Embark in Ushuaia, the world's southern-most city. Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego in the extreme South of Argentina at the end of Beagle Bay. This amazing little town of over 45,000 people is surrounded by mountains and fertile plains. The first inhabitants here were nomadic hunters and gatherers who arrived on foot to the Isla Grande over 10,000 years ago. Nature lovers will be bowled over by the Tierra del Fuego National Park and its amazing wealth of flora and fauna: beavers, albatrosses, guanacos, penguins... Here forests cover the slopes of the Andes mountains then give way to snow-capped peaks… a truly unique and unforgettable landscape. Arrive at your ship and settle in for your first night on board.
The southward journey toward Antarctica is an exciting one. Fast-flowing southern ocean currents squeezing between land masses give the Drake Passage, the small strip of sea between the tip of South America and Antarctica, some of the world's roughest waters. An important trade route in the 19th and early 20th centuries, its stormy waters and icy conditions often made the journey around Cape Horn a difficult one, though the stabilizer-equipped 'Le Boreal' handles it easily. The krill-rich waters are a particular favorite with marine mammals and seabirds. Join 'Le Boreals' naturalists on the deck to look for various species of whale and abundant seabirds. Later this evening, chat with experts about the wildlife spotted today and discuss the next day’s itinerary.
At the end of Andvord Bay is a truly heavenly spot at the foot of a vast glacier; Neko Bay is without doubt one of most beautiful sites on the Antarctic Peninsula! It was discovered by the Belgian explorer Gerlache, during his Antarctic expedition from 1897-99. Mountains, snow, ice and nature in the wild combine to offer a unique landscape. The wildlife here is as abundant as it is exceptional, with gulls, Cape petrels and cormorants, as well as sea mammals such as seals, orcas and whales. Zodiac excursions bring you into the closest contact with the icebergs, or take you into the heart of the penguin colonies, or to observe a sea elephant lounging on the shore as the Antarctic terns wheel about overhead.
Shore excursions are carefully planned by the captain and expedition leader to take full advantage of each day's possibilities. On most days, two landings are scheduled. Head out in swift and versatile Zodiacs, guided by expert drivers and accompanied by lecturers, to a number of penguin-filled islands.
On the small island of Goudier, you will have the opportunity to visit Port Lockroy, discovered by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1903. Initially it served as a relief and repair base for whalers, but in 1944 Port Lockroy became a British base. It owes its name to Edouard Lockroy, a French politician and the partner of Jean-Baptiste Charcot during his expedition. You will be able to visit the small museum that retraces the life of the base in the 1950s. Since 1996, it has been open to the public during the short Southern Summer and is used for carrying out research on Gentoo Penguins. Nowadays, this base is the most visited site of the White Continent and, thanks to its little store and post office, it is the only place to offer you the opportunity to write to your friends and family and share this unique moment.
Nestled at the heart of the South Shetland Islands, in the north of the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is easy to recognise for its horseshoe shape. On the black sand of the volcanic beaches, there are remains of abandoned huts that have been overrun by the extraordinary wildlife, part of the treasure that Nature offers us there. It is on these beaches of ash that the largest colony of Chinstrap Penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula has taken up residence. Excursions aboard your Zodiac dinghies will allow you to set foot on this expanse of land where more than 100,000 pairs of penguins, Elephant Seals and Fur Seals live side by side.
A lengthy sail in the Weddell Sea will allow you to experience true silence, an extraordinary and enchanting atmosphere, unrivalled calm...You will discover a secret reserve of preserved treasure: Fur Seals, penguin colonies, Wandering Albatross and other giant Petrels. Here the huge icebergs and the endless ice cap sculpt a landscape beyond compare. The lord of the manor is known as the Weddell Seal. It is a record breaker, able to remain submerged for more than an hour. Its pelage is dark grey and it has a spotted belly. To maintain its access to the sea and be able to fish, the Weddell Seal has special teeth allowing it to make a hole in the thick ice.
The ship's return through the Drake Passage is an interlude for recap and reflection, with time to compare notes with your lecturers on the wildlife, history and geology of the White Continent. While cruising through this historic passage, named in honor of Sir Francis Drake's voyage in the 16th century, you may be able to spot whale and seabirds such as albatross and skua.
Le Boreal docks at Ushuaia this morning, where after breakfast, bid farewell to staff and crew and disembark for your continued journey.