Explore the deep bays and fjords of the Antarctic Peninsula where massive glaciers flank a rugged spine of snowy mountains. You will witness penguin rookeries, basking seals and reminders of early explorers. The Falkland Islands is a rare mix of wildlife hotspots and a delightful inhabited outpost. Literally millions of petrels, albatrosses, penguins, gulls and cormorants populate the Islands. You will share this voyage with scientists from Arctowski (Polish station) and Vernadsky (Ukrainian station), offering you a unique opportunity to learn about life as a scientist or base member in Antarctica.
Seize the opportunity to hone your photography skills in one of the most magical environments on earth alongside Canon accredited Moab Master photographer Joshua Holko. Catering to both amateur and more serious photographers, Joshua will pass on tips to get the most out of your equipment and the unique Antarctic conditions.
Expeditioners will gather in Ushuaia, and have time to explore the bustling community that lays claim to being the world’s most southerly town. It sits beneath the spectacular mountains of Tierra del Fuego on the edge of the Beagle Channel. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied while waiting to board Polar Pioneer at 1600 (4pm). You could take a trip to the Lapataia National Park by train or bus, or visit the small museum, which has informative displays about the original inhabitants and the current population of Tierra del Fuego.
Cape Horn, the most southerly point of the American continent, has stimulated the imagination of mankind since Sir Francis Drake inadvertently rounded it back in 1580.
Some of us will approach this historic crossing with more than a little trepidation. But despite its reputation, there are many times when the Drake Passage resembles a lake, with lazy Southern Ocean swells rolling under the keel. On the other hand, we sometimes encounter rough crossings with large waves. The size of the waves and the force of the gale will take on gigantic proportions when related around the fire back home.
Polar Pioneer is not a luxury ship, she is homely and strong, built to be a research vessel and refitted to comfortable passenger standard in 2001. The mood on board is definitely casual. At sea we are totally self-sufficient. The days flow by as we travel snugly in our cocoon. A favourite pastime on board is to stand at the stern watching the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following in our wake. They rise and fall skillfully, using air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.
During our Drake crossing, we will commence our lecture program on the wildlife, geology, history and geography of the Antarctic Peninsula. We will be given guidelines for approaching wildlife and talk about the implications of the Antarctic Treaty. Antarctica is a photographers' paradise for professionals and amateur alike.
Nearing the tip of the Peninsula towards the end of day three, excitement reaches fever pitch with everyone on the bridge watching for our first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once we are below the Antarctic Convergence and are surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of your first big iceberg sighting is likely to remain with you forever.
Depending on the weather, we will first approach Antarctica near the South Shetland Islands, entering Bransfield Strait either at the eastern end of King George Island or the western extremity of Livingston Island. We may pass by historic Smith Island, which is the outer limit of the South Shetlands.
A host of choices are 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 their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because we are so far south, we will experience approximately 16-18 hours' daylight and the days will be as busy as you wish. There is plenty of time for sleep when you get home!
We are always keen to explore new territory, so if the opportunity arises, we will! Who knows where we will go?
During this voyage, there might be an opportunity for the more intrepid to camp for a night on land. This will give you the chance to sample the style of adventure that Scott, Shackleton and other legendary Antarctic explorers experienced. Be comforted - our warm and comfortable ship with its hot showers will be only a short distance away!
Once we arrive in the waters of Bransfield and Gerlache Straits, we hope to make landings two to three times a day. To get ashore we will use Zodiacs (inflatable rubber boats). You will have been briefed on the workings of these sturdy craft and their use, during our Drake Passage crossing. Sometimes we will cruise along spectacular ice cliffs, or make contact with whales, penguins and seals. 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.
Our Western chefs serve hearty meals in our cosy dining rooms. Accompanied by good conversation, they will become a focal point of our shipboard life.
A sample of the many exciting places that we would like to visit follows:
A unique landing place on the Peninsula – tiny toes of land that are 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 60 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, underneath long black scree slopes at the foot of the mountains and glaciers of Livingston Island.
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 coloured 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 Harbour 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 could be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 700 metres directly above the ship. The water can be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface. Gigantic icebergs clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage.
This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrudes from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstraps raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is Latin for leopard seal, and on occasions we see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife.
Other places we may visit around the Antarctic Peninsula are:
Petermann Island; Penola Strait; Neko Harbour; Antarctic Sound; Port Lockroy, a historic British base that is now a museum and post office.
Today, if weather permits, we set course for Elephant Island, a half-submerged mountain cloaked with an ice sheet at the outer limits of the South Shetlands. En route, our recaps and lectures will resume and there will be time to gather energy for the busy days ahead. After their ship the Endurance was crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his men climbed into three open boats and finally, on 14 April 1916, made landfall on this tiny toe of rock and ice in the vastness of the Southern Ocean. The men had not been on land for sixteen months! We plan to sail past Cape Valentine to see the beach where the men first put ashore. Weather permitting; we hope to follow the coastline six miles west to Point Wild, where the men eventually set up camp under two of their upturned open boats and some old tents.
We will attempt to make a landing on historic Elephant Island, although the weather is notoriously difficult.
We begin cruising towards the Falklands. On this leg we are usually travelling into the prevailing weather so it is difficult to estimate our arrival time in the Falklands. We will continue our lecture program. While at sea there is ample opportunity to observe the sea birds that follow the ship, join the whale watchers on the bridge, or just relax and read a favourite book.
A treasure trove of birdlife, Falkland Islands steamer ducks and Magellanic penguins enliven walks through tussocks as we explore some of the remote outer islands of the Falklands.
Polar Pioneer glides into Port Stanley for our early morning arrival. It is a busy time, with people saying farewell to our crew who have shared the intensity of exploring this magnificent white wilderness.
For those choosing to depart the Falkland Islands today, a transfer has been organized for your trip to the Mt Pleasant airport.
* Itinerary may be subject to change
|Per Person USD|
Ushuaia - Falklands
Charter Flight Falklands/Punta Arenas
Begins Falklands, ends Ushuaia
Charter Flight Punta Arenas-Falklands
Fly Antarctica to Punta Arenas
Fly Punta Arenas to Antarctica
Embark Ushuaia, Disembark Port Stanley
Charter Flight Falklands/Punta Arenas
Embark Port Stanley, Disembark Ushuaia
Fly Antarctica to Punta Arenas
Fly Punta Arenas to Antarctica
Airfare Not Included. Rates are per person, based on twin-share. Single costs are 1.7 times the twin rate.
Mandatory Flight for Fly/Cruise (Punta Arenas to Antarctica) and Cruise/Fly (Antarctica to Punta Arenas) - $1200
Optional Flight Punta Arenas / Falklands or Falklands / Punta Arenas $660
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 $995-1295, South Georgia Alpine Crossing $1250, Photography $250, Camping is Free.
Mandatory Emergency Evacuation Insurance Required. All trips subject to possible fuel surcharge.