Summary : East Antarctica is one of the most isolated places on the planet. Here, the massive polar ice cap rolls down to a sea rich in wildlife. It is also where explorers both heroic and modern day have landed and lived in the face of nature. Mawson, David, and Mackay were the first to reach the South Magnetic Pole (January 15th, 1909) after trekking some 1,000 miles. Celebrate the achievement with a visit to the remains of Mawson’s Hut in Commonwealth Bay and several islands that were also visited during Mawson’s expedition. This voyage is an opportunity to experience a seldom-visited part of Antarctica, rich in history and wildlife.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$20,000 to $28,200
Meet your fellow voyagers and expedition staff for an informal get together over dinner at the hotel, where you will stay overnight.
Transfer to the port where staff will welcome you on board the Akademik Shokalskiy and as you settle into your cabin, your adventure begins.
North East Island is the largest of The Snares and staggeringly, this one island is claimed by some to be home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. Zodiac cruising the rugged coastline, learn how the islands got their name and encounter Snares Crested Penguins, Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross on the imposing cliffs. You are also likely to encounter Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns, Red-billed Gulls, Tomtits and Fernbirds.
Characterized by towering cliffs and rugged sea stacks, these islands have borne witness to many a shipwreck in days gone by. Spend the day ashore on Enderby Island which is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Subantarctic Islands. Find parakeets flitting above carpets of red, white and yellow wild flowers and on the beaches beyond, the rare Hooker's or New Zealand Sea Lion. Land in Carnley Harbor and if conditions are suitable, climb to a Shy Albatross colony, otherwise explore sites within the harbor.
Take the chance to learn more about the biology and history of these islands and the tempestuous Southern Ocean through informal lectures with your experts. This particular stretch of ocean is very productive and you can expect many seabirds, including five or six kinds of albatross and numerous species of petrel.
This remote, rocky outpost which endures roaring westerly winds, supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere. Four species of penguin, King, Royal, Rockhopper and Gentoo breed here. You will never forget your first experience in a ceaselessly active ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors. You will also meet with the Park Rangers, visit the Australian Antarctic Base and observe the hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals along the beaches.
Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel as you steam ever southward through the Southern Ocean. Lectures now concentrate on the Antarctic region and beyond the bow of the ship; drifting icebergs of extraordinary shapes begin to appear. Maneuvering in close for your first ice photographs you pass the Antarctic Circle and into the continent’s realm of 24-hour daylight. Relax in the ship’s bar and catch up with some reading in the library. If you have brought your laptop with you there will be time to download and edit photos while they are fresh in your mind.
Your first landing on the remote East Antarctic coastline will be Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay. Notoriously known as the ‘home of the blizzard’. Here you will see (and experience) Mawson’s Hut and its environs which include other relics from the 1911-14 expedition and Adelie Penguins. West from Cape Denison is the French Research Base, Dumont D’Urville which, if permission is granted and ice conditions permit, you will visit. There is also an Emperor Penguin colony nearby. Breeding season will be over but there could be birds around. Other landings could include Port Martin (abandoned French Base) and the McKellar Islands. You will also cruise in the Zodiacs looking for wildlife.
East from Cape Denison you can follow the ice edge towards the Balleny Islands. It is a very productive area for cetaceans; large numbers of humpbacks have been recorded here. The Balleny Islands were discovered in 1839, by a sealing captain in the employment of the Enderby Brothers. Because of their location, remote and isolated, they are rarely visited. The islands are rugged and landing sites are rare, but if conditions are right you will be able to Zodiac cruise Sabrina Island where there is a small colony of Chinstrap Penguins. This is also one of the few places where Greater Snow Petrels breed. Further south is Cape Adare, arguably one of the most historic sites in all of Antarctica. It was here in 1895 that one of the first landings on the Antarctic continent was made and in 1899 the first party to winter over in Antarctica built their hut here.
Other potential sites in the Northern Ross Sea that you could land if ice and weather conditions permit include the Possession Islands. These were named by Sir James Clark Ross in 1842 after he had landed on them and claimed the region in the name of Queen Victoria. A little further south is Cape Hallett, it was the site of a joint American New Zealand base from 1958-1973 when it was abandoned. It was demolished in the 1990s and now the Adelie Penguins are reclaiming the site which was rightfully theirs anyway. From Cape Hallett we can get amazing views of the northern trans-Antarctic mountains.
Taking time to rest and enjoy shipboard life in the bar or library after the excitement and long daylight hours of the Antarctic, you will have time for lectures on your final destination and for some pelagic bird spotting.
Drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour, an occasional refuge for Southern Right Whales who come here to calve. Walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge wild flowers that have adapted to the harsh conditions have unusual colourings and weirdly-shaped leaves. We also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and sea lions.
At sea en route to the Port of Lyttelton, take the opportunity to relax and enjoy your last few days of shipboard life and to reflect on an amazing experience. On your last evening you will review and celebrate our discoveries over a farewell dinner.
You will arrive at the Port of Lyttelton early in the morning. After breakfast, customs formalities and a last minute opportunity to bid farewell to your expedition team, you disembark and board our complimentary coach transfer to a central city drop off or Christchurch Airport.
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. Landings at the Sub Antarctic Islands are by permit only as administered by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. No landings are permitted at Snares Island. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation in this program, all passengers must purchase full medical and emergency evacuation insurance for the specific areas they will be visiting. The minimum coverage requirement is $100,000 for program. The policy provider, policy number and contact phone number must be provided prior to departure date. We also strongly recommend that all passengers purchase comprehensive travel insurance which would include coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
Cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; one night hotel accommodation including dinner and continental breakfast; onboard lectures and access to public areas; shore excursions as described; group transfers to embark the ship and transfer from the ship to city hotels and/or airport on disembarkation. Subject to change without notice.
International / domestic airfare; passport, visa and vaccination fees; travel insurance; excess baggage charges; items of a personal nature such as laundry, beverages, communications, medical supplies, etc.; landing fees; gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Ewen Bell