Day 1 - February 11, 2011 - Ushuaia, Argentina

By by Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 54° 49’ S, 68° 15’ W
Weather: Overcast with drizzling rain
Air Temperature: 8°C

Despite the drizzling rain in Ushuaia, the ship was buzzing with activity – both inside and out. Outside, all sorts of supplies for this cruise were being loaded onto the ship, along with the luggage for our new guests. The deck crew was also doing a good job cleaning the windows and hull. Inside, the Hotel department was busy readying all the suites in preparation for the new group. By 3:00pm everything was looking ‘ship-shape’ and we were standing ready for embarkation of the new guests.

Everyone arrived on time, and check-in progressed smoothly. I always love receiving the guests and meeting them one by one. We have a very diverse group on this cruise, with many different nationalities, including Singapore, Ireland, Mexico, the USA, the UK, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, China, India and many more.

All the guests had enough time to settle into their suites before Robin West (our Expedition Leader) announced the mandatory Safety Drill and talk. I was already in the Theatre (the Muster Station) when all the guests arrived – each one carrying their bright orange lifejacket. After the Drill, we gathered out on the back deck for a few “Sail-Away” drinks while the Captain deftly negotiated us away from the Ushuaia port and into the Beagle Channel. Despite the overcast skies and scattering of rain, everyone was smiling and toasting one another – the anticipation of an exciting trip was thick in the air.

The final activity for the afternoon was the Staff Introductions where Robin West brought up onto stage the Heads of Departments one at a time to introduce them to the guests. Then, one by one, each of the Expedition Team members also took the stage and introduced themselves by telling everyone about their role on the team, and a little about their background. As usual, we have an impressive team on this trip, with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise:

The Team includes:
Robin West (South Africa) - Expedition Leader
Jarda Versloot (Holland) - Assistant Expedition Leader
Nicki D’Souza(Germany) - Staff Assistant
Juan Restrepo (Colombia) – Geologist
Will Wagstaff (England) – Ornithologist
Claudia Holgate (South Africa) – Climatologist
Ken Knowles (Canada) – Birder
Robin Aiello (Australia) – Marine Biologist
Luke Kenny (Ireland) – Fisheries Expert
Christian Walter (Easter Island) Historian
Kristine Hannon (Belgium) – Photographer

Combined, we have many, many years of experience in the Antarctic. I am looking forward to working together again for another great journey south!

After the Staff Introductions everyone headed down to The Restaurant where Marcello (the Maitre d’) and the fantastic restaurant staff welcomed us with big smiles for our first dinner onboard the Prince Albert II. Although many of the guests were obviously tired from long trips down here to join the ship, there was a lot of good conversation and laughter to be heard throughout The Restaurant – great excitement for what I am sure will be another fantastic trip to the Antarctic continent!!! I know I, for one, am always excited to be heading south – and according to the Captain and his weather reports, the Drake Passage looks like it will be quite good – fingers crossed!!!!