Summary : Don’t miss the chance to see one of Earth’s most wondrous cosmic events in one of Earth’s most fantastic places! A total solar eclipse will affect Antarctica on December 4, 2021. Though total solar eclipses occur roughly every 18 months, they can only be properly seen along a few key path locations. And what better location than one of the wildest and least-known places on the planet? To witness the total eclipse, the Plancius will be in the center of the moon shadow, at the edge of the sea ice in the Weddell Sea, between the South Orkneys and South Georgia. Along the way, experience the abundance of wildlife in the Falkland Islands; the Victorian-era charm of the Port Stanley; visit South Georgia with its massive penguin colonies and the world's largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals; and, if ice conditions permit, sail into the Weddell Sea where colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$16,400 to $23,700
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.
Several species of albatross follow the vessel into the westerlies, along with storm petrels, shearwaters, and diving petrels.
The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), largely unknown gems, offer an abundance of wildlife. Not only do various species of bird live here but chances are great you’ll see both Peale’s dolphins and Commerson’s dolphins in the surrounding waters.
During this part of the voyage, you may visit the following sites:
Carcass Island – Despite its name, this island is pleasantly rodent-free and hence bounteous with birdlife. Anything from breeding Magellanic penguins and gentoos to numerous waders and passerine birds (including Cobb’s wrens and tussock- birds) live here.
Saunders Island – On Saunders Island you can see the black-browed albatross and its sometimes-clumsy landings, along with breeding imperial shags and rockhopper penguins. King penguins, Magellanic penguins, and gentoos are also found here.
The capital of the Falklands and center of its culture, Port Stanley offers a little Victorian-era charm: colorful houses, well-tended gardens, and English-style pubs can all be found here. You can also see several century-old clipper ships nearby, silent witnesses to the hardships of 19th century sailors. The small but interesting museum is also worth a visit, covering the early days of settlement up to the Falklands War. Approximately 2,100 people live in Port Stanley. Feel free to wander at will, though be aware that admission fees to local attractions are not included in the voyage.
On the way to South Georgia, you cross the Antarctic Convergence. The temperature gradually cools, and nutritious water rises to the surface of the sea due to colliding water columns. This phenomenon sometimes attracts a multitude of seabirds near the ship, including several species of albatross, shearwaters, petrels, prions, and skuas.
Today you arrive at the first South Georgia activity site. Please keep in mind that weather conditions in this area can be challenging, largely dictating the program.
You may visit the following sites over the next few days:
Fortuna Bay – Along beaches inhabited by penguins and seals you have the chance to follow the final leg of Shackleton’s route to the abandoned whaling village of Stromness. This path cuts across the mountain pass beyond Shackleton’s Waterfall. The terrain is partly swampy—be prepared to cross a few small streams.
Salisbury Plain, St. Andrews Bay, Gold Harbor – These sites not only house the three largest king penguin colonies in South Georgia, they’re also three of the world’s largest breeding beaches for southern elephant seals. Only during this time of year do they peak in their breeding cycle. Watch the four-ton bulls keep a constant vigil (and occasionally fight) over territories where dozens of females have just given birth or are about to deliver. You can also see a substantial number of Antarctic fur seals here during the breeding season (December – January).
Grytviken – In this abandoned whaling station, king penguins walk the streets and elephant seals lie around like they own the place—because they basically do. Here you might see the South Georgia Museum as well as Shackleton’s grave.
Cooper Bay – A Zodiac cruise in Cooper Bay offers a great opportunity to see macaroni penguins below a large rookery. Numerous fur and elephant seals are found on the beach while majestic light-mantled albatrosses can be seen gracefully gliding above.
There may be sea ice on this route, and at the edge of the ice some south polar skuas and snow petrels could join the other seabirds trailing the vessel south.
Early in the morning, the ship will position itself in the center of the shadow of the moon to experience the total solar eclipse and, if possible, some distance into the Scotia Sea drift ice.
The ice edge will be about 60°S, 41°W.
Some coordinates for the path of the moon’s shadow are:
7.06 UTC: 58.47.7 S – 42.45.2 W, 1.39 minutes, 8 degrees above horizon
7.08 UTC: 60.42.4 S – 40.59.8 W, 1.42 minutes, 9 degrees above horizon
7.10 UTC: 62.22.3 S – 39.48.0 W, 1.44 minutes, 11 degrees above horizon
Enormous icebergs and a fair chance of fin whale sightings ensure there’s never a dull moment on the voyage south. Also, your best chance to spot Antarctic petrels is here.
If ice conditions permit, you now sail into the Weddell Sea. Here colossal tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Paulet Island, with its large population of Adélie penguins, is a possible stop. You might also visit Brown Bluff, located in the ice-clogged Antarctic Sound, where you could get the chance to set foot on the Antarctic Continent itself.
If conditions aren’t favorable to enter the Weddell Sea from the east, the ship will set course for Elephant Island and head into the Bransfield Strait, between South Shetland Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Here you can attempt to access the Antarctic Sound from the northwest.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but nonetheless offer many subtle pleasures. A wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels) live here.
On Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. If a landing here is possible, you will find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels. A number of kelp gulls, brown skuas, south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns can be spotted here too.
Your last activities before venturing into the Drake Passage are likely to find you around the northern Gerlache Strait. One option is Cierva Cove and the rugged, ice-gripped mountains of the Davis Coast. Mikkelsen Harbor on the south coast of Trinity Island is another alternative. Here you may enjoy observing a gentoo penguin rookery as well as some fine scenic cruising.
Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re greeted by a vast array of seabirds. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but 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. Note that the goal of this itinerary is to see the total solar eclipse, but please keep in mind the polar regions are known for their unpredictability. There’s always the chance overcast skies may hinder visibility and that adverse conditions may alter certain details of the pre-planned route. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes or failure to witness the eclipse.
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.
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; 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.
Any airfare on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post-land arrangements; transfers to the vessel in Ushuaia; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; admission fees to local attractions in Port Stanley; mandatory travel insurance; baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyage for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided); fuel surcharge may apply.
Please note: Rates, inclusions, and other trip information are subject to change as this trip's departure date (11/23/2021) nears.
PHOTOS © Erwin Vermeulen, Arjen Drost