|1||Ushuaia||Set Sail, meet the expedition team|
|2 - 3||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
|4 - 7||Antarctic Peninsula||Iceberg sculptures, carving glaciers, marine mammals|
|8||South Shetland Islands||Chinstrap, Adelie, Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins|
|9 - 10||At Sea||Cross the Drake Passage|
|11||Ushuaia||After breakfast disembark for your onward journey|
The Ortelius was originally the Marina Svetaeva. Built in Gdynia, Poland in 1989, it served as a special-purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science. Later it was re-flagged and renamed after the Dutch/Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius, who in 1570 published the first modern world atlas: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theatre of the World. The Ortelius can accommodate 108 guests and has an abundance of open-deck spaces for watching wildlife and the impressive scenery as you sail past. She also has the highest ice-class notation (UL1, equivalent to 1A) making her perfect for polar expeditions.
The Plancius accommodates up to 108 passengers in 53 passenger cabins all with private ammenitiies. Built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy she sailed for the Navy until 2004 when she was used as an expedition vessel. Completely rebuilt in 2009 and later upgrades in 2019, the complies with the latest SOLAS-regulations. Offering a restaurant/lecture room on deck 3, a spacious observation lounge with large windows and a bar on deck 5 and a library on deck 5there is no shortage of places to relax. There are large open deck spaces on the Plancius, especially on Deck 4 with full walk-around possibilities for optimal wildlife spotting and enjoying the scenery. The Plancius carries 10 Mark V zodiacs, with 40 HP 4-stroke outboard engines and 2 gangways on the starboard side, guaranteeing a swift zodiac operation. Whilst the Plancius is comfortable and well equipped, she is in no way a luxury vessel. The focus is in spending as much time on shore as possible with an exploratory educational travel programme with 8 highly knowledgeable expedition staff.
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 the Ortelius 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 will 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 Antarctic circumpolar current upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the bird 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.
Gray stone peaks sketched with snow, towers of broken blue-white ice, and dramatically different wildlife below and above. You first pass the snow-capped Melchior Islands and Schollaert Channel, sailing between Brabant and Anvers Islands.
Sites you may visit include:
Danco Island – Activities here may focus on the gentoo penguins nesting on the island, in addition to the Weddell and crabeater seals that can be found nearby.
Neko Harbour – An epic landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow, Neko Harbour offers opportunities for a Zodiac cruise and landing that afford the closest views of the surrounding alpine peaks.
Paradise Bay – You may be able to take a Zodiac cruise in these sprawling, ice-flecked waters, where there’s a good chance you’ll encounter humpback and minke whales.
Port Lockroy – After sailing through the Neumayer Channel, you may get a chance to visit the former British research station – now a museum and post office – of Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. You may also be able to partake in activities around Jougla Point, meeting gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags. There are great opportunities also for kayaking and camping here, and when conditions are right, you can even snowshoe around the shore.
The volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often cloaked in mist, but they do offer subtle pleasures: There’s a wide variety of flora (mosses, lichens, flowering grasses) and no small amount of fauna (gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, southern giant petrels). In Deception Island, the ship plunges through Neptune’s Bellows and into the flooded caldera. Here you find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, and thousands of cape petrels – along with kelp gulls, brown and south polar skuas, and Antarctic terns. A good hike is a possibility in this fascinating and desolate volcanic landscape.
As an alternative, you may be able to engage in activities near Half Moon Island. Here chinstrap penguins and Weddell seals often haul out onto the beach near Cámara Base, an Argentine scientific research station. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Following breakfast you will disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Please note: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and in order to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. The on-board expedition leader determines the final itinerary. Itineraries may mention places that require permission to land, which must be granted by the relevant national authorities. Such permission is not granted prior to the publishing of these itineraries. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.