Today is the first day of your adventure. As you board the Akademik Ioffe in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city at the tip of Argentina, and start to become familiar with your new "home" for the next 12 days one cannot help but wonder about the exciting journey ahead. In the early evening, set sail and begin your voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
Crossing the Drake Passage, there is so much excitement in the air as you make your way ever closer to the white continent. Soak up the friendly atmosphere onboard as the ship's numerous Polar experts prepare you for the upcoming adventures with presentations on everything Antarctic from wildlife and exploration history to glaciers and ice. Eventually, cross the Antarctic Convergence where you will notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Along the way, witness many spectacular sights from icebergs to an array of seabirds and maybe even whale and dolphin sightings.
Make your first landfall in the South Shetland Islands, a chain of islands known for their more maritime climate and abundance of wildlife. Cruise these volcanic islands in search of chinstrap penguin rookeries, perhaps the wafting ‘steam’ of a southern elephant seal wallow or the signs of exploration left on the beaches in the form of tri-pots and abandoned whaling stations.
Weather permitting visit Deception Island with a goal of visiting the chinstrap penguin rookery at Baily Head. If weather precludes this attempt a landing inside this active volcanic caldera. With rugged scenery, great sites of geologic interest and an overwhelming display of whaling and scientific exploration history, Deception Island is a perfect museum of natural and exploration history. For those wanting to stretch their legs, a spectacular hike to the crater rim offers a challenge.
At about 25 nautical miles long and about 10 nautical miles wide, the Antarctic Sound separates Joinville Island from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Sailing into the sound, look to starboard and to take in the vastness of the Antarctic icecap and imagine the sweeping katabatic (gravity-driven) winds that this region is famous for.
The only discernible difference as you sail into the Weddell Sea will be an increase in the number of large tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. The aim here is to explore the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and its offshore islands. This region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of astonishing size. Maximize your time onshore as well as in your inflatable landing craft, absorbing as much of the wilderness and beauty as possible. Planned excursions may include Paulet Island, Brown Bluff and even the southerly Snow Hill Island, observing Weddell and elephant seals and other seabirds as well as a shocking abundance of penguins.
One of the excursions aims to land on the physical continent of Antarctica itself and not just on an offshore island. There are a few landing spots that fall into this category and, as you visit them, you may pause to consider the bravery and/or foolhardiness of those who traveled a hundred years before. To gain a better appreciation of those explorers, some may choose to camp ashore overnight. Whatever your vantage point, whether onboard or from shore, expect to feel transformed as you experience twilight from the very bottom of the planet.
As you approach Elephant Island by ship, marvel at the incredible hardiness of the men of the Endurance expedition who sailed small boats to Elephant Island from the ice edge. Their landfall at a tiny outcropping on the North shore of Elephant Island must have been a marvelous feeling for them. The landing site is called Point Wild, named after Frank Wild who was Shackleton’s second in command and the boss of the camp on Elephant Island. Attempt a landing at this notoriously challenging site before continuing North to the Falklands.
While sailing across to the Falkland Islands, onboard polar experts recap your Weddell Sea adventures and prepare you for the days ahead. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready as you scan the horizon for whales, marine mammals, and seabirds.
Explore the islands of West Point and Saunders, both in the West Falklands Archipelago. West Point is known for its bustling rookeries of rockhopper penguins whilst Saunders Island has four species of breeding penguin including gentoo, Magellanic, rockhopper and your goal for the Falkland Island visit, the king penguin.
Spend a day at sea as you sail back to Ushuaia. Celebrate the conclusion of your Polar Expedition at a special dinner on board while cruising through the Beagle Channel.
Arrive in Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark after breakfast. Transfer either to your hotel or the airport, depending on your independent onward travels.