Oceanwide Expeditions: Ortelius guests map an Antarctic bay

Last December, the guides and guests of the Ortelius, a ship in the fleet of Oceanwide Expeditions, mapped an area around the largest of the Guyou Islands in Flanders Bay, northwest of Antarctica. Since 1898, this area had been charted only three times, but previous mappings were very approximate.

This activity was carried out using the OLEX depth mapping system, developed by Olex AS in Trondheim, Norway. The system uses sonar and GPS technology to continuously collect and update sea depth data, producing 3D visualizations of the seafloor in real time. Guests have thus contributed to the development of Olex, which is used by seafarers in fishing, port work, aquaculture, underwater pipelines and more.

Because Flanders Bay has not been fully explored and few ships have ventured there since the first mapping, there are not many formal directions for passages in and around the bay. This makes the area relatively unknown and contributed to the excitement the guides and guests felt during their mapping excursion.

This is the list of previous mapping events that occurred in Flanders Bay:
– Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1898)
– French Antarctic Expedition (1904)
– French Antarctic Expedition (1908-1911)
– Oceanwide Expeditions (Dec. 11, 2022)

The outing took place in the late afternoon, with two expedition staff members and a bridge officer aboard the Zodiac carrying the Olex. After setting the device, guests boarded the other Zodiacs and participated in the activity, reaching the Guyou Islands, located in the middle of Flanders Bay. Guests enjoyed admiring icebergs and seals.

Low tide allowed the Zodiac to land on the island after more than a century of no one approaching it, but the headland was too small for guests to land there. Thus, they circumnavigated the island and guests were able to admire this still virtually unexplored corner of the earth.

The success of the mapping activity is an incentive for Oceanwide Expeditions to organize more similar events and activities in the future. Certainly an exciting experience within an already extremely interesting voyage.

Eleonora Consorti

Photo Credit: Sara Jenner