Antarctic Eclipse Journey

Antarctic Eclipse Journey

Antarctic Eclipse Journey


I only had three days to prepare for what was to be the journey of my life; with a club of astronomers from the Urania Public Observatory, accompanied by Werner Hamelinck, to Antarctica . But even in Corona time this all worked out in the end.

We stay two nights in Santiago and so we have one day for sightseeing in the city, but before we go sightseeing we have to undergo another antigen test to be allowed to board the Silver Cloud tomorrow. Fortunately, everyone’s results are negative again, but this remains exciting.

At Santiago airport, Silversea guests are welcomed with champagne and pisco sour. We enjoy spectacular views of Patagonian glaciers and the rocky peaks of Torres del Paine during our flight to Punta Arenas and armed with test and vaccination certificates we can finally board the Silver Cloud . Our shoes are disinfected and presence registered. Hooray, everyone made it ‘healthy’ to the boat. The champagne is cold, so let’s already ‘fill up the chalices’, not knowing that this liquid will still flow freely for the next 14 days.

Cruise Antarctica,Antarctica,Silvercloud

SAILING ON THE MILD BORENEclipse trip Antarctica, Antarctica, map

The group is spread over several decks and stays in cabins with and without a veranda. I’m staying in a cabin without a porch. Each cabin has a walk-in closet and a bathroom with shower. The champagne is cold, the minibar is well stocked and the butler is at the door. Let the adventure begin!

The first night of our trip we are still in Punta Arenas. The next day we first receive safety instructions on the upper deck and at 10:20 am we cast off, see many cormorants as we sail out and enter the Strait of Magelaan, a strait between Patagonia in the north and Tierra del Fuego in the south, towards the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is beautiful, the sun is high in the sky, it is seven degrees Celsius and there is a light wind blowing.

Every evening after dinner the Chronicles magazine is on my bed, indicating the program for the next day. It shows which lectures are being held and also shows other activities such as Indian cooking, making cocktails, table tennis and performances by musicians over tea and drinks. I won’t be bored for a moment!

There are four restaurants on the boat: a restaurant with buffet, two restaurants with service, which you have to pay in Restaurant La Dame, and a restaurant on the upper deck, by the pool. There is a bar, cinema, gym, photo studio and shops. In short; enough entertainment when I can’t enjoy the beautiful views outside or just stare over the water.

If we cross the Strait of Magelaan When we set sail, we arrive at the open ocean and the movement of the water becomes such that some of our group need a travel pill. So far it’s okay with me.

As long as we sail along the southern tip of South America, the sea is still fairly calm, the weather is nice and we can have a lovely lunch by the pool. The birds that follow us are different types of petrels. To get to Antarctica we have to go through the Drake Passage . This is a strait between the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn, and Antarctica and is named after the British navigator Francis Drake. We will not cross the Drake Passage straight but head towards the South Orkney Islands, which are inhabited by penguins and seals.


Celebrate December, the day that should be the highlight of this trip, the day of the solar eclipse. The sun rises at 03:00 am and at 03:30 am we are on the top deck full of expectation, awakened by the voice of expedition leader Danny sounding through the intercom and confirming what we already felt; we now defy wave heights of up to 5 meters. And the air… it’s sealed tight. There are those moments when you fervently hope the weather forecast is wrong. This was one such moment. No clear eclipse but howling wind and raging waves. “We were clouded out”, they shouted. Fellow eclipse hunters caught another glimpse of the partly eclipsed sun about twenty minutes later, after which it irrevocably disappears behind the clouds. I did see how it became pitch dark and light again in 1.5 minutes. Also a very special experience!


We continue on, past Laurie Island, to the South Orkney Islands , which lie on the edge of the Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean and sleep for a few more hours. Off Laurie Island, huge ice rocks float in the sea.

In the course of the afternoon it will be very windy and waves of up to seven to eight meters develop. Our ship is crashing into the waves. We pass through Coronation Island, on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula, the Antarctic Sound .

Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,dek tijdens storm


Everything in my room creaks, squeaks, rattles, shakes, drawers fly open and close, glassware slides and jingles in the cupboards, bottles and cans swing through the minibar. The TV screen swings in all directions, my electric toothbrush falls from the sink and when I go to the toilet I fly across my room. So not much sleep comes! Another antigen test is scheduled the next morning, but this test is postponed to the afternoon. There is too much swell!

The Arctic Sound is a body of water approximately 30 nautical miles long and 7-12 nautical miles wide that separates the Joinville island group from the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Giant ice rocks float in the sea.

In the coming days we will go ashore several times with zodiacs to see penguins and seals. The penguins we are going to admire are the adélie penguin, the chinstrap penguin and the gentoo penguin. The largest of the family, the emperor penguin, we will not see on our trip. There are no jetties in Antarctica, the zodiac sails to the beach and then we swing our boots in boots over the edge to go ashore.

The stop at Brown Bluff, an extinct volcano in The Antarctic Sound, is nothing short of spectacular for the views in this beautiful weather and we see adorable Adélie penguins, almost all of them on an egg, the breeding season has just started and nests are diligently being built . We are even observing a few spring chickens, super fun!

The zodiac adventure at Spert Island is sensational. The weather is beautiful, the sea quite calm and the views breathtaking.

In Hope Bay there is a zodiac tour through the bay along the Argentine Arctic settlement of Esperanza Base where we again see a large penguin colony. But unfortunately, during the trip the weather changes. The wind is blowing very hard and waves of water are swirling over us. Soaked and numb, we climb back on board in the comforting knowledge that a hot shower, champagne and a warm dinner are waiting for us!

On the way to Mikkelsen Harbor near Trinity Island we see the spraying and some movements of a humpback whale. Unfortunately that was it. The zodiac tour in Mikkelsen Harbor is again spectacular: beautiful weather, beautiful views, many stubborn penguins and some seals.

Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,pinguinpad
Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,Mikkelsen
Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,pinguin met kuiken
Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,ijsrotsen


Another stop and zodiac tour is at Deception Island, in Whalers Bay. Deception Island is one of the South Shetland Islands and Whales Bay is the crater of an active submarine volcano. Before we get to Whalers Bay, we sail through Neptunes Bellow, a very narrow opening. In Whalers Bay you can see all kinds of remains from the period (1912-1931) of whaling. We receive instructions: if the water suddenly starts to bubble and clouds of steam form, we have to flee like a spear along a planned escape route. Do not return to the boat, because it must then immediately sail out of the crater.

On our way to Half Moon Island, we pass islands shrouded in mist. The ice floats in the sea, the waves have white heads, the wind is very strong and it is very cold! The weather conditions are not the best for landing at Half Moon Island, but die-hards as we all are, armed with thermal underwear and waterproof clothing, we’ll go for it. The first zodiacs have already brought a few people to the island and just when it is our group’s turn, the tour is cancelled. The weather has gotten worse and it is therefore irresponsible to bring even more people to the island. Now to bring back the people who are already on the island, that is not so easy yet, but luckily the very professional expedition team of the Silver Cloud succeeds and brings everyone back on board safely.

Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,Deception Island


After this last attempt to set foot on Half Moon Island, our stay in Antarctica is over and we return to Punta Arenas via the Drake Passage. The next two days we sail through the Drake Passage and luckily the weather is not as stormy as on the way there. No ‘advanced drake shake’ this time. Nevertheless, the boat has a big swell and this time the chairs in the restaurants have been fastened to the ground again.

We follow a lecture about the North and South Poles, play table tennis, swim, relax in the bubble bath, read a book in the panorama lounge or just stare over the water, looking for the humpback whale.

The weather conditions are variable, views endless and sunsets warm in color. Everything is overwhelming!

On to Santiago for a last night to recover from all the impressions gained and an antigen test (a human cannot be negative enough). After this, this dream trip really comes to an end. Everything was perfectly organised, very well taken care of, delicious food and drinks, all activities perfectly arranged. I almost felt like royalty!

Eclipsreis Antarctica,Antarctica,zonsondergang

More from our blog