This remote stretch of the Antarctic Peninsula is visited for just a few short months each year. From January to March, seasonal ice conditions give your best chance of crossing the Antarctic Circle. Here you will witness expansive landscapes, sizable Adelie penguin rookeries and large tabular icebergs that have drifted north from the Bellingshausen Sea. This is always an exciting expedition, navigating ice chocked waters.
|Day 1||Santiago to Stanley||Fly from Santiago, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands. Embark.|
|Day 2-3||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
|Days 4-5||Antarctic Peninsula||South Shetland Islands, McFarlane Strait, Half Moon Island, Livingston Island, Willhelmina ByErrera Channel, Danco Island|
|Days 6-8||Antarctic Circle Crossing||Base W, Mount Shackleton, Mt Scott, Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Island|
|Days 9||Aitcho Islands||Hiking, gentoo and chinstrap penguins, seals|
|Day 10-11||At Sea||Drake Passage, Cape Horn|
|Day 12||Stanley to Santiago||Disembark in Stanley, fly to Santiago|
Depart Santiago in the morning on a charter flight direct to Stanley, the small capital of the Falkland Islands. You will be met on arrival and transfer from the airport into town. There is time to explore the town or enjoy a guided visit to nearby Gypsy Cove which provides your first opportunity for observing the local wildlife, including nesting Magellanic penguins and other sea birds. Making your way to the port, board our expedition ship, in the afternoon. After settling into your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off to explore one of the most remote regions on Earth.
The captain will chart a southerly course for Antarctica. The Drake Passage is rich in bio-diversity and showcases a great abundance of wildlife. You will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and the photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Throughout the day the onboard experts educate guests with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history of the locations you may visit in the coming days. There is great excitement when the dark cliffs of Elephant Island appear on the horizon. This is one of Antarctica’s most important historic locations and a fitting introduction. On the rocky beach at Point Wild, Shackleton and his men camped here for many months under their three upturned life boats, having lost their ship, HMS Endurance in the thick sea ice, far to the south in the Weddell Sea in 1915. It was from this location that Shackleton and six companions set off on the rescue mission to South Georgia, aboard the tiny lifeboat, James Caird. To this day, the epic ocean crossing and crossing of South Georgia on foot is considered one of the greatest tales in polar history. If weather conditions permit, you will be able to participate in a Zodiac cruise to view the site from close proximity. This is a thrilling location for history buffs and sets the scene for an exciting expedition.
Awaken to the magnificent snowy peaks of Antarctica’s fringing islands laid out before you. Even your experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The McFarlane Strait makes a natural entry point into the South Shetlands. There are several landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour, where you may encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. In the afternoon, cruise along the coast of Livingston Island, which on a sunny day is a memorable experience. If the weather conditions allow, the captain will sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around us as you explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins, made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike, high up onto the rim of the crater.
Overnight the captain will have navigated across the Bransfield Strait and aim for the broad expanse of Willhelmina Bay. This is a known whale ‘hot-spot’. It’s a rich feeding ground for humpback and minke whales and you may encounter these gentle giants from the ship or when cruising in the Zodiacs. This is a spectacular location, featuring sweeping views of the glaciers up to the mountainous ridge of the Antarctic peninsula. Nearby lies the Errera Channel – home to several exceptional sites, including Cuverville Island with its substantial gentoo penguin rookery, Ronge Island and the snow-capped dome of Danco Island. In the soft evening light, you will commence your journey south, towards the Antarctic Circle.
After covering a substantial distance overnight the objective is to cross the Antarctic Circle this afternoon, hoping for a shore landing at Detaille Island. An abandoned British science station – ‘Base W’ was established in the 1950’s and is in a remarkable state of preservation. For the history buffs this is a fascinating place providing a glimpse into the harsh life of early Antarctic visitors. Toast your success on crossing the Antarctic Circle turning your gaze northwards, viewing the spectacular chain of glacier-covered peaks stretching as far as the eye can see. This coastline begs further exploration, which is exactly what you will be doing.
Heading north, the peaks of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott loom on the horizon. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings and observation of the gentoo penguins who nest here in large numbers. Just offshore, in the shallow waters of the Penola Strait, massive icebergs run aground. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you could ever imagine. For many, a Zodiac cruise here will be a highlight of the voyage. If ice conditions permit, the ship will transit the Lemaire Channel on your way north towards Paradise Harbour, which provides a continental landing opportunity. There is a wonderful hike here, up to a high point which provides jaw-dropping views. Zodiac cruising in the glacial amphitheatre of Skontorp Cove is also a possibility.
The ship will navigate north through the Gerlache Strait towards Spert Island – a little visited rocky outcrop with remarkable geology. The island is criss-crossed by narrow channels which makes for fantastic Zodiac cruising and sea kayaking. The cliffs are home to numerous nesting bird species and whales are often seen here. Nearby Mikkelson Harbour also allows for another off-ship excursion. After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, you will head north, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor and you can expect sightings of humpbacks, or the resident pod of orca that inhabit this stretch of water.
Visit several landing sites in the South Shetlands including the Aitcho Islands. There are some great hiking routes here showcasing the colourful mosses and lichens found on the island. Gentoo and chinstrap penguins nest here and on the beaches and seals are often seen coming and going from the surrounding waters. Fort Point situated on Greenwich Island is another favoured location for a visit. Eventually you will leave the snow-covered peaks behind, pushing northwards on the return trip to the Falkland Islands.
As you make your way back to Stanley and the Falkland Islands, the educational presentations continue, and you will enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join our photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. Approaching the coast of the southern Falkland Islands in the early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning you will arrive back in the port of Stanley. Say goodbye to your crew and after some free time in town, make your way to the airport for your return charter flight to Santiago. On arrival in Santiago our journey comes to an end. Onward regional and international flight connections may be possible this evening. Discuss the options with your booking agent. A transfer is provided to a downtown location for those choosing to stay and explore Santiago and the delights of Chile.