ANTARCTICA, 2004-5

MS Nordnorge: 19-day Expedition Cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires
Norwegian Coastal Voyages, now Hurtigruten


NCV's Antarctica & Chilean Fjord cruise program featuring expedition guides, lectures, and zodiac landings. The ship has experienced tour guides giving in-depth lectures on Chile and the Antarctic. All passengers will be given a wind and waterproof jacket to wear outside our sweater or fleece jacket. Cover boots will also be provided for Zodiac landings in Antarctica.

Day 1, Wednesday, December 15 Depart the U.S.
On Sunday, it got up to 82 in the afternoon. This morning early it was 29. It's supposed to be up in the 80s again when I get to Santiago tomorrow. I need both winter and summer clothes for this trip. Call a cab at 11AM to catch the 11:30 shuttle at the hotel - airport about 12:15?? Oops, 11:30 - no shuttle. 11:45 - no shuttle. 12:00 - no shuttle. The driver never stopped (it's a scheduled stop). So after over an hour wait, catch the 12:30 shuttle. Hope there's not much traffic or airport security delay … or I miss the plane. Depart for an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile. It is 10:52 of flight time (at least its split into two parts) plus 3:12 layover for a 14:04 total. American Airlines, although nice leg room, is REAL cheap on refreshments. Lan Chile does MUCH better ... even though we eat VERY late. Also, I have a new runner-up to the Frankfort airport (for least favorite, that is). The first flight is of course 'domestic' so we come into the domestic flights wing of the airport … and all the flight displays show *only* American's domestic flights. So where is my next flight … nobody knows (even the American Airlines staff in the area). After almost an hour (:55) I finally find the correct wing and gate. Fortunately there was the 3 hour layover. Adding in security checks, I get to the gate only about 10 minutes before they start boarding.

American LA5507Houston - Miami1:51 PM - 5:18 PM2:273:12
Lan Chile LA 501Miami - Santiago8:30 PM - 6:50 AM8:2514:04

Day 2, Thursday, December 16 Arrive in Santiago
Morning arrival at the Santiago airport in Chile. $100 (US cash) entrance fee due at Immigration. ($100 US = 58,400 pesos - we get a small card stapled into our passport so after this we don't have to pay again ... unless we get a new passport) The local trip organizers are very disorganized at the airport so we have over an hour of standing around waiting and waiting and ... for something. Eventually we get on our way. During the transfer to our hotel, an orientation tour of the city will be given: i.e., try to get the bus through extremely heavy traffic and road construction many times worse than Houston. We don't really see much except traffic. The airport is on the south side of the city, so we go through supposedly major thoroughfares (??? Really???) to the *nice* side of town - the north, for an excellent hotel (one of the best I've stayed at … anywhere). Rest of the day at leisure; definitely at leisure since there's not much to do in the area. We are a long way from anywhere interesting, so ... or join an exciting (?) optional excursions. Hotel: Hyatt Regency Santiago. Very nice!

Option*: Valley of Casablanca Duration: 6 hrs. (4-11:15 pm) During this excursion, we travel to Casablanca Valley, a famous wine district, where we visit an outstanding vineyard; William Cole, to taste some of the local wines. Continue to Puro-Caballo ("only horse"), the first premium horse center and experience a traditional Chilean rodeo. During a barbeque dinner with typical Chilean dishes, we are presented with Chilean folklore music.

It's another drive across town back to the south side through rush (crawl time) traffic. The visit to the winery is a bummer (many of the wine-lovers *didn't* like the offered wine samples … and I don't drink). However the visit to the horse center is very interesting. The Chilean (and Argentine) rodeo is much different from the north American ones - it's a show of how well the horse is trained, and how well two riders can handle/herd a single steer. The included dinner is fabulous. Overall, an excellent evening, though the only folklore music was on the bus PA system on the way back to the hotel. Tour guide: Gisella, German heritage. Fairly good, but not great.

Side note: while wandering around waiting on the optional tour, I had managed to get a full set of Chilean coins for my collection. I left them on the desk in the hotel room (so I wouldn't accidentally spend them) and when the maid came in to 'turn down the bed', she took them. Very little cash loss, but not what I would have expected in a major hotel.

We have to have our (checked) bags out in the hall by 11PM for pickup and transfer to the ship. We won't see them again until we get onboard the ship. So we have to carry anything we may need any time tomorrow in a carry-on on the plane and any optional tour, etc. To bed about 11:15.

(Side note: in order to make sure that my checked bag is within the airlines weight limits, I have all the camera gear, batteries, rechargers, etc in my carryon. Sometimes I think it's heavier than the main bag.)

Option: Dinner at the Top of the San Cristobal Hill Duration: 3hrs. (8:30-11:30pm) Our three-course dinner will include delicious seafood and other Chilean specialties at a charming restaurant at the top of the San Cristobal Hill. Transfers to/from the restaurant are included.

Day 3, Friday, December 17 Santiago - Puerto Montt - Embarkation
Up at 4 for some reason; 5AM breakfast. Off at 5:45. Transfer for our flight to Puerto Montt, gateway to Chile's famous lake district.

Lan Chile LA ???? 8 - 9:40its open seating so we get an un-numbered boarding pass

Depending on our arrival time, join today's interesting optional excursion. Before embarking the MS Nordnorge (pronounced Nord NOR-gay), we get an abbreviated orientation tour of Puerto Montt and this area, surrounded by majestic volcanoes - somewhere off in the distance. On board, there will be an informative welcome meeting for all guests.

Option*: Puerto Montt - Oyerti Varas & Petrohue Waterfalls Duration 6hrs. (10:15am-4:45pm) Travel by motorcoach with our guide to Petrohue, passing through the beautiful city Puerto Varas, known as "City of Roses", situated on the shores of Lake Llanquihue, the largest in Chile, and the Osorno volcano. Drive to the town of Ensenada, and experience the awesome beauty of perfectly shaped Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes. On our way to the Chilean oldest national park, Vicente Perez Rosales, we enjoy the beauty of the green-colored Petrohue River and the vast forest of native Coihues. Stop at Salto del Petrohue, series of oddly twisting water chutes formed by a crystallized black volcanic rock. In the town of Petrohue, we enjoy lunch at the Hotel Petrohue, situated by Lago Todos Los Santos (All Saints Lakes), known for its deep and emerald-green waters.

Unfortunately, it's raining most of the time (I guess that's the 'waterfalls' - it's raining). We do get a few brief sights of the Osorno volcano (the base, not the top due to clouds) but not the Calbuco. It's off down to the south somewhere. There's lots of lava flow rock and powder along the way; sometimes its like driving through deep sand. Pick up some lava samples for a friend.

The lunch is good and the weather has cleared a bit … but not much. If only we could have actually seen it (in sunlight) the scenery would have been fabulous. We saw just enough to be teased. Tour guide: Sonia. Local. So-so guide. Good knowledge, but hampered by weak English skills. (German speakers get a different bus/guide for all off-ship tours though many who also speak English take the English language tours and go to the onboard English lectures.)

We don't actually board until 6 PM (contrary to schedule) but I think they had told the guide to delay us (those on the tour) while they were loading up everyone else. We have our photo taken upon boarding for our ID card with it's 'bar-code' which we use to clock off and back onto the ship for each of our shore excursions … we've been computerized and 'big brother is watching.'

We also have to sign up for either first- or second-seating for dinner and I'm lucky enough to get with friends whom I've already met on the trip (we get to choose table ... if available); we sign up for first seating which is (almost) always at 6PM. Second seating doesn't get anything until 8:15.

Check-in: 5PM (actually about 6:15); Dinner: 6:30 (for first seating); Orientation/Welcome meeting: 8:00; Mandatory lifeboat drill: 8:30; Sailing: 9:00

See passenger rules for Ships in this area.

One major 'luck out'. There are several different groups on board (different travel agencies, etc.) and although I got the last cabin (count) allocated to the NCV group, others apparently didn't totally fill their reserved blocks so some of us (all those down in 'steerage' on deck 2) got upgraded to an upper deck (and the crew got to spread out into regular cabins). I end up on deck 5 (of 7) which is the deck with the outside walks, and one flight of steps up from the lounge, meeting rooms and restaurant on deck 4. Not bad. Cabins down in 'steerage' have a porthole, not a window, and based on the times we had to go down there (to get on board the boats for landings) it would have been *very* noisy. The new cabin is a bit larger (one sofa along one wall which would make into a bed) and a fold-down bed (board with thin mattress) on the other wall. Plenty of storage space (for one person) and a decent size "bathroom." Now if only the bed had been a bit more comfortable.

We end up with 323 passengers on board: 121 are from Germany, 83 from Australia, 34 from the US (none from Canada), 15 from the UK, 14 from Norway, 11 from the Netherlands, 9 from Austria, 6 from Switzerland, and it works on down from that. We find out later that many of the passengers are family and/or friends of the crew/staff.

The ship heads south towards and through Corcovado Gulf. (BLD - all meals on board included through breakfast in Ushuaia - but not much after that!)

Day 4, Saturday, December 18 Chiloe Island - Castro
Up at 5:30 to walk the decks - it's getting much cooler after the heat of Santiago. Morning arrival at Spanish-influenced Chiloe Island and the city of Castro, home to Chiloe's distinctive wooden homes on stilts. The ship has to anchor in the harbor so we will take the small boats to shore. Spend a half-day on our own exploring this culturally-rich area, known for its own music, dance, craft traditions, and a wealth of spellbinding myths and legends, or join the optional excursion.

Most landings are by "zodiac", actually "PolarCirkel" boats which are rigid hull versions of the usual zodiac. Much nicer. Life preserver belts are mandatory, however.

Option*: Castro and its Folklore Duration: 4hrs. (9:15 am-1:50pm) On this tour we visit Castro and the surrounding area. Drive across the Blanco Street, panoramic view of the "palafitos", distinctive wooden houses on stilts, and a handicraft shipyard. Continue to the town of Nercon and visit the historical church that was declared as a National Historic Monument and UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. In Castro we visit the Central Square and the City Museum, featuring old Chilean wooden crafts. At the Octavio Restaurant, we experience the preparation of "curanto" - a part of the Chilean traditional cuisine. Our last stop will be a visit to the Handicraft Market featuring typical wool, wood and natural grain products.

It's a nice trip, but we run late and get back too late for lunch. Not a problem since we have really nice breakfast buffets on board. Overall, the surrounding area scenery was the best part. Can't say too little about "lunch" in the restaurant, but the included musical entertainment was very good. One thing I'm noticing about the established handicraft shops: much of the crafts, particularly when there are lots of the individual items available, look more like "made in Hong-Kong" souvenirs. Tour guide: Viviana. Lives locally but from Bolivia. She has a set schedule provided by the tour organizer, but can't seem to stay with it so many times its 'hurry up and wait'. Not very knowledgeable, either.

Option: Villages and Churches of Chiloe Duration: 4½ hrs. (8:30am-1pm) On this city tour we discover the typical villages of Chiloe Island, its rich culture and historical churches. The excursion includes visit of the Dalcahue Market, famous for the craftworks; the Island of Quinchao, where we find the Chiloe's largest church; the village of Achao, home to the 18th century church of Santa Maria; and the main island's city of Castro

Lecture: An Introduction to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Franz Gingele (Good) (sometimes I go to the first presentation of a given lecture, sometimes to a repeat on a subsequent day; only listed on the first presentation day) Movie: Solid Water, Liquid Rock (excellent)

Day 5, Sunday, December 19 Lakes & Glaciers - Puerto Chacabuco
Located at the east end of a narrow fjord, Puerto Chacabuco displaced nearby Puerto Aysen as the port for the Chohaique region when the latter's harbor silted up due to an extensive deforestation of the area. Reached by ferry from Puerto Montt and connected to Coihaique by an excellent paved highway, it's one of the most frequent ports of entry to Aysen.

A great many expeditions (including Captain Robert Fitzroy's British expedition for which Darwin served as naturalist) visited this area in the late 18th and 19th centuries, some in searchof a protected passage to the Pacific. In the early 1870's, Chilean Navy officer Enrique Simpson made the most thorough survey up to that time, mapping these areas.

Morning arrival in the fjord port of Puerto Chacabuco, giving us the opportunity to take a closer look at the "country behind the mountains." Breakfast at 6:30 then off on the trip at 8. Travel by motor coach through this land of lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains, passing several smaller settlements along this scenic route, a major tourist attraction in itself, before reaching the city of Coyhaique, the largest city in the region, where we can sample its famous seafood and lamb dishes. We depart in the afternoon and head towards Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Sorrow).

Included tour: Puerto Chacabuco: Aiken National Park Duration: 4½ hrs. (8am-12:30pm) Drive from Chacabuco, located southwest from the Aisenfjord, surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful flora, arriving at the Aiken National Park. We be met by the local English-speaking guide and walk through the park as high as 6,562 feet. At lunch, a cocktail, empanadas and other special delicatessens will be served.

The trip is 8 to 1:30. We do a quick drive around town, then off on the tour. Since this is an included tour for everyone, there are lots of busses going out. We get lots of local scenery and a guided walk around the main part (entry area) of the national park. Very nice. I'm glad it got changed from optional to included, but would have taken it anyway. It's the best one yet and only a brief drizzle for a few minutes. Hooray! Tour guide: Patricia. Local but with US education and experience working in the US. Our best local guide on the trip.

Zodiac/Polar Cirkle groups are listed now for our landing sequence. I/we (friends) are in group 1 for the on-shore trip tomorrow. Of course that means we will go to the end of the line for the 2nd on-shore trip and slowly move up the sequence after that, but we won't get back to first again.

Lecture: The Fueguians, Maurice Van der Maele (Fair) This evening as we cruise down the coast, there's lots of pitch and roll from about 8:15 for 2 or 3 hours as we cross through an open (to the sea) section. We've been mostly cruising along inside a series of islands which have broken the force of the wind and tide. It's not bad, but much more than we've had up to this point.

Day 6, Monday, December 20 Caleta Tortel - Puerto Eden
Morning arrival in the fjord haven of Caleta Tortel, home to a small fishing village renowned for its unique and intricate wooden elevated roads. During the afternoon, the ship will stop at Puerto Eden, one of the few places in Chile mainly populated by native Indians. We spend the rest of the day sailing through narrow waters in an area well known for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife.

As we approach Puerto Eden, we pass the wreck of the "Captain Leonides". The Captain and the Pilot were having a conversation during which the pilot said "alright Captain" The helmsman heard "All Right, Captain" and turned hard to starboard - running right onto the rocks.

When we get to Puerto Eden, it's raining, and I/we are up/down/bounced ashore first. The little village is just clinging to the hillsides - no roads, just elevated wooden walkways connecting the various buildings. It's a do-it-ourself tour with no guide. Since it's raining even harder by the time we are on shore, I decide to cut the visit short (my good camera is getting very wet) and go back aboard. Only ashore about 25 minutes. Not much to see except how a village can be established almost anywhere. There are a few souvenir sellers around, but they don't have much of interest, and it's raining. About an hour later the rain stops, but the group rotation (there are 11 groups) has completely passed us by.

Lecture: Flora Chillensis - an ecological approach. Rudolf Thomann. (not my favorite topic)
Lecture: Birdwatching. Manuel Marin (ditto)
Movie: Frozen Heart: Roald Amundsen (excellent)

Day 7, Tuesday, December 21 The Strait of Magellan
Battered by westerly winds and storms that drop huge amounts of rain and snow on the seaward slopes of the Andes, this rugges mountainous area called Magallanes is geographically remote from the rest of the country. Alacalufe and Tehuelches Indians subsisting through fishing, hunting and gathering, were the region's original inhabitants. While the Atacalufe and Tehuelches survive in reduced numbers, there remain very few individuals of identifiable Ona, Haush, or Yehgan populations.

Fantastic sounds, fjords, and mountains dominate this day. Fjord visit and a closer look at one of the many magnificent glaciers. Weather permitting, Zodiac landings to study the flora and fauna - not done. The route takes us through the extraordinary Strait of Magellan. Pretty much of a dull day with quite a bit of fog / mist / rain. Cooler also if we are on deck and in the wind. Not bad, however.

Lecture: Europeans in Tierra del Fuego. Maurice Van de Maele (good)
Lecture: Latitude, Longitude and Other Mysteries. Ian Stone (very good)

Day 8, Wednesday, December 22 Punta Arenas
In 1843, Chile took possession of the Strait and the Patagonian lands by establishing its first settlement and fort at a site known today as Fuerte Bulnes, 40 miles south from the nowadays city of Punta Arenas.

Morning arrival at the port of Punta Arenas, facing out across the strait. The ship can dock, so we won't need the PolarCirkle boats this time. Leisure time to exploring this almost Dickensian city blending 19th-century elegance with everyday life, or join one of three wonderful optional excursions which include a visit to the flat country ("Pampas"), stopping at one of the Nandu (ostrich-like bird) farms, or a guided city tour.

Option*: "Estancia" Olga Teresa Duration: 6 hrs. (8:45am-3:30pm) Drive by motor coach over the Chilean Pampas passing by several "nandu" farms where local owners breed these birds, part of the ostrich family. At the "estancia" Olga Teresa", a Chilean ranch, we enjoy a typical Patagonian "asado de cordero" lunch, a lamb barbecue. We also experience a demonstration of traditional techniques for sheep shearing and the famous horse rodeo.

Port Aranas is definitely a well established small city - very nice location and beautiful scenery. I just about had to 'flip a coin' to decide on which option to do. It's a beautiful day. There's a 1:45 bus ride out to the "estancia". Very nice 'reception' then another Chilean Rodeo (not as good as the other one) but we do have an excellent lamb dinner. We also get a sheepdog demonstration of how the dog can 'work' the sheep. Later a discussion of sheep shearing. It's a nice visit and the people here are very nice, but somehow it's not quite what I expected. Minor shopping on the estancia and in town when we get back (later than scheduled). Three Antarctic research vessels are also docked in the port. Tour guide: Claudio. Good, but not our best. Most of the information was given by Estancia staff.

Option: "Estancia" Fitz Roy Duration: 6hrs. (9am-3pm) Drive by motor coach over the Chilean Pampas passing by several "nandu" farms where local owners breed these birds, part of the ostrich family. Arrive at the "estancia" Fitz Roy, a Chilean ranch, and visit an open-air museum, featuring historical local pieces from the beginning of the 20th century. We also experience a demonstration of traditional techniques for animal herding with dogs and enjoy a typical Patagonian "asado de cordero" lunch, a lamb barbecue.

Option: Otway Sound Penguin Colony Duration: 4hrs. (9am-1pm) This penguin colony is located 40 miles north of Punta Arenas on Seno Otway. The Magellanic penguins return annually between October and March to lay eggs and raise their young. There is a 1.5-mile walk before reaching the colony. Note: This excursion requires walking in some irregular but fairly flat terrain. (Lots of people took this option, but I figured that we would see plenty of penguins later.)

Lecture: Terra Australis - the discovery of Antarctica. Jim Garlinghouse
Lecture: Penguins: the name and naming. Manuel Marin
Lecture: Magellan and his Strait: Ian Stone
Movie: Round Cape Horn

Day 9, Thursday, December 23 Beagle Channel - Cape Horn
Ever since the 16th century voyages of Magellan and the 19th century explorations of Fitzroy and Darwin on the Beagle, this "uttermost part of the earth" has held an ambivalent fascination for travelers of many nationalities. For more than three centuries its climate and terrain discouraged European settlement, yet indigenous people considered it a "land of plenty." The Yahgan Indians, now extinct, built the continuous, warming fires that inspired the Europeans to give this region its name, now famous through out the world. It consists of one large island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and many smaller ones, only a few of which are inhabited. The Strait of Magellan separates the archipalego from the South American mainland.

Today we sail through narrow sounds, past dramatic mountains, and into the famous Beagle Channel. The sailing brings many different and impressive opportunities to see the southern part of Patagonia, a region that few tourists have the opportunity to visit. In the evening, sail the Moroy Channel out toward Cape Horn, located between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The cape is the last outpost in South America, situated at almost 56 degrees south, and weather permitting we have the opportunity to land by Zodiac to explore this desolate yet poetic place. The crew tried and did launch a couple of PolarCirkel boats, but the wind was high (34 knots) and the waves (they look high from deck 5, and very high when viewed from deck 3) would have been difficult to handle. Rumor also has it that the Chilean pilots on board refused to take the ship close enough for a landing to be feasible. The ship is now 0 for 4 for Cape Horn landings this season. As we leave, it starts raining (again.)

Lecture: IAATO Guidelines (mandatory briefing) This lecture gives us information about procedures (set by treaty) and how they will be implemented on this cruise. We are also given instructions about how to dress and board the boats for our Antarctic landings.

Procedure: First, make sure to dress warmly - not just the usual on-board dress, but add wool socks, thermal 'long-johns' and a sweater (first extra layer). We also need water/wind proofing so add water-proof (rain) pants and the parka they gave us for the trip. (The pair of rain pants I bought at the local sporting goods store the day before I left was apparently a returned pair and wasn't checked - they were split out on both sides so I had to pay the exorbitant price for a new pair bought from the gift shop on the ship.) Now, being bundled up like an overstuffed penguin, waddle our way down to deck 2 (what would have been the car deck if the ship were working as a ferry along the Norway coast) to get our boots (leave our shoes on board) and life-vest. Unfortunately the largest boot size they have is at least a half-size (if not more) too small. They are hard to get off when we get back, and almost impossible to get on in the first place. Be sure not to forget gloves, earmuffs, hat, camera, etc. (Also be sure to make any necessary "pit-stop" before leaving since there are no facilities on shore.) From deck 2, it's only a short (external) ladder climb down to (and back up from) the boats…which are much easier to enter/exit than the usual zodiac.

When we disembark, we have to go through a wash procedure (for our boots, both a side shower and a walk-through 'bath.') We do an even more extensive wash when we come back on board. The idea is not to introduce any contamination to the Antarctic continent, and later to clean boots of whatever () we've stepped in while on shore (remember all those penguins!).

We will (hopefully) have two landings each day. The first will be about 8 or 8:30 and the second about 4 or 4:30 PM. That latter one may sound late, but remember we have very long days here in mid-summer. In fact, on a few of the nights, it never actually gets dark, just dim.

(Side note: it's time to refill my vitamins/prescription box for the next week. Unfortunately, the main supply can't be found and I *know* I packed it because I made up the two reserve containers with just the right number of additional medicine/pills. Apparently when my luggage was security searched back at the start of the trip, one of the security personnel removed the (drugstore) prescription bottles. So now I have to go without for the next 10 days)

Day 10, Friday, December 24 The Drake Passage
Englishman Sir Francis Drake, sailing in the Pelican (later named Golden Hind) made the second circumnavigation of the globe from 1577 - 1580. Drake discovered the passage that now is named for him, definitive by proving that no greater southern continent was connected to either South America or Tierra del Fuego.

The Drake Passage is a narrow stretch of water separating South America from the Antarctic Peninsula. At a certain point, we will be passing over the Antarctic Convergence. The ocean south of the Convergence differs greatly from northern waters in salinity, density, and temperature. A great mix occurs in this area, with nutrients from the sea floor being brought to the surface making the Convergence a highly productive area for algae, krill, and other creatures that are the base of the Antarctic food chain.

Less than two days will be spent crossing the Drake Passage. During the crossing, numerous lectures will be held on fascinating Antarctica. We also have a chance for a tour of the Bridge of the ship (30 minutes per group). There's also a special "Christmas Lunch" and Christmas Buffet dinner.

The crossing itself starts out pretty rough with the ship 'corkscrewing' - both pitch and roll. With a bunch of forethought, the ship is scheduled to make the first (worst) part of the crossing at night when we will be safely in our bunks. Quite a few people get seasick. I never get even slight symptoms, fortunately. It does get calmer after we cross over the Convergence. Temps have dropped from an average (almost constant) 53-55F to 44-45F. Winds are still high. Pre-briefing for tomorrow indicates that we will try for **two** landings. We cross the Convergence at 3:45 and see our first decent size iceberg at 4:10. We're almost there.

Lecture: Penguins - Those from the other side. Manuel Marin (good)

Day 11, Saturday, December 25 Antarctica
It's a "White Christmas" on Christmas Day. (I learn later that I'm missing one of the VERY RARE snowfalls back home.) In the morning we arrive in Antarctica, considered one of the most breathtaking and beautiful continents. Antarctica, "the White Continent," is more than half the size of North America.

The South Shetlands are the major group of islands at the Northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. The 340 mile long chain consists of four main island groups: Clarence and Elephant islands; King George and Nelson islands, Robert, Greenwich, Livingston and Deception islands, and Smith and Low island.

William Smith sailing in the British ship Williams was blown off course while rounding the Cape Horn for Valparaiso and discovered the islands on February 19, 1819. He made no landing. He retuned later in the year and landed on King George Island on October 16, claiming the islands for King George III.

During the summer of 1819-1820, the senior British naval officer for the west coast of South America, William Henry Shirreff, chartered the Williams from Captain Smith and placed Edward Bransfield aboard as the senior naval officer. Smith and Bransfield surveyed the island group and today the strait between the South Shetlands and the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula bears Bransfield's name.

(Note: several times while in the area we see smaller "cruise" ships, probably no more than 100 passengers, which are special charters and/or small study group tours. On three occasions we see small sailing boats - not big 3-masters, but individually owned "yachts.")

Landing #1: - Yankee Harbor on Greenwich Island, backed by an ice cliff up to 100 ft. high, and home to thousands of gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags. Sealers first discovered Yankee Harbor in the early 1820s. They were after seals such as this Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelli) hauled up on the land to rest. Captain James Weddell discovered this species of seal in 1823 on his "voyage to the South Pole." A typical Weddell seal is 10ft long and weights 900 pounds. They can dive to 1,900 feet where they hunt for fish. The seal also eats krill and squid. During the winter months the Weddell seal uses its teeth to grind through the ice in order to create a breathing hole. Older animals' teeth are usually very worn, and this has been speculated as a cause of death. The animals haul up on land to rest, and the one that we saw was oblivious to his human onlookers. (Our group having been first at Port Eden, we're now #11 for this landing.)

It's a special Christmas Buffet Lunch today while we move the ship to the next site.

Landing #2: - Whalers Bay on Deception Island, with its warm springs and black volcanic sand, home to hundreds of chinstrap penguins. Nestled among the South Shetland Islands is Deception Island, easily recognised on a map by its horseshoe shape. Its collapsed volcanic caldera is breached at Neptune's Bellows and makes for one of the world's safest natural harbours, despite the volcano's periodic eruptions.

Ships enter the relatively calm waters of Port Forster (12km/7.5mi wide) through the caldera's breach that is surrounded by snow-covered hills that reach 580m (1900ft). The island has an interesting history - it was a base for several early exploratory missions - and is still a disputed territory between the Argentinians and the British, however nowadays they seem to get along.

The volcano is still very active and its eruptions have caused evacuations and considerable damage to the stations there (during the 1920-21 whaling season the harbour water boiled and stripped the paint off the ships' hulls). The most recent eruption was in 1991-92.

Part of what brings the tourist ships here is that the volcanic activity thermally heats the waters of Pendulum Cove (so-called because of the British pendulum and magnetism experiments held there last century) and we can take a dip. It's not deep enough for swimming and most tourists don the togs more for the photograph and the story. We do have to be careful, however, because if we move even a metre from the warm water we might find our skin blistering from a near-boiling patch or goose bumping from an unheated patch.

Yes, we do have the opportunity to go swimming in Antarctica and several passengers take the option. The ships crew dug a hole in the volcanic sand and warm water rose to fill the hole about 3 feet deep for the brave ones to "swim" in. (Our group is now up to #10 of 11 groups for this 2nd landing.)

There are large colonies of chinstrap penguins on the exterior coast, but few marine animals enter the harbour because there are numerous volcanic vents that heat the water to several degrees above the sea surrounding the island.

I also take the opportunity for a "Deception Island deception." Being a meteorite collector, I've always wanted to "find" a meteorite and the Antarctic would be a great place to do so. However it's against the law to take anything away, but with a little bit of pre-planning, I can manage to "pick up a nice meteorite" for myself. It's one that I purchased from a reputable dealer - originally it's from Morocco - and have brought with me. With prior permission from the expedition leaders, I take it ashore and plant it is a patch of snow so I can say that I (subsequently) "picked up a nice little meteorite in Antarctica."

Another special meal tonight: Christmas buffet dinner. It's been quite a memorable Christmas Day.

Day 12, Sunday, December 26 Antarctica
Two more landings today. On the first, we have a chance to mail cards (Antarctic postmark) back home.

Landing #3: Gerlach Strait and Port Lockroy (British station) - surrounded by mountains, glaciers and ice shelves, and known for its gentoo penguins and blue-eyed cormorants. - The narrow, glacier-lined Lemaire Channel, considered one of most beautiful passages in Antarctica. Here, humpbacks and killer whales are a common sight, as are various penguins and elephant seals.

Port Lockroy (Base A) is historically important as the earliest example of a British scientific station on the Antarctic Peninsula. It was established by the Royal Navy during the Second World War as part of the UK's military campaign bearing the code name Operation Tabarin. The station was occupied almost continually until 1962, after which it was boarded up.

Following a survey by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) in 1994, the decision was taken to restore the station and reopen it for the benefit of the increasing numbers of tourists to the area. The station was restored in early 1996, and each summer since it has been open to visitors. Tour leaders on cruise ships describe Port Lockroy as a highlight of their itinerary.

Port Lockroy, an 800 meter long harbour on Wiencke Island's west coast, is the site of Base "A", a British Station, turned into a museum. De Gerlache named Wiencke Island in 1897-99 for Auguste-Karl Wiencke, a young seaman who fell overboard and drowned. Port Lockroy itself was discovered by Charcot's Francais Expedition of 1903-05. Port Lockroy's original station hut, Bransfield House - now surrounded by the nesting gentoos - was beautifully restored by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust in 1996, including a full-length portrait of Marilyn Monroe painted on the back of the generator shed (now Gift Shop), a memory aid to lonely winterers during Antarctica's all-male era.

It's an interesting stop. We have a chance to look around, photograph lots of penguins, do a little shopping in the gift shop, and mail some postcards home with authentic Antarctica postmarks. Of course it may take the cards up to 3 months to make it home via penguin-mail. Since it's such a small area and the shop gets overcrowded quickly, we're limited to 30 minutes ashore instead of 1 hour.

Landing #X: Lemaire Channel and Petermann Island (cancelled due to thick ice in the Channel) The Lemaire is a steep-sided channel - just 1600 meters wide - and runs for 11 km between the mountains of Booth Island and the Peninsula. Unfortunately it's clogged by drifting pack ice. There's another ship trying to get through from the other end … and it's caught in the ice. The Nordnorge is "ice-strengthened"; it's not an ice-breaker, so the Captain (wisely) decides to turn back.

Fortunately there's a planned alternative nearby.

Landing #4: Neko Harbour, Andvord Bay and Deville Glacier (substitution for the above). Our first landing on the actual Antarctic continent. It would have been much prettier if the weather had cooperated. A huge glacier forms one side of the bay. Our landing area was actually quite limited in size. If it hadn't been that this landing was on the continent itself (not an island), I probably wouldn't have gone ashore. It's even to dank and gloomy to bother to take a camera ashore…but at least I/we are actually on the Antarctic continent itself!!!

Dinner tonight: A Chilean/Philippines buffet (most of the housekeeping and restaurant staff are either Chilean or from the Philippines.)

Lecture: Flamboyant Poetry. Ian Stone (fabulous!)

Day 13, Monday, December 27 Antarctica
Two more landings today. But first we wake up in "Paradise Bay" after an overnight snowfall (and still snowing). I was up at 2 - it's light - and there's a heavy fog. At 3:30 I see that it's snowing. By 6 there's about 3" of snow on the deck railings, and perfectly clear and calm. It's the most beautiful place on the entire trip. Paradise Harbor, named for its beauty, with ice cliffs and floating icebergs.

With the recent snowfall, and an absolute calm in the bay, it's truly a "paradise" setting (if we like cold weather) and I get out *very* early to "digitize" everything in sight. We later move a bit further up the bay to our site for this landing.

Landing #5: - Almirante Brown in Paradise Harbor, named for its beauty, with ice cliffs and floating icebergs, home to gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Second (and last) landing on the continent.

Paradise Bay (officially called Paradise Harbor) with its majestic icebergs and reflections of the surrounding mountains, is undeniably beautiful. Even the early 20th century whalers operating in the area recognized its extreme beauty for they gave the bay its name. The original portions of Argentina's Almirante Brown station were destroyed on April 12, 1984 by a fire set by the station's physician / leader who didn't want to stay another winter. The station personnel were rescued by the US ship Hero.

This is quite a lovely stop. I wish we could be here longer, but no chance…and it's our last continental landing. We actually only get 30 minutes (instead of the usual 60 minutes) then go on a boat ride for the other 30 minutes further up the coast to see Black Cormorant rookeries and some seals before heading back to the ship.

Landing #6: - Cuverville Island, with its sculpture park of icebergs and the largest known colony of gentoo penguins in Antarctica. Cuverville Island was discovered by de Gerlache in 1897-99 and named for JMA Cavalier de Cuverville, a vice Admiral in the French navy. Cuverville has several large Gentoo rookeries which comprise one of the largest gatherings of this species in Antarctica.

The slopes above the landing beach also shelter extensive and deep beds of moss (and we are warned NOT to step into/on the mosses.) It's an easy landing, but the weather has changed again and it's foggy, cloudy, and dull … and not that many penguins so I don't stay long or take many pictures - in fact may delete all of them. No loss.

(Side note: on board the ship, we can usually pick up CNN news on the tv. We find out today about the big earthquake and Tsunami in southeast Asia Sunday.)

Day 14, Tuesday, December 28 Antarctica
Two more landings - our last two. Beautiful weather to start out the day … and for the most part, it holds.

Landing #7: - Half Moon Island, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, home to chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls, and Antarctic terns. Half-Moon Island should be called Crescent Moon Island (but maybe back then, whoever discovered it couldn't spell crescent??).

Half Moon Island,just 2 km long, lies in the entrance of Moon Bay on the east side of LivingstonIsland. A handsome wooden water-boat, belonging to the Norwegian Whaler Govemoren lies on the shore below the large Chinstrap Penguin colony. In 1961, 21 tourists were stranded here for three days when the landing craft from their charter vessel Lapataia was damaged. (Our crew always takes ashore a complete set of survival equipment, just in case.)

It's truly a thin crescent shape with a very rocky shoreline with patches of icy surface which can occasionally make walking a bit difficult, but also is a wonderful place to stop and explore. The surrounding scenery is *great*!! We had time to climb around on quite a bit of the island. When we got back to the ship, the wind had shifted and also the alignment of the ship, so getting back alongside and onboard (from the boat to the landing ladder) was a wet experience…but we didn't feel in danger.

We move the ship a bit, then … King George Island is sometimes called Antarctica's unofficial capital, thanks to the eight national winter stations crowded onto it. It is the largest island, with less than 10% of its surface ice-free and yet supporting year round stations maintained by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, South Korea, Poland, Russia and Uruguay. There are also Ecuadorian, German, Peruvian and US summer bases.

Landing #8: Polish research base Arctowski. Time to talk with the scientists and do some 'shopping.'

Poland's Henryk Arctowski station opened in 1977 and accommodates about 11 personnel for wintering over. To help manage tourism, Arctowski has established walking routes to the Adeliae and Gentoo Penguin colony in order to avoid the moss beds. There is also an SSSI site nearby. The Poles have a really nice site for their station.

There's a bit of surf on landing and as always there are ship's crew standing in the water to guide the boat as close to the shore as possible and to assist us to step off (and later back on) the boat. Long walk over lots of multi-sized rocks (difficult) to see some penguins and seals.

WE ACTUALLY GOT IN ALL 8 LANDINGS. The cruise just prior to ours had much worse weather, both crossing the Drake Passage and here in Antarctica they only managed 3 landings!!!

Nice buffet dinner tonight. We've probably got a couple of fairly rough weather days ahead but it's not bad now. It's a really nice way to end our Antarctic adventure.

Movie: Shackleton (very good)

Day 15, Wednesday, December 29 The Drake Passage
After an overnight move northeast (and lots of pitch and toss from 3 - 5 AM) we make a morning pass by Elephant Island and Point Wild (Shackleton's "Endurance" expedition) in the morning. Then off on what turns out to be a rather mild crossing of the Drake Passage.

Elephant Island - this is the most notorious island in Antarctic history and the place where 22 bedraggle men, members of Shackleton's Endurance expedition, stranded in1915 after their ship was crushed in the Weddell Sea pack ice, lived under two upturned lifeboats for 135 days awaiting the return of their leader and rescuer - Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Point Wild, named for the Endurance Expedition's second-in-command, Frank Wild. Point Wild is a landmark for all Antarcticans the way that Cape Horn is for all mariners. A monolith and plaques commemorate their rescue by the Chilean Navy on August 30, 1916.

After passing Elephant Island, it's off on the Crossing. We have periods of fairly rough weather and tossing waves, but it could have been MUCH worse. Unfortunately, again many people are seasick. As we leave Elephant island, we pass a large table iceberg, longer than our ship, about 3-4x wider, and higher than even our 7th deck. OK, it's not the largest iceberg ever, but it's *large* and the Captain takes the ship on a circle around it so we can all get a good look. Whale pictures about 10 AM. A bit later the fog closes in and visibility is down to near 0 for many hours.

Lecture: Douglas Mawson: The Survivor. Jim Garlinghouse (excellent)

Day 16, Thursday, December 30 The Drake Passage - Puerto Williams
Most of the day is finishing our crossing of the Drake Passage. From about 3AM - 5:30, we are quartering the wind/waves and sometimes the splash/surge sends water as high as my 5th deck cabin windows. I get up and check even higher - it's hitting on deck 6 also but mostly spray there. It finally stops and the weather starts to clear about mid-morning and the waves also calm down.

Our next ports of call, Puerto Williams, the southernmost settlement in the world (according to Chile), and Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city (according to Argentina), home to the famous prison, now a museum, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. Captain's Dinner tonight. We pass (pause for ship's clearance) Puerto Williams and will dock in Ushuaia sometime overnight.

Special "Captain's Dinner" tonight with all the officers in a receiving line. The Captain also makes the usual last-evening speech. (It's not our best dinner, however, at least in my opinion.) We have to have our (checked) baggage out in the hall by 10PM for pickup and transfer. We won't see it again until we get to Buenos Aires late tomorrow.

Lecture: Shackleton. Jim Garlinghouse. (excellent)

Day 17, Friday December 31 Ushuaia - Disembarkation - Buenos Aires
(Conversion: $100US = 298 Pesos) Technical call at Puerto Williams before continuing to Ushuaia. Explore this city on our own, or join the interesting optional excursion.

Ushuaia, with a population of approximately 42000 inhabitants, lies beneath the jagged glacial peaks of the Monte Martial which rise from sea level to more than 1300m and are topped by Monte Olivia (1318m). In the beginning of the 1850s, Europeans attempted to catechize the Fueguians Indians. The earliest such instance ended with the death by starvation of British missionary Allen Gardiner. Gardiner's successors working from a base at Keppel Island in the Falklands were more successful, despite the massacre of one party at Navarino Island.

It was 45 yesterday; 55 here today. It's getting warmer. Forecast for Buenos Aires is upper 90s. Orientation tour of this popular and attractive resort town while transferring to the airport for our flight (Air Taxi flight times TBD) to Buenos Aires.

Option*: Ushuaia National Park Duration: 4hrs. (8:30am-12:30pm) On our way to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, we drive by the slope of Mount Susana, passing the railroad that was built by the Ushuaia prisoners working in the forest. This tour offers spectacular views of the Redonda and the Estorbo Islands, the Beagle Channel, the snowy peaks of the Sampaio Mountains Range, and the beautiful Roca Lake, where during a walk we can enjoy the sights of the Condor Hill, the Chilean natural border. Here, we visit two of the most beautiful places in the area, the Green Lagoon and the Lapataia Bay, surrounded by the impressive Martial Mountains, the Ushuaia Bay and Navarino Island. The excursion ends in Ushuaia with a visit to the Maritime Museum, the former penitentiary, featuring exhibits regarding the history of the city and its first inhabitants.

Since the tour leaves directly from the ship (only a few minutes to shop in the nearby arrival building - which will take US$ - there's no time to get Argentine pesos. In fact, I never get any since there will be almost nothing open later today (New Years Eve) or tomorrow (New Years Day).

It's a nice scenic drive but mostly it's just a trip out to the Bay at the end of the Pan-America highway and then a couple of stops in the national park. The trip gets cut short since our local guide has to get back to town to the airport to meet the next set of cruise passengers and of course their flights come in before ours leave since they will be the same planes. Tour guide: Ines: local, nice and great sense of humor.

Southern Winds charterUshuaia - Buenos Aires2:30 PM - 6:15 PM3:45

During transfer from the airport in Buenos Aires to our hotel we receive useful city information. Rest of the evening at leisure to explore this "Paris of South America," or join the fantastic optional tango show. (B) Hotel: Intercontinental Buenos Aires

Originally we were told that the flight to Buenos Aires would require a refueling stop along the way. However apparently Lan Chile/Southern Winds uses larger, longer range planes on the days that they are needed to provide transportation for a large number of cruise line passengers so our trip is non-stop. Thus despite delays on both ends of the trip, we end up at the hotel at about the scheduled time.

It's HOT. The temp is 38C - 100F and has been hotter earlier in the day! Not much time at the hotel - we had to pick up our luggage at the airport when we arrived but still a rush to get ready for the bus to the tango show.

Option*: Tango Show at the Esquina Carlos Gardel Duration: 3½ hrs. (8:30pm-12am) An exclusive tango and dinner show held in classic surroundings where the icon of the tango, Carlo Gardel, grew up and built his unmistakable image. Guests are presented with the history of tango while having dinner and experience a tango show with live music. Excursion includes transfer to/from the hotel, welcome drink, dinner and beverages (including wine).

This should have been one of the very special options, but due to several factors, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my experiences as about -50. Reasons:

a) when I signed up for this in Santiago, it was supposed to be a certain price, but the cruise staff weren't sure, so I had to sign for 3 tours at a stated price and then just "tango show" with no price … which later turned out to be more than twice the original price (supposedly due to being on New Years Eve). When I found out later, I was denied the privilege of canceling and getting a refund. RIPOFF!

b) the menu was in Spanish and our waiter couldn't speak English so we had to pick at random (only words for Oyster, Angus (beef), and Swordfish were readable). The beef - which is supposed to be great in Argentina - was so hard to cut that had I been home at my favorite steakhouse, I would have sent it back. Others were complaining about the food quality as well.

c) there isn't a no-smoking policy in Buenos Aires. Consequently lots of smoke … and I had a very bad headache within about 30 minutes. By the time the tango show started (10:30) about all I wanted to do was keep my eyes closed, my head still, and try to survive until 12 (which turned out to be 12:45 since our bus was late picking us up for the return to the hotel).

These weren't all the problems, but were the main ones. Conclusion - very bad evening.

There wasn't much New Years celebration in Buenos Aires since on the previous night at another show, someone had set off fireworks INSIDE the show building causing a major fire. At latest count 183 people died. A request had gone out to mute the noise/fireworks/etc in memory of those who died.

Finally off to bed about 1:30 but no sleep at all due to the headache - despite Extra Strength Excedrin.

Option: New Years Eve Party Duration 7 hours (9PM - 4AM). Welcome cocktail, dinner (4 courses) at the Montserrat saloon in the hotel - live music show and disc jockey - hats, noisemakers, etc included. (no thanks)

Day 18, Saturday, January 1, 2005 Buenos Aires - Return to the U.S.
Up early for breakfast since the optional tour takes off at 7:45. Time for some last minute sight-seeing, then transfer to the airport for our return flight to the U.S. a tax of ARS 53 (Argentine Pesos, approximately US$18) has to be paid in cash. (The owners of the airport have discovered another way to get as much money as possible from all the tourists!) (B)

Option*: Sightseeing Tour of Buenos Aires Duration: 3hrs. (4-7pm) Guided sightseeing tour by motor coach to the most important sights such as the city park Palermo, Recoleta, an ancient church and cemetery, where the mausoleum of Eva Peron can be found. Other highlights include the 9 July Boulevard, the Obelisk, the May Square, site of the Government House, and the old town, with its popular cobblestone streets of San Telmo and colorful wood houses of La Boca, where many local artists can be seen. Tour guide: Heidi - same somewhat disorganized person who was working the reception desk (for Nordnorge passengers) in the hotel.

The streets are basically deserted on the first day of the year … and almost everything we would have gone in to see is closed. We do get into an old cemetery to see the crypts/mausoleums including the one for the Duarte family (Evita Peron). The city is very nice with LOTS of green space. We check out the various (national architecture) areas as well as the artist area (not much going on there yet). Due to delays at the start due to poor planning, we run late and don't get back to the hotel until 11:45 … and there's a 12 noon check-out time. Rush to the room to finish shoving everything into the bag then take it downstairs to check into the luggage room until time for the shuttle to the airport (3:15).

Very, very long "day". Three flights total 13:35 of flight time plus 2 layovers of 4:13 for a 17:48 total. From Buenos Aires airport to home will be almost 24 hours; hotel wake-up to home, about 36 hours. If we add in the 24 hours additional (due to no sleep with the headache after the tango show) and the time at home before I get to bed, it's REALLY long.

LanChile LA 600Buenos Aires - Santiago6:15 PM - 8:30 PM2:151:55

We even have time for a lunch(?) In Santiago - one of the other passengers wants to get rid of leftover Chilean pesos so I help out.

LanChile LA 600Santiago - Miami10:25 PM - 4:55 AM8:302:18


Day 19, Sunday, January 2 Arrive in the U.S.
Very early morning arrival in the U.S. on Lan Chile Airlines, then a flight to Houston. This time the crunch through the Miami airport isn't as bad but I still need most of the 2 hour layover due to customs, immigration, etc. lines.

American LA5506Miami - Houston7:13 AM - 9:03 AM2:5017:48

The usual American Air mini-snacks on board, but decent leg room. Finally arrive in Houston a bit late. The plane was delayed leaving Miami due to equipment problems - not airworthy ones, a sensor in one of the toilets was malfunctioning. Hence a 20 minute delay … and about 30 minutes late getting to the gate in Houston. Luggage fairly quickly, but a very long wait for the shuttle to the nearby hotel and then a short taxi ride home … home about 11:15 AM. Whew.

It's been basically a wonderful trip. There were a few minor disappointments and that one big RIPOFF, but otherwise ..... WOW - CHRISTMAS IN ANTARCTICA! Definitely a trip to remember.


Selected pictures
Click to enlarge



AIRLINES:
1American LA5507Houston - Miami1:51 PM - 5:18 PM2:273:12
2Lan Chile LA 501Miami - Santiago8:30 PM - 6:50 AM8:2514:04
3Lan Chile LA ??Santiago - Puerto Montt8 - 9:401:40--
4Southern Winds charterUshuaia - Buenos Aires2:30 PM - 6:15 PM3:45--
5LanChile LA 600Buenos Aires - Santiago6:15 PM - 8:30 PM2:151:55
6LanChile LA 600Santiago - Miami10:25 PM - 4:55 AM8:302:18
7American LA 5506Miami - Houston7:13 AM - 9:03 AM2:5017:48

HOTELS:
Santiago: Hyatt Regency Santiago
Buenos Aires: Hotel Intercontinental

Lecture and Movie Topics in Antarctica. Note: Lectures and Movies in German not listed.

12/18: An Introduction to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Franz Gingele
12/18: Solid Water, Liquid Rock
12/19: The Fueguians, Maurice Van der Maele
12/20: Flora Chillensis - an ecological approach. Rudolf Thomann
12/20: Birdwatching. Manuel Marin
12/20: Frozen Heart: Roald Amundsen
12/21: Europeans in Tierra del Fuego. Maurice Van de Maele
12/21: Lattitude, Longitude and Other Mysteries. Ian Stone
12/22: Terra Australis - the discovery of Antarctica. Jim Garlinghouse
12/22: Penguins: the name and naming. Manuel Marin
12/22: Magellan and his Strait: Ian Stone
12/22: Round Cape Horn
12/23: IAATO Guidelines (mandatory briefing)
12/24: Penquins - Those from the other side. Manuel Marin
12/26: Flamboyant Poetry. Ian Stone
12/28: Shackleton
12/29: Douglas Mawson: The Survivor. Jim Garlinghouse
(Lectures are repeated but only the first presentation date is listed)

OPTIONAL TRIPS:
Day 2: Santiago
4 - 10 PM *Valley of Casablanca
8:30 - 11:30 P Dinner Top of San Cristobal

Day 3: Puerto Montt
8:30 - 11:30 P *Puerto Varas & Petrohue Waterfalls

Day 4: Castro
8:30 - 12:30P *Castro & It's Folklore
8:30 - 1 PM Villages & Churches of Chiloe

Day 8: Punta Arenas
9 A - 3 PM *"Estancia" Olga Teresa OR "Estancia" Fitz Roy
9 A - 1 PM Otway Sound Penguin Colony

Day 17: Ushuaia
8:30 - 12:30 *Ushuaia National Park
8:30 - 12 Md *Tango Show at Esquina Carlos Gardel
9:00 - 4 AM New Years Eve Party

Day 18: Buenos Aires
4 - 7 PM *Sightseeing tour Buenos Aires

Antarctica & the Chilean Fjords Travel Tips

WHAT IS THE MS NORDNORGE LIKE? The Nordnorge was built in 1997. The ship is classified as a polar vessel suitable for sailing in icy waters, equipped with a fleet of Zodiacs for excursions. The ship offers a comfortable restaurant, two well-stocked bars, lounges and a conference room. She also offers a library with a selection of books about Chile/Argentina and Antarctica, a fitness room and a sauna, a gift shop that holds assortments of local souvenirs, handicrafts, post-cards, stamps and basic personal effects.

ARE THERE TOUR GUIDES ON BOARD? The ship has experienced lecturers with in-depth knowledge of Chile and the Antarctic. They conduct the lectures of various topics during the cruise and hold "recaps" to sum up each day's events. All information onboard is given in English, German and Spanish. The expedition leaders will inform us about the daily program.

DO I NEED SPECIAL CLOTHING FOR ZODIAC LANDINGS AND EXCURSIONS? All passengers will receive a wind and waterproof jacket. A sweater or fleece jacket is required to wear underneath. We will also be lent one pair of cover boots to wear during Zodiac landings in Antarctica.

WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT ENVIRONMENT? Human traffic in Antarctica is strictly regulated by International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) prohibiting more than 100 people to be ashore simultaneously. All passengers will be instructed in how to conduct themselves on shore in Antarctica. IAATO guidelines must be complied with.

WHAT TYPE OF MEALS ARE SERVED? A breakfast buffet and lunch with a wide selection of food, and a three-course dinner is served. We have a choice of fish, meat or vegetarian for dinner. Beer and wine are sold at lunch and dinner.

WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED? U.S. citizens traveling on tourism or on business trips are allowed to enter Chile and Argentina without a visa for a period of 90 days. However, some airport fees and taxes will apply. In Chile, at the immigration booth, a one-time entrance fee of US$100 has to be paid by all passengers arriving by air. In Argentina, upon leaving the country an airport tax of ARS 53 (Argentine Pesos, approximately US$18) has to be paid.