Onwards to Antarctica: Our final moments on the edge of the world – 17 March 2017
Today was our last day in Ushuaia before we set off for Antarctica. We started the day by checking out of the hotel and tagging our luggage for loading onto the Plancius, at 10:00 am. After that, we were given until 13:30 pm to explore the rest of the city. Most of us went shopping for souvenirs, at least Sam, Naomi, Rebecca and I did.
At 13:30 pm the whole group met up back at the hotel on the top floor for Lars’ lecture. He spoke about what our lives on the Plancius would be like and demonstrated the logging softer procedure we would use when conducting our surveys on board. Once we finished up there, we began to make our way to the ship, for what would be our last steps on land until we touch down on the Antarctic Peninsula. At this point, a few began popping out their sea sickness tablets in anticipation of rocky seas. Before we could embark, we had to take our group photo at the Ushuaia sign. Luckily there were some friendly photographers there so Lars was excited to know that he too could be in the photo.
When waiting in line to board, you could feel everyone’s excitement pouring out when approaching our ship and acknowledging the reality that we were so close to going to Antarctica. On board, we got a five-star welcome treatment from the crew. We were escorted to our cabins where our luggage was waiting for us. We got the best rooms because they are at the bottom and back of the ship, so we won’t feel the rolling and pitching as much. The rooms and bathrooms were comfortable. After settling in, all passengers reported to the main hall for orientation and safety drills.
With that done, some students or “junior scientists” as Sonja prefers to call us, went on the outside deck to admire the scenery and for some early birding. From the ship, whilst leaving harbour in the Beagle Channel, we managed to spot some Southern Giant Petrels, Imperial Shags, many Kelp Gulls, our first penguins – Magellanic penguins, and the exciting Black-Browed Albatross. Alec was the first to spot our first marine mammal from the ship – a South American fur seal.
Back down into the lounge, we received a warm welcome and introduction from all crew and expedition staff; even the captain gave a toast to a good expedition. At dinner, we celebrated a special occasion because it was Haley’s 22nd Birthday. Whilst dining, the lights suddenly blacked out and a cake with a large rocket candle made its way to Haley. Haley was blushing whilst they sang a different rendition of Happy Birthday. Something about this celebration was particularly moving, because Haley’s parents made the trip down to Argentina from the US to come on this trip to celebrate her birthday with her. They have always been together on her birthday, making what I believe a special birthday for them all. We ended this exciting day with a meeting from Lars and Sonja briefing us on the plan for the next day. Most of us headed to bed to rest for the activities the next day has to offer.
written by Michael Petroni