Day 1: Ushuaia and embarkation
I won't bore you all with the least exciting part of the trip - 20 hours of flying spread across 3 flights spanning 2 days! We'll start in here at El Fin del Mundo. Ushuaia is a pretty little town, mostly visited by travellers heading to Antarctica or on their way to Patagonia, and has some lovely shops and restaurants. The main street is typically touristy, but there are some quaint little souvenir shops.
After a good night's sleep, I set out to pick up a few penguin themed decorations for my Christmas tree back home. I've been very lucky, with all my previous trips to Ushuaia being warm, sunny and altogether lovely! Today however, luck wasn't on my side and I shopped in the rain. I walked down to see the Akademik Ioffe docked down at the pier, and was surprised to see I wasn't the only one. Several other hardy travellers had braved the rain and come down to see the ship too, so at least I wasn't the only one stood around getting rained on!
After a morning shopping and some lunch, it was time to head back to the Hotel Albatros, ready to meet the group and embark the ship at 4pm. Several other travellers from our group had gone out to explore the area around Ushuaia a bit. There are a few tourist attractions here that are worth a visit if you have the time, the train at the end of the world is a fun excursion, and trips up to the national park are incredibly popular.
Our luggage had been taken to the ship already so it was a quick check in and then off we went. Once on board, everyone set off to explore their cabins and get to know the ship a bit before a group meeting in the dining room.
The Akademik Ioffe started life as a research vessel. She was built in 1989 for the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanography - I know, catchy name! Ioffe was designed for hydro acoustic research along with her sister ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. They are virtually silent ships, and luckily for the guests on board, 2 of the most stable at sea!
The crew informed us that on the previous trip, they had a couple of relatively calm days on the Drake heading down to Antarctica, but experienced the full force of the Drake Passage on the way back, so despite the ships stability, the crew warned guests concerned about seasickness to go ahead and take their pills or put on their patches now!
After an initial briefing, we set sail out into the Beagle Channel, and luckily the sun had come out for the occasion!
Everyone went up onto the decks to watch us sail away, before a lifeboat drill so everyone knew what to do in the event of an emergency. After dinner, we went back outside and got a few bird watching tips from Caroline, the resident expert on board, I stayed until about 10pm before jetlag caught up with me and I decided to get some sleep!