Classic Antarctica Trip Log (6 - 18 Jan, 2018) - Tuesday, Jan 16

Tuesday, January 16: Beagle Channel
January 2018

The sea got up during the night and while we were safely tucked up there was the occasional thump as ‘Le Lyrial’ hit a wave, but it was calm again by morning. Once again we have been robbed of the opportunity of collecting personal stories of the perils of the Drake Passage! In fact, it had been a fast crossing and land was already in sight before breakfast.

There was a single lecture this morning, the last of what had been a very informative and enjoyable series of Enrichment Lectures. Jim McClintock talked to us about ‘Diving under Antarctic Ice’. This is rather different from diving off the Bahamas. You have to wear a warm layer under your dry suit which then means you have to guard against overheating and sweating before taking your polar plunge! Then there are various safety protocols for swimming in freezing water where access is through a small hole in the ice. Jim’s photos showed that it is worth the effort: the life on the seabed is surprisingly rich and varied.

After the lecture there was an immediate call from the bridge because ‘Le Lyrial’ had closed on a small group of four sei whales (say ‘say whale’!). These whales, the third largest of the rorqual species, are usually spotted only fleetingly but these whales were feeding and essentially staying in the same place. So the Captain Le Rousic could easily keep close enough for wonderful views but at a distance that would not disturb them. So we watched as the group surfaced to blow every minute or so. There were more whales in the distance, as well as a pod of dusky dolphins, groups of magellanic penguins porpoising through the water and some sea-lions resting on a distant island. Later, after lunch, we had the thrilling sight of a three-master, the barque Europa, passing by under full sail.

Our last gathering in the lecture theatre was for ‘On Expedition’ – a look back over our voyage of discovery with the Expedition Staff. But we started with the raffle to benefit the Crew Welfare Fund which raised the magnificent sum of 2050 Euros. Guests who purchased tickets stood the chance of winning a sea chart marked with our route, decorated with illustrations by the crew and signed by the senior officers.

As a recap of our journey, we watched a wonderful slide show compiled by Richard ‘Black Jack’ Escanilla. It featured photos taken by the Expedition Staff that recalled many of the highlights of the cruise: the landings on the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, together with the shipboard experiences of whales, albatrosses and icy landscapes, and many people recognized themselves disguised behind red parkas and rubber boots. So much has happened in a short space of time that it took many slides to do the experience justice!

By this time, ‘Le Lyrial’ had proceeded up the Beagle Channel and was preparing to come alongside the jetty at Ushuaia. As soon as we were cleared by customs and immigration, we could go ashore and wander into the little town.

So ended our cruise. We will leave tomorrow to go our separate ways – perhaps to meet again aboard one day on one of A&K's Arctic expeditions. It has been an incredible expedition and, although it is sad that it is over, we have photos, videos, journals and most importantly vivid memories of a land almost too magical and captivating to describe. Now that we have experienced 'the Ice,' we will never forget it.

Ernest Shackleton once wrote: 'Indeed the stark polar lands grip the hearts of the men who have lived on them in a manner that can hardly be understood by the people who have never got outside the pale of civilisation'.