Antarctic Expedition Cruises

Antarctic Expedition Cruises

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Location: Antarctica

Routes:  Classic Antarctica: expedition cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands. Classic South Georgia: expedition cruise to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. Polar Circle Quest: expedition cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands and endeavour to cross the Polar Circle. All cruises aboard the Ushuaia.

Travel period: October to April

Duration: 11 days aboard plus travel time (Classic Antarctica); 20 days aboard plus travel time (Classic South Georgia); 12 days aboard plus travel time (Polar Circle Quest).

Pat Falvey Irish and Worldwide Adventures limited is bonded and fully licenced by the Irish Commission for Aviation Regulation, TA0791.

 

Description

We work closely with our travel partner, Antarpply Expeditions, to ensure that our three cruise options – Classic Antarctica, Classic South Georgia and Polar Circle Quest – are the ultimate introduction to the pristine White Continent. The Classic Antarctica offers sightings of an amazing diversity of awe-inspiring scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. The Classic South Georgia is a truly memorable trip to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and South Georgia where the Endurance’s Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley eventually found salvation in the form of the whaling station at Grytviken.The Polar Circle Quest cruise explores the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and endeavours to cross the Polar Circle which few have ever passed. All three cruises deliver unforgettable experiences of wildlife, spectacular scenery in the most pristine continent on the planet and an insight into the fascinating history of the early Antarctic explorers in the land that defined the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Classic Antarctica

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Depart from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Embark the cruise ship Ushuaia in the afternoon and meet expedition and lecture staff. After you have settled into your cabin, we sail along the famous Beagle Channel and the scenic Mackinlay Pass.

Days 2-3: Crossing the Drake Passage

Named after the renowned explorer, Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold Polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a significant upwelling of nutrients, which sustains the biodiversity of this region. The Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds.

As we sail across the passage, our lecturers will be out with you on deck to help in the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including many albatrosses, which follow in our wake. The Ushuaia’s open bridge policy allows you to join the ship’s officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for whales, and enjoy the view. A full programme of lectures will be offered as well.

The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of 20 islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams. With favourable conditions in the Drake Passage, our lecturers and naturalists will accompany you ashore as you experience your first encounter with the penguins and seals on Day 3.

Days 4-8: Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands

The South Shetland Islands are a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries, beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and Southern elephant seals make every day spent in this amazing island group unforgettable. Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is fantastic. King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, features colonies of nesting Adélie and Chinstrap Penguins, Kelp Gulls, Blue-eyed Cormorants, Antarctic Terns and Southern Giant Petrels and is home to scientific bases of many different countries. Macaroni, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins, as well as elephant seals, await you at Livingston Island.

The Antarctic Peninsula’s remarkable history will provide you with a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its fantastic scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. Apart from penguins and seabirds, you are very likely to see Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals as well as Minke, killer (orca) and humpback whales at close range. We hope to navigate some of the most beautiful waterways (depending on the ice conditions): the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel and the extremely narrow Lemaire Channel between towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.

We plan to make at least two landings per day, and possible landing sites may include Paradise Bay, perhaps the most aptly named place in the world, where we may attempt a landing on the continent proper. After negotiating the iceberg-strewn waters of the Antarctic Sound, we hope to visit the bustling Adélie Penguin (over 100,000 pairs breed here) and Blue-eyed Cormorant colonies on Paulet Island. The Nordenskjöld expedition built a stone survival hut here in 1903. Today its ruins have been taken over by nesting penguins.

Further exploration may take you to Melchior Island, Cuverville Island, Portal Point, Neko Harbour, Pléneau Island and if ice conditions permit, to Petermann Island for a visit to the southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins.

Days 9-10: At sea, crossing the Drake Passage, northbound

We leave Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join our lecturers and naturalists on deck as we search for seabirds and whales and enjoy some final lectures. Take the chance to relax and reflect on the fascinating adventures of the past days on the way back to Ushuaia.

Day 11: Arrival in Ushuaia

We arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the Ushuaia after breakfast.

Please note that the above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and programme will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions and opportunities to view wildlife. Changes will be made by the captain and expedition leader to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. A daily programme sheet will be issued on board. Flexibility is the key to success.

Classic South Georgia

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Depart from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Embark the cruise ship Ushuaia in the afternoon and meet your expedition and lecture staff. A welcome drink will be followed by an introduction to the crew and expedition staff and we will have time to get to know our new shipmates. The ship will then set sail towards the Western Falkland Islands (Malvinas), known for their rugged beauty and wealth of seabirds and waterfowl.

Day 2: At sea

The open bridge policy on the Ushuaia allows us to join the officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for marine life and enjoy the views of the open ocean. These waters are also home to an exciting group of seabirds, which often ride the currents created in the wake of the ship, such as albatrosses and petrels.Join the expedition staff and naturalists on the deck while we are at sea as we search for seabirds and other local wildlife, such as orcas and dolphins. An exciting selection of lectures will help us to prepare for our first excursions in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Day 3: Western Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

On the west coast we might visit the following islands:

  • West Point Island which lies off the most north-westerly point of mainland West Falkland (Malvinas). The attractive settlement sits on the edge of a small harbour on the eastern side of the Island, in the lee of Black Bog Hill and Michael´s Mount. The valley between these two peaks rolls over the centre of the island to the dramatic Devil´s Nose, one of the island´s main attractions. From here visitors are treated to splendid views of Cliff Mountain, the Island´s highest point 381m and the highest cliffs in the Falklands. This is where we will encounter a vast colony of Rockhopper Penguins and Black-browed Albatrosses, nesting together in close vicinity.
  • Carcass Island which lies to the northwest of the Falkland archipelago (Malvinas). A mature tussac plantation covers much of the lower ground below Jason Hill to the east. The availability of abundant cover and the absence of cats, rats and mice throughout the island have made for a spectacularly large population of small birds, which is one of Carcass Island´s most delightful features. Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins do also nest here. Peale´s and Commerson´s dolphins frequently come close to the shoreline to get a glimpse of the visitors as well. At the settlement with its beautiful gardens, we are invited to enjoy tea and cookies with the locals. Overnight we will sail around the northern islands of the archipelago in an easterly direction to reach the capital, Stanley, in the following morning.

Day 4: At sea. Eastern Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

In the morning hours, we will have time to explore the quaint little town of Stanley and its beautiful museum, souvenir shops and pubs. The town was established in the early 1840s. Isolation and the weather conditions made life hard, but progress was gradual and punctuated by the extremely eventful times of involvement in two world wars. For those who are more interested in the outstanding wildlife the Islands have to offer, you do not even have to leave town to enjoy it. Southern Giant Petrels often fly close to the shoreline.

The endemic Falkland Steamer Ducks abound on the shores while Kelp Gulls can often be seen flying together with Dolphin Gulls. The less obvious but frequent visitors to the Stanley area are Black-crowned Night Herons, Red-backed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Turkey Vultures are regularly seen on top of any prominent building. Many pairs of Upland Geese frequent the park, and it might be nice to take a stroll around the gardens of town to see some of the singing birds as well. In the early afternoon, it is time to set sail, heading for South Georgia.

Days 5-6: At sea

An extensive lecture programme will be offered during the days at sea. Expert naturalists share their knowledge of the wildlife and unique ecosystems we will encounter throughout our voyage. South Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on Earth with more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.

Day 7: At sea

South Georgia will come in sight. Though extremely isolated, it has impressive scenery ranging from high mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland, deep fjords and low-lying grassland.

Days 8-10: South Georgia

Our exact itinerary will depend on local land and sea conditions, but the following destinations are among those that we would like to explore:

  • Salisbury Plain. Sometimes called the ‘Serengeti of the South’, Salisbury Plain is a wildlife site without parallel. Several massive glaciers provide a dramatic backdrop for the tens of thousands of King Penguins that nest in the tussac grass of this remarkable ecosystem. The wide beach makes for excellent walking as we visit the colony, where we are surrounded and delightfully outnumbered by crowds of curious, gentle penguins. Elephant and fur seals also abound, as well as Southern Giant Petrels and the occasional wandering Gentoo Penguin. Prepare for an awe-inspiring experience, as the elephant seals are giving birth on the beaches.
  • Prion Island is a beautiful tussac grass covered islet. If we are lucky, we will get the opportunity to see a breeding colony of Wandering Albatross on top of it. We will climb to the summit on a wooden boardwalk, which takes us close to their nests and offers comfortable viewing platforms.
  • Grytviken lies within King Edward Cove; a sheltered harbour tucked between Hope Point and Hobart Rock on the western shore of Cumberland East Bay. The rusting ruins of the Grytviken whaling station are situated on a level plain at the head of the cove, backed by steep hills and mountains. Now the site of the South Georgia Museum, the station remains a focal point of interest for many visitors, as does Sir Ernest Shackleton´s grave in the nearby whalers’ cemetery and his memorial cross on Hope Point. The scenery in this area is stunning even by South Georgia standards. The glaciers and snow-covered peaks of the Allardyce Range – Mt. Sugartop, Mt. Paget, Mt. Roots, Nordenskjöld Peak, Mt. Kling and Mt. Brooker – form a magnificent backdrop to the cove, and the views from King Edward Point, in particular, must be among the finest on earth.
  • Situated 9km east of Cumberland East Bay on the eastern shores of Barff Peninsula, Godthul is a 3km long inlet that lies between Cape George and Long Point. Gentoo Penguins are abundant on the tussac plateau, and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses echo off the natural cliff amphitheatre that encircles the harbour. A floating factory ship serviced by two whale catchers was stationed here each summer between 1908 and 1929. A small shore depot supporting the whaling operations was established close by the stream in the southeast corner of the harbour, and the rusting barrels, wooden shed and boats are fascinating relics of the whaling era, as is the impressive collection of whale and elephant seal bones scattered along the beach.
  • The surf-beat coastline at St. Andrew’s Bay runs north-south in a 3km-long uninterrupted sweep of fine dark sand, covered in penguins and seals and bounded in the interior by the Cook, Buxton and Heaney Glaciers. The bay hosts the biggest colony of King Penguins in South Georgia. Early in the season, the beach is also carpeted with fur and elephant seals. Such a large assemblage of wildlife attracts an entourage of persistent and voracious scavengers. Sheathbills dart in and around the penguin colony. Cape Petrels nest in a small number on the cliffs north of St. Andrew’s Bay. Leopard seals patrol the rocks at this end of the beach too, hunting for penguins along the edge of kelp beds. A few White-chinned Petrels and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses nest on the tussac slopes. Brown Skuas and Antarctic Terns breed on the outwash plain and scree slopes at the north end of the beach, defending their nest sites with their characteristic noise and vigour.
  • Cooper Bay is found at the southeast extremity of South Georgia. There is a wealth of wildlife at this site, in a spectacular setting. Chinstrap, Gentoo and maybe one or two Macaroni Penguins dot the tussac slopes, and there are plenty of fur seals on the beaches. Fascinating volcanic rocks tower over small fjords, giving a stunning invitation for a thrilling zodiac cruise to watch wildlife from the waterfront.
  • Drygalski Fjord is also located in the far south-east of the island. The glaciers found in this dramatic fjord have retreated significantly in recent decades, but they remain one of the most striking features of this coastline, particularly the Rising and Jenkins Glaciers. With a little luck, we might see the glaciers calve and witness the birth of a new iceberg from on board the ship.

Days 11-12: At sea

We spend the next two days crossing the Scotia Sea towards the Antarctic Peninsula offering opportunities to be out on the deck, catch up on some reading, check through and edit our photos, or just reflect on the magical experiences of the last days on South Georgia. Lectures and other activities will be offered throughout these days.

Day 13Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands

We hope to have a chance to visit the enigmatic Elephant Island. Sir Ernest Shackleton fans will need no introduction to this historic windswept island. In 1916, Shackleton was forced to leave 22 of his men stranded on these shores, while he and five others embarked on an unbelievable last-ditch rescue attempt. What followed is one of the greatest rescue stories of all time. Every passenger will return with a greater knowledge of this gripping tale of adventure in a remarkable part of the world.

Day 14: At sea

Our expedition team will prepare you for our experience in the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.

Days 15-17: Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands

In the area of the Antarctic Sound, we will try to visit the following sites:

  • Argentine Antarctic Station Esperanza – we will try to sail the passage to the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which traverses the Antarctic Sound and runs northwest to southeast. Hope Bay and the Argentine Station Esperanza are located on the western side of the Sound.
  • Brown Bluff, a promontory on the Tabarin Peninsula, is located south of Hope Bay. Both of them might be possible landing sites. The Weddell Sea represents the centre of the Peninsula´s Adélie Penguin population.
  • Paulet and the already mentioned sites might give us ample proof of this. The numbers of penguins are breathtaking. The region also teems with vibrant exploration history. The most bizarre of these tales involves the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-03 under the command of geologist Otto Nordenskjöld. Four visitor sites have links to this expedition: Hope Bay, Paulet Island, Snow Hill Island, and Cape Well-Met on Vega Island. Our expedition staff will be pleased to share their exciting story with you. Nordenskjöld´s expedition was the first to overwinter in the Peninsula. His ship, Antarctic, under the command of the famous Norwegian whaling captain Carl Anton Larsen, was trapped in the ice and sank, but the men survived on different locations and even managed to carry out significant scientific research in the area.
  • We plan to sail through the Gerlache Strait into the Northwest Antarctic Peninsula area. This region of broad straits, mountainous islands, protected bays, and narrow channels offer moments of solitude. A profusion of tall peaks humans have never climbed and vast glaciers flowing inexorably seaward are the physical features here.
  • We might visit Hydrurga Rocks, a small group of islets, which lie east of Two Hummock Island in the Palmer Archipelago, at the northern entrance of the Gerlache Strait. Chinstrap Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags and Kelp Gulls are confirmed breeders here.
  • We might also go to Cuverville Island, which lies in the scenic Errera Channel, in the centre of the Gerlache Strait. A well-defined raised beach forms a nesting site for many Gentoo Penguins here. On our way north we plan to explore the South Shetland Islands.
  • Deception Island is the largest of three recent volcanic centres in the South Shetlands. Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is fantastic. Once inside, the rising slope of the black, cinder-covered volcanic rim can be walked uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point.
  • Half Moon Island is a crescent-shaped island, in the entrance of Moon Bay between Greenwich and Livingston Islands, is home to Chinstrap Penguins in breathtaking surroundings.

Days 18-19: At sea

We leave Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join our lecturers and naturalists on deck as we search for seabirds and whales. We will also enjoy some final lectures. Take the chance to relax and reflect on the fascinating adventures we have had over the past days.

Day 20: Arrival in Ushuaia

We arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the Ushuaia after breakfast.

Please note that the above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and programme will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions and opportunities to view wildlife. Changes will be made by the captain and expedition leader to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. A daily programme sheet will be issued on board. Flexibility is the key to success.

Polar Circle Quest

ITINERARY:

Day 1: Depart from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Embark the cruise ship Ushuaia in the afternoon and meet the expedition and lecture staff. After you have settled into your cabin, we sail along the famous Beagle Channel and the scenic Mackinlay Pass.

Days 2-3: At sea. Crossing the Drake Passage

Named after the renowned explorer, Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a great upwelling of nutrients, which sustains the biodiversity of this region. The Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. As we sail across the passage, the ship’s lecturers will be out with you on deck to help with the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including many albatrosses, which follow in our wake.

The Ushuaia’s open bridge policy allows you to join our officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for whales, and enjoy the view. A full programme of lectures will be offered as well. The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams. With favourable conditions in the Drake Passage, our lecturers and naturalists will accompany you ashore as you experience your first encounter with the penguins and seals on Day 3.

Days 4-9: Explore the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands; endeavour to cross the Polar Circle

Exquisite beauty and pristine landscapes are waiting for you on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Myriads of icebergs with different shades and shapes are floating free in the waterways around the continent. The Antarctic Peninsula’s remarkable history will also provide you with a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its amazing scenery and a wide variety of wildlife. Apart from Adélie, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins and other seabirds, you are likely to encounter Weddell, crabeater, fur and leopard seals as well as Minke whales and orcas at close range. At this time of year, it is also very likely to encounter significant cetaceans, such as humpback, Finn and Sei whales in the area.

We hope to navigate some of the most beautiful waterways the area has to offer, such as the Gerlache Strait, Errera Channel, Neumayer Channel and the extremely narrow Lemaire Channel. Possible landing sites may include Paradise Bay, which is perhaps the most aptly named place in the world with its impressive glacial fronts and mountains, Cuverville Island, home of the most prominent Gentoo Penguin colony in the Peninsula surrounded by glaciers and castellated icebergs, and the British Museum and Post office Port Lockroy. As further exploration will lead us far South of the Lemaire Channel in quest of the Polar Circle, we might also visit the Ukrainian Station Vernadsky, the former British base Faraday, where the ozone hole was first spotted, the rugged Yalour Islands and south of the Polar Circle Detaille Island.

On our way north, we plan to explore the South Shetland Islands. The volcanic island group is a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries and seals hauling out on the shorelines make every day spent here unforgettable. Sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island is amazing, so is visiting the crescent-shaped island Half Moon, home to Chinstrap Penguins in breathtaking surroundings.

Days 10-11: At sea. Crossing the Drake Passage, northbound

We leave Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join our lecturers and naturalists on deck as we search for seabirds and whales and enjoy some final lectures. Take the chance to relax and reflect on the fascinating adventures of the past days on the way back to Ushuaia.

Day 12: Arrival in Ushuaia

We arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the Ushuaia after breakfast.

Please note: The above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and programme will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions and opportunities to view wildlife. Changes will be made by the captain and expedition leader to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. A daily programme sheet will be issued on board. Flexibility is the key to success.

The Ushuaia

The Ushuaia has been refurbished to accommodate a maximum of 88 passengers in 46 comfortable cabins and suites. Originally built for the United States agency NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the Ushuaia has been refurbished to accommodate a maximum of 88 passengers in 46 comfortable cabins and suites. The ice-strengthened polar vessel Ushuaia is very well appointed and provides ample deck space and an open bridge policy. The full complement of inflatable landing craft ensures superb landings and wildlife viewing opportunities on the otherwise inaccessible coastline. All cabins include ample storage space. Public areas feature a large dining room (one sitting), an open-plan observation lounge/lecture room with modern multimedia equipment, bar and a well-stocked library. There is also a changing room and a small infirmary.

The ship’s expert captain, officers and crew are highly experienced in Antarctic navigation and have a great love of nature. We provide a specialist team of international expedition leaders and lecturers, all extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic, helpful and dedicated to the protection of the environment. Our chefs prepare excellent cuisine including many local specialities and the bar is well-stocked with carefully selected wines and spirits.

*Suites: Four outside cabins with windows on the upper deck G, private facilities, two lower berths, lounge, TV, DVD player and fridge. Suite 201 features two double beds, Suite 202 one double bed and a sofa bed. Suites 204 and 207 feature three lower single beds.

*Superior: Nine twin outside cabins with windows on the upper deck G, private facilities, two lower berths. Cabin 301 has one double and one single bed.

*Premier: Six twin outside cabins with windows on the upper deck G, private facilities, two lower berths; two single cabins with portholes (view obstructed by lifeboat) on the upper deck G, private facilities.

*Standard Plus: 11 twin outside cabins with portholes or windows on deck E, private facilities, two lower berths. Cabin 640 has one double bed; two triple outside cabins with portholes or windows on deck E, private facilities; three lower berths.

*Standard: 12 twin outside cabins with portholes on deck E, semi-private facilities, two berths (upper/lower).

Note re semi-private facilities: Two cabins share one bathroom accessible from both cabins (shower and WC). Each cabin is also equipped with its washbasin.

DATES

Please contact us for exact dates and details.

PRICE

Prices: from €11,000

Deposit: €1,000 due at time of booking

WHY TRAVEL WITH US?

Our passion for your adventure treks and expedition is one of the defining characteristics of Pat Falvey Irish & Worldwide Adventures. We love what we do, the places we travel to and the people we work with in each destination. After 25 years of worldwide travel, we remain curious about learning more and retain our delight in sharing what we know with you. We are a hands-on company whose staff are available to answer your queries both inside and outside usual office hours.

Our staff and partners in Nepal, Russia, Africa, Argentina, Peru and Antarctica are as close to us as family members and share our enthusiasm for your trips. We see their work as a vital part of each adventure and have always ensured that local staff, most of whom have worked with Pat for many years, are fairly and honourably treated. The experience and expertise of everyone who works with us is guaranteed and makes for adventures that are high on safety, support and good fun.

Our company is one of the world’s leading experts in high-altitude trekking in remote regions and we pride ourselves in putting together trips that give you the best possibility of success on your adventure. To ensure this, we have a comprehensive acclimatisation formula, designed to maximise each person’s chances of completing their trek without falling prey to the effects of high altitude or acute mountain sickness (AMS). Our guides closely monitor the group at all times for symptoms of the effects of high altitude and are always ready to take the necessary precautions when necessary.

We are not only willing to go the extra mile to make your trip our priority, we are happy to do so.

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