Spirit of Antarctica on board the purpose built expedition ship Greg Mortimer

Spirit of Antarctica on board the purpose built expedition ship Greg Mortimer

Alex Burridge – November 2022
MD Antarctica Travel Centre

This was a first for me an Antarctic Peninsula voyage (i.e. not including the Falklands, South Georgia or the Weddell Sea) and it was just as incredible experience as the longer voyages; in fact it was really good to have more time to explore the Peninsula (and I still love South Georgia).

Greg Mortimer – Spirit of Antarctica

The Greg Mortimer is a small (maximum of 132 guests) expedition ship with a different shaped nose (bow).  The Ulstein X Bow really does make her a very stable ship; the crossing back from the Peninsula whilst not quite a drake shake (certainly not the Drake lake) and she dealt with relatively rough seas remarkably well.  Her cabins are comfortable and the purpose built mud rooms and loading bays make for easy and efficient access to the zodiacs.

The ship offers plenty of activities and early season with a lot of snow the snowshoers and the skiers had plenty of opportunities to explore; in fact it was quite handy having the snowshoers as in some locations the snow was so deep they created a path for the rest of us to use; funny thing is the gentoo and Adelie penguins quickly use these pathways as it’s much easier that walking through soft snow, especially when your 50cms tall (we carefully made sure there were no big holes for the penguins to get stuck in).

I have to say for the first time the on-board dining crew had an effect on my experience; they were so happy, helpful and genuinely friendly that this aspect of the voyage was made more enjoyable/memorable (a credit to the catering manager).

Gentoo penguins Enterprise Island

As I mentioned as a dedicated Antarctic Peninsula voyage the Spirit of Antarctica offered twice daily excursions at many sites along the Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.  For me the standout was Neko Harbour it was a very still morning, occasionally the sun would cut through, at other times the snow was falling quite heavily.

As we nosed our way through ice filled water we could finally make out the wreck of the Svend Foyn (scuttled in 1915 in an attempt to rescue 16,614 barrels of whale oil).

She’s now home to Antarctic terns who were making very clear they didn’t really appreciate us disturbing their peace; it’s mating season and we could see the males bring krill to their partners..

The water was so still and clear we could see much of the sunken vessel (later we were informed visibility was some 14 metres).  Leaving the wreck we explored more ice floes; soon to be joined by a large male leopard seal.  These apex predators are very powerful swimmers and hunters and show no fear of the zodiacs (our expedition leader told us that very occasionally they try to bite the pontoons of the zodiacs – usually with little success and some have apparently worked out that the point end of the pontoon is the best place to get a grip – fortunately she quickly added that with numerous chambers even if a sneaky leopard seal was allowed to get a good bite we’d all be safe).

As for this seal he decided it was time for a sleep; not far away he hauled out onto an icefloe and after having a good look at us, a bit of roll in the snow and a yawn he went to sleep.

Antarctic tern feeding mate with krill

Neko Harbour: Svend Foyn wreck

Leopard seal

Tabular Icebergs in the Weddell Sea

Fast asleep in the snow

Leaving the Antarctic peninsula

Rounding Cape Horn

After the reasonably lumpy crossing of the Drake Passage, which the Greg Mortimer dealt with very well, we were fortunate to have a beautiful sunny day as we rounded Cape Horn.

Wicked whiskers on Antarctic Fur seal; Deception Island South Shetlands

Gentoo South Shetlands

Guests ‘enjoying’ the snow

Ushuaia street art

Each polar cruise has its own highlights and as the weather varies the schedule may change. Call 1300 784 794 or email contact@antarcticatravelcentre.com.au to talk to one of our Antarctic Experts to find the cruise that is right for you.


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