Day 1: Embarkation day

The detailed trip report starts now! I’ve already posted a bit about the days we spent in Ushuaia and the pre-expedition briefing at our hotel the night before, so I’m starting now with the day we boarded the ship.

All bags going to the ship were piled in the hotel lobby the morning that we were departing. (Except fragile items, because the luggage was picked up in a giant net by crane and dropped onto the ship. I kept my camera suitcase with me.)
And then they were loaded onto a bus to be driven down to the pier, and we had a few hours free to hang out in the city.


Taking photos of the docked ship

This is my uncle Allen. He’s my dad’s brother. He will turn 80 this year, and he’s in the best shape of basically anybody I know of any age. (Although after meeting some of the expedition team, I realized there are a few people out there who can give him a run for his money. But more about that later.)


Signs at the entrance to the pier

And then it was time to meet the bus. The buses met at a park just outside the entrance to the pier. It was literally just a few yards to walk, but for security reasons we had to enter by bus. The Quark team put up flags next to our meeting spot to help people find it.

At 4pm, we all piled into the buses, and they drove us about 2 minutes onto the pier. It took longer to get out of the parking lot than it did to get to the pier.

We walked onto the ship and immediately into the main lounge, where we were greeted by a setup of snacks (a beef soup, cucumber & tomato sandwiches, ham & cheese sandwiches, banana cake, cookies, coffee, tea, water, juice). To check in, we had to turn over our passports to the reception desk for the duration of the trip. (In case something happened, they’d all be together in one place with someone responsible for getting them off the ship so we weren’t stranded without documents.) As soon as we did, someone escorted us to our room, where our luggage had already been delivered.
They offered us brief tours of the ship. Jimmy the whale guy showed us the main areas of the ship.
The benches on the outside decks were tied up for the entire duration of the trip, not just the Drake Passage.
Back inside the main lounge, we had our first meeting, a welcome briefing where the staff introduced themselves, explained some basic info about how things work and how they communicate with us.

When Yvonne, the geologist, got up to speak, she said, “How many of you came on this trip to see rocks?!?”

When Jeet, the doctor, got up to speak, he told us, “I want you to wash your hands constantly. And when you aren’t washing your hands, I want you to be *thinking* about washing your hands.” There were hand sanitizer stations all over the ship as well.

They impressed upon us the fact that we would be 1000km from the nearest medical facility, and that even fairly minor medical issues could result in everyone’s trip being affected as the ship would have to sail to King George Island to evacuate by plane anyone who needed medical attention. Y’all, Antarctica is remote.

When Laurie, the historian, got up to speak, he didn’t even waste time telling us about himself. Instead he opened with a dramatic story about a sailor in Antarctica hearing ship calls in the middle of a foggy night, and realizing when the fog cleared in the morning that he was sitting between two warships. And then he said, “And if you want to know how that story ends, you’ll have to come to my talk tomorrow.”

Then we had a lifeboat drill, and then it was time for dinner.

Some photos leaving Ushuaia, sailing through the Beagle Channel. It takes a few hours to get out of the Beagle Channel. We were expected to hit open water around midnight.
And then at 9:30, we got our yellow Quark parkas. We had specified on a form ahead of time what size we thought we would need, but how it worked in reality was they set up stations in the lounge with each size that you could try on.
Once you decided which size you needed, you went to a designated station outside of the lounge and requested that size. They gave you one in the right size and marked you off the list. The parkas were ours to keep after the trip. They are very warm, completely waterproof, and have a zip-out fleece lining. (They are also very heavy and bulky.)

And that was the end of the first day. We were now sailing straight toward the Drake Passage, with just two days at sea between us and the seventh continent.


  1. Shawna March 12, 2015

    Need. More. Details! Did you take photos of the room? How DID things work on the ship? How did they communicate with you? Did you attend meetings/lectures the whole time? What else was there to do on board during the sailing days? Did you hang out with other people, or just your husband and uncle?

    • Karen March 12, 2015

      I love your enthusiasm!! 🙂 I will cover all of this in future posts…so stay tuned!!


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