As we board the Akademik Ioffe in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city at the tip of Argentina, and start to become familiar with 'our home' for the next 12 days, we cannot help but wonder about the exciting journey ahead of us. In the early evening, we set sail and begin our voyage leaving behind Ushuaia and charting a course through the Beagle Channel.
Day 2 - 3
Crossing the Drake Passage, there is so much excitement in the air as we make our way ever closer to the white continent. We soak up the friendly atmosphere onboard as our numerous Polar experts prepare us for our adventures with presentations on everything Antarctic from wildlife and exploration history to glaciers, and ice. Eventually, we will cross the Antarctic Convergence where we will notice a distinct drop in temperature as we enter the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Along the way, we will witness many spectacular sights from icebergs to an array of seabirds and maybe even whale and dolphin sightings.
We make our first landfall in the South Shetland Islands, a chain of islands known for their more maritime climate and abundance of wildlife. We will 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 we hope to visit Deception Island with a goal of visiting the Chinstrap penguin rookery at Baily Head. If weather precludes this we will 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.
Day 5 - 7
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. As we sail into the sound, we will look to our starboard and the vastness of the Antarctic icecap, imagining the sweeping Katabatic (gravitydriven) winds that this region is famous for. As we sail through the sound and into the Weddell Sea, the only discernable difference will be an increase in the number of large tabular icebergs and the presence of sea ice. Our goal will be to explore the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and its offshore islands. In particular this region is home to Adelie penguin rookeries of astonishing size. We will maximize our time onshore as well as in our 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, where we will observe Weddell and elephant seals and other seabirds as well as a shocking abundance of penguins. One of our excursions will be planned with the aim of landing on the physical continent of Antarctica itself and not just on an offshore island. There are a few landing spots that will fall into this category and, as we visit them, some of us may pause to consider the bravery and/or foolhardiness of those who travelled a hundred years before us. To gain a better appreciation of those explorers, some of us 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 we approach Elephant Island by ship, we will marvel at the incredible hardiness of the men of the Endurance expedition who sailed small boats to Elephant Island from the ice edge.Here, we will learn more about the famous Antarctic adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
This island was a place of refuge in 1916 for Shackleton and his crew after his ship was destroyed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea close to 100 years ago. Following the loss of their ship the 28 exhausted men reached Elephant Island after a harrowing ordeal on drifting ice floes. They established a camp at a place they called Point Wild, named after Frank Wild, Shackleton's second in command and the boss of the camp at Elephant Island. We will attempt a landing at this notoriously challenging landing site before continuing North to the Falkland Islands.
Day 9 - 10
While sailing across to the Falkland Islands our onboard polar experts will recap on our Weddell Sea adventures and prepare us for the day ahead. These days at sea are never dull. Much of our time is spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals as well as seabirds. Our friendly onboard experts continue to fill minds with heroic stories of some of the earliest daredevils to explore Antarctica.
We will 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 while Saunders Island has four species of breeding penguin including Gentoo, Magellanic, Rockhopper and our goal for the Falkland Island visit, the King penguin.
As we leave this magical place and make our way back towards Ushuaia we have no doubt that time will be spent sharing and reflecting on the wonderful experiences of the last few days. Sailing up the Beagle Channel, we celebrate the conclusion of our Polar expedition at a special dinner.
In the early morning, we will arrive back in Ushuaia. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.