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Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands
Scotia Arc Tectonics, Climate and Life
December 27, 2012 to January 20, 2013

Sponsored by The Jackson School of Geosciences of The University of Texas at Austin and the 125th anniversary of the Geological Society of America, in cooperation with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris.

The Jackson School of Geosciences logo Geological Society of America logo

An Expedition for all interested in our dynamic Earth and its diverse life.

Join us on an extraordinary voyage of discovery to Antarctica, the awe-inspiring natural world that has triggered global scientific attention in attempts to understand the changes taking place in our planetary environment. These changes involve the interplay of the solid earth, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere; this will form the backdrop to our cruise. Our expedition will focus on experiencing first hand the geology, wildlife, and history of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

With only 96 passengers on the comfortable and safe 117-meter ice ship Akademik Ioffe, we will have a ratio of one naturalist/scientist for every six passengers. We will spend a total of 21 days exploring the Southern Ocean with maximum time on shore for study and photography of the fascinating landscapes, geological formations, and wildlife. You will experience the stunning vistas of Tierra del Fuego, the busy penguin rookeries of the Falkland Islands, the dramatic, mountainous landscapes of South Georgia, and the ice-covered terrain of the Antarctic.

World-renowned scientific experts Ian Dalziel, Richard Alley, Rob Dunbar, and Rudolph Trouw will provide lectures focusing on the interplay of tectonics, climate, and life. Our expedition staff will share a great diversity of information, from in-depth to introductory geology, through natural history and biology, photography lectures and workshops, wildlife illustration workshops, and spellbinding stories from the Age of Exploration in the Antarctic. We strongly emphasize giving you as much time in the field as possible; once ashore you will find worlds to explore, from geology to charismatic and unafraid wildlife framed with a backdrop of stunning landscapes and steeped in the history of Antarctic exploration. Onboard ship, naturalists will share sightings of whales, seabirds and many of the world's species of albatross.

We encourage you to sign up early; it is an extremely unique voyage and we expect it to fill quickly! For more information please read our frequently asked questions, fill out our easy contact form, and/or contact us!

Geology Of the Voyage: The Scotia Arc is the complex of submarine ridges and rugged islands joining the Andean Cordillera to the Antarctic Peninsula and including the active South Sandwich Islands volcanic arc at its eastern extremity. A zone of left-lateral transform motion between the South American and Antarctic continents, it encloses the Scotia Sea and Drake Passage, the deep "gateway" through which flows the globe-encircling Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the most powerful in the world's oceans.

Our expedition will visit:

  • Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, with the classic sedimentary cover of the Gondwana supercontinent and a huge diversity of species
  • South Georgia, an incredibly rugged island microcontinent comprising a marginal basin turbidite infill displaced eastward from the southernmost Andean Cordillera, with thriving colonies of penguins, seals, and albatross
  • South Orkneys with uplifted Gondwanide margin fore-arc rocks and nesting Snow Petrels
  • Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands, the "Antarctandes," including the active Deception Island volcano in the Bransfield back-arc rift and uplifted subduction complexes

map of the Scotia Arc
The Scotia Arc (view a larger map PDF)

At a Glance

Cost: Ranges from $12,790 to $23,790 per person, not including airfare. Review all cost details.

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are full
Members of IAATO

Leaders and Staff: Ted Cheeseman, Expedition Leader, Professor Ian Dalziel, Scientific Leader from The University of Texas at Austin, along with 13 more expert staff members.

Group Size: 96 participants not including our staff. With fewer than 100 passengers, everyone can land at once, rather than in two groups, giving you more time on shore!

Ship: The Akademik Ioffe is 117 meters long and has a maximum speed of 14.5 knots.

Total Days: 25, with 22-days aboard our ship.

Conditions: A non-smoking expedition for people who are very interested in the Antarctic environment with a focus on geology.

Update: This itinerary was updated in January 2012.


December 27 - 28 Flights to Santiago, Chile.
December 29 Flight from Santiago, Chile to Stanley, Falkland Islands, and embark on the Akademik Ioffe.
December 30 Sea Lion Island, Falklands.
December 31 - January 1 Sail to South Georgia.
January 2 - 6 Five days at South Georgia, the Crown Jewel of the Southern Ocean.
January 7 - 8 Sail to the South Orkney Islands.
January 9 South Orkney Islands.
January 10 - 11 Sail the eastern Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea.
January 12 - 16 Five days along the western Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.
January 17 - 18 Sail to Ushuaia, Argentina.
January 19 - 20 Disembark and flights homeward.

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Detailed Itinerary and Geology Notes

NOTE: Due to the expeditionary nature of our voyage, specific stops cannot be guaranteed. Accompanied by our scientists and naturalists, we will land often and stay as long as possible, abiding by the Guidelines for Responsible Ecotourism from IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators).

December 27 - 28, Thursday - FridayInternational Flights to Santiago, Chile
Arrive in Santiago, Chile by December 28. Non-stop flights are available from many international airports; most are overnight flights arriving in the early morning. Transfer to our hotel across from the airport and then enjoy a free day on the 28th to explore historic and colorful Santiago. See complete flight information.
Lodging on December 28: Santiago Airport Holiday Inn

Geology Highlight: The Andean Cordillera forms the mountainous eastern backdrop to Santiago, located within Chile's central valley with the Coastal Cordillera to the west and small Tertiary volcanic plugs rising up as the Santa Lucia and San Cristobal hills within the city itself. Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, lies just to the north of Santiago on the border with Argentina.

December 29, SaturdayFly from Santiago to Stanley, Falkland Islands for embarkation
Fly from Santiago to Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, arriving in the early afternoon. We will fly along the Andes and, with luck, we'll be able to see some of the impressively high volcanoes of the Southern Volcanic Zone and, with even more luck as the area is subject to very cloudy weather, the Patagonian ice cap and its out-flowing glaciers to both east and west.

We will be met at Mount Pleasant Airport and transferred to the dock in Stanley where the Akademik Ioffe will await. You will have time to walk through town and explore this small corner of the British empire that appears as if time has forgotten it. Stanley is an attractive town and the last center of human population we will see before arriving in Ushuaia, Argentina at the voyage's end. We will enjoy a welcome cocktail with our Captain and our fine staff and crew, as well as our first dinner onboard ship!

Geology Highlight: Nearing Punta Arenas, southernmost city of Chile on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan, we may be able to see the spectacular granite spires of the Neogene Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Paine massifs along the eastern flanks of the Cordillera itself. Flying from Punta Arenas to Stanley, we pass over the eastern entrance to the Straits of Magellan and may be able to see the young (post-glacial) volcanic craters of the Pale Aike field, part of the Patagonian back-arc province.

The Falkland (Malvinas) Islands are part of the early Mesozoic Gondwanide fold gently inclined beds of sandstone and mudstone formed when Africa and South America were joined. En route from the Falklands Mount Pleasant airport to Stanley, we should have time to stop briefly to examine the Lafonian tillite, first observed by Charles Darwin and equivalent to the famous Dwyka tillite along strike in South Africa. They are both manifestations of the late Paleozoic glaciations of the Gondwanaland supercontinent.

Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo Penguins

December 30, SundaySea Lion Island, Falkland Islands
Morning will find us anchored off Sea Lion Island, the southeastern-most inhabited island in the Falklands. This is a wildlife-rich, low, largely flat island just over four miles long. Sea Lion Island is a National Nature Reserve and a Ramsar Site, honored for its biodiversity as it is one of the few islands in the Falklands without cats, rats, or mice. We will spend either a half or full day here, determined by the best time to depart for South Georgia; either way, the island offers more than enough to fill our time, with nesting Gentoo and Magellanic penguins as well as the voyage's only Rockhopper Penguins at the far southwest end of the island. Southern Sea Lions can be found along the coast along with loafing Southern Elephant Seals, and the bird life is as rich and diverse as the Falklands gets with Magellanic Snipe, Rufous-chested Dotterels, two species of endemic wrens and many ducks and geese. While ashore, we can stop in for tea at The Lodge, the small, but significant southernmost British hotel in the world. Once back onboard, we will weigh anchor and depart to the southeast for glorious South Georgia!

Geology Highlight: Sea Lion Island is comprised of gently inclined beds of sandstone and mudstone formed when South America and Africa were joined within Gondwanaland prior to the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean basin approximately 135 million years before present (135 Ma). They are part of the sedimentary platform that covered the entire stable shield of the supercontinent. Fossilized tracks of soft-bodied animals can be found in places.

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December 31 - January 1, Monday - TuesdayAt sea southeast to South Georgia
By morning, we will be far from the Falklands, heading southeast with albatross at our stern. If the skies are blue, the weather could be quite balmy, between 50-60°F or about 15°C. Photographers will have a field day following birds on the wing including Wandering and Black-browed albatross and other "tubenoses." There is always a chance of a Royal Albatross as well. We have counted in these waters almost a dozen species of petrels, three species of storm-petrels, Common Diving-Petrel, six species of albatross, thousands of Antarctic Prions, Southern Fulmars plus Greater and Sooty shearwaters.

En route to South Georgia, we will cross the Polar Front (also called the Antarctic Convergence) and officially enter Antarctic waters. Two bodies of water meet here and as the cold, salty, Antarctic water mixes alongside warmer, fresher water from the north and the water temperature plummets from about 4-6°C down to 0°C in about eight hours of cruising time. Fishing fur seals and pods of whales illustrate the richness of these waters. There is a chance of sighting Fin, Minke, and Blue whale, and perhaps more elusive species as well. The ever-changing Polar Front is also an excellent birding habitat. As we continue southeast, the bird population begins to include more Cape Petrels, Southern Fulmars, and even Snow Petrel as we come around the northeast end of South Georgia. During this time at sea, crossing about 730 nautical miles from the Falklands, we will have lectures on geology, wildlife, photography, ecology, and history of the Scotia Sea and South Georgia. The prevailing current, a branch of the globe-encircling Antarctic Circumpolar Current, will be in our direction. If wind and sea conditions permit, we may be able to pass by the rugged, sail-like Shag Rocks, a spectacularly isolated manifestation of the North Scotia Ridge otherwise 500-1,000 meters beneath our keel.

Geology Highlight: Our navigation takes us obliquely across the North Scotia Ridge, the northern limb of the Scotia Arc. The Scotia Arc is the largely submerged ridge of dismembered continental crust and volcanic arc rocks joining the Andean Cordillera to the Antarctic Peninsula, the Antarctandes as the Antarctic Peninsula was formerly called.

The Institute for Geophysics of the Jackson School of Geosciences will be supplying all existing bathymetry and other geophysical data available for the Scotia arc region. Thus we will be able, at all times during the cruise, to 'see' the ocean floor over which our vessel is passing.

January 2 - 6, Wednesday - SundaySouth Georgia Island
Arrival time at South Georgia will depend on weather conditions and our travel speed. One of the most remote islands in the world, South Georgia provides a magnificent highlight of our trip, as we spend five days in this wild landscape of penguins, seals, and dramatic mountains. The rugged interior is a geologic continuation of the Andean chain and is carved into spectacular fjords by more than 150 glaciers. Tall peaks and hanging glaciers rise behind beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, and a ring of smaller islands.

Geology Highlight: The South Georgia microcontinent, that includes the island's submerged substrate, originated immediately east of Cape Horn and was displaced eastward relative to its parent South American continent following uplift of the Andes in the middle of the Cretaceous Period at approximately 100 Ma. It is therefore one of Earth's most isolated fragments of continental crust.

Any landing spot made available to us by weather and sea conditions will enable examination of the Lower Cretaceous turbiditic sandstones and shales of the Cumberland Bay Formation that form most of the island. These were derived from the Andean continental margin arc along the Pacific side of South America and are deformed by spectacular northeast vergent folds, remnants of the inversion of a back-arc basin in the mid-Cretaceous. The ruggedness of the island (it is three times higher than the part of Tierra del Fuego from which it was derived) is probably due to a collision with the submarine Northeast Georgia Rise.

During our time in South Georgia, we will explore the northeastern coastline where its many incredible landing sites are teaming with wildlife. One of the most abundant species, and certainly the easiest penguin to see and photograph, is the King Penguin, which nests on the uplifted beach terraces at sites such as Gold Harbour and Fortuna Bay. Viewed from the ship, they look like tightly packed white dots flowing from the hills like glaciers. Their colonies are best described as "penguin landscapes." At Salisbury Plain, in the Bay of Isles, an estimated 250,000 King Penguins nest. The picturesque St. Andrew's Bay is also high on our list of possible landings. High peaks tower over St. Andrew's Bay adding a perfect backdrop to the estimated 300,000 King Penguins here, the largest colony on South Georgia. We will also visit Gentoo Penguins in many small colonies along the northeast coastline. We arrive during the height of their breeding activities so we'll have the opportunity to see their chicks and feeding behavior. Cooper Bay is the best place to get close to the marvelous Macaroni Penguins that prefer more inaccessible areas on steep cliffs for their nesting sites. Macaronis, the more southerly equivalent of Rockhoppers, used to be the most numerous of all the penguins on South Georgia but are now declining in numbers apparently due to krill population changes induced by climate change. Penguins of several species may also be seen porpoising alongside the ship as we travel the wild and rugged coastline.

Elephant Seals on South Georgia
Elephant Seals

Prion Island, in the Bay of Isles, is the only site where we can see Wandering Albatross nesting. Each pair has a private estate of at least 30 square meters around the nest site for courtship, take-offs, and landings, a real contrast to the King Penguin's territory of less than one meter square. Here also are the Southern Giant Petrels quietly incubating as long as you keep your distance. Listen for the beautiful song of the endemic South Georgia Pipit, and the eerie calls of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross as they glide by heading to and from their cliff-side nests. South Georgia Pintails reside in freshwater ponds among the tussock grass. These ducks survive the winter months by scavenging on carcasses.

We will absorb a bit of history at Grytviken, the most productive whaling station in the history of whaling. The South Georgia Museum, located here, has excellent natural history exhibits as well as a small gift shop. The history of Antarctic exploration comes alive as we listen to our esteemed historian Pauline Carr tell of the adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton. This famous explorer crossed the rugged backbone of South Georgia from the west to arrive at the Stromness Whaling Station seeking help for his men stranded on Elephant Island. His crew, hand picked for this 1914-1917 Antarctic expedition, survived on the nutritious, though unappetizing, meat of penguins and seals while waiting for rescue on Elephant Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea. Shackleton and his men had set off in small boats and landed at Elephant Island with hardly any beach below the steep cliffs along the shore. From there, Shackleton and a handful of men continued in a small boat to South Georgia in one of the greatest sea journeys of all time. They successfully returned to Elephant Island 135 days later to rescue the men. Many young Southern Elephant Seals, hunted for oil in Shackleton's time, now snooze near the Grytviken graveyard where Shackleton and other sailors are buried.

Unfortunately, whales were so thoroughly hunted in the last century that few are to be seen in the South Georgian waters; they are only just beginning their comeback. We have had excellent looks at Fin Whales on the way to South Georgia, so we are hopeful that more will be seen on this expedition. Also on our previous voyages, two species of beaked whales, Southern Bottlenose Whale, and Cuvier's Beaked Whale have been seen. Although less common now, the bones of Blue Whales and other cetaceans were once seen all over the shores of South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Geology Highlight: Our call at Grytviken allows us to view mountain-scale folds in the Cumberland Bay Formation and to make a landing on Dartmouth Point or the Barff Peninsula to see the contact of the Cumberland Bay Formation with the contemporaneous Sandebugten Formation whose turbidites were derived from the continental side of the marginal basin and provide a vital clue to the origin of the island and microcontinent. If time and weather permit, we may be able to stop at the southwestern end of the island to see the ophiolitic rocks forming part of the floor of the basin and correlative with the so-called "Rocas Verdes" (Green Rocks) ophiolites of southernmost Chile.

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January 7 - 9, Monday - WednesdayCruising south via the South Orkneys to Antarctica
Our route to Antarctica will be dictated by the pack ice. We'll use this time at sea for a few lectures and to gather on the bridge in search of Humpback Whales, Southern Fulmars, Antarctic Petrel, Kerguelen Petrel and, with luck, Snow Petrel, one of the most beautiful birds of the Southern Ocean. Our path will be scattered with icebergs as we approach the South Orkney Islands; our landings in the Orkneys will be determined in no small part by this ice. Both fascinating and beautiful, limiting and attracting, the pack ice is also excellent habitat for seals and even the elusive Emperor Penguin. From here south, we are on sharp lookout for Emperors. If time and weather permit, we may be able to sail by the Elephant Island group where Shackleton and his men found a landfall after the sinking of Endurance. A visit to these islands involves a significant "dogleg" in our course, however, so it is quite possible that we may have to pass without seeing them. They are notoriously difficult to land on and we may judge that our time is better spent heading for localities where we are confident of making actual landings!

Geology Highlight: Between South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands we will be passing over the oldest sea floor within the Scotia Arc (Late Cretaceous to Paleogene) that we believe was attached to South Georgia as it drifted east relative to South America. The South Orkney Islands, like South Georgia, are emergent parts of a microcontinent, here part of the South Scotia Ridge. This microcontinent appears to have drifted eastward relative to the Antarctic Peninsula. Depending on weather, ice and sea conditions, we could land on Laurie Island in the east, formed mainly by upper Paleozoic-Triassic turbidites, or the metamorphic complex forming Coronation and Signy Islands in the west. The islands were first mapped geologically by the 1904-1906 Scottish National Antarctic Expedition when their brig Scotia over-wintered on the south coast of Laurie Island. As we sail westward from the South Orkney Islands past the pinnacles of the Inaccessible Islands towards the Antarctic Peninsula, we will be following the line of the submerged portion of the South Scotia Ridge. The Elephant Island group consists of high-pressure, low-temperature metamorphic rocks uplifted where the oceanic Shackleton Fracture Zone meets the South Scotia Ridge. This may be responsible for the uplift of the subduction complex.

January 10 - 16, Thursday - WednesdayThe Antarctic Peninsula
At this end of the Earth the vast scale of nature will open our senses. Great respect must be given to the fragile vegetation and to the wildlife colonies. Each participant must keep good protocol in mind during all landings! We will hope for magnificent sunsets, sculpted blue icebergs, and close penguin and whale encounters, each with the potential of an in-depth experience that we will never forget. We will be cruising historical waters where the Swedish Expedition led by Nordenskjold and the British Expedition led by Shackleton passed in their attempts to reach the continent via the Weddell Sea, named after James Weddell who penetrated it far to the south in the early 1800s. Theirs are the most amazing accounts of survival that one could imagine. We hope to visit sites where the penguins and seals that sustained these explorers have taken over, leaving only faint clues of the makeshift homes where the men spent many months before being rescued. If ice conditions permit, we will arrive at the Peninsula via Paulet Island, site of a vast Adelie Penguin colony that supplied sustenance to stranded sailors from the Nordenskjold Expedition, an equally exciting survival story to Shackleton's experience.

Over the last few decades, the Southern Ocean has experienced a significant warming trend, showing clear evidence of global warming. The Antarctic Peninsula has been feeling climate change the most, with an amazing 9°F warming in average winter temperatures over the last 50 years. This has dramatically changed and reduced ice distributions, but we will still be among a world of spectacular icebergs! In the Antarctic summertime, the coldest temperatures we normally experience during landings on the Peninsula are in the 30°F. It is a bit like winter temperatures at ski resorts, very pleasant with a jacket on, and certainly nothing like wintertime in Antarctica.

Night-time along the  Antarctic Peninsula
Night Along the Antarctic Peninsula

Our first Antarctic Peninsula landing may be Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea, where we can count on finding many penguin-covered icebergs. Paulet is a very interesting young (Plio-Pleistocene) volcanic island and holds the largest Adelie Penguin colony that we will encounter. On the west side of the Peninsula, we will enter Bransfield Strait and then head southward into Gerlache Strait. Humpback Whales have made a tremendous comeback in this region. We can expect wonderful whale behavior in these summer feeding grounds. The krill swarms are enormous, sometimes visible on the ship's depth sounder. We will find many colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, often in mixed colonies, along with their attendant scavengers, Snowy Sheathbills, Brown Skuas, Southern Polar Skuas, and Kelp Gulls. While cruising in bays along the Peninsula, we also hope to discover Weddell, Crabeater, and maybe Leopard seals on ice floes.

An alternative possibility is that we will land at Hope Bay at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula itself. Here there are two bases, a formerly British, now Uruguayan summer-only station and an Argentine base, Esperanza, where the first human birth on the Antarctic continent took place.

Geology Highlight: A landing at Hope Bay would give us the opportunity to see most of the fauna on Paulet Island (plus Adelie penguins) and to examine the fundamental stratigraphy and structure of the Peninsula. At sea level, we would see the type locality of the tightly folded graywackes and shales of the Trinity Peninsula Group (upper Paleozoic to lower Mesozoic). Climbing up the slopes to Mount Flora in an east scramble, we would cross the angular unconformity into the flat-lying strata of the Antarctic Peninsula Group. Here this unit comprises interlayered volcanic and sedimentary strata with the Jurassic plant fossils (discovered by the Nordenskjold party) that gave the mountain its name.

Paradise Bay is one of the most beautiful areas in Antarctica and is one of our favorite places for Zodiac cruising. Enjoy the view as we cruise the inner part of the bay near the spectacular glaciers and ethereal mountains. Conditions permitting, we may land and walk up for a view of surrounding mountains and glaciers at Almirante Brown, an Argentine station. Here we are completely surrounded with ice-draped peaks soaring out of the water for several thousand feet.

Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

Back onboard ship, the cruise down to Petermann Island will certainly be an unforgettable experience. Crabeater, Weddell, and Leopard seals may be hauled out on ice floes along the way. Whales may even surface between the floes, so keep your cameras ready! Hanging ice cliffs, the fronts of highly fractured tidewater glaciers, decorate most of the shoreline. Petermann Island, at 65°S in the southern part of the Lemaire Channel, has a large colony of Gentoos with Blue-eyed Shag colonies on the edges and a few remaining Adelies, though their numbers are declining precipitously here as a result of climate change. This will be our southernmost landing site. Taking full advantage of the continuous daylight, we will hope for an evening landing here with beautiful lighting for photography.

Geology Highlight: This fringe of the Antarctic Peninsula owes its spectacular scenery to the fact that it has been glacially scoured out of the batholiths that form the roots of the Antarctic Peninsula volcanic group. Prior to Gondwanaland break-up, the Antarctic Peninsula probably lay on the Pacific side of Tierra del Fuego and southern Patagonia, as well as South Georgia. The granitoids we will land on at Peterman Island are therefore related to the Patagonian batholiths of the Andes and may have provided some of the intermediate volcanic detritus of the Cumberland Bay turbidites on South Georgia.

As we make our return north, be on the lookout for cetaceans, including Orcas and even rare beaked whales. We hope to visit the sprawling Gentoo Penguin colony at Port Lockroy, located at the end of the very narrow and beautiful Peltier Channel close to Neumeyer Channel. We'll try a landing at tiny Cuverville Island with Gentoo Penguins on the headlands and/or at adjacent Rongé Island near a Chinstrap Penguin colony. We may find ourselves cruising with Humpbacks as they swim among the icebergs offshore in these waters where whale populations escaped the worst of the whaling period.

Chinstrap Penguin colony on Deception Island
Chinstrap Penguin colony on Deception Island

Deception Island, in the South Shetlands, is one of the most exciting islands on our voyage. This horseshoe-shaped volcanic island is still active, as the hot thermal pools there demonstrate. We hope to land on the outside wall and inside the caldera that opens to the ocean via a narrow gap called Neptune's Bellows. The landing at Baily Head on the outside has close to half a million Chinstraps nesting at this time of year, but the sea can be a bit tricky with steep swells crashing on an exposed beach. Inside Deception's huge caldera we hope to make a fascinating landing, which may include a short hike up the mountainside to the lookout among the lichen-draped cliffs, Neptune's Window. On the beach at Whaler's Bay, we may find Weddell Seals basking and we'll go ashore if the tide and weather are favorable. Then prepare for one of the most unique experiences of this voyage - soaking in the island's thermal waters surrounded by clouds of steam alongside the beach at Pendulum Cove. The water temperature can be fairly comfortable, although it can get so hot that it's necessary to mix it with colder water.

Geology Highlight: The Deception Island volcano is located at the southern end of the Bransfield Strait rift basin that separates the South Shetland Islands from the Antarctic Peninsula. Global positioning system data show that the main part of the South Shetland Islands are moving northwest with respect to the Peninsula at 9mm/year, but the southwestern-most of them near Deception at only 3mm/year. Hence Deception is situated near the tip of a propagating rift. The largely mafic volcanic rocks have a mildly alkaline geochemical signature.

If time and weather permit, we hope to sail close to Smith Island, immediately northwest of Deception. This is a spectacular ice covered coxcomb-like island entirely made up of a high-pressure, low-temperature subduction complex, including metamorphosed ocean floor basalts and chert layers. It is located, like the Elephant Island group, at the extremity of a fracture zone. This may be responsible for the isolated uplift of these formerly deep-seated rocks. Unfortunately, exceptional conditions are required to make landings on Smith Island, sitting totally exposed to the swell of Drake Passage and the Pacific Ocean.

Further north in the South Shetland Island group, we hope to land at Hannah Point on Livingston Island, an excellent landing site. Look for about five pairs of Macaroni Penguins nesting in the Chinstrap and Gentoo colonies. The usual rookery scavengers should also be present (skuas, gulls, giant-petrels, and sheathbills) and some may be guarding nests of their own. Kelp Gulls are especially wary and easily frightened from their nest, so we have to give their nests a wide berth. We may also encounter more lichens and even some lush moss as we continue heading north.

Geology Highlight: Livingston Island consists of the early to mid-Mesozoic turbidites of the Meirs Bluff Group surrounding the Spanish base Juan Pablo I, batholithic rocks, and Cretaceous interlayered lavas and sedimentary strata.

Peale's Dolphin
Peale's Dolphin alongside our ship

January 17 - 18, Thursday - FridayDrake Passage and Beagle Channel
Named after the 16th Century English seaman Sir Francis Drake, who first observed the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meeting here "in free and full scope," this waterway of about 600 miles separates the southernmost tip of South America from Antarctica. We cross the Polar Front approximately halfway across Drake Passage.

Those on watch will enjoy several species of albatross and petrel following the ship; it is a particularly good area for Royal Albatross and Blue Petrel. We'll also be on the lookout for pods of Sperm Whales and other cetaceans. Almost 500 miles north of the South Shetlands, we will near Cape Horn. The offshore area is as rich as seawaters can be and the seabirds are usually present in huge numbers, especially Sooty Shearwaters and Black-browed Albatross, if the sea is calm. Peale's Dolphins may also be seen, sometimes in schools of hundreds. This evening we'll head back up the Beagle Channel and enjoy a final scenic cruise all the way to Ushuaia.

Geology Highlight: Drake Passage opened in the Oligocene (approximately 30 Ma) due to sea floor spreading along a northeast-southwest trending ridge that is now extinct. It was the final "deep ocean gateway" in permitting the inception of the completely globe-encircling Antarctic Circumpolar Current, an event associated by many scientists with the near contemporaneous global cooling event that led to glaciations of the Antarctic continent.

As we pass east of "The Horn," we will pass over the continental margin of South America just where the South Georgia microcontinent rifted away some time after 100 Ma. Sailing west along the Beagle Channel, we will pass localities visited and studied by Charles Darwin. On our starboard side will be the main spine of the southernmost Andes, held up by the deformed Upper Jurassic volcanic rocks of the Tobifera (i.e.tuffaceous) Formation. On our port side will be Navarino Island composed of the Yahgan Formation, Lower Cretaceous turbidites equivalent to the Cumberland Bay Formation on South Georgia, with mafic sills forming the impressive Dientes (i.e. teeth) of Navarino on the skyline. Cape Horn and other islands along the immediate Pacific fringe are part of the Jurassic to Cenozoic Patagonian batholiths. The southernmost recently active volcano in the Andean chain, Isla Cook, is located at the western end of the Beagle Channel to the west of Ushuaia. Glacial moraines and outwash associated with the easterly flowing glacier that carved the Beagle Channel along a fault zone will be visible on Gable Island near the eastern mouth of the Beagle Channel.

January 19 - 20, Saturday - SundayDisembark in Ushuaia and journey homeward
By early morning on January 19, we will dock at Ushuaia. After an early breakfast, disembark the ship at approximately 8:00 am. Our local agents will collect the luggage in the luggage van to be held until check-in time at the Ushuaia Airport. Fly out of Ushuaia by early afternoon to arrive in Buenos Aires or other points in Argentina or Chile for connections to evening flights homeward. If you wish to stay longer in Ushuaia, we are happy to assist you with the arrangements.

Geology Highlight:Ushuaia sits under the impressive pyramid of Monte Olivia with its tightly folded Yahgan turbidites. Our flights out of Ushuaia take us over the Andes past conspicuous Lago Fagnano that lies along the Scotia-South America plate boundary, and many miles of flat Argentine Pampas that form the Andean foredeep.

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Note: More staff will be added for a total of 15.

Portrait of Ted Cheeseman
Ted Cheeseman

Ted Cheeseman (Expedition Leader, Ecologist, Photographer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver) grew up traveling extensively and began studying and photographing wildlife as a child. After completing a master's degree in tropical conservation biology at Duke University, Ted returned to California to lead and organize expeditions full time with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris. Ted currently leads expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Caribbean, serves on the Executive Committee of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), and directs CarbonTree Conservation Fund.

Portrait of Ian Dalziel
Ian Dalziel

Professor Ian Dalziel (Scientific Leader) is the University of Texas at Austin Fellow of the Geological Society of America, Murchison Medalist and Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of London with over 40 years of research experience in Antarctica and the Scotia Arc. Ian has led many research expeditions and professional field trips in connection with the 29th International Geological Congress and the Bicentennial of The Geological Society of London. He has lectured to general audiences on Smithsonian Associates' cruises in the region. Ian's 1989 expedition for the International Geological Congress led to the Southwest United States East Antarctica (SWEAT) hypothesis that the Pacific margins of ancestral North America and East Antarctica-Australia were juxtaposed before the opening of the Pacific Ocean. This has resulted in a flurry of international scientific papers over the past twenty years on pre-Pangea paleogeography. Who knows what will come from this expedition?

Portrait of Richard Alley
Richard Alley

Professor Richard Alley (Scientific Lecturer) is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State, a glaciologist, a veteran of a dozen expeditions to the great ice sheets, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and recipient of numerous awards for teaching, service, and research. He has provided requested advice on ice and climate change to the highest levels of government on both sides of the aisle and has appeared in numerous science documentaries including the recent PBS special Earth: The Operators' Manual and author of the book by the same name.

Portrait of Rob Dunbar
Rob Dunbar

Professor Rob Dunbar (Scientific Lecturer) is the W. M. Keck Professor of Earth Sciences and the Victoria and Roger Sant Director of the Earth Systems Program at Stanford University. He is also the Weintz Fellow in Undergraduate Education and a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Institute for International Studies. Dunbar received a BS in Geology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and a PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1981. He was a Professor at Rice University in Houston, TX, before moving to Stanford to set up a new teaching and research program in the marine sciences. His research focuses on oceanography as well as global climate change and impacts, and environmental policy and communications. He and his students have traveled to Antarctica over 30 times to study the impacts of climate change on both modern Antarctica and the past Southern Ocean. Dunbar has an active exploration program in the deep sea and regularly dives to the seafloor throughout the Pacific in three-man submersibles, wherein he studies the world's oldest known organisms. He has authored or co-authored over 170 peer-reviewed scientific papers and strongly believes in teaching in the field, both at sea and "on-the-ice." He is also an avid polar and mountain explorer and photographer.

Portrait of Rudolph Trouw
Rudolph Trouw

Professor Rudolph Trouw (Scientific Lecturer) is a specialist in the tectonic evolution of the Scotia Arc, including structural and metamorphic analysis of the Scotia metamorphic complex. He is currently a professor of Structural Geology and Geotectonics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he has taught since 1978. He was born in the Netherlands in 1944 and received his PhD from Leiden University in 1973. As a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, he has published two highly acclaimed textbooks, Microtectonics and Atlas of Mylonites and Related Microstructures, and in 2000 received the Geological Society of America's "best paper" award. He has participated in twelve expeditions to the Antarctic and has published on the geology of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Portrait of Edward Rooks
Edward Rooks

Edward Rooks (Professional Wildlife Artist, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver) excels in helping you uncover your unknown artistic talent if you choose to join his workshops. A naturalist par excellence with an artist's eye, he teaches drawing workshops both during days at sea and onshore. Ed is a charismatic native Trinidadian and also leads the Trinidad and Tobago tours for Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris.

Portrait of Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy (Professional Photographer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver) founded Wilderness Photography Expeditions and teaches a well-known and respected photography seminar series primarily in Yellowstone National Park. Tom will teach photo sessions onboard and ashore to help you bring your wildlife photography to new levels of excellence. He is the author of several books including The Spirit of Winter: The Seasons of Yellowstone. He has also been featured in a PBS Nature series program, Chistmas in Yellowstone. Tom also leads Cheesemans' Yellowstone in Winter photo safaris.

Portrait of Tim and Pauline Carr
Tim and Pauline Carr

Tim and Pauline Carr (Historians, Explorers, Lecturers and Zodiac Drivers) spent 14 years on South Georgia working for the South Georgia Museum, first as custodians and then as curators. Before becoming the sole resident human population on South Georgia, they spent 25 years circumnavigating the globe in Curlew, a 28-foot, engineless, wooden sailboat, built in 1898. Arriving at South Georgia in 1992, the Carrs were inspired by this incredible island and they published Antarctic Oasis in 1998. In addition to their sailing exploits around South Georgia, they have explored the inland extensively whilst camping in tents, bivouacs, and snow holes. Tim and Pauline are delightful personalities and they bring to our voyage an unparalleled, intimate knowledge of this very special place.

Portrait of Michael Moore
Michael Moore

Michael Moore (Lecturer and Zodiac Driver) has a veterinary degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK, and a PhD from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been Director of the WHOI Marine Mammal Center in since 1986. His research encompasses the forensic analysis of marine mammal mortalities, especially in regard to the accurate diagnosis of perceived human impacts and the prevalence of zoonotic agents, the interaction of natural and man-made impacts on fish and marine mammal stocks, development of systems to enhance medical intervention with large whales, and the pathophysiology of marine mammal diving. He works closely with the Right Whale Consortium, curating and contributing to the right whale necropsy database. He has recently undertaken a series of projects related to better understand how diving mammals manage gas under pressure. He currently provides veterinary support to the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Division of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, supporting their work with live and dead stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod. He is a founding trustee of the South Georgia Heritage Trust and is closely involved in supporting the ongoing Habitat Restoration Program, to reverse major rodent impacts on nesting bird success on the main island.

Portrait of Walt Vennum
Walt Vennum

Walt Vennum (Field Geologist, Zodiac Driver) recently retired from teaching mineralogy, ore deposits, field geology, and the origin of igneous and metamorphic rocks at Sonoma State University. His PhD work at Stanford University focused on igneous rocks in Northern California's Klamath Mountains. Walt's field research for the US Geological Survey took him throughout the western United States, Alaska, and Antarctica and resulted in about 50 published papers. As a result of Walt's six Antarctic field seasons, Mt. Vennum, on the southern Antarctic Peninsula, was named after him and he has been awarded the Antarctic Service Medal by the US Congress. Today when not driving zodiacs in Antarctica, Walt enjoys hobbies of downhill skiing, whitewater river rafting, mountaineering, rock climbing, and caving.

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photo of The Akademik Ioffe ship
The Akademik Ioffe

The Akademik Ioffe was built in Rama, Finland in 1989. Originally designed for polar research, the Ioffe is modern, stable, comfortable, and safe. Vessel stabilization is gained through a combination of external stabilizers on the hull and a built-in ballast trimming system, giving us a stable platform for science and exploration. The experienced captain and crew and an ice-strengthened hull provides an exceptionally safe combination for polar expedition cruising. This 96-passenger ship is 117 meters long and has a max speed of 14.5 knots. Read more ship and crew details.

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Cabin Options and Cost: (View the deck plan.)

Cabin (contact us for availability). Cost per person1
Triple with shared bath2 $12,790
Double with shared bath $13,790
Double with semi-private3 bath $14,790
Double with private bath $16,790
Superior with private bath $17,790
Suite with private bath $19,790
Luxury suite with private bath $23,790
1 Cost is per person based on double or triple occupancy depending on cabin type. No single cabins are available. Double cabins may be booked on a single basis at 1.9 times the published rate. If you are willing to have a roommate assigned to your cabin, there will be no single supplement charge.
2 Triple with private bath may be available; call for more information.
3 Semi-private bath cabins share one bathroom between two cabins.

Payments: Payments are due as listed in the following table. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases, including changes in exchange rates or fuel costs that occur between now and the date of travel.

Payment Schedule
Payment Due Date1 Amount due per person
Initial Deposit Now to reserve your space $1,000
Second June 1, 2011 $2,000
Third December 1, 2011 $3,000
Fourth June 1, 2012 $3,000
Final September 1, 2012 remaining balance
1For reservations made after due dates, all previous payments are due with registration.

Cancellation Policy: Refunds are given depending on the time left before the departure on December 27, 2012 according to the following table. You can purchase trip cancellation insurance that would refund your trip costs in the event of your cancellation. Please take the time to learn if this insurance would be in your best interest. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.

Refund Schedule
Days until Departure Dates Refund Amount
180 or more Before June 30, 2012 $300 withheld1
179 - 150 July 1 - July 30, 2012 10% of tour cost withheld
149 - 120 July 31 - August 29, 2012 40% of tour cost withheld
119 or less After August 30, 2012 no refund possible
1This $300 cancellation fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date.


  • 21 nights and 21 days on board the Akademik Ioffe.
  • All meals beginning with breakfast on December 29 through breakfast on January 19.
  • All landing fees, passenger fees and port taxes, including landing fees of approximately $30 for the Falkland Islands, $165 for South Georgia, and an IAATO passenger fee of $30 for Antarctica.
  • Lodging in Santiago on December 28 (no transfer is needed as the hotel is across from the airport).
  • Airport transfer in Ushuaia on January 19.
  • Expedition Log with daily accounts and photographs from our journey.

Not Included:

  • Airfare, airport taxes, excess baggage fees, extra transfers other than in Ushuaia on January 19.
  • Chilean reciprocal visa fee, varies by country of origin (currently $140 for US citizens, subject to change), and Argentina visa fee, if any.
  • Meals on December 28.
  • Personal items such as laundry, bar charges, wine, liquor, bottled beverages, fax/telephone/email charges.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Gratuities: Tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting $12 to $15 per day per participant (a total of $250 to $330 per participant) to be distributed among all the ship's crew. The gratuity will be collected at the end of the voyage.

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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.

Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris
20800 Kittredge Road
Saratoga, CA 95070

Toll Free: (800) 527-5330
Local: (408) 741-5330
Fax: (408) 741-0358
Email: info@cheesemans.com

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Other Details

Salisbury Plains, South Georgia
Salisbury Plains, South Georgia

Flights: Please let us know if you would like help arranging your international flights and we will put you in contact with our excellent ticketing agent. More flight details will be announced.

Inbound: Arrive in Santiago, Chile (SCL) by December 28, 2012. Non-stop flights are available from many international airports; most flights travel overnight and arrive in the early morning. On December 29, we will take the once-weekly flight from Santiago to Mount Pleasant Airport (MPN) in the Falkland Islands. We will let you know once fares are available if we can offer a good group fare for this flight.

Outbound: Depart from Ushuaia, Argentina (USH) anytime on the morning of January 19, 2013 (or later). There are several flights to choose from to the international airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) for connections homeward. You may also find connections through other intermediate stops such as Santiago, Chile. If you prefer to extend your trip, we can assist with extra hotel nights and trip extensions.

Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is required for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.

Expedition Log: After the completion of your voyage, you can look forward to a full color log of the expedition mailed directly to you. This descriptive and detailed record includes daily sightings, trip accounts, species lists, and excellent photography throughout our incredible journey.

Seasickness: Don't let a fear of seasickness prevent you from signing up! For all but the most sensitive, motion sickness is only a problem during the three open ocean passages. This is a total of approximately five days and seven nights. Days and nights when we are landing or cruising between landings are usually quite calm because we are very close to land. Our ship has an excellent stabilizing system. The Southern Ocean has a reputation for the worst seas in the world, not because they are always rough (on the average day, the seas are actually quite calm) but because their extremes are large. If we are hit by a storm during a crossing, the experience will be memorable. For this reason, unless you know you are immovable by the heavy seas, bring a good supply of medication. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.

chinstrap penguins at Baily Head, Antarctic Peninsula
Chinstrap Penguins on Deception Island, an active volcano in the South Shetland Islands. It has a distinctive horse-shoe shape with a large flooded caldera. It is one of the only places in the world where vessels can sail directly into a restless volcano.

Trip Materials
Detailed information about your specific tour will be sent to you after you make your reservation with us. These trip materials include information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. Please take a moment to read this important informtation upon receipt.


  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, wildlife sightings, or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.

Mailing List
If you would like to be on our mailing list or request information, please use our online information request form or contact us to give us your name, address, email address and phone number. Please note we will never share your personal information with anybody!

Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California, act only as agents and shall not be responsible or become liable for any delay incurred by any person in connection with any means of transportation, nor for the loss, damage, or injury to person or property by reason of any event beyond the control of the agency or default of such agency suppliers. We reserve the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. All rates are based on current tariffs, exchange rates and fuel prices and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited. Baggage is at the owner's risk.

Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.

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All material © Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris.
All photos © Doug or Ted Cheeseman, unless otherwise credited.

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