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Weddell Sea – In Search of Emperor Penguins

Antarctica Cruise

  • Ortelius
  • Research Ship
  • 116 Capacity
  • 11 Days
  • 2015, 2016 View Departure>
    • 2015
    • Dec 6 Sun
    • 2016
    • Nov 27 Sun
  • Price from
  • $11,550

Summary : This is your chance to be part of a truly unique expedition voyage! The emperor penguin rookery (4,000 breeding pairs) is situated south of Snow Hill Island. Although the ice may not allow to reach as far south as Snow Hill, the hope is to situate between the Antarctic Sound and James Ross Island, close to the ice-edge and observe the emperor penguins on their way to the open water. Helicopters assist in the attempts to search for individual emperor penguins, to make scenic flights and to make helicopter landings in places otherwise inaccessible so early in the season. If conditions are favorable and the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack-ice, ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island (as carried out successfully in 2013) followed by a 45 minute walk to the emperor penguin rookery, will be attempted. The Weddell Sea is know for its huge tabular icebergs, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, various other bird-species and elephant seals around Half Moon Island. 

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking


Prices from
$11,550 to $16,150

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Day 1
Ushuaia, Argentina

Embark the vessel in the afternoon and sail through the scenic Beagle Channel.

Day 2 – 3
Drake Passage

Sail across the Drake Passage and cross the Antarctic Convergence. Arrive in the Antarctic upwelling zone. You may encounter Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatrosses, Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels.

Day 4 – 7
Weddell Sea / Snow Hill Island

A typical itinerary in the Weddell Sea could be as follows. This is a sample only, the final itinerary will be determined by the Expedition Leader on board and prevailing weather conditions:

Sail into the Weddell Sea and admire huge tabular icebergs that announce your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Utilize the helicopters in attempt to find individual Emperor Penguins. Scenic flights will be on offer, and if the conditions allow, land on tabular ice-bergs and locations otherwise inaccessible so early in the season. Possible landing sites include Brown Bluff, one of the most scenic spots in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent. With steep canyon walls and tumbling boulders, an ice-cap looming above and beautiful volcanic creations, the scene is complete with thousands of adelie penguins nesting on the slopes.

A beautiful helicopter flight over huge blue ice bergs might also be made near View Point in Duse Bay. Land on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut overlooking the bay. Walk over snow, ice and a beautiful frost-shattered rock covered with the most fascinating lichen in a vast array of shapes and colors. If the ice-situation allows for further exploration into the Weddell Sea, you will visit Devil Island and Vega Island with a large colony of adelie penguins and a magnificent view for those hikers who want to climb to the top of the hill. Melting ice sometimes provides a spectacular waterfall. Further south, you may also visit Seymour Island, where many fossils can be found. On your way north through the Antarctic Sound, perhaps pay a visit to the Argentinean station, or Gourdin Island with its three species of penguins: chinstraps, gentoo and adelies.

Day 5-6: Alternative program if the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack-ice:
The use of helicopters has a great advantage for attempting to reach the Emperor penguin colony, but the itinerary is ruled by ice and weather conditions. The helicopter flight duration takes approximately 15 minutes. The helicopter can accommodate 6 passengers per helicopter flight. The landing point of the helicopters will be carefully chosen so as not to disturb the emperor penguins. Therefore, after arrival, you will continue your expedition on foot. After a walk of approx. 45 minutes, experience an amazing encounter with the magnificent emperor penguins. Keep in mind that you are in the world’s most remote area and there are no guarantees, including a specific amount of helicopter time. Conditions may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter operation and passengers should understand and accept this. Safety is the greatest concern and no compromises will be made.

Day 8
Half Moon Island / Deception Island

In the morning, visit Half Moon Island where you can see chinstrap and gentoo penguins, various other bird-species and elephant seals and Weddell seals.

Early in the afternoon, sail to Deception Island where you have the last landing of your voyage at Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay.

Day 9 – 10
Drake Passage

Heading north, you’ll again be followed by a great selection of seabirds while crossing the famous Drake Passage.

Day 11
Ushuaia, Argentina

Arrive in the morning in Ushuaia, disembark and transfer to the airport.


Read this itinerary as a guide only; seeing the emperor penguins is not guaranteed. The exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase insurance including medical, accident and repatriation/evacuation insurance. 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.

Helicopter Flights:
The vessel will be equipped with two helicopters. The use of helicopters helps to try to reach scheduled landing sites that otherwise are inaccessible. However, every passenger who participates understands and accepts that no guarantees can be given in regards to reaching the penguins or specific amount of helicopter time.

Meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea; free use of rubber boots on loan; ship-to-shore helicopter transfers; group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation); shore excursions by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges; comprehensive pre-departure material. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; travel insurance; excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity for the ship's crew; fuel surcharge may apply.

Photos: ©Rolf Stange, ©Delphine Aures, ©Hans Murre, ©Fred van Ophen