Day 1 |
Nov 29, 2009

Ushuaia, Argentina

By Victoria Salem, Historian

Co-ordinates: 54°33’S, 068°19’W

Weather: Sunshine & calm waters

Welcome Onboard!  Embarkation started from 3.30pm, when guest arrived at the pier in Ushuaia. Expedition Leader, Conrad Combrink, was there to greet guests at the foot of the gangway.  I was waiting with other Expedition Staff in The Restaurant, ready to welcome our guests on board – their floating home for the next 11 days.

Once our guests had checked in and picked up the keys to their suites, we needed to take a photo so that our Security Officer would be able to check everyone on and off the ship safely. It was a good way to get to meet people and put names to faces. In about half an hour, all incoming guests had passed before either my camera or Rich’s and were able to take some refreshment in the Panorama Lounge, or be shown to their suites. 

Exploring the ship and unpacking were soon interrupted by the exciting news that we were about to set sail. Shortly after 5.15pm, the Prince Albert II left the pier in Ushuaia and sailed for the Antarctic Peninsula! I really enjoyed the spectacular sight of Ushuaia in the sunshine and good weather and fine views continued all evening as we sailed down the Beagle Channel towards the open sea.

At 5.30pm we all gathered for the first time in The Theatre (our muster station), for the mandatory Lifeboat Drill. Our Security Officer, Igor, briefed us on how to be safe on board ship, including what to do in emergencies such as “man overboard” and in case of fire. Daniil and Christian from the lecture staff modeled the big orange life jackets for us and then we all put them on; I helped check that everyone was confident how to do this.

After the Lifeboat Drill I went up on deck to enjoy views of the Beagle Channel.  It was looking especially beautiful in the evening sunlight, with snow sprinkled on the mountain tops.  At 6.30pm I was back in The Theatre for Staff Introductions. Conrad gave us an overview of life on board and we met the heads of various Departments – useful for knowing who can help us when we need something! Then each staff member introduced him/herself briefly; as a Historian, I look forward to talking about the Heroic Age of Exploration in Antarctica and answering questions about human activity on this southernmost continent. 

Now it was time to relax and enjoy our first evening on board.  Many of us made our way to the Panorama Lounge for a pre-dinner drink and from 7.30pm dinner was served in The Restaurant. It had been a long day and we were hungry, so we appreciated the good food and fine wines served by The Restaurant staff. Later, we headed back up to the Panorama Lounge for a nightcap and a chat.  When we retired for the night, we reflected on what a very long way we had come today and how when we woke up in the morning we would be in the infamous Drake Passage, hopefully still in excellent weather conditions.