Land of Penguins

Welcome to my latest adventure blog. Sonia and I are leaving the day before Thanksgiving for a 13-day cruise to Antarctica aboard the Viking Polaris. We’ll be flying for about 14 hours on 11/24 to get from San Diego to Dallas to Buenos Aires where we’ll have most of Thanksgiving day to hang out. Then back on a plane for a 3.5 hour flight to Ushuaia, Argentina where we’ll board the Viking Polaris and set out on a 13-day cruise to visit Antarctica. We’ll cruise south for about 30 hours and then spend 7 days exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounding islands before turning north and returning to Ushuaia. The weather is expected to be between 25°F to 35°F for the entire time with snow expected every day. I’m hoping to have adequate shipboard internet connections that will allow me to upload photos and share the days’ activities via this blog. If the Polaris keeps its location up to date you’ll be able to follow us on the map below. To get a feel for what our weather is going to be I’ve also included a link to Anvers Island weather, one of our planned destinations.

Click on this link to see where we are right now
11/22 – Day 0
San Diego,CA
11/23 – Day 1
Dallas, TX
11/24 – Day 2
Buenos Aires, AR
11/25 – Day 3
Ushuaia, AR
11/26 – Day 4
Drake Passage, Atlantic Ocean
11/27 – Day 5
Fournier Bay
11/28 – Day 6
Wiencke Island
11/29 – Day 7
Drake Passage
11/30 – Day 8
12/1 – Day 9
12/2 – Day 10
12/3 – Day 11
12/4 – Day 12
Buenos Aires
12/5 – Day 13
Buenos Aires
12/6 – Day 14
Buenos Aires
12/7 – Day 15
San Diego, CA
Click on the date that you want jump to – they are in BOLD

November 23, 2022

Day 1 – San Diego to Dallas to Buenos Aires

We left around 7:15 for the airport this morning as we were concerned about the volume of flyers on this day before Thanksgiving, typically the busiest travel day of the year, but it wasn’t.

Packed and ready to go – waiting for our LYFT to arrive

We got a LYFT within 10 minutes and cruised into the airport with zero traffic and walked straight up to the ticket counter to get checked in and check our bags. The agent commented that he wasn’t expecting an overly busy day and then it occurred to us why, In the old days kids went to school through Wednesday and everyone was crushed to get to the airport for travel. Now the schools are out all weeks and many travelers leave much earlier alleviating the congestion on the Wednesday before. We actually spent more time in line waiting to board the plane than we did traveling to the airport. I’m not sure what the holdup was but the line didn’t move for a good 10 minutes half way through the boarding process. We finally got to our seats in row 27, stored our bags and settled in, only to have a couple of seat-kicking, tray banging, coughing and sneezing kids sit in the seats behind us. Luckily that was a 2- hour flight and not the 10-hour one to Buenos Aires.

One of the many upscale food courts at DFW

We arrived in DFW on time and hopped the tram to get to our departure terminal. The DFW airport is huge with 160+ gates lined up end to end in 5 terminals. You can walk for hundreds of yards to find something you want to eat or drink. We located one of the food courts and grabbed a sandwich as it had been hours since we had breakfast. We had a couple of hours to kill before boarding our Boeing 777 so I took a few minutes to make my first blog entry as we we’ll probably be busy most of the day in Buenos Aires, as we have just the one day there to explore before heading on to Ushuaia and boarding our ship. If everything goes as planned, we’ll have more pictures from Buenos Aires to share in my Day 2 entry.

November 24, 2022

Day 2 – Buenos Aires

The flight to Buenos Aires was uneventful. Our Boeing triple-7 jet seats 273 passengers in 40 rows, split in to seven cabin sections, and we weren’t in any of the first four. Our flight filled every single seat and overhead storage bin plus I’m sure most everyone had at least one suitcase checked. The take-off was considerably longer than what we’re used to on SWA B737-800’s but the B777-200 eventually rotated at about 155 mph and lifted off at about 185 mph.

Climb out out from DFW

We we’re climbing at about 2000 fpm for a good10 minutes on our way to 31,000 feet cruising altitude around 500 knots (almost 600 mph). The on screen entertainment was pretty cool with its navigation screens that let you follow the route and instruments at any time. We had over 5500 miles to cover from Dallas to Buenos Aires.

Finally at cruise speed and altitude

We had two middle seats in row 24 of the main cabin, right in front of a bulk-head; at least we weren’t in the very back section of the plane. The onboard entertainment was leaps and bounds better than than what we’re used to on Southwest and it was nice to have USB and 3-prong power outlets at every seat.

Cosy Seating on 777-200 in Main Cabin

I watched a few cooking shows and two movies before I finally got about 3-4 hours of crappy sleep. The flight was pretty smooth and uneventful, which is always good while flying. We touched down in Buenos Aires right on time at 8:00 AM this morning, 5 hours ahead of San Diego time; that’s 3:00 AM for those not familiar with South American time zones.

Landing in Buenos Aires

We got off the airplane fairly quickly and then headed over to Immigration for what we expected to be a long wait. But it went fairly quick, we then retrieved our bags without delay and headed to Customs for our final administrative step before being freed in Argentina.

Herding Viking Cruisers in airport

We easily located the Viking representatives and after they collected the other 30 or so passenger from our flight we all hopped on a bus for the Hilton Buenos Aires.

Retired Cargo Crane at Puerto Madero

The hotel is located right on Rio Dique in Puerto Madero, the old port which has lots of the old wood and metal cranes still standing as decorations in the neighborhood.

Macacha Güemes bridge

There are lots of bridges crossing the river but the most unique is the rotating Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge), often referred to as the Tango Bridge.

Centro Cultural Kirchner, Downtown Buenos Aires

It is an interesting part of the city as it contains a mixture of very old, as well as lots of modern high rise buildings that has been re-energized and transformed into a vibrant work/live community with lots of 20 something professionals hanging around everywhere.

English Clock Tower near Puerto Madero

We had been told by multiple people that the place to visit in downtown Buenos Aires was the Cementerio de la Recoleta, a 200-year old, 14+ acre public cemetery built by French engineer Prospero Catelin in 1822.

Map of Cementerio de la Recoleta

There are literally 4700+ above ground coffins, crypts and vaults built side by side, including more than 90 that have been declared National Historic Monuments.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

We visited many vaults built for past Argentinian presidents and generals but the most famous is the family crypt of the Duarte family, which contains the body of Eva Perón (Evita) and her husband, Juan Domingo Perón who was an Argentine Army general and politician.

The Duarte Family Vault

It was a long 6+ mile round trip walk on a 90°F day but it felt good to be up and around after 14 hours of travel, mostly sitting. We made it back to the hotel around 2:00 PM and luckily our room was ready. I got a chance catch up on the blog before we headed out for an Argentinian steak dinner; no turkey dinner here on ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias! in Buenos Aires.

Dinner at Cabaña Las Lilas along Rio Dique in Puerto Madero
A light dinner at Cabaña Las Lilas

November 25, 2022
Day 3 – Buenos Aires – Ushuaia – Drake Passage

It was a good thing we didn’t stay out late because we had to be up for breakfast at 3:30 AM (10:30 PM San Diego time) to catch a bus ride to the Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery airport near our hotel in Buenos Aires.

Boarding our Airbus 320 in Buenos Aires

We boarded the charter plane with about 200 other Antarctica explorers for the 3 ½ hour flight to Ushuaia – the self-proclaimed “end of the world.” 90% of our flight was over the water east of South America followed by an interesting approach over rugged terrain into the relatively short single runway in Ushuaia.

Final Approach to Ushuaia

On to another bus for a short ride to the cruise port with a stop at the USHUAIA city sign for picture. We asked two different people to take a picture of us and neither of them got the full sign and every picture had a thumb in front of lens. Weather is finicky and rapidly changing in this part of the world, it was sunny and calm when we got out of the bus and 5 minutes later we had 20 mph wind and rain.

Thumbs across Ushuaia

The embarkation process was pretty quick with finance, scheduling and our introduction to the daily COVID testing protocol. The Polaris looks brand new because it is, this is only its fourth Antarctica cruise since getting its final outfitting in the Norway just a few months ago.

Boarding Polaris
Polaris floor plan

We got to sit down for a nice lunch at the World Café, one of 4 restaurants on the boat, that serves pretty much any fare you can imagine.

This is the dinner meat selection at the World “Café”
Lunchtime dessert assortment

When our room was ready, we dumped our hand baggage in the room before walking into Ushuaia for a bit of gift shopping.

Tourist area near cruise ship terminal

We got back to the ship around 4:15 expecting to sail around 5:00 but heard there was a delay due to some passengers’ luggage being delayed.

Viking Polaris from Ushuaia

As soon as the ship verified the luggage hadn’t arrived on the last flight the ship pulled out of Ushuaia less a few passengers’ bags, bummer. The departure was smooth sailing through the Beagle Channel with its dramatic terrain and awesome views.

View looking back at Ushuaia

Once we hit the Drake Passage that wind picked up and the swell went to 8-10’. It wasn’t rough enough to keep us from enjoying the fabulous Viking service in the front observation area after dinner.

A couple of handmade lattes after dinner

That sea wasn’t too bad but laying in the bed was like an E-ticket ride as the ship rocked and rolled all night. Our room has full blackout shades, which are a necessity as the sun doesn’t set until 10:15PM and sunrise is at 3:25AM, just over 5 hours later. We went to sleep hoping to recharge after 2 long days of travel and losing 5 hours due to time zones. Tomorrow is another full day of cruising across the Drake Passage, 600+ miles of open and notoriously rough seas with every kind of weather you can imagine.

November 26, 2022
Day 4 – Drake Passage

The Drake Passage definitely has lived up to its reputation for foul seas, we had moderate weather in the morning with swells of about 3.8m or about 10-15ft. The Polaris is equipped with the latest stabilization technology but it isn’t perfect. Walking down the hallways and through the dining areas can be a real challenge as the ship rolls side to side. More than once we’ve sideswiped the walls, bumped into a beam or had to grab a railing to prevent disaster.

Moderate Seas in the Drake Passage

Today was going to be a busy day as there are lots of safety and compliance briefings that need to be done for environmental and excursion reasons. We woke up early because of the creaking of the ship in the rough water so we headed down for an early breakfast. As usual, there are so many choices for dining that you have to restrain yourself knowing we’re not going to be doing much physical for the entire day.

Breakfast Onboard

After breakfast I wanted to get my blog invitation out to everyone interested in following our trip so I turned on my InReach GPS/satellite communicator. I also needed a GPS position fix for the link and it was not easy getting one! It took almost 2 hours for my InReach GPS to figure out where we were! Apparently the little internal computer was confused by the fact that we were over 7,000 miles from the last position where I got a fix. Garmin finally solved the complex 3D math and geometry problem and figured out we were and the invitation went out via the Iridium satellite uplink.

InReach Struggled to solve the 3D geometry problem of GPS positioning

Next on the agenda was our IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) briefing. They are very cautious and concerned about disturbing or destroying the fragile and unique biosphere by introducing foreign plants or bacteria as well as taking souvenirs or disturbing the wildlife. Our first checkout class was on how to board and deboard the Zodiak boats. Given the potentially rough seas and rocky landing areas this is pretty important if you don’t want to end up in the 0F water with the icebergs.

Quite the collection of Zodiacs, fast boat and submarines – this is one half of the bay

After those two briefings we finally got to try on our waterproof and insulated expedition boots. That completes our Viking wardrobe of waterproof coat with insulated liner, waterproof pants and rubber boots. Now all we had to do was get all of our personal gear screened and cleaned to make sure we didn’t introduce any seeds or soils that may have been picked up before our cruise.

The ship has a cadre of 20+ research scientists on board that are experts in birds, mammals, geology, ecology, oceanography, history, etc. that are actively involved in funded research projects with NOAA and many universities and institutes around the world, including the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and UCSD. They provide passengers with research opportunities and lectures multiple times every day. We also watched a great movie about the Patagonia ecosystem that was enough to get us to consider another trip to the end of the world just for that.

Sonia with a death grip on the railing enjoying the light breeze on the well protected Polaris stern

Around 4:00PM we headed up to the observation deck on the bow of the ship for a whale watching session and despite the 40°F and 20 mph wind we stuck around long enough to spot a few spouts. The other thing that is interesting is the number of birds that pass the ship. We spotted a number of giant petrels as well as albatross. It’s amazing to learn that many of these birds we saw 300 miles from shore literally spend 9-10 months of the years over water without ever touching land.

The classical music duet was very good and well received

That evening we were entertained by a classical music duet playing cello and keyboard. They played until the start of the ship captain’s meet and greet with the senior crew and staff. The interesting thing was the order in which the staff was introduced. After Margrith Ettlin, Viking’s first female captain, introduced herself, she handed the microphone to the Polaris head chef, go figure. We left the meet and greet and walked outside for a bit just as the first of the snow started to fall. With the ship traveling at almost 20 mph and with a stiff 35°F headwind it wasn’t a lot of fun, neither were the seas that were now closer to 5-6m (15-18ft.) It’s a bit unnerving when you’re in the auditorium on the 3rd floor above the water and some of the swells are almost reaching the floor level. Now it was inside for dinner followed by the first Viking Science Program overview.

One of the many daily presentations in the Aula Theater, named after the famous Aula University auditorium in Bergen

Passengers are invited to participate in all types of active, and real research that include micro-plastics pollution assessments, whale identification, bird counts, etc. The ship is not lacking for activities nor is it short on entertainment in the huge forward living room that has a huge library, board games, video games and live music entertainment.

It’s finally time to get to bed in anticipation of reaching the continent of Antarctica and our first off-ship expedition tomorrow, a Kodiak cruise around Fournier Bay on the eastern side of Anvers Island (W 64.517, S 63.103)

November 27, 2022
Day 5 – Fournier Bay

We woke up pretty early and looked out the window to spot what looked like the Antarctica land mass through the low clouds. We got dressed and headed up to the bow of the ship for a better view as the shoreline of Anvers Island came into sharper view though it was still 15 miles away. While we were up on deck looking for whales and bird watching we saw a few black and white birds darting through the water in front of the ship. They were the first penguins we’ve seen so we were pretty excited to add another Antarctic animal to the spotting list.

We started to see ice in the water and the chunks kept getting bigger the closer we came to Fournier Bay. Where we came to a stop, the icebergs were now building size and you could tell that the captain didn’t want ice of any size to hit the hull even though a few did and they made a loud bang. By now the steep, snow-covered shorelines were coming into sharp focus and the dramatic contrast between land and sea was awe inspiring.

These icebergs are approximately 200 yards across

It was a perfect morning by the time the ship came to a complete stop. There was no wind, calm glassy seas, the sun was almost peeking through light clouds.

Relaxing before our first excursion

We were really starting to get excited about our first expedition, a Kodiak boat cruise around the bay looking for more wildlife.

Weather not too bad but getting a little choppy

We decided to catch an early lunch to be ready for our 2:30 excursion. While we were chatting with a few of our new friends the weather started to go south, pun intended. At first it was just delightful light snow flurries that were blowing almost straight up against the side of the ship in the very light breeze.

Special Ops Boat loads on ramp from the stern

Then the wind picked up, the fog started rolling in, and as the wind got stronger the sea got pretty rough.

Weather going south

By this time the ship had already deployed the submarine, the kayaks and the special operations boat it was becoming apparent that things were not proceeding as planned. By 12:30 the expedition crew announced that all excursions for the day were cancelled so we headed back to our cabin for a bit of rest.

Antarctica weather is constantly changing

With the rest of the day to fill, we headed out to the ship living room to drink lattes and play a few games. We were playing Mahjong when we overheard a couple one table over trying to remember/learn how to play cribbage. Somehow they had located a cribbage board but couldn’t remember all the rules. We did a quick rules overview and played a few hands cards-up and then played until dinner time. By the time dinner was over there was 1½” of snow on the ship walkways and it was still coming down.

Apparently a pretty a big storm was blowing through so our ship is remaining in Fournier Bay until midnight when they’ll proceed to the next day’s destination. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have better weather and our next excursion will come off as planned.

November 28, 2022

Day 6 – Wiencke Island

When we woke up this morning there were already Zodiaks ferrying passengers to Wiencke Island, a huge penguin colony easily visible from the ship. The mountains surrounding the bay were magnificent. I walked all the way around the ship trying to accomplish the impossible task of capturing the visual impact of the surrounding terrain. I’ll share the best pictures but it’s similar to the impossible challenge of capturing the Grand Canyon; the photos never compare to the grandeur of the real thing.

Great view where one of the glaciers reaches the ocean
Majestic and Rugged Landscapes

As you can see from my blog title, I really wanted to see penguins close up. I was so excited to look out from the ship and see literally thousands of penguins all along the snow covered ridge a mile or so from the ship.

View towards penguin colony
Excursion boats ferrying passengers to penguin colony – dark lines on the snow-covered hills
The Wiencke Island Penguin Colony
Thousands of penguins along the ridge
More penguins
Kayakers near the penguin colony

As I continued walking around to the stern of the ship I was surprised to see a snowy sheathbill bird walking on the aft deck. The head ornithologist had told us that sometimes birds land on the deck and can’t figure out how to take off so they have to help them out. I was about to make a rescue call when this bird hopped up on the snow-covered observation windows and started pecking through the snow looking for something to eat, I presume. Later in the morning we saw several more of the same type of birds hopping around on the snow covered bushes on the aft deck. The snowy sheathbill is the only bird native to Antarctica and cannot land on the water. Bird watching has a cult following on the ship, there are so many species unique to the Antarctic region. Every day the birders get together to record all of the species that have been spotted that day. I’d like to think we saw an albatross but now I’m pretty sure it was giant gray petrel.

snowy sheathbill

We headed to breakfast around 7:30 knowing we needed to be ready for our 10:00 excursion. We started to get concerned as we saw the Zodiaks were getting bounced around a bit and the wind was starting to blow pretty strong. At 8:30am the excursion director announced that excursions had been suspended for now. We weren’t surprised as the winds had started to pick up and the sea was getting rougher by the minute. By then there was a 1-2ft chop and the winds were blowing 35-40mph.

Rough Water

Down to the theater for another nature movie and then an unexpected update from the excursion director; apparently a passenger had been injured on one of the Zodiaks earlier this morning but was doing okay now. We heard rumors that a passenger had fallen, either getting in or out of the boat, and had broken their leg. Given the range of ages and physical abilities that are onboard it isn’t surprising that something like that could happen. By 10:30 the weather was starting to improve markedly and the director announced that we would remain on station with the hope of resuming operations. By 11:30 it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen and as the ship started moving we assumed we were proceeding to our next destination, George’s Point. As I write my morning entries the snow flakes are getting fluffier and wind has slowed way down. The occasional cottage size chunks of ice floating by are cool to see.

The Aula Theater on the aft deck

After lunch we attended a lecture on the different porpoise, dolphin and whale species in the Antarctic region. It was very interesting but the speaker totally lost the crowd when someone blurted out, “Whales.” The speaker paused while everyone tried to spot the spouts off the aft end of the ship, and ended her presentation quickly as most everyone was now whale watching. We caught a few whale tails and spouts over the next 10 minutes or so to everyone’s delight. At the same time the seas were getting rougher, the snow was falling harder, and the wind was getting very strong.

More Rough Seas

After the whale watching we headed back to the forward living/game room and started playing cribbage. About halfway through the game a couple stopped nearby and was watching. I asked them if they were cribbage players and got an enthusiastic yes.

Cribbage in the Living Room

We invited them to join us and played cribbage for a couple of hours until the captain came back on the PA system. We were guessing it wasn’t good news and we were right. It turns out that the passenger that was injured during the first morning excursion needed to be taken to a hospital and, you guessed it, the fastest way to get them there was for all of us to cruise back to Ushuaia. Many of the passengers didn’t appreciate the stark reality that we are 600 miles away from any sort of services or infrastructure. There was no one nearby to help us and no practical way to get our passenger to a hospital faster than for us to take them. It will take about 36 hours to cross the Drake Passage, which puts us in Ushuaia around noon on Wednesday. That puts an end to our Antarctica opportunities as a return round trip to the south would only allow for 2 short days of excursions in Antarctica. While we are very disappointed we certainly appreciate the captain’s decision to put the health of her passengers ahead of the entertainment aspect of the cruise. We’ll find out soon what the remaining 6 days of our 15 day cruise holds in store but it won’t be landfall in Antarctica.

Dinner with Waves

We headed to one of the sit-down restaurants onboard for dinner this evening. These restaurants feature full service and special “gourmet” menu offerings for the evening. We enjoyed gnocchi alla primavera and Trout with crab for our main courses. The entrees were excellent and the desserts were very nice. We sat next to the window on the 2nd floor above freeboard and several times the swells were even with our table, about 13-15 feet high. It’s going to be a rough ride through the Drake Passage as the seas are quite rough and the captain has the boat moving at full speed, about 19.5mph, much faster than the cruise south. At this point it’s hard to describe the disappointment we are all feeling but we all realize that the captain made the same decision we would want her to make if one of us was seriously injured. Tune in later for updates.

December 2, 2022
Day ??? – Ushuaia

Hello everyone, I know it’s been over five days since I last updated my blog but those five days have contained a lot to take in and process.  As many of you are already aware, we were aboard the brand new Viking Polaris for its 5th Antarctica cruise, which has been the subject of much national and international news over the last day or two. I’m quite bandwidth limited as I sit here in our cabin trying to get out a much needed update but uploading pictures may have to wait for another day or two.  When I wrote my last entry, we knew that one passenger had been seriously injured and another knocked overboard in a Zodiac accident.  We were not happy with the decision to return to Ushuaia 6 days early but we understood the decision the Captain and Viking made.  Our cruise south through the Drake Passage had been a bit choppy but it did not prepare us for what lay in store on our return cruise.

At the time of my last entry the seas were 13-15 feet, by 8:30pm that night the seas were approaching 20 feet and the winds were now gale force (70+ mph).  Sonia and I were both not feeling well from the rough seas so we were lying in bed trying to avoid the worst symptoms of motion sickness.  We both fell asleep by 9:00 but were awakened by the ship’s alert around 10:40; Delta, Delta, Delta.  We didn’t know what that meant then but we figured it wasn’t good when the captain asked all crew to assemble on level 2 by the life boats.  Delta, Delta, Delta is cruise ship speak for “hull damage, water coming in.”

It was shortly after that when the next alert was announced; Alpha, Alpha, Alpha.  Unfortunately, that means medical emergency though we didn’t know that at the time.  We were both feeling quite ill, and there didn’t appear to be any urgent threat to us, so we decided to stay in bed in our room and await further instructions.  Within 30 minutes one of the crew opened our door to make sure we were in our cabin and uninjured.  Still not having any idea what was going on, we stayed in our cabin for the rest of the night.

By the next morning we were in the Beagle Channel and still moving along at a good clip towards Ushuaia.  Slowly over the morning we began learning what had occurred the night before.  The seas and wind had continued to build that night and around 10:38pm the port bow of the Polaris was struck by a foot rogue wave that is purported to have been over 70 feet high, reportedly breaking over the forward end of the ship. That wave knocked out several deck 2, port side cabin windows, more than 30 feet about freeboard and caused some flooding on many more cabins on both sides of the ship. The impact was large enough to cause this large ship to list significantly though the stabilization system quickly leveled the ship out.

It’s hard to image what those in the breached cabins went through, being hit by a wall of 30-ish degree water, shattered glass, furniture and anything else not secured in the cabin. All without any lights and very little, if any, clothing. Several of the guests’ rooms were basically destroyed by the impact and ensuing flooding. Several of the room walls collapsed trapping the inhabitants on their beds with no options other than to wait for rescue crews to break into their rooms and help extricate them from the debris. Luckily only the single wave actually was large enough to flood those breached cabins and the inhabitants didn’t have to deal with multiple waves. The weather that night in the Drake Passage was the worst that any of our crew we talked to had ever experienced, indeed our passage south was rough but uneventful. Several other ships made the Passage crossing that night and more than one of them sustained significant damage or injuries.

All of the affected passenger’s accounts are extraordinary, and many very funny in retrospect.  All are inspiring but all of that is tempered by the fact that, only much later, we learned that there had been a fatality as a direct result of the wave breaching the cabin windows.  It is our current understanding that when the window failed, due to the force of the rogue wave, the impact from the shattered glass and water caused significant injuries that proved to be fatal.  It’s difficult to explain how you are affected as each new piece of information paints a more complex and dire picture of all the things that occurred, as well as the heroic actions of the crew, many of whom sustained significant injuries while rescuing trapped and injured passengers.  The excitement and adventure quickly turn to concern, compassion and solemnity.

Since then, we have had the honor and pleasure of speaking with many of the injured and affected passengers and their stories are so inspiring.  We had the pleasure of sharing our last dinner in Ushuaia with one of the passengers that was directly affected and she sustained multiple lacerations and blunt force injuries.  She is a Viking veteran with 8 cruises and many more with other lines.  She cruised with her husband for many years and continues to cruise since being widowed.  She was upbeat and excited to be able to continue enjoying Ushuaia on our day excursions.  I helped her navigate the stairs several times to get better photos of some of the wildlife along our evening cruise.  Back at our table, while we were chatting, she asked me why I hadn’t asked if I could take a picture of her.  I was a bit taken aback and told her that I would never invade her privacy or in any way diminish what she had been through by asking for a picture of her injuries.  None of those we met held any ill will against Viking or the crew; the rogue wave incident was a one in a million situation and our ship was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The immediate and professional response of the entire crew was amazing, with many of them going 48 straight hours without any sleep while dealing with the trauma, damage and the needs of all 300+ passengers onboard that all have been affected in some way.   

I’m sure my collected, incomplete and rambling thoughts and accounts may have left you with more questions than answers about what happened that night but I can assure you that Sonia and I are uninjured but still processing all the grief and sorrow for those directly affected.  It’s difficult to convey how your perception of an event changes as you learn more about how serious it was, much as I’m sure some of you have been rather anxious as the news of a death on an Antarctica Cruise Ship started to appear on national and international news feeds.  Our ship arrived in Ushuaia Wednesday afternoon and we are still, as of Friday night, onboard the Polaris.

Transportation in and out of Ushuaia is very limited and all of our ship’s passengers arrived via Viking’s charter flights.  Arranging unexpected flight capacity for 300+ people requires lots of logistical work to even locate available planes and pilots.  Viking has been working around the clock to arrange transportation for all of us and it currently looks like we’ll be in one of the last groups flying to Buenos Aires Saturday night and then leaving there on Monday for Dallas and then San Diego.  We are doing our best to respond to the many of you that have put 2+2 together and figured out that our ship was the one making the news. 

Since arriving in Ushuaia, Viking has done a great job of caring for all of the ship’s passengers.  They have organized daily local excursions for everyone as well as continuing to provide unbelievable food and service at all hours of the day and night.  We had the opportunity to visit Tierra del Fuego National Park on Thursday. Today we took a Beagle Channel evening cruise to several of the islands, many with lots of bird and seal colonies.

While we met lots of amazing people onboard and made lots of new friends, we are looking forward to being back home with all of our friends and family.  We can’t wait to share our stories and memories, good and bad, and start to plan our next adventure, though it probably won’t be to Antarctica, that may have to wait until 2024 ?

There will be more updates and lots of pictures once we arrive in Buenos Aires.

December 3, 2022
Day 12 – Ushuaia

This is a short update to share some of the photos from our last days in Ushuaia and Patagonia. First I apologize for editing the date on my previous post but it made the most since so as not to mess up the dates and cities for these next pictures that were all taken while in Ushuaia and Patagonia. As we spent our last days on the Polaris we knew we were going to miss the Espresso machine the most. Push-button cappuccinos and lattes never get old, especially when paired with the gelato served onboard.

Pure happiness at a moment’s notice

Viking arranged for us to go on a Thursday excursion from Ushuaia to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. We got a chance to visit many of the different facets of the Patagonia eco-system from fresh water lakes to the ocean shores in the Beagle Channel to the peat bogs near the coast.

Entering the Tierra Del Fuego National Park
One of the first stops on our Tierra Del Fuego National Park tour
breathtaking views along the shore looking out towards the Beagle Channel
sparse trees in some areas
The water as so clear it was unbelievable
The beach was all shale gravel – no sand
Classic Patagonia landscapes and views
Nice little stream running through the peat bogs
Colt nursing from mother while grazing in one of the peat bogs

On Friday (12/2), Viking gave us most of the day off and then setup a dinner cruise in the Beagle Channel. As soon as we pulled out of the dock they announced that we would not be visiting the penguin colony because of the weather. Had we know that we might have passed on the tour but we were glad we didn’t. We spent a few hours visiting a number of small islands that had many birds and seals.

View of Ushuaia from our boat in the Beagle Channel – impressive skyline
This lighthouse is on one of the many small islands in the Beagle Channel
Cormorant colony on island in the channel
There were thousand of birds here preparing for raising chicks
I caught this one returning to the island with nest building materials
One of the seal colonies in the channel
This bull seal had quite the harem surrounding him

As we left the seal colony it got quite windy and the waves picked up quickly, leading many of the passengers to wish they had passed on this particular excursion. Go figure???? After cruising the channel and fighting through that rough water we stopped on one of the protected beaches on an island for a hike and onboard dinner.

The mountains above Ushuaia were beautiful and ever changing in appearance as the weather and sun changed throughout the day.
You can guess that is was a bit cool during our cruise
A pleasant stroll on one of the islands in the Beagle Channel
The environment is quite harsh but nature somehow adapts and flourishes
The colors of these flowers were so bright they seemed out of place for this windy landscape.
The plants were alive with color and variety – like this bush with small red berries
One last shot of the wind-swept landscape on an island in the Beagle Channel as the sun starts to drop in the sky.

We finally got on a charter flight to Buenos Aires with about 115 other Polaris passengers. It was a long day and flight with most passengers not getting to their hotel rooms until well after midnight. We spent the next three days in Buenos Aires – I’ll try to upload pictures from our exploring and excursion when I get home.