing for all to know that some of our trip may not happen in the way
we had hoped. There was obviously extended conversation in the lounge about
the situation but the common feeling was that the welfare of Mary was of the utmost importance and we would
support the decisions of the Doctor, the Captain, Rinie and Oceanwide.
Out on deck it was a little foggy and grey but there seemed to be a huge number of birds flying around the ship,
particularly Wandering albatross of all ages from the dark coloured juveniles to the white old adults. It was great to
see them so close to the ship. At 10:15 Ali invited us to the dining room for the next episode of ‘Frozen Planet’ which
showed the Arctic and Antarctic during the summer months. There was some fabulous footage of the beaches of
South Georgia with King penguins and Fur seals crowding the beaches along with Elephant seals. It was a real shame
that we couldn’t have spent more time on this fabulous little island. By the time the programme was finished there
was time for coffee and a leg stretch on deck before lunch. By this time the weather was beginning to improve with
the mist that had shrouded the ship all morning beginning to lift and show patches of blue sky up above.
With improving visibility we could see more seabirds around the ship and increasing numbers of whale blows could
also be seen. These were mostly Fin whales, the second largest of all the
whales and they were feeding on krill which is abundant in these waters at
this time of year. All this activity took place in the area of Shag Rocks, which
were visible in the distance. There were the usual bird suspects around; Black
browed albatross, and White chinned petrels so there was plenty to see and
the bird watching was much more enjoyable as the sun came out and the last
of the mist cleared. Wildlife highlights included Macaroni penguin, King
penguin and Hourglass dolphin. It was a breezy but very pleasant afternoon
on deck and many people spent some time getting some fresh air and
enjoying the sea views.
At 3:30 Brent gave a presentation about King penguins in the dining room. These beautiful animals with their striking
colours make South Georgia and other sub‐Antarctic islands their home all year round. Brent was able to explain a
little more about their long complicated breeding cycle. This cycle explains why, at Fortuna Bay we were seeing
penguins incubating eggs and with young chicks at the end of summer when every other penguin species is finished
breeding for the year. There was time for a cup of tea and fabulous chocolate brownies before Ali and Sam
announced their presentation in the dining room and invited us to hear stories of their time living in South Georgia.
Ali had spent 9 months living at King Edward Point 1997 when the British military had a small base there and
conditions and communication with the outside world were basic and limited. In
contrast Sam was working as the British Antarctic Survey base Doctor for a year
and with exciting research activities taking place and modern accommodation and
communications systems things were a little different. It was interesting to hear
though the similarities of their stories; the deep snow and skiing in the winter, the
wildlife in summer and the constant desire for ‘freshies’, fresh fruit and
vegetables. It was fascinating to hear their stories.
There was time for a drink in the lounge before dinner which was a great Sunday
night roast. It had been a bit of a difficult day on board Plancius with the
disappointing news this morning and no news of what will happen to the rest of the trip.
Day 13 – Monday March 31st 2014
At sea sailing to the Falkland Islands
GPS 08.00 Position: 052°53’S / 046°28’W
Weather: Wind: NW 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.
As Rinie woke us this morning the weather was reasonable but the forecast
was for things to deteriorate during the course of the day; not good for our
arrival in the Falkland Islands. Strong winds increased and we found ourselves
being tossed around our comfy ship as the morning progressed. At 9:00 we
were invited to the lounge to meet with Rinie to find out what the plans and
implications might be for the rest of the trip. Everyone on board has their
own itinerary, travel agenda and commitments and of course everyone came
on board to see the remote islands of the Atlantic. Rinie had been in regular
contact with the Oceanwide office to try and resolve the situation. At this
stage there was no real news but just assurance that everything was being
done to try and resolve the situation. At 10:15 Ali invited us down to the dining room for the next episode of ‘Frozen
Planet’ which looked at how the animals and plants of the polar regions cope with autumn and the imminent arrival
of winter. Some of the slow motion footage of the Emperor penguins was incredible to watch as they came out of
the water and onto the ice.
By lunchtime the weather was getting much worse. The winds climbed to a
steady 50 knots and the waves were approaching 10 metres high – a full
Force 10 on the Beaufort scale. Even though the wind was whipping around
and streaking off the wave tops, there were still birds around us. Giant Petrels
strained to keep steady, but they seemed to hang nevertheless. Some
Wandering Albatross were also around, but not for long. Plancius rides these
big waves very well, however, our speed had to be reduced to minimize any
damage to the ship and the inhabitants who lie therein. Just after lunch we
heard from Rinie over the PA system that a letter was available for us in the
lounge from the Oceanwide office. The proposal was to extend the trip by 5 days thus giving us every opportunity to
continue with the voyage and visit the islands of Tristan da Cunha and St Helena. Obviously this had a mixed
reception depending on further onward plans and commitments but it gave us all something to work from even if it
did mean changing flights and plans. It was a generous offer from the company.
During the afternoon with rolling, bouncing seas it was a challenge for many of us to get around but we managed to
join Albert in the dining room for his presentation about the history of the Falkland Islands. The islands were
discovered by British explorer John Davis in 1592 on his sailing ship ‘Desire’. The motto for the islands is ‘Desire the
Right’ which links with this and desiring the right to be free. The islands are still contested by Argentina to this day.
Later in the afternoon Ali and Sam were back in the dining room to explain
about the Habitat Restoration projects that are currently taking place in
South Georgia. During the last two summers Sam has been helping with the
reindeer eradication project which is intended to remove all the reindeer
that were introduced to the island by the Norwegian whalers nearly 100
years ago. There is also a huge project to eradicate all the rats from the
island to help the ground nesting birds repopulate the islands. The project
is the largest ever attempted anywhere in the world and it is certainly a
challenging one with the terrain, the logistics of a remote island and of
course the inclement weather all creating difficulties. Phase 1 was
successful, Phase 2 was completed last summer and Phase 3 will be undertaken next year at a cost of £3 million.
During the evening there was a chance for us all to meet with Rinie in the lounge to discuss the plans for the rest of
the trip before we headed down to dinner to relax and forget about our worries for a while. The wind continued to
howl, and our speed was about 1 knot for most of the day and into the evening. Just as it got dark the squalls turned
into sleet and snow and came and went during the night. The winds dropped to about 30 knots by midnight and we
increased our speed gradually throughout the night, hopeful that Mother Nature might give a break in the weather.
During the day there was a lot of wildlife and highlights included Soft‐plumaged, Kerguelan and Grey Petrels, King
Penguin, three Gray’s Beaked Whales and, most remarkable of all, three rarely‐seen Hector’s Beaked Whales.
Reindeer of South Georgia
Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia by the Norwegian whalers who wanted them as a source of
fresh meat, a pleasant change from whale meat we would assume. The first animals arrived on the island
in 1911; 5 reindeer were brought to the Busen Peninsula to supply the whaling stations of Husvik, Leith and
Stromness while 10 reindeer, 3 male and 7 females were taken to the Barff Peninsula opposite Grytviken in
Cumberland Bay. These small herds very quickly established themselves and proceeded to flourish in the
climate and habitat and of course the numbers quickly multiplied despite regular hunting by the whalers.
The reindeer fed on the native plants, particularly the tussac grass which sustained them throughout the
leaner winter months and by the turn of the century, with no whaling and therefore no whalers the herds
totalled over 3,500.
Despite the fact that the reindeer formed part of the heritage of South Georgia it was felt that the herds
had increased to such a size that a cull was needed and indeed the South Georgia Government made the
decision to attempt a complete eradication of the herds. Obviously the reindeer were having a negative
impact on the vegetation of South Georgia, decimating the tussac in some areas as well as leaving some
areas eroded and bare. Smaller plants also suffered as did the burrowing petrels that nest along the coastal
areas; their burrows were collapsed by the herds passing overhead. Two factors accelerated the
eradication programme. The rat eradication project and the retreat of the glacial borders, particularly on
the Barff Peninsula. In February 2013, with Sami reindeer herders from the north along with a team of
marksmen, a vet and other volunteers a successful cull of 1,500 animals was completed on the Busen
Peninsula and around 1,000 of the reindeer on the Barff Peninsula. The project continued this year with
the rest of the Barff herd removed by expert marksmen. While it is sad to see the end of reindeer in South
Georgia it can only be of benefit to the island and its native inhabitants.
A sight that will no longer been seen on the
island of South Georgia – Reindeer and King
Day 14 – Tuesday April 1st 2014
At sea sailing to the Falkland Islands
GPS 08.00 Position: 059°29’S / 050°14’W
Weather: Wind: WSW 7. Sea State: Rough. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 3°C.
“Good morning, good morning” said Rinie over the PA at 7:45. We were at
least making relatively good speed, however Plancius was still pitching and
rolling and yawing as we plodded along in lumpy seas. After a morning
update by Rinie we each continued to contemplate what our decisions
would be when we either disembarked in Stanley, carried onto Ascension,
or carried on the whole way to Cape Verde. Would it be a 5 day extension
or a newly proposed 3 day extension?
In the meantime we had a few presentations as James told us about the
Geology of the Falkland Islands – a part of the South American continental
shelf connected to Argentina, not out in the middle of the South Atlantic.
Being Welsh James has a hard time letting Argentina claim Islas Malvinas as one can imagine, what with the war and
all, but James put aside most of his politics and delivered a fine, informative lecture.
On the wildlife side of things, once again, a very good variety of birds was seen, especially Giant petrels and Blackbrowed
albatross, but the wildlife star of the show was a marine mammal – the Hourglass dolphin, at least 10 of
which were seen. They are a very fast oceanic dolphin, beautiful and sleek with a sophisticated black and white ‘hour
glass’ pattern on their flanks. For a small dolphin they are stunningly fast
and sometimes acrobatic. They put on a great show at the side of the ship
and we all enjoyed the encounter and agreed that a day with dolphins in
it is always a good day!
After lunch there was time for a bit of a post lunch snooze as, although
the sea days aren’t busy days they can be tiring as getting around the ship
can be a challenge and getting decent sleep can also be difficult.
During the late afternoon Simon was scheduled to give his presentation
about the birds of the Falkland Islands but this was postponed by Rinie in
favour of a final up‐date on our plans for the rest of the trip. In order to
allow some people to still make flights from Ascension Island the final, final plan was to extend the voyage by 4 days
making sure we reach Ascension Island by April 22nd. This would mean we had time in hand a little in Tristan da
Cunha in case of bad weather but it might mean squeezing time from St Helena. All we can hope for at this stage is
some following wind all the way to Tristan and calm seas when we get there. It is about time our luck changed!
At 5pm Ali invited us down to the dining room for the final episode of ‘Frozen Planet’ which looked at the polar
regions in winter. It is incredible to think that animals can endure such extreme climates and survive. The Emperor
penguins are extraordinary as the male penguins spend the winter incubating their single egg despite temperatures
of ‐60°C and winds of over 100mph.
There was time for a short re‐cap before dinner where Rinie outlined plans for tomorrow and our arrival in Stanley in
the Falkland Islands.
Day 15 – Wednesday April 2nd 2014
At sea and in Stanley, Falkland Islands
GPS 08.00 Position: 051°16’ S / 056°23’W
Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.
After days of bouncing slowly over the southern ocean towards the
Falkland Islands it was nice to wake up and find that sea conditions had
improved and the motion was a little more comfortable and to make the
day even better we had blue sky and sunshine. It certainly improved the
mood on board and everyone was looking forward to getting to Stanley
later in the day. After breakfast Simon invited us down to the dining room
to give a presentation about the birds of the Falkland Islands. Many
seabirds make these small islands their home, particularly the Black browed albatross of which there are over
500,000 breeding pairs; 65% of the world’s population. In addition there are a number of endemic birds including
the Cobb’s wren and the Falkland flightless steamer duck. It was interesting to see the range of birds that live in the
Shortly afterwards, with time for a coffee and some fresh air, Ali gave a presentation in the lounge about life on the
Falkland Islands. Having lived there for 15 years and now an official Falkland Islander she had plenty of local stories
to embellish information about the history and economy of the islands. Sheep and squid have been the mainstay of
the islands for many years but with oil exploration and drilling now taking place in the waters around the islands
there are changes ahead for the people living on this remote archipelago.
As she finished at mid‐day and opened the front curtains we could see the
north eastern coastline of the islands ahead of us and with blue sky and
sunshine it was a welcome sight. Hourglass dolphins had been seen from
the ship during the morning and these were joined by other marine
mammals as we neared the islands; Fin whales on their migration north
after feeding further south during the summer months. As lunch was called
we were sailing towards the entrance to the bay that would lead us to the
inner harbour of Port William and Stanley Harbour. We could see Cape
Pembroke lighthouse to our port side and the mountains beyond Stanley
ahead of us; the Two Sisters and Mt Tumbledown.
By the time we had finished lunch we were sailing through The Narrows, the harbour
entrance and the town of Stanley lay ahead of us with its brightly coloured rooftops adding
colour to the scene. Plancius was quickly brought into position, the anchor was dropped
and Ali went ashore in a zodiac to collect the customs officials to clear the ship ready for us
to go ashore. Only a short while later we were in zodiacs ourselves for the short but damp
ride ashore to the jetty by the visitor centre where we could begin our afternoon
exploration around the capital city of the Falkland Islands. We all chose to spend our
afternoon in our own way; some people heading straight to the museum, others went to
the souvenir shops and others took a taxi down to Gypsy Cove to visit the small Magellanic
penguin colony. Whatever the choice we all had a great afternoon enjoying a walk,
exploring the town and making the most of some time off the ship.
Plancius had been out to Port William to receive fuel ready for the continuation of our voyage to Tristan da Cunha
and many of us waited in the comfort and warmth of The Globe, enjoying a beer or a cider and chatting about our
day. By the time our ship came back in it was beginning to get dark and although sea conditions were good at the
jetty it was a little different out at the ship were things were a little wet for some as we approached the gangway.
We all got back on board safely and had time to warm up and dry out before dinner was called. It had been a long
journey to get here but we had disembarked Mary and Cliff safely and enjoyed an unexpected visit to the Falkland
Islands so it had been a successful day all round.
Day 16 – Thursday April 3rd 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 051°14’ S / 054°08’W
Weather: Wind: SW 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.
Well the day started with the usual wake‐up call from Rinie to rouse us
from our rolling sleep. Will we miss this early alarm when we got back
home? Hmm. Although ahead of us is a long sea passage to Tristan da
Cunha as we all started the day it was actually with a lighter mood than
we had been experiencing for the last few days, which had been tough
for everyone. It was almost like this was the start of Odyssey number 2
and we can hopefully leave bad luck and bad weather behind us. The
weather was indeed behind us as we headed on our journey and this
gave us great speed during the course of the morning with over 12 knots
for most of the day which will get us to Tristan in good time.
During the morning Albert was on hand to give his version of events
regarding Argentina and the Falkland Island entitled Argentina in the South Ooops. An alternative view of Argentine
history. This presentation certainly gave an alternative view and Albert presented it in his own very unique fashion,
Once again there were many birds with us during the day but the stars of the show appeared at midday – more
Hourglass Dolphins. Although they are one of the smallest, they are one of the most attractive dolphins, being
strikingly black‐and‐white. They get their name from the sand‐glass or hourglass pattern on their sides and this was
clearly visible in the sunshine and clear water. For several minutes they raced along beside us and then they started
porpoising. Altogether they spent some time right beside the ship, giving us the best views yet of this exciting
Being so close to the Falkland Island still meant that we had Black browed albatross with us all day and with
occasional Wandering albatross and plenty of Giant petrels there was plenty for the birders to enjoy from the top
Despite quite strong winds from the stern the motion of the ship was quite
a gentle rolling one which meant that the deck walkers could resume their
exercise, a daily routine that would become the pattern for many on this
long sea passage. We need to do something to counteract the fabulous
food that the chefs keep managing to produce three times a day!
During the afternoon Sam invited us to the dining room to give another of
her presentations about photography. She has a definite skill when it
comes to capturing images of wildlife, people and landscapes so it was
useful to learn a few tips and to use in our own photographs.
The final official get together of the afternoon was once again in the dining room with Ali who began to screen a new
documentary series entitled “The Life of Mammals’. She began with the programme featuring marine mammals,
chosen because of our sea passage ahead. This featured the largest mammal, indeed the largest animal in the world,
the Blue whale as well as seals and dolphins explaining how they have evolved for life in the ocean and some of their
incredible feeding techniques at sea.
During the evening we gathered in the lounge not for re‐cap but just to relax and catch up. It felt like there was a bit
of a sense of relief as we began the next stage of our voyage and although we have a long way to go our thoughts
are already looking ahead to our visit to Tristan da Cunha.
Dinner was once again a great feast with some of the fresh products that our chef Ralf had ordered from the
Falkland Islands. The islands have their own hydroponic greenhouses at Stanley Growers where they grow tomatoes,
cucumbers and lettuce so we should have our own ‘freshies’ to keep us going for a few weeks.
Day 17 – Friday April 4th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 049°05’ S / 047°22’W
Weather: Wind: SSW 7. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 6°C.
It was a bit of a grey start to the day Rinie gave his wake up call but with the
wind still behind us the motion of the ship wasn’t too bad once again and
breakfast didn’t involve any balancing acts around the dining room, thank
As predicted everyone began the day with their own sea day routine; some
people went for an early morning walk around the decks while others caught
up on e‐mails back home. For some it was a chance to catch up on diaries or
just watch the seas pass by.
At 10:00 Albert was on hand once again in the dining room to give a
presentation entitled ‘The Giant Mutant Mice on Gough Island – A South
Atlantic Anomoly’. This presentation was fascinating and gruesome as he outlined the problem of mice on Gough
Island. Research scientists were puzzled by the poor condition of some of the Tristan albatross chicks during the later
part of the breeding season, once the ‘brood guard’ period was over and both parents were going out to sea to
forage for the chick. Closer investigation revealed open sores and wounds on the lower parts of the chicks. What
could have been causing such wounds? They observed the chicks during the day but didn’t see anything so they then
set up night time cameras and found that it was mice biting the chicks and creating open wounds. Blood sucking
mutant mice indeed! Albert then explained about the mouse eradication project that is underway on Gough, rather
in the same way that rats are being eradicated from South Georgia. A fascinating talk from Albert once again.
In the air around the ship today were large numbers of birds, mostly petrels but other species too. Our tally included
Soft‐plumaged, Kerguelan, White‐chinned Grey, Cape and Atlantic petrels, both Northern and Southern Giant‐Petrel,
Great Shearwater, Slender‐billed Prion, South Polar Skua, Wilson’s Storm‐petrel and several albatrosses –
Wandering, Black‐browed and Grey‐headed. The constant stream of birds out here in the middle of the ocean was a
constant source of wonder and admiration.
After lunch and maybe an afternoon snooze for some it was the turn of
Rinie to invite us down to the dining room for his presentation ‘Humpback
whales – My Time with Singing Whales’. He had spent three seasons on a
sail boat in Tonga studying the Humpback whales in the area the whales
come to breed. He made some fabulous recordings of the male whales
singing, their method of communicating in the vast expanse of the ocean as
well as photographing the tail flukes which in whales are as individual as our
finger prints. These images were sent to the UK to be included in a whale ID
data base. It sounds as if he had an amazing experience.
Later in the afternoon we were back down to the dining room once again,
not for food but for the next episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’. This time Ali showed the first episode of the series
which showed how this group of animals have evolved and adapted, starting with the family of marsupials which
nurse their young in their pouches and the unique Duck billed platypus which is an egg laying mammal.
There was time for re‐cap in the lounge with staff before dinner and with such busy sea days we all had a quiet night
Day 18 – Saturday April 5th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 046°13’ S / 042°05’W
Weather: Wind: WSW 4. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 10°C.
“Good morning, good morning!” Yep it was the Rinie wake‐up call once
again to start another day at sea. It was a bit of a grey one once again
but by checking Channel 5 on the TV or visiting the Bridge we could see
that we were making excellent speed, sometimes over 13 knots so a
little bit of overcast weather wasn’t bothering anyone.
And so the morning routine on board Plancius began once again; a
leisurely breakfast, followed by a walk or mails or just curling up with a
good book and occasional glancing at the sea racing past!
This morning it was the turn of Brent to give a presentation in the dining
room and he was on hand with ‘Seabird Research in the Southern
Ocean’. When he worked for the American Antarctic Research
Programme he not only worked with penguins but he also spent time
studying other seabirds such as Brown skua and Antarctic shags with
their distinctive blue eye ring. The skuas certainly seemed to have lots
of attitude and personality and could make working with them quite
challenging….. they defend their territory quite aggressively!
In terms of wildlife there was, once again, plenty to be seen. Even the
most casual of observers couldn’t fail to see and appreciate the
Wandering Albatross, many of which were with us throughout the day.
One immature bird in particular kept coming round and round the ship,
giving those of us on the bridge wings extremely close views. It looked
at us as we looked at it! Closing in on Tristan, we began to see birds
from that archipelago, including our first Great‐winged and Spectacled
petrels. There were no marine mammals yesterday but today there were two sightings. The first was of a group of
five Dusky Dolphins that porpoised next to the bow for a few short minutes and later in the day a single Fin Whale
Later in the afternoon Sam was on hand once again to give us some advice on photographing wildlife and basically it
involves getting down at animal level and lying around in the sand, snow and mud to get the best shots. You have to
be dedicated and patient and spend time just watching the behaviour of the animals to see what it is you want to
photograph. Either that or take lots of photos and eventually you’ll get a good one, maybe!
There was time to enjoy the afternoon treat in the lounge once again before the documentary fans were able to
enjoy the next episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ with Ali down in the dining room. This particular episode looked at
the insect eaters such as the Giant ant eater of South America which manages to survive on some of the tiniest
creatures but it has to spend a lot of time doing so! Insects are not something we’ve had to worry about too much
on this trip so far but maybe as we head to warmer climates we’ll find bugs and flies. Life without them is quite
pleasant but of course the world wouldn’t function without them.
By the time the documentary was finished it was just about ‘drink o’çlock’ in the lounge so whatever your choice be
it G&T or just a cup of tea it was a chance to catch up with some of the news of the day. These sea days are
beginning to get a nice flow and routine and seem to be passing by quite quickly……
Day 19 – Sunday April 6th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 044°08’ S / 036°16’W
Weather: Wind: WSW 4. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: +12°C.
Well, the hour less sleep made things a little slow for some this morning but
Rinie’s voice came over the PA as usual to rouse us from our bunks. It was a
good morning to be up and about and out on deck as the sun was shining and
for the first time since we have been on board the air felt mild, no biting winds
that you needed to shelter from on deck.
Quite appropriately James was on hand at 10:00 to give a presentation about
After the morning lecture and subsequent discussion many people headed out
on deck once again to enjoy some fresh air and watch some of the seabirds
that were still following the ship. There were a number of passengers baring their legs in shorts which is a sure sign
that we’re heading in the right direction and that weather conditions are changing from the freezing Southern Ocean
to the milder South Atlantic.
During the morning a number of spouting baleen whales were seen. However, the views were either fleeting or
distant so all that could be said was that they were either Sei or Bryde’s Whales. Just before lunch a pod of pilot
whales was seen approaching the ship. They were travelling at speed and seemed to have some quite young calves
with them. Any hopes that they might stay with us for a while were short lived as they suddenly disappeared below
the bow of Plancius and weren’t seen again. These fast moving oceanic whales are usually travelling quite quickly
and rarely slow down and acknowledge ship’s presence. Later on our first Sub‐Antarctic Little Shearwaters and
White‐faced Storm‐petrels were seen
As well as a number of Wandering albatross staying with the ship we were
joined by some Sooty albatross which also stayed with the ship for a few hours
giving the people out on deck some great photo opportunities. Not to be out
done the Wanderers flew by at even closer range, especially the younger birds
and we had some great close up views of these fantastic birds. Today, in fact,
six species of albatross were noted: Wandering, Sooty, Black‐browed, Greyheaded,
Light‐mantled Sooty and Atlantic Yellow‐nosed so quite a day for wildlife!
After lunch many people headed back out on deck to make the most of the fine weather although a few disappeared
to their cabins for the, now routine afternoon sleep! Whatever the choice it was a relaxing afternoon on board.
At 3:30 Albert invited us to the dining room for his very personal presentation about his lifelong search for the
Tristan moorhen. Does it exist or is it the same species found on Gough Island? It was a mystery for many years but
sadly Albert was disappointed to eventually discover that the moorhens that were found on Tristan many years ago
were probably the same species. It was a fascinating and humorous account of his quest to prove the existence of
the Island Cock.
There was time for a cup of tea and a slice of fruit bread before Ali screened
the next episode of the BBC documentary ‘The Life of Mammals’. This
episode looked at the plant predators, the grazers and how they have
adapted to life eating grass and leaves. There was some fabulous footage, as
always, of the animals on the plains of Africa.
With no re‐cap this evening there was time for some social chat in the
lounge before a Sunday dinner, roast lamb and all the trimmings which all
went down very well; brain food for the final activity of the day, the quiz.
Up in the lounge Ali and Sam were ready with a range of questions to test out knowledge and check how well we
had been listening during presentations. There were 4 question rounds about Antarctica, South Georgia, the
Falklands Islands and the ship followed by a picture and sounds round. It was a competitive evening with some real
rivalry between teams but there could only be one winner, and it was only by half a point and that was the Mighty
Mutant Ice Mice. With only 7 points separating all 7 teams it was a close run thing that was enjoyed by all, especially
the winning team as they consumed their wine prize…….
With the clocks advancing by another hour again this evening many people headed to bed to try and get a head start
on sleep. Another sea day done.
Day 20 – Monday April 7th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 042°22’S / 003°19’W
Weather: Wind: SW 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 10°C.
Last night the conditions were a little roly again not giving everyone the
best sleep but after a few weeks at sea we’re all beginning to get used to it
a bit. Will our own beds at home seem too still when we get back to them
after the trip? After breakfast Albert gave us a fascinating lecture about
the history of Tristan da Cunha. Being such a remote island it had its fair
share of settlers from all over the world. He spoke of the Portuguese,
Dutch and British sailors who all passed by the island on their way to the
East Indies. He also told us the fascinating story of the families who settled
the island, starting with Mr Glass from Scotland. Albert always talks about
his Tristan with such enthusiasm and passion it is hard not to get excited
by thoughts of getting there in a few days time, we hope.
Once the presentation was completed many people went out on deck to enjoy the fine weather and watch the birds
that were around the ship. With less wind the bird numbers were down a little on the last few days but we still saw
some big albatross, probably Wandering albatross but they occasional had to land on the water as there didn’t
appear to be enough wind for them to continue flying at times. Far in the distance some dolphins were spotted but
sadly they didn’t choose to come and join the ship or show themselves in any close way so we continued to scan the
horizons with hopes of more.
During the morning many people walked the decks getting some fresh air
and exercise to compensate for the fabulous meals that the galley team keep
presenting to us three times a day. Every lap helps and means we can enjoy
guilt free desserts and afternoon treats!
In the early afternoon Albert screened a fascinating video entitled ‘Island on
top of the World’ which was made by Italian filmmakers who spent a few
months living on the island. In the film we were introduced to the policeman
Conrad Glass, the direct descended of the first settler who will also be joining
us later in the trip. These videos are almost like a keyhole on the island and
give a good idea what to expect when we get there, despite the fact that the
film was a few years old.
The final presentation of the day at 5pm was from Simon. After his long day
birding and watching for marine mammals he invited us to the dining room to
talk more about birds. His presentation was about albatross of the world
which was very fitting considering we have been followed by these iconic
seabirds since we left South Georgia over a week ago, not the same birds of
course! We have been lucky to see a variety of species and it has been
interesting to see new species as we head from the Southern Ocean to the
mid Atlantic. Simon has been lucky enough to travel to islands such as Midway
where he saw Laysan and Black footed albatross, to the Galapagos Islands
where he saw Waved albatross and to New Zealand where he saw the Royal
As he finished his presentation we were invited to the lounge for complimentary Strawberry Rockhopper cocktails.
The first ones served in champagne glasses proved to be a little unstable on a moving ship and slightly top heavy
with their fruit garnish…. The bar area looked like a horror movie after some of the cocktails went crashing in
spectacular fashion! Tumblers and tall glasses proved to be much more successful and everyone enjoyed their predinner
drinks. To add to the cheery mood in the bar Rinie shared the good news that due to our fast speed – over 12
knots for most of the voyage from the Falkland Islands we might reach Tristan a day early, which for some may not
be a day too soon!
Day 21 – Tuesday April 8th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 040°33’S / 024°15’W
Weather: Wind: S 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 13°C.
After a much calmer night we awoke to a warm sunny day of 13°C. We’re
certainly heading in the right direction and everyone is enjoying the better
weather and sunshine. No more struggling to get thermals, waterproofs, hat
and gloves on just to step out on deck for a while!
The first presentation of the day was given by Albert….of course! Our island
specialist has been invaluable on these long sea days from the Falklands and
many people have enjoyed listening to his stories over lunch and dinner as
well as during more formal presentations. This particular photo slide show
was entitled an ‘Introduction to Tristan’ in which he was able to share many
of his personal experiences. It is always good to hear first hand stories and
learn more about life on these remote islands, in the same way Ali talked about the Falkland Islands. Seeing the
photos of Tristan really brought the island to life and everyone seemed to have a bit of a buzz afterwards as they
thought about our forthcoming visit.
For the rest of the morning it was the usual routine of people out on deck, some catching up with e‐mails, other
reading and of course our birders were out on the bridge wings to see what they could spot flying around the ship. It
is amazing how we have all managed to find a routine that suits us and helps us through the long sea passage in fact
one passenger was overheard saying that if he never saw land again he
wouldn’t be too bothered! Hmm maybe sighting Tristan, Nightingale and
Inaccessible will change this point of view!
We had our usual suspects around the ship, birds not passengers with Greater
shearwaters making up the bulk of what was seen but albatross were seen
and Spectacled petrels, with their fabulous eye ring markings were becoming
increasingly common. The bird of the day was a single, diminutive, Greybacked
By mid afternoon Albert screened another film about Tristan entitled ‘The
forgotten Island’. In this film we saw a slightly older Conrad Glass who had
since been in the UK receiving police training, and learnt more about the difficulties faced by many young people
who would like to leave the island. Conrad has written a book about his life as a policeman on Tristan da Cunha
which is entitled ‘The Rockhopper Copper’. Crime cannot be rife on this small island with a small population but
there is a prison and Albert told us a tale this morning about an inmate who was there for a while but was given a
key so he could let himself out to go home for his meals! The walk of shame was probably more punishment than
spending time in a cell.
Later in the afternoon, at 5pm Sam gave a really interesting presentation about the process of taking night photos.
Some of her incredible images, taken in South Georgia are now featured on South Georgia and South Sandwich
Islands stamps and First Day Covers. She had endured some cold nights to get a few stunning shots of the Milky Way
and Star Trails and inspired us all to give it a go when we get home although we might need to go a long way to find
such beautiful scenery and such dark night skies.
There was time today for a short re‐cap in the lounge where Ali talked about the endemic Tristan da Cunha penguin,
the knitted variety of course, which are hand made by some of the ladies on Tristan and manage to migrate all
around the world! Albert told us about the high incidence of asthma on the island which is thought to be a result of
settlers carrying the gene and producing generations of islanders that suffer from the disease. It was quiet in the
lounge after dinner as we all anticipated another night of the clocks going one hour forward.
Day 22 – Wednesday April 9th 2014
At sea sailing to Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 038°56’S / 018°29’W
Weather: Wind: NNW 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Clear. Temperature: + 15°C.
It was a proper blue sky day as we emerged from our cabins for breakfast. With
just a few wispy clouds and the odd white cap on the sea it was a perfect day for
sailing. It was a bit of a shame that we couldn’t be in Tristan today with such good
conditions but hopefully this will continue tomorrow and we can all get ashore
safely for the day.
After breakfast many people headed out on deck for a bit of a walk and for some
fresh air before Rinie invited us to the dining room for a presentation entitled The
Southern Ocean Food Web – a bottom up perspective. It sounded intriguing so
many of us attended to find out what drives the food chain in the rich waters of
the south. It is of course the little stuff, the phytoplankton and the krill. If you were to take this level of the food
chain away there would be a complete collapse of the ecosystem and all of the animals we enjoyed down in the
south, then penguins, seals and whales would disappear. Even though we’ve officially left the southern oceans
behind it was good reflect on what we had seen earlier in the trip.
For the rest of the morning people were happy to relax in the sunshine on deck as,
despite a cool breeze blowing across the decks it was still warm T‐shirt weather. It
seemed a long way away when we were stuck in the ice a few weeks ago. For the keen
birders and photographers the aft deck was the place to be today with large numbers of
Spectacled petrels flying behind the ship along with Greater shearwaters that seem to
have been with us for days. Also following were occasional Atlantic yellow nosed
albatross which breed on Tristan da Cunha and Nightingale Island and what were
thought to be Tristan albatross. Trying to photograph these birds passed an hour or so
After lunch many once again chose to head out on deck either for a leg stretch round the decks or to soak up some
rays. It was a good day to be out that is for sure.
At 3:15 we were invited to the aft deck where Alex and Matie, officers from the bridge
were launching an ARGOS recorder. This device will travel through the water column for
the next 4 years recording data such as temperature and salinity.
Just as they were about to launch it an unidentified shark was seen swimming by the
ship and then there was a call over the PA system to let us know that a possible Blue
whale had been sighted ahead of us. Days of not much happening then everything
happens at once!
We all made our way to the bow of Plancius to see what we could see on the horizon.
The answer was some very big blows. It is always hard to get a sense of scale and size of these animals at sea but we
could see the huge blow, the long back and the tiny dorsal fin in relation to the size of the whale. We sailed around a
little as it surfaced and dived and we all got views of the blows although not necessarily good photos! What an
exciting afternoon and how lucky we were to find this lone whale in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
As we re‐joined or original course to Tristan, James announced his presentation in the dining room where he talked
about the Mid Atlantic Ridge that the ARGOS device would now be
collecting data from and about the volcanic formation of Tristan da
Cunha. The island forms an almost ‘text book’ volcano shape and last
erupted in 1961 which resulted in the entire population of the island
being evacuated to Britain.
Before dinner we joined the staff in the lounge for recap where James
explained a little more about the device we had launched today, Ali
talked about some of the more interesting place names of Tristan and
Rinie outlined the plans for tomorrow…….
Day 23 – Thursday April 10th 2014
Arrival Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 037°15’S / 012°52’W
Weather: Wind: NW 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Clear. Temperature: + 20°C.
With first light, the islands came in sight! The vague outline of the totally
inaccessible looking Inaccessible Island could be made out from a fog and
cloud bank, under an otherwise blue sky, only five miles away, yet so far.
The main island of Tristan da Cunha was just another 30 miles ahead of us,
but still invisible, shrouded in clouds. One cloud stuck out higher than the
surrounding cotton wool clouds, indicating where the just over 2000 m high
peak of the island might be. All of a sudden, while we were passing it,
Inaccessible Island emerged, and the clouds lifted, revealing the immense
cliffs surrounding the island. On top of the thick cloud still covering the higher plateau, a few beautiful textbook
lenticular clouds formed. It is amazing how quickly these formations can change in shape and appearance. In the
distance we could see a cloud free Nightingale Island. With a height of less than 200 metres, Nightingale is too small
to create its own clouds, like Inaccessible and Tristan do.
Gradually, Tristan made itself visible. As we approached, we could see the all
important Potato Patches, with the little cottages people use for weekend
outings. Between the Patches and the Settlement lies Hillpiece, the small
volcano that created the settlement plateau with its lava flows, after half the
island collapsed and slipped into the sea several thousand years ago. Around
the Patches we could see all those little craters, the so called hornitos, or
freatic mounds James told us about, created by massive steam explosions
when the lava from the Hillpiece volcano flowed over wet ground. And then,
just around the corner, there was the settlement, officially called Edinburgh of
the Seven Seas, a name never used. People just say ‘Settlement’.
We were not the only visitors. At anchor was the Baltic Trader, a freighter
offloading heavy stuff, and there was a yacht bobbing up and down on the
heavy swell that had started to roll in from the northwest. Not so good for
us, because that would make landing today impossible. However, we
managed to get a delegation from Tristan on board to do the immigration
and stamp our passports, under pretty tricky sea conditions, as the wind was
steadily increasing. We also managed to load a few tons of Tristan potatoes,
to be delivered to friends and family of Tristan islanders on Saint Helena.
Most islanders left us, but Conrad Glass and his wife Sharon stayed on board,
as they are coming with us as passengers. Conrad, preferably called Connie,
is the famous policeman we all got to know so well during the past few days, as he plays a prominent role in the
documentaries Albert has shown us.
No landings today, what a disappointment. But with Connie on board, to
keep a watchful eye on us, we got permission to launch our zodiacs in
the lee of the island, to do some zodiac cruising along the shores of
Sandy Point and Stony Hill, on the southeast side of Tristan, and look for
the odd penguin for those who needed so badly to see one. The penguin
of Tristan is the Northern Rockhopper, which has much longer festive
yellow plumes hanging from the head that the ones found in the
Falklands. And yes, we found them! Only a very few, as the breeding
season is over and most birds have left the island. There is just the odd
one still standing there to complete its mould. We could not get good
close views, but at least we saw them; two or three little white specks
between the rocks on a grassy slope. The much more visible larger white specks higher up the slopes invariably
turned out to be the beautiful and elegant Yellow‐nosed Albatross, or Molly, as it is locally known here. High up in
the air, along the edges of the immensely high cliffs towering above us, sooty albatrosses were sailing back and
forth. We also got very good views of a small group of Sub‐Antarctic fur seals, looking very different from the
Antarctic ones we have seen in South Georgia. The adults have a more brownish colour, sometimes with an almost
orange tinge, a much paler chin, and a cute little crest on top of the head. The young ones are all dark, like the
youngsters we have seen in South Georgia.
Getting back on the ship was not easy, the sea conditions at the gangway
being really tricky, with what we call a ‘confused’ sea, choppy waves and
funny swells running in from all different directions. But we all made it safely
back on board, thanks to strong helping arms of staff and crew. Hundreds of
seabirds were wheeling around the ship: albatrosses, Broad‐billed prions,
Atlantic petrels (a Tristan endemic), soft‐plumaged petrels, and, quite
noteworthy, a fairly large number of great‐winged petrels. Great‐winged and
Atlantic petrels are closely related, both breeding during the winter months
instead of in spring. This is the time of the year they assemble around the
island to inspect their breeding haunts. They both nest on the main island of
Tristan, high up above the edge of the cliffs, where the islanders in the past used to hunt for their fat and delicious
chicks. They know the great‐winged petrel as ‘black haglet’ and the Atlantic petrel as ‘white‐breasted black haglet’
(haglet being a corruption of eaglet). Today, all species on Tristan are protected.
Speaking about delicious: our chef prepared a special meal tonight with the exquisite lobster tails obtained from the
Tristanians this morning… Yummy!!
Day 24 – Friday April 11th 2014
Just off Tristan da Cunha…..
GPS 08.00 Position: 037°04’S / 012°08’W
Weather: Wind: W 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 15°C.
Today, the weather deteriorated, making all operations completely
impossible. There was nothing else to do but cruise up and down
the leeside of the island. The Baltic Trader had also left the
anchorage and came looking for shelter on the south side of the
island, suspending offloading. Some people asked whether we
could go for circumnavigation of the outer islands, Nightingale and
Inaccessible, but the Captain made it quite clear that it was
reasonably OK on this side of Tristan, but that venturing out on the
other side, fully exposed to the gale, would be no fun at all, and he
did not want to risk any more bones broken.
In the morning, Connie showed us a lengthy black‐and‐white
movie on the 1961 volcanic eruption on Tristan, when a secondary
volcanic cone rose out of the ground spewing lava, just next to the
village. Consequently, the entire population had to be evacuated to England, where they were housed in Calshot, an
abandoned military facility near Southampton. The film showed their problems adjusting to modern life in Britain
where you had to lock your doors and could get mugged in the streets, and their strong wish to go back to their
peaceful island in the South Atlantic. In 1962 a Royal Society expedition was sent to Tristan to establish the state of
the new volcano. It had ceased being active, and there was only very little damage done to the village, one house
burnt, being hit by a lava bomb, and one house damaged as a result of a rock fall during the early stages of the
eruption. For the islanders the fact that the village was spared, was an act of God, and it strengthened their
conviction that they had to go back. In 1963 they returned to the island where they found their houses being
ransacked and their cattle being stolen. The events around the eruption, the evacuation, and the return to Tristan
had a major impact on the Tristan society. A group of young people did not want to go back and preferred to stay in
England, with better job opportunities. A group of 35 people found out, after their return to Tristan, that they no
longer could adapt to the isolated island life and went back to England. Quite a few of those 35 decided to come
back to Tristan some years later after all. It took years for the people of Tristan to get this going back and forth
stabilized, and to adapt again to their normal Tristan routines. On the plus side, they now imported all sorts of things
from the ‘modern world’ they had not know before, like refrigerators, TV sets, and eventually cars. The volcano
became a major turning point in Tristan life. Like older people in Europe divide their personal history between
‘before the war’ and ‘after the war’, the Tristanians talk about ‘before the volcano’ and ‘after the volcano’.
After lunch a few people braved the decks for a bit of a leg
stretch and walk but it was challenging at times, especially
when the officer on watch on the Bridge had to turn Plancius
around and head back along the coast. Being side on to these
big swells caused a few very big rolls. It was tiring and
wearing but with views of the island and lots of birds around
the ship there was plenty to watch and enjoy.
At 4pm Connie invited us to the lounge where he had some
copies of his book ‘Rockhopper Copper’ for sale. He was
happy to sign these books for everyone and took time to chat
so it was a very pleasant hour or so in the lounge. Many
people were surprised to see our little blue ship, Plancius
appear in the book. Connie had been in Holland when she
was launched as a cruise ship back in 2009.
In the late afternoon, Ali screened yet another episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ which looked at the Chisellers –
rodents and animals such as beavers which are specially adapted to their lifestyle. Around the ship, seabirds
abounded and there was the bar to keep our spirits up.
Day 25 – Saturday April 12th 2014
Tristan da Cunha
GPS 08.00 Position: 037°01’S / 012°12’W
Weather: Wind: W 3. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 13°C.
All night, the ship stayed in the lee of the island, cruising back and forth. Each time the
ship turned, swells hit the ship sideways, making it roll like crazy for a minute only, but
enough to shake everybody awake. In the morning, the wind changed further to the
south, and the sea gradually became smoother and smoother. Still, there was so much
movement, that we thought landing was out of the question. But then, quite
unexpectedly, a radio message came from Tristan, asking us at what hour we would like to
come ashore, as apparently the conditions in the harbour were fine. We also noted that
the cargo ship Baltic Trader had returned to the anchorage, and resumed offloading. So
we sailed around the corner, still beating some nasty wind gusts, finding our own
anchorage, and assessing the state of the sea around the ship, to see whether gangway
operations would be possible at all. Around the ship the sea was still quite choppy, but
closer inshore conditions looked not so bad, so we gave it a go. Let’s do it!!
Our ever so flexible chef managed to serve us an early lunch at 11 am,
so before noon we were all on the island. We finally made it! Spirits
lifted! Tourist Officer Dawn Repetto was waiting for us with maps and
instructions. Some people took a guided tour to the top of the 1961
volcano, others joined a guided walk to the ever so important Potato
Patches we had already heard so much about. Many people preferred
to just wander about on their own, visiting the tourist centre, museum,
and post office. Tristan veterans went to see some old friends in the
village. The weather turned out to be quite nice, with a few short rain
showers, but mostly sunny and surprisingly warm. People wrote
postcards to send home, had a beer or a crayfish sandwich, and
enjoyed the occasional chat with a friendly islander. Many people got themselves photographed next to famous sign
saying ‘Welcome to the Remotest Island’. In the past, the sign read ‘welcome to the loneliest isle’, but maybe twenty
years ago the people of Tristan decided they were not lonely at all – just remote. Modern Tristan society is
completely connected with the outside world with email, their own website, and many islanders joining facebook
and other social media.
Officially the harbour closes at 5 pm, but we were given permission to operate our zodiacs until 6 pm, so everybody
got the opportunity to maximize their stay on the wonderful island. We
also took on board environmental officer Trevor Glass, and two young
guides who will accompany us tomorrow, when we will make an
attempt to land on Nightingale Island, the weather forecast being quite
good. Dinner was another local meal prepared by Chef Ralf and his team
this time using the beautiful and juicy yellowtail, or cape mackerel,
which we acquired from Tristan on Thursday. As special guest we also
had Holly and Rohan, two marine biologists studying the impact of the
shipwreck of the Oliva in 2011 on the rocks of Nightingale, spilling
65,000 tonnes of soybeans on the seafloor. After dinner, Rohan gave a
guest presentation on the rich marine life around Tristan.
Tristan da Cunha
The island of Tristan da Cunha is the most isolated inhabited place on earth, right in the middle of the vast
emptiness of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. It lies 3000 km west of Cape Town, and 3300 km east of Buenos
Aires. The nearest human settlement is on the almost equally isolated island of Saint Helena, almost 2500
km to the north. Tristan and its smaller, uninhabited neighbours Nightingale and Inaccessible Island, were
first sighted by the Portuguese sailor Tristão da Cunha in 1506. Uninhabited Gough Island, a nesting site for
millions of seabirds, lies 450 km to the southeast. The islands are volcanic, the main island Tristan being
the youngest, less than one million years old. Tristan is a classic cone‐shaped volcano, circular, with a
diameter of 11 km and a central peak with a crater lake, a little over 2000 m high. On all sides, the
mountain is flanked by sheer cliffs, rising from the sea, up to 700 m. At the foot of these huge cliffs, there
are a few low‐lying plateaus.
The largest of these plateaus is just 6 km long and about 600 m wide. This is where the people live, and
grow their potatoes in the legendary ‘Potato Patches’. Permanent settlement started in 1815, when a
British garrison was posted on Tristan to help guarding Napoleon on distant St Helena. When the garrison
left, Corporal William Glass stayed behind with his wife and two little children, together with some
bachelor friends. In 1827 five coloured women from St Helena were imported to marry the bachelors. Later
settlers, often shipwrecked sailors, chose to stay and marry one of the locally bred beautiful girls. Today
there are seven families on the island: Glass, Rogers, Swain, Hagan, Green, Lavarello, and Repetto, of
American, British, Dutch, Italian, Irish, South African, and Saint Helenian descent, with a total population of
around 250. There is only one village, officially named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, but usually just called
In 1961 the entire population was evacuated when the volcano erupted, and a new lava cone arose just
next to the village, damaging and burning no more than one house. After spending a year in Britain, where
to their great dismay they were turned inside out by legions of scientists and journalists, they returned to
their peaceful island, to pick up their simple life of fishing, growing potatoes, raising sheep, and knitting.
Their main source of income comes from a rich supply of crayfish around the islands, which is exploited by
a South African company, catering for markets in the US and Japan. The second source of income is from
the sales of stamps, sought after by collectors all over the world.
Together with Ascension, Tristan is part of the British overseas territory of St Helena and its dependencies,
with a governor based in St Helena and an administrator on Tristan. The admin rules together with the
island council. Council members and the Chief Islander are elected directly from the entire population for a
period of three years. Tristan has a small hospital, with an expat doctor and local nurses. Children go to
school till the age of 15. Those who choose further education have to go abroad. Tristan can only be
reached by ship, six to eight times per year, five days sailing from Cape Town. Apart from millions of
seabirds, the island host a number of unique, endemic land birds: a thrush, a handful of bunting species, a
flightless moorhen, and the most exclusive and elusive of all, the diminutive and dainty Inaccessible Island
Flightless rail, the tiniest non‐flying bird in the world.
Day 26 – Sunday April 13th 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 037°15’S / 012°26’W
Weather: Wind: SSE 5. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 14°C.
Before breakfast we weighed anchor and set sail for Nightingale Island. The storm had
died down and there was a mild breeze blowing from the southeast. There was still a lot
of swell running, so if it would be possible to land on Nightingale remained utterly
uncertain. At 10am the ship stopped on the east side of the island, not far from the
eastern landing rock, which lies just below the huts the islanders use during their outings
to collect eggs or chicks of the Great Shearwater. Almost the entire world population of
Great Shearwaters breeds on tiny Nightingale, with its diameter of just about 1.5 km, in
staggering numbers. The population is estimated at around 2.000.000 pairs. Several
thousand breed on Inaccessible Island and Gough, and a small population of a few
hundred pairs has been found in the Falklands. This makes it a ‘near endemic’ of the
Tristan Group, and even a ‘near endemic’ of Nightingale. Islanders have a tradition of
loading their boats with eggs and chicks of this species only, which they simply call ‘Petrel’. They are still allowed to
do so in a sustainable way. Well, from a population of 2.000.000 is does not harm to take some. There seems to be
nothing more delicious than Tristan potato cakes fried in petrel fat!
A zodiac was lowered to send a scouting team, including the Island guides, ashore to assess landing conditions. From
the ship it was already clear that there was far too much surf on the eastern landing rock, so the zodiac went to the
more sheltered site on the NW side, but to get there they had to go all the way around Middle Island, between
Middle and Stoltenhoff Island, a long way. Finally, the radio message came that the landing looked OK, but since it
was such a long ride, the ship sailed around Stoltenhoff Island to reposition to a sheltered spot, close to the other
Around 10:30 a.m. we started to ferry the passengers ashore. From the landing site a
narrow, steep and slippery path leads up the higher plateau, so people who would fear
not to be able to negotiate the ascend, were advised to take an inshore zodiac cruise
instead. At the landing site we were greeted by several Tristan Thrushes, one of the
endemic songbirds of Tristan, called ‘Starchy’ by the islanders. Starchies are very tame
and curious, and soon they were inspecting our backpacks, boots, and other things lying
around. The rock opposite the landing place, just across our little natural harbour, was
covered in fur seals, with many playful and noisy youngsters. A little higher up, the
second endemic songbird soon showed itself, the Tristan Bunting, or ‘Canary’ as the
islanders call it. Starchies breed on Tristan, Nightingale and Inaccessible, but on Tristan
they have become very rare, possibly due to the rats. Canaries are only found on
Nightingale and Inaccessible, strictly sticking to tussock covered slopes.
From a distance, Nightingale looks like a grassy place where you could easily walk around. But the grass, an endemic
species of tussock, totally unrelated to the tussock of South Georgia and the Falklands, is two metres high, and the
peaty ground underneath is a dense maze of burrows, dug out by the millions of
petrels nesting here. Thus, the tussock slopes form an impenetrable jungle.
Fortunately, the islanders have cut a path from the two landing sites up to the top of
the island, where they have their egg and chick harvesting fields. We follow this path,
a stiff and sweaty climb. Starchies scuttle around our feet everywhere, and sometimes
it is difficult not to step on them. Canaries are flitting about in the tussock, and every
now and then we meet a young Yellow‐nosed Albatross (which does not have a yellow
nose yet) waiting to fledge. To pass them we have to come within inches, but all they
do in response is snapping their beaks. Sometimes we see shearwaters emerge from the tussock, awkwardly
shuffling over the ground, as their legs are placed far too far to the rear end of their body, which makes it impossible
for them to stand up. Shearwaters and albatrosses happily use this man‐made path as a runway to alight. The
shearwaters like to climb on a rock first, and then jump off. Rocks have been used as jump‐off points for thousands
of years, and are deeply grooved by the birds’ nails.
Finally, the path leads into a secluded forest of Phylica trees, the endemic ‘Island Tree’ of the Tristan Archipelago,
growing nowhere as high as they do here, reaching heights of 6 m, stems covered in lichens. It is in this forest that
the third endemic songbird of the island is found, Wilkins’ Bunting, locally known as the ‘Grosbeak’. This is one of the
rarest birds in world, with a world population of just about 40 pairs. There are also Grosbeaks on Inaccessible, but
these have been found out to be a different species. The birders were very happy to get a good view of this bird, and
some good photo shots could even be made. Beyond the forest, the path ends in a peaty, open bog, dotted with
albatrosses, and with inquisitive Starchies everywhere.
Some people chose to take the lower walk down to the shore by the islander’s
huts. Again they had a great view of some of the young albatross on the way
and were joined by thrushes all the way down through the tussock.
Unfortunately there were no Rockhopper penguins down on the shore but it
was nice to just sit, take in the view and enjoy some stories with Trevor, one of
our local guides. A few people would have quite fancied a weekend at one of
Those who did not join the climb had a wonderful zodiac cruise, offering lots of
opportunities to take good shots of the many fur seals. But the biggest price, of
course, was the Northern Rockhopper, which now could be seen at close range. Some of them had just completed
their moult and looked beautiful and fresh, with their long yellow plumes
hanging from their heads.
Back on the ship, we had a late lunch and then sailed towards neighbouring
Inaccessible Island. On the way we were incredibly lucky to come across a large
pod of Orca, Killer whales. There must have been around 15 animals in the
group and the huge fin of the male could be seen at times as they surfaced all in
a line leading away from the ship. The Captain managed to position the ship
quite well for views but these animals were travelling fast so it was difficult to
follow them. The local guides were all amazed at what we saw as they had never
seen Orca in Tristan waters before and they all had long years of experience of sailing around these islands. A lucky
As we got closer to the island Brent invited us to the aft deck where he was about to do some çhumming’. This
involves dragging a bag of fish guts and heads behind the ship which in turn
will attract seabirds to the ship. It was incredible how it worked and before
too long we had a huge following of birds from the tiniest Storm petrels to the
largest Tristan albatross. There were Giant petrels, Spectacled petrels and
Yellow nosed albatross and it was a great avian spectacle with the backdrop of
Inaccessible Island behind.
We made a short stop, just offshore Blenden Hall Beach, which might be a
landing site to look for the most wanted bird on earth, the Inaccessible Island
Flightless Rail, strictly confined to Inaccessible Island. But already fro the ship
it was clear that there was far too much surf on the beach, and that any
landing attempt would be fruitless. We sailed back to Tristan where our local guides were taken back home by Ali, a
task that proved to be interesting in the dark with swell and waves but it was completed successfully and we set sail
for our next destination: Saint Helena.
Wildlife of Nightingale and Inaccessible.
Sub Antarctic fur seal Atlantic yellow‐nosed albatross
Arctocephalus tropicalis Thalassarche chlororhynchus
Great Shearwater Tristan Thrush
Puffinus gravis Nesocichla eremita
Wilkins’ Bunting The one we didn’t get to see………
Nesospiza wilkinsi Inaccessible Rail
Day 27 – Monday April 14th 2014
At sea sailing to St Helena
GPS 08.00 Position: 034°38’S / 011°29’W
Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 18°C.
Having spent four days around the Tristan archipelago it was time for
us to continue our journey northwards – a relaxing day at sea
beckoned but it wasn’t to be a calm one in terms of sea conditions.
We had hoped that we would get a break from rocking and rolling but
it wasn’t to be the case at all. We had winds on our starboard bow and
it made the journey a little slower and more uncomfortable than we
all hoped it might be.
During the morning Albert invited us to the dining room for his
presentation entitled “Global Circulation – the Current Position”. This
looked at the currents which circulate the globe and bring water from
Antarctica up into the Atlantic and beyond. All these currents affect
the weather and sea temperatures around the world and it was fascinating to find out their flow and circulation and
link it where we all live.
Wildlife was not so plentiful today but there were one or two surprises in store for the hardy observers. The first
came at 09.00 when huge spouts behind the ship were seen to come from the second Blue Whale of the trip.
Another surprise was the number of albatross species seen, five. They were Tristan, Black‐browed, Yellow‐nosed,
Sooty and most surprising of all, a single Light‐mantled Sooty Albatross. Other birds that were noted were Great
Shearwater and Spectacled, Great‐winged and Soft‐plumaged petrels.
With uncomfortable sea conditions walking the decks was not an option, even for the hardy hikers but with the sun
shining and temperatures on deck very pleasant many people chose to sit up on deck and enjoy the fresh air and
sunshine. It was a bit like sitting on a seaside promenade except the promenade was moving and there was a
constant fine drizzle of salty sea spray in the air. Those sitting up on deck found themselves covered in a fine layer of
salt by the end of the afternoon.
At 3:30 a Connie invited us to the dining room where he gave an illustrated account of a rescue operation involving a
Humpback whale which was found swimming just off shore from the settlement of Edinburgh. The whale was seen
to be dragging a large fishing buoy and at the end of this was some fishing gear including hooks which had got
wrapped around its tail. Connie and some of his friends had gone out in
the RIB to see if they could help and after some failed approaches they
finally managed to get close enough to the whale to take the strain off
the lines and hooks and cut the mass of line off. This released the strain
on the rope on the whale’s tail and with a quick flick it was free. What a
satisfying conclusion to the adventure!
Later in the afternoon Ali screened another epic episode from the ‘Life
of Mammals’ series which this time looked at the meat eaters; the dog
and cat families that predate on the grass eaters, particularly on the
plains of Africa. There was some stunning footage of cheetahs and lions
stalking and killing their prey.
Before dinner, Rinie invited us to the lounge for a Tristan re‐cap. He
praised passengers, staff and crew for their efforts on the gangway and looked back on our days on the islands.
James was on hand to talk about the geology of the islands, showing some photos from the volcano and the
coastline where we had been on our zodiac cruise and explaining how the features had been formed. Albert was on
hand to tell a story and this time it was the epic sailing adventures of Sven and his young lady who had eventually
landed on Tristan despite their planned destination being the Pacific. Finally Connie gave an explanation about some
of the local words and dialect found in the Tristan language.
It was then time for dinner and although conversation was animated and cheerful as usual it was very quiet in the
bar afterwards. The busy days on Tristan had caught up with everyone.
Day 28 – Tuesday April 15th 2014
At sea sailing to St Helena
GPS 08.00 Position: 030°25’S / 010°07’W
Weather: Wind: E 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 22°C.
The weather today was much rougher than expected (just short of a gale) so we
were slowed considerably. Moderate waves and a strong wind from the
northeast were exactly what we did not want. However, there was nothing for
it but to press on as fast as possible.
During the morning a number of cargo ships and tankers were seen passing by
which was quite surreal after so many days at sea seeing nothing in the way of
other ships at all. We are passing through the main shipping lane between Cape
Town in South Africa and Brazil so it is not surprising that we had seen some
vessels on this route. One of the bulk carries was 323metres in length which
dwarfs our little Plancius.
There was a distinct lack of birds today. Most of the seabirds prefer to feed in cold to temperate waters to the south
of the islands rather than the much warmer water to the north. Hence only five
species (and very few individual birds) were seen: Spectacled, Great‐winged
and Soft‐plumaged petrels, White‐bellied Storm‐petrel and our last albatross of
the trip, an adult Yellow‐nosed.
During the morning Albert was on stage again this time talking about “The
History of St. Helena”. Most people think only of Napoleon when they think
about the history of St Helena but there was definitely more to it than just this
lone Frenchman and Albert gave a very colourful and gruesome presentation
about some of the other events and characters of the island.
Out on deck it was quite pleasant, despite the strong wind blowing on our starboard side once again and with the
sunshine in between the squalls it was nice enough to be out on the top deck and with less spray today it wasn’t
quite so salty. The deck hikers were once again unable to do their rounds though due to the wet decks, rolling ship
and occasional waves over the bow so it was a relaxing day once again.
After lunch more people braved the windy conditions on deck, occasionally having to seek shelter from the rain
under the Bridge wings and huddle together like Emperor penguins to stay dry!
At 3:30 Connie was on hand to present a documentary about St Helena in the dining room. This short film had been
produced for the tourist board and gave a good overview of the island and the people as well as some of the things
we could expect to see their during our visit.
At 5pm it was time for the usual wildlife documentary with Ali and the series about mammals continues with today’s
episode all about Opportunists, which featured omnivorous creatures such as raccoons, rats and bears that take
advantage of every available food source to supplement their diet.
Before dinner there was time for a re‐cap with staff once again in the lounge. As always, Albert had a story for us and
Simon talked about the albatross that we have finally left behind. We have had these iconic seabirds with us for
most of our journey from Ushuaia and they will be sadly missed as we continue our way north. Rinie gave a quick
overview of our plans for the coming days with hoped that our rough weather will finally be left behind with the
albatross and we can start to make better speed up to St Helena.
Dinner was yet another Tristan feast, this time potatoes. Connie had given us a
sack of his own potatoes a variety called White Blossom and Ralf and his team
had done a great job of preparing them in some imaginative ways. We had
potato soup followed by a Trilogy of Potatoes which included lamb and mash,
rosti and salmon and a potato and vegetable strudel. What a fabulous, filling
After dinner Ali invited teams to the lounge for another quiz. If you thought the
first one was hotly contested then this was even hotter! It was a very
competitive event where Ali had to hold her own against some challenging
banter and when the quiz ended in a draw it had to go down to a tie breaker question. The winning team was 6
Mariners and a Wandering albatross.
Day 29 – Wednesday April 16th 2014
At sea sailing to St Helena
GPS 08.00 Position: 026°18’S / 008°50’W
Weather: Wind: ENE 6. Sea State: Moderate. Weather: Rain. Temperature: + 21°C.
The day started with rain. Rain clouds and rain showers and rain squalls
and rainy decks and rainy guests. This was our first real day of the wet
stuff. Of course we have had a lot of the frozen stuff (snow), but it was
definitely different to see so much rain. We were still rolling a little, but
nothing like we have had in the past. Rinie woke us up again at 7:45
followed by breakfast in the dining room. Mid‐morning Connie screened a
modern day documentary about the past, present and future of St. Helena
including some discussion on the misunderstood and controversial airport.
It gave a good insight into the island and some of the views of the local
people living there and certainly gave a good picture of the island and we
all began to get more excited about our next destination.
Those of us that had packed away our waterproofs and fleeces were found digging them back out of the wardrobe
again in order to keep warm and dry on deck. When the squalls came they were certainly tropical although in
between the squalls it was perfectly fine to be out on deck, but due to the slippery decks and persistent rain, the
“lappers” were mostly taking a break today.
After another fine lunch and a post lunch snooze for some (what else can you do on a rainy day?) we had the
opportunity to meet with our Chef Ralph Barthel for an informal (and
very interesting) Question and Answer Session. He explained about the
logistics of how to provision the ship with food, etc. on such a long
voyage. The problem of keeping things fresh is always an issue for
perishable items such as salad and fruit but with large cold store where
the temperature of the room is consistent and there is plenty of air
circulation the food stays remarkably fresh. We’ve still been getting herb
garnish on our meals, which is incredible after over a month at sea. The
story of the greenhouse in the hold of the ship was believed by many for
a few days!! It has been nice on this voyage to sample some ‘local’
produce such as the Falkland Island Toothfish, the Tristan lobster and of course their fabulous potatoes. Later in the
afternoon we had another documentary as steadfast Ali presented another segment from the “Life of Mammals”
series in the Dining Room. A small group of us have been enjoying this series immensely and it is certainly a good
way to pass an hour or so in the later afternoon.
During Recap in the Lounge, we had a special presentation by one of our fellow passengers, Clive as he presented “A
Whale and Dolphin Video Journey, and an Extraordinary Encounter with Cuvier’s Beaked Whales.” The footage also
showed a breaching Fin whale which is something none of the Expedition staff have ever seen. It was a little
unfortunate that the sound wasn’t working for the music but it meant that Clive was able to give a personal
commentary of the film which was very informative.
Dinner was excellent again as usual and still included a few of the Tristan da Cunha potatoes which always go down
Ali ‐ Not quite singing in the rain!!
Day 30 – Thursday April 17th 2014
At sea sailing to St Helena
GPS 08.00 Position: 021°45’S / 007°28’W
Weather: Wind: E 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly Cloudy. Temperature: + 23°C.
Finally, finally, finally this morning was glorious with sunshine, pleasant
temperatures and calmer seas. We had all been hoping for this for so long
that when it actually happened some of were taken a little bit by surprise at
the heat we experienced as the day warmed up quickly as expected. There
was a bit of a cool breeze in some spots around the ship but generally it was
hot, hot, hot and we loved it!!
Albert presented our morning talk entitled, “Tragedy of a Lost World: The
Ecology of Saint Helena.” This mid Atlantic island has been overrun by
introduced species and many of the endemic plants and animals are now
extinct, lost forever from this unique island. He seemed particularly sad
about the tiny Yellow wood lice that are now almost down to single figures
and only found in a small part of the forest on Diana’s Peak.
During the rest of the morning most of us sat around in the sun reading, listening to music, reflecting on our voyage
or eagerly anticipating today’s talks. The walkers were out walking the decks but it got pretty hot by the middle of
the day and finding a shady or air conditioned spot was a must for some.
The birders on deck had quite a quiet day but were very happy to see a new species for the trip in the form of a Red
billed tropic bird. These beautiful birds have lovely black and white markings on their back, a bright red bill and a
long white tail which is around 50cm in length. They flew over the ship giving everyone a great view and then
disappeared out over the sea. Flying fish were being seen quite regularly and we were all amazed by how far these
fish can actually ‘fly’ across the surface of the water.
Also seen by those on the bridge wings was a Green turtle which passed right by the ship. As soon as the wake of
Plancius passed it by it gave a flick of its flippers and disappeared down into the deep blue. A fleeting glimpse but
great for those that saw it.
After a buffet lunch (yeah, it was calm enough at last), James gave us a talk in the Dining Room entitled, “The
Geology of St. Helena” where he showed us the layers of ash and
rock on St Helena, a very old volcano. All these islands that we are
landing on along the Mid Atlantic ridge are volcanic but they are
different ages and have been eroded in different ways to create
Time out on deck was perfect and by late afternoon a few cold beers
were being enjoyed by some and it was a real relaxed holiday
atmosphere on board. Just what we’d all been looking forward to!
During the late afternoon once again Ali presented another segment
from “Life of Mammals.” This time it looked at the ‘Social Climbers’,
some of the species of monkeys and how they have evolved to live in
family groups which have a complicated hierarchy system.
Recap consisted of Rinie giving us an idea of what to expect on St. Helena, and after dinner with partly cloudy night
skies and intermittent stars, we had the Southern Cross to our stern as we headed further north. We were all excited
to finally be approaching the island of St Helena.
Day 31 – Friday April 18th 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 017°07’S / 006°08’W
Weather: Wind: SE 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 25°C.
This morning we awoke excited about our approach to St Helena it was not
far to go now. In the morning there was time to do another lecture, and
Connie gave us a fascinating talk about how the community of Tristan da
Cunha pulls together and works successfully together when the need arises.
We saw how for example when a house is reroofed, the whole community
will assist and there will be a tea followed by a lunch and beer for everyone
to enjoy. There are some lessons that could be learned by some big city
communities in how to co‐operate and pull together. Maybe if they did the
world would be a better, friendlier place…..
As lunch started the first views of St Helena were coming into sight. It started
off as just a shadow in the clouds on the horizon but the edges and sea cliffs gradually came into view and the top of
the island appeared out of the clouds. By the time lunch had ended we were suddenly there up close to the island
and there were impressive views down the south western coast of the island. The Ass’s Ears and Speery Island which
are trachyte intrusions were clearly visible as were the lava layers of the south western volcano. The ship then
proceeded along the north coast towards Jamestown.
As we sailed nearer to the island we started to see some of the seabirds
that make the island and its off shore stacks their home; Brown noddies
flew above the decks and both Brown and Masked boobies were seen
following the ship looking like gannets a species some of us are more
familiar with. A single Rough toothed dolphin was spotted riding in the
wake of the ship and then further towards the coast a large pod of Pan
tropical spotted dolphins were seen. They gave themselves away by huge
splashes and closer inspection with binoculars revealed that they were
leaping out of the water in spectacular style and putting on a great show. It
was a shame they didn’t decide to come and give us a close up show but it was good to see them anyway.
As the first houses of Jamestown, or at least Half Tree Hollow on the upper slopes, came into view we all started to
get very excited about our arrival. The Captain took Plancius quite close into the shore and after a short wait the
large team of customs officials came on board to clear the ship. They also had to clear the import of all the sacks of
potatoes we had brought from Tristan da Cunha and checking every sack of our 4 ton cargo took a while….
Before too long we were cleared to launch zodiacs and the staff were quick to get us
ashore onto the steps of the impressive wharf of Jamestown. The upper slopes have been
covered with wire netting to prevent rockfalls down onto the wharf and the historic
buildings along its length
Shortly after arrival on the dock the “wirebirders” set off in their little bus to Deadwood
Plain, on the top of the island. A clue that they were in the right place was provided by the
warning sign at the entrance to the plain. The first St. Helena Plover, or Wirebird to the
locals (due to their long, wiry legs), was spotted by “plover‐eyed Mike” before the bus had
even come to a standstill. This endemic endangered species is only found on the island
and is closely related to other small plovers in Africa. Their habitat is large areas of short
grass so they are relatively easy to see, unless they hide behind a clump of taller grass! By
scanning the plain other birds were located and a total of 11 was reached before the very
happy group returned to Jamestown.
For the rest of us it was a chance to take a stroll and get orientated with the town. With it being Good Friday
everywhere was shut and most of the residents had headed out of town for the weekend for the traditional Easter
camp. With everywhere shut apart from The Orange Tree restaurant it gave many of us the opportunity to climb
Jacob’s Ladder and take time to explore the quaint streets of the town. Jacob’s Ladder has 699 steps and climbs 183
metres up the cliff above the town. It was built in 1829 to allow easy access to the area above and used to have tram
lines up the side so that items could be transported in carts up to the top of the hill. These trams lines are long gone
and the only way up is to climb and what a climb it was. The 11 inch steps were a real challenge but the views en
route are spectacular so numerous stops for photos were compulsory! Of course it was worth it for the views and to
simply be able to say that you have done it.
Some people made their way back down to the wharf to cool off with a swim
by the steps while the more adventurous went out into the bay to snorkel
over the wreck of the Papanui which lies in the middle of the harbour. There
were Pipe fish and Parrot fish to see as well as the occasional Barracuda so it
was certainly interesting snorkelling.
By 7:30 on a beautiful warm evening we were all back on board for a BBQ and
party of on Deck 3 with the Jamestown and the lights of Jacob’s Ladder as our
back drop. The chefs and hotel department had done an incredible job of
producing a great feast for us and with complimentary beer, wine and punch
the party went on late into the evening with dancing on deck for those with
the energy! What a great day!
St Helena BBQ!
Day 32 – Saturday April 19th 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 015°55’S / 005°43’W
Weather: Wind: ESE 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Sunny. Temperature: + 28°C.
After our taster the previous evening, today it was time to do Jamestown
properly. Everyone went ashore straight after breakfast and boarded
minibuses to take them on an island tour. James’ bus went last and did
the bank run before starting the tour. The tour around the Island is a
great chance to see a bit of everything; flora and fauna, local people,
rugged landscape, wildlife and historical sights.
We started by climbing the steep hill out of Jamestown where our first
stop was at a view point over the Heart shaped waterfall. There had been
some rain in the last few days so there was a small waterfall flowing over
the heart shaped rock cliff. Continuing into the interior we had a chance
to see the wide variety of vegetation that covers the island from lush,
wooded places of beauty to wide areas of invasive flax that was previously a cash crop to places that were more
barren and dry. It is really amazing to be able to see such a large number of different environments in such a
relatively small area.
Our Island tour continued to the now empty tomb of Napoleon. His body
was repatriated to France in the 1840’s but the grave site still exists in a
quiet copse of trees which can be seen after a very pleasant hike through
the forest from the main road. It had been his first wish to be buried on
the banks of the Seine in Paris but he asked that if that was not possible
then here in the valley by a spring was his next chosen final resting place.
Longwood House, our next stop is one of the more famous locations on
St. Helena. This is where Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at the
Battle of Waterloo. In the early 1800’s it must have almost like being sent
exile to the Moon as St. Helena was such a far sailing distance from
Europe in those days. He had a great view with nice breezes and cultivated a lovely garden which still exists but likely
thought often of his former days of glory. What a fascinating museum though with so many pictures and artefacts
and quiet creepy to think you were actually in the room where Napoleon died. The walls were covered with
paintings and drawings of him on his death bed.
The tour then proceeded past the Diana’s Peak, which was shrouded in mist
to Sandy Bay valley where we had an incredible view of Lot and Lot’s Wife
and Daughters. These rock pillars are Trachyte intrusions and the youngest
rocks in St Helena. They were intruded into younger conduits of the volcano
and have been left exposed after erosion removed the softer ash layers.
On the way back to Jamestown we stopped off at Plantation House which is
the Governor’s Home. We did not stop to see the Gov but rather Jonathon
the famous (and very large), 180 year old tortoise who lives on the grounds.
He has an enormous area to roam, has 5 tortoise friends to keep him
company and also keeps the grass trimmed as an added benefit. We couldn’t
get close enough for great views as the grounds are no longer open to the
public but we could peer through the fence and saw three tortoises resting nearby. We all hoped that Jonathon was
one of them!
Our final stop was at the top of Jacob’s Ladder, where some of us had been the previous day. From here some of us
chose to walk back down the road or the ladder while the rest of us got dropped in the centre of town.
After the tour most of us took the opportunity to have a local lunch in town, either at Anne’s Place in the beautiful
park or at the Pilipino restaurant, the Orange Tree. After lunch it was free time to wander and explore Jamestown,
send some postcards, buy some souvenirs or perhaps have a drink in a local pub or go for a swim. There were other
options such as the historic tour with Peter and local guide Basil, visiting most many of the iconic buildings around
town and finding out their secrets from the past.
The afternoon and evening went all too quickly and with heavy hearts it was time to head back down to the wharf
and take a zodiac back to the ship. We were all on board by 20:45 ready to set off to our next destination, Ascension
Island but what a wonderful day it had been!
Day 33 – Sunday April 20th 2014
At sea sailing to Ascension Island
GPS 08.00 Position: 014°28’S / 007°22’W
Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 26°C.
After the excitement of the last few days it was almost quite nice to be back
on board Plancius and have a day at sea and although some of us could have
done without the wake‐up call and call for breakfast we all got ourselves up
and about at a reasonable time and began the day on board. Breakfast
brought a bit of a treat; some fresh St Helenian bananas which were
perfectly ripe and sweet. A great way to start the day!
Even at 8am it was still 26°C so any walking around the decks had to be done
before it got even hotter. In some places the decks were beginning to soften
and bend a little in the heat. Thank goodness the air conditioning is working
well and with the blinds down in the lounge it was pretty cool on indoors.
The presentation this morning was once again given by Albert who talked about navigation, in particular he talked
about Longitude and how the sailors developed this navigational technique to find
their way around the globe.
Out on deck there were virtually no birds seen during the course of the morning
other than 3 Arctic terns on their long migration north and a couple of Bulwer’s
petrels flying quite a long way from the ship. The dedicated deck crew however
spotted a big male Sperm Whale in the late morning. It was easily identified by its
forward, angled spout, motionless state (logging) and characteristic outline. It
stayed at the surface for a while and then taking one last breath it dived down,
showing its tail fluke as it made the long journey down to the deep ocean to hunt
for Giant squid and other deep water creatures. It was a lucky spot as most of the time these animals are down at
depths of up to 2000 metres and only spend short period of time on the surface.
Just before lunch Marck and Lillian and of course Rosie transported the bar up to the top deck behind the bridge and
set up cool drinks on deck. It was certainly very popular and the cold beers very quickly disappeared from the box!
The ice had been collected on the previous voyage and brought all the way from Antarctica, from south of the
Antarctic Polar Circle.
Lunch was another ‘local’ treat with Wahoo fish served with rice. Ralph, our chef had done some bartering on the
wharf at Jamestown and managed to buy the fish for a great price along with a pack of bacon and some sausages.
After lunch it was siesta time although many people braved the heat on deck to
catch a bit of sunshine and make the most of the fine weather we were
experiencing. The decks were hot and there wasn’t much of a breeze but it was still
pleasant to be outdoors enjoying the experience of the tropics at sea.
At 3:30 Ali invited us down to the relative cool of the dining room to give a
presentation entitled An Introduction to Ascension Island. She talked about the
geology of the island and its discovery in 1501 and then the subsequent struggle for
people to settle there due to the lack of fresh water on the island. Shipwrecked
sailor William Dampier finally found a small spring half way up the island called
Dampier’s Drip and so began the colonisation of the island. She talked about some of the seabirds found on the
island and of course the Green turtles that go there to breed each year.
A short while later Ali screened the last episode of ‘The Life of Mammals’ which was about our own ancestry and the
progress we have made to claim this planet as our own. It was thought provoking stuff.
Just before dinner we had a short re‐cap where Connie talked about his visit to the police station in Jamestown and
James gave a quick overview of the geology of the island once again. Dinner was an incredible feast of lamb and beef
followed by a dessert buffet which was enjoyed by all.
The final activity of the day was the hotly anticipated Pub Quiz given by the winning team from the previous two
quizzes. Staff were allowed to join a team and Ali thoroughly enjoyed getting her own back with some friendly
banter and heckling! The winning team in the end was the Mid Atlantic Sunset team with Ali and they were very
happy to enjoy their winnings while the team called the Bird of Paradise will be the name of the next cocktail served
in Rosie’s bar. What a great end to a hot day on board.
Day 34 – Monday April 21st 2014
At sea sailing to Ascension Island
GPS 08.00 Position: 011°15’S / 011°04’W
Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.
Another calm day at sea, with beautiful warm weather, and a mild breeze
from the southeast, gently pushing us towards our next destination. Early in
the morning two distant sperm whales were spotted, and later some people
had a glimpse of a mysterious unidentified maybe beaked whale sticking its
head out of the water.
At 10am Ali gave us a presentation about the Green turtles of Ascension. It
is truly amazing how these huge animals swim all the way from their
Brazilian feeding grounds to lay their eggs in this island’s golden beaches,
nothing for them to eat during the whole voyage, until they return to Brazil,
where they gorge on lush sea grass beds. Only the females come ashore, to
dig the holes in which they hide their eggs, about a hundred at a time. They may land like five times over a period of
several weeks, in the end producing some 500 ping pong balls. The males stay in the water, patrolling the beaches to
have fun with the females who all so desperately want to be fertilized.
Before lunch there was time enjoy the sunshine out on deck but as we
head further north and towards the equator the sun is getting stronger
and the decks are getting hotter so for some it was much more
comfortable to relax in the comfort of the cool air conditioned lounge.
At 11:30 Ali announced that it was time to return our rubber boots to the
boot room; we won’t be needing them for the tropical landings ahead of
us but they have been invaluable on the voyage; warm, good to walk in
and above all waterproof for all the wet landings along the way. Our last
landing on Nightingale Island had been a bit of a muddy one so rather
than just return the boots straight to the boot room they had to pass Ali’s strict inspection!! The reason for making
sure they are spotlessly clean is because they will next be worn in the high Arctic, on Spitsbergen and we don’t want
to introduce any seeds or soil from Nightingale to this pristine Arctic environment. There was water and brushes for
us to give the boots a good clean and actually the cool water was very refreshing in the heat of the day. Once clean
they were inspected and lined up like soldiers on parade. A good job done!
In the afternoon, James gave a lecture on the geology of Ascension, again a
volcanic island rising from the deep oceanic seabed. The volcanic crust of
Ascension started to form over 6 million years ago but it wasn’t until 1 million
years ago that the island broke the surface of the water for the first time. What
we now see is only 1% of the whole island structure which stretches down 4 km
down to the sea bed. The island itself has around 50 volcanic cones around its
slopes with the highest being Green Mountain at around 750 m.
During the after the birders scanned the seas for birds and marine mammals but
few birds were seen other than a flock of Sooty Terns which indicated that we
are getting nearer Ascension Island, which has a large breeding population of the elegant birds. They are locally
known as Wideawake, named after their call.
At around 3:30 there came a very exciting call on the PA system – Ice cream was being served on the top deck! There
was almost a stampede to get up there and it was well worth it as Rosie, Marck and Lilian served a selection of
chocolate and vanilla ice cream ice cream, which, unsurprising was all gone in a very short time. It had to be eaten
quickly before it melted!
There was a short re‐cap and briefing before dinner when Rinie gave a bit of an up‐date of our plans for the next
morning with the departing passengers getting an early wake‐up call to go on a zodiac cruise at Boatswainbird Island
before the ship re‐located to Georgetown.
Dinner would make some people homesick for the Falkland Islands, as we had beautiful fried steaks of Patagonian
Toothfish. Yet again it was cooked to perfection by Ralph and his team and went down very well indeed.
Day 35 – Tuesday April 22nd 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 007°55’S / 014°18’W
Weather: Wind: W 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.
It was an early wake up call for some as today’s departing passengers were
woken up to go out on a zodiac cruise at Boatswainbird Island. This huge
offshore stack is home to the biggest seabird colonies around Ascension Island
with endemic Frigate birds, Boobies and Noddies all nesting on the cliffs and
the flat summit.
As we sailed nearer and the sun began to rise, so did the birds, first one, then
another and soon the sky above the island and indeed the ship was full of
birds. As the zodiac went towards shore the rest of us enjoyed the spectacle of
watching the birds around the ship and we were lucky enough to see a Red
footed booby, one of about 35 or so that nest here on Ascension Island as well as Brown and Masked boobies. Also
around the ship were a number of Bottlenose dolphins that just seemed to be waiting for some action from us so
they could bow ride the ship.
When the zodiac cruise was finished, and it had been enjoyed by everyone fortunate
enough to go, Plancius turned towards Georgetown and the dolphins finally got what
they had been waiting for. 2 were seen bow riding the ship, jumping clear out of the
water and putting on a great show for those hanging over the rail to watch.
As we travelled along the coast we could see the evidence of the volcanic landscape
that James and Ali had spoken about on our way here and as we neared Georgetown
we could see the BBC masts at English Bay then Long Beach and finally the town itself
nestled at the foot of Cross Hill.
As usual we had to wait for the customs officials to clear the ship but there was plenty to look at around the ship
with huge shoals of Blackfish swimming around the ship, encouraged by the Philipino crew feeding them bread!
Once cleared we were able to make the short zodiac shuttle ashore and before too long we were all standing on the
wharf waiting to be allocated a seat in one of the mini buses and Land Rovers that were lined up ready and waiting
to take us on the island tour.
The first stop on the tour took us through the American base at the airport to the
Wideawake Fairs at Mars Bay where the Sooty terns nest in huge numbers. It was a
short walk down through the volcanic scenery to reach the birds but when we did it
really was a spectacle to behold with terns taking to the air and defending their
nests and chicks. We could soon hear why they are called Wideawakes and their
piercing calls certainly sounds as if they were telling us to stay wide awake. There
were a number of broken eggs on the ground and at times we had to be careful
where we were walking but we all got a good view of the birds before we left them
in peace and headed back up to the vehicles.
Next stop was up on Green Mountain at the National Park centre at the Red Lion building, which was built as military
barracks in 1838. It was an interesting ride up the steep mountain with sharp
hairpin bends all the way up requiring some expert driving from our Conservation
guides and drivers. As we got higher up the hill the vegetation got denser and
greener and by the time we stopped we were surrounded by banana trees and
lush tropical plants. We were met by Stedson Stroud who is a senior member of
the Conservation team and is now responsible for the Green Mountain National
Park. One of the biggest projects in recent years has been the propagation of
endemic plants to re‐plant these in the wild on the slopes of the mountain. In the
shade houses we were given a very informative talk about how a tiny fern that was thought to be extinct has been
re‐discovered and is now being planted back into the wild. A real success story.
All too soon it was time to head back down the steep hill to the village of Two Boats where a traditional lunch was
ready and waiting for us; St Helena fish cakes, wahoo and tuna. We all enjoyed the food and a cold drink after the
hot trip during the morning. From here some of us chose to go directly to Comfortless Cove for a swim and some
beach time while the rest of us went down into Georgetown to visit the museum and Post Office and do a bit of
souvenir shopping. With shuttles running between the ship, the pier and the beach there was plenty of time for
everyone to do a little bit of everything and with the last shuttle back to the ship at 6:30 there was time for a cold
drink and shower before dinner.
The day was not yet over though as we had evening activities ashore; turtle watching. At 8:30 we all gathered at the
gangway ready to go ashore to see if we could find a female turtle laying her eggs in the sand of Long Beach. We
actually didn’t need to go any further then the gangway to see some turtles as some hatchlings had been attracted
to the lights of the ship and were bravely swimming around the steps of the gangway. Further away and just out
from the light zone dolphins could be heard blowing and occasionally a flying fish would whizz through the air having
been chased by them. A couple of them hit the sides of the zodiacs, which gave the drivers a bit of a fright!
The drive ashore was a dark one but drivers and passengers had their head torches on to be seen by the other
zodiacs and also to avoid the buoys and boats in the area by the wharf. Once ashore we were met by the
Conservation team and taken to a small building for a video about the Green turtles and a short briefing about how
we should behave once we found a female on the beach. No white lights and no flash photography please!
From here we walked along the road which runs along the back of Long Beach where the team were in radio
communication with staff who were already on the beach looking for turtles that were close to the laying stage. If
females are approached when they are digging their nest chamber they are easily disturbed but once they start
laying their eggs they go into a trance‐like state and can be quietly observed without causing any disturbance at all.
As females were found we split into smaller groups to go and watch an
individual turtle and before too long we all had a turtle to watch and it was a
fabulous experience watching the process and listening to her efforts as she lay
her clutch of eggs, usually around 120 in a single clutch. One of the staff had
found a hatchling as he was walking along the beach so he brought it to a
couple of the groups for everyone to see. It is incredible to think that these tiny
turtles make their way through the crashing waves and out to the open ocean
where they, hopefully spend the next few years before finding their way to
Brazil to feed on sea grass, grow and maybe return to Ascension Island in 30
Once each female was finished laying and had begun to back‐fill the nest chamber we left her in peace to continue
the process and made our way back along the road to Georgetown, into the zodiacs and home. The dolphins were
still swimming around the ship and chasing flying fish so some people spent time on deck watching the dolphins and
enjoying the night sky before finally retiring to bed. What a great Ascension day!
Green Turtles of Ascension Island
Green turtles (Celonia mydas) use the sandy beaches of Ascension Island as a breeding ground spending
the rest of their time on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean feeding on the sea grass beds just off the
coast of Brazil. They are thought to have been breeding on Ascension Island for the last 10,000 years
The female turtles make this long Atlantic migration every 3 – 4 years arriving in December and staying
until July. The males are thought to come to Ascension Island more regularly to mate with the females
when they arrive.
The females haul themselves up onto the beaches of Ascension during the night and spend time finding a
suitable nesting location above the high tide mark. They then begin the laborious task of first digging out a
large primary nesting hole which can be over 2 metres across and then carefully excavating a deeper
nesting chamber in which the eggs will be laid. The nest is then covered up and she returns to the sea to
rest for 10 days or so. In each nest chamber there may be up to 120 eggs and she will lay anything up to 5
clutches during the season.
The heat of the sand incubates the eggs for the next 55 – 60 days and it is this sand temperature which
determines the sex of the turtle hatchlings. Above 29°C the eggs will be female, below 29°C they will be
male. Sand temperatures are generally above the critical temperature and so 75% of turtle hatchlings on
Ascension Island are female. With temperatures increasing this percentage could be set to rise which has
implications for turtle populations in the future.
As the hatchlings start to break out of the eggs and burrow their way upwards to the surface the
challenges facing these creatures really begin. Predators include Frigate birds, Land crabs and larger fish
and it is though that only 1 in 1000 makes it to adulthood.
In the past the Green turtles were captured for a source of fresh meat and as turtle soup became a
delicacy they were often shipped overseas, particularly to Britain to end up on the tables of royalty. There
are the remains of the turtle ponds beside Georgetown where the turtles were kept until they were
Day 36 – Wednesday April 23rd 2014
GPS 08.00 Position: 007°58’S / 014°17’W
Weather: Wind: ESE 5. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 28°C.
During the early hours of the morning Plancius was re‐positioned back around the
island to Boatswainbird Island once again where we hoped to do a zodiac cruise in
the same area in which the disembarking passengers had been the day before. As
we approached the island we could see hundred of seabirds lifting off from the top
of the island and before too long we had a huge flock of Ascension Frigate birds
hovering above the ship and Boobies flying past heading out to sea to feed for the
day. Unfortunately the wind that was keeping the Frigate birds in position above
the ship was also causing a significant amount of swell at the gangway. Staff were
ready to launch the zodiacs, in fact Simon was already standing in his boat ready to
be lowered when, after watching the gangway for a few minutes it was deemed too dangerous to disembark. The
swell was nearly 3m at times, which is beyond our operational capacity, despite having done some interesting’
gangway manoeuvres in recent weeks, particularly at Tristan.
Disappointing but we saw plenty of birds from the ship and the Captain took us back
to Georgetown in the opposite direction so that we circumnavigated the island. It was
a great trip back around as we had a large group of Bottlenose dolphins once again
and they thoroughly enjoyed bow riding the ship giving a very energetic display for us.
A number of turtles were also seen swimming by the ship on the way back around the
island which was great having seen them on shore the previous evening.
Back at Georgetown we had a quick meeting to outline plans for the day but it was pretty simple really; town, beach,
BBQ lunch and a tour with James to see some of the geological formations around the island. We were all free to
plan our own schedule for the day and for many it was nice to just have time alone
to go exploring or shopping or visit the museum. The museum is located down by
Fort Hayes and although it isn’t huge and they have limited artefacts it was a
fascinating place to spend some time, particularly looking at the old photographs
of life on Ascension Island. One of the most notable things was the difference in
the vegetation cover between the early part of the 20th century and the present
day. Green Mountain is much greener these days which is increasing the rainfall
further and allowing even more vegetation to grow.
At 12:30 most people had gathered at the pier for the short zodiac ride along the coast to Comfortless Cove where
Marck and the galley team had been busy all morning preparing a simple BBQ lunch on the beach. This is one of the
only safe places to swim around Ascension Island the little cove was a perfect spot for the afternoon at leisure. In the
past the cove was where many of the sailors suffering from fever were left in quarantine so that they didn’t infect
the garrison. It was originally called Comfort Cove but it would have been hot and uncomfortable for its inhabitants
and it was later re‐named.
With complimentary drinks, sausages and steaks it was a perfect BBQ lunch although Heinz, the Sous chef was heard
to remark that he hardly needed to turn the sausages as there was as much heat coming from above from the sun as
from below! It was certainly warm so most people took a swim, enjoyed the fantastic fish using the snorkel gear and
generally lounged around in the cool waters of the cove.
All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the ship where shortly after the last passengers were back on
board the anchor was lifted and we set sail on the final leg of our voyage up to Cape Verde.
Day 37 – Thursday April 24th 2014
At sea sailing to Cape Verdes
GPS 08.00 Position: 005°10’S / 015°31’W
Weather: Wind: SE 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 28°C.
After this wonderful beach holiday we had yesterday, the thing we all agreed
upon, was ‘RINIE, NO WAKE‐UP CALL’. Rinie obliged, so there was no wake‐up
call this morning, for the first time this voyage. For those who snugly turned in
their bunks for another snooze, the announcement that the doors of the
dining room were open for breakfast (on time) came as a cold shower.
In the morning, Albert gave a lecture on the history of measuring the size and
the shape of the earth, starting with the ancient Greek, who already figured
out that the Earth would be a globe. The first fairly accurate estimate came
from Erathostenes, the keeper of the famous Greek library in Alexandria
which later was destroyed by a fire. Erastosthenes knew that on the 21st of
June, the sun would shine directly to the bottom of a well near present day Assouan, on the Tropic of Cancer. At the
same date he measured the length of the shadow of a pole he erected in Alexandria, thus giving him the difference
in the angle towards the sun, enabling him to calculate the circumference of the earth. In the middle ages, Chinese,
Arab, Indian and Persian scientists made good estimates, but their knowledge never reached Europe, where we had
to re‐invent the wheel all over again. Starting in the 16th century, the French started measuring the size of the earth,
along the meridian that runs through Paris. In the 18th century, the French astronomer Cassini (Italian by birth) found
the earth to be prolate, meaning elongated towards the poles. At the same time, the English scientist Newton
reasoned that it should be oblate, i.e. flattened at the poles. This argument led to two colourful and adventurous
expeditions, to measure the length of a degree latitude at the equator in Peru, and at the polar circle in Lapland,
eventually proving that Newton was right.
It was a very hot day with very little breeze to be found anywhere on the
ship so although many people felt like they wanted to be out on deck to
enjoy the experience of being at sea in the tropics it really was too hot as
lunch time approached and for a while the decks of the ship were deserted
as everyone found a cool spot in the lounge or their cabins.
In the afternoon Simon gave an entertaining lecture about flippers, flukes
and fins, of all sorts of whales and dolphins. He has been lucky enough to
travel extensively throughout all the oceans of the world, not just the
Atlantic and has seen many species of whales and dolphins on his travels.
Wildlife has not been seen in huge numbers today but we’re seeing increasing numbers of Arctic Terns, on their
homeward voyages towards the far north. Equally Arctic were the few long‐tailed skuas that were spotted resting on
the water close to the ship as we passed by.
Finally a little respite from the heat; a swimming pool was created on the aft
deck, filling a zodiac with an endless supply of sea water and to cool off a little
more, ice popsicles were served in the bar. It might not be the biggest, most
luxurious of pools but it is certainly unique and very refreshing!
At 5pm Ali screened another documentary entitled Oceans – the Atlantic Ocean
and although it was interesting everyone agreed that it wasn’t the best so far so
another series would have to be researched for tomorrow….
During recap, James gave a wonderful overview of all the volcanic features we
have seen at Ascension, including different types of lava, fumaroles (smoke
holes), and beautiful pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass). Approaching the equator, we suddenly left the sunshine and
the steady SE trade winds, entering the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ICTZ), where the NE and Se trade winds
meet, and go up in the sky in this giant convection cell, causing condensation and rain, creating rain forests on the
continents, but at sea just showing itself as rainy clouds. Albert renamed the ITCZ into GGWC for himself, meaning
Gods Giant Watering Can, and just as he mentioned this during recap, the dark clouds outside broke, and down
came a dense downpour, as on cue. Perfect timing!
Dinner was announced and it was, as usual a great feast with lively conversation continuing until long after the
dessert plates and coffee cups had been cleared away.
Day 38 – Friday April 25th 2014
At sea sailing to Cape Verdes. Crossing the Equator!
GPS 08.00 Position: 000°46’S / 017°14’W
Weather: Wind: E 4. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 29°C.
Well, it was the calmest sea conditions we had experienced on the whole of the
voyage so far and we were well and truly in the ‘doldrums’. No rolling or pitching or
any other type of motion to keep us awake – very nice indeed! With no wake‐up call
from Rinie it was Marck’s voice that woke us and invited us for breakfast.
After breakfast, a few keen deck walkers headed out before it got too hot but it was
still warm to tramp the decks and some people stayed on the shady side of the ship
At 10:00 Albert invited us down to the dining room for a presentation entitled
Measuring the Earth or Albert and his Daughter Travel the Struve Geodetic Arc. The range of subjects that he is able
to talk about is diverse and he has certainly been a valuable member of
staff on these sea days and of course the remote islands we have been
The rest of the morning was spent anticipating the next exciting part of
our voyage; crossing the equator! Who knows what might happen as we
pass from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. Stories
of Neptune abound and we weren’t sure whether Rinie had asked
permission to cross the equator from the King of the Ocean. Just before
12:30, as the GPS positioning system counted down we gathered on the
Bridge or in front of the TV screens so we could see the positions reach
000°00’S and turn from S to N. There was a countdown over the PA system and as we crossed the invisible dividing
line the ship’s horn was sounded and we were over. We waited to see if there was lightning bolts and tidal waves
sent from the deep but nothing, just a vast expanse of blue ocean stretching out on all sides of the ship.
Lunch was called and we all enjoyed the Baked Potato bar where we could choose our own toppings and salad.
After lunch while we were all relaxing and digesting our potatoes
there came an urgent call over the PA system telling us that we had
visitors approaching Plancius! Visitors? In the middle of the Atlantic
Ocean? And indeed there were. Approaching in a zodiac was King
Neptune himself with his brightly coloured driver bringing him up
towards the bow of the ship and boy, was he angry! At the same
time Neptune’s wife and servants came from the stern deck to the
bow. It transpired that Rinie hadn’t asked for permission (maybe
the e‐mail didn’t get through) and Neptune was furious with us for
trespassing across the equator and he was going to make us pay.
Neptune’s wife tried to plead for mercy on our behalf but it was no good, he boarded the ship and his throne was set
up on the aft deck so that he could hand out his punishment.
Ralph had cooked up one of his least appetising meals and it was this concoction that was poured, smeared,
scrubbed and rubbed into the poor souls who had dared to defy Neptune. The King himself was on hand to ensure
that the punishment was suitably handed out and his wife was alongside him to offer comfort to the poor victims as
they knelt before him.
It was a messy but highly entertaining business (for the observers at
least!) and there was plenty of liquid refreshment available to wash
away the taste of the chocolate and oatmeal concoction! The zodiac
swimming pool was a very popular location for cleaning up and Marck
was on hand with a hose to make sure we all got the gunk off before
going indoors for a shower. A great afternoon for everyone which was
drawn to a satisfactory conclusion when there was an uprising and a
mutiny against King Neptune and he got the same treatment that he
had been handing out to everyone all afternoon! Justice!
After the clean up many people continued to enjoy the zodiac pool
while other resumed positions in the lounge and back up on the Bridge wings. This proved to be a useful spot as in
the space of about half an hour a large pod of Long finned pilot whales was seen in the distance and some Beaked
whales, possibly Cuvier’s were also seen quite close to the ship. The presence of marine mammals usually brings
with it birds and a few Storm petrels were seen, both Madeiran and Leach’s so some action after what had been
quite a quiet day for the birders.
There was no official re‐cap this evening but many people gathered in the lounge for a ‘sundowner’ and it was worth
it as we had one of the best sunsets we’ve had on the trip so far.
Day 39 – Saturday April 26th 2014
At sea sailing to Cape Verdes
GPS 08.00 Position: 003°36’N / 018°58’W
Weather: Wind: N 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 27°C.
After the excitement of yesterday crossing the equator, today was always
going to be a quiet day and with no wake‐up call from Rinie, just the breakfast
announcement from his wife Lillian it was a much more gentle start to the
day on board. Having crossed into the Northern Hemisphere only yesterday
we already found ourselves in a different weather system and rather than the
South Easterly trade winds pushing us along we had a gentle breeze from the
north which created a lovely cool flow of air on deck during the day. With
some current against us and increasing temperatures in the engines, the Chief
Engineer had eased back a little on the generator power and we were making
less speed but still on schedule for our arrival in the Cape Verdes. With sea
water temperatures over 30°C it is difficult to keep the generators and engines below the critical level and indeed
the engine room itself had peaked at 45°C over the last few days. Hot work for the team of 3 Engineers and their
Motormen on their 4 hour watches, on duty twice a day.
In the cool of the dining room James was ready at 10am to give a presentation entitled ‘Globally important wildlife in
UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies’ This talk detailed the conservation issues effecting the different
territories, and how the UK government gives far more money to conservation issues in the UK than the overseas
territories despite the territories having a much higher biodiversity. If people were concerned about the issues they
were invited to become friends of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum.
During the morning the birders and ‘sea watchers’ had quite an exciting morning. There weren’t too many species of
bird to be seen; some Arctic terns on their northerly migration and some distant Storm petrels but the marine life we
saw gave everyone a real thrill as we had a pod of Spinner dolphins on the port side of the ship. They could be seen
leaping out of the water and spinning in the air in their unique way and we hoped that they might come closer and
bow ride Plancius but unfortunately apart from one dolphin that came for a quick look they kept their distance as we
passed by. Good views of them with binoculars and zoom lenses but that was all.
During the afternoon while some of us were snoozing,
some were taking a dip in the zodiac pool where the life
guard was in attendance and passengers had the chance to
try to copy the antics of the spinner dolphins, however
diving from the 10 metre board was forbidden due to
Health and Safety. Some members of the Expedition team
were busy with the dreaded end of season inventories.
Albert could be seen checking the books in the Library
while Ali was counting and repairing snowshoes on the
foredeck. Strange to be thinking about snowshoes in this
heat but they have been well used throughout the Antarctic season and needed some maintenance and repairs.
The afternoon presentation was with Sam in the dining room and she was on hand to give advice about what to do
with all the photographs we have taken on this trip when we finally get home. Some will no doubt be printed off and
filed in photograph albums, some might be enlarged and framed for the wall and others might make their way into a
homemade Internet book but the vast majority will be left in files on our computers and I‐pads to be looked at from
time to time to remind ourselves of our adventures on our long Atlantic Odyssey.
There was time for gooey chocolate brownies (not made from leftovers from Neptune’s punishment!) before
documentary time with Ali in the dining room once again where she screened another episode of ‘The Life of Birds’
which looked at the evolution of flight and why some birds took to the air while others remained flightless. Before
dinner we were invited to the lounge for a short re‐cap where James gave an up‐date on the Argos float we launched
a few weeks ago and Albert told a story of a rare Tristan stamp that is sought after by collectors around the world
and indeed Cliff, who left with his wife Mary in the Falkland Islands, was one of those collectors.
Dinner was another lively affair complete with a birthday celebration and the conversation (and singing!) once again
continuing until long after the staff had cleared plates and glasses away.
Day 40 – Sunday April 27th 2014
At sea sailing to Cape Verdes
GPS 08.00 Position: 007°40’N / 020°35’W
Weather: Wind: NW 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: + 26°C.
Once again the day had a gentle start with no wake‐up call, just Lillian
announcing breakfast at 8am in order for us to start our day on board
Plancius. It was a slightly cooler morning out on deck with a strong breeze
blowing onto the bow and only hazy sunshine which made conditions for the
‘post‐breakfast’ walkers quite pleasant. It was quite busy on the decks for a
Sunday morning with passing places needed along the route of Deck 4 as
people walked in different directions!
At 10am Connie invited us down to the dining room where he was screening a
short documentary film about the problems of Invaders of the UK Overseas
Territories, particularly on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island. Rats and mice
have devastated the small bird populations on these islands and, indeed Albert explained earlier on during the trip
about how on Gough Island even the large birds, the Tristan albatross chicks have been attacked by mice. Invasive
species are a problem all over the world but islands are more vulnerable to the arrival of a species that the native
and endemic species are not adapted to cope with.
For the rest of the morning passengers enjoyed deck time or cool lounge
time while on the aft deck by the swimming pool Ali could be found
checking the inventory for the emergency survival bags that are used
during landings in the Antarctic and South Georgia. These bags contain
emergency shelters, ropes, a snow shovel a stove and even soups, tea
bags and emergency rations just in case weather conditions change during
a landing and passengers are stranded ashore for a while. With everything
laid out to dry it looked like an outdoor equipment shop!
Lunch, which was a very pleasant sandwich bar, was followed by more
relaxation time and for some, a cooling dip in the pool which was a little
like a washing machine today as the motion of the ship created waves
which sloshed around the zodiac pool.
At 3:30 it was presentation time once again and this time it was Simon’s turn to invite us to the dining room where
he gave a very interesting talk entitled ‘Photographic Reflection – A Touch of Glass’. We’re all going to be looking for
reflections everywhere and trying to capture some new and interesting images with our cameras.
Just as Simon finished his talk there was a strange gathering on the top deck of the ship. Passengers came from their
cabins, the lounge, the aft deck and all other corners of the ship and gathered in
huge numbers on the deck and there was an air of anticipation as 4 o’clock
approached. As the clock ticked a buzz went round the deck; ‘It’s late’. ‘Where are
they?’ and then with the arrival of Marck, Lillian and Rosie with Ice cream a feeding
frenzy began as people queued for cones and proceeded to lick and slurp and munch
on the vanilla and chocolate offerings!
At 5pm it was time for the final documentary presentation from Ali in the dining
room. It was the last episode of the series ‘The Life of Birds’ which looked at the
birds which inhabit some of the most inhospitable places on the planet and also at
conservation efforts to protect some species from extinction.
Before dinner there was time for a short re‐cap and gathering in the lounge before
heading down to the dining room for a great Sunday dinner with lamb on salmon
offer. Another day done and only one more to go………
Day 41 – Monday April 28th 2014
At sea sailing to Cape Verdes
GPS 08.00 Position: 011°50’S / 022°15’W
Weather: Wind: N 3. Sea State: Slight. Weather: Partly cloudy. Temperature: + 23°C.
Once again there was no wake‐up call to rouse us before 8am but Marck
announced breakfast and the day began, our last day on board Plancius on this
extraordinary voyage up the Atlantic Ocean.
The morning routine was unchanged for most people but at some point during
the day bags would need to be dragged from underneath our bunks and the
contents of our cabins stuffed inside – packing is always easier on the way
home as everything has to go in!
It was a little cooler out on deck this morning with temperatures only reaching
23°C but it was pleasant change from the sweltering, humid days we’ve been
experiencing over the last few weeks. The morning walkers were out once again making the most of the last
opportunity to walk the decks but probably looking forward to a walk in the park or on a beach rather than the
monotonous decks of the ship.
At 10am Albert gave his final lecture presentation which was an introduction to Cape Verde. For many of us this
destination is just the end of the journey and the departure point from this trip but the islands have a fascinating
history and vibrant culture which was very interesting to learn about.
Shortly afterwards Rinie invited us to the lounge for an informal talk about
Polar bears, animals very close to his heart. He has spent many years
working with these impressive animals both in Spitsbergen and more
recently in Churchill where he and Lillian travel every autumn to lead tours
for clients to see the bears. He has published a number of books about Polar
bears with some beautiful photographs that he has taken over the years so it
was great to hear some more about them and maybe plan a future trip to
visit the high Arctic regions to see them in their natural surroundings.
After lunch there was some house‐keeping and paperwork to attend to;
settling our accounts for this final leg of our voyage from Ascension Island to Cape Verde. With just a few days to
accumulate a bill it was a little less painful than the previous account settlement prior to Ascension Island!
Later in the afternoon Clive, our on board marine mammal fan screened a documentary entitled Blackfish which was
an emotional movie about marine mammals, such as Orca, Killer whales being kept in captivity. Having been
fortunate enough to see these impressive animals both in Antarctica and near
Tristan da Cunha and also see some of the big baleen whales such as Blue and Fin
and a number of species of dolphin it is hard to believe that it is still acceptable
for any of these animals to be kept in captivity. They range far and wide over the
oceans in search of food and on long migrations so a small tank in a big city
where they have to endure cramped conditions and are often subjected to
humiliating demands to perform is pure torture for these animals.
With no documentary today there was time to relax, pack a bag and just catch up
with fellow passengers before we all go our separate ways. Some strong
friendships have been established during this trip (and maybe a few romances…..!) and we’re sure to keep in touch
with some people and from time to time meet up, catch up and share memories of our Atlantic Odyssey.
Before dinner there was time to share memories as Sam screened a movie/slide show with images of our journey
and seeing the whole voyage in the space of 20 minutes made us realise what an incredible journey we had been on
from the frozen Antarctic continent to the heat of Ascension Island. There have been some tough, rough days and
things haven’t always gone according to Plan A or even Plan B or C but we’ve got there and have been very fortunate
to visit some extraordinary places along the way.
With the Captain joining us for a final toast to our voyage it was then time to gather on the aft deck for a Bubble and
Squeak dinner! What a great way to end the trip! Cheers everyone!
Day 42 – Tuesday April 29th 2014
Arrival Cape Verdes
Total distance sailed on this voyage: 8562 nautical miles.
On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Nazarov, Expedition Leader Rinie van Meurs
and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you and we wish you a safe
and enjoyable continuation of your journey and hope to see you on board Plancius again
Log contributions from members of the Expedition Team.
Enhanced and edited by Ali Liddle'