Fly/Cruise Across the Circle
Cross latitude 66° 33’ South in the wake of hallowed explorers including the first to do so, Captain James Cook. It’s a moment to celebrate, and we oblige with enthusiasm. In this frozen area of extraordinary beauty, powerful orcas and leopard seals patrol the waters, while ethereal snow petrels grace the skies against a background of bristling mountain ranges and surreal icebergs. Threading our way through an intricate system of icy waterways, we aim for the glorious Crystal Sound at the mouth of The Gullet.
• Explore the most accessible and wildlife-rich region of Antarctica
• Daily shore visits and Zodiac cruises offer close encounters with penguins, whales, seals and sea birds
• Visit historic research huts and working scientific stations
• Be surrounded by massive icebergs and cruise past ancient glaciers
• Enjoy the pristine beauty and vast landscapes
• Witness the endless sunlight of the midnight sun
• Learn about Antarctica’s unique geology, history and wildlife from our expert team
• Champagne celebrations as we reach 66°33' south
• Kayakers will glide through narrow sheltered waterways and fjords, paddle amongst ice floes and drift quietly alongside wildlife
|Day 1||Overnight in Punta Arenas, Chile|
|Day 2||Punta Arenas to King George Island|
|Days 3 to 8||Antarctic Peninsula & South of the Circle|
|Days 9 & 10||Drake Passage|
|Day 11||Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Argentina|
Expeditioners will gather at the the hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Punta Arenas is the southern-most city on Earth, overlooking the Straits of Magellan. Situated astride one of the world's historic trade routes, its prosperity has risen and fallen with that trade. Punta Arenas enjoyed its first great boom during the California Gold Rush, when it served as a haven for great clipper ships. Although the port's importance diminished after the opening of the Panama Canal, the city reached even greater prosperity early in this century as the center of Chile's international wool trade.
Today, Punta Arenas reflects a great mix of cultures, from English sheep ranchers to Portuguese sailors, and it remains an utterly fascinating testament to Chile's rich history. Punta Arenas is also the starting point for excursions to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The best spot to gain an introduction to Punta Arenas is the Cerro La Cruz promontory, which provides breathtaking views of the city's orderly streets, colorful tin roofs, and the strait beyond. Among the city's most interesting attractions are the Museo Salesiano de Mayonino Borgatello, started by an order of Italian missionaries, and the Centro Cultural Braun-Menendèz, housed in the mansion of one of the city's most prosperous families. The museum provides visitors with an extraordinary and eclectic introduction to virtually every aspect of the region. Its collection, accumulated by the missionaries during their extensive travels in the area, is composed of artifacts of all sorts-from ceramics to rare animal species.
The Centro Cultural is equally engaging, offering an intimate glimpse of the life of a prosperous Punta Arenas trading family. Furnished with fine European antiques, Italian marble floors, and grand ceiling frescos, this grand mansion gives a good indication of the economic stature of Punta Arenas before the Panama Canal was completed. Punta Arenas is the third largest city in the entire Patagonian Region and is roughly 800 mi (1400 km) from the coast of Antarctica.
Our early morning charter flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica will take approximately three and a half hours. We first fly across the Drake Passage and then arrive at King George Island in the Antarctic Peninsula. Satellite and weather information is checked before departure and during the flight.
On arrival into King George Island our team is on hand to greet you and escort you to the Polar Pioneer. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings, followed by enjoying our first meal on board as the crew set our course for our first landing.
A host of choices is now open to us and depending on the ice and weather conditions the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced leaders, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use this expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather and ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because we are so far south, we will experience approximately 18-20 hours of daylight and the days will be as busy as you wish. There is plenty of time for sleep when you get home!
Once we arrive in the calmer waters of the Bransfield, Gerlache and Penola Straits and Crystal Sound, we hope to make landings two to three times a day. To get ashore we will use Zodiacs (inflatable rubber boats). Sometimes we will cruise along spectacular ice cliffs, or make contact with whales. In these situations we will appreciate the distinct advantage of being on a small vessel, which gives everyone the opportunity to experience these very special close encounters with wildlife.
Western chefs serve hearty meals in our cosy dining rooms. Accompanied by good conversation, they will become a focal point of our shipboard life.
Crossing the invisible line of the Antarctic Circle provides a special highlight. In Crystal Sound the mountains soar from the sea, while small islands provide havens for penguins and seals. At this time of the summer the waters are rich with krill and so we are hopeful of seeing whales, particularly humpbacks and minkes.
If ice conditions allow, we will try to travel south through the narrow twisting channel called The Gullet.
A sample of the many exciting places that we would like to visit is:
A fine example of the South Shetland Islands – a tiny toe of land that is literally alive with wildlife. Here we will find two species of penguins breeding, chinstraps and gentoos. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 40 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline. The vegetation consists of mosses, lichens and the only grass species that grows in Antarctica. All this is set against a stunning backdrop of mountains and glaciers of the surrounding islands.
Half Moon Island
A wildlife rich island tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the scene. There is a large chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets colored by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island there is a large colony of nesting blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways.
Visiting Deception Island is like making a journey to the moon. We sail through the narrow opening of Neptune's Bellows to enter the flooded volcanic crater. Inside is an unworldly scene, virtually devoid of life. Glaciers flow down from the edge of the crater, littered by black volcanic ash.
We can explore the lifeless remains of a derelict whaling station and a vacant British base, or climb to the rim of the crater. Steam rises from the shore indicating that the water is actually warm enough for a swim, for those who dare. Outside the crater, if conditions allow, we might land at Bailey Head to explore the enormous chinstrap penguin rookery that featured in David Attenborough's Life in the Freezer series.
A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this unforgettable piece of heaven provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. The serenity of Paradise Harbor envelops us once the sound of the dropping anchor fades from our ears. This is a haven for whales and we keep our eyes open for humpbacks, orcas and minkes, as well as crabeater seals, as we explore the bay in Zodiacs. Imagine being so close to a whale that when he surfaces to blow, the fishy spray of his exhalation momentarily blurs your vision. Words cannot describe this experience.
If the ice conditions allow, standing on the bow of Polar Pioneer and quietly moving through the narrow Lemaire Channel may be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 2300 ft (700 m) directly above the ship. The water can be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface. Gigantic icebergs can clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage.
Other places we may visit around the Antarctic Peninsula are: Petermann Island; Penola Strait; Neko Harbor; Scientific Base of Vernadsky (Ukrainian); Port Lockroy, a historic British base that is now a museum and post office; Argentine Islands; Fish Islands; Detaille Island; Crystal Sound.
Crossing the Antarctic Circle
Our exciting crossing of the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66°33' South is a highlight of this voyage. In order to accomplish the extra distance of this significantly longer voyage without compromising the quality of our Antarctic experience, the ship will motor south every night and during meal times. By the time we've crossed the Circle in Crystal Sound, we notice subtle changes in the Antarctic land and icescapes, and also in the distribution of wildlife. As we head north again, we understand more about the effect of southerly latitudes on Antarctic wildlife.
Time to head back to Tierra del Fuego, with lectures and videos to complete our Antarctic education. This is a time for reflection and discussion about what we have seen and felt, and the impact this voyage has had on our attitude to life.
As we approach the tip of South America, our Captain may sail close to legendary Cape Horn, weather conditions permitting.
During the early morning we cruise up the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia, where we will be free to disembark around 9:00am. It’s a busy time, saying farewell to our crew and to fellow passengers who have shared the intensity of exploring this magnificent white wilderness. We head off in our different directions, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.
At the conclusion of the voyage, flights should not to be booked from Ushuaia prior to 12 noon on the day of disembarkation.
Please note that all of our itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. Our itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.
* Itinerary may be subject to change
|Per Person USD|
Camp, Mountaineering, Photography, Kayak
Camp, Photography, Kayak
International Airfare Not Included. Rates are per person, based on twin-share. Single costs are 1.7 times the twin rate.
Flights included for Fly/Cruise itineraries.
Adventure options must be pre-booked and paid for prior to start of the trip. Space is subject to availability. Some activities require experience.
Optional Activities: Kayaking prices as listed, Climbing $450, Photography Free, Camping Free.
Mandatory Emergency Evacuation Insurance Required. All trips subject to possible fuel surcharge.