This expedition aims to cross the definitive polar geographical milestone, the Antarctic Circle. Connect deeply with nature en-route, using Zodiacs to provide opportunities to get close to the wildlife. See leopard seals lounging on ice floes, humpback whales devouring krill and young penguins leaving their nests. Set foot on land, hiking to panoramic viewpoints, visiting historic sites and working scientific stations, for a complete Antarctic Peninsula experience.
Day 1 – Embark Ushuaia (or Punta Arenas)
Days 2-3: Drake Passage
Days 4-9: Antarctic Peninsula
Days 10 – King George Island
Day 11: Punta Arenas
Day 1 – Depart Ushuaia
In the afternoon, you will be welcomed by the expedition team as you board the Polar Pioneer and settle into your cabin. Admire the wonderful views of the Martial Mountains and surrounding forests, as the ship sets sail heading through the Beagle Channel.
Days 2-3 Drake Passage
As you cross the ‘Rite of Passage’, there will be interesting talks to enjoy from the onboard polar experts. They will discuss various topics, including information about the history and wildlife in Antarctica which will provide you with the extra local knowledge to make the most of your experiences on the trip. From the observation deck, keep an eye out for albatross, prions and petrels. After around a day into the voyage, anticipation builds as you notice a change in the temperature crossing the Antarctic Convergence and as you near the South Shetland Islands, catch your first glimpse of a towering iceberg or penguin, with a chance to make your first Zodiac landing.
Days 4 – 9 Antarctic Peninsula
The Polar Pioneer sails along the Antarctic Peninsula’s west coast through the whale-rich waters of the Gerlache Strait, and onto the Lemaire Channel, where you will feel overwhelmed at the staggering beauty of the region, known as ‘Kodak Gap’. The Captain and expert expedition team will continue to create a bespoke daily itinerary en-route to the Antarctic Circle based on local weather and ice conditions, ensuring the very best from your trip. There may be chance to make a continental landing on the Peninsula, where you may trek to a spectacular viewpoint for the picture-perfect photo opportunity. Or the team may guide you on Zodiacs through the ice floes to spot leopard and Weddell seals resting, or to see the wonderful humpback whales indulging on the 500 million tonnes of Antarctica krill present in the Southern Ocean.
The Polar Pioneer continues a south-westerly course, making landings wherever possible, aiming to cross the Antarctic Circle via the ‘inner route’ or the Bellingshausen Sea, weather and ice permitting. As the crossing of latitude 66° 33' South is made, there will be a celebratory toast made to mark this extraordinary feat - a delightful experience few have encountered. Ice and weather conditions allowing, the voyage will aim to head to the channels neighbouring Marguerite Bay, a remarkable feeding region for humpbacks, minkes and orcas. As you head north to marginally warmer climes, you will enjoy further landings, including the opportunity to visit scientific research posts and historic spots such as at Port Lockroy, famed as the post office of Antarctica where you can even send a postcard to relations back home.
Day 10 – King George Island
You arrive at King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, where if time and weather permits, you explore the penguin and seal colonies of Fildes Bay, and Trinity Church near Bellingshausen Station. Big farewell to your fellow adventurers as a charter flight will then fly you to Punta Arenas in Chile, where you will be transferred to your overnight accommodation.
Day 11 Punta Arenas
You continue your onward travel arrangements, feeling inspired, refreshed and full of stories to last a lifetime.
(02nd March 2019 date starts from Punta Arenas, with a flight to Puerto Williams)
The Polar Pioneer was originally built as an ice-strengthened research in Finland in 1982, she was refurbished in 2000 and converted into a passenger ship for expeditions to the polar regions. The ship is small and nimble, carrying just 54 passengers, offering a truly intimate experience onboard.
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