Day 1 |
Jan 18, 2010

Ushuaia, Argentina

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 54 o 48.621’S 68o 17.923’W

Weather: Calm partly overcast conditions with some rain, clearing later

Air Temperature: 8.5C

Pressure: 986 HPa

Today we are in Ushuaia and for us this is a “Turnaround day” which means that we disembark the guests that we have spent the last two and a half weeks with and embark the guests for the new adventure. It is always a day of mixed feelings, as we hug our new friends goodbye and wish them a safe journey home and we welcome the new guests who are filled with anticipation and some uncertainty.

We often get asked what the Drake Passage will be like and what the weather has in store. My standard answer is that we use the weather forecast for entertainment purposes only. This of course doesn’t give me a lot of credibility as a climatologist, however, the conditions that we experience in the Antarctic are so transient that it can be clear and sunny in the morning and be a howling blizzard within half an hour. Nonetheless, the forecast for the first bit of the Drake looks very promising with a only 10-15 knot winds and a swell of between 3 and 4m – this, for the Drake, is extremely good!!!

Everything was on schedule today as the harbour was empty of all other tourist vessels, however the city was bustling as it usually is in the summer months. Ushuaia is such a wonderful city (town would be closer to the mark though) it is set on the Beagle channel with the Andes as a backdrop and one doesn’t get much more spectacular than this – except for where we are going of course. We have a few hours off to explore the little city and the Expedition Team had a team breakfast in town to wish three of our comrades – Rich, Marylou and Franz – farewell, as they will be leaving us today.

Late in the afternoon the guests all arrived safely and we went through the process of checking them in, taking photos and welcoming them to this great little ship that is to be their home for the next ten days and which will take them to the last great wilderness of Antarctica.

We sailed away at 5pm and everyone was out on deck watching as the sailors cast off the lines. It is always an emotional moment when we leave the pier and we watch as Ushuaia disappears behind us and the wind starts to pick up in our faces. Even for expedition staff, who have done this many times there is a feeling of excitement and anticipation.

Shortly after leaving we have a mandatory lifeboat and safety drill in case of emergency and Robin West, our new Expedition Leader, introduced the heads of departments and Expedition Team to the guests. We only have 99 guests on board for this trip, which is fantastic, as we will be able to land everybody at once while in Antarctica as we are under the 100 guest limit, so we are all looking forward to a superb adventure in the Antarctic.

Our new guests were then treated to the good food that they can look forward to every day on the Prince Albert II. A fantastic meal prepared by our executive chef from Canada, Douglas Hope, in The Restaurant, where we could watch the calm Beagle channel and imagine the journey that awaits.