Antarctica - Special Christmas Expedition
|December 13||Depart home.|
|December 14||Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina for overnight.||Hotel Albatros||Not included|
|December 15||Morning in Tierra del Fuego National Park. Embark on the Ortelius.||Onboard the Ortelius||B, L, D|
|December 16||Cruise northeast to the Falkland Islands with albatross at our stern.|
|December 17 - 19||Three days in the Falklands at private reserves on New Island, Steeple Jason Island and Sea Lion Island.|
|December 20 - 21||Cruise the Scotia Sea to South Georgia Island across the rich waters of the Polar Front.|
|December 22 - 27||Six days exploring South Georgia in an unforgettable wildlife extravaganza.|
|December 28 - 30||Cruise the South Atlantic to Antarctica with a landing on Elephant Island.|
|December 31 - January 6||Seven days along the Antarctic Peninsula, the richest part of this unique continent, hoping to cross the Antarctic Circle.|
|January 7 - 8||Cruise the Drake Passage and up the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia.|
|January 9||Disembark the Ortelius and fly homeward from Ushuaia.||Not included||B|
|January 10||Arrive home.|
Our route through Antarctica
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Use this information to compare our expedition to others. We are sure we will come out on top! Read why our expeditions stand out from the others.
NOTE: Antarctic conditions change very rapidly and we will make every possible effort to accomplish our schedule, however local weather can't be predicted or controlled and we must be flexible. Don't be fooled, no tour operator can guarantee landings.
* Our favorite "must see" places on earth!
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Expedition staff may change; additional staff will be listed to total 15
Hugh Rose - Expedition Leader, Naturalist, Geologist, Photographer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Hugh brings to this expedition over 20 years of professional guiding experience in Antarctica and Alaska and has been a key member of our Antarctica staff since 1998. After a decade as a field geologist, Hugh changed course finding his calling as a naturalist, tour leader, and freelance photographer. The vast landscapes and incredible wildlife of the polar regions are his subject and passion, evident in his inspired expedition leadership and stunning photos as exhibited on Hugh Rose Photography. Hugh also leads our three Alaskan tours and receives unending praise for his amazing knowledge, delightful and accommodating personality, and attention to every trip detail. Hugh brings his expertise in geology to explain and discuss the many geological features encountered during the expedition, such as the rocks in Drygalski Fjord. Hugh also leads our three Alaskan tours and receives unending praise for his amazing knowledge, delightful and accommodating personality, and attention to every trip detail.
Pauline Carr - Historian, Explorer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
In addition to the extensive polar experience shared with Tim as explained below, Pauline will share her fervent interest in polar history during stories and anecdote of the early polar explorers. Pauline has a delightful personality and furnishes an unparalleled, intimate knowledge of this very special place. She is an avid walker and will be leading wonderful hikes throughout the expedition, first in the Falklands, then at South Georgia and at landing sites along the Peninsula, such as on Paulet, at Bailey Head on Deception Island and at Hannah Point.
Tim Carr - Historian, Explorer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Tim and Pauline spent fourteen 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 is a passionate explorer and seaman and will lead hikes and Zodiac cruising in this pristine environment.
Nan Eagleson - Naturalist, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Nan is a wildlife biologist who has worked professionally as a naturalist guide in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada for seven years and has continued that work throughout her 20-plus years in Alaska. She resides in the Denali National Park area year round with her family, which includes a team of sled dogs. Nan works as the head naturalist and instructor for the Denali Education Center when she is not off birding, hiking, canoeing, dog sledding or conducting botanical surveys in the wilderness of Alaska. Her years of exploring the natural world has led to a deep appreciation of polar wilderness and its significance as the greatest wild regions remaining on Earth.
Lynne Hoole, M.D. - Doctor
In the ten years she has been practicing medicine in South Africa, Lynne has dabbled in so many fields that you will find yourself asking her advice on a multitude of subjects besides medicine. Her combination of current research in many fields and experience from all sorts of unlikely places has made her an indispensable part of our staff. On our past few expeditions, she has added shore briefings, holding onto a Zodiac in surf and defending people from curious fur seals to her already full repertoire of skills, which included things like sorting wool (farmgirl), hanging out of helicopters (emergency/rescue services) and cooking the perfect koeksister (mom's a cook).
Joe Kaplan - Naturalist, Lecturer and Zodiac Driver
Joe has had a passion for natural history, especially birds, since childhood. An itinerant biologist at heart, Joe has worked and traveled extensively throughout the Americas, the Pacific, Australasia, and Madagascar, gaining a broad understanding of biology and conservation that he generously shares on our expedition. When not in the field, Joe can be found mending historic lighthouses, tending garden, or working to protect the land he calls home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Joe is a director and biologist for the non-profit organization Common Coast Research and Conservation. He is an expert on the birds that you will encounter on this expedition and will be on the bridge ready to identify the many exciting seabirds, as well as to talk about their fascinating biology.
Steve Kaufman - Professional Photographer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
In the past thirty years, Steve has traveled widely, photographing natural history around the world. A fascination for harsh environments and the ability of plants and animals to survive extreme conditions has shaped his photography considerably, with subjects ranging from arctic Alaska to the Judean desert of Israel. Steve's work has been featured in magazines and books around the world including Audubon, International Wildlife, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and BBC Wildlife. Steve combined talents with his father, "Yogi" Kaufman, to produce five coffee table books. On board he will be teaching a photo workshop with several sessions for anyone wanting to learn a bit more about photographing, including assisting with photography during landings and with photo critique sessions. See more of his photography at Kaufman Photography.
Greg LaHaie - Naturalist and Zodiac Driver
Greg's love of wilderness and the outdoors led him to Alaska where he has spent his adult life guiding, hosting, and flying travelers through Denali National Park and the subarctic. He owns and operates a flying business and lodge inside Denali, and this seasonal work has allowed ample time for his passion of world travel, exploration, and learning about the natural wonders of the world. A fascination of all things aquatic inspires Greg to spend most of the winter on the Hawaiian islands diving, snorkeling, and surfing the pristine waters of the Pacific. Greg was on our Antarctic Peninsula expedition in 2012. He will be on the bridge frequently during the time at sea searching for the marine mammals and seabirds that you would like to observe while at sea.
Elise Lockton - Naturalist, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Elise was introduced to the world of interpreting nature through her degree in environmental studies, which evolved into both a passion and profession. She started in 1993 as a resident naturalist at remote jungle lodges, then has spent the last 13 years working in Alaska both on land and sea and as a member of expedition teams traveling the length of the Russian Far East coast, from the volcanoes of Kamchatka, to the Sakhalin Islands and the Sea of Japan. There is nothing she enjoys more than integrating biological, cultural, and historical information and sharing that with intrepid travelers. Her lectures are wonderful. When she is not working or traveling, Elise resides near the entrance of Denali National Park in Alaska.
Bill Mohrwinkel - Naturalist, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Bill is an exceptional naturalist, educator and Zodiac driver, who has been guiding tours since 1989. During our voyage he will be eager to spend time with you on the ship's open bridge and during landings identifying and discussing the seabirds, penguins, marine mammals, and other animals that we encounter. Bill is co-owner of Arctic Wild, a wilderness guiding company based in Alaska. In his spare time, he is active in protecting Alaska's Arctic Refuge coastal plain from development and other conservation issues. During the Alaskan winter, he now joins us again to help get you immersed in Antarctica's summertime glory as one of our expert guides and lecturers.
Nick Mooney - Naturalist, Researcher, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Nick has been involved in studying and managing Tasmania's wildlife for over 30 years. Starting as a raptor specialist doing peregrine surveys, he diversified into seabird research, marsupial carnivores and invasive species, plus whale rescues. He is best known for his work with the Tasmanian Devil, but he is also an expert on Antarctica. Nick is a keen educator and hopes to increase public appreciation of wildlife through training and guiding. In doing so he has done a number of expeditions, including studies on Macquarie Island in Antarctic waters, and for many years lecturing on marine mammals and seabirds while guiding in Antarctica. He has led the Tasmania week on our wildlife tours to Australia since we began offering them back in the 80's.He assists with all the challenges of making many landings on this top notch expedition and will often be on the bridge to point out what you might miss.
Ron Niebrugge - Professional Photographer, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Ron finds the ordinary and mixes it with beautiful natural light to create the extraordinary in his inspiring photography. He contributes greatly to the success of this expedition through his wonderful friendliness and the expert advice he gives to both beginning and seasoned photographers throughout the trip both on the bridge and leading photo workshops on shore during landings. His images have caught the attention of many including impressive clients such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, National Park Service, and lots more advertising agencies. When not shooting stock photos, Ron keeps busy leading many photo tours and traveling on assignment in Alaska. He will be assisting in the photo critique sessions during crossings that members of our Antarctica staff do so well. He has lived in and explored all aspects of nature in Alaska since the age of twelve and has now settled in Seward, the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. See his work at Niebrugge Images.
Marco Restani, Ph.D. - Assistant Expedition Leader, Researcher, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Marco is a wildlife ecologist specializing in birds of prey, mostly eagles and owls. His research in western North America, Greenland, and Australia focuses on conservation, migration, and predator-prey interactions. Marco splits his time between university teaching at St. Cloud State in Minnesota and a hideaway in Montana with his wife, Julianne. He teaches courses in wildlife conservation, population ecology, and ornithology and gives excellent lectures onboard on bird biology and one on climate. Marco made his first visit to Antarctica as a member of our expedition staff in 2011 and has continued last season and this season. He handles many of the landing logistics as Assistant Expedition Leader to Hugh Rose making this expedition the best possibly experience for everyone onboard. Marco also has a longtime friendship with Nick doing research in Australia together and working together on our Antarctica staff.
Tom Rivest - Wildlife Biologist, Photographer and Videographer, and Zodiac Driver
Tom, trained as engineer and biologist, loves all things related to wildlife imaging and sharing both with people. As well as being great at photography, he owns and operates a grizzly bear-viewing lodge on the central coast of British Columbia, see his website Great Bear Nature Tours. As one of three certified bear guide instructors in BC he trains bear guides for many lodges and is also the president of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC. He has led tours to China to see giant pandas, Svalbard for polar bears, and India to see snow leopards, and is part of an ongoing project to photograph all eight species of bears in the wild. Along the way he worked as a sea kayak guide in Canada and Mexico as a procrastination technique instead of writing his master's thesis. He claims he "never had a bad day in the field". Hugh has asked Tom to be one of our four staff conducting the photo critique sessions with Steve, Hugh and Ron, which are very popular.
Sadie Youngstrom - Naturalist, Lecturer, and Zodiac Driver
Sadie's passion for the outdoors and wildlife was cultivated throughout her life and professional work. For the past fourteen years she concentrated her efforts on the shores of Alaska, building her extensive knowledge of marine mammals and ecology. Her wide-ranging field research includes aquatic monitoring, plant ecology, recreational use in a national forest, population studies and photographic identification of cetaceans and sea lions. Whether for pleasure or work, Sadie can be found on or near the water nine months out of the year. She has over a decade of seamanship experience, holds a United States Coast Guard Master's license and is trained in wilderness first aid, marine safety instruction and rescue. This will be her second season with us giving excellent marine mammal, food web and whale lectures and guiding on shore during landings, as well as doing a great job for your pleasure Zodiac cruising.
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The Ortelius has been remodeled! Read more about the extensive remodeling done this year!
Under new ownership as of 2011, the Ortelius has been significantly upgraded by major work on her engines, inner workings, and passenger spaces. She has a remodeled dining room and lecture room, a new observation bar, and substantially improved cabins on all decks. She provides comfortable accommodation for 100 passengers, our Expedition Staff, and 41 Russian crewmembers.
We chose Ortelius for this voyage because she is impressively stable at sea and very capable in ice. The vessel is robust yet still small enough to explore places beyond the reach of bigger ships. The vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A) and is therefore very suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice and loose multi-year pack ice.
The ship has spacious cabins and large public spaces, including the bridge and outer decks, observation lounge and lecture room. A large observation bar provides the perfect space for passengers and crew to wind down and socialize following dinner in the well-appointed dining rooms.
The spacious bridge is open to passengers and the decks are ideal for photography and watching for wildlife. In the observation bar, you can relax and find a good collection of polar books. Enjoy entertaining lectures on the environment, fauna, history, and glaciology as well as photographic techniques. Meals prepared by an excellent European chef are served in a comfortable dining hall, keeping us warm and full of energy for the next wildlife encounter. Landings are made possible by a small fleet of high quality Mark V Zodiacs with quiet, clean-burning, four-stroke outboard motors.
See more ship details, including deckplan, cabin descriptions and photos.
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Please note: Due to the expeditionary nature of our voyage, specific stops cannot be guaranteed. Flexibility is paramount in expedition travel; the following itinerary depends on the conditions at the time of travel. We strive to land often and stay as long as possible, abiding by the Guidelines for Responsible Ecotourism from IAATO.
December 13 - 14, Saturday - Sunday International Flights to Ushuaia, Argentina
Depart by December 13 to arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina by the evening of December 14. (See Flight Information at end of itinerary.) Upon arrival in Ushuaia you will be met by our transfer agency, Rumbo Sur, for the transfer to Hotel Albatros, an excellent hotel located near the waterfront. Ushuaia, the world's southernmost port town, has quickly become the largest town in Tierra del Fuego. It is a charming town, especially on a sunny day. All meals are on your own for these days. Please contact us if you would like to arrive early to spend extra time in or around Ushuaia. We would be happy to book extra hotel nights and arrange or suggest activities.
Lodging on December 14: Hotel Albatros
December 15, Monday Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego National Park, and Embarkation
Spend the day exploring Tierra del Fuego National Park while your luggage is sent ahead from the hotel to the Ortelius. Hope for blue skies as we head to the park in the Southern Beech forest. Search for Andean Condor and enjoy the view from an overlook. The walk along the shores is also fascinating and includes the possibility of seeing Peale's Dolphins in the channels. Land birds include three species of caracara, an incredible diversity of geese, various thrushes, and other Tierra del Fuegan passerines. On our previous trips we have sometimes spotted Magellanic Woodpecker. Picnic lunch is included. Back in Ushuaia, stop at the small, yet excellent natural and cultural history museum near the waterfront.
By 4:00 pm, board the Ortelius, which will be waiting at the dock. We'll find our cabins, with our luggage already there, and get ready for embarkation in the early evening. The Ortelius will pull anchor and head east down the Beagle Channel. As Ushuaia fades in the distance, we will find ourselves cruising by largely uninhabited scenic shores. It's hard to believe that all along these shores of the Beagle Channel are hollows where the Hshgans (Tierra del Fuegans) once lived and built their huts. The beautiful evergreen Nothophagus trees (Southern Beech), strongly wind pruned, fill every protected valley between the gently rolling hills with mountains behind. Look for birds such as Chilean Skua, South American Tern, King Cormorant, Kelp and Dolphin gulls, and Black-browed Albatross. Our staff on board will spot and identify these species. Enjoy our first dinner together aboard ship, a very special occasion indeed. Dusk will linger late enticing us to stay up watching for seabirds and the spectacular scenery along the channel on our way out to sea. After sunset, phytoplankton phosphorescing on the water and a brilliant, starry sky may be the rewards.
Lodging: The remaining nights will be onboard our ship, the Ortelius.
December 16, Tuesday At sea to the Falkland Islands
Familiarization on all aspects of ship life and preparations for what to expect in the Falklands will keep us busy, but we'll find time for viewing from the bridge or stern. Wandering and Black-browed albatross should be following us as we head east and there's also a chance of spotting a Royal Albatross in these waters. Photographers on the stern will have a field day following birds on the wing in their viewfinders. We should see about ten species of birds today, including Thin-billed Prion, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwaters, and possibly even Kerguelen Petrel. Most seabirds we will see are in the tubenose family, having tube-like structures on the bill leading to the nostrils. The weather could be quite balmy, about 15°C, between 50-60°F, if the skies are blue.
December 17 - 19, Wednesday - Friday Explore the Falkland Islands: New Island, Steeple Jason Island and Sea Lion Island
The Falkland Islands, approximately 300 miles east of South America and 700 miles north of Antarctica, have a temperate, but sometimes foggy climate. At this time of year, we hope to enjoy some of their rare Austral summer sunshine. Out of the 300 or more islands in the Falklands, we plan to land on three of the best for wildlife viewing and photography. On New Island, Steeple Jason Island and Sea Lion Island, highlights will be three species of penguins: Rockhoppers, Magellanics, and Gentoos. We may walk inland to seek out the Magellanics as well as land birds of the Falklands, species that are not to be found on South Georgia. We must pay close attention to staying out of the areas that contain fragile prion burrows and Southern Giant Petrels nests (especially abundant at New Island and Steeple Jason).
All of these islands are privately owned and open to ecotourism on a very limited basis. The owners of these islands are artists and authors and are keenly working to protect the resident wildlife. Ian Strange and his daughter, Georgina, have books for sale at the little museum located near the main landing site on New Island, including a natural history guide to the Falklands. Ian Strange is the founder of the New Island Conservation Trust, an excellent organization that funds research on New Island by students, mainly from the Falklands and Argentina.
Our first landing will be on New Island where we should see most of the birds of the Falklands, including the fascinating flightless Steamer Ducks, Ruddy-headed Goose, caracaras, shorebirds, and passerines such as Tussock-bird, Dark-faced Ground Tyrant, Long-tailed Meadowlark, and Black-throated Finch. We will have amazing views of Black-browed Albatross courting atop their conical mud nests along the cliffs. South American Fur Seal may be seen, although their numbers have been declining rapidly. Other highlights include both Peale's and Commerson's dolphins that occasionally bow ride with the ship or even alongside the Zodiacs going from ship to shore and back.
Black-browed Albatross colony on Steeple Jason
We'll then relocate to Steeple Jason Island, the outermost northwest island, now a reserve owned by the New York Zoological Society. The colony of albatross here is mind-boggling; more Black-browed Albatross nest here than anywhere else on earth! All the other Falkland specialties are found here as well. Landings are always subject to weather conditions.
Our final morning in the Falklands 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; 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, Magellanic and Rockhopper penguins. 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!
December 20 - 21, Saturday - Sunday At sea to beautiful South Georgia Island
By morning we will be far from the Falklands, heading southeast through the Scotia Sea en route to South Georgia Island. The richness of these waters is evident in the marine mammal life, especially the fur seals on fishing forays. There is a chance of sighting whales, such as Fins and Minkies. Fin Whales are very difficult to approach as they are the fastest of the rorqual whales and can quickly leave us behind. The birds circling our stern will be outstanding, especially the large albatrosses. We have counted in these waters six species of albatross: Grey-headed, Light-mantled Sooty, Wandering, Northern Royal, Southern Royal, and of course, Black-browed; eight species of petrels: Cape, Soft-plumaged, White-headed, Atlantic, Blue, White-chinned, and Southern and Northern giant petrels; three species of storm-petrels: Gray-backed, Black-bellied and Wilson's; plus Common Diving-Petrel, Greater and Sooty shearwaters, Southern Fulmar, and Antarctic Prion by the thousands.
During this time at sea, crossing about 800 nautical miles from the Falklands, we will have lectures on wildlife, photography, ecology, geology, and the history of the Scotia Sea and South Georgia. The prevailing current will be in our direction and sailing should be smooth. In these waters we cross the Polar Front, also called the Antarctic Convergence, and officially enter Antarctic waters. Two bodies of water meet here as the salty, cold Antarctic water mixes with warmer, fresher water from the north. The front is marked by a rapid decline in water temperature, plummeting from about 6-8°C down to 2°C in a period of about eight hours of cruising. With this change, 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. You may even spot a Fairy Prion if you have an eye for searching through the large prion flocks circling the ship.
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December 22 - 27, Monday - Saturday Explore South Georgia Island for an unequalled six days!
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 six days in this wild landscape of penguins and seals. The mountainous, rugged interior is a geologic continuation of the Andes 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.
King Penguins at St. Andrew's Bay
During our time in South Georgia, we will explore the eastern coastline where its many incredible landing sites are teeming 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 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 the 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. It will be the height of their breeding activities so we'll have the opportunity to see them nesting and frequenting the beaches.
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. Penguins of several species may also be see porpoising alongside the ship as we travel the wild and rugged coastline.
At Grytviken, the busiest whaling station in the world for the first half of the 20th century, we will absorb a bit of whaling history. The museum has excellent natural history exhibits as well as a small gift shop. The history of Antarctic exploration comes alive as we listen to our historian 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 on the east side seeking help for his men stranded on Elephant Island. His crew, hand picked for his 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 landing room 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 105 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 and, in 2012, saw Humpback Whales in coastal South Georgia waters, a first for us in our decades of Antarctic voyaging. We are hopeful that the recovery continues and we will see many whales on this expedition. Also on our previous charters, two species of beaked whales, Southern Bottlenose Whale, and Cuvier's Beaked Whale were seen, with several sightings of the former. 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.
December 28 - 30, Sunday - Tuesday Cruise south via Elephant Island to Antarctica
Our route to Antarctica will be packed with activities such as watching wildlife from the ship's deck and attending informative lectures. The waters between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula are rich with Fin Whales; in good conditions we have seen as many as a hundred in a day! If not whale-watching or on the lookout for Antarctic Petrel, Kerguelen Petrel and one of the most beautiful birds of the Southern Ocean, the Snow Petrel, please join our full program of lectures and workshops. Our lecture series is designed to add depth and knowledge to your expedition, and workshops will focus on advanced photographic techniques and critique to enhance your Antarctic photo collection.
En-route to the Peninsula, we plan a stop at Elephant Island where Shackleton's men waited four months and never gave up hope of rescue – creating an epic story of the Heroic Age of Exploration. Our visit to Elephant Island is very dependent on conditions but it offers plenty of excitement. In early 2014 expedition leader Hugh Rose reported, "Great day at Elephant Island. We arrived at 10 am and found beach conditions too rough to land, though fine for Zodiac cruising. The weather was stunning and the cruise was wildly successful despite a confused sea. All very happy passengers at the end of the day! We then navigated to Cape Lookout and proceeded to land at 3:00 pm. The wind picked up but we were able to land there, finding a protected spot on the beach. People loved it! Elephant Island was a huge success despite the landing conditions being rough."
December 31 to January 6, Wednesday-Tuesday Discover the Antarctic Peninsula – the richest part of the Great White Continent!
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. As we sail these waters, you will recall the most amazing accounts of survival that you heard told during our shipboard history lectures. 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.
Over the last few decades, the Southern Ocean has experienced a significant warming trend. 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 on the Peninsula, the coldest temperatures we normally experience during landings are around 30-32°F. It is a bit like winter temperatures at ski resorts, pleasant with a jacket on, and certainly nothing like wintertime temperatures in Antarctica.
Adelie Penguins at Paulet Island
If ice conditions permit, we will arrive at the Peninsula via Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea, 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 epic. Here we can count on finding penguin-covered icebergs that will provide us many photo and wildlife watching opportunities. Paulet is a geologically interesting 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 fathometer (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 Leopard seals on ice floes.
Zodiac cruising alongside a Leopard Seal
Paradise Bay and Neko Harbour are in the most beautiful areas of Antarctica and are among our favorite places for Zodiac cruising. Enjoy the view as we cruise the inner bays near spectacular glaciers and ethereal mountains. Conditions permitting, we may land and walk up for a view of surrounding mountains. Here we are completely surrounded with ice-draped peaks soaring out of the water for several thousand feet.
Back onboard the Ortelius, the cruise down to Petermann Island will certainly be an unforgettable experience. Many Crabeater and Weddell seals and a good number of Leopard Seals will 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 Adelies and Gentoos with Blue-eyed Shag colonies on the edges. Just south of Petermann, the Yalour Islands also afford spectacular 360-degree views of mountains, fields of icebergs, and glaciers as a backdrop for Adelie Penguin colonies situated on rock. Conditions permitting, we will travel onward south to celebrate a crossing of the Antarctic Circle and southernmost landing at Detaille Island among Adelie Penguins. Taking full advantage of the continuous daylight, we will hope for an evening landing here with beautiful lighting for photography.
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 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 or Orcas as they swim among the icebergs offshore in these waters where whale populations escaped the worst of the whaling period.
Chinstrap Penguins at Baily Head, 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 both the outside wall and inside the caldera center that opens to the ocean via a narrow gap called Neptune's Bellows. Bailey Head on the outside has close to half a million Chinstraps nesting at this time of year, but the landing 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. On the beach at Whaler's Bay we may find Weddell Seals basking and we'll go ashore if the tide is correct and the weather is favorable. Then prepare for one of the most unique experiences of this voyage – soaking in the island's thermal heated tidewaters surrounded by clouds of steam rising off the beach.
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 (skuas, gulls, giant-petrels, and sheathbills) should also be present 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. Here we can see both species of Antarctic flowering plant: Deschampsia grass and Antarctic Pearlwort.
January 7 - 8, Wednesday - Thursday Sail the Drake Passage past Cape Horn and back through the Beagle Channel
Named after the 16th Century English seaman, Sir Francis Drake, 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 may sight 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 others that have been sighted in the passage. Almost 500 miles north of the South Shetlands, we will near Cape Horn, with a distant view before turning northeast toward the Beagle Channel. 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 all the way to Ushuaia.
January 9 - 10, Friday - Saturday Disembark in Ushuaia and journey homeward
By early morning on January 9, we will dock in Ushuaia where we will be reluctant to say goodbye to our spirited shipmates! After an early breakfast and clearing customs, disembark the ship at about 8:00 am. Our local agents will collect the luggage and put it 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. (Review complete flight information. ) If you wish to stay longer in Ushuaia, we are happy to assist you with the arrangements.
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Costs and Cabin Options: All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. View the deck plan.
|Cabin Type||Description1||Cost per Person2|
|Quadruple||3rd deck cabins with 2 upper and 2 lower berths, private bath, porthole, desk, chair, and storage space.||$15,795|
|Triple||3rd deck cabins with 2 lower berths and 1 upper berth, private bath, porthole, desk, chair, and storage space.||$17,845|
|Double||3rd or 4th deck cabins with 2 lower berths, private bath, porthole, desk, chair, and storage space.||$19,945|
|Superior Double||5th deck cabins (much larger than standard Double) with 2 lower berths, private bath, windows, small sofa, desk, chair, and ample storage space.||$20,995|
(best for couples)
|5th deck deck cabins with 1 queen bed, private bath, windows, refrigerator, sofa (with fold out twin bed), desk, chair, TV, and ample storage space.||$22,295|
1 Cabin options, deck plan, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator.
2 Cost is per person, shared occupancy. See Single Occupancy below.
Note: All cabins have private baths. For safety reasons, all cabin windows are fixed shut and do not open.
Payment Schedule: Payments are due based on the following schedule. For reservations made after due dates, all the previous payments will be due with registration.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount per Person|
|Intial Deposit||With registration, to reserve your space||$500|
|Second||September 1, 2013||$2,500|
|Third||December 1, 2013||$4,000|
|Fourth||April 1, 2014||$4,000|
|Final||August 15, 2014||Remaining balance|
|1For reservations made after due dates, all previous payments are due with registration.|
Single Occupancy: Please contact us if you are interested in a single cabin. If space is available, Double, Superior Double and Superior Plus Cabins can be booked for a single occupant by adding 30% over the listed cabin cost. If you are willing to have a roommate assigned to your cabin, there will be no single supplement charge.
Cabin Assignments: Please note that we cannot guarantee a request for a specific cabin number. If changes occur, we will do everything in our power to assign a cabin of equal or greater value as the cabin type specified in your reservation. Deck plan, cabin arrangements, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator.
Cancellation Policy: Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. You can purchase your own trip cancellation insurance that would reimburse your trip costs in the event of your cancellation. Please take the time to learn if this insurance would be in your best interest.
|Days until Departure on Dec 13, 2014||Dates||Refund Amount|
|180 or more||On or before June 16, 2014||$300 withheld1|
|179 - 150||June 17 to July 16, 2014||10% of tour cost withheld|
|149 - 120||July 17 to August 15, 2014||40% of tour cost withheld|
|119 or less||On or after August 16, 2014||no refund possible|
|1 This $300 cancellation fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date.|
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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us first to check availability, reserve your space, and obtain a reservation form. To confirm your reservation, we require a deposit and reservation form from each participant. 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
Fax: (408) 741-0358
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Climate: Antarctica has a cold, dry, sometimes windy climate even in the summer. Normal summer temperatures are usually 3–4°C (37–39°F) on the Peninsula, known as the "Banana Belt", but temperatures can drop below freezing at 0°C or 32°F. In the Falklands, daytime temperatures are generally 10–15°C (40–50°F), while in South Georgia the temperatures range from 1–6°C (34–41°F). Penetrating cold is not usually a problem. Wind chill and wetness while riding in Zodiacs are the primary conditions to insulate against especially in South Georgia where zodiac rides can often be "splashy". It is also possible to get wet weather, but often it is with wind, so an umbrella is not usually practical. Waterproof gloves, warm cap, layers of light, loose, warm clothing, and waterproof outer garments are necessary. Sunscreen is critical as the hole in the ozone layer is often found over the southern ocean at this time of year. The temperature on the ship can range from comfortably warm to cool, but you may still wish to dress in layers and keep a warm layer handy in case there is exciting wildlife (such as an Emperor Penguin!) that you wish to go out on deck for.
Fitness Level: Although participating in the Southern Ocean voyage does not require a high level of physical fitness, you should be fit enough to walk up and down stairs on the ship and on the gangway that hangs on the side of the ship, able to get into and out of the Zodiac with assistance of Expedition staff and crew, and walk on sometimes unstable, rocky, and slippery terrain on shore. Once on shore, you can choose to walk for short or long distances (within the specified guidelines). Landing details will be given in advance of each landing. If you have any questions about your physical abilities, please give us a call!
Flights: Airfare is not included in trip costs. We recommend using our excellent travel agent to book your flights and will provide her contact information with the trip materials. Additional information including details of flight routes to Ushuaia, group fare possibilities will be sent after registration. If you prefer to extend your trip at either end, we can assist with extra hotel nights in Ushuaia and arrange or suggest trip extensions.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book:
Arrival – Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina (USH) by December 14, 2014. For most, this means leaving home by December 13, 2014. The most convenient international flight routes tend to be through Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Departure – You may depart Ushuaia (USH) any time after 10:00 am on January 9, 2015.
Flights we may book for you:
Group Flights: We will send you details about our group round-trip flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia and between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires.
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 our voyage, you can look forward to a full color log of the expedition. This descriptive and detailed record includes daily descriptions, species lists, and excellent photographs taken by participants throughout our incredible journey.
Seasickness: Don't let a fear of seasickness scare you away! Over the years many who have dreamed of experiencing Antarctica with us have stayed home for fear of seasickness, but of all those who have joined, we know of only one passenger who said that seasickness really affected the enjoyment of the trip. Still, that same passenger talked about repeating the trip, because the rest of the experiences more than made up for it. For all but the most sensitive, motion sickness is only a problem during the four open ocean passages. This is a total of approximately six days and nine nights. The passage from Ushuaia to the Falkland Islands is usually quite smooth because we remain on the continental shelf and travel with currents for the entire distance. Days and nights when we are landing or cruising between landings are quite calm because we are very close to land. The Ortelius 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. Many of our frequent travelers are quite susceptible to seasickness, yet they come back year after year because they love Antarctica! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
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.
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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