By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Andrew Orr
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Nick Johnson
Editor: Joshua Douglas
Analyst Andrew Orr undertook the epic journey on the Bark Europa to witness the world’s harshest landscapes in their rawest form, opting to avoid cruise vessels and icebreaking ships.
Boarding at Ushuaia, Argentina, Orr and his fellow passengers sailed through the Beagle Channel and spent four days navigating the Drake Passage - one of the most dangerous sailing passages in the world.
He said: “The Drake Passage has some of the worst sailing in the world. Storms blow through that area and anything can happen. I don’t think anyone ever expressed concern about the ship capsizing, but it is a possibility, as with any ship.
“That being said, there were some days when you had the right wind and the right sails up that it felt like you were very much on the edge of capsizing.
“We weren’t, but the ship was listing at a good angle which made walking around very difficult.”
Despite relatively smooth sailing through the passage, the crew and their human cargo encountered a vicious storm on their way to South Georgia Island - a Force 9 Gale on the Beaufort scale, which left the Bark Europa facing 46-54mph winds and 23-32 foot waves.
As rough seas sent waves crashing over the deck, water onboard became a regular sight for the intrepid explorer, luckily the ship’s deck is designed to drain the water straight back into the ocean.
Sailing onto the South Shetland Islands, Andrew explored the vast terrain over four days, including a trip to Deception Island - the home of an active volcano that last erupted in the 1960s.
The volcano provides warm geothermal water spots along the beach, which allowed the passengers of Bark Europa to take a polar plunge in the freezing waters.
Orr said: “One evening before dark we took the zodiacs to the beach with the warm water. We dug out some small hot tub like pits in the sand so the water would fill them up and then we laid in the pits.
“Once you get enough nerve you can run into the ocean water, which was -1C, and swim in it for a few minutes, then you run back to the hot spring and warm up. It’s quite a bit of fun but so cold!”
After sailing through the Weddell Sea, the 43 passengers and 16 permanent crew cruised to South Georgia Island, stopping off to visit two King penguin colonies on the way, including the island’s largest.
The impressive colony is made up of 600,000 majestic King penguins, who are the second largest penguin species and can grow up to three feet tall.
Orr said: “I’ve been fascinated and read as much as I can about penguins since I was eight years old. To finally get to see them up close and watch the way they interact with each other was incredible to me.
“One of the best moments I had was sitting on the beach and a curious King penguin came up to me and pecked at my knee. The law states you can’t approach the wildlife and you have to stay a ways back from them but if they walk up to you on their own it’s okay.”
Pecking penguins were not the only sight to behold and the adventurer even saw one unlucky penguin get devoured by a leopard seal. He also met hundreds of smelly elephant seals during their moulting period, as well as leopard seals, Weddell seals and some surprisingly aggressive fur seals.
The Arizona-based photographer said: “Before we went onshore we were warned about fur seals. They seem like harmless puppies but they’re quite aggressive and dangerous.
“The best way to describe them are like zombies trying to attack you. They come up from all angles and the only way to defend yourself is to raise your arms in the air acting large and yell at them.”
Exploring on the ship, originally built in 1911 before being re-rigged as a barque in 1986, came at a price and every passenger pitched in on the journey by steering, acting as lookouts and handling and rigging sails.
Andrew added: “Lookout was another two-person job. Two people typically stay at the bow of the ship and watch for icebergs or any other object the ship could hit. While larger icebergs would show up on the ship’s radar, many times smaller icebergs would not.
“This was a particularly hard job to do on the very cold nights since you have to stare out into the black of night with a usually-bitter wind attacking your face.”
Andrew finished up his journey with a swift visit to Tristan da Cunha - home to just 265 people - and docked in Cape Town, South Africa to say farewell to the trusty Bark Europa.