Day 11 |
Nov 24, 2011

Garibaldi Glacier, Beagle Canal; Ushuaia 

By Uli Kunz – Oceanographer and Zodiac-Driver

Position: 43°40’ S, 73°20’ W
Air temperature: 10 °C, 50 °F
Water temperature: 12 °C, 53.6 °F
Air pressure: 1015 hPa
Wind speed: 45 km/h

The weather forecast for the day was the same as it was the last week: Rainy, low temperatures and overcast sky... but again, things should change during the day! In the early morning, the Silver Explorer sailed into the Beagle Canal and continued towards a small fjord on the northern side of the canal. The Zodiacs were lowered and I was the first to set out for a cruise with 10 guests. There was no wind at all and as we turned around the corner of the fjord, we could clearly see the blue face of the Garibaldi Glacier. A sea lion showed up at the surface and porpoised for a few minutes before it swam away. On both sides of the narrow fjord, high cliffs towered above our heads, metamorphic rocks with beautiful layers of different minerals in shades of red and yellow. As we drove along the shore towards the glacier, several blue-eyed cormorants flew over our boat and we could observe some of them on their nests in the entrance of a big cave. On the surface of the water, the leafs of the giant kelp Macrocystis could be seen and I took some of these plants into the Zodiac so my guests could watch this incredible plant that forms giant forests under water in areas of cold water.

During our cruise we heard loud bangs and cracks and watched several chunks of ice calving off the front of the glacier. The sun came out, the clouds disappeared and once again, we were surprised by a wonderful calm morning with great visibility, so we even could see the tops of the surrounding mountains that are normally covered in clouds and fog.

On our way back, the guests were surprised to see one of our rescue boats floating in the water nearby the ship. But it was not a safety drill nor did the crew abandon the ship while we were on our way: Our hotel manager Markus and his crew waited for us in the rescue boat and served Champagne and small pastries...!

In the afternoon, Expedition Leader Robin West gave a talk about the history of the Silver Explorer and his work during the refit before the ship sailed for Silversea Cruises. The ship was built in 1989 in Finland as the Delphin Clipper. It already had the highest ice class for a cruise ship and sailed between Finland and Estonia as a luxury passenger vessel. In 1997, Samsung bought the ship, renamed it Dream21 and fixed it to a mooring block in order to use it as a mere conference vessel. In 2003, the company Society Expeditions took over the ship and it underwent a major refit to get new cabins, balconies and railings. The company named the vessel “World Discoverer” (actually the second one, as the original World Discoverer hit a reef off the Salomon Islands and had to be abandoned) and used it as a luxury expedition ship, but went bankrupt twice within the next few years.

So eventually in 2007, the owner of Silversea Cruises, Manfredi Lefebvre, bought the ship and it was sailed from Singapore to Trieste in Italy, where it underwent another refit, but this time mostly on the inside. Silversea reduced the number of possible passengers from 165 to 132 to promote the special Silversea product and to become the most luxurious expedition vessel on the market.

The refit was started in November 2007 and the naming celebration of the ship was scheduled for June 2008. Within that time, amazing changes to the ship had to take place: The swimming pool was taken out (the original plan was to cruise in French Polynesia, so there was no need of a pool as you are constantly floating in one...), the complete interior of The Theatre, The Restaurant, the Library and the Observation Lounge was ripped out and completely rebuilt. The suites underwent the biggest changes. Silversea increased the sizes and improved the design to maintain their standard.

After a very busy voyage (the contractors were still working on board the ship), the ship was eventually christened as the Prince Albert II in Monaco! In 2011, it was renamed again to Silver Explorer. What an exciting history! Ever since, this Silversea product has gone exceptionally well and we are looking forward to new adventures aboard this vessel.

Shortly before our arrival in Ushuaia, our photographer Lu Davidson presented her final version of this cruise's documentary in The Theatre. Her fantastic work included not only still pictures, but also wonderful video footage of our adventure and land excursions in the fjords of Chile. Despite the weather forecast, we have been very lucky with the weather and enjoyed the spectacular sightings of wildlife and landscapes! Thanks to all our guests and we all hope to see you again!