This is your ultimate chance to sail to the southern parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Island, the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas into the Ross Sea, visiting Shackleton’s and Scott’s huts, Mc Murdo Station, the Dry Valleys and Campbell Island Island. This 33-day voyage offers opportunities to explore Antarctica by air with transfers to and from the ship in helicopters. Aboard the ice-class vessel, Ortelius, be prepared for true emotion and unforgettable memories on this Antarctic cruise.
Sail along the floating mass of land-ice known as the Ross Ice Shelf
Visit the United States' research center, McMurdo Station
See the largest colony of Adélie penguins in the world at Cape Adare
Follow the routes of Scott, Ross, Amundsen and Shackleton
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. Wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels are a few of the birds you might see.
Day 4: Antarctic Peninsula, Pendleton Strait | Renaud Island
You arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula near the Antarctic Circle in the afternoon. If sea ice allows it, you can then continue through Pendleton Strait and attempt a landing at the rarely visited southern tip of Renaud Island. Here you have the opportunity to see the first Adélie penguins of the trip as well as enjoy spectacular views of the icebergs in this surreal, snow-swept environment.
Peter I Island (or in Norwegian Peter I Øy) is an uninhabited volcanic island (19 kilometers long) in the Bellingshausen Sea. It was discovered by Fabian von Bellingshausen in 1821 and was named after the Russian Tsar Peter I. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory on its own. It is very rarely visited by passenger vessels due to the exposed nature of the place. If the weather conditions allow, attempt a helicopter landing on the glaciated northern part of the island.
You then sail through the Amundsen Sea, moving along and through the outer fringes of the pack ice. Ice conditions are never the same from year to year, though we aim to take advantage of the opportunities that arise if sea ice is present. Emperor penguins, groups of seals lounging on the ice floes, orca and minke whales along the ice edge, and different species of fulmarine petrels are possible sights in this area.
Day 15-17: Ross Ice Shelf | Cross the International Date Line
The next goal is to enter the Ross Sea from the east, venturing south toward the Bay of Whales and close to Roosevelt Island (named in 1934 by the American aviator Richard E. Byrd for President Franklin D. Roosevelt). The Bay of Whales is part of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in the world, and is constantly changing with the receding ice masses. Large icebergs are present here, along with great wildlife opportunities. Roald Amundsen gained access to the shelf en route to the South Pole, which he reached on December 14, 1911. Also, the Japanese explore Nobu Shirase had his camp in this area in 1912, at Kainan Bay. You may make a helicopter landing on the ice shelf if conditions allow. During this part of the voyage, we will also cross the International Date Line.
In the Ross Sea your captain intends to visit Ross Island, guarded by Mount Erebus, Mount Terror, and Mount Byrd with all the famous spots which played such an important role in the dramatic British expeditions of the last century, such as Cape Royds with the cabin of Ernest Shackleton. The goal is to visit Cape Evans with the cabin of Robert Falcon Scott; from Hut Point Scott and his men set out for the South Pole. Further attempts will be made to visit the US-station McMurdo and Scott Base (New Zealand). If ice and weather conditions are favorable, the helicopters will be used to offer landings.
From McMurdo Station a substantial 10 km hike to Castle Rock may be offered, with great views across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. Land by helicopter in Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys. The conditions here are the closest you get to the conditions on Mars anywhere on Planet Earth!
Sailing north along the west coast of the Ross Sea, you pass the Drygalski Ice Tongue and Terra Nova Bay. If ice conditions allow, you then land at Inexpressible Island, which has a fascinating history in connection to the less-known Northern Party of Captain Scott’s expedition. It is also home to a large Adélie penguin rookery. Should sea ice prevent entry into Terra Nova Bay, you may head farther north to the protected area of Cape Hallett and its own Adélie rookery.
Cape Adare is the place where people for the very first time wintered on the Antarctic Continent. The hut where the Norwegian Borchgrevink stayed in 1899 is surrounded by the largest colony of Adélie penguins in the world.
Sailing through the sea ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea, you start your journey north through the Southern Ocean. The goal is to set a course for the Balleny Islands, depending on weather conditions.
Macca, also known as Macquarie Island, is a Tasmanian State Reserve that in 1997 became a World Heritage Site. The Australian Antarctic Division has its permanent base on this island, which Australian sealer Frederick Hasselborough discovered while searching for new sealing grounds. The fauna on Macquarie is fantastic, and there are colonies of king, gentoo, and southern rockhopper penguins – as well as almost one million breeding pairs of the endemic royal penguin. Elephant seals and various fur seal species, such as the New Zealand fur seal, are also present.
The plan today is to visit the sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Campbell Island, enjoying its luxuriantly blooming vegetation. The fauna on Campbell Island is also a highlight, with a large and easily accessible colony of southern royal albatrosses on the main island. Breeding on the satellite islands are wandering, Campbell, grey-headed, black-browed, and light-mantled albatrosses. There are also three breeding penguin species present: eastern rockhopper, erect-crested, and yellow-eyed penguins. In the 18th century, seals in the area were hunted to extinction, but the elephant seals, fur seals, and sea lions have since recovered.
Take in the vast horizons of your final sea day before you reach New Zealand.
Day 33: Disembark | Bluff, New Zealand
Every adventure, no matter how sublime, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Bluff, the southernmost town in New Zealand, and return home with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.