Antarctic Peninsula Whales Special 11 daysAboard: Akademik Sergey Vavilov
View Antarctica's whales in close proximity on this unique expedition. March is a time of great activity in Antarctic waters and historically we encounter a higher concentration of whales during this period. They are busy feeding prior to their annual migrations to tropical waters. However, scientists are now discovering that some whale species remain in the ice-free sections of Antarctica over winter.
On this voyage we plan to visit several known locations along the Antarctic Peninsula that are the focus of long-term research projects by esteemed academic institutions including University of California (Santa Cruz), California Ocean Alliance and the Australian Antarctic Division's Marine Mammal Centre. We are joined on the ship by several world-renowned cetacean (whale) experts and observe their important scientific fieldwork in close proximity. They share with us unique underwater footage and scientific data and interpret the behavior, migration characteristics and feeding patterns of adult whales and their calves. Their participation on our voyage is greatly valued and provides a fascinating glimpse into cutting-edge Antarctic research.
Antarctica’s seals are also found in sizable numbers late in the season, resting and storing energy that will sustain them over winter. For those with a passion for Antarctica's marine mammals, this unique voyage should not be missed. Oh, and did we mention it’s also our favourite time of the year for blazing orange and pink Antarctic sunrises and sunsets?
- Encounter large numbers of whales and observe important scientific field research
- Historic sites & science stations
- Spectacular scenery
- Amazing marine wildlife
- Myriad birdlife
- Exciting activity options including kayaking
- Full board accommodation on board ship
- Transfers to & from ship
- Loan of waterproof boots
- All zodiac excursions and landings
- Programme of expert lectures
- Resident photography guide
So much to experience
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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 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 and dinner and cast off, bound for Antarctica and the adventure of a lifetime.
At Sea - Drake Passage
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 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. 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. Even our experienced expedition staff, some with more than 100 journeys south, will take a moment to pause and reflect on this incredible sight. Take a deep breath – you have arrived. This is Antarctica.
The waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula are home to deep bays, pristine coves and inlets and numerous small islands. The Gerlache coastline features heavily glaciated mountains permanently covered in ice and snow. Rocky outcrops, known as ‘nunataks’ are home to gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguin rookeries and the waters are rich in marine life. We frequently encounter seals, including the powerful leopard seal, usually found hauled out on an ice floe. Curious humpback whales and the smaller minke whales are present much of the time as they feed on the vast schools of krill. Sightings of orca are not uncommon. Fournier Bay is a known whale ‘hot-spot’ and ice permitting, we explore in Zodiacs hoping to encounter pods of whales.
The science team hope to deploy non-invasive tracking devices on the whales to collect data on dive and feeding patterns. Observation and photography of whale flukes (tails) is something everyone is encouraged to participate in both from the ship and while Zodiac cruising. Whale flukes are unique identifiers of particular animals, in much the same way as a human finger print. Collecting and analyzing this data is vital to our understanding of whale migration patterns and social behavior.
In addition to our whale encounters, we enjoy a regular program of exploration on and off the ship. Popular activities include guided hikes on shore and visits to wildlife colonies with our expert naturalist guides, while the historic huts and science stations provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the present. Zodiac cruising among the ice is a memorable activity and our sea kayakers may range several miles from the ship. Our photography guide will be on hand to help you with your camera handling, image composition and the peculiar light found in Antarctica.
Planned excursions could include Cierva Cove, Danco Island, or a cruise through the Errera Channel to visit the penguin rookeries at Cuverville Island. Wilhelmina Bay never disappoints and is another important location where the scientists hope to deploy their research tools. Neko Harbour is yet another highlight and offers an excellent hiking route providing stunning 360 degree views.
After several busy days of exploration along the Peninsula, we head north across the Bransfield Strait, bound for the South Shetland Islands. This is an important whale migration corridor and frequent sightings can be expected of humpbacks and even the fast moving orca.
South Shetland Islands
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, high up onto the rim of the crater.
After leaving Deception Island, we cruise along the coast of Livingston Island which in a sunny day is a memorable experience. There are several other landing sites in the South Shetland's 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. Hannah Point, with it's elephant seal colony and nesting Antarctic petrels - is another possibility. In the evening, we navigate north through the McFarlane Strait and into the Drake Passage.
At Sea - Drake Passage
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 will arrive back in Ushuaia. Guests will be transported to their hotels or to the airport for return flights home.
A view from Above
Built in Finland in 1988 as a Russian polar research vessel, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, was operating as One Ocean Voyager 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
Overall I think that it was an excellent trip that was well worth the price paid and I would have no hesitation recommending your company to others.Steve Sutton
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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