Home » Akademik Ioffe: Christmas in Antarctica and the Weddell Sea
Celebrate a white Christmas on this expedition, which combines many of the classic and well-known locations along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. This voyage provides our most in-depth exploration of the Weddell Sea, at the optimal time of the season for weather and ice navigation. If you are seeking a voyage which provides a sense of the ‘wild and unknown’ and of ‘true exploration’ – this may well be the trip you’ve been looking for. It is here the big icebergs roam. The Weddell Sea is also home to astonishing wildlife colonies that dwarf those found in other regions.
Duration: 13 Days
Our journey to Antarctica commences this afternoon in Ushuaia, in southern Argentina. We gather at our central meeting point and transfer to the pier and embark our expedition ship. After settling into our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
We chart a southerly course for Antarctica. This stretch of the South Atlantic is rich in its bio-diversity and showcases an abundance of wildlife. We will be joined by hundreds of seabirds including the wandering albatross. Giant petrels and smaller Cape petrels are also constant companions as we make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques.
Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern research vessel. Throughout the day our on-board experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history of the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. As we approach the coastline of Antarctica, we anticipate an increase in whale sightings.
We awaken today, and the magnificent snowy peaks of continental Antarctica are laid out before us. Arriving into Antarctic waters via the Bismark Strait, we aim for some of our favourite landing sites today. Anvers Island is one of the largest of the off-shore ‘barrier’ islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. There are several outstanding sites here and neighbouring Wiencke Island, such as Damoy Point, or Port Lockroy. These locations provide us with our first opportunity to venture on shore, and cruise in the Zodiacs.
A short transit across the Gerlache Strait brings us along the actual continental landmass of Antarctica. A shore landing at Paradise Harbour will be a highlight for many – as you step foot on the continent proper, for the first time. An Argentine refuge is located here and the nearby hike up a snow-covered hill provides staggering views. Iceberg filled waters, surrounded by the towering peaks of the continent will leave even the most jaded traveller lost for words. If the ice conditions allow, Zodiac cruising or sea-kayaking into the nearby ice ‘cathedral’ of Skontorp Cove is another memorable experience. On a still day, the dark water reflects the gigantic glaciers throwing a magical light over this ethereal scene.
We navigate in a northerly direction along the Gerlache Strait overnight. This is an important whale migration corridor and with the long hours of twilight at this time of the season, we encourage you to be on the bridge looking for the tell-tale blows of the migrating pods of humpbacks and minkes. We may even catch a glimpse of the resident orca pod that inhabit this stretch of water. By morning we have reached several other favoured locations in the northern Gerlache. Places such as Cierva Cove or Mikkelson Harbour allow for some great excursions on shore and in the Zodiacs. There are substantial penguin rookeries located here and it’s a good place to look for leopard seals on the icefloes.
The remote Spert Islands provide a fascinating lesson in geology. The island group is criss-crossed by narrow channels and coves and cruising in the Zodiacs or sea kayaking here is a real thrill. Seabirds nest on the cliffs above, while seals can be found resting along the shoreline. We usually encounter whales in this vicinity.
We continue our journey and by morning, will have arrived in the South Shetland Islands. Sunrise over Livingston Island is a sight to behold as the mountains are a blaze of colour as we arrive into the South Shetlands. We enter the McFarlane Strait with an objective of Half Moon Island, or nearby Yankee Harbour. Arriving on shore, a sizeable rookery of chinstrap penguins act as a very noisy welcoming committee and we hope to observe our first substantial elephant seal colony here. Additional locations we may visit include Fort Point on nearby Greenwich Island with its pebble covered isthmus – a popular location for resting fur seals. After a busy day in the South Shetlands, excitement is in the air as we set sail for Antarctic Sound – the gateway to the Weddell Sea.
Arriving into the Weddell Sea is a humbling experience. We notice an increase in the huge, flat-topped tabular icebergs in this vicinity. We always anticipate exciting ice navigation in the Weddell Sea and watching the Captain and Officers at work is a lesson in skilled seamanship.
The Weddell Sea is rich in history. The early Swedish explorer – Otto Nordenskjold and companions spent several years here in a remarkable yet little-known tale of survival. Just over a decade later, Sir Ernest Shackleton and the survival of his crew from the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (HMS Endurance), in 1914-17, grabbed the imagination of the entire world. To this day, Shackleton’s journey remains one of the great tales of polar exploration and survival. The region is home to immense colonies of the smallest of Antarctica’s penguin species – the Adelie. In locations such as Paulet Island, Brown Bluff, Gourdin Island and the Danger Islands, these rookeries are home to as many as 100,000 nesting penguins.
If ice conditions permit, we push south towards the fabled location of Snow Hill Island. A known emperor penguin rookery can be found here. While the largest of Antarctica’s penguins nest far from the shoreline, all eyes are peeled on the waters and icefloes as we hope to view these superb penguins coming and going from their rookery. Our adventure is far from over and we have an exciting day planned with possible shore landings on Vega Island, which is home to some of the most fascinating palaeontology found in all of Antarctica. Fossils here tell the story of Gondwanaland, of giant penguins and other dinosaur species and early plant life on Earth. Brown Bluff and d’Urville Monument are other landing possibilities in the area. We celebrate our exploration of the Weddell Sea this evening, enjoying a fine Christmas celebration on board the ship commencing our journey home.
As we make our way back to South America, the educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining and memorable voyage recap by our Expedition Leader. Join our photography experts in the multimedia room and download and back up your precious images. If weather conditions allow, we hope to make a rounding of Cape Horn. This fabled stretch of water is home to legendary tales of exploration and early navigation. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Approaching the entrance to the Beagle Channel in early evening light, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
In the early morning, we arrive into Ushuaia, Argentina. It is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home. It will be possible to connect to flights through to Buenos Aires or other destinations in South America. Otherwise enjoy a night in town or venture further afield to explore the highlights of Patagonia.
|16 Dec 2019 - 28 Dec 2019||$15790 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|Main Deck Triple Cabin||$15790 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|Twin Semi-Private Cabin||$19558 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|Twin Private Cabin||$21442 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|Superior Cabin||$23181 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|Shackleton Suite||$25355 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
|One Ocean Suite||$28833 AUD||US$800 travel credit!|
On deck 3, an upper and two lower beds (one of the lower beds can be converted to a sofa), shared facilities, washbasin, writing desk/chair, storage, two portholes (one openable), bathrobes
On deck 4, two lower berths (one which can convert to a sofa during the day), a writing desk, storage, wardrobes with internal shelving, semi-private facilities (one bathroom between two cabins), one openable window, toiletry kit, hairdryer, coffee/tea maker, bathrobes
On decks 4 and 5, two lower berths, a writing desk/chair, wardrobes with internal shelving, storage, private facilities, one openable window, toiletry kit, hairdryer, coffee/tea maker, bathrobes
On deck 6, two lower berths, a sofa, a writing desk/chair, wardrobes with internal shelving, ample storage, private facilities, one openable window, toiletry kit, hairdryer, coffee/tea maker, vanity kit, bathrobes, upgraded bed linen and duvets.
On deck 4 and 5, 1 queen bed, double berth in separate sleeping quarters, a sofa in the main section (can be converted to a bed), a writing desk/chair, a comfortable armchair, fully stocked mini bar, iPad with polar literature, documentaries, movies and webmail access, private facilities, large openable windows.
On deck 5, a double berth in separate sleeping quarters, fully stocked mini bar, sofa ( can be converted to a single bed), large writing desk/chair, several armchairs, iPad with polar literature, documentaries, movies, private facilities, shower and bathtub, large openable windows.
*Expedition gear package
Included in the expedition, you will have free use of essential gears needed for the trip. This package includes quality waterproof/windproof jacket, bib-pants, insulated rubber boots, and a set of binoculars.
Please note, polar exploration can be unpredictable, which regularly causes variations to our itineraries. Specific sites visited will depend on prevailing weather and ice conditions at the time of sailing. The itinerary should be read as a 'guide only' and may change.