Antarctic Peninsula, Peter I Øy, Ross Sea & Subantarctic Islands
'The trip of a lifetime' is an overdone expression but one which could really apply here. Leaving from Ushuaia at the bottom of South America, the first experience is to sail through the Drake Passage and on down to the Antarctic Peninsula. Now that, in itself, could fit the description above. But, instead of being satisfied and thrilled and going home, instead you continue, heading east through the Amundsen and Ross Seas, hugging the Ross Ice Shelf before turning north.
Our trip then continues north-east to the subantarctic Unesco World Heritage Site of Campbell Island, with its with a luxuriant and blooming vegetation, Albatross colonies and three species of penguin, before concluding the 31-day expedition in Bluff, New Zealand.
Throughout the voyage the scenery and wildlife will be spectacular and the areas we visit are monuments to the great explorers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. All aspects of the experience will be enhanced by knowledgeable and experienced expedition staff who not only guide shore excursions but also give regular lectures on a wide variety of subjects.
The trip is full of highlights, too numerous to mention as are the islands which we will explore which include, among many others, Peter 1st Island and Ross Island with its dramatic mountains - Erebus, Terror and Bird - and famous spots which played such an important role in the British expeditions of the last century.
Working on the principal of "what goes up must come down" the ship will return to Ushuaia by the same route and so, if you prefer, you can join in New Zealand and return from South America.
This itinerary is for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions, the availability of landing sites and opportunities to see wildlife. The final itinerary will be determined by the Expedition Leader on board. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.
In the afternoon, we embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located at the Beagle Channel and sail through this scenic waterway for the rest of the evening. Voyage OTL27 starts in Invercargill, New Zealand and offers the same itinerary as described hereunder, but in reverse.
Days 2 & 3
At sea enroute to the Antarctic Peninsula.
We arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula and sail in the early morning through the spectacular Lemaire Channel and land on Pléneau Island, where Elephant Seals haul-out on the beaches. Gentoo Penguins, Kelp Gulls and South Polar Skuas are confirmed breeders. Pléneau Island was first charted by the French Antarctic Expedition of 1903-05 of Jean-Baptiste Charcot and was named after his expedition's photographer Paul Pléneau. We will also visit Petermann Island with colonies of Adélie and Gentoo Penguins and Imperial Cormorants (Blue-eyed Shags). Petermann Island was named after the German geographer August Petermann who was a member of a German Expedition in 1873-74.
Sailing south through the Penola Strait, we cross the Polar Circle and arrive at the Fish Islands. The small islands lying east of Flouder Island are called the Minnows, first charted by the British Graham Land Expedition (1934-37) of John Rymill. Detaille Island was discovered by the French expedition of Charcot (1903-05) and named for a share holder in the Magellan Whaling Company. From 1956 till 1959, The British Antarctic Survey had their "Station W" located on Detaille Island. On both locations we may observe Adélie Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags.
Days 6 & 7
Sailing through the Bellingshausen Sea, where we may see our first pack-ice.
Peter I Island, or in Norwegian Peter I Øy, is an uninhabited volcanic island (19 kilometres 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 by its own. It is sporadically visited by passenger vessels. On earlier landings made by an Oceanwide office staff member he saw groups of Elephant Seals and colonies of Southern Fulmars and Cape Pigeons.
These days we sail through the Amundsen Sea along and through the outer fringes of the pack-ice, which - depending of ice-conditions - will give us glimpses of the Antarctic Continent. As we sail along and through the ice we'll be hoping for sightings of single straggling Emperor Penguins, groups of seals on ice-floes, and also Orca and Minke Whales along the ice-edge, often accompanied by different species of petrels. If the sea-ice allows, we will try to land on Shephard Island in Marie Byrd Land among colonies of Chinstrap Penguins and South Polar Skua's. Shephard Island was discovered by the US Antarctic Expeditions (USAE) of 1939-41 and was named after one of the promoters of this expedition: John Shephard.
We approach the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating mass of land-ice, with a front of 30 meters high. In the Bay of Whales at the eastern side of the shelf, close to Roosevelt Island, Roald Amundsen gained access to the Shelf and ventured to the South Pole, where he finally arrived on 14 December 1911. For us it is perhaps a chance to climb on the shelf as well.
We spend the day sailing alongside the Ross Ice Shelf.
In the Ross Sea we intend to visit Ross Island, guarded by Mount Erebus, Mount Terror and Mount Bird 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. We also intend to visit Cape Evans with the cabin of Robert Falcon Scott; from Hut Point Scott and his men set out for the South Pole. We will further make attempts to visit the US-station McMurdo and Scott Base (New Zealand). If ice and weather conditions are favourable, we will use the helicopters to offer landings. From Castle Rock we will have a great view across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. We will have a view into Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, where on our planet you are closest to the conditions on Mars. For the Dry Valleys we plan to use our helicopters. This is just one example of helicopter use during this epic voyage.
Days 22 & 23
Sailing northward along the eastern west coast of the Ross Sea ,we pass by the Drygalski Ice Tongue and the Italian Station in Terra Nova Bay and further Cape Hallet.
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.
Working our way through the sea-ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea.
We sail along Scott Island.
Days 27 - 29
Campbell Island is a subantarctic New Zealand Reserve and an Unesco World Heritage Site, with a luxuriant and blooming vegetation. The fauna on Campbell Island is fantastic with a large and easily accessible colony of Southern Royal Albatrosses on the main island and breeding Wandering, Campbell, Greyheaded, Blackbrowed, and Lightmantled Sooty Albatrosses on the satellite islands. Also three penguin species, Eastern Rockhopper, Erect-Crested and Yellow-Eyed Penguins breed here. In the 18th century seals were hunted to extinction, but Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Sea Lions have recovered.
We arrive in Bluff (New Zealand) where passengers depart for their homebound journey.
Voyage OTL26 ends in Ushuaia, Argentina on 13 March 2015 and starts in Bluff, New Zealand and offers the same itinerary as described above, but in reverse.
During those voyages we will transfer our passengers ashore by zodiac. But, we will surely also operate our two helicopters if zodiacs can not be used. Potential candidates for helicopter transfers are Peter I Island, The Ross Ice-shelf, the Dry Valleys, Mc Murdo Station, Cape Evans (hut of Scott) and Cape Royds (hut of Shackleton). In theory we plan on five helicopter based landings, but a specific amount of helicopter time can not be predicted. The use of helicopters is a great advantage and can support us in our goal to reach certain landing sites, that otherwise are almost inaccessible. But, this is a true expedition and we operate our itinerary in the world's most remote area, ruled by the forces of nature, weather and ice conditions. Conditions may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter operation and passengers should understand and accept this. Safety is our greatest concern and no compromises can be made. No guarantees can be given and no claims will be accepted. The vessel is equipped with two helicopters, but in the case that one helicopter is unable to fly due to for example a technical failure, the helicopter operation will cease or even be cancelled, due to the fact that one helicopter always needs to be supported by a second operational helicopter. No guarantees can be given and in no event will claims be accepted.
Special note: crossing the Date Line:
Both OTL25 and OTL26 have a total duration of 31 nights / 32 days. However, looking at the starting and ending dates of the voyages, it "seems" that OTL25 has duration of 32 nights and OTL26 of 30 nights. This is explained by the fact that we cross the "date line" at 180 degrees longitude. Travelling on OTL25 and crossing the International Date Line, results in a day being added and on OTL26 results in a day being subtracted. In any case, the duration of the voyage is still 31 nights / 32 days for both voyages.