Oceanwide - M.V. Hondius
Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula
November 3 - December 28, 2019
This is a quick start at some images and words from my voyages on the M.V. Hondius. I am aboard for 5
voyages - first a 21 day voyage from Puerto Madryn to the Falklands,
South Georgia and the Peninsula ending in Ushuaia - followed by 4 x 10
day voyages from Ushuaia to the Peninsula and back. This is my first
contract with Oceanwide. For a lok at previous voyages got back to the
main website www.jillandjohn.net.nz.
Sorry - I have made no effort to make this page look good on smaller screen sizes.
The trip started in Puerto Madryn which is a rather rough outpost but
also the centre for a whale and wildlife visits to the Valdez
Peninsula. The city centre is along a very pleasant seaside promenade.
Here are some views from there - the ship, a carosel, a monument to
divers, map of the area, monumnet to women (which looks more like a
monumnet to a man's dream of women to me - but then this is Argentina)
We had a free day when I joined the
staff so we hired a car and made a visit to the nearby city of Trelew
to see the famous paleological museum. The fossil of the largest
dinosaur discovered so far was found near here - titanosaurus. This was
a great opportunity to get to know my new workmates.
Hondius is a brand new ship and
very comfortable. Normally the crew cabins are on the lower decks, but
I was assigned to a cabin on deck 6 - just below the bridge. Lucky me.
The food is very good - both in the crew mess and the dining room where
I share meals with the PAX. Tea, coffe and snacks are always availabe
in the lounge. Let's have a look around.
Hondius is a brand new ship and very comfortable. Normally the crew cabins are on the lower decks, but I was assigned to a cabin on deck 6 - just below the bridge. Lucky me. The food is very good - both in the crew mess and the dining room where I share meals with the PAX. Tea, coffe and snacks are always availabe in the lounge. Let's have a look around.My cabin from the bow deck, by top bunk, the rest of the cabin, the lounge, an upper deck passenger cabin (a few have balconies), a standard passenger cabin (some doubles, triples and quads), crew mess, dining room.
Our first port of call was the Falkland Islands - I gave my Falklands History talk along the way. We made a morning landing on Carcas Island. The main attraction was the Gentoo penguin colony - where the eggs had just been laid. One of the reasons I am looking forward to this contract is that I have never cruised south in November/December and I am lookinf forward to the differences between spring/early summer and the late summer/autumn that I have experienced before.
Gentoos with egg, PAX at
Gentoo colony, Upland geese, Gentoo colony monochrome
Our afternoon landiing was blown out - so no albatross or Rackhopper penguin colonies on this visit - too bad. The next morning was at Stanley where I spent the whole time using the Wifi as the weather remained lousy, I have visited twice before, and the internet aboard is abysmal. Then it was 2 sea days to South Georga - I gave my South Georgia History talk along the way. Both talks have received positive reviews from PAX and staff.
The first landing was at 0600 at the
largest King Penguin colony on the island - St. Andrew's Bay - in
superb conditions. The kings are as pretty and curious as ever - but I
have sooo many king penguin photos that I mostly just enjoy being
there. The beach is also full of elephant seals as their breeding
season is just coming to a close. South Georgia is a wildlife paradise
and this was a great introduction to the visit for both PAX and me.
Beach scene, colony overlook, kings
prone, king chicks, the colony backlit in the morning sun
Elephant seal, fur seal bull snarl, mountain peak, penguin moult and poo, king closeups
To rear a king penguin chick takes the parents more than one year. At the end of that time the chicks are bigger than their parents and are covered by brown down. Under the down is the adult plummage waiting to be revealed. For more see: ???. Because of the early season there were many more chicks at this stage than I had ever seen before. At our next landing, Salisbury Plain, I was lucky to be able to approach the colony quite closely.
King penguin chicks approaching fledging
Out next port of call was at
Gold Harbour. This is my favourite landing here because of the superb
setting and the abundance of wildlife aolng the beach. When I was here
in February the beach was alive with fur seal pups. At this earlier
time the fur seals had not yet arrived and the beach was dominated by
elephant seals. Their pups were mostly all weaned and the mating was
drawng to a close. Nonetheless we saw several ferocious battles between
the beachmasters. The "weaners" were everywhere - seemiing a bit lost
and looking at you with big brown eyes as if to say "Are you my
mother?" and wanting a cuddle. The weather this time was truly
sub-Antarctic - zero degrees C and sideways sleet. So it was cold and
not the most condusive to photo taking - but still and exceptional
On our last day in South Georgia we made a landing at Prion Island - home to a colony of nesting Wandering Albatross - the largest of the albatross famly. The wind was strong and the older chicks were testing their wings and getting ready to try that crazy thing called flying. At this beach the fur seal bulls had taken over and were busy gettng the best possible positins for the arrival of the females
Wanderer chicks, fur seal bulls (love the whiskers)
With that we weighed ther anchor and headed east toward Elephant Island and the Peninsula. Along the way we had a nice encounter with a pod of killer whales. Point wild on elephant Island is where 22 of Shackleton's men from Endurance waited while he made the perilous journay to South Georgia to effect a rescue. They wre there for 4 months on a tiny spit of land under their overturned boats. It is named for Frank Wild - Shackleton's deputy who stayed behind with the men - but it it truly a wild place.
Killer whale, Elephant Island glacier monochrome, Point
From Point Wild we continued overnight and reached the Antarctic Peninsula - for the first of 5 consecutive voyages to this area as the reminder of my contract is for "classic" 10 day trips from Ushuaia. In past years I have arranged the photos and stoies from this region chronologically and geographically - so this time I have decdied to go with subject matter. Over the 50 days there should be considerable changes with the birds going from nest and eggs to hatched chikcs, the ice melting, and so on. This is a bit of an experiment - so time will tell.
Adelie are probably my
favourite of all the penguins. They are delightful is a kind of energetic scatterbrained sort of way.
Adelie penguins in various poses - including with an egg
The "Chinnies" are almost as endearing as the Adelies and the most photogenic of the brushtail (non crested) penguins.
Gentoo penguins are the most common and, to me, the least charismatic - but nonetheless fun to be around.
Nesting kelp gulls, nesting Antarctic shag, black-browed albatross,
wandering albatross (sorry for the image quality), light mantled sooty
The Peninsula is a rugged and scenic place
Ice comes in all sizes, shapes and hues.
Sunny days are not nearly as common as overcast days - but the clouds are often striking
Days are long and
sunsets stretch out as the sun slides sideways below the horizon. These
are from a magical evening in the Lemaire Channel
I never takes selfies - but occasionally get snapped by others in a way worth sharing.
On one visit to Deception Island, just
as we entered the caldera the wind hit like a sledgehammer. The bad
weather was forecast but came earlier than expected. We went back to
sea in 50-60 knot winds and a large swell. The bow spray drenched the
Bridge windows. The ship was covered in ice for days afterward.
For a video see: Bow Wave
As ever, the best part of the job is being part of the Expedition Team - Here is the team from the first voyage: