Arrive at Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city. Established by Scottish settlers, its wealth of rich farmland means that sheep and dairy farms predominate. On arrival please make your own arrangements to transfer to the Kelvin Hotel in the city center. A detailed program will be available to you when you check in at reception. Dinner is at the hotel, providing an opportunity to meet fellow expeditioners.
Take breakfast at your leisure in the hotel dining room, then enjoy a visit to the Southland Museum to view the Subantarctic display before transferring to the Port of Bluff, 27 kilometers to the south of Invercargill, and board the Spirit of Enderby. Settle into your cabin and then join Expedition Staff and the Captain for orientation and a welcome on board. Once the ship has cleared customs set sail for the Snares Islands.
The closest Subantarctic Islands to New Zealand, they were appropriately called The Snares as they were once considered a hazard for passing ships. Comprising of two main islands and a smattering of rocky islets, they are uninhabited and highly protected.
North East Island is the largest of The Snares and, staggeringly, this one island is home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. Arrive early in the morning and cruise the rugged coastline by Zodiac if weather and sea conditions are suitable (landings are not permitted) along the sheltered eastern side. In sheltered bays, you should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguins, Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbirds. Cape Pigeons, Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Redbilled Gulls also abound. There are an estimated six million Sooty Shearwaters nesting on The Snares and Buller’s Albatross breed here from early January onwards. Cape Petrel can be identified on the imposing cliffs and overhead.
Named for the same distinguished shipping family as your own vessel and one of the most beautiful islands in the group, this is a great birding location and a chance to see everything from the famous Southern Royal Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel to parakeets, bellbirds and the endemic shag, teal and snipe. Sandy Bay is one of three breeding grounds on the Auckland Islands for the rare Hooker’s Sea Lion.
These islands have witnessed many a shipwreck in days gone by; loaded in human history, they harbour tales of castaways, bullion and coastwatchers through to today’s scientific visitors. Land in Carnley Harbour to visit the Shy Mollymawk colony and perhaps spot the beautiful Wandering Albatross spreading its huge wingspan above the cliffs. With an island named Disappointment and a mountain called the Tower of Babel this unique archipelago has to be seen to be believed.
Take the chance to learn more about the biology and history of the islands and the tempestuous Southern Ocean through informal lectures with your experts. Crossing the confluence of warmer and cooler waters at the Subantarctic Convergence you can expect to see a large number of pelagic species, including five or six kinds of albatross and petrel.
Spend two days exploring small pockets of this remote and relatively young island, the only
place on earth where mid-ocean crustal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates. It is also the only place in the world where the beautiful Royal Penguin breeds.
This remote outpost in the middle of the roaring westerly winds supports a breathtaking concentration of wildlife. You will never forget your first experience of a noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors and where you will be immersed in a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks, territorial disputes, petty pilfering and courtship displays.
Also cruise by a huge King Penguin colony in Lusitania Bay by Zodiac. Here the sheer numbers are to be seen to be believed and provide excellent photo opportunities of these majestic penguins. Two other species of penguin also breed on the island – Gentoo and Rockhopper. At Sandy Bay, a Royal Penguin rookery teems with feisty little birds trotting back and forth, golden head plumes bobbing as they march to and from the shore. All three million of the world’s Royal Penguins breed on Macquarie Island.
Soaring albatrosses and petrels circle the vessel as your ship steams south through the Southern Ocean. Lectures now concentrate on the Ross Sea region and, beyond the bows of the ship, drifting icebergs begin to appear in extraordinary shapes. Maneuvering in close for your first ice photographs pass the Antarctic Circle and into the continent’s realm of 24-hour daylight.
With unpredictable ice and weather conditions, a day-by-day itinerary is not possible but your expedition team will assess the conditions daily and take every opportunity to make landings and launch the Zodiacs. You can anticipate wildlife viewing, visits to scientific bases and historic sites, as well as the spectacular white and blue scenery. Hope to make landings in the follow areas:
A large flat spit of land, teeming with the staggering sight of Antarctica’s largest Adelie Penguin rookery: a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays. Curious penguins often come very close, offering superb photographic opportunities. Among the shifting mass of penguins you will find Carsten Borchgrevink’s Hut, the oldest in Antarctica, an overwintering shelter for the first expedition to the Antarctic continent in 1899.
The enormous Admiralty Range heralds your arrival; wild and extraordinary, the mountains rear up from the sea to over 4,000 meters, bounded by colossal glaciers. Land at an abandoned base site, now home to large numbers of Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals.
Terra Nova Bay:
An Italian research station where the scientists are always hospitable and enjoy showing you around their lonely but beautiful home. They share with you their scientific research and also, perhaps, the best ‘cafe espresso’ in Antarctica!
Desolately beautiful and rugged, this is home to a large Adelie Penguin population and other nesting seabirds. A landing will be attempted to explore the coastline.
Ross Ice Shelf:
The world’s largest body of floating ice and a natural barrier, at times creating hazardous weather, with sheets of snow blown at gale force by winds off the polar ice cap. Just 800 miles from the South Pole, this daunting spectacle prevented many early explorers from venturing further south. Cruise along its dizzying 30 metre ice cliffs, perhaps lucky enough to see icebergs ‘calving’ from its carapace.
Mt. Erebus/Cape Bird/Shackleton & Scott’s Hut. Drop in at a scientific field station and visit the preserved huts of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Informal lectures explain many facets of these amazing early expeditions and towering behind Scott’s hut broods Mt. Erebus, a monstrous active volcano named after the Ancient Greek God of Darkness.
Rarely-visited, small and rugged, these rocks support tens of thousands of penguins. Observe the birds’ busy and humorous activity, with the Admiralty Mountains forming a superb backdrop across the water.
En route to Campbell Island, take part in a series of lectures designed to prepare you for your visit tomorrow. Pelagic species abound here as they did en route to Macquarie Island earlier in your voyage. Above all, take the time to rest and enjoy shipboard life after the excitement of the Antarctic.
Drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour, an occasional refuge for Southern Right Whales who come here to calve. Walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross and see the strange and beautiful ‘mega herbs’ growing on the hills, huge wildflowers that have adapted to the harsh conditions, with unusual colorings and weirdly-shaped leaves. Seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Sea Lions.
At sea en route to the Port of Bluff, relax and reflect on a remarkable journey, join your experts for a recap of highlights and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight.
Finding final harbour once more in the Port of Bluff, disembark and your adventure ends as you are transferred to historic Invercargill city or to the airport. Fond farewells and memories will be long treasured.