Where Penguins Rule the World – 22 March 2017

Today began with us cruising through the Lemaire Channel, a beautiful channel, only a mile wide, which would take us even further South, right down to 65oS. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as great as yesterday, so the visibility wasn’t good and we couldn’t really see the towering mountains to the sides of us. It was more like the authentic Antarctic weather we had been expecting; snow, wind, mist…

The Plancius in an ice-filled Lemaire Channel (photo Sonja Heinrich)

The channel was filled with many floating glacial icebergs, glowing that incredible iridescent blue which, had I not seen it myself, would not have believed possible. Some of the bergs had the odd seal sat on top, but there was one seal in particular, floating stationary in the water with its head poking out, which Lars and Sonja disagreed with the identification. Lars was insistent it was an elephant seal, Sonja thought it was a crabeater seal… We just wanted them to agree on something so we could put it down on the data sheet… No such luck…

When we reached the end of the Lemaire Channel, we found it blocked by two massive icebergs, both of which were larger than the Plancius. Navigating around them was an impossibility, the gaps were barely wider than the Plancius; one small sweep of the current and we would have been scraping along a very icy wall… So we all very much respected Captain Alexej when he made the decision to turn around; it was most certainly the right thing to do.

Icebergs blocking our path (photo Vicki Balfour)

By this point, it was breakfast time and I was just walking to the table with my bowl of Rice Krispies when suddenly someone shouted: “Whale!” Everyone abandoned their breakfast and ran across to the window. And sure enough, not a moment later the announcement came over the tannoy; “Orcas on the starboard side!” And so there was. Two pods of Type B orcas with their large white eye patches and greyish coloured skin. They were blowing, breaching, spyhopping, … Of course, orcas aren’t actually whales, they are large dolphins, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting. The fact that we had seen them once on this trip was a bonus in itself, but seeing them twice was even a first for Sonja.

Killer whale spyhopping (photo Sonja Heinrich)

The orcas weren’t the only animals swimming around the ship. Dozens of Gentoo penguins were porpoising away in densely packed groups, seemingly trying to get away from the orcas as fast as they could. It almost appeared as though the orcas were rounding them up, exhibiting what seemed to be hunting behaviour. And just when everyone thought it couldn’t get any more exciting than this, two orcas came right up from under the Plancius, giving anyone who was in the dining room at the time the closest view that they could ever possibly get of these magnificent creatures.

Killer whales (photo Vicki Balfour)

Not long after that, travelling back north in the Lemaire Channel, there was a sighting of humpback whales. Three of them; two adults and a calf, again really close to the Plancius, giving us all a spectacular view, especially when they decided to dive and show us their beautiful tail flukes.

Humpback whale mother and calf (photo Sonja Heinrich)

Despite not being able to make it all the way through the Lemaire Channel, our Captain still managed to get us to our afternoon landing site; Charcot, on Booth Island, by taking an alternative route, so we still achieved our goal of reaching 65OS. Here we were all offered the opportunity to do a hike up to a cairn on the top of a hill at yet another Gentoo penguin colony. However, half way up it became too treacherous to continue because of the compacted ice, so instead we just hung out at the penguin colony and enjoyed the endless entertainment that came from watching penguins. The funniest was probably the parent being chased by its two chicks. The scrambled across the rocks and slipped across the ice, falling on their bums or sliding on their bellies. Everyone stopped to watch them as they tussled and fought, until eventually one of them floored its parent and was rewarded with some regurgitated food.

Gentoo penguins (photo Vicki Balfour)

We then took up the challenge of finding the one Adelie penguin among the gentoos. It felt almost like “Where’s Wally?” but in this case was “Where’s the Adelie?” Between us all we found two actually, in different places merged in with the rest of the gentoos. Their beaks and heads were fully black unlike the gentoos and they were about a head shorter as well. Some people even saw four chinstrap penguins among the colony. So that meant that we’d managed to see all the four species of penguins we’d been hoping to see on this trip, including the Magellanic penguins we’d seen back in the Beagle Channel.

Adelie penguin (photo Vicki Balfour)

Being able to sit there in amongst this buzzing penguin colony was such a privilege. They were super friendly (well, maybe not always to each other…) and so comical. And they really didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence at all. Here we were, come all the way from Scotland to see them, whereas in fact, they were just as interested in investigating us. We weren’t allowed to approach the penguins any closer than five meters, but if you sat down and waited patiently, you’d suddenly find yourself surrounded by curious penguins, all tilting their heads as if to say; “What strange creature are you?”

Crouching in the snow, I found myself being approached by three different penguins, one of which came right up to me and started tugging at my waterproof trousers with his beak. Then suddenly I felt a tug from behind too, and realised that one had snuck up behind me and was having a go at my jacket. I was probably covered in guano and my hands were blocks of ice from taking my gloves off to hold my camera, but all of it was completely worth it just for this moment here.

And it just really made you think; here we were at the end of the world, in a land filled with snow and ice. Nowhere else in the world could you have experienced what we all did here. It really put into perspective what an amazing place Antarctica is, and I only hope that it will still be here, as pristine as this, for future generations to experience too.

Written by Vicki Balfour

Vicki & penguins

A day in Paradise – 21 March 2017

Today we set foot on the continent of Antarctica proper! Neko Harbour has claimed a special place in our hearts as our first continental landing. We stepped onto the shore of a rocky beach surrounded by a wall of massive blue glaciers. A colony of Gentoo penguins welcomed us, many still fluffy from their moult. As none of us have had our fill of Gentoos yet, we delighted in another chance to get to know them.

Neko Harbour (photo Sonja Heinrich)

One determined penguin needlessly kept up with his nest maintenance (breeding season is long gone). We watched as a parent penguin broadcasted its return from sea with a loud squawk. Its chick scrambled to his side and feverishly pecked at his beak, eliciting a generous regurgitated meal. Suddenly, the parent penguin took off in a sprint across the rocks with the fledgling racing to keep up. If the parents didn’t force exercise on their chicks, they would remain sedentary, always waiting for the next meal.

Penguin feed (photo Sam Wilson)

After this spectacle, it was time to… undress? Antarctic sand between our toes, we all hurtled into the sea as synchronously as possible for the much anticipated polar plunge. The water was stunningly cold, but we managed to stay in long enough for a photo! Our CTD recordings later revealed Neko Harbour held the coldest water we’ve encountered so far, a chilly subzero temperature at -0.28 °C. Scarily close to saltwater’s freezing point of -1.8 °C, it took us a good half hour to regain feeling in our toes. Thankfully Lars only told us of his leopard seal spotting after we were warm and dry back on the ship.

Polar plunge (photo Sonja Heinrich)

Our next stop was the Argentinian Base Brown, wedged into an area called Paradise Bay. We soon understood where the name comes from. The weather here was phenomenal and totally un-Antarctic – in the sunshine the temperature was a balmy 12 °C. We cruised through the glassy sea in our zodiacs, marvelling at striking blue copper embedded in mossy rock cliffs, intricately chunky icebergs and a colony of Antarctic shags nestled precariously on rocky perches. Every few minutes we heard thunder, as parts of surrounding glaciers crumbled off creating mini tsunamis.

In Paradise Bay with an ice halo around the sun (photo Naomi Tuhuteru)

Base Brown was no longer in use, so the main inhabitants here were Gentoo penguins and several cunning snowy sheathbills which terrorized some of the penguins. Because penguins won’t eat food off the ground, the sheathbills tackle chicks just as a parent offers it food, knocking its meal onto the ground, thus ensuring their own feast. After watching the spectacle repeat itself several times, we hiked up a snowy hill for a beautiful view of the mountain-framed bay and Plancius floating serenely amongst icebergs.

A group photo in paradise (photo Lars Boehme)

Back at the ship and anchored in the middle of Paradise Bay, we bundled up for a BBQ dinner outside on the deck. We drank mulled wine and beers in front of this jaw-dropping Antarctic backdrop. Then, ‘It’s Raining Men’ came on, and here we can end the blog with a quote from our beloved SK, “What happens below the Antarctic Convergence stays below the Antarctic Convergence.”

BBQ time

Written by Lizzie Scott

Lizzie

First day in Antarctica proper – AMAZING! 20 March 2017

When I woke early this morning and looked out the little porthole, I was greeted with my first taste of Antarctica, ice! In an earlier lecture, we were told that no matter where we look, we will never find more ice than in Antarctica. As the morning went on, we saw more and more ice around us until we finally started seeing proper icebergs. With so much ice around I am very glad to have such an experienced crew navigating our boat.

Humpback whale fluke in front of ice (photo Vicky Balfour)

Just as we were finishing our breakfast, the expedition leader made an intercom announcement that there had been humpback whales sighted off the ship. They had been spotted by our student observer team who were on effort and keeping a lookout for marine mammals. Since these were the first humpback whales sighted on this trip everyone, students and passengers included, got really excited and hurried out to see if we could catch a glimpse of them. We came out on the bridge and saw an amazing sight, icebergs of different sizes floating on the water, giant glaciers on land next to us and humpbacks everywhere in between! I could look in any direction and see a blow from a humpback or see a tail fluke coming out of the water. It was an amazing experience.

Humpback whales from a zodiac (photo Haley Arnold)

Not long after we had first spotted the humpback whales the boat anchored close to Cuverville Island where we would get to do our first expedition on land. Being the “scientists in training” that we are, we had work to do before we could land on the island. We got on a zodiac (sturdy inflatable boat) and went out into the bay. Here we stopped at a few points to take CTD and Secchi disk measurements. A CTD measures the temperature and salinity of the water. A Secchi disk measures the transparency of the water (the less transparent the water, the more “stuff” such as: zooplankton, algae, sediments and other particles there are). Whist we were taking measurements we were surrounded by humpback whales, some were so close we were concerned that they might accidentally tip our boat! A little distracting when we are supposed to be working…..

Seals at Cuverville (photo Vicky Balfour)

After we finished our measurements, we got to set foot on Cuverville Island which is inhabited by Gentoo penguins. Walking on this island was rather difficult because we had to give penguins right of way. So whilst waking along the shore we had to avoid getting run over by penguins and accidentally stepping on the well camouflaged (and feisty) fur seals.

A penguin & Jules (photo Vicky Balfour)

Some of the young penguins on the island were really curious. A few walked up to us and stare into the cameras, some even giving the lens a peck. The funniest penguin walked up to Michael and proceeded to bite his pants, probably determined to bite a hole in them.

Killer whales with Wilson’s storm petrel (photo Sonja Heinrich)

Back on the boat for lunch, the dining room was filled with excited voices. Everyone was talking about what we had just experienced. We all agreed that it had been the best day so far, yet it was only 1 pm in the afternoon. Many of us probably thought the day couldn’t get much better, but we could not have been more wrong. Not long after lunch was finished Lars and Sonja, while supporting the observers on their lookout, spotted several large fins ahead of the ship… A.pod of orcas! The subsequent intercom announcement by expedition leader Beau led to people streaming out onto the decks to see the orcas (killer whales). Some, myself included, didn’t even give themselves enough time to put on their jackets. However, a little (or rather a lot) of cold was a small price to pay to see these beautiful animals! The ship cruised around the area for a while allowing for all of us to get good looks, and some even got amazing pictures of the orcas. Interestingly there were fur seals swimming amongst the pod of orcas. Now normally this might mean feeding time for the orcas and the fur seals trying to flee, but this didn’t seem to be the case. The fur seals appeared to be actively following the orcas, and seeking to interact with them, a rather strange phenomenon that isn’t seen very often.

Killer whale and seal (photo Sonja Heinrich)

After all the excitement with the orcas we set off to the next destination where we got to cruise around on zodiacs to look at a shipwreck. The ship, Govenoren, was once a Norwegian cargo ship transporting whale oil. However, shortly after picking up the whale oil the ship caught fire. The captain on board decided that the cargo was worth more than the ship itself and made the decision to run the ship aground destroying the ship, but saving the cargo. This happened little more than a 100 years ago, yet the ship can still be seen partially sunk with the bow sticking out of the water. Because it is so cold and dry in Antarctica things take longer to decay, so a bit away from the wreck a few wooden lifeboats can be seen. Presumably the lifeboats the sailors used to abandon the Govenoren and save the whale oil.

The wreck of the Governoren (photo Vicky Balfour)

I think everyone agrees that the first day in Antarctica was certainly the best day of the trip so far! Ticking off many of the things people wanted to see on this trip: Penguins, humpback whales, killer whales, icebergs and glaciers……. Today went beyond our expectations and will certainly set the bar very high for the rest of the trip…..

Written by Rebecca Vidin

Rebecca

In Antarctica! 19 March 2017

Our second full day on board the Plancius was eventful to say the least. During the night we crossed both the Antarctic Convergence and 60 degree South latitude, meaning we are now both biologically and geographically in Antarctic waters – yay!

Marine mammal and seabird surveys began bright and early before breakfast. Having crossed the convergence, we’re now experiencing cooler weather (around 3 degrees Celsius instead of 7) and, much to everyone’s delight, far calmer waters. A low lying fog surrounded the ship, reducing visibility to less than 2 km, but still we persisted, determined for a successful second day of surveying. Soon enough we had our first sightings: a group of chinstrap penguins resting on the surface off port side, and a pod of around 6 hourglass dolphins proposing on the starboard side… And all before 9.30am!

Chinstrap penguin

By late morning we were into the full swing of things with cape petrels, Wilson’s storm petrels, black-bellied storm petrels, southern fulmars, and the occasional sooty albatross circling the boat regularly. Chinstrap penguins continued to porpoise past, and we kept our eyes scanning for our first whale blow… Finally, just after 11am, it happened. Two large blows were seen in the distant fog, and as they moved closer we saw the scythe shaped dorsal fins which confirmed our first large cetacean sighting: fin whales. As we moved closer more dorsal fins appeared, and soon there were 5 fin whales around 600m away from the boat. To say we were excited beyond all belief is putting it lightly – it was the moment we’d all been waiting for since leaving Edinburgh airport a week ago.

Fin whales

As the day continued we saw the occasional fin whale, and much to my joy, we encountered our first Antarctic fur seals since our first fur seal sightings (but South American) of them when leaving the Beagle Channel a few days ago. These charismatic otariid seals were seen porpoise past the boat, bobbing their heads up to take a look, and one even floated past, lying on its back with all four fins in the air. Surveys continued through until dinner at 7pm, where the whole dining room wad bustling with excitement about the day just passed and anticipation for the days to come.

Pintado petrel

By 9.30pm we were ready for some downtime. Looking around the lounge you could see half the inhabitants popping open bottles of red wine and pulling out a pack of cards, and the half were dozing off on sofas and half-falling asleep slouched over computers and books… I’ll give you one guess as to which half the ‘student’s on board were! Having well and truly morphed into our role as polar scientists, we headed off to bed early in preparation for another eventful day tomorrow.

written by Jules Sutherland

Jules

Title: Hurrah – first day at sea! – 18 March 2017

Our voyage on board has certainly thrown us in at the deep end. Our windows down on the 2nd floor resemble washing machines and I’m completely in awe at how gracefully the staff can handle themselves while the ship is pitching this way and that. After our first night on the Plancius our group is slightly rocked and frazzled, but still eagerly pushing forward.

With the ship at sea it’s hard to get the horizon level.

The day, apart from the waves, started serenely with our first and last lie-in on board. We were woken up by the ‘smooth and melodious’ voice of our expedition leader, Beau, over the intercom sharply at 7:40 am followed by a fantastic buffet breakfast. After setting up equipment, we began surveying seabirds and marine mammals at 9:30 am. Lars, the master of the schedule, arranged us into teams and then he and Sonja guided us in how to complete the surveys, identify the animals, use the radios and enter data. And, importantly, where the big red ‘torpedo’ button is on the bridge that we absolutely will not press. Or so we’ve promised…

Torpedo Button

There have been lots of wandering albatross, black-browed albatross and white-chinned petrels following the ship and some lucky passengers even saw hourglass dolphins and what was possibly a beaked whale.

Wandering Albatross

When we’re not surveying, there are lectures to go to, power naps to take and a fabulous tea/coffee machine to keep us amply caffeinated the rest of the time. The meals, apart from being amazing in and of themselves, have also been a great place to meet other passengers. Everyone I’ve met so far has been incredibly kind and I’ve so loved hearing their stories.

Observers with a trusty field guide

At the end of the day, we had a team briefing to go over what we did today, what we can do better and what to look forward to tomorrow. It seems we’re all holding our breath till we see an abundance of cape petrels marking our proximity to the Antarctic Peninsula, when hopefully the swells calm down. But, in my opinion, there’s nothing quite like general gastrointestinal discomfort and slight sleep deprivation to really bring the team together!

written by Haley Arnold

Haley

Onwards to Antarctica: Our final moments on the edge of the world – 17 March 2017

Today was our last day in Ushuaia before we set off for Antarctica. We started the day by checking out of the hotel and tagging our luggage for loading onto the Plancius, at 10:00 am. After that, we were given until 13:30 pm to explore the rest of the city. Most of us went shopping for souvenirs, at least Sam, Naomi, Rebecca and I did.

On the edge of the world

At 13:30 pm the whole group met up back at the hotel on the top floor for Lars’ lecture. He spoke about what our lives on the Plancius would be like and demonstrated the logging softer procedure we would use when conducting our surveys on board. Once we finished up there, we began to make our way to the ship, for what would be our last steps on land until we touch down on the Antarctic Peninsula. At this point, a few began popping out their sea sickness tablets in anticipation of rocky seas. Before we could embark, we had to take our group photo at the Ushuaia sign. Luckily there were some friendly photographers there so Lars was excited to know that he too could be in the photo.

MV Plancius

When waiting in line to board, you could feel everyone’s excitement pouring out when approaching our ship and acknowledging the reality that we were so close to going to Antarctica. On board, we got a five-star welcome treatment from the crew. We were escorted to our cabins where our luggage was waiting for us. We got the best rooms because they are at the bottom and back of the ship, so we won’t feel the rolling and pitching as much. The rooms and bathrooms were comfortable. After settling in, all passengers reported to the main hall for orientation and safety drills.

The safety brieflng

With that done, some students or “junior scientists” as Sonja prefers to call us, went on the outside deck to admire the scenery and for some early birding. From the ship, whilst leaving harbour in the Beagle Channel, we managed to spot some Southern Giant Petrels, Imperial Shags, many Kelp Gulls, our first penguins – Magellanic penguins, and the exciting Black-Browed Albatross. Alec was the first to spot our first marine mammal from the ship – a South American fur seal.

Haley’s birthday cake

Back down into the lounge, we received a warm welcome and introduction from all crew and expedition staff; even the captain gave a toast to a good expedition. At dinner, we celebrated a special occasion because it was Haley’s 22nd Birthday. Whilst dining, the lights suddenly blacked out and a cake with a large rocket candle made its way to Haley. Haley was blushing whilst they sang a different rendition of Happy Birthday. Something about this celebration was particularly moving, because Haley’s parents made the trip down to Argentina from the US to come on this trip to celebrate her birthday with her. They have always been together on her birthday, making what I believe a special birthday for them all. We ended this exciting day with a meeting from Lars and Sonja briefing us on the plan for the next day. Most of us headed to bed to rest for the activities the next day has to offer.

written by Michael Petroni

Michael

Go West – Tierra del Fuego National Park – 16 March 2017

We spent our second full day in Ushuaia exploring the Tiera del Fuego National Park, just east of Ushuaia. Our tour guide Isabel walked us through the park and taught us all about the wildlife in the forest and the history of the island natives, the Yamanas. The weather was clear, warm and sunny – perfect for sightseeing and picture-taking!Those that were brave, took a plunge in the Beagle Channel for a photo opportunity with the amazing Chilean mountain range as a backdrop. After drying off and warming up we were on our way again!

Many different species of birds were spotted and there was a burst of camera shutters every time one sat still for long enough! A few of us got some practise in with our bird ID’ing in preparation for the vessel survey, spotting the difference as a black browed albatross glided between a few kelp gulls. Our first albatross sighting, and we haven’t even gotten on the ship yet!.

St Andrews explorers at Lapataia Bay and at the southern end of the Panamerican Highway……

Before heading back, we had one final stop and visited a beaver dam. Our guide explained how Canadian beavers are an invasive species and were originally introduced for hunting, as they have a thick coat which was particularly valuable for the fur trade. Unfortunately, as Tierra del Fuego has a milder climate than Canada, the beavers’ coats were much less dense and no longer valuable. Canadian beavers have no natural predators in Tierra del Fuego and so their population rapidly expanded out of control. To make matters worse, beavers are compulsive wood gnawers and destroyed the forest. Even when trees were not available, the beavers adapted and chewed fence posts instead! This is still a problem for the island and several techniques have been attempted to remove this species, none of which have been successful.

Learning about the southern flora and fauna….

We headed home, worn out from all the walking, but with enough energy left for a quick ID lesson from Sonja and Lars in preparation of what we will see aboard MV Plancius… Starting tomorrow!

written by Sarah Bond

Heading East to Harberton – 15 March 2017

Today marked our first full day in Ushuaia and with it, a trip to the West and to Estancia Harberton; a small homestead steeped in history. We took a minibus with driver Eric for about 2 hours East of our hotel through the mountains, where we also got another glimpse of the Beagle Channel.

Harberton homestead (photo: Sonja)

Harberton is surrounded by stunning scenery and the landscape is marked with a few distinctive buildings. Some are made from wood of the local trees and topped with rusty red roofs that have definitely stood the test of time, but some were also imported from England! We were met by our local guide Diego and learned all about the founding of Harberton by Thomas Bridges in 1886 and his subsequent work to build relationships with, and protect the natives.

Main house imported piece by piece from England (photo: Sonja)

Harberton is still very much a family-run place and the care and attention that has been put into preserving the history and authenticity of the homestead was great to see. Natalie R. P. Goodall was originally a botanist that married into the Bridge/Goodalls family. She created beautiful gardens surrounding the Bridges’ home that we got to explore.

Sei whale arch in the beautiful garden with native chilco (fuchsia) (photo: Sonja)

But it was another of Natalie Goodall’s passions that really got us excited. What started as her hobby, has now become one of the most extraordinary collections of marine mammal and bird skeletons! After a delicious 3-course lunch we headed what appeared to be a rather non-descript museum. Thousands of (mostly complete) specimens have been meticulously collected by Natalie and her students and co-workers over the decades. Sei whales, pilot whales, fin whales, beaked whales, spectacled porpoises, Magellanic penguins and leopard seals,  to name just a few, are displayed in all their glory in the Museum Acatushún.

Measuring out the whale skeletons…. it takes 15 students…. (photo: Sonja)

Our guide Santiago and lead scientist Angi also took us ‘behind the scenes’ to the labs where we got to see the full magnitude of what Natalie has built over the years and it was truly extraordinary!

Inside the museum (photo: Sonja)

Cabinets full of marine mammal specimens unparalleled by most major museums that keep just the ‘perfect’ examples  or only parts of a skeleton instead the complete specimen. One of the displays showed some of the interesting bone pathologies they had found through the years. We were also lucky enough to see some of the specimens mid-processing. If you were feeling a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) reading this, maybe you can seek some consolation in that it was rather potent in there! What Natalie has created in her lifetime was very humbling and inspiring for us to witness and the museum is a wonderful testament to her passion.

Marine mammal enthusiasts around a sperm whale skull

And now for an early night before our trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park tomorrow.

written by Laura Palmer

Laura & beaked whale

From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia – 14 March 2017

We started off our day waking up in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Most of us headed to the top floor of the hotel where we had breakfast and chatted about our plans for the day while looking out over the city. Since we only had the morning before our flight to Ushuaia, many of us decided to take the walk through Palermo to the botanic gardens.

Palermo (Buenos Aires) Botanic Gardens (photo SK)

Walking to the botanic gardens was a treat. A storm had come through earlier in the week so it was significantly cooler than a normal Argentine summer’s day and the city pavements are lined with large, unkempt trees. Drivers in Buenos Aires can be a little “unpredictable”, and crossing the street successfully is a blessing rather than a given.

Mate tree (photo: SK)

The botanic garden was beautiful. Even though some exhibitions were closed, we got to see many of the local plants, including Yerba Maté, a shrub used to make the famouls local Mate tea. We also got to see a number of butterfly species in the butterfly garden. The botanic garden was more like a large park with lots of fountains and sculptures and many people sitting on benches in the shade enjoying lunch or a chat with friends.We left the botanic gardens around noon and headed back to the hotel where we quickly gathered our things and headed off to the airport. After a relatively uneventful flight, we were approaching the airport in Ushuaia.

Arrival at Ushuaia airport and welcome by our local tour operator M&C Travel

I don’t think any of use were prepared for the beauty of Ushuaia’s terrain. Settled between the Andes and the sea, Ushuaia is a sight like no other. Even from the entrance of the airport, the mountains stretch up and around the town, and push the town toward the sea.

Ushuaia – between mountains, sea and sky (photo: Sonja)

After pictures and a quick tour of the town by minibus, we settled in our very comfi hotel and went to for a late but much needed dinner, where a celebratory merengue penguin made an appeareance for Alec’s birthday!

Birthday Alec and his first penguin (photo: SK)

written by SK Read

The 2017 adventure is underway!

On Sunday 12 March 8 MSc students, 7 final year (SH) undergraduate students and lecturer Lars set off from Scotland to travel to the End of the World. The trip so far has taken them for a stopover in Paris (well, the airport only). After a lengthy 14 hour flight they have now arrived to balmy Buenos Aires. The keen explorers are enjoying the last of the austral summer’s warmth (a rather cool 24 degrees C for Buenos Aires) while exploring Argentina’s capital for a day before another 4 hour plane journey takes them further south to the blistery shores of the Beagle Channel. Sonja, the other St Andrews teaching staff, has already arrived to a rather stormy and cold Ushuaia after having spent a month in southern Chile studying dolphins. The St Andrews explorers will unite in Ushuaia on Tuesday evening, if all goes well and Aerolineas Argentinas sticks to schedule…… and this blog will now get busy as we post updates on our activities and adventures over the next two weeks or so…...