Summary : Chart a course across the Drake Passage and make your first landfall in the South Shetland Islands en route to the Weddell Sea – the ice-choked sea made famous by the epic saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men from the Imperial Trans- Antarctic Expedition. Images of massive tabular icebergs and ice-choked waters come to mind when contemplating the Weddell Sea. Push for Paulet Island, home to one of the Peninsula’s largest penguin rookeries, before heading south to Snow Hill Island, and Seymour Island, where scientists are still searching for fossils of giant penguins. Hardy adventurers, or those with a yen for history, have the chance to camp out on the ice overnight and feel the thrill of those early explorers who attempted to conquer the white continent. Your departure from the Weddell Sea takes you north to the Falkland Islands where you may encounter the majestic King penguin.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Board the Akademik Ioffe in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city at the tip of Argentina, and start to become familiar with ‘your home’ for the next 12-days, wondering about the exciting journey ahead. In the early evening, set sail and begin your voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
Crossing the Drake Passage, there is so much excitement in the air as you make your way ever closer to the White Continent. Soak up the friendly atmosphere on board as your numerous Polar experts prepare you for your adventures with presentations on everything Antarctic from wildlife and exploration history to glaciers, and ice. Cross the Antarctic Convergence where you will notice a distinct drop in temperature entering the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Along the way, witness spectacular sights from icebergs to an array of seabirds, and possibly whale and dolphin sightings.
Make your first landfall in the South Shetland Islands, a chain of islands known for a maritime climate and abundance of wildlife. Cruise these volcanic islands in search of chinstrap penguin rookeries, perhaps the wafting ‘steam’ of a southern elephant seal wallow or the signs of exploration left on the beaches in the form of tri-pots and abandoned whaling stations. Weather permitting, you may visit Deception Island with the goal of visiting the chinstrap penguin rookery at Bailey Head. If weather precludes this, attempt a landing inside this active volcanic caldera. With rugged scenery, great sites of geologic interest, and an overwhelming display of whaling and scientific exploration history, Deception Island is a perfect museum of natural and exploration history. For those wanting to stretch their legs, a spectacular hike to the crater rim offers a challenge.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, the Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Sail into the sound, looking starboard to the vastness of the Antarctic icecap, imagining the sweeping Katabatic (gravity-driven) winds that this region is famous for.
Sail through the sound and into the Weddell Sea, with a discernible difference in the number of large tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. The goal is to explore the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and its offshore islands. This region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of astonishing size. Maximize your time onshore as well as in the inflatable landing craft, absorbing as much of the wilderness and beauty as possible. Planned excursions may include Paulet Island, Brown Bluff and even the southerly Snow Hill Island, where you will observe Weddell and elephant seals, an assortment of seabirds, and a shocking abundance of penguins.
Your excursions will be planned with the aim of landing on the physical mainland of the Antarctic continent. There are a few landing spots that will fall into this category and, as you visit them, some may pause to consider the bravery and/or foolhardiness of those who traveled here a hundred years before. To gain a better appreciation of those explorers, some of may choose to camp ashore overnight. Whatever your vantage point, whether on board or from shore, expect to feel transformed as you experience twilight from the bottom of the planet.
Approaching Elephant Island by ship, marvel at the incredible hardiness of the men of the Endurance expedition who sailed small boats to Elephant Island from the ice edge. Learn more about the famous Antarctic adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton. This island was a place of refuge in 1916 for Shackleton and his crew after his ship was destroyed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea nearly 100 years ago. Following the loss of their ship, the 28 exhausted men reached Elephant Island after a harrowing ordeal on drifting ice floes. They established a camp at a place they called Point Wild, named after Frank Wild, Shackleton’s second in command and the head of the camp at Elephant Island. Attempt a landing at this notoriously challenging landing site before continuing North to the Falkland Islands.
While sailing across to the Falkland Islands your onboard polar experts will recap on your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the upcoming adventures. These days at sea are never dull. Spend time scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals, as well as seabirds. Your friendly onboard experts continue to fill minds with heroic stories of some of the earliest daredevils to explore Antarctica.
Explore the islands of West Point and Saunders, both in the West Falklands Archipelago. West Point is known for its bustling rookeries of rockhopper penguins, while Saunders Island has four species of breeding penguin including gentoo, Magellanic, rockhopper, and–your goal for the Falkland Island visit–the King penguin.
Leave this magical place and make your way back towards Ushuaia, with time spent sharing and reflecting on the wonderful experiences of the last few days. Sailing up the Beagle Channel, celebrate the conclusion of your polar expedition with a special dinner.
In the early morning, arrive back in Ushuaia. Say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Sea Kayaking: $795 per person
Pre-booked option for up to 16 guests. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, this option must be booked in advance. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers for review beforehand. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFD's, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories.
Enhanced Photography Program: No additional supplement.
Select departures host an enhanced photography program, where in addition to the photographer in residence, a professional photographer will serve as one of the expedition guides. This expands the opportunities and bandwidth for those passengers looking to learn more and get more out of their images. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Traditional Snowshoeing: No additional supplement.
No pre-booking required. Snowshoes and trekking poles provided. Ten pairs of snowshoes will be available.
Camping Option: No additional supplement.
No pre-booking required. If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent, all the required gear, such as bivy sacs and sleeping bags, will be provided. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable outhouse tent is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
Hiking Excursion: No additional supplement.
No pre-booking required. Trekking poles are available onboard for passenger use and instep crampons will be provided if necessary to improve traction on slick surfaces. Sturdy hiking books and warm hiking socks are needed to join this activity. Hikes will be 2-3 hours in duration and will involve negotiating challenging terrain without the assistance of trails. Antarctica hiking rewards with images of snow, ice, mountains, and glaciers.
Accommodation aboard the ship; all meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs; afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon; coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day; all Zodiac excursions; extensive program of relevant educational presentations; advice from experienced team of naturalists; overnight camping gear; use of snowshoes and ski poles; foul weather gear set (pants/jacket/wellington boots OR waterproof backpack/waterproof binoculars/wellington boots); use of multimedia station; welcome reception; welcome dinner; farewell dinner hosted by Captain; 'Memory Book' (log book chronicling your trip, includes photos); onboard medical officer; pre-departure information; hairdryers available on request at no charge; transfers from the meeting point in Ushuaia to the pier to board the ship on day 1 of the cruise and transfers from the pier to the meeting point or airport on the last day of the cruise.
All airfare; visa and passport fees; airport departure taxes; pre-cruise or post-cruise hotel accommodation, transfers, and meals; personal laundry charges; postage; telephone calls; drinks; medical expenses; trip interruption and cancellation insurance; travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (required); gratuities to staff and crew; private fitness sessions; massage therapy; supplements for optional activities.
Photos: © Adam Riley; C. Lawton; Claudio Suter; Ira Meyer