On Jan 31st, 2015 we came to Ushuia by plane from Puerto Iguazu. In Argentina we visited Buenos Aires, Puerto Iguazu and Punta Tomba. These places Andre visited already in 2011. Please see Patagonia Trip report.
Usuhuia is the capital of the southernmost argenitinan province called Tierra del Fuego, Antartida e Islas del Atlantico Sur. Ushuia is a sliver of steep streets and jumbled buildings set between the Beagle Channel and the snowcapped mountain called Martial range. There are a lots shops offering outdoor activities: hiking, sailing, skiing, kayaking etc.
Ushuaia takes full advantage of the end-of –the world-status as nearly 90% of the Antarctic tourists depart from Ushuiaia.During the past thirty years Ushuaia has expanded rapidly from a small village into a city of almost 60000.
We took a cruise and after passing Isla de los Lobos we landed on Isla ‘H’ an island located in the Beagle Channel with a large colony of rock cormorants.
The other day we went by bus to the The Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. The surface of the park is huge however only a small part is open to the public.
There are a few scenic hikes along the bays and the rivers with dense forests in background. Birdlife is prolific. We didn’t take the very touristic and expensive Tren del Fin de Mundo which originally carted the prisoners to the working camps.
On Feb 3rd, we boarded in Ushuaia our ship MV Plancius. All passengers were promptly at the gangway at 16:00, ready to board the ship. We were greeted at the gangway by members of the Expedition staff who sorted our luggage and sent us on board and our expedition towards Antarctica started. For the next ten days Plancius was our home. Regina was afraid how small Plancius was compared with other cruise ships in the Ushuaia port.
Plancius is an expedition vessel for 116 passengers and is ca. 89 m long and was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy . The vessel was bought by Oceanwide Expeditions and was completely rebuilt as a 116-passenger vessel in 2009.
We started sailing toward the Antarctic Peninsula. First we passed the Beagle Channel where a group of very seldom Southern Whale Dolphins accompanied the ship for ca. two hours. Gorgeous!
On the first evening we had the chance to meet our Captain, Mr. Alexey Nazarov and toast our voyage with a glass of Prosecco. After leaving the Beagle Channel we passed the Cabo de Hornos and the Diego Ramirez islands and then we entered The Drake passage.
The feared crossing of the Drake Passage during ca. two days was not so bad as expected. The sea was relatively calm (waves of ca. 1 – 2 m height). However the captain told us that sometimes on the sea you don’t pay your debts immediately but you have to pay them later. He was right.
Birdwatching was very interesting. There were Wandering Albatrosses, Prions and Giant Petrels flying around. We spent the time trying to take the pictures the Albatrosses and other birds flying around the ship and finishing by finding out and this is a very hard job and admiring the professional animal photographs. We stopped following the birds as soon as the guides called us to hear a lecture about Penguins. In the afternoon we had another very interesting lecture on glaciers and ice. On board a lot of tourists were French speaking so the lecture were given in parallel in French and in English. So Andre went either in the French or in the English presentation depending on the speaker.
In the evening we had (as every day onboard) a recap time. We gathered together at the lounge to hear the plans for next day and some short topics related to our new adventure. The guides gave us a short presentation on the Antarctic Convergence – the area where the cold Antarctic water meets the “warm” continental water.
Please check further Peninsula Antarctica Days 1-2