Summary : This special itinerary celebrates the life of Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose passing in South Georgia on January 5, 1922, marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The 20-day itinerary will coincide with the centenary of Shackleton’s death and not only honors one of Antarctica’s greatest heroes—but also his unwavering spirit of exploration. Whereas Shackleton and his crew braved the harsh elements of Antarctica aboard Endurance, you will sail aboard the new ship Ultramarine during its inaugural Antarctic sailing season. The technologically-advanced vessel will follow the route of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–1917), allowing you to experience the full splendor of Antarctica and South Georgia while exploring on Ultramarine’s two twin-engine helicopters and 20 fast launching Zodiacs. Cross the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, visit the Weddell Sea (where the ill-fated Endurance met its tragic end), then onto Elephant Island and, ultimately, wildlife-rich South Georgia, where, if conditions allow, you will pay homage to Shackleton at his grave at Grytviken. Throughout the voyage, enjoy special presentations by polar experts Tim Jarvis (author of “Chasing Shackleton”) and Dr. Ross MacPhee, curator of the ground-breaking museum exhibit “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition.”
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins
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You may arrive in Buenos Aires at any time during Day 1 of your itinerary. Upon arriving in this splendid city, known for its architecture and rich European heritage, you will independently transfer to your group hotel (a pre-expedition hotel night is included in the mandatory transfer package; see Rate Notes).
After an early breakfast at the hotel, the group will transfer to the airport and board a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. (See mandatory transfer package details under Rate Notes)
Upon arrival, you will be transferred from the airport to a central downtown location to have some time on your own to explore this quaint port town before making your way to the pier.
After a late afternoon embarkation, you will sail along the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America.
Not only will guests experience the much-anticipated crossing of the Drake Passage, considered by many to be a polar rite of passage, they will also enjoy one-of-a-kind presentations from expedition team members—and from two distinguished special guests who have delved deeply into the life of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
In 2013, environmental scientist, author and explorer Tim Jarvis—with a crew equipped in era-authentic gear—re-enacted Shackleton’s 800-mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a replica of the 23-foot whaler James Caird. In fact, the foreword to Jarvis’ book, “Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival,” was written by Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest.
Also on board as guest presenter: mammologist, paleontologist, anthropologist and polar historian Ross MacPhee, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, which hosted the ground-breaking exhibit “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition.” MacPhee is the author of “Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole.” MacPhee, who has participated in more than 50 scientific expeditions (including both polar regions), has also researched the extinction of early mammals who roamed Antarctica 45 million years ago.
The most common reaction upon reaching the White Continent is a sense of reverence and awe. The experience is hard to put into words, since few places are as untouched, unique and endearing as Antarctica. You will discover that Antarctica is a land of extremes. At one moment you’ll be overcome with a feeling of complete isolation and silence, and the next moment you’ll be inspired by nature as a calving glacier crashes into brilliant blue sea or a penguin waddles by to inspect your footwear.
Your expedition team will take care of you at each landing, whether you're Zodiac cruising, visiting a historical site or consorting with penguin colonies. Chinstrap, Adélie and gentoo penguins are found here, along with Weddell, fur, crabeater and leopard seals. Keep a lookout for Antarctic whales, such as minkes, while on a Zodiac cruise. Each day and each landing will present a new collection of creatures to delight you and keep your camera busy.
As exciting as the Zodiac excursions and landings are, perhaps you’ll treat yourself to an extra-special optional kayaking excursion (extra cost) or cast reason aside and jump into Antarctic waters for the polar plunge!
The Weddell Sea has profound meaning for admirers of Shackleton. This is where the explorer’s ill-fated ship, Endurance, was crushed by pack ice and disappeared into the waters in 1915. Despite the harsh environment, the Weddell Sea region is known for its rich wildlife: seals, penguins and baleen whales. You’ll be able to explore the region by sea and air.
Throughout the voyage, enjoy one-of-a-kind presentations from the expedition team members—and from special guests and polar experts Tim Jarvis and Ross MacPhee. Your days at sea are also perfect for experiencing the superb amenities of Ultramarine, which include a spa and a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow you to stay connected to the polar environments while enjoying relaxing moments onboard the ship. Stay on the lookout for birds and other wildlife while at sea from various wildlife viewing platforms.
On April 9, 1916, after spending 165 days drifting through the hostile ice of the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his crew reached remote Elephant Island, one of the outermost islands of the South Shetland Island chain. Arriving here today, 100 years later, you will see the island exactly as Shackleton and his men first encountered it. Yet to the stranded crew, Elephant Island was a haven, offering vital shelter while they waited anxiously to be rescued.
Hope to visit Point Wild, located on the northern shores of the island, where Shackleton and his men were able to come ashore. This was the location where Shackleton launched his epic 650-mile boat journey aboard the James Caird, and where his men awaited his return. If conditions are ideal, get as close as possible to land via Zodiac, where you can appreciate the immensity of Shackleton's feat.
Say goodbye to the Antarctic Peninsula, as your next destination is South Georgia! Join the first ever New Year celebration on Ultramarine. In addition to the New Year’s celebrations aboard Ultramarine, your days at sea are filled with presentations led by the voyage's two special guests and your expedition team, who will prepare you for the wildlife and landscapes that await you in South Georgia.
South Georgia is one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the world for sub-Antarctic wildlife, with beaches blanketed with penguins and seals. It won’t take you long to realize that you are in a bird paradise, as burrowing seabirds, albatross, and petrels can be seen in abundance.
You’ll find that on South Georgia, once a popular base for whalers and sealers, visitors can see abandoned relics and evidence of human activity from centuries gone by. Your expedition team will help bring those days to life while you visit old whaling stations and enjoy presentations on the South Georgia of then and now.
In re-creating the voyage of the James Caird, Shackleton’s heroic open-boat journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, your first planned destination on the island will be King Hakkon Bay—the very site where Shackleton and his men landed before traversing the island’s harsh interior.
South Georgia is particularly significant and, for many guests, a poignant stop on this voyage that celebrates the life of Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose enduring legacy of polar exploration lives on through your expedition team today. After Shackleton’s death on January 5, 1922, the explorer’s widow insisted her husband be buried in South Georgia, which figured so prominently in his life and dreams. If conditions allow, hope to visit Grytviken, one of the first whaling stations established in the sub-Antarctic waters. It’s also the site of the modest cemetery where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried. Guests traditionally gather at Shackleton’s grave to pay homage and raise a toast to one of history’s greatest polar explorers.
In addition to a historical visit to Grytviken and other whaling sites, you will have the opportunity to visit many of the pristine beaches, coves, and fjords that line the protected northern coast of the island. The wildlife density in South Georgia is unlike anywhere else in the world, and each stop during your journey will bring new adventures.
After more than two weeks of unique wildlife encounters and remarkable landscapes, your journey home begins. Spend time on deck watching for seabirds and whales, enjoy presentations by your expedition team, rejuvenate in the sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows or simply relax and reminisce about your experiences.
You will arrive in Ushuaia in the morning and disembark after breakfast. The mandatory transfer package includes a little taste of Patagonia with a Tierra del Fuego National Park tour before transferring to the airport for the return group charter flight to Buenos Aires.
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.
NOTE: This ship is NEW for the 2021/2022 season! As with any new vessel, we strongly suggest selecting a departure date at least six weeks after launch. Please ask for details.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must have a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Luggage Weight Restrictions:
Due to the limited capacity of the aircraft, there is a strict luggage limit of 15kg/33lb for checked luggage and 5kg/11lb for carry-on luggage. Additional luggage can be stored at the hotel in Punta Arenas. There is NO option to pay for additional luggage. Weight limits are subject to change.
Experience remarkable aerial perspectives on a 10- to 15-minute flightseeing excursion included in the cost of your voyage. Additional helicopter activities may also be available for purchase onboard. Please note all helicopter operations are weather- and logistics-dependent. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Limited availability; pre-booking required. A small group of kayakers will attempt multiple outings per voyage in lieu of shore landings. The number of opportunities is weather dependent; kayaking will only be conducted during calm conditions. Prior experience is required. Participants must be capable of a wet exit in order to participate. Beginners interested in kayaking should consider participating in the Paddling Excursion described below. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
If you’re interested in kayaking but would like to try something less in-depth than kayaking, consider a Paddling Excursion. Sign up for a one-time paddle using a stable, unencumbered sit-on-top kayak—perfect for anyone with little to no kayaking experience. Rotating groups will venture out on calm days with expert guides to connect with the sea. Space is limited. Pre-booking required. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Stand Up Paddleboarding:
Small groups explore calm waters in good weather conditions accompanied by a Zodiac. Stand up paddleboarding can be booked in advance (limited availability), and will be also be offered via sign-up onboard the ship on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Shipboard accommodations with daily housekeeping; one 10- to 15-minute helicopter flightseeing excursion (weather and logistics permitting); all luggage handling aboard the ship; Zodiac transfers, cruising, and shore landings as per the daily program; Emergency Evacuation Insurance* to a maximum benefit of $500,000 per person; photographic journal; gear to keep (parka); gear on loan (walking poles, waterproof expedition boots); all meals and snacks onboard the ship; select beer and wine during dinner onboard ship; soft drinks and juices onboard ship; coffee, tea, and cocoa around the clock; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges. Subject to change without notice.
Mandatory Transfer Package (see Additional Costs); international airfare; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned; meals ashore unless specified; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, except for those included; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage fees; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac landing and cruising excursions or any other gear not mentioned; laundry, bar, massage services or other personal charges, unless specified; phone and Internet charges; gratuities; additional overnight accommodation; arrival and departure transfers, except where explicitly stated; Adventure Options not listed in Included Activities; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. This shipping company strongly advises that all passengers purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.
Photos: © Quark Expeditions