Polar Shop Manager and Guide Daven Hafey recently visited Steeple Jason with Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica: Explorers & Kings passengers aboard the Ocean Adventurer, fresh from its multi-million dollar renovation. This article also contains a ship log from an Expedition Team member on that voyage.
Expedition team members mark out a safe route for Ocean Adventurer passengers to hike at Steeple Jason. Photo: Yukie Hayashi
Each voyage to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands is unique, which makes visiting this part of the world so rewarding. Winds and sea states, tides and ice, wildlife, weather, and other considerations are always dynamic. Everything is in constant movement; in constant concert, which is what makes this corner of the world so alive.
Today was no exception. Steeple Jason, a small island in the Falkland Islands’ (Islas Malvinas’) Jason Islands, is one of those places that birders, wilderness explorers, adventurers, and seasoned Antarctic travelers always hope to reach. And for good reason. The island is home to a wide range of wildlife, most notably the largest concentration of nesting black-browed albatross on earth, and the second largest colony of any species of albatross. There are an estimated 180,000 breeding pairs that call Steeple Jason home for the breeding season.
It was an exciting shore landing, as few on earth have ever had the good fortune to set foot on this particular island. Further, passengers and the expedition team enjoyed being among the first to have traveled on board the newly refurbished Ocean Adventurer.
As our cruise got delayed by a day the crew made an effort to make up the lost time on open water. Thanks to their efforts we managed to get a sunset landing on Steeple Jason island which turned out to be one of my highlights of the entire trip! Apparently Quark hadn't made a landing in 4 years because it's such an exposed and difficult spot to land. Unfortunately the sunset landing was a one time opportunity because of our delay and the fact that the sun didn't set until way into the late hours as we cruised further south.
Ocean Adventurer, designed to carry 132 passengers in comfort to the world’s most remote regions, just returned to service after a multi-million dollar renovation. The ice-strengthened ship formerly known as the Sea Adventurer now offers a refreshed, contemporary aesthetic and major technical enhancements. Sporting two new Rolls Royce engines, Ocean Adventurer is one of the fastest ships in Antarctica, with a top cruising speed of 17.5 knots.
The remodeled dining room, bar, lounge, gym and public spaces provide passengers a remarkable home away from home for their polar adventures. Six new cabins and three additional suites bring to 63 the total number of cabins, each with new soft furnishings, exterior views, and brand new bathrooms. Ocean Adventurer’s powerful new Rolls Royce engines enable environmentally-conscientious passengers to travel on a reduced carbon footprint, and the newly refurbished vessel was recently crowned winner of the 2017 Travel Weekly Magellan Award for Overall Small Cruise Ship.
A black browed albatross perches over its nest, keeping watch over a recently hatched chick in the Falkland Islands.
Generally returning to their nesting colonies in September and October, the black-browed albatross often maintains its breeding partnership with their mate for several years. Their courtship displays are complex and can be emotionally evocative, even for those who prefer not to anthropomorphize wildlife.
Quark’s Ocean Adventurer passengers marvel at the spectacle of thousands of black-browed albatross nesting on Steeple Jason,
in the Falkland Islands. Photo: Manda Lundström
The male and female share the responsibilities of maintaining the nest, caring for the eggs (which begin to hatch in early December), and caring for the chick from roughly mid-December to late March or April, and the adult black-browed albatross will remain at the colony for seven to eight months before returning to the open ocean for their famous life at sea. Gliding with the winds, roaming great distances, in search of squid, krill, and fish.
The True Spirit of Expedition: Guided by Mother Nature on our Steeple Jason Arrival
We made good time after setting sail from Ushuaia yesterday and arrived in the northwest of West Falklands at 17:00. A few days ago, I requested permission to land at Steeple Jason on November 11th, and despite strong winds (approx. 50 knots), it was forecasted in a favourable direction. We prepped guests for the possibility of landing last night and early this afternoon.
It was still blowing 40 knots as we pulled in but as suspected, the shore offered the perfect lee given the unusual wind and swell direction. We snuck in a sunset shore landing of about 3 hours. The hotel team accommodated our guests with a late dinner, and atmosphere on board is excellent. It was my first time landing at Steeple Jason, as was the case for all the team. The skies cleared to share with us the most beautiful sunset at 20:30.
Approx. 180,000 breeding pairs of black-browed albatross are thought to nest there, at their largest colony in the world.
—Ocean Adventurer ship log provided by an Expedition Team Member
Black-browed albatross are true pelagic (oceanic) birds, meaning they spend the majority of their lives at sea, away from land. They’re most comfortable on the wing in these southern seas, and only return to shore to nest and raise their young.
To see so many of these birds in such dense abundance—in the nest, flying overhead, roaming over the nearshore swells in great numbers—is one of those moments that makes you remember just how rich and full of life this world is.
Thousands of black browed albatross nest at Steeple Jason in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), captured here by a Quark Expeditions passenger on an Ocean Adventurer shore landing in November, 2017. Photo: Manda Lundström
The wildlife sightings didn’t stop there. On our visit to Steeple Jason, Ocean Adventurer passengers also spotted:
- Gentoo penguin
- Rockhopper penguin
- Striated caracara
- Falkland steamer duck
- Falkland thrush
- Magellanic oyster catcher
- Kelp goose
- Southern silvery grebe
- South American sea lion
Ocean Adventurer Offers the Perfect End to an Exciting Exploration of Steeple Jason
Not to be outdone by the birds, the South Atlantic Ocean provided a sunset that made it really hard to leave.
The rocky ridge running the length of Steeple Jason island radiated an intense high latitude alpenglow to cap an amazing first shore landing on board the freshly renovated Ocean Adventurer. We were transfixed by the hundreds of albatross silhouetted against the mosaic evening sky.
Oranges and pinks and purples illuminate the clouds over the new and improved Ocean Adventurer and the horizon beyond. Photo credit: Phil Wickens
Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, Ocean Adventurer previously underwent lounge, cabin and public spaces refurbishments in 1999 and 2002 as Sea Adventurer. It is with this most significant of renovations in 2017 that the ice-strengthened 332-foot vessel earned its new name, as well.
Ocean Adventurer’s dining room, lounge, bar, gym and other public spaces have been completely refreshed and now offer travelers a contemporary backdrop from which to enjoy their spectacular views of the polar regions.
It’s these remarkable and unexpected experiences, like successfully taking a shore landing at Steeple Jason, that makes each new day in the Polar Regions completely unique.
Exploring the world’s most remote, pristine destinations on board a ship like Ocean Adventurer, where your every need is met, allows you to truly relax and focus on taking in your surroundings. I see the surprise and delight on my passengers’ faces as their cabin comfort, dining experiences and enjoyment of being part of a small expedition ship exceed their expectations.
Like us expedition team members, you’ll quickly learn to expect the unexpected; we’re all guided by Mother Nature, and that’s where the magic happens. That’s the true spirit of expedition travel.
Want to plan an Ocean Adventurer expedition of your own?
- Explore upcoming Ocean Adventurer expeditions to rarely visited Atlantic islands, the Faroe Islands and Spitsbergen, the Antarctic Peninsula and beyond into the Antarctic Circle, and more.
- Download your Ocean Adventurer Ship Book.
About the Author
Daven Hafey is a Polar Shop Manager & Guide with Quark Expeditions. Born and raised in western Colorado, he moved to Alaska in 2005 and has called it home ever since. Daven spent three years as a Park Ranger in Yellowstone National Park, and four more as a Tongass National Forest Ranger on Admiralty Island in southeast Alaska. He’s guided on nearly 30 polar expeditions and has worked in regions with high densities of polar bears, gray and Arctic wolves, African lions, and African wild dogs (painted wolves).More Content by Daven Hafey