This remote stretch of the Antarctic Peninsula is visited for just a few short months each year. From January onwards, seasonal ice conditions give us our best chance of crossing the Antarctic Circle. Here you will witness expansive landscapes, sizable Adelie penguin rookeries and we hope to see the large tabular icebergs that have drifted north from the Bellingshausen Sea. This is always an exciting expedition, navigating ice chocked waters.
|Day 1||Ushuaia, Argentina||Embark on your expedition ship bound for Antarctica|
|Day 2-3||At Sea||Crossing the Drake Passage|
|Days 4-6||Below the Antarctic Circle||Detaille Island, Marguerite Bay|
||Antarctic Peninsula||Lower Antarctic Peninsula, Petermann Island, adelie and gentoo Penguins, and imperial cormorants|
|Days 9-10||Gerlache Strait and Antarctic Peninsula||DLemaire Channel, Paradise Harbour, Neko Harbour, Orne Harbour, Cuvervile Island, Mikkelson Harbour|
|Days 11||South Shetland Islands||Deception Island, Livingston Island|
|Day 12-13||At Sea||Drake Passage|
|Day 14||Arrive in Ushuaia||Disembark in Ushuaia|
Your journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. Gather at our central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark on the expedition ship. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, meet the expedition team and fellow passengers. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
The crew 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. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and the onboard photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern expedition vessel. Throughout the day your expedition team will educate you with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations you will hopefully get to visit in the coming days. As you approach the coastline of Antarctica, you will encounter more icebergs and perhaps some whale sightings.
Given optimal ice conditions, you will sail south of the Antarctic Circle. A favoured landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut. ‘Base W’ was established in the 1950s 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 scientists and researchers.
This far south, you are always at the mercy of prevailing ice conditions. Years of experience pushing this far to the south, indicates that late February gives the best chance of reaching Marguerite Bay.
The ship may head through a narrow channel known as ‘the Gullet’ if the passage is ice-free. Otherwise, it will navigate around the outside of Adelaide Island – which will take more time, yet bring you to the same destination.
Marguerite Bay is home to several important science bases – Rothera (UK), San Martin (Argentina), Carvajal (Chile). You may make a visit to at least one of these locations. The area is full of history and the British Graham Land Expedition (BGLE) of the early 1930s – led by intrepid Australian explorer, John Rymill, established their southern base in this area. They explored and surveyed large areas of the Antarctic Peninsula by airplane, establishing the Antarctic Peninsula was indeed connected to the main continental landmass – and not just a series of offshore islands as earlier believed.
This vicinity marks your turnaround point and from now on, you will cruise in a northerly direction exploring the dramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several locations in the Fish and Argentine Island archipelagos which allow for Zodiac cruising and potential shore landings. You may also visit a working scientific base to learn of the important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows you to stretch your legs and explore the old British Antarctic Survey hut.
Petermann Island is home to a sizable Adelie penguin rookery. Adelies – the smallest of the Antarctic penguins nest here and share the location with Gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants. The view to the north of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott is impressive. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. Nearby Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, 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.
The crew will aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on your way north towards Paradise Harbour. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbour offers another continental landing. Both locations offer terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points. For the sea kayakers, the paddling opportunities here are endless. Expect to be in full sensory overload by this time of the voyage. The good news is, your adventure is not over and we still have several days of exciting exploration ahead.
Orne Harbour is another celebrated location we hope to visit and the hike up to a rocky knoll provides excellent access to a chinstrap penguin rookery. At Cuverville Island, there is a large Gentoo penguin colony which we observe at close quarters. Leopard seals are often sighted cruising the shallows along the landing site.
For the kayakers, a full circumnavigation of the island is a real thrill. For those interested, it is in this vicinity you may have the opportunity to spend a night ashore camping, if weather conditions permit. The expedition team have all the gear to make this unique experience happen. You are now at the most northern point on the Peninsula. Visits to Mikkelson Harbour and nearby Cierva Cove round out what has been a comprehensive exploration of the Gerlache coastline. Tonight, leaving the continent in the soft twilight, reflect on an incredible week of exploration.
Having crossed the Bransfield Straight overnight, you will arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, the crew 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 here, high up onto the rim of the crater.
On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour, where you can sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a zodiac cruise.
As the ship makes it’s way back to South America, the educational presentations continue as well as an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join the photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, the ship will make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, we arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise enjoy a night in town or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.