Summary : Antarctica is among the most beautiful, pristine, and least explored places on the planet. Truly exhilarating, mysterious, and alluring! For over two centuries, the "White Desert" has attracted scientists and adventurers, drawn by its unmatched natural beauty. This largely untouched wilderness is now more accessible to a new generation of intrepid explorers. Visit the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, and the historic Weddell Sea—a region rich with a vibrant history of exploration, where the amazing story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the survival of the Endurance's crew began. Experience exciting ice navigation where tabular icebergs roam, encounter crabeater and leopard seals, scout for minke whales and orcas, and witness massive penguin colonies.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark in the afternoon and meet your expedition and lecture staff. Settle into your cabin and sail along the famous Beagle Channel and the scenic Mackinlay Pass.
Named after the renowned explorer, Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a great upwelling of nutrients, which sustains the biodiversity of this region. The Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. As you sail across the passage, lecturers will be available to help in the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including many albatrosses, which follow in your wake. The open bridge policy allows you to join the officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for whales, and enjoy the view. A full program of lectures will be offered as well.
The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that you have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams. With favorable conditions in the Drake Passage, your lecturers and naturalists will accompany you ashore as you experience your first encounter with the penguins and seals.
This is where huge tabular icebergs roam. In some years, the Erebus & Terror Gulf and Weddell Sea are filled with ice, making for exciting ice navigation. Rise early in the morning for sunrises that will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Huge tabular bergs break from the Larsen, Ronne, and Filchner ice shelves and combine with sea ice to produce a floating, undulating panorama of rugged ice scenery. All-white snow petrels are likely to be coursing over the floes, often joined by pintado petrels.
The usual passage to the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula traverses the Antarctic Sound, which is 30-miles long and 7 to 12-miles wide and runs northwest-to-southeast. Hope Bay and the Argentine Station Esperanza are located on the western side of the Sound. Brown Bluff, a promontory on the Tabarin Peninsula, is located south of Hope Bay. Both might be possible landing sites. The Weddell Sea represents the center of the Peninsula´s Adélie penguin population, with Devil Island and Paulet Island providing ample proof of this. The numbers of penguins are breathtaking.
This region teems with a vibrant history of exploration. The most bizarre of these tales involves the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-03 under the command of geologist Otto Nordenskjöld. Four visitor sites have links to this expedition: Hope Bay, Paulet Island, Snow Hill Island, and Cape Well-Met on Vega Island. Your expedition staff will share this exciting story with you. Nordenskjöld´s expedition was the first to overwinter on the Peninsula. His ship, the Antarctic, under the command of the famous Norwegian whaling captain Carl Anton Larsen, was trapped in the ice and sank, but the men survived at different locations and even managed to carry out significant scientific research in the area.
The Antarctic Peninsula's remarkable history will provide the type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains, waterways, and a wide variety of wildlife. Apart from gentoo and chinstrap penguins and other seabirds, you are likely to encounter Weddell, crabeater, and leopard seals, as well as minke and orca whales at close range.
Navigate some of the most beautiful waterways in the Gerlache Strait, Errera Channel, and Neumayer Channel. Possible landing sites include Paradise Bay, perhaps the most aptly named place in the world with its impressive glacial fronts and mountains; Cuverville Island, home of the biggest gentoo penguin colony on the Peninsula surrounded by glaciers and castellated icebergs, and the British Museum and Post Office at Port Lockroy.
Further exploration will lead you to the South Shetland Islands. The volcanic island group is a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries and seals hauling out on the shorelines make every day here unforgettable. Sail through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island, the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands. Once inside, the rising slope of the black, cinder-covered volcanic rim can be walked uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point. You might also visit the crescent-shaped island, Half Moon—home to chinstrap penguins in breathtaking surroundings—past the entrance of Moon Bay between Greenwich and Livingston Islands.
Depart Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join your lecturers and naturalists on deck as you search for seabirds and whales and enjoy final lectures. Take the chance to relax and reflect on the fascinating adventures of the past days on the way back to Ushuaia.
Arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark after breakfast.
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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $100,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. 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 U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Voyage as indicated in the itinerary; shipboard accommodations; shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; post-expedition log; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals aboard the ship; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; comprehensive pre-departure material; coffee and tea throughout the day. Subject to change without notice.
Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post- land arrangements; transfers to / from the vessel; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; emergency evacuation / repatriation insurance (mandatory); baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as bar and beverage charges and telecommunication charges; and the customary gratuity at the end of the voyage (guidelines will be provided); fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Antarpply Expeditions; © Weisheng Lin