Through the Porthole: Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands

I was being rocked by the ocean like a baby in a cradle.  My thoughts were distorted as my dreams started to morph into reality.  I was comfortably drifting towards consciousness in that moment between sleep and wake that feels like minutes but is only seconds.

And then I remembered where I was.

I was on the Ocean Diamond, the ship that was my home during my three week round trip from Ushuaia through the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.  I started every day the same way: I woke up, I remembered where I was and I jumped up to pull back the curtains as rapidly as a child jumps out of bed on Christmas morning.

The view outside the porthole in my cabin was my introduction to the day ahead and was dramatically different each day.  As I listened to the wake up call from our expedition leader, I would press my forehead against the glass in an attempt to take in as much as the outdoor scene as I could.  I’d feel butterflies of excitement in my stomach as I anticipated what lay ahead on a day I could never be fully prepared for.

These are the views that greeted me each day through the porthole.

 

Day 1: Ushuaia

54°07.6’S / 064°20.6’W

Our adventure began as we boarded the Ocean Diamond in Ushuaia in the afternoon.  The sight of land slowly disappeared as we sailed through the Beagle Channel, unaware of the incredible adventures, wildlife and landscape that lay ahead of us.

 

 

 

 

Day 2: At Sea to the Falkland Islands

56°58.1’S / 065°29.3’W

I woke up to a view of endless water, in calm conditions that were treating us to a gentle introduction to our first full day at the sea.

The day that followed included Sei Whale sightings, sailing alongside countless seabirds, enjoying lectures on board and getting to know the expedition crew and other passengers.

 

 

 

Day 3: Falkland Islands (Carcass & Saunders Island)

51°18.6’S / 060°32.6’W

After passing through Westpoint Pass, we woke up to the sight of Carcass Island,  the location of our first landing.  The calm water outside the porthole would prove deceiving as our first zodiac ride would be a wet one from both rain and the ocean’s waves.

Landings at Carcass and Saunders Island introduced us to magellanic, gentoo, rockhopper and king penguins and a flourish of seabirds including nesting black-browed albatrosses.

 

 

Day 4: Falkland Islands (Port Stanley)

51°41.2’S / 057°50.5’W

I looked out the porthole to see more land today and we started the day with a zodiac ride towards Port Stanley.

The rain from yesterday continued but I was content to lift the hood on my waterproof parka to enjoy a walk through what felt like an outdoor history museum.

 

 

 

Day 5: At Sea to South Georgia

52°18.8’S / 052°18.8’W

We had been warned that the stretch of water between the Falklands and South Georgia could be rough, but there was no sign of this as I looked outside the window on what would become my most unique New Years Eve to date.

 

 

 

 

Day 6: At Sea to South Georgia

53°20.0’S / 043°20.0’W

I looked outside the porthole a little later than usual on this morning, having the same late start that most people around the world were enjoying on New Years Day.

We were led to Shag Rocks by a huge flock of birds, the sight and sound of which invited us all to join them outside.  The day ended with the sighting of our first iceberg, symbolic of the journey ahead.

 

 

Day 7: South Georgia (Salisbury Plain, Prince Olav Harbour)

54°03.1’S / 037°19.2’W

The sight of land outside the porthole introduced a day that would feel like the making of a wildlife documentary.

We would play the king penguins’ equivalent of Where’s Wally at Salisbury Plain, encounter aggressive fur seals for the first time and zodiac cruise near Salisbury Plain and later at historical Prince Olav Harbour.

 

 

Day 8: South Georgia (Stromness Harbour, Grytviken)

54°09.7’S / 036°42.2’W

I woke up to the sight of floating icebergs, creating a picturesque approach to Stromness Harbour, where Shackleton’s search for rescue ended.

A full day at Grytviken would provide an collection of wildlife encounters, historical sites, a hike to nesting light-mantled sooty albatrosses, and a toast to “The Boss” at the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

 

 

Day 9: South Georgia (Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay, Drygalski Fjord, Larsen Harbour)

54°38.3’S / 035°50.7’W

Although I woke up to the sight of land, there would be no landings today as we were introduced to the unpredictable nature of expedition travel.  Large swells were deemed unsafe for the zodiacs and we spent the morning aboard the ship.

The day was later saved with a zodiac cruise through Drygalski Fjord and we bid farewell to South Georgia from the spectacular Larsen Harbour.

 

Day 10: At Sea to Antarctica

56°37.3’S / 040°55.0’W

The first of three full days at sea was dull, grey and misty.  The original plan to head towards South Orkney Islands had been thwarted by sea ice in the area and instead we changed course towards Elephant Island.

 

 

 

 

Day 11: At Sea to Antarctica

57°57.3’S / 048°24.0’W

The grey and misty conditions remained as we continued towards Elephant Island and the sea ice that had driven us to change course was beginning to appear like splashes of paint on a canvas.

The unpredictability of expedition travel continued: a landing at Elephant Island was not guaranteed.

 

 

 

Day 12: At Sea to Antarctica

60°20.0’S / 054°37.6’W

I woke up to find brighter skies but increased sea ice in the area.   I joined other passengers outside to enjoy our surreal surroundings as the ship navigated through the ice.

But the mist soon returned and we passed an Elephant Island that was invisible to us.  Disappointment was quickly replaced with the anticipation of what was ahead of us.

 

 

 

Day 13: South Shetland Islands (Half Moon Island, Deception Island)

62°35.6’S / 059°49.3’W

I woke up to the news that I had slept through 91 knot winds in an overnight storm, but the calm waters outside the porthole made this hard to believe.

We spent the day exploring the South Shetland Islands from the ship, from zodiacs and from land.  A day full of wildlife encounters in warm sunshine culminated in the icy cold polar plunge!

 

 

Day 14: Antarctic Peninsula (Wilhelmina Bay, Orne Harbour)

64°22.0’S / 061°55.0’W

I woke up to a scene that resembled something from another planet.Snow-capped mountains and large glaciers provided the spectacular backdrop for the crystal clear water that looked like it was covered with shattered glass.  Massive icebergs floated past my window and an announcement had just been made that humpback whales had been spotted in the area.

This was the beginning of one of the most magical days of the journey as I stepped into my 7th contintent.

 

 

Day 15: Antarctic Peninsula (Danco Island, Neko Harbour)

64°39.9’S / 062°38.7’W

I looked outside to see snow covered land and bright light breaking through the clouds.  It was the  beginning of a day that had so many highlights it could be a stand alone tour.

Antarctica’s wildlife greeted us as we explored their homes through what felt like a landscape painting, created from a palette limited to blue and white hues.

 

 

 

Day 16: Antarctic Peninsula (Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Bay, Petermann Island)

65°01.8’S / 063°53.0’W

Our last day in the peninsula began outside the Lemaire Channel, a narrow passageway that the captain expertly navigating through.

But the real highlight of the day was cruising through Iceberg Graveyard in what felt like an outdoor art exhibition with large ice structures strategically placed for our viewing pleasure.

 

 

 

Day 17: At Sea – The Drake Passage

62°26.0’S / 065°36.0’W

Although we were heading home and had two sea days in front of us, I woke up excited.  We had sailed into the notorious Drake Passage overnight and I couldn’t wait to see if we were being greeted with a whisper or a roar.

It felt like something in between and whilst it was still one of our roughest days at sea, the ship carved through it with an authority that placated its anger.

 

 

Day 18: At Sea – The Drake Passage 

57°00.0’S / 067°04.0’W

I woke up to see swells similar to the day before as the battle between the ship and the Drake continued.

It was a bittersweet day as we enjoyed a clear sighting of Cape Horn and final day at sea, but began to pack our bags.  Our magical journey was coming to a reluctant end.

 

 

 

Day 19: Ushuaia 

54°07.6’S / 064°20.6’W

This was the only morning of the journey that I didn’t race the porthole to see what was waiting for me.  I already knew.  We were anchored at Ushuaia Harbour.

The magical bubble I had been existing in for the past three weeks had burst.

The journey was over.

 

_Kellie_Netherwood-5Do you want to receive my latest posts and photographs straight to your email inbox? Sign up here and receive a FREE Wildlife Photography (Antarctica) eBook

You can also view more of my photography at Kellie Netherwood Photography and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, 500px, Instagram & Pinterest

The following two tabs change content below.
Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. This is such a cool way to chronicle your journey at sea! ;D

  2. I love this post. I was very close to going on a press trip to Antarctica, but couldn’t raise enough interest to fly me down there. Have so many questions, mostly weather and sea-sickness related. I just need to look at more of your posts. Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Amanda, happy to answer questions you have, feel free to drop me an email if you have any that I don’t cover in my posts. It is the most incredible destination I’ve ever been and within seconds of being there I knew the past few years I’d spent unhappy in my corporate job was worth it, just to be able to save up enough to go. I’m already dreaming of how I can get back there again one day! I hope you manage to get there, it’s amazing.

  3. This was such a brilliant idea! I hope you frame this series of photos!!!

Speak Your Mind

*

25 Things I’ll Miss About London (and 5 Things I Won’t)
A New Chapter: First Stop – Adelaide, Australia