We are on our way with our Antarctic voyage and after a day and a night of sailing, we have reached the Falkland Islands After leaving Ushuaia, we headed east along the Beagle Channel as night was falling and managed to spy Port Williams on the southern (right -side) shore. This is the most southerly permanent settlement in the world.
We awoke yesterday to a rolling sea with 4 metre waves coming from the west and onto the left hand side of the ship. We were heading north-east to the Falkland Islands. As a result, we were rolling quite a bit and lots of people were feeling sick. I was feeling quite queasy until an hour or so after I managed to take some medication.
We had a few talks by some of our subject matter experts during the day . These covered subject such as on photographic composition, penguin species and the history of the Falkland Islands. Some of these were not well attended with people preferring to stay in their beds or in the lounge where they could get a view of the horizon and avoid feeling nauseous. A compulsory talk on Zodiac safety preceded our happy hour and then we had dinner dinner with an introduction to our expedition staff. Our expedition leader is Graeme from NZ with other members rom diverse placers such as Canada, Scotland, Australia and the USA. They all seem very competent and they should make this a great trip.
The meals have been really good with a full breakfast, solid lunch and three course dinners with three choices of dishes, I didn’t have a great appetite for breakfast and lunch yesterday but by afternoon, the wind had abated and shifted round to blow from behind us. It was pretty calm by dinner time and much more comfortable.However, I am sure that we will get some more rough weather before this cruise is over.
This morning, we had our first landing for this trip. We stopped at West Point Island in the Eastern Falklands. Because of the spring tide, the ship needs to be in a and out of the bay where our landing spot was located by 10;am, otherwise the spring tide would have been too strong for us to get out again. The scenery here is just like any other sub-antarctic island – desolate and windswept. It reminds me of some parts of SW Tasmania and the Scottish highlands.
As usual for an expedition like this, we have no rigid agenda – needing to be flexible and make adjustments to suit the weather, time and tides. As a variation from our original plan, we started the day with a quick snack and coffee and then we were out in zodiacs at 5.45 am. Our landing site was at a farm landing, about one kilometre away.
West Point Island is occupied by a very stoic sheep farmer and we walked across his land for half an hour to some cliffs on the other side of the peninsular where we could see Rockhopper Penguins and a Black-Browed Albatross breeding area. We spent a couple of hours watching these birds before walking back to the zodiacs and being back on the ship in time to suit the tide.
Lunch (brunch) was ready for us when we returned and just after lunch, we were back in the zodiacs for another shore excursion. This time, we went to Carcass Island to see Magellanic penguins. These birds are about twice the size of the Rockhoppres and most are moulting at this time of the year. They have a band of black feathers (like an inverted horseshoe) which runs up each side of their chest and across the bottom of their chin.
This area is a bird watchers paradise and all the ‘Twitchers’ were getting really excited about the birds that they were seeing. We walked for an hour around the bay to another farmhouse and enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea of scones and cakes with the lady of the house. She must have been baking for days to provide us with the spread that she laid out for all ninety five of us. Now, we have a quiet few hours on the ship before dinner.
We have quite a special guest on this ship. At the moment a group of adventurers is re-creating Shackleton’s voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia. This was the route he took in trying to find a rescue for his men in 1912 when his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the winter ice. His expedition was trying to be the first to cross the entire Antarctic continent. These modern day adventurers are using the same type of clothing as used by Shackleton and in an exact replica of his boat. We will see Shackleton’s grave in South Georgia and expect to meet these adventurers when they arrive at Grytviken, an old whaling station site and now the administrative centre for the South Georgian government. Shackleton’s grand daughter, Alexandra, is travelling with us on the ship. She is the patron of the Shackleton Foundation and we are interested in a talk that she will give sometime during our voyage about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his life. She is the daughter of his son, who was only ten year of age when Shackleton died, therefore she never met her famous grandfather..