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Ship’s Blog - February 18, 2013

Our adventure began on the 12th of February in Port Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands, where we picked up our guests. This was their second voyage on the Hanse Explorer and we were happy to welcome them back. Excited to be on board the ship again, our guests came prepared for full days of film shooting and were ready to get their trip into Antarctica underway. The first challenge came before departure; 96 boxes and cases of professional film and photo equipment had to be loaded, stored and safely secured for a possibly rough sea passage.

We had a three-day journey at sea before we arrived at South Georgia, our first destination. This remote, inhospitable island is known for its rugged beauty and wildlife, namely sea birds and penguins. 25-30 knot winds from south-to-southwest are considered good conditions in the Southern Ocean and we made good speed at 11 knots during the crossing. Luckily for all on board the swell was nice to us and we had a comfortable crossing with only 25 degrees max rolling.

We arrived at South Georgia on the 15th in the early morning at Elsehul, a small bay on the Northwest side of the island. I’ve never been to Elsehul and was excited to explore a new landing site. We were welcomed by beautiful conditions on arrival: Calm seas, almost no wind and clear, blue waters. We had the best possible landing conditions on shore-side, which made for a successful expedition and satisfied guests. Later that day the wind began to pick up and I had to move from inner to outer anchorage for the night. The following day we traveled to Prion Island, a protected bird island. Albatrosses and Storm Petrels make their nests here. The west side of the island protects us from the wind, but 80 meter depth is too much to drop the anchor, so we stayed adrift and maneuvered the ship with the bow thruster, engine and rudder to keep our position.

The morning of the 17th the ship arrived at Grytviken, the scientific base and home of the governmental office. We stayed only long enough to get the proper clearance to head to St. Andrews Bay, as our guests were eager to get to one of the most popular and exciting sites of South Georgia. St. Andrews Bay has the largest King Penguin colony of the island with almost 200,000 penguins gathering here during the breeding season. We arrived to find an ocean of King Penguins on the shore. For me, the King Penguin is the most beautiful penguin with their bright red, orange and yellow colored marks. It was an amazing site and our guests had many memorable encounters with optimal shooting conditions the following day.

I am already preparing the navigation for our next destination: The Antarctic Peninsula. We will have to cross the Drake Passage, a legendary body of water known for its unpredictability. Crossing The Drake is part of the adventure of traveling to Antarctica and this passage will be my fifth crossing this season. We've encountered some rough waters these past few months, but my crew and the Hanse Explorer has handled it all expertly. I’ve just looked at the weather forecast, latest satellite ice images and route planning. A low front with winds up to 35 knots is moving east through The Drake. With only hours before our departure from South Georgia I decided to forgo the direct course and navigate a little further south to avoid the heaviest winds and swell. The crossing will take us three and a half days and the energy on board is buzzing as everyone wonders if the weather will be on our side. With the course adjustments I have made, I’m confident it will be.

Captain Jens Köthen
St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia 

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