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ATLANTIC ODYSSEY

Thursday 24th March - Tuesday 3rd May 2011

Derek Scott

The endemic St Helena Plover (Derek Scott)

The endemic St Helena Plover (Derek Scott)

From Lesser Snow Petrels amongst the icebergs in the Antarctic Sound to Fea’s Petrels amongst the volcanoes of the Cape Verdes, from Andean Condors and Wandering Albatrosses, two of the world’s largest flying birds, to Inaccessible Island Rail, the world’s smallest flightless bird, and from mighty Fin Whales in the Southern Ocean to acrobatic Spinner Dolphins and flying-fishes in the doldrums, our Atlantic Odyssey was truly a voyage of extremes. Our journey of 7,111 nautical miles (13,170 km) from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego to Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, via the Antarctic Sound, South Georgia, Gough, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension, gave us an unparalleled opportunity to observe the multitude of sea-birds and cetaceans in the Southern Ocean and Atlantic, and took us to some of the remotest islands on the planet. Our home for the 38 days of the voyage was the 89m long M/V Plancius. Built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and with an ice strength rating of 1D and top speed of 12 knots, she was the ideal ship for our journey. Our friendly Captain Tiemes, his crew and the competent Oceanwide Expeditions team led by Rinie van Meurs made every effort to ensure that we saw as many of the splendours and as much of the wildlife as possible in our five and a half weeks on board, and our only real problems were with the weather. A raging storm in the Antarctic Peninsula put paid to all our hopes of landing on the continent, and continuing bad weather in South Georgia reduced our number of landings there, but we were blessed with fine weather in the Tristan group, enabling us to make a rare landing on Inaccessible Island, and thereafter the weather was very kind to us. For the birders and cetacean enthusiasts, sea-watching from the Plancius provided endless enjoyment as we passed through an ever-changing panoply of sea-birds and encountered an excellent diversity of whales and dolphins. The long hours spent out on deck were rewarded with sightings of no less than 46 species of ‘tubenoses’ and 18 species of cetaceans, not to mention countless flying fishes and an assortment of other interesting marine creatures. For many of us, however, it was the excursions ashore and zodiac cruises that provided the highlights of the trip. These included three great landings in South Georgia, a zodiac cruise along the east coast of Gough, two landings on Tristan da Cunha, a fantastic landing on Inaccessible, a zodiac cruise at Nightingale, three days onshore and a dolphin cruise in St Helena, a zodiac cruise at Boatswain Bird Island and a day and a half on Ascension, and two days on Santiago and a day on Fogo in the Cape Verdes.