Antarctic adventurers can aim to tick two boxes off their bucket list on this voyage, where you have the opportunity to visit regions in Antarctica that most people will never experience, not even among those who have been to Antarctica – below the Antarctic Circle and attempting to forge a path through the ice in the Weddell Sea. As you venture south on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, passing spectacular, towering cliffs and glittering icebergs, there is a chance you may see Adélie penguins and ice seals such as leopard and crabeater seals resting on ice floes.
In the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of the peninsula, under favourable weather and sea ice conditions, be prepared to encounter an unimaginably spectacular world of icy landscapes. It is here where Otto Nordenskjöld and his men were forced to spend two winters, and also where Ernest Shackleton had to abandon the Endurance, after it became trapped in the ice. It’s an icy realm that few have been fortunate to experience.
Having made your way to Ushuaia, you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to our group hotel. This evening, enjoy a light refreshment as you meet your fellow expeditioners at a Welcome Reception. Afterwards, dine at your leisure (dinner not included).
Accommodation: Las Hayas Hotel (or similar)
This morning, please ensure your cabin luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. Your luggage will be collected from your hotel and transferred directly to the port for clearance and delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Please keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day. Enjoy free time after check-out, meeting back in the hotel lobby at 2.00 pm to commence a short sightseeing tour of Ushuaia.
Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego is located at the shores of the Beagle Channel and surrounded by the Martial Mountains giving you a unique landscape in Argentina, which is the combination of mountains, sea, glaciers and forests. On this brief introductory tour, you will visit “La Mision” neighbourhood, the old Government House, and the upper area of the city, which offers beautiful panoramic views of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel. During the excursion you will see the antique houses that belonged to the first families settled in Ushuaia. The excursion ends with a visit to the Old Prison Museum before transferring to the pier for embarkation at approximately 4.00 pm.
If you choose to not participate in the sightseeing tour, you will need to make your own way to the Prison Museum carpark by 3.45 pm to re-join the group for the transfer to the pier for embarkation.
After embarkation, you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important mandatory briefings. As the ship pulls away from port, we’ll gather on the deck to commence our adventure with spectacular views over Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego.
As we commence the Drake Passage crossing, we make the most of our time getting comfortable with the motions of the sea. Our expedition team prepare you for our first landing with important wildlife guidelines and biosecurity procedures and start our lecture program to help you learn more about Antarctica’s history, wildlife and environment.
Our wildlife experiences begin as we enjoy watching and photographing the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following our vessel. On sea days, you may can enjoy the facilities on board the vessel including the gym, wellness centre or the relaxing in one of the observation lounges.
Nearing the South Shetland Islands and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on the afternoon of day four, the excitement is palpable with everyone converging on one of the observation decks watching for our first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once we are below the Antarctic Convergence and are surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of your first big iceberg sighting is likely to remain with you for a lifetime. Time and weather permitting, we may attempt our first landing in Antarctica by late afternoon or forge onwards towards the Antarctic Circle.
It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of arriving in Antarctica. Spotting your first iceberg and taking a deep breath of some of the most fresh, crisp air on earth is an experience that will stay with you forever.
Your experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day, choosing the best options based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.
The waters at this time of year are rich with krill and we hope to see plenty of whales – particularly humpbacks and minkes and enjoy the spectacle of penguins feeding their ravenous chicks.
To be part of a voyage that attempts to explore the remotest and wildest parts of a region that in and of itself is already arguably one of the remotest regions on Earth gives you more than basic bragging rights. As we approach and attempt to cross the Antarctic Circle, an imaginary line at latitude of 66° 33’ south, you will notice subtle changes in the landscape, and also in the distribution of wildlife.
Venturing below the Antarctic Circle is a chance to enter a different world that is rarely seen, it feels more isolated and colder than further north, with great swathes of pack ice and dream-like icebergs. Thread through pack ice and narrow channels where scenes of ice-clad mountains, whales fattening up on krill, leopard seals patrolling the waters for vulnerable penguins and snow petrels soar above. Raise a glass to toast venturing below the Antarctic, joining an exclusive group of adventurers in doing so.
After our explorations below the Antarctic Circle and along the western side of the peninsula, we sail north to make our way to the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of the peninsula. Along the way, we plan to visit some of our favourite places around the Antarctic Peninsula, exploring coastlines by Zodiac, landing on beaches where fur seals frolic, and where fledging penguins are taking to the waters for the first time. As we approach Antarctic Sound, we hope for favourable weather and ice conditions to grant our good ship entry to its frozen realm. A considerable aspect of a voyage to the Weddell Sea is the thrill of not knowing if the ice will allow us to enter its frozen realm. The Weddell Gyre pushes enormous amounts of ice from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf up towards the area near Antarctic Sound, blocking the entrance to the Weddell Sea, but a visit to the region has numerous rewards.
Central to the story of where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance became trapped in formidable sea ice, the Weddell Sea certainly is high on the list for many polar adventurers. A small set of islands standing off to the east of the Antarctic Peninsula collectively form Antarctic Sound – the gateway to the Weddell Sea. With a well-deserved reputation as being an iceberg alley, many large tabular bergs escape the Weddell Sea through the Antarctic Sound, often making navigation difficult.
Gigantic icebergs, the size of skyscrapers, dwarf our Zodiacs as we attempt to push through seemingly impenetrable sea ice to land on remote beaches where ancient fossils can be found. The wildlife we may encounter in the Weddell Sea region makes the attempt worthwhile. The abundant ice attracts ice seals such as crabeater, leopard and Weddell seals, which all breed and birth on sea ice. The Weddell Sea boasts a large Adélie penguin colony just outside of Antarctic Sound, some of which breed on the rocky slopes of a small volcanic island, where a large colony of Antarctic blue-eyed shags jostle for space with nest-building Wilson’s storm petrels.
We generally make landings or Zodiac excursions twice a day. You’ll want to rug up before joining Zodiac cruises along spectacular ice cliffs or among grounded icebergs, keeping watch for whales, seals and porpoising penguins. Zodiacs will also transport you from the ship to land, where you can visit penguin rookeries, discover historic huts and explore some of our favourite spots along the peninsula and in the Weddell Sea region.
On thrilling Zodiac cruises or slicing a path through the maze of sea ice in your kayak, keep watch for chinstrap and gentoo penguins in and out of the water, as well as humpback, minke and orca whales. In the Weddell region, fossils are a reminder of a more temperate era – gastropods, large clams, and spiral-shaped ammonites, all turned to stone. Your camera is sure to get a solid workout during your time in the Weddell Sea.
While ashore we aim to stretch our legs, wandering along pebbly beaches or perhaps up snow-covered ridgelines to vantage points with mountains towering overhead and ice-speckled oceans below. If you have chosen an optional activity, you’ll have the option to do that whenever conditions allow, and of course keen polar plungers will have the chance to fully immerse themselves in polar waters – conditions permitting!
Enjoy a final morning landing in the South Shetland Islands before we re-enter the Drake Passage for our return journey to South America.
With lectures and film presentations to complete our Antarctic experience, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the life that calls it home. There is time for reflection and discussion about what we have seen and experienced. We hope you become ambassadors for Antarctica telling your family, friends and colleagues about your journey to this magical place, advocating for its conservation and preservation so that they might one day visit the region to experience what you have been lucky to see and do here.
As we approach the tip of South America, our Captain may sail close to legendary Cape Horn, weather and time permitting.
During the early morning, we cruise up the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia, where we disembark from approximately 8.00 am. Farewell your attentive crew, expedition team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature. A transfer to Ushuaia airport or to your hotel is included in the voyage fare.
Note: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing Ushuaia prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.