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Emperor penguins in Antarctica

Mawson’s Antarctica

Australia - New Zealand - Example 24 Day Cruise aboard Douglas Mawson
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Join a 24-day adventure to explore the remote East Antarctica, tracing Sir Douglas Mawson's historic Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Cruise the pack ice, see towering ice cliffs and icebergs, and watch Adélie and emperor penguins along the icy shores. Explore Mawson's primary base in Commonwealth Bay, and encounter nesting royal albatross, the endangered yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho), and lush megaherb meadows in the New Zealand subantarctic islands. This trip offers a unique glimpse into the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and is an unforgettable experience for all those seeking the wonders of the world's last true frontiers.
Colorful boats in Hobart Harbor, TasmaniaAdelie penguins jumping into seaAdelie penguins wandering through the ice.A quiet morning near DunedinCoastal beauty of DunedinEmperor penguins in Antarctica
Highlights
  • Cruise through pack ice, towering ice cliffs and icebergs
  • Witness Adélie and emperor penguins as they frolic along the icy shores
  • Explore Mawson's primary base in Commonwealth Bay
  • Encounter royal albatross and the endangered yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho)
Places Visited
Activity Level: Variable
Activity options vary depending on destination and operator. Activity level is determined by the range and intensity of activities you choose to participate in. Discuss with your Trip Planner which options are best for you.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Hobart

  • 1 Dinner
Upon arrival in Hobart, you're met by a representative and escorted to your designated pre-voyage hotel. If you're already in Hobart, you're asked to make your way to your hotel independently. This afternoon, visit the hospitality desk in the lobby to collect your luggage tags. Remember to label them clearly with your name and ship cabin number. The team confirms details regarding your embarkation day, answers any questions you have, and provides information on where to dine or purchase last-minute items.

Tonight, you enjoy light refreshments as you meet your fellow expeditioners at a Welcome Reception and Pre-Embarkation Briefing. Afterward, you have the evening to explore Australia’s southernmost capital city. You might choose to indulge in a sumptuous meal at one of Hobart’s celebrated restaurants or perhaps enjoy a leisurely stroll along the historic waterfront.

Your accommodation assignment will be provided at a later time.

Day 2: Hobart| Embark

This morning, enjoy your breakfast and complete the check-out process. Make sure your cabin luggage is equipped with cabin tags clearly marked with your name and cabin number. By 11.00 am, take your cabin luggage to the hotel reception before or during check-out. Your luggage will be stored and directly transferred to the port for clearance, ready to be placed in your cabin upon your arrival on board. Keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day.

Your morning is yours to explore Hobart at your leisure.

Settle into your exquisitely appointed cabin and explore the various public spaces designed with your comfort in mind. This luxurious vessel is here for your enjoyment! As travelers cast off and sail down the Derwent River, join your expedition team on deck to take in panoramic views of the Hobart foreshore and the dramatic fluted columns of the Tasman Peninsula. From Storm Bay, chart a southerly course, retracing the journey of the vessel Aurora, which transported Sir Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) a century ago.

Day 3-5: At Sea

On an expedition such as this, the journey is as significant as the destination. Sea days are a wonderful opportunity to relax, meet your fellow travellers and learn about the history, environment and local wildlife in this fascinating corner of the globe. 

As you acclimatise to life on board, your expedition team is available to answer any questions you may have and offer pro-tips on photography and birdwatching. With decades of collective experience in the region, they love to share their expertise and enthusiasm with fellow travellers. Specialists across a range of fields will offer entertaining talks and presentations on the local wildlife and history, which you won’t want to miss!

Once you’ve settled in, you may like to pamper yourself with a sauna, or work out at the onboard gym. For the bookworms, the well-equipped polar library is the perfect place to while away the hours at sea, and the bar is a vibrant social hub to get to know your fellow expeditioners.

As you take in the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean, spare a thought for Mawson and his party, who made this transit aboard the Aurora, a wooden vessel no longer than an Olympic swimming pool! Mawson reported sightings of many whales and albatross in these waters, so spend some time out on deck with your binoculars - or grab a ‘cuppa’ and find a vantage point in one of the spacious observation lounges.

Day 6-7: New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

“Penguins were in thousands on the uprising cliffs, and from rookeries near and far came an incessant din . . . seabirds of many varieties gave warning of our near approach to their nests” Douglas Mawson, 1911.

As they sailed towards Antarctica, Mawson and his men encountered ‘an exquisite scene’. Macquarie Island (known affectionately as Macca) rises steeply from the Southern Ocean in a series of emerald summits: a beautifully fierce, elemental landscape teeming with life.   

Keep your binoculars handy because this subantarctic refuge is home to 3.5 million breeding seabirds, including no less than four species of penguin! Alongside boisterous colonies of tuxedoed kings, charming gentoos, robust rockhoppers and endemic royal penguins, you’ll find three types of fur seals and a large proportion of the world’s elephant seals. Layer up and head out on deck to experience the sound, sight (and smell!) as you approach one of the largest concentrations of life in the Southern Ocean.

Remember to keep an eye out for Macca’s kelp forests—these remarkable underwater ecosystems are quite mesmerising as their fronds sway back and forth on the water’s surface.

In addition to being a globally recognised and protected wildlife refuge, Macquarie Island played an important role in Antarctic history. It was here, in 1911, that five men disembarked Mawson’s Aurora and established a radio relay station which would transmit the first communication from Antarctica to the outside world.

Day 8-10: At Sea

As Macquarie Island slips over the horizon, keep watch for wandering, grey-headed, black-browed and light-mantled albatross, which may follow the ship to bid you farewell as you continue south.

Close observers may notice a subtle change in the character of the sea as you cross the Antarctic Convergence. Beyond this zone where the waters of the north and south mix, the sea surface temperature drops by about 4°C (39°F), signalling your entry into the Antarctic. Mawson reported spotting ‘innumerable’ birds in these waters, so keep watch for porpoising penguins, flocks of fluttering Antarctic petrels, or perhaps the more solitary snow petrel. You’re not far from the Antarctic Circle, so your first iceberg can’t be far away!

Sea days are a great opportunity for some R & R as you digest your subantarctic experiences and prepare for the next phase of your voyage. Relax and unwind your way, perhaps meeting newfound friends at the bar, treating yourself to a sauna, or editing some images in the comfort of your cabin.

Continue along the path taken by the Aurora in 1911, join your expedition team in the lecture room for presentations about Antarctic ice, wildlife, and of course the remarkable story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Led by Australian geologist and explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, the expedition successfully charted vast swathes of previously explored Antarctic coastline, and over 6000 kilometres of the interior. Despite its tremendous contribution to the advancement of Antarctic science, the expedition is perhaps best known for its nail-biting tales of triumph and tragedy. Hear the story of the extraordinary sledge journey undertaken by Mawson, Ninnis and Mertz, and rediscover why this remains one of the most incredible polar survival stories of all time.

Day 11-13: East Antarctic Coast

The tranquility of the water heightened the superb effects of this glacial world. Majestic tabular bergs, lofty spires, radiant turrets . . .  illumined by pale green light within whose fairy labyrinths the water washed’. Douglas Mawson

When Captain John King Davis skillfully steered the Aurora through heavy pack ice in 1912, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition became the first to chart this stretch of coastline. As you sail into these waters over a century later, you are entering one of the most inaccessible and seldom-visited parts of Antarctica.

Find a spot on deck as the Captain navigates carefully through glittering fields of frozen ocean, or rug up for a Zodiac cruise through the pack, keeping watch for elegant emperor penguins, sweet-faced Weddell seals resting on ice, and the unmistakable ‘pouf’ of an orca’s exhalation. Embrace the spirit of exploration as your expedition team designs your voyage from day to day, bringing decades of experience to selecting the ideal sites based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.

Day 14-15: Commonwealth Bay

“Seals and penguins on magic gondolas were the silent denizens of this dreamy Venice. In the soft glamour of the midsummer midnight sun, we were possessed by a rapturous wonder—the rare thrill of unreality.” Douglas Mawson

For many expeditioners, approaching Commonwealth Bay evokes a profound sense of awe and humility. This is where Mawson and his men established their Main Base, on the shores of a ‘beautiful, miniature harbour’ at the foot of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Imagine their dismay when they realised that their ice-free oasis lay directly in the path of fierce katabatic winds, which rushed like rapids off the Polar Plateau! Despite its unfortunate position, Main Base housed eighteen expedition members for up to two years in this bay Mawson dubbed the ‘Home of the Blizzard’.

Katabatic winds and ice permitting, make landfall on the storied shores of Cape Denison, where several of the huts of Mawson’s Main Base still stand. The Magnetograph House and the Main Hut, where the men lived and worked, remain largely intact despite over a century of exposure to the elements. Bleached pine cladding bears witness to the passage of time, and ice drifts partially fill the huts, the past literally frozen in time. Scientific instruments and scattered personal items provide an intimate glance into the austere daily lives of Mawson and his men.

In addition to being the site of Mawson’s huts, Cape Denison provides a rare ice-free refuge for Antarctic wildlife, including nesting Adélie penguins, snow petrels and Wilson’s storm petrels. Weddell, elephant and leopard seals regularly haul out to rest on the rocky shores. You may like to wander along pebbly beaches, or perhaps ramble up a snow-covered ridge to a vantage point over this spectacularly monochrome landscape.

Before leaving East Antarctica, the Captain will attempt to manoeuvre into position over the South Magnetic Pole. Spare a thought for Mawson who, accompanied by fellow Australian geologist T.W Edgeworth David and Scottish doctor Alistair Mackay, undertook a gruelling three month march to become the first to stand in the vicinity of the South Magnetic Pole in January 1909. Conveniently, the Pole has since migrated out to sea, so travelers can celebrate its attainment with a glass of bubbly in the comfort of the ship’s bar!

Day 16-19: At Sea

Leave the grandeur of the ice to the seals and penguins and head northwards, but the voyage is far from over. In the days ahead there is plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the life that calls it home. If the mood takes you, join your expedition team in the lecture room for presentations and polar film showings, or meet your new travel mates in the bar, library or observation deck to reminisce on your Antarctic experiences.

These days at sea also offer time and space to reflect on the emotions and special moments you’ve lived over the past two weeks. You may like to review your photos, jot some notes in a journal, mark your passage on a map, and reflect on your journey so far.   

As you approach the rugged New Zealand subantarctic islands you have a rare opportunity to spot the endemic white-capped mollymawk (a type of albatross) in flight. The largest of the mollymawk family, over ninety percent of its population breeds on the Auckland Islands. Keep an eye out also for the playful New Zealand sea lion and southern right whale, which are known to frolic in these waters.

Day 20-22: New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

Scattered across the Southern Ocean 465 kilometers (300 miles) south of New Zealand, these islands have been visited by Polynesian and Māori navigators for centuries, and are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand’s South Island. Here you have the opportunity to witness a finely tuned subantarctic ecosystem populated by unique endemic species such as the yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) and Campbell mollymawk.

Day 23: At Sea

As your journey draws to a close, take some time to reflect on the experiences of the past few weeks. Perhaps take some time to organise your photos, jot some more notes in your journal or simply relax and soak up the ambiance on board as you farewell your travel mates . . . until next time!   

 

Day 24: Dunedin | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, farewell your expedition team and fellow passengers as travelers all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.

Note: At the conclusion of the voyage, it is not recommended booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.

Ship/Hotel

Douglas Mawson

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$30,595 2-3 travelers
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Aurora Stateroom Single
Cabin size: 9.85m2 (106ft2) There are two Aurora Stateroom Single cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
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Aurora Stateroom Superior Single
Deck 3 Cabin size: 15.18m2 (163.4ft2) Deck 7 Cabin size: 10.97m2 (118.1ft2 ) There are four Aurora Stateroom Superior Single cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Decks 3 & 7.
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
Cabin size: 22.57m2 (242.9ft2) There are two Aurora Stateroom Triple cabins featuring portholes, both with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
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Aurora Stateroom Twin
Cabin size: 15.37m² - 15.97m² (165.4ft² - 171.9ft²) The Douglas Mawson features two Aurora Stateroom Twin cabins featuring windows, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms, perfect for adventurers who are looking for a comfortable base that's close to the action.
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Aurora Stateroom Superior
Cabin size: 13.97m2 - 16.17m2 (150.4ft2 - 174.1ft2) With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Aurora Stateroom Superior are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear. Located on Deck 7, the Staterooms feature french balconies, floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area.
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Balcony Stateroom Category C
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Category B
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Category A
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Superior
Cabin & balcony combined size: 27.77m2 - 36.27m2 (298.9ft2 - 390.4ft2) With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Balcony Stateroom Superior cabins are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear.
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Junior Suite
Cabin & balcony combined size: Up to 41.47m2 - 41.87m2 (446.4ft2 - 450.7ft2) The four Junior Suites take in some impressive scenery from their vantage points on Deck 7. When you aren't enjoying a landing, you can relax in the suites' separate lounge area, or just watch the world float by from the private balcony.
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Captain’s Suite
Cabin & balcony combined size: 45.22m2 (486.7ft2) The largest of all our rooms, the singular Captain's Suite will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, you'll need to get in early to secure this suite.
Included
  • 23 Breakfasts, 22 Lunches, 23 Dinners
  • 23 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Beer, House Wine, and Soft Drinks with Dinner 
  • Educational Lectures and Guiding Services from Expedition Team 
  • Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consult)
  • Port Surcharges, Permits, and Landing Fees
  • Captain's Welcome and Farewell drinks including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • A 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket
  • Complimentary use of Muck boots during the voyage
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
  • All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • Airport Departure Tax - Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, Wi-Fi, email or phone charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • Reciprocity and Vaccination Charges
  • Passengers traveling with Aurora Expeditions are required to be covered by a reputable travel insurance policy that includes baggage loss, cancellation & curtailment of the holiday, medical, accident, and repatriation/emergency evacuation coverage worth at least $250,000 USD.

Map

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