Summary : Welcome to the ice factory! Thanks to vast ice shelves that calve monstrous tabular icebergs, waters rich in krill and other-worldly landscapes, the Weddell Sea is one of Antarctica’s unique regions. The new expedition ship, Greg Mortimer, is ice-strengthened to take you safely and comfortably between the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula’s west coast for the best of both worlds. Meet penguins in person, aim to step foot on the White Continent, and hear the crackle of sea ice on this epic otherworldly adventure! Exploring the modern traveler’s final frontier, you’ll discover the iconic sights and sounds that make Antarctica one of the Earth’s most pristine, unforgettable, and coveted destinations.
Activities : Birding, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins, Antarctica Air-Cruise
$11,800 to $23,000
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Arrive in Punta Arenas, where you will be met by an expedition representative and transferred to your downtown hotel (preferred flights only). Overlooking the Straits of Magellan, the city sits astride one of the world's most historic trade routes. Today, Punta Arenas reflects a great mix of cultures, from English sheep ranchers to Portuguese sailors, and it remains an utterly fascinating testament to Chile's rich history.
Tonight, gather to meet your fellow expeditioners for a briefing on the first leg of your expedition—your flight to Antarctica!
This morning transfer to the Punta Arenas airport for your early morning charter flight to King George Island, Antarctica (weather permitting). The flight will take approximately one-and-a-half hours.
On arrival into King George Island your expedition team is on hand to greet you for your Zodiac transfer to board the Greg Mortimer. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before important briefings.
NOTE: King George Island is located at the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands and is one of the most remote places on Earth. A clear sky with perfect visibility is required in order for the plane to take off and land safely. Please see the contingency plan in the Notes and Payment/Cancellation Policy section so you know what to anticipate should there be any delays due to weather.
After settling into shipboard life, head through the Antarctic Sound to the eastern side of the Peninsula to reach the Weddell Sea.
Access into the Weddell is heavily dependent on ice conditions, and your experienced leaders will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. The aim is to make landings or Zodiac excursions two times a day. Days will be spent cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface, and landing on the continent and its off-shore islands to visit penguin rookies, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few other favorite spots along the peninsula. There will be plenty of time for sleep when you get home!
There are many exciting places to visit; a sample of some of the places where you may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife are as follows:
Situated on the eastern side of Tabarin Peninsula, the spectacular 745-meter promontory of Brown Bluff towers over some 20,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins and hundreds of Gentoo penguins. Nesting skuas, snow petrels and pintados inhabit the upper slopes and kelp gulls screech overhead. Brown Bluff's volcanic origins have created some fantastically shaped boulders that lie scattered across the ash beach and make colorful nesting sites for some of the penguins.
This tiny volcanic island forms the nesting grounds of some 120,000 pairs of Adélie penguins, and the surrounding seas literally teem with penguins. There is also a blue-eyed shag colony situated at one end of Paulet's long beach front. Leopard seals may be seen cruising offshore, in search of their next meal. Weddell seals sometimes haul out here for a quiet nap on the beach. Apart from its plentiful wildlife, Paulet is also rich in the history of Antarctic exploration, for it was here that the 22 men of Larsen's ship Antarctic arrived on the 28th of February, 1903 after their ship had sunk. The men wintered on Paulet, living on penguins and seals, until eventually Larsen and five of the men rowed across Erebus and Terror Gulf to be reunited with members of Otto Nordenskjold's geological exploration party.
James Clark Ross Island:
Separated from Trinity Peninsula by Prince Gustav Channel, the beaches and rocks of this mighty island are a mix of volcanic and sedimentary; creating a geologist's paradise. The beaches are populated with kelp gulls while Antarctic terns and skuas nest on the island's higher slopes. Many of the island's rocks are decorated with bright red and orange lichens, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities. Ice floes in the surrounding waters provide temporary floating homes for Weddell and Leopard Seals. You may walk up to Hidden Lake, following a stream rich in fossilized remains of deciduous trees, ferns, and even clamshells. If ice conditions and time permit, circumnavigate this fantastic island; a rarely-accomplished feat.
This very rarely-visited island was named for its two striking peaks or 'horns'. It is the nesting site for some 10,000 pairs of Adélie penguins. If weather conditions permit, walk up a scree slope to the top of the island's western peak. A few hundred meters in height, the summit provides superb views into Erebus and Terror Gulf. On the upper slopes, you may even see nesting snow petrels and Wilson's Storm Petrels. For those who are less active, the continuous commute of penguins on the beach and the accompanying skua population provide endless fascination. You may also cruise in Zodiacs among the large numbers of icebergs that are often grounded offshore.
View Point, Duse Bay:
View Point is one of the few places where you may be able to set foot on the Antarctic continent proper. A British hut was built here in 1953 and an Argentinian refuge hut was established a few years later. In front of the old hut are the remains of crabeater seal carcasses, which provided food for the sledge dogs. Thanks to the cold conditions, the well-preserved hut looks just as it did all those years ago—a fascinating place to get a feeling for the golden days of Antarctic exploration.
If ice conditions allow, stand on the observation deck of the Greg Mortimer quietly as the ship sails between the cliffs that tower 700 meters / 2,296 feet straight out of the ocean on either side of the ship. The water can sometimes be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface and it is clear to see why this channel is often called “Kodak Alley”. Gigantic icebergs may clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for your Captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct passage.
Located on Goudier Island, British Port Lockroy is an important site for both scientific research and visitors to the Antarctic continent. Designated a historic site in 1994 and opened to the Antarctic tourism industry in 1996, it was discovered in 1904 and used by the whaling industry in the first half of the 1900s. It was part of the British Operation Tabarin during World War II, and was later used as a British Research Station. Today, Pork Lockroy is manned by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and operates as a museum, gift shop and post office for visitors from passing Antarctic expeditions. You can even send a post card home from the Penguin Post Office, the world’s most southern Post Office!
As the ship approaches Frei Base on King George Island, it is time to farewell Antarctica and your amazing adventure before boarding your return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile. On arrival at the Punta Arenas airport, you will be transferred to your included downtown hotel.
NOTE: King George Island is located at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This is one of the most remote place on Earth. A clear sky with perfect visibility is required in order to take off and land safely. Please see the contingency plan in the Notes and Payment/Cancellation Policy section so you know what to anticipate should there be any delays due to weather.
After breakfast, bid a fond farewell to your fellow travelers as you continue your onward journeys with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature (breakfast included).
Read this itinerary as a guide only; 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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes. The information below is subject to change at any time.
Charter Flight Contingency Plan:
See Payment & Cancellation Policies page for more details.
Charter Flight Luggage Weight Limit:
Punta Arenas/King George Island: 7kg per person carry on; 20kg per person checked
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $250,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. Insurance should cover personal accident and medical expenses, evacuation and repatriation, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of holiday. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Exploration by sea kayak is an ideal way to surround yourself in the sights and sounds of Antarctica. Paddle among icebergs and brash ice, get up close to wildlife and observe in an unobtrusive manner. Some kayak excursions may be long in duration and on choppy water, so a reasonable level of kayaking experience is required to participate in this activity. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
Witness wildlife and scenery unlike any other place on earth. Through crystal clear waters you'll discover the amazing mobility and speed of penguins entering and exiting from the ice, marvel at beautiful sculpted icebergs below the water and witness marine life such as crustaceans, isopods, starfish and nudibranchs! Participant numbers are limited to ensure the highest safety standards and an experienced dive guide will oversee the program. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
Stand Up Paddleboarding:
A hybrid of paddling and surfing, paddleboarding is absolutely thrilling for adventurous expeditioners who want to experience Antarctica up close from this unique vantage point. Some paddleboarding experience is required to participate in this activity as weather and sea conditions in Antarctica can be challenging and unpredictable. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
Imagine exploring new dive sites, diving where very few have dived before with the chance to encounter beautiful sea stars, sea spiders, nudibranchs, soft corals, penguins, seals and whales. Diver numbers are limited to ensure the highest safety standards and an experienced dive guide will oversee the program. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
Group transfer from Punta Arenas airport to hotel on Day 1 if on the group flight; one pre-cruise hotel night in Punta Arenas with breakfast; transfers between Punta Arenas hotel and airport for flights to/from King George Island; round-trip flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island; one post-voyage hotel night in Punta Arenas with breakfast; shipboard accommodations; printed photo book from your voyage (post voyage, one per booking); gear to keep (expedition jacket); gear on loan (boots); all meals onboard ship; house wines, beers, and soft drinks with dinner onboard ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare except flights between Punta Arenas and King George Island; passport and visa expenses; hotels and meals not included in itinerary; transfers not mentioned as included; optional activity supplements; alcohol and soft drinks not mentioned as included; items of a personal nature such as Wi-Fi, laundry service, spa charges, medical expenses, etc.; required travel insurance; excess baggage charges; airport arrival or departure taxes; gratuities (Note: A $15 USD per person per day gratuity for the crew is automatically added to your onboard account. It is at your discretion if you would like to remove the tip (or increase/decrease the amount) when you settle your bill); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Aurora Expeditions