We boarded the ship in Whaler's Bay on Deception Island in a somber mood knowing this was our last excursion and we would be heading back to Ushuaia. Two days on the Drake Passage loomed, and we could only hope for a smooth crossing. In that respect we were not disappointed. We experienced the phenomenon known as 'the Drake Lake', little wind, clear skies, and, for the Drake, calm seas. It was hard to say goodbye to Antarctica. We had visited some of the most beautiful places on the planet, made new friends from around the world, been totally in the care of the ship's staff, and now it was almost over. It was a good time to reflect, to watch the Albatross (above) soar inches above the waves, pack up our things, settle our shipboard accounts, exchange email addresses, and ready ourselves to reenter the real world.

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We were entertained with films, lectures, and a tour of the ship which included the bridge (above) and engine room.


This cabinet on the bridge held the national flags of the nations whose waters the Ioffe sails.

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With ideal conditions we made great time, and just after lunch on the second day we spotted Cape Horn. Ahead of schedule, we continued slowly through the string of outlying islands to a nice protected cove (above) where late afternoon we dropped anchor just inside the Beagle Channel. That evening was the Captain's dinner, our chance to thank the Captain and staff for a memorable and safe journey.

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After dinner I went on deck to watch the last light disappear. Around 2AM the Channel Pilot boarded our ship and started us back to Ushuaia where we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise.


We docked around 6AM, had our last great breakfast in the dining hall, grabbed our things, and walked down the gangway for the last time. The staff were lined up to wish us well, and we were sent to buses that took us off the pier and back to Ushuaia. We sat for several minutes looking at our ship, thankful for our competent crew and marveled at where we were, where we'd been, and quietly understood that after Antarctica we would never be the same.

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