Venturing below the Antarctic Circle is about more than just earning bragging rights. It is the chance to enter a world of snow petrels, powerful orcas and dreamlike icebergs, and to reach the farthest southern point of any of Greg Mortimer’s voyages. Follow in Captain Cook’s wake as you thread through pack ice and narrow channels where scenes of ice-clad mountains, feeding whales and lively penguin colonies become lasting memories.
The activities included on the Across the Antarctic Circle journey are Zodiac-cruises, walks & hikes, photography, expert lectures, polar plunge, birdwatching, research stations. For an additional cost, you can choose to include sea kayaking. And on selected departures, depending on the season, Alpine Trekking, snorkelling, scuba diving, camping, and snowshoeing.
About the vessel: The Greg Mortimer Antarctic Cruise is a new and custom-designed ship, at the cutting edge of nautical technology. It features the patented X-BOW™, hydraulic viewing platforms and environmentally friendly virtual anchoring. It has four dedicated sea level launching platforms that provide smoother and safer zodiac transfers. Once you are back from the explorations, you can relax in the sauna, spa or the library. Furthermore, all staterooms have private bathrooms and twin and double-bed configuration options. It has ample storage, international power outlets, daily cabin service, as well as all the necessary amenities.
About the vessel: The Sylvia Earle Antarctic Cruise. Aurora Expedition’s 2nd purpose-built expedition vessel honours the highly accomplished marine biologist, oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle. As the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998 – this vessel pays tribute to Sylvia’s long-standing conservation efforts for marine protected areas and ocean wildlife. Besides the same revolutionary Ulstein X-BOW® design like the Greg Mortimer, the Sylvia Earle has other new features. A distinctive Glass Atrium Lounge at the bow of the ship with stunning panoramic views on both port and starboard side. It also has a swimming pool and jacuzzi where you can admire impressive scenery while watching the world go by. The new Sylvia Earle will be ready for the 2021/2022 Antarctic season.
Arrive in Ushuaia, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to your hotel (preferred flights only). Upon arrival at your included hotel, kindly remind hotel check-in staff to provide you with Aurora Expeditions cabin tags. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number.
Embark The Greg Mortimer In Ushuaia
This morning, please ensure your cabin luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. Please take your cabin luggage down to hotel reception by 8.00 AM. Your luggage will be collected from your hotel and transferred directly to the port for clearance and delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day. Once you have checked out of your hotel by 11.00 AM, you have free time before meeting back in the hotel lobby at 1.00 PM to commence a half-day tour of Ushuaia.
Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego, is located at the shores of the Beagle Channel and surrounded by the Martial Mountains giving you a unique landscape in Argentina, which is the combination of mountains, sea, glaciers and forests. On this half-day introductory tour, you will visit “La Mision” neighbourhood, the old Government House, and the upper area of the city, which offers beautiful panoramic views of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.
During the excursion, you will see the antique houses that belonged to the first families settled in Ushuaia. The tour ends with a visit to the Old Prison Museum before transferring to the pier for embarkation at approximately 4.00 PM.
After embarkation, you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important mandatory briefings. As the Greg Mortimer pulls away from the port, we’ll gather on the deck to commence our adventure with spectacular views over Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego.
This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and friendly expedition team and crew at a welcome dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure to Antarctica.
Drake Passage Crossing- As we commence the Drake Passage crossing, we make the most of our time getting comfortable with the motions of the sea. Our expedition team prepare you for our first landing with important wildlife guidelines and biosecurity procedures and start our lecture program to help you learn more about Antarctica’s history, wildlife and environment.
Our wildlife experiences begin as we enjoy watching and photographing the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following in our wake. They rise and fall skillfully, using air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.
Drake Passage & South Shetland Islands
Nearing the South Shetland Islands and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on day four, the excitement is palpable with everyone converging on one of the observation decks, watching for our first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once we are below the Antarctic Convergence and are surrounded by the surreal presence of floating ice sculptures. The memory of your first big iceberg sighting is likely to remain with you for a lifetime. Weather permitting, we may attempt our first landing in Antarctica by late afternoon.
Antarctic Peninsula & Antarctic Circle
Over the next six days, a host of choices are open to us and depending on ice and weather conditions, the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design our voyage from day today. This allows us to make the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.
Because we are so far south, we will experience approximately 18-20 hours of daylight and the days can be as busy as you wish. We will generally make landings or Zodiac excursions two, and occasionally three, times a day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface, and landing on the continent and its off-shore islands to visit penguin rookeries, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few of our other favourite spots along the peninsula. There will be plenty of time to sleep when you get home!
During this voyage, we’ll attempt to cross the invisible line of the Antarctic Circle at latitude 66°33′ South – this is undoubtedly a special highlight for all of us, and we plan to celebrate with a toast on the deck. To reach the Antarctic Circle, our ship will motor south every night and during meal times or when we are not ashore exploring.
As we reach and cross the circle, we notice subtle changes in the Antarctic land and icescapes, and also in the distribution of wildlife. The waters at this time of year are rich with krill, and so we are hopeful of seeing whales, particularly humpbacks and minkes, and enjoy watching as penguin chicks learn to swim. As we head north again, we understand more about the effect of southerly latitudes on Antarctic wildlife.
There are many exciting places we can choose to visit; a sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife follows:
Paradise Harbour- A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and breathtaking glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this unforgettable piece of heaven provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. The serenity of Paradise Harbour envelops us once the sound of the dropping anchor fades from our ears. This is a haven for whales as we keep our eyes open for humpbacks, orcas and minkes, as well as crabeater seals, whilst we explore the bay in Zodiacs.
Hydrurga Rocks- This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrude from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first, these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds, and noisy chinstrap penguins raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is the Latin family name for leopard seal (Hydrurga Leonina), and on occasions we see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife.
Half Moon Island- This wildlife-rich island is tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day, the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the vista. There is a large chinstrap penguin rookery tucked in between basaltic turrets coloured by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. At one extremity of the island, there is a large colony of nesting blue-eyed shags. At the other end lies a small Argentine station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways.
Lemaire Channel- If ice conditions allow, standing up on the observation deck of the Greg Mortimer quietly moving through the narrow Lemaire Channel could be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 700 metres straight out of the ocean on either side of the ship. The water can be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface, and it is clear to see why this Channel is also known as “Kodak Alley”. Gigantic icebergs may clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our Captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage.
Port Lockroy- Located on Goudier Island, British Port Lockroy is an important site for both scientific research and visitors to the Antarctic continent. Designated a historic site in 1994 and opened to the Antarctic tourism industry in 1996, it was discovered in 1904 and used by the whaling industry in the first half of the 1900s, was part of the British Operation Tabarin during World War II, and was later used as a British Research Station. Today, Pork Lockroy is manned by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and operates as a museum, gift shop and Post Office for visitors from passing Antarctic expeditions. You can even send a postcard home from the Penguin Post Office, the world’s most southern Post Office!
Deception Island- Visiting Deception Island is like making a journey to the moon. We sail through the narrow opening of Neptune’s Bellows to enter the flooded volcanic crater. The inside of the crater is an unworldly scene, virtually devoid of life. Glaciers flow down from the edge of the crater, littered with black volcanic ash.
We can explore the lifeless remains of a derelict whaling station and a vacant British base, or climb to the rim of the crater. Steam rises from the shore indicating that the water is warm enough for swimming, for those who dare. Outside the crater, if conditions allow, we might land at Bailey Head to explore the enormous chinstrap penguin rookery that featured in David Attenborough’s Life in the Freezer series.
Neko Harbour- Located in Andvord Bay, Neko Harbour is an inlet home to gentoo penguins and regularly welcomes Weddell seals. The scenery is dramatic – towering peaks and calving glaciers surround the harbour. The thundering crack of the glaciers as they calve is sure to stop you in your tracks.
Other places we may visit around the Antarctic Peninsula are:
Pleneau Island, Vernadsky; a Ukrainian scientific base, Petermann Island, Penola Strait, Antarctic Sound, Cuverville Island, Danco Island, Enterprise Island, and Melchior Islands.
Today, our landings come to an end as we enter the Drake Passage for our return journey to South America. With lectures and videos to complete our Antarctic experience, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the life that calls it home. There is time for reflection and discussion about what we have seen and experienced, and the impact this voyage has had on our attitude to life.
Drake Passage Crossing. As we approach the tip of South America, our Captain may sail close to legendary Cape Horn, weather and time permitting.
During the early morning, we cruise up the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia, where we will be free to disembark around 8.00 am. Farewell, your expedition team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature. A transfer to downtown Ushuaia before continuing to the airport is included in the cost of the voyage.
NOTE: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing Ushuaia prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.