The Antarctica Diaries – Day 8 & 9 – Caviar, Cape Horn & Harberton – Cruise Traveller

The Antarctica Diaries – Day 8 & 9 – Caviar, Cape Horn & Harberton

Deb Corbett (left) and Annie Corbett (right) in Antarctica.

by Deb Corbett – Commercial Director Asia Pacific – Ponant Cruises

Deb Corbett is one of our favourite industry professionals. She recently returned from an expedition cruise to Antarctica with her sister Annie. Deb recounts us on her personal cruise experience in February 2020 to Antarctica aboard Ponant’s L’Austral. We will be posting each day’s journal over the next few weeks.

Sunday 16 February 2020 – AT SEA

Time to reflect and learn more from the many lectures being organised. Annina (Queen of Krill) has a lecture in the morning followed by a Caviar tasting in the lounge which proves very popular.

We also attend a lecture by Suzie on the “Fat & Fabulous Seals of Antarctica” and an introduction to ice and glaciology by Antione. In no time at all, its 7pm and we’re off to the Captain’s Farewell Reception to applause the crew that looked after us so well. It was a real celebration in the theatre followed by a gala dinner where Chef Nicolas had excelled once again.

The Captain announces he has a surprise for us. At approximately 9am tomorrow morning L’Austral will sail by Cape Horn. This isn’t on the itinerary, but the Captain has added it in as an extra element to our already incredible experience.

Monday 17 February 2020 – CAPE HORN & HARBERTON

All guests are on deck and as we sail past Cape Horn, the Captain reads in both French and English a famous poem about the Albatross Monument that stands 24 feet tall on the hilltop of Cape Horn. The memorial was erected in 1992 and depicts an Albatross in flight, the seafaring symbol dedicated in memory to the men who died in the seas of Cape Horn.

Rounding Cape Horn – image by D. Corbett, Ponant

Cape Horn – The Albatross Monument Poem read by Captain Christophe Colaris onboard

“I am the Albatross that awaits you at the end of the World. I am the forgotten soul of the dead mariners who round the Cape Horn From all the oceans of the earth, but they did not die. In the furious waves, today they sail on my wings. Toward eternity, In the last crack, Of the Antarctic winds”

All guests then received a certificate in their cabins confirming that we are now all “Cape Horners” by rounding the Cape Horn during our cruise!

It’s only 6 degrees with a wind speed of 17km/h so the Chef prepares a deck BBQ and its pork ribs with Caesar salad. The Chef also invites the harpist and singer to play which adds to the atmosphere. We thanked the Chef for an outstanding cruise of varied menus and such high standard cuisine.  It’s another farewell.

And now it’s time to go to the theatre and hear from the Whale Research Team on what they had been doing whilst we were walking glaciers and coming close to nature. A collaboration between Conservation International & the PONANT Foundation ensuring we conserve the delicate ecosystem of the Antarctic. The team took 13 biopsy samples of Humpback Whales; multiple recordings using a hydrophone; photographed 28 individual fluke ID’s (as seen in the slide picture below) and saw 15 pods consisting of 33 whales.

The scientists explained that the Antarctic soundscapes can be broken into 3 and they were studying all these elements: Biophony which is the collective sound vocal non-human animals create in each given environment; Geophony meaning earth-related. It relates to the naturally occurring non-biological sounds coming from different types of habitats; Anthrophony meaning human sound to describe all sound produced by humans.

A drone captured the humpbacks playing and bubble feeding. A successful scientific trip which will be repeated on the next cruise for further findings.

We are now a few hours from Ushuaia, but the Captain announces a surprise visit. Klemens is extremely excited as he has been trying to seek permission to visit this site for 20 years. The Belgica hit a rock outside this area and as the Gerlache descendants were onboard, we have been granted an exception to visit by zodiac and peruse Harberton. We arrive by zodiac and visit the main house, old shearing shed and the most extraordinary museum I have ever seen. The collection of mammal bones and skeletons is beyond comprehension. There are walls and cupboards filled with bones of birds and marine mammals that have been washed ashore. Estancia Harberton is a gorgeous little village filled with history and antiques in a rural setting.

Haberton village, Argentina – by D.Corbett, Ponant

Upon returning to the ship, we shower and meet our international mix of friends for a farewell dinner. Chef Nicolas has put on a wonderful Bordier cheese selection for the evening which is absolutely delicious. We mix it with some Argentine red wine and cheers to our successful once in a lifetime cruise.

Deb Corbett, deep in Antarctica

We have sailed a total of 1608.8 nautical miles. PONANT has inspired our spirits and awakened our sense of wonder.  We have arrived in Ushuaia.

This is where Deb’s adventure ends. Thank you Deb for your amazing account of your trip!