Summary : This extensive adventure aboard a sturdy research vessel sails to the southern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Island, the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas, and into the Ross Sea. The use of helicopters makes this a true expedition trip; it's possible to explore areas where Zodiacs cannot be used. Attempted landing sites may include Cape Evans (the site of Scott's hut), Cape Royds (the location of Shackleton’s hut), the Ross Ice Shelf, Peter I Island, and the Dry Valleys. Learn of important historical figures in the early era of Antarctic exploration, cross the International Date Line (gaining a day), and observe wildlife such as elephant seals, royal albatross, gentoo and adelie penguins, polar skuas, and orca and minke whales.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$27,500 to $39,700
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence—Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas—you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. 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 are a few of the birds you might see.
You arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula near the Antarctic Circle in the afternoon. If sea ice allows it, you can then continue through Pendleton Strait and attempt a landing at the rarely visited southern tip of Renaud Island. Here you have the opportunity to see the first Adélie penguins of the trip as well as enjoy spectacular views of the icebergs in this surreal, snow-swept environment.
From the peninsula you head toward the open sea, your course set for Peter I Island.
Known as Peter I Øy in Norwegian, this is an uninhabited volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea. It was discovered by Fabian von Bellingshausen in 1821 and named after Peter the Great of Russia. The island is claimed by Norway and considered its own territory, though it is rarely visited by passenger vessels due to its exposed nature. If weather and ice conditions allow, you may enjoy a helicopter landing on the glaciated northern part of the island. This is a unique chance to land on one of the most remote islands in the world.
You then sail through the Amundsen Sea, moving along and through the outer fringes of the pack ice. Ice conditions are never the same from year to year, though the aim is to take advantage of the opportunities that arise if sea ice is present. Possible sights in this area: Emperor penguins, groups of seals lounging on ice floes, orca and minke whales along the ice edge, and different species of fulmarine petrels.
The next goal is to enter the Ross Sea from the east, venturing south toward the Bay of Whales and close to Roosevelt Island (named in 1934 by the American aviator Richard E. Byrd for President Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Bay of Whales is part of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in the world, and is constantly changing with the receding ice masses. Large icebergs are present here, along with great wildlife opportunities. Roald Amundsen gained access to the shelf en route to the South Pole, which he reached on December 14, 1911. Also, the Japanese explore Nobu Shirase had his camp in this area in 1912, at Kainan Bay. You may make a helicopter landing on the ice shelf if conditions allow. During this part of the voyage, you will also cross the International Date Line.
Keeping to the Ross Sea, your aim is now to visit Ross Island. In this location you can see Mount Erebus, Mount Terror, and Mount Byrd, as well as many other famous spots that played an important role in the British expeditions of the last century: Cape Royds, where Ernest Shackleton’s cabin still stands; Cape Evans, where the cabin of Robert Falcon Scott can still be seen; and Hut Point, from which Scott and his men set out for the South Pole.
If ice is blocking the way but weather conditions are favorable, the helicopters may be used to land in one or more spots in this area. The American scientific base of McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base are other possible locations you might visit. From McMurdo Station you could also make a 6-mile hike to Castle Rock, where there are great views across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. Additionally, you may make a helicopter landing in Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, where conditions are closer to Mars than anywhere else on Earth.
Sailing north along the west coast of the Ross Sea, you pass the Drygalski Ice Tongue and Terra Nova Bay. If ice conditions allow, you then land at Inexpressible Island, which has a fascinating history in connection to the less-known Northern Party of Captain Scott’s expedition. It is also home to a large Adélie penguin rookery. Should sea ice prevent entry into Terra Nova Bay, you may head farther north to the protected area of Cape Hallett and its own Adélie rookery.
You next attempt a landing at Cape Adare, where for the first time humans wintered on the Antarctic Continent. The Norwegian Borchgrevink stayed in here 1899, taking shelter in a hut that to this day is surrounded by the largest colony of Adélie penguins in the world.
Sailing through the sea ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea, begin your journey north through the Southern Ocean. The goal is to set a course for the Balleny Islands, depending on weather conditions.
Your intended route is past Sturge Island in the afternoon, getting an impression of these windswept and remote islands before crossing the Antarctic Circle.
You once again enter the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean. Seabirds are prolific on this leg of the journey.
Macca, also known as Macquarie Island, is a Tasmanian State Reserve that in 1997 became a World Heritage Site. The Australian Antarctic Division has its permanent base on this island, which Australian sealer Frederick Hasselborough discovered while searching for new sealing grounds. The fauna on Macquarie is fantastic; there are colonies of king, gentoo, and southern rockhopper penguins – as well as almost one million breeding pairs of the endemic royal penguin. Elephant seals and various fur seal species, such as the New Zealand fur seal, are also present.
Heading northwest to Campbell Island, you’re once again followed by numerous seabirds.
The plan today is to visit the sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Campbell Island, enjoying its luxuriantly blooming vegetation. The fauna on Campbell Island is also a highlight, with a large and easily accessible colony of southern royal albatrosses on the main island. Breeding on the satellite islands are Campbell, grey-headed, wandering, black-browed, and light- mantled albatrosses. There are also three breeding penguin species present: eastern rockhopper, erect-crested, and yellow-eyed penguins. In the 18th century, seals in the area were hunted almost to extinction, but the elephant seals, fur seals, and sea lions have since recovered.
Take in the vast horizons of your final sea day before you reach New Zealand.
Every adventure, no matter how sublime, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Bluff, the southernmost town in New Zealand, and return home with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
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 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Reverse Itinerary: 2/16/2020 (32 days)
International Date Line:
Depending on which direction one travels across the International Date Line, a day is either lost or gained. A day is gained while crossing westward on the 1/13/2020 itinerary; a day is lost while crossing eastward on the 2/16/2020 itinerary. Please make note of this when making travel arrangements.
The vessel will be equipped with two helicopters. The use of helicopters allows access to scheduled landing sites that would otherwise be inaccessible. If ice, weather and other conditions are suitable, the captain will position the vessel at a safe and (for the helicopters and helicopter pilots) feasible distance from the intended landing site. Helicopter transfers are included in the price of the trip; however, every passenger who participates must understand and accept that no guarantees can be given in regards to: 1. reaching scheduled landing sites or 2. the specific amount of helicopter time they will experience. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Pre-scheduled group transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia directly following disembarkation; luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on day of embarkation in Ushuaia; during voyage, ship-to-shore helicopter transfers (with no specific amount of helicopter time guaranteed); shipboard accommodations; hiking/snowshoeing; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots and snowshoes); all meals onboard the ship including snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Airfare; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; 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, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Delphine Aures, © Michael Martin, © Hans Murre, © Rolf Stange, © Fred van Ophe, © Michael Wenger