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Antarctica, Falklands, and South Georgia – Solar Eclipse Voyage

Antarctica Cruise Information

Summary : A total solar eclipse occurs only every 1-2 years, and to witness it in this special part of the globe is without doubt a rare occurrence. On this unique voyage, you will visit Antarctica and experience the incredible white continent in late spring, photograph glistening icebergs, witness mischievious Adélie penguins stealing one another’s stones during nest-building, and orca whales hunting in packs. It’s a wonderful time to opt to kayak and snowshoe while the snow is still pristine.

NOTE: This is ship is currently being built and all details are subject to change.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Ushuaia, Argentina

Arrive in Ushuaia where you’ll be met by an expedition representative and transferred to your downtown hotel (if taking the designated group flight).

Day 2
Ushuaia, Argentina / Embark

This morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before exploring Ushuaia on a half-day city tour.

The city tour will aim to visit The Mission, Brown and Solier neighborhoods, where you can see old houses belonging to the first families in Tierra del Fuego, such as the Beban, the Pastoriza, and the Ramos. Head 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) out of town to Martial Glacier. The ride in the chair lift to the trails leading up to the glacier provides wonderful regional views of Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel and its islands. Afterwards, continue to the End of the World Museum with exhibitions explaining the history of Tierra del Fuego.

Transfer to the pier where your expedition team will warmly welcome you on board the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4:00pm.

As the Greg Mortimer pulls away from port, we’ll gather on the deck to commence our adventure with spectacular views over Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings.

NOTE: Lunch is not included today.

Day 3
Drake Passage

As you commence the Drake Passage crossing, make the most of your time getting comfortable with the motions of the sea. Your expedition team prepare you for your first landing with important wildlife guidelines and biosecurity procedures, and start your lecture program to help you learn more about Antarctica’s history, wildlife and environment.

Wildlife experiences begin as you enjoy watching and photographing the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following in the wake. They rise and fall skillfully, using air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.

Day 4
Drake Passage / South Shetland Islands

Nearing the tip of the South Shetland Islands on day four, the excitement is palpable with everyone converging on the bridge watching for your first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once you are below the Antarctic Convergence and surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of your first big iceberg sighting is likely to remain with you for a lifetime. Weather permitting, you may attempt your first landing in Antarctica by late afternoon.

Day 5 – 9
Antarctic Peninsula

Over the next few days a host of choices are open, and depending on ice and weather conditions, the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is yours to explore. The experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. This allow the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.

Because you are so far south, you will experience approximately 18-20 hours of daylight and the days. Generally try for two landings or Zodiac excursions each day; 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 rookeries, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few of 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, or view spectacular wildlife follows:

Paradise Harbour:
A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this spectacular harbor provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. This is a haven for whales and keep your eyes open for humpbacks, orcas, minkes, and crabeater seals, as you explore the bay in Zodiacs.

Hydrurga Rocks:
This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrude from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstrap penguins raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is the Latin family name for leopard seal (Hydrurga Leonina), and on occasions see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife.

Half Moon Island:
This wildlife-rich island is tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day, the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the vista. There is a large chinstrap penguin colony tucked in between basaltic turrets colored by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. There is a large rookery of nesting blue-eyed shags at one end of the island, while at the other end of the island lies a small Argentinian station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways.

Lemaire Channel:
If ice conditions allow, standing on the observation deck of the Greg Mortimer quietly as the ship sails along the narrow Lemaire Channel could certainly be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs 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 the Captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct passage.

Port Lockroy:
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!

Neko Harbour:
Located in Andvord Bay, Neko Harbour is an inlet home to gentoo penguins, and regularly welcomes Weddell seals. The scenery is dramatic - towering peaks and calving glaciers surround the harbor. The thundering crack of the glaciers as they calve is sure to stop you in your tracks.

Robert Point:
A fine example of the South Shetland Islands – tiny toes of land that are literally alive with wildlife. Here, there are two species of penguins breeding - chinstrap and gentoo. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 60 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline.

Day 10
Elephant Island, Weddell Sea

This morning, if weather permits, set course for Elephant Island, a half-submerged mountain cloaked with an ice sheet at the outer limits of the South Shetlands. Learn the story of Shackleton and hear how his ship, the Endurance, was crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea, before he and his men climbed into three open boats, spending 16 months at sea, before finally making landfall on this tiny toe of rock and ice in the vastness of the Southern Ocean on 14th of April, 1916. Plan to sail past Cape Valentine to see the beach where the men first put ashore over 100 years ago. Weather permitting; follow the coastline 6 miles west to Point Wild, where the men eventually set up camp under two of their upturned open boats and some old tents. If weather permits, attempt to make a landing on historic Point Wild, Elephant Island.

Later, the ship will begin to reposition to a prime location for the eagerly awaited solar eclipse.

Day 11
Solar Eclipse

According to NASA, the optimum position to experience the solar eclipse is well into the Weddell Sea. The eclipse is visible from the following geographic regions: Antarctica, South Africa, south Atlantic, but the full eclipse will only be visible in Antarctica.

The instant of greatest eclipse takes place on Dec 04 at 07:34:38 TD (Terrestrial Dynamical Time) or (07:33:28 UT1).

Historically, early December would be considered too early to visit South Orkney Islands because of extensive sea ice. However, conditions have been changing every year and it may be possible to get into the South Orkneys on 4th of December, 2021 – the unknown is part of what makes the experience even more thrilling.

Day 12 – 13
Scotia Sea

En route for South Georgia head across the Scotia Sea, following the route that Shackleton and five of his men took in order to find help for the rest of their crew. On the 24th of April, 1916, they piled into the James Caird, the most seaworthy of their open boats, to attempt this perilous journey to South Georgia, some 802 miles distant. Shackleton hoped to reach South Georgia in two weeks. There he would enlist the help of the whalers to return to Elephant Island and rescue the men who had been left behind. As excitement builds for South Georgia, catch up with fellow expeditioners in the bar, keep watch for wildlife alongside your naturalist from the open bridge, or learn more of the Shackleton story from your historian.

Day 14 – 17
South Georgia

South Georgia is one of the world’s most amazing natural environments. Just a speck in the vastness of the South Atlantic Ocean, and lying wholly within the Antarctic Convergence, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are a life-sustaining haven to some of the world’s largest congregations of wildlife. The surrounding sea is one of the most productive areas on Earth and supports the life of millions of seals, whales, penguins and other seabirds.

A 3,000-meter / 9,842-foot mountain range forms the spine of this long, narrow island. Between the mountains, shattered glaciers carve their way through tussock grass to the deeply indented coastline—a landscape that is synonymous with the epic expedition of survival by Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean. Abandoned rusting whaling stations and remnants of explorers reflect a time of long ago, while summer workers conduct scientific and regeneration projects.

A sample of some of the places where you may land in South Georgia include:

Grytviken:
Originally a Norwegian sealing and whaling station, it was finally closed in 1965. Now it is the administrative center and a hub of activity in South Georgia. The former whaling station stands as a solemn testament of the whaling days, but the museum offers much more than glimpse into Grytviken’s whaling past, including exhibitions of many of the local animals on display as well as the island’s history of exploration. As you wander around the site, skirting the ruins of factory buildings, peering into the past, you must be careful to avoid sleeping elephant seals or disturbing small groups of king penguins as you imagine what it was like when whale processing was in full swing. Abandoned ships lie sunken alongside hundred-year old wharves, while pitted concrete walls remind of the more recent Falkland's War, which started here.

Sir Ernest Shackleton died from a heart attack during his final expedition on board the Quest on 5 January, 1922. His body was laid to rest at Grytviken. Pay your respects at his grave and possibly visit the cross his men erected in his memory looking out across beautiful Cumberland Bay.

St Andrews Bay:
The long black sandy beach fronts a broad valley that stretches well back from the sea. This valley shelters the largest king penguin colony on South Georgia. Toward the landing beach on the north end of the bay, the beach is a resting place for hundreds of elephant seals that haul out on the shore to moult. Behind the beach and as you move along to the south, the sight and sound of over 200,000 pairs of King penguins at different stages of their breeding cycle will be overwhelming. The colony can be so dense that the penguins prevent even the seals from using the beach! The glacial river that runs into the sea here will be alive with penguin chicks and elephant seal pups testing their skills. If we lift our gaze from the wildlife for a moment, we will glimpse the snow-capped peaks of some of the world's most spectacular mountains.

Godthul:
Imagine indented bays lined with bleached whalebones, teeming with fur seals and penguins just ‘hanging about’. In Godthul you have the opportunity to clamber through the tussock to a spectacular plateau offering magnificent views across the island and the waters beyond. A careful descent leads us to a magnificent Macaroni penguin rookery.

Salisbury Plains:
Salisbury Plain has one of the largest King penguin colonies on South Georgia. With about 100,000 pairs, the shore and beach can be completely crammed with penguins. Along the beach you will also find fur and elephant seals in the mix. You will have plenty of free time for walking and exploring independently during this landing, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy some personal time amongst the kings.

Fortuna Bay & Stromness:
Fortuna Bay is surrounded by high mountains with glaciers pushing down from the high country to terminate in the open valley that is home to a small king penguin colony. This is where Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean descended from the treacherous glaciers of the interior on their way to Stromness whaling station. If conditions allow, retrace the footsteps of the explorers and follow their track over the last mountain pass. It’s a moderately difficult 6 km / 3.7 mi. walk over a 300-meter pass, and is well worth the experience for those that are fit and able. The Greg Mortimer will meet you as you arrive into Stromness Bay.

Bay of Isles:
One of the wildlife highlights will be visiting the serene wandering albatrosses sitting proudly on their cute downy chicks. You can observe within respectful distance of these magnificent gentle birds while they perform intimate courtship dances, feed their young or clumsily launch themselves into the air, bound for a fishing trip.

Day 18 – 19
Sea Crossing

En route to the Falklands (Malvinas), be entranced by the ceaseless flight of the many seabirds that follow the ship's wake, skillfully using the air currents created by the ship to gain momentum. On this leg, travel into the prevailing weather makes it difficult to estimate your arrival time in the Falklands (Malvinas). Your lecture program will continue to highlight all of the amazing sights you have witnessed over the past few days. You’ll have ample time to enjoy the rest of your time observing the sea birds, whale watching from the bridge, or simply relaxing with a book.

Day 20
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

Located 477 kilometers (296 miles) east of southern Argentina, the Falklands (Malvinas) are a unique mix of wildlife hotspot and inhabited outpost. An archipelago of over 700 islands, but consisting of two main islands, East and West, only seven of the islands are inhabited. The cold nutrient-rich waters surrounding the islands makes them a prime location for marine life including seabirds and seals. Our time in the Falkland (Malvinas) includes a short walk in historic Stanley town, and Sea Lion Island located in East Falkland’s south, where you can get insight into the unique experience of Sea Lion Island Nature Reserve. You will discover how the raw beauty and solitude of the island makes it a haven for wildlife and visitors alike. In 2009, Sea Lion Island was officially declared a National Nature Reserve, with no introduced predators living on the island.

Tussac grass covers much of the island providing an ideal habitat for elephant seals and sea lions that can be found on many of the island’s spectacular beaches. A plethora of birds such as thrushes, finches, tussac birds and Megallenic penguins also inhabit the tussac. Pods of orcas, Peale's dolphins and leopard seals are regularly seen in the waters around the island.

The island's southern giant petrels, with a wingspan of two meters, act as a welcoming party to ships as they approach Sea Lion Island. Rockhopper, gentoo and Magellanic penguins come to Sea Lion Island to breed. Macaroni, king penguins and Striated and Crested Caracaras are also commonly seen on the island.

Day 21
Sea Crossing

You may choose to spend the sea days returning to Ushuaia editing your photos, enjoying the onboard facilities, or listening to an informative lecture. Celebrate the end of an unforgettable voyage with newfound friends at a special Captain’s farewell dinner.

Day 22
Ushuaia, Argentina

Upon disembarkation, transfer to the Ushuaia airport to continue on your journey home.

Notes

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.

NOTE: This is ship is currently being built and all details are subject to change.

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.

Kayaking:
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.

Snorkeling:
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.

Shackleton Crossing (on foot):
On this voyage, a small band of adventurous souls will attempt to repeat the epic crossing of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Trekking for up to three days from King Haakon Bay to Stromness, the crossing distance is 35 to 50 kilometers (21 to 31 miles) depending on the route taken. This is an extreme mountain environment that involves crossing large, heavily crevassed glaciers, and alpine passes that must be treated with great caution. Participants therefore must have a suitable level of alpine climbing and trekking experience to undertake this activity. Most of the journey is on glaciers and requires some ropework, so knowledge of glacier travel techniques is required. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Snowshoeing:
Snowshoeing makes walking up gentle slopes and across Antarctica’s soft, powdery snow a breeze, allowing you to explore places where others struggle to reach in boots alone. Armed with your very own set of snowshoes and ski poles, you’ll be led by guides who will provide all the instruction you need for a thrilling experience. No previous experience is required, but a good level of fitness is necessary. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Included:
One pre-cruise hotel night in Ushuaia with breakfast; group transfers from Ushuaia airport to hotel if on the group flight; half-day tour of Ushuaia before embarkation (lunch not included); transfer from ship to Ushuaia airport or downtown on disembarkation day; 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.

Not Included:
Airfare; 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

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