Van Williams' Trip to Antarctica & Patagonia - 2010

Back to Antarctica

Region: Antarctica
Destination: Antarctica and Patagonia
Submitted by: Van Zandt Williams Jr
From: 1/3/2010
To: 1/30/2010

Jan. 3-5: Overnight flight from Miami to Buenos Aries; tour city by foot, bus and subway, seeing most of the highlights and enjoying traditional Argentinian (beef!) dinners. Wonderful city and easy to get around.
Jan 6: Join Hapag-Lloyd tour group and fly to Ushuaia in early am. Tour Ushuaia and surroundings (not much) in Tierra del Fuego during day and board SS Hanseatic in pm. Depart in evening for the Falkland Islands.
Jan. 7 – 9: At sea to the Falklands, where we have three excursions to see penguin, albatross and cormorant rookery, local sheep farming operations and a day in Stanley. Very isolated, and very British. Stanley shows us "four seasons in a day” as we go ashore in shorts and sunscreen; endure some rain at midday and return to ship in snow and hail. Very upbeat community, despite lingering tensions with Argentina.
Jan. 10, 11: Days at sea on way to South Georgia Island. Boat is mostly German passengers, but we find several Canadian and English-speaking couples. Crew is very experienced and boat operations excellent. Food is good and there’s usually a themed dinner or menu option. Lectures twice a day in German and English, but there is a lot of down time for reading. No cell phone connections and very spotty ship’s internet service. Distances are large here.
Jan 12: Arrive at what was to be a three-day visit to S. Georgia, but find it’s to be shortened to one because of an approaching storm. So we pack in four separate excursions (run in shifts) to see wildlife and the remnants of the whaling industry that once flourished there. Stop at Stromness whaling station where Ernest Shackleton returned to seek rescue for his men trapped in Antarctica. Also stop at Grytviken where Shackleton is buried and which serves as the only population outpost (summer only- UK run). Cemetery visit includes ceremonial spiced rum toast to Ernest’s memory and bravery. Depart in evening for S. Orkneys, 550 n.m. SE to beat the storm.
Jan 13: Storm presents a following wind, so not so bad. More lectures and reading on the way.
Jan 14: Icebergs appear in am, and we arrive in S. Orkneys to find research station on main island is still iced in so we do two wildlife excursions on Coronation Island which is accessible. All penguins and a few seals. We are becoming quite expert on penguin species. On in pm to Elephant Island, Antarctica.
Jan 15: First stop is at Elephant Island at top of Antarctic peninsula, where Shakleton’s men stayed while awaiting rescue. Shore space is incredible small and rocky (and wet). Miraculous that the men survived with no casualties. Ship maneuvers in pm to head south to Antarctic Sound. Shortened visit to S. Georgia adds two days to our visit here.
Jan 16 – 21: Six full days exploring Antarctic Sound and the associated island is too detailed to summarize here, but we did it all, from swimming in fumarole-heated waters to sledding down glacier faces and climbing ice-covered hills. There are even a few cruising sailors spotted. Seals and penguins rule, along with many different birds.
Jan 22 – 24: The long trip back north to S. America has more lectures and reading, and one serious storm that manages to dump the entire breakfast service on the 23rd. Crew takes it all in stride, however, as there are extra supplies of everything aboard. But you know you’re in for a rough day when you leave your cabin and find barf bags inserted in the handrails every 20 feet or so. Day of the 24th is spent weaving our way up the Chilean coast to Punta Arenas. No landing stops, but wonderful scenery through the Magellan Straight, arriving in port around midnight.
Jan. 25: Disembark from SS Hanseatic and connect with tour operator (Big Five Tours) for the trip to Patagonia. It’s a long bus ride to the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, with a stop at a sheep farm for lunch and a brief visit to Puerto Natales.
Jan 26, 27: Three nights at the Torres del Paine Lodge allows two full days of tours in the park. The roads are rustic and rough, and the scenery majestic. The area is best suited for young trekkers. The lodge food was good, though very basic, and the wind blew more or less continuously. There are more luxurious hotels, but the tours are all very much the same.
Jan. 28, 29, 30: A straight five-hour bus trip back to Punta Arenas takes us to the airport and a flight to Santiago, where we stay one night at the Radisson and enjoy touring the city the following day via the "on and off” bus and the subway. It’s a sprawling city, but easy to navigate. The main square (Plaza de Armas) is a wonderful mix of tourists, natives, shops and restaurants. The Pre-Columbian Museum is also quite nice. Our overnight flight back to Miami leaves at 9:45pm, and we’re back at home in Naples on Jan. 30 in time for theater that night.





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