Antarctica - The Circle Quest
Most amazing trip ever - even Drakes Passage...
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Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia
Transport Minibus, ship, Zodiac inflatable, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotel in Ushuaia (1nt), en suite cabin onboard ship (18nts).
Meals All meals whilst on cruise, breakfast only in hotels.
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Ship Only Itinerary; Arrive in Ushuaia
Your journey begins in Ushuaia. You spend the first night of your trip overnight here in the town at the end of the world. The evening and next morning are free to relax and recover from your journey. You will then be met at your hotel and transferred to the dock to join the cruise.
You will embark your ship in the afternoon in the town of Ushuaia. Located on the Beagle Passage in Tierra del Fuego, this charming town has a spectacular setting. After boarding the ship you set sail on your voyage along the Beagle Channel
Cabin on board ship – 18 nights (BLD)
The Falklands Islands
Settle in on board your ship as you head south across Drake Passage. You will soon leave Cape Horn behind and head out for the Falklands, escorted perhaps by petrel and albatross. Take your time to find your way about the ship and go onto the Bridge, which is fully open for passenger access, where you can see the experienced crew at work. There will be plenty of opportunities to listen to the talks and lectures given by the specialist expedition team and discuss their experiences in the Polar regions with them. One of the highlights of any exploration of the Falklands is the welcome you recieve from its citizens. Accept their invitation to visit a camp - thats the local word for farm - for a chat, a mug of tea and a piece of cake. You may have the chance to visit to Stanley, the archipelago's government seat and the only town. Stanley is more British than the Tower of London, in some ways. The diversity of the wildlife makes the Falklands a photographer's and naturalist's paradise. The islands are home to many species of penguins, King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic. Endemic are the Cobb's Wren and Falklands Steamer Duck. Dolphins, whales and three species of seals are often sighted in the waters surrounding the islands.
When Ernest Shackleton and four others sailed the tiny James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia, they were crossing the same body of water as you sail today. They, however, knew the sea as the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Sixteen years after that legendary voyage, the name of the sea that stretches from the mouth of the Drake Passage east to the South Shetland Islands and south from the Falklands to the Antarctic Peninsula were changed to the Scotia Sea. The name honored an expedition ship that had sailed the sea between 1902 and 1904, under the command of William S. Bruce, a pioneer of oceanography. Today, with only the Shag Rocks to break the horizon, you sail in History's wake.
South Georgia, roughly 160km (100 miles) by 32 km (20 miles) wide, is south of the Antarctic convergence. You are in Antarctica at last! The inestimable Captain Cook's published account of his charting of the island, set of a rush to harvest the abundant seals and whales he had observed. The secretive whalers and sealers protected their favoured beaches and bays. So, although they were often the first to arrive, they have seldom been credited for their Antarctic discoveries.
Wandering Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels nest on South Georgia. At certain times of the year, near the nests, massive female Wanderers swoop low overhead. Their teasing sends the males into a frenzy of growling calls. Raising their bills skywards, they try to tempt a female to their side. Bonded Wanderers preen each other, sing duets, and mate frequently. Scientific research has shown that only pairs that have been bonded by years of dancing will breed successfully.
On a South Georgian headland where the Shangs next you might see Light-manlted Sooty Albatrosses display in superb flying syncrony, while screaming their bonding calls. South Georiga is home to more than half a million breeding pairs of King Penguins. At a metre tall, only Emperor Penguins are larger. King chicks, known as woolies, were once thought to be a separate species of penguni, because they look so different to the parents. King chicks can be seen at various stages of development throughout the year.
Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia in 1911 by Norwegians. The deer provided an alternative meat source and some sport! Some environmentalists are attempting to have the reindeer removed, because of their destructive affect on the tussock grass.
While at anchor and the ship lights are dimmed, you might be able to pick out tens of thousands of Antarctic Prions around the ship. On the shores of South Georgia these birds wait for pitch darkness to enter their burrows amongst the tussock to protect themselves against attacks from their predators - skuas and petrels.
Crested Macaroni Penguins inhabit the island. Their plumage reminded the firs to encounter them of the dandies of the 18th century, hence the name. You might witness a skua taking a brown egg smaller than you expect. This is a sacrificial egg that the Macaroni lays first. Two eggs may develop in a good season, but more often than not only the larger second egg hatches.
On the snowy slopes and stone beaches of South Georgia you may encounter Weddell seals hauled out in the sun. Larsen harbour is the most northerly place for the seals to pup at the start of the austral spring.
The island has many historical connections to Antarctic exploration. Sir Ernest Shackleton and his comrades crossed the front of the Fortuna Glacier on their way to Stromness whaling station after their epic foot-crossing of South Georgia in 1916. That march across glaciers and never before explored mountains helped to rescue the crew of Endurance, stranded on Elephant Island, 800 miles away. Located at Stromness Bay are Shackleton Pass and the waterfall where 'the Boss' struggled down to the valley. Shackleton was buried in the churchyard at Grytviken in 1922. He died while visiting South Gerorgia on his final expedition to Antarctica.
Ice, wind and snow are as probable as sunshine on Soth Georgia during the srping and summer months. No matter which conditions you encounter, you will have made memories that last for a lifetime. (Bx6, Lx6, Dx6)
South Shetlands and the Antarctic Peninsula
The first shore landings in the Peninsula region are often in the South Shetland Islands. Landings, which are announced in advance in the daily programme, are scheduled at any time of day. The Expedition Team takes advantage of the long hours of daylight that occur so near to the Antarctic Circle.
After your days exploring South Georgia, you head out by Zodiac to the South Shetland Islands. One possibility is cruising along the volcanic ash shoreline in the shelter of the flooded caldera of Deception Island.
Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins breed on the islands of the South Shetlands. Elephant seals are known to haul out near the rookeries. Leopard seals patrol the water's edge waiting to prey on a sick or inexperienced penguin that enters the water. Skuas, predators that dive from the sky, squawk and fly about. The breeding season is short in Antarctica, so activity is continual. The type of activity changes as the seasons change from and austral spring to summer to fall. In late summer, the chicks fledge, and the adults molt. During the molt, the energy they expend is internal, because the birds live off the blubber they have accumulated. They would die if they returned to the sea, before the new feathers grow in.
Early in the season, the penguins will be building nests and courting. Observe the rituals, which to your eyes may appear comical, but is to the penguins serious business. When the chicks hatch, the parents invest considerable energy feeding them, waddling or tobogganing to the sea, where they feed on krill. They return to the rookery, often climbing a steep incline to regurgitate their dinner into the mouth of their demanding chick. So frequent is this activity that the birds create 'highways'. By the way, penguins have the right of way in Antarctica.
As you sail through the straits that separate the South Shetland Islands from the Antarctic Peninsula, spend some time on deck, watching for icebergs. They are classified according to their shape; tabular, irregular or rounded. There are secluded bays in the Peninsula known as iceberg graveyards, where small icebergs run aground. When the conditions are right, we lower the Zodiacs and cruise at a safe distance around hem - an unforgettable sight!
Life clings to the edges in the Antarctic Peninsula. Rare rocky shorelines are jealously guarded by its denizens, as inhabitable real estate is rare. Mountains rise steeply from the sea. Their summits glisten when the sun strikes the snow that covers them. Fog could descend, obscuring their height. In a sheltered bay, drifting in a Zodiac - its engine turned off momentarily - you experience a slience so complete that you may hear the beating of your own heart. If a whale or seal pops out of the water to gaze over the pontoon at you, your heart quickens.
Antarctica is surprisingly colourful. The evening sky can paint snow rose or orange. The rich greens of moss vibrate beside the rusty red of lichens growing on rocks. Icebergs range from turquoise through azure to violent in a different light. The seawater can appear inky one moment and clear as glass another. Carry a camera. The opportunities for photography are extraordinary.
(Bx6, Lx6, Dx6)
Cross the Drake Passage
Crossing the notorious Drake Passage is as much a part of the Antarctic experience as penguins and krill. With the right weather conditions your passage is relatively easy, but be wary in case the Drake Passage lives up to its reputation.
Continuing recap sessions provide opportunities to discuss how you, a newly-minted Polar Ambassador, can help to preserve Antarctica for future generations. When packing day arrives a briefing is held, final remarks are made and instructions for disembarkation are delivered. (Bx3, Lx3, Dx3)
Return to Ushuaia
In the morning you arrive back into Ushuaia and disembark. (Bx1)