|Day 1||Punta Arenas||Flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica|
|Day 2-3||Antarctic Peninsula||Bransfield Strait, Gerlache coastline, Lemaire Channel|
|Day 4||South Shetland Islands||Deception Island|
|Day 5-7||Weddell Sea||Tabular icebergs, ice shelf, Adelie penguins, Hope Bay, Brown Bluff|
|Day 8||Elephant Island||
Point Lookout chinstrap penguin colony, Macaroni penguins
|Day 9-10||At Sea
||Seabirds, on board presentations|
|Day 11||Falkland Islands||West Point or Carcass Island, penguins|
|Day 12||Port Stanley to Punta Arenas||Explore Port Stanley before departing on the short flight to Punta Arenas, Chile.|
Akademik Ioffe was built in Rauma, Finland in 1988 and was designed for polar research and is now only 1 of 2 scientific vessels still actively participating in marine science. With extensive upgrades and expansions, the Akademik Ioffe is safe and ice-strengthened, and is now a modern, comfortable and very spacious ship. With a maximum of 96 guests (with room for more) everyone can go ashore at one time.
Your journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, transferring from the central meeting point to the airport for the 2-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). Upon arrival at the Chilean Antarctic base on King George Island, gather at the beach for embarkation by Zodiac boats to your expedition vessel, Akademik Ioffe or Akademik Sergey Vavilov. After settling in to your cabins and exploring the ship, familiarising yourself with your ‘home’ for the coming days, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner with everyone looking forward to the incredible adventure ahead.
Please note that while it is the intention to adhere to the arrangements described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary or desirable to make alterations. On the first day aboard, the Expedition Leader will give you an expedition overview.
Overnight the crew will have navigated across the Bransfield Strait and you will wake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent. For the next few days you will have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. If ice conditions allow, cruise through the Lemaire Channel and visit sites which may include Pleneau Island and the Penola Strait. To the south lies Petermann Island, home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. A visit to an active science station nearby provides a fascinating insight into the important climate change research occurring in Antarctica. There’s a fantastic walk on a nearby island and you may be able to make a full traverse across a snowy knoll from one side of the island to the other. The old British Antarctic Survey hut of Wordie House begs for further investigation.
Returning north, pass the massive granite sentinels of Mount Scott and Mount Shackleton and attempt a second transit of the Lemaire Channel. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Your activity program is in full swing by now. Each day enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies and Zodiac cruising among the ice with your expert guides, providing insight and interpretation. Planned visits could include Paradise Harbour, Orne Harbour or Andvord Bay. Or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay is another favourite location and one where you may encounter pods of humpback whales feeding. It is somewhere along this stretch of coastline that you may be able to spend a night on shore, camping in Antarctica. The crew have all the right gear and equipment and an expert team to make it happen – all you need is an adventurous spirit! If the weather is good and site characteristics suit the requirements, the team will always go for it. Camping is included in the voyage price and there is no need to pre-book this activity.
The ship will now head north towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way you may visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, the captain will sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and old wooden structures. 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 an outstanding hike here to a location known as ‘Neptune’s Window’ – high up onto the rim of the crater.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Navigating into the sound you will witness for the first time the vastness and majesty of the Antarctic icecap. This is an awe-inspiring sight. Heading into the Weddell Sea you will notice a significant increase in the number of huge tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. These massive icebergs break from the huge ice shelves to the south and drift north on the currents. This always makes for exciting navigation – and stunning photographic opportunities in the soft Antarctic twilight. This is wild and remote Antarctica and has a distinctly different feel from locations visited thus far.
The Weddell Sea region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of staggering size – some contain more than 100,000 nesting birds. Such colonies dwarf the penguin rookeries visited so far. Weather permitting, excursions in the Weddell Sea region may include Hope Bay, Paulet Island and Brown Bluff. All eyes will be trained on the ice floes through which dictate the navigation of the ship. The history of exploration in this region is incredibly rich. Remnants of Nordenskjöld’s Swedish expedition of 1901-1904 are found in several locations in this area. The epic century old story of Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition has strong links to the region. It was here that he and his men drifted north on the ice after the ship had been lost in the ice pack months earlier. As youhead north and out of the Weddell Sea, the lavender pink sunset will make some of us pause to consider the bravery (or foolhardiness) of those early explorers who travelled these waters a hundred years before you.
Point Lookout, on the southern tip of Elephant island, is home to an impressive chinstrap penguin colony; Macaroni penguins also breed here and are a species you have yet to encounter. Both southern elephant seals and often sizeable numbers of Antarctic fur seals are seen hauled out on the beaches in large numbers. The island’s dramatic ice cliffs come into view marking your arrival at the fabled Point Wild on the north coast.This is a thrilling location and a major highlight for history buffs. It was a place of refuge in 1916 where Shackleton and his crew were encamped under their upturned life boats after their ship was crushed by the pack ice in the Weddell Sea. Realising no-one was going to find them there, he and five men set off on a rescue mission to South Georgia in their tiny lifeboat, the ‘James Caird’. Shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously difficult due to the surging ocean currents and pounding surf on the rocky beach.
While sailing north to the Falkland Islands, your days at sea are never dull – much of your time will be spent on the bridge or outer decks, scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular seabirds, including several albatross and petrel species, are your constant companions and will test your photographic reflexes as they wheel and soar above the ship. The onboard polar experts will recap on your Weddell Sea adventures and continue their educational program, entertaining you with interactive presentations about the wonders of the South Atlantic Ocean and Antarctic eco-systems and leading lively discussions.
Arriving into the Falkland Islands overnight, explore West Point or neighboring Carcass Island. These locations are best known for rockhopper penguins and nesting black browed albatross colonies. One final highlight awaits –Saunders Island, where we hope to encounter four penguin species living in close quarters, including the mighty king penguin, gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper. Charting a course for the port of Stanley tonight, enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, the captain will navigate the ship through the narrows and into port. Stanley – the capital of the Falkland Islands, is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal England or Scotland. It is a charming location, with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. You will have time to explore town before a transfer takes you to the airport for your return flight to Punta Arenas (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). It will be possible to connect to flights through to Santiago or other destinations in Chile. Otherwise extend your stay in Punta Arenas, or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.