Home » Greg Mortimer: Antarctic Explorer Fly/Fly ex. Punta Arenas
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This 11 day itinerary includes return flights from Punta Arenas to King George Island where you can skip the Drake Passage both ways. This allows more time for exploration and less time at sea with the added bonus of exploring both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula, the spectacular well known western side visited by most expedition cruises and the Weddell Sea on the eastern side which is well known for its colossal icebergs, large penguin colonies, and fossil-rich islands. Get up close with iridescent icebergs, vast colonies of Adelie and gentoo penguins as well as islands that are alive with leopard seals busy with courtship, bustling penguins and maybe feeding whales!
Duration: 11 Days
Arrive in Punta Arenas and transfer to your downtown hotel to check in. The rest of the day is at your leisure before a group briefing about tomorrow's flight
This morning, a private vehicle will be transfer our group to Punta Arenas airport for an early morning charter flight to King George Island, Antarctica. The flight will take approximately two-and-a-half hours.
On arrival into King George Island, the Aurora Expeditions team is on hand to greet you and provide you with gumboots for the short walk to board Greg Mortimer. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before important briefings, followed by your first meal on board as the crew set our course for our first landing in Antarctica!
NOTE: King George Island is located at the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. This is one of the most remote places on Earth. A clear sky with perfect visibility is required in order for the plane to take off and land safely.
Depending on the weather, we will first approach Antarctica to the north of King George Island or in narrow channels between the South Shetland Islands. From there we will head through Antarctic Sound to the eastern side of the Peninsula.
A host of choices are open to us, and depending on the ice and weather conditions, the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.
Because we are so far south, you will experience approximately 18-20 hours' daylight and the days will be as busy as you wish. We will generally make landings or Zodiac excursions two to three times a day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface and landing on the continent and its off-shore islands to visit penguin rookies, seal haul outs, historic huts and a few of our other favourite spots along the peninsula. There is plenty of time for sleep when you get home!
The Weddell Sea is well known for its colossal icebergs, large penguin colonies, and fossil-rich islands,
and there are many exciting places we can choose to visit. A sample of some of the places where we
may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife follows:
Situated on the eastern side of Tabarin Peninsula, the spectacular 745-metre promontory of Brown Bluff towers over some 20,000 nesting pairs of Adelie penguins and hundreds of gentoo penguins. Nesting skuas, snow petrels, and pintados inhabit the upper slopes and kelp gulls screech overhead. Brown
Bluff's volcanic origins have created some fantastically-shaped boulders that lie scattered across the ash beach and make colourful nesting sites for some of the penguins.
This tiny volcanic island forms the nesting grounds of some 120,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, and the surrounding seas literally teem with penguins!
There is also a blue-eyed shag colony situated at one end of Paulet's long beach front. Leopard seals are often seen cruising offshore, hoping to pick up a penguin snack.
Weddell seals sometimes haul out here for a quiet nap on the beach. Apart from its plentiful wildlife, Paulet is also rich in the history of Antarctic exploration, for it was here that the 22 men of Larsen's ship Antarctic arrived on 28 February, 1903, after their ship sank. The men spent the winter on Paulet, living on penguins and seals, until eventually Larsen and five of the men rowed across Erebus and Terror Gulf to be reunited with members of Otto Nordenskjold's geological exploration party.
-James Clark Ross Island
Separated from Trinity Peninsula by Prince Gustav Channel, the beaches and rocks of this mighty island are a mix of volcanic and sedimentary; creating a geologists’ paradise. The beaches are populated with kelp gulls while Antarctic terns and skuas nest on the island's higher slopes. Many of the island's rocks are decorated with bright red and orange lichens, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities. Ice floes in the surrounding waters provide temporary floating homes for Weddell and leopard seals. We may walk up to Hidden Lake, following a stream rich in fossilised remains of deciduous trees, ferns, and even clamshells. If ice conditions and time permit, we may also circumnavigate this fantastic island; a rarely-accomplished feat.
This very rarely-visited island was named for its two striking peaks or 'horns'. It is the nesting site for some 10,000 pairs of Adelie penguins. If weather conditions permit, we may walk up a scree slope to the top of the island's western peak. A few hundred metres in height, the summit provides superb views into Erebus and Terror Gulf. On the upper slopes, you may even see nesting snow petrels and Wilson's storm petrels. For those who are less active, the continuous commute of penguins on the beach and the accompanying skua population provide endless fascination. We may also cruise in our Zodiacs amongst the large numbers of icebergs that are often grounded offshore. Other places that we may visit around the Weddell Sea area and on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula are: Joinville Island; D'Urville Island; Hope Bay; Seymour Island; Snow Hill Island; Vega Island; Prince Gustav Channel; Beak Island; Crystal Hill; Herbert Sound; View Point; and Duse Bay.
As we round the northern tip and sail along the Western flanks of the Antarctic Peninsula, we’ll have the chance to continue exploring and landing on some of the more well-known sites along the peninsula. A sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, photograph, or view spectacular wildlife include:
A unique landing place on the Peninsula – tiny toes of land that are literally alive with wildlife. Here we will find two species of penguins breeding, Chinstrap and Gentoo. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 60 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline. The vegetation consists of mosses, lichens, and a grass species Deschampsia Antarctica. All this is set against a stunning backdrop underneath long black scree slopes at the foot of the mountains and glaciers of Livingston Island.
A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this unforgettable piece of heaven provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns, and gulls. The serenity of Paradise Harbour envelops us once the sound of the dropping anchor fades from our ears.
This is a haven for whales and we keep our eyes open for humpbacks, orcas and minkes, as well as crabeater seals, as we explore the bay in Zodiacs. Imagine being so close to a whale that when it surfaces to blow, the fishy spray of his exhalation momentarily blurs your vision – a truly rare experience.
This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrude from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstrap penguins raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is Latin for leopard seal, and on occasions we see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife.
-Half Moon Island
This wildlife-rich island is tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day, the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the vista. There is a large chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets coloured by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island there is a large colony of nesting blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways.
If ice conditions allow, standing on the bow of Polar Pioneer and quietly moving through the narrow Lemaire Channel could be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 700 metres directly above the ship. The water can be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface. Gigantic icebergs may clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage.
Located on Goudier Island, British Port Lockroy is an important site for both scientific research and visitors to the Antarctic continent. Designated a historic site in 1994 and opened to the Antarctic tourism industry in 1996, it was discovered in 1904 and used by the whaling industry in the first half of the 1900’s, was part of the British Operation Tabarin during World War II, and was later used as a British Research Station. Today, Pork Lockroy is manned by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and operates as a museum and gift shop for visitors from passing Antarctic expeditions. You can even send a post card home from the Penguin Post Office, the world’s most southern Post Office!
Visiting Deception Island is like making a journey to the moon. We sail through the narrow opening of Neptune's Bellows to enter the flooded volcanic crater. The inside of the crater is an unworldly scene, virtually devoid of life. Glaciers flow down from the edge of the crater, littered by black volcanic ash.
We can explore the lifeless remains of a derelict whaling station and a vacant British base, or climb to the rim of the crater. Steam rises from the shore indicating that the water is actually warm enough for swimming - for those who dare. Outside the crater, if conditions allow, we might land at Bailey Head to explore the enormous Chinstrap Penguin rookery that featured in David Attenborough's Life in the Freezer series.
A fine example of the South Shetland Islands – tiny toes of land that are literally alive with wildlife. Here we will find two species of penguins breeding - chinstrap and gentoo. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 60 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline
-Other places we may visit around the Antarctic Peninsula are:
Vernadsky; a Ukrainian scientific base
Today, our landings come to an end as we disembark in King George Island and fly to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel for the night.
Depart at anytime today onwards to your next adventure.
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Located on deck 3 , Room size: 23.2m², Twin or double bed, Private en-suite bathroom , Porthole window, Desk area, Closet space, Sofa bed (can sleep 3rd passenger in select cabins) , Room-controlled thermostat, Safe for storing valuables, 42" flat-screen TV
Located on deck 4, 6 and 7, Room size: 16.5-20.7m², Private balcony, Twin or double bed, Private en-suite bathroom, Floor to ceiling window,Desk area Closet space, Room-controlled thermostat, Safe for storing valuables, 42" flat-screen TV
25.4sqm - 26.1sqm, located on deck 4, private balcony (9.1sqm-10.8sqm), double bed, private ensuite bathroom, full-size window, desk area, closet space, room-controlled thermostat, safe and 42-inch flat-screen TV.
30.1sqm, located on deck 7, private balcony (14.3sqm), double bed, private ensuite bathroom, full-size window, desk area, closet space, room-controlled thermostat, safe, 42-inch flat-screen TV and separate lounge area.
35.9sqm, located on deck 4, private balcony (10.4sqm), double bed, private ensuite bathroom, full-size window, desk area, closet space, room-controlled thermostat, safe, 42-inch flat-screen TV and separate lounge area.
21.4sqm, 3 single beds, private ensuite and porthole window. Includes desk area, closet, room controlled thermostat and 42 inch flat screen TV.