Christmas in Antarctica
Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas
11 days/10 nights
Punta Arenas to Punta Arenas
17 days/16 nights
This exciting Antarctic expedition may well provide the most unique ‘white Christmas’ you will ever experience. Over the course of 11-days you will enjoy up to eight days of off-ship exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula, visiting a large number of landing sites and cruising among the ice floes in our Zodiac boats. We use our time efficiently, by embarking in the port of Stanley – the quaint capital of the Falkland Islands. Crossing south to Antarctica we witness the magnificent pelagic seabirds of the southern region, including the giant Wandering albatross. This ocean habitat teems with life above and below the water and is a fascinating ecosystem in its own right.
Day 1 – Punta Arenas, Chile to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
Our journey commences this morning in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. We meet at a central location before transferring to the airport for our scheduled flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. (This flight is included in the price of your voyage). After a short 90-minute journey we are met on arrival and transferred to the pier.
Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. There is time to explore the town, before we make our way to the ship for embarkation. After settling in to 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, dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica – and the adventure of a lifetime.
Days 2 – 3 – At Sea towards Antarctica
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 make our way south. Photographing these magnificent birds from the deck of the ship takes patience and skill and our photography expert will be on hand to show you the best techniques. Throughout the day our onboard experts educate us with a series of presentations about the environment, the wildlife and history and the locations we hope to visit in the coming days. If we enjoy good sailing conditions crossing to Antarctica, we may include a visit to the very historic location of Elephant Island – a place central to the Shackleton story. It is from here that Shackleton and four of his companions set off on their epic ocean crossing to South Georgia 100 years ago.
Day 4 – 5 – King George Island and Antarctic Peninsula
This morning we are in position at King George Island – the largest in the South Shetlands group. There are two landing sites here and a visit depends on the prevailing weather conditions. Penguin Island and nearby Turret Point offer good opportunities for shore landings to view Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Southern giant petrels, kelp gulls and Antarctic terns are also known to nest here. This afternoon we continue our journey south, navigating into the broad expanse of the Bransfield Straight – making our way ever closer to the Antarctic coastline. This is an important migration corridor for wildlife and we keep a lookout for whales in the waters surrounding the ship. Large icebergs will be present from this point onwards and make for striking photographs in the evening light. By morning, the towering mountain peaks of the Antarctic continent loom into view and we should make landfall around Wilhelmina Bay. This is truly an ‘A-list’ location and a
place we often encounter sizeable pods of humpback whales. We navigate under the towering cliffs of Spigot Peak and into the Errera Channel hoping for a shore landing at Cuverville Island – home to a rookery of Gentoo penguins. It’s a fantastic location for a zodiac cruise or a paddle in the sea kayaks.
Day 6 – 8 – Antarctic Peninsula Exploration
We encourage you to spend time on the outer decks soaking up the scenery as we navigate south. We pass through the ice-strewn waters making our way towards our ultimate objective, the Lemaire Channel. Given favorable ice conditions, our first goal will be to sail through the Lemaire, a narrow passage of water flanked by the towering peaks and glaciers of the Antarctic Continent on one side and Booth Island on the other.
We hope to visit a working scientific base to learn something of the important climate-related research happening here. If the conditions are right, we aim to offer our overnight camping program to all adventurers somewhere in this vicinity.
Petermann Island is home to an Adelie penguin rookery. Adelies, the smallest of the Antarctic penguins, nest here and share the location with Gentoo penguins and Imperial cormorants. The view to the north of Mount Shackleton and Mount Scott is impressive. These towering granite sentinels mark the southern entrance to the nearby Lemaire Channel. Pleneau Island offers more opportunities for shore landings. Just off shore, massive icebergs run a round in the shallows. Constant wind and wave action sculpt these gargantuan chunks of ice into fantastic shapes, revealing more shades of blue than you can possibly imagine.
Days 9 – 10 – Gerlache coastline and South Shetland Islands, Antarctica
Paradise Harbour is one of our favorite locations and may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbour offers another continental landing. Expect to be in full sensory overload by this time of the voyage.
By morning we arrive in the South Shetland Islands. The adventure is not over and if the weather conditions allow, we sail the ship into the flooded volcanic caldera at Deception Island. This is a very dramatic place and history is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted old boilers and dilapidated wooden huts. At the far end of the beach is an old aircraft hangar. This is where Australian, Sir Hubert Wilkins made the very first flight in Antarctica in 1928. There is also an outstanding hike here, high up onto the rim of the crater. On a sunny day, cruising along the coast of Livingston Island is a memorable experience.
Day 11 – King George Island – return to Punta Arenas, Chile
This morning we are anchored off King George Island. We say goodbye to our crew and transfer ashore by zodiac and time permitting, we will explore the surrounding area. There are several important science bases here including Chile’s Frei Station and Bellingshausen Station. We are transferred to the airstrip for the two hour flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile (this flight is included in the price of your voyage). We recommend you spend a night in Punta Arenas in the event of any delays returning from Antarctica today.
Our journey commences in Punta Arenas, located in southern Chile, where we board our two-hour flight across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Upon arrival at the King George Island in Antarctica, we embark our ship via Zodiac inflatable crafts.
Days 2 – 4
Overnight we navigate through the Gerlache Strait and awake to the towering peaks of the Antarctic continent laid out before us. For the next three days we have a varied itinerary exploring the Gerlache coastline. Southerly Petermann Island, is home to a sizeable penguin rookery where both Adelie and gentoo penguins nest side by side. The landscape all along this section of the Antarctic coastline feature heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Our activity program is in full swing by now, and each day we enjoy guided walks on shore, visits to wildlife colonies, and Zodiac cruising among the ice with our expert guides providing insight and interpretation. Wilhelmina Bay is another favorite location where we frequently encounter pods of humpback whales.
We are now heading north towards Antarctic Sound – the gateway into the icy Weddell Sea. Along the way we hope to make a planned visit at Deception Island. If weather conditions permit, we sail the ship right into the middle of a volcanic caldera. This is a very dramatic place and home to several penguin rookeries along the black sand beaches. History is all around us as we explore the old whaling station, with the rusted relics and dilapidated wooden structures. Fur seals gather among the old structures seeking protection from the elements. Our goal is to enter the icy Weddell Sea, through the broad channel that separates the continent of Antarctica from Joinville Island. This region is also home to some of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries found in Antarctica.
After several busy days of exploration along the Antarctic Peninsula and entrance to the Weddell Sea, we head for Elephant Island – a location forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the HMS Endurance expedition a century ago. On the windswept north coast, exposed to the swells of the South Atlantic is Point Wild. It was here that Shackleton and his exhausted men camped under their upturned boats – pondering their chances of survival. Shore landings here are notoriously tricky due to often gale force winds and pounding surf onto the rocky beach. This is a thrilling location for anyone with a passion for polar history.
Days 7 – 8
As we depart Elephant Island we cannot help but ponder the journey made by Shackleton and his four companions – as they attempted the near impossible – navigating 800 nautical miles in a 30 foot converted lifeboat across the tempestuous Scotia Sea to South Georgia. We make a much easier time of the crossing in our state of the art expedition ship. Onboard experts keep us busy with fascinating presentations and lead lively discussions throughout the day. The great pelagic seabirds are sure to keep us company – and we anticipate excellent sightings of albatross and giant petrels soaring on the winds of the South Atlantic Ocean. Anticipation builds as the mountainous peaks appear on the horizon, marking our arrival at South Georgia.
Days 9 – 12
South Georgia has often been called the most staggering wildlife show on earth and as we approach the deep bays of this rugged, rocky outcrop you begin to see why. Dark sand beaches, tussock covered hinterland and a backdrop of towering peaks and glaciers are a feast for all the senses. Seals cover the beaches, seabirds fill the skies and living in rookeries of immense size, live the majestic king penguins. Our aim is to visit a number of these huge colonies – where naturalists estimate that more than 100,000 adult and juvenile penguins live in close proximity. Locations we hope to visit include Gold Harbour, Royal Bay, St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain. A highlight is a visit to Grytviken – the largest of the former whaling stations on the island, and where we visit the gravesite of Shackleton, buried here in 1921.
Days 13 – 15
Sailing north towards the Falkland Islands commences. Much of our time is spent scanning the horizon in search of whales and other marine mammals. The spectacular seabirds including several albatross and petrel species are our constant companions as they soar above the ship. Our onboard educational program continues and our experts recap our remarkable journey to date. These days provide a good opportunity to catch up on journal entries, sort through your images in the multimedia room and catch some rest after a busy two weeks of activity.
After several days crossing, Sea Lion Island marks our arrival into the Falkland Islands. This windswept location, situated in the southern archipelago provides one further day of activity. We launch our Zodiacs and go ashore to view the remarkable wildlife colonies found here. Three species of penguins including Gentoo, magellenic and rockhopper exist in the vicinity. Southern Elephant seals and South American sea lions are found hauled out on the beaches. Once ashore we also look for King cormorants and striated caracaras. Weather permitting we may have time to visit neighbouring Bleaker Island, another settlement on the exposed south-eastern coast of the Falklands.
This morning we navigate through the narrows and into the port of Stanley. We have time to explore before we make our way to the airport for our return flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile.
We are very proud to offer one of the best sea kayaking programs ever!!! Whether you are an experienced kayaker or you want to try it for the first time, this activity will allow you to enjoy another side of this magnificent destination.
Price per person: U$S 795
If conditions are suitable and you choose to camp on the continent at no extra cost, we will provide all the required gear such as tents, bivy sacs and sleeping bags. This excursion is managed with strict environmental regulations. A portable toilet is used and absolutely everything is transported back to the ship afterwards.
Includes flights to Port Stanley returning from King George Island
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27 Dec 2018
Should you wish to simplify packing, we are proud to offer a full complement of outdoor expedition gear for you on board. Free of charge is a foul weather gear package and wellington boots. These ‘wet skins’ are coated in waterproof PVC and include a jacket with full hood, soft comfortable collar and storm flap over the zipper. The jacket has ample pockets and finishes below the hip offering full wind protection. Paired with the jacket are bib and braces with reinforced seat and knees and adjustable ankle cuffs. We have a selection of sizes including XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL.
Roll-top waterproof knapsacks and Bushnell® binoculars are all available for hire at nominal fee.
We have a Wellness program on the ship which includes a gym, sauna, hot tub, massage room and plunge pool for icy dips if you so wish! Early morning stretching and yoga sessions followed by healthy breakfast are a great way to start your expedition day.
Proof of our Polar Commitment
When traveling with Ice Tracks Expeditions, you will discover how much we care about the places and people we visit. We demonstrate this by finding ways to give back as well as taking away so many incredible memories.
Read more about our Giving Back Program.
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