Today was a big travel day - we left Santiago and wound up on the MS Endeavour, our ship for Antarctica, where I am writing this now.
We had a very early wakeup call at 5 a.m., for a 6 a.m. departure to the airport. We had to pack our bags the night before, which were then taken to the airport ahead of us. Unfortunately, I (Matt) succeeded in packed all my shoes in the checked luggage, leading to an undignified trip to Santiago airport in hotel slippers.
Reunited with my shoes, we boarded a LAN Airlines flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. After an intermediate stop in Puentta Arena, we arrived in Ushuaia in the early afternoon. Ushuaia (pronounced You-she-a) is a boom-town as of late. It started as a navy town, but in recent years the boom in Antarctic tourism and round-the-world cruises has change the economy here dramatically. The tour guide we had claimed 35% of employment is based on tourism, with dozens of new hotels opening daily. Ushuaia is a small city of 50,000 perched on the edge of the Beagle Channel, surrounded by the mountains. Chile is just a stone's throw away, and, in fact, it is necessary to cross Chile if you want to drive from Ushuaia to the rest of Argentina.
When we left Santiago, the weather was in the 80s. In Ushuaia, we exited the plane to low 50s and an overcast sky, but the sky broke and the sun shone through early in the afternoon. On our arrival, we did a brief tour of the Andes mountains outside the city. Following this, we boarded our ship, the MS National Geographic Endeavour. Our ship began its life as a North Sea fishing ship. It was converted to passenger service in the 1980s and today is the flagship of Lindblad Expedition's fleet. It houses 100 passengers and about the same number of crew and cruises at about 12 knots.
We departed Ushuaia at about 6 pm and headed out into the Beagle Channel, eastward towards the Falklands Islands, our next destination. Emmy & spent an hour or so exploring the ship, which is full of nooks and crannies. We were welcomed aboard by the Lindblad staff and the crew of the ship, and had a simple dinner. We unpacked in our cabin, which is fairly spacious given the size of the ship. It will be a fine home for the next 20 days. The seas are fairly smooth in the Beagle Channel, but we were warned that after midnight, we will enter into open waters where there may be heaver seas to contend with. The sea sickness patches are being kept close at hand.