Active Exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctica is the last wild, unspoiled place on earth, the largest, purest wilderness we know, the only continent that has been almost free of human contact since the beginning of time. It is a realm whose beauty is so spectacular and otherworldly that it often leaves visitors speechless.
And on the Antarctic Peninsula, a 700-mile-long finger of land pointing toward the tip of South America, it's not just the breathtaking scenery that beckons, it's also the spectacular display of wildlife. Thousands of penguins and countless other seabirds such as petrels, skuas, and albatross. There is also an abundance of marine mammals in this region of Antarctica, including most of the world's great whale species and many kinds of seals.
Aboard a small, maneuverable ice-class expedition ship and in the company of a team of expert naturalist guides, you'll journey south to the "last continent" for an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience that may change your life forever.
Easy ship travel, optional walks and Zodiac rides. (Optional sea kayaking and camping)
- A once-in-a-lifetime experience to the "last continent," the most remote destination on earth
- See a spectacular wonderland of mountains, glaciers, icebergs and wildlife in a pristine environment
- Interactive Antarctica on an expedition-style ship - not from the deck of a huge cruise ship!
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Ushuaia End Location: UshuaiaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Ushuaia - Board ship and set sail
Situated at the base of a stunning mountain range, jagged mountains tower above Ushuaia’s small harbor. Be sure to arrive the day before boarding the ship, so that this morning, you will have time to explore this charming town. In the mid-afternoon, gather for an orientation briefing. Afterwards, transfer by bus to the dock for embarkation in the late afternoon. Once on board, we’ll get together for introductions to the expedition team, learn a bit about the ship and its layout, talk about our itinerary, and participate in a safety and lifeboat drill. Then, with a glass of champagne in hand, we begin our journey to Antarctica with a scenic sail through the Beagle Channel, then enter the waters of the Drake Passage.
Days 2 - 3 : At sea, crossing the Drake Passage
Continue to sail across the 620 miles of the Drake Passage, passing over the Antarctic Convergence. Here the cold waters of the Antarctic meet the warmer seas of the Atlantic, and the surfacing nutrients attract a variety of species of seabirds and whales. The Drake Passage is noted as being some of the most treacherous water on the planet. Crossings can be rough, but are usually tolerable (Dramamine helps!). During the voyage, we’ll be entertained by numerous lectures, movies, and slide show presentations on what we’re about to experience. As we get closer to the Peninsula we will feel and see the change: the cool, fresh air; the huge, tabular icebergs; and the wandering albatross, cape petrels, and other birds that thrive in this cold, remote ocean.The first icebergs and the South Shetland Islands will appear on the horizon in the afternoon of Day 4.
Days 4 - 8 : Explore the islands, bays, and channels of the Antarctic Peninsula
In the waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula, we will hope to make as much time as possible to explore by inflatable Zodiac boats and marvel up close at nature's glory. Planned excursions might include Neko Harbour, Wilhelmina Bay and even the southerly Petermann Island, where we will observe Weddell, crabeater and elephant seals, skuas and other seabirds as well as a shocking abundance of penguins including some very large colonies of the comical Adelie penguin. At Half Moon Island we will observe a breeding colony of chinstrap penguins that share their territory with fur seals and blue-eyed shags. We also hope to see the gentle humpback whale dining on krill in its feeding grounds and possibly have an opportunity to observe orcas and Minke whales as we go.
We arrive on the continent of Antarctica at Paradise Harbour or Neko Harbour. Prepare to be dazzled by your first glimpse of the continent. The scenery here is amazing. In particular we will be struck by the oddly-shaped icebergs that look like sculptures, as well as the colossal 'tabular' icebergs that break away from the continent's ice shelf. We hope the weather will be mild enough to allow us all to step foot on the White Continent itself. Some may wish to camp on shore overnight. Whatever your vantage point, whether it is onboard or onshore expect to feel transformed as you experience twilight from the very bottom of the planet.
We cruise among the islands and into the bays and channels of the Antarctic Peninsula, and venture ashore by Zodiac for walks among the wildlife whenever possible. Many factors play a role in shaping the expedition’s progress. Our goal is to give you the best possible active experience based on prevailing wind, weather, and ice conditions. We attempt to leave the ship to explore at least twice a day. Perhaps you’ll feelsalt spray on your face as the Zodiac weaves in and around grounded icebergs, or you could scramble to the top of a craggy hill for an unforgettable view of an icy chasm. Over the course of the austral spring and summer, the sun lingers longer and longer, melting snow and ice. Wildlife grows in abundance: chicks hatch and fledge, and pods of whales breach in a deep bay where a calving iceberg has churned up krill, the local delicacy. The natural cycle of life ensures that every expedition is different. And that every expedition is full of surprises!
Landing sites vary, of course, depending on the weather and other conditions, but our favorite places include the following:
Half Moon Island (62° 36’S, 059° 55’W) East side of Livingston Island
Right in the heart of the South Shetland Islands, the crescent-shaped Half Moon Island is located in a protected passage between Greenwich and Roberts Islands. The island was known to sealers, if no one else, as early as 1821 (sealers were notorious for keeping secret the location of valuable sites). Spectacular mountains tower all around the island, and many Antarctic birds breed here—including a colony of Chinstrap Penguins, in addition to blue eyed shags, Wilson’s Stormpetrels, Kelp Gulls, Snowy Sheathbills, Antarctic Terns and Skua—all who share their territory with fur seals.
Deception Island is one of the few flooded volcanic calderas in the world that large ships may sail into and anchor. There are numerous anchorages within the caldera:
Whaler’s Bay (62° 59’S, 060° 34’W)
To reach Whaler’s Bay it is necessary to sail through a narrow passage called Neptune’s Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931. We can explore rusting remains of abandoned whaling operations along on the beach, hike up volcanic slopes to view volcanic lakes, and even bathe in steaming thermal waters along the shore if the conditions are right.
On the outside of Deception Island is Bailey Head, where more than 100,000 chinstrap penguins pairs make their home, sometimes nesting nearly to the top of the crater rim itself. Because of the steep black sand beach, sea conditions must be just right for safe landings at Baily Head.
Paradise Bay (64° 53’S, 62° 52’W)
Its name is appropriate, as it is one of the Antarctic Peninsula’s best known scenic locations! Here we can make a landing on the continent itself, and enjoy panoramic views from the top of a hill (and have fun sliding back down!). There is also great Zodiac cruising along the cliffs to see nesting seabirds, and whales are often seen in the bay. One of the highlights is taking a Zodiac ride around fantastic ice sculptures—“bergy bits” that have broken off of icebergs and been sculpted by wind and water into amazing shapes, with deep blue inner cores and turquoise bases. It is a spectacular place for viewing and photographing the surrounding glaciers and ice bergs—from the shore, ship, and Zodiac!
Orne Harbor (64° 37’S, 62° 32’W)
A steep climb to the summit of Orne Island, located on the east side of the Gerlache Strait, provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the strait and the surrounding islands and mountains. Some chinstrap penguins nest at the very top! These are the “mountain climbers” of the penguin world, preferring a “room with a view” from the top of the cliffs.
Cuverville Island (64° 41’S, 062° 38’W) Errera Channel
We visit the largest gentoo penguin colony on the peninsula at Cuverville (approximately 20,000 nest here!), situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach that extends to a steep cliff that absorbs the summer sun. A Scott Polar Institute research group monitored the impact of tourism on the penguins for three years; the study ended in February 1995. Southern Giant Petrels, Kelp Gulls, and Antarctic Terns also breed on the island. We can also cruise by Zodiac (and sea kayak) among the large bergs; we sometimes see humpback whales feeding just offshore, and curious leopard seals check us out in the Zodiacs. Small coveys of gentoos sometimes swim by, their soft calls producing background music to the setting.
Lemaire Channel (65° 03’ 364”S, 063° 55’ 140”W)
A cruise through a breathtaking narrow channel—often choked with ice—with mountain walls rising thousands of feet straight out of the water (it’s nicknamed “Kodak Alley”) is one of the highlights of a trip to Antarctica. Minkes, humpbacks, and orcas are occasionally spotted, and leopard and crabeater seals sometimes frequent the ice floes.This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most scenic locations on the western coast of Antarctica. However, the 6.8 miles may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway.
Paulet Island (63° 35’S, 055° 47’W) South of Dundee Island
Located in the northwestern Weddell Sea, Paulet Island is home to a large rookery with tens of thousands of Adélie penguin pairs and their chicks. The island has a volcanic cone 1,158 feet high. The remains of the hut of Captain Carl Anton Larsen of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04 (Nordenskjöld) can be found here, constructed in 1903 when the party lost its ship, the “Antarctic,” 25 miles from the island. Twenty men wintered here, surviving on penguins and seals. A member of the expedition, Ole Wennersgaard, died on the island and was buried there. A cross marks the grave site.
We also usually visit one or more research stations, possibly Frei (Chilean) and adjoining Bellingshausen (Russian), Arctowski (Polish), or Vernadsky (Ukrainian).
Days 9 - 10 : At sea, crossing the Drake Passage
You’ll return via the Drake Passage to Ushuaia, having walked in the path of the great Antarctic adventurers. As Cook, Ross, Scott and Shackleton did, you’ve stared at the same skies and wondered at the same vast landscape. And now, like them, you understand the enduring lure of Antarctica.Near the end of our journey, we’ll sail past Cape Horn on our way to Ushuaia, weather permitting.
Day 11 : Ushuaia – fly home
We plan to arrive back in Ushuaia in the early morning. After breakfast on board the ship, transfer to the airport for flights home. Please book flights for 11am or later just to be safe.
DATES: Best time to go: January - March, December Departures: Dec 8 - 18, 2014 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Only very limited availability left. Please call for details! Dec 10 - 20, 2014 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Only very limited availability left. Please call for details! Dec 18 - 28, 2014 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Only very limited availability left. Please call for details! Jan 21 - 31, 2015 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Only very limited availability left. Please call for details! Jan 27, 2015 - Feb 6, 2015 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Feb 24, 2015 - Mar 6, 2015 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Mar 16 - 26, 2015 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov - Special Marine Mammals Voyage! Dec 10 - 20, 2015 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Dec 20 - 30, 2015 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Feb 18 - 28, 2016 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Feb 28, 2016 - Mar 9, 2016 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Mar 7 - 17, 2016 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Mar 9 - 19, 2016 On board the Akademik Ioffe. Mar 17 - 27, 2016 On board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov.
Winter 2014-2015 Prices (all prices are US$ per person):
Dec 8, 10 and all March Voyages:
Dec 18, Jan 21, 27, & Feb 24 Voyages:
Winter 2015-2016 Prices (all prices are US$ per person):
EARLY BOOKING DISCOUNT of $750 per person for Winter 2015/16 departures!
Dec 10 and all March Voyages:
Dec 20, Feb 18, Feb 28 Voyages:
$795 Sea Kayaking program (Spaces are strictly limited and need to be reserved at time of booking!)
Single Supplement is 1.5 times the Twin cabin price or 2 times the Suite price (singles cannot take over a Triple Cabin). If you are willing to share with a roommate of the same gender, we will waive the single supplement fee (even if no roommate is found).
The sister ships Akademik Sergey Vavilov (92 passengers) and Akademik Ioffe (96 passengers) are modern and comfortable. Scandinavian-built for the Russian Academy of Science, these sister ships were designed to travel quietly during hydro-acoustic research. The ships are maneuverable and yet exceptionally stable, due to external stabilizers and a built-in trimming system. They feature an ice-strengthened hull and a cruising speed in open water of 14.5 knots. These expedition ships are designed for polar adventure trips in Antarctica and the Arctic.
From small group sessions to briefings for all passengers, the public spaces are ideally suited for each and every need. A separate bar and lounge, as well as a library, provide ideal places to relax or catch up on some reading. A selection of movies and documentaries can also be watched in the lounge.
The ship’s bridge is open to passengers virtually 24-hours a day. The chart room is a fascinating place to visit and expedition staff or ship’s crew are often available to answer questions about the equipment and instruments found on the bridge. In addition, the bridge is an excellent place to view wildlife from. Binoculars and wildlife identification guidebooks are available.
One dining room with unreserved seating.
Theatre-style presentation room.
Lounge and bar, open late afternoon and evening with a wide selection of wines and spirits.
Library with a collection of polar-themed books.
Ship-to-shore communications via satellite.
Clinic with licensed doctor.
Gym, sauna and swimming pool.
Elevator between passenger deck levels and to the Bridge level.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way. These trips are often led by:
Aaron Lawton developed the Polar program for One Ocean Expeditions (our partner in the Polar Regions), bringing a strong commitment to conservation in the Polar Regions to his work in operations development. An avid paddler, Aaron has been paddling or rowing some form of human-powered boat for most of his life. His experience encompasses wilderness guiding and instruction by canoe and sea kayak, varsity rowing and most recently a passion for Hawaiian-style outrigger canoe racing. Thousands of miles on the water have given him an appreciation and awareness for the subtle changes in the ocean due to local weather and global climate patterns. Aaron is truly Canadian having lived in the mountains of the Yukon Territory, among the wheat fields of Manitoba, in the orchards of Southern Ontario and along the briny coast of Nova Scotia, all by the ripe old age of twelve. Continuing this passion for new places, Aaron has worked in the outdoor industry on six of the seven continents. Over the last decade, Aaron has been expedition leader or kayak guide on about a hundred trips to the Canadian Arctic, the Antarctic Peninsula and Svalbard. In 2001, Aaron and his wife Cathy embarked on a 10-night unassisted sea kayak expedition along the Antarctic Peninsula. Aaron holds a degree in forestry from the University of British Columbia. This has led to a real appreciation for and understanding of ecology and the connectivity of ecosystems.
Andrew is the Managing Director of One Ocean Expeditions Inc. (our partner in the Polar Regions) and brings his passion for polar regions and their conservation into any discussion he can. An adventurer in his own right, Andrew is an accomplished ocean racing sailor. He led a team that won a race across the Atlantic Ocean in a 30-foot sailboat; he has sailed around Cape Horn in a Southern Ocean gale and competitively raced yachts and high performance dinghies all over the world. Andrew is also a published photographer and an avid snowboarder, spending his quiet time in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Andrew grew up on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada and has brought his East Coast sense of humor with him all along the way. After earning a degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, he played a strategic planning role for a major Canadian player in the transportation industry. With around five years in the corporate world under his belt but searching for a life of meaning, Andrew decided to "run away to sea". What started as a three-month commitment to manage a ship transformed itself into a very successful entrepreneurial career in expedition cruising where he could apply his experience and his passion. With a reputation for innovation and attention to detail, Andrew has become well known in the expedition cruise industry for the high quality expedition cruise programs he develops. He is also noted for his attention to vital areas of safety and his commitment to environmental protection.