Day 1 Punta Arenas
Arrive in Punta Arenas, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to your downtown hotel. Overlooking the Straits of Magellan, the city sits astride one of the world’s most historic trade routes. Today, Punta Arenas reflects a great mix of cultures, from English sheep ranchers to Portuguese sailors, and it remains an utterly fascinating testament to Chile’s rich history.
Tonight, we will gather to meet our fellow expeditioners and a briefing on the first leg of our expedition – our flight to Antarctica!
Day 2 Punta Arenas/Cruise
Punta Arenas to King George Island- This morning we will be transferred to Punta Arenas airport for our early morning charter flight to King George Island, Antarctica. The flight will take approximately one-and-a-half hours. On arrival into King George Island our expedition team is on hand to greet you for your Zodiac transfer to board the Greg Mortimer. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings.
Day 3 Cruise
After settling into shipboard life, we will head through the Antarctic Sound to the eastern side of the Peninsula to reach the Weddell Sea.
Access to the Weddell is heavily dependent on ice conditions, and our experienced leader will use their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. We aim to make landings or Zodiac excursions two to three times a day. Days will be spent 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 rookies, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few of our other favourite spots along the peninsula.
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 for sleep when you get home!
Day 4 Cruise
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:
Brown Bluff- Situated on the eastern side of Tabarin Peninsula, the spectacular 745-metre promontory of Brown Bluff towers over some 20,000 nesting pairs of Adélie penguins and hundreds of Gentoo penguins. Nesting skuas, snow petrels and pintados inhabit the upper slopes and kelp gulls screech overhead. Brown Bluff’s volcanic origins have created some fantastically shaped boulders that lie scattered across the ash beach and make colourful nesting sites for some of the penguins.
Day 5 Cruise
Paulet Island- This tiny volcanic island forms the nesting grounds of some 120,000 pairs of Adélie penguins, and the surrounding seas literally teem with penguins. There is also a blue-eyed shag colony situated at one end of Paulet’s long beach front. Leopard seals are often seen cruising offshore, in search of their next meal. Weddell seals sometimes haul out here for a quiet nap on the beach. Apart from its plentiful wildlife, Paulet is also rich in the history of Antarctic exploration, for it was here that the 22 men of Larsen’s ship Antarctic arrived on 28 February 1903 after their ship had sunk. The men wintered on Paulet, living on penguins and seals until eventually Larsen and five of the men rowed across Erebus and Terror Gulf to be reunited with members of Otto Nordenskjold’s geological exploration party.
Day 6 Cruise
James Clark Ross Island- Separated from Trinity Peninsula by Prince Gustav Channel, the beaches and rocks of this mighty island are a mix of volcanic and sedimentary; creating a geologists’ paradise. The beaches are populated with kelp gulls while Antarctic terns and skuas nest on the island’s higher slopes. Many of the island’s rocks are decorated with bright red and orange lichens, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities. Ice floes in the surrounding waters provide temporary floating homes for Weddell and Leopard Seals. We may walk up to Hidden Lake, following a stream rich in fossilised remains of deciduous trees, ferns, and even clamshells. If ice conditions and time permit, we may also circumnavigate this fantastic island; a rarely-accomplished feat.
Day 7 Cruise
Devil Island- This very rarely-visited island was named for its two striking peaks or ‘horns’. It is the nesting site for some 10,000 pairs of Adelie penguins. If weather conditions permit, we may walk up a scree slope to the top of the island’s western peak. A few hundred metres in height, the summit provides superb views into Erebus and Terror Gulf. On the upper slopes, you may even see nesting snow petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. For those who are less active, the continuous commute of penguins on the beach and the accompanying skua population provide endless fascination. We may also cruise in our zodiacs amongst the large numbers of icebergs that are often grounded offshore.
Day 8 Cruise
View Point, Duse Bay- View Point is one of the few places where we may be able to set foot on the Antarctic continent proper. A British hut was built here in 1953 and an Argentine refuge hut was established a few years later. In front of the old hut are the remains of crabeater seal carcasses, which provided food for the sledge dogs. Thanks to the cold conditions, the well-preserved hut looks just as it did all those years ago – a fascinating place to get a feeling for the olden days of Antarctic exploration.
Lemaire Channel- If ice conditions allow, standing 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 up 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.
Day 9 Cruise
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 1900’s, 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!
Other places we may visit around the Weddell Sea area and on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula are: Joinville Island, D’Urville Island, Hope Bay, Seymour Island, Snow Hill Island, Vega Island, Prince Gustav Channel, Beak Island, Crystal Hill, and Herbert Sound.
Day 10 Cruise
Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula West Coast-
Day 11 Cruise
Weddell Sea & Antarctic Peninsula West Coast- Sailing. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced photographer, let our onboard guides offer handy tips to improve your skills. Photography guides are available on selected voyages where indicated.
Attend informative lectures to learn about Antarctica as we sail. Treat yourself to a massage in the wellness centre or stay active in the gym; the choice is yours on how you want to enjoy days at sea.
Day 12 Cruise/Punta Arenas
King George to Punta Arenas-As you approach Frei Base on King George Island, it is time to farewell Antarctica and your amazing adventure before boarding the return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile. On arrival at the Punta Arenas airport, you will be transferred to the hotel.
Some departures finish in Ushuaia.
Day 13 Punta Arenas
After breakfast, bid a fond farewell to your fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.