Quest for the Antarctic Circle 11 daysAboard: Akademik Ioffe
This unique expedition provides a modern twist on a much loved classic. Utilizing our decades of experience, this innovative itinerary allows us to reach our objective of the Antarctic Circle in just 11 days. From Punta Arenas in Chile we fly to the embarkation point of Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Crossing south to Antarctica we witness the magnificent pelagic seabirds of the southern ocean, including the Wandering albatross. This ocean habitat is a fascinating ecosystem in its own right. Navigating our way towards the Circle, we enjoy seven 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 hope to reach the Antarctic Circle in the vicinity of Detaille Island. Over the course of the voyage, we plan to visit several classic locations such as Petermann Island, and the iceberg ‘graveyard’ at Pleneau Island. We transit the Lemaire Channel if ice conditions permit and make continental landings at Paradise Harbour or nearby Neko Harbour. Each day we explore on shore by foot, observing wildlife colonies, visiting historic huts and science bases, photographing icebergs and soaking up the incredible landscapes. We complete our voyage with visits to several locations in the South Shetland Islands, including Deception Island. From King George Island we fly back to South America in just two hours. For a relatively short voyage, this trip packs a serious punch and offers fantastic diversity of scenery, wildlife, historic and scientific interest.
In depth, pre-expedition tours of the Falkland Islands can be added to this itinerary. This tour can also be combined with a Weddell Sea & Falklands cruise aboard the same ship to create one epic Antarctic voyage. Please ask for details.
- Cross the Antarctic Circle
- Spectacular scenery
- Amazing marine wildlife
- Myriad birdlife
- Fly the Drake
- Flights from Punta Arenas to Stanley & King George Island to Punta Arenas
- Full board accommodation on board ship
- 1 night hotel stay in Punta Arenas post-expedition
- Loan of waterproof boots
- All zodiac excursions and landings
- Programme of expert lectures
So much to experience
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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. 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. It is charming with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. The waterfront memorial, built to commemorate the lives of the servicemen lost during the Falklands War in the early 1980’s, is a sobering reminder of recent history. There is time to explore the town, before we make our way to the ship for embarkation. In the evening, we depart for Antarctica.
Please note, it is possible to arrive earlier in the Falklands and spend time experiencing the superb wildlife and/or battlefield sites.
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. 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. Join the ship’s Captain on the bridge and learn about the operations of our modern research vessel. 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. Shore landings at Point Wild are notoriously tricky due to surging swell onto the rocky beach. Nevertheless this a thrilling place to visit.
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 Strait – 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, where we often encounter pods of humpback whales. We navigate under the 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.
Towards the Antarctic Circle and Gerlache Coastline
Soak up the scenery as we navigate south and pass through the ice strewn waters making our way towards the Antarctic Circle. Given favourable ice conditions, our first goal will be to sail south of the Circle and into Crystal Sound.
A favoured landing site here is Detaille Island, home to an abandoned British science hut from the 1950’s.This vicinity marks our turnaround point and from now on, we return in a northerly direction exploring the vdramatic coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula. We hope to visit a working scientific base to learn something ofthe important climate-related research happening here. A hike over the snowy saddle of nearby Winter Island allows us to stretch our legs and explore a historic British Antarctic Survey hut. If the conditions are right, we aim to offer our overnight camping programme to all adventurers somewhere in this vicinity. We have all the gear onboard and an experienced team to make this a night to remember!
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 shags. 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. For many, a Zodiac cruise here may well be a highlight of the voyage.
Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands
We aim to transit the Lemaire Channel on our way north towards Paradise Harbour. This may be the first opportunity to step foot on the continent of Antarctica itself. Nearby Neko Harbour offers another continental landing. Both locations offer terrific hiking opportunities up to panoramic view points. For the sea kayakers, the paddling opportunities here are endless. 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. There are several other landing sites in the vicinity including Half Moon Island, or the broad pebbly beach at Yankee Harbour, where we sometimes encounter Weddell seals sunning themselves. This is another great spot for a hike or a zodiac cruise. It’s a fitting place to reflect on a wonderful expedition. Charting a course for King George Island in the early evening light, we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
King George Island to Punta Arenas
This morning we are anchored off King George Island and transfer ashore by Zodiac. 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. On arrival, a transfer is provided to several hotel locations downtown.
This itinerary includes a complimentary hotel night in Punta Arenas for all guests returning from King George Island at the end of the voyage. This evening is at your leisure. Punta Arenas is home to some cozy restaurants, cafes and bars – including the historic ‘Shackleton Bar’ at the Hotel Jose Nogueira – a fitting location to reflect on your journey to Antarctica.
After breakfast and check-out, make your own way to the airport for your onward journey. (We recommend you book flights after midday). Otherwise, why not continue your exploration of Patagonia. Just a few hours north, lies the celebrated Torres del Paine National Park – home to towering peaks, glaciers and spectacular wilderness - a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
A view from Above
Built in Finland in 1989 as a Russian polar research vessel, the Akademik Ioffe, was operating as One Ocean Navigator until recently, is a comfortable, stable, ice-strengthened ship with all the facilities for modern expedition cruising. There is a mixture of suites and cabins, all with windows or portholes and some with private facilities. Public areas include dining room, lounge, bar, library with forward facing windows, multi-media room with Apple Mac computers and photo management software, presentation room, mud room, passenger lift and gift shop. There is also a wellness centre, sauna, spa, salt-water plunge pool, fitness room and infirmary. Along with plenty of open deck space, there is a top deck with 360degrees views and a small observatory with spotting scope. The ship has an open-bridge policy.
we work hard to earn passionate reviews from our clients.
Now that I am back from my odyssey voyage, I thought I would let you know that after all that planning it really did exceed my expectations – we managed landings everywhere even on Tristan da Cuhna and had great bird sightings. The guides all knew what they were talking about too and made sure I got some great photos – still sorting them all out! Thanks for everything and see you at Birdfair!Dave Martin
I want to thank you for all you did to make my recent Falklands trip run so smoothly and comfortably. Thank you for all your help over the diet too.Dr Lorna Mairs
Just a quick note to express my sincere thanks to you and all your staff for making this an epic adventure of immense proportions. Everything went smoothly, pickups, hotels and most of all the expedition itself. Truly a mind blowing experience unlike any I have ever taken.Mr J Borg, Malta
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