The day finally dawned that many passengers had been looking forward to for months, years and for some – me included – a lifetime as we boarded the Ortelius, the mother ship and our Ark for the next 30 days and 30 nights.
Ahead of us lay the 2,500 mile journey to the Ross Sea and beyond. By the time we reach our final destination in Ushuaia, Argentina on March 13th we would have covered a staggering 6,000 miles.
There are 85 of us on board from all over the world and we must have looked a motley bunch as we carried out our polar lifeboat and safety exercises while still on the dock in a sweltering 26 degrees Celsius – Bluff’s hottest day in over two years!
Most tourists to Antarctica visit the Peninsula side of the continent typically on 10/11 day cruise or 18/19 days if they wish take in South Georgia and The Falklands. There are very few departures to the Ross Sea side of the continent and my fellow passengers and I are fortunate to be amongst the small, elite group of no more than 250 or so people who get to make this journey each year.
After a few briefings on expedition and ship etiquette we got underway and the Ortelius is now making good speed across the Southern Ocean. Look out of any porthole and you will see our outriders – albatross and petrels who are quickly becoming our constant companions as we steam South. Tomorrow, weather-permitting, we will make a landing on the Campbell Island – a sub-Antarctic paradise and UNESCO World Heritage site which is rightly famous for its Southern Royal Albatross colonies and unique vegetation.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to post any images of my journey until I get home as sending large image files via satellite is incredibly expensive. A passenger on the previous trip downloaded a single image that his daughter had sent of his new grandchild which he was thrilled to get even after he received the bill for 250 Euros! (£185/$280).