Classic Antarctica Trip Log (6 - 18 Jan, 2018) – Sunday, Jan 7

Sunday, January 7: Ushuaia
January 2018

We flew from across the globe to Buenos Aires and onward to Ushuaia, the Gateway to Antarctica. Following the spine of the Andes throughout the morning, our flight passed countless snowy peaks and, as we approached Tierra del Fuego, the scenery had to be seen to be believed. The growing outpost of Ushuaia, a small city with a population of 45,000, calls itself Ciudad del Fin de Mundo (the City at the End of the World), and is proud to be the southernmost city on the planet. Although growing rapidly, the city maintains some of its frontier-town atmosphere with streets of small houses and every kind of architecture.

Situated on the Beagle Channel and surrounded by mountainous peaks, Ushuaia means “inner harbor to the westward” in the native Yaghan tongue. The city is known as a duty-free port catering to travel adventurers and serves as the stepping-off point for nearly all cruises to Antarctica.

At 4:30 p.m., we boarded our home-away-from-home, ‘Le Lyrial,’ where we were warmly welcomed aboard by her staff and crew. We checked in at Le Grand Salon (the main area for socializing) before being shown to our cabins, where our complimentary parkas, backpacks, and any waterproof pants, walking poles and rubber boots loaned to us for the expedition were waiting. We were treated to a welcome glass of champagne and explored the ship until Captain Erwan Le Rouzic addressed us over the PA system about the mandatory General Emergency Drill. Then we grabbed our life jackets and parkas and made our way to the lecture theater for instruction on safety procedures in accordance with Maritime Law. Afterward, we made our way past the lifeboats.

Shortly after 6:00 p.m., the lines were cast off and ‘Le Lyrial’ moved away from the dock, setting out down the Beagle Channel to the open sea of the Drake Passage. It was lovely, with sunshine breaking through the clouds to illuminate the calm sea of the channel with a backdrop of spectacular, forest-clad peaks – the tail end of the Andes.

There was one more formality before the sail-away dinner: an introduction to the Abercrombie & Kent Expedition Team.Expedition Director Suzana Machado D’Oliveira, a Brazilian with over 20 years of Antarctic cruise ship experience, introduced Captain Erwan Le Rouzic, who welcomed us on board and described his experience as an Antarctic mariner and his delight in sharing his enthusiasm for the White Continent. Loic (‘Little Louis’) Menguy, Cruise Director, gave an overview of the restaurants, bars, fitness area and other facilities important for our well-being and enjoyment of the cruise.

It was now the turn of the men and women of the Expedition Team to introduce themselves. They come from the USA, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Russia, South Africa, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Each one showed their experience of the Antarctic, which ranged to more than 50 years, and their knowledge and enthusiasm for their roles as lecturers, guide and boat drivers which will be crucial for delivering an inspiring cruise.

After dinner, it was an early night for those who had flown in from distant parts of the world. We hoped for a speedy and comfortable crossing to our landing places — but would our hopes be realized? Read on!   

Click Here to read 'Monday, January 8: Crossing the Drake Passage'