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Antarctica is the ultimate wilderness and will surprise even seasoned travellers. The Spirit of Antarctica aboard Sylvia Earle is a 12-day journey for adventurers to experience Antarctica at its best. Travelling to Antarctica during spring has a few benefits as voyagers will experience Antarctica at its most pristine. Icebergs and ice formations are at their sharpest and most dramatic. The snow is a pure and dazzling white as the continent awakens from its winter slumber. Which means the sheer quantity of ice and snow allows skiing and snowshoeing. It is common to see active wildlife — especially whales, penguins and seals rushing to find the best places to court, feed and breed.
The activities included on this journey are Zodiac-cruises, walks & hikes, camping, photography, expert lectures, polar plunge, birdwatching, research stations. And for an additional cost, you can choose to include sea kayaking, snorkelling, snowshoeing, skiing & snowboarding.
About the vessel: Aurora Expedition’s New ship – Sylvia Earle 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 features a distinctive Glass Atrium Lounge at the bow of the ship with a stunning panoramic view on both port and starboard side, a swimming pool and jacuzzi where you can admire impressive scenery while watching the world go by.
– 06 Jan 2022 to 17 Jan 2022 (12 days – Sail – Spirit of Antarctica) Greg Mortimer
– 09 Jan 2022 to 20 Jan 2022 (12 days – Sail – Spirit of Antarctica) Sylvia Earle
Arrive in Ushuaia, renowned for its exquisite chocolates and breathtaking scenery. After transfer to your downtown hotel, the rest of the day is at your leisure and explore the southernmost city on the continent!
After breakfast, depart on a half-day city tour of Ushuaia visiting The Mission, Brown and Solier neighbourhoods, where you can see old houses belonging to the first families in Tierra del Fuego. Head 11 km out of town to Martial Glacier. The ride in the chair lift to the trails leading up to the glacier provides wonderful regional views and of Ushuaia town, the Beagle Channel and its islands. Afterwards, continue to the End of the World Museum with exhibitions explaining the history of Tierra del Fuego.
Transfer to the pier where your expedition team will warmly welcome you onboard the Sylvia Earle at approximately 4.00 pm.
From the moment you step onto the Sylvia Earle, the crew aims to give you the best hospitality service possible. Meals are served in a large restaurant with family-style dining, perfect to swap stories with your new expedition family. Enjoy the range of house wine, beers and soft drinks included with dinner after a long day in the wild, preparing yourself for another exciting day to follow.
Drake Passage crossing: As you commence the Drake Passage crossing, make the most of your time getting comfortable with the motions of the sea. The expedition team will prepare you for your first landing with important wildlife guidelines and biosecurity procedures. Start the lecture program to help you learn more about Antarctica’s history, wildlife and the environment.
The 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 tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, the excitement is palpable with everyone converging on one of the observation decks, watching for your first iceberg. The ocean takes on a whole new perspective once you are below the Antarctic Convergence and 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 long time. Weather permitting, there will be an attempt for the first landing in Antarctica by late afternoon.
Small groups make a big difference, especially when visiting Antarctica. The Sylvia Earle boast one of the lowest passenger capacities in expedition cruising, and the treks take a maximum of 14 hikers. This leads to smoother transitions, longer and more relaxed landings, and more personal experience with nature. Usually, you’ll have two daily excursions, and in some cases, it can be up to three excursions per day. Sylvia Earle is also built for expedition cruising with sea-level Zodiac-launching platforms, special adventure preparation spaces and fantastic viewing platforms. You’ll be whisked ashore on an adventure or be cruising in a Zodiac in no time!
Antarctic Peninsula: Over the next five days the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is yours to explore. Depending on ice and weather conditions, it can be on Zodiac excursions, cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, or observing whales that are feeding near the surface. During this voyage, there will be an opportunity to camp ashore (weather and time permitting). This will give you the chance to sample the style of adventure that Scott, Shackleton and other legendary Antarctic explorers experienced, although with a modern-day spin on it.
Because you are so far south, you’ll experience approximately 18-20 hours of daylight and the days can be as busy as you wish. You’ll generally have two landings or Zodiac excursions each day. Maybe landing on the continent and its off-shore islands to visit penguin rookeries, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few other favourite spots along the peninsula. There will be plenty of time to sleep when you get home!
There are many exciting places to choose to visit, and this itinerary is deliberately flexible in picking the best spots on the day based on ice and weather conditions. A sample of some of the types of places where you may cruise through, land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife include:
– Beautiful protected bays around the Antarctic Peninsula surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers. Areas that are a haven for whales so keep your eyes open for humpbacks, orcas, minkes, and crabeater seals, as you explore bays in Zodiacs.
– Wildlife-rich islands where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstrap penguins raise their families on rocky platforms; gulls nest on turrets, fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches.
Lemaire Channel: If ice conditions allow, standing on the observation deck of the Sylvia Earle as the ship sails along the narrow Lemaire Channel, could certainly be one of the highlights of your voyage. Cliffs tower 700 metres straight out of the ocean on either side of the ship. The water can sometimes be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface, and it is clear to see why this Channel is often called “Kodak Alley”. Gigantic icebergs may clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our Captain and crew; occasionally, they may even obstruct our passage. Send a postcard home from the Penguin Post Office, the world’s most southern Post Office!
When you’re relaxing during a sea day or you have a little downtime on the ship between excursions, what is there to do onboard the Sylvia Earle? Plenty! On all expeditions, some experts lead presentations in the spacious lecture room so you can understand the region a little better. These often include topics as broad as history and culture to biology and climate change; these presentations aim to educate and entertain.
If you’re keen to watch the surroundings and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, you have access to two bars/lounges where the stunning floor to ceiling windows offer a special perspective on the landscape.
Sea days are perfect for learning about the wildlife and history of the places you’ll be visiting, photographing seabirds and editing photos. Interact with the friendly staff and fellow expeditioners, enjoy fascinating, informative talks and briefings or relax while watching movies and slide shows in the comfortable theatre.
The Drake Passage crossing: Today we will have time to watch out for seabirds, enjoy entertaining talks, discuss what we’ve seen and learned, exchange photos and stories. With luck, we may make a ceremonial rounding of Cape Horn before sharing a farewell dinner with our new-found friends.
As we approach the tip of South America, our Captain may sail close to legendary Cape Horn, weather and time permitting.
We cruise up the Beagle Channel early this morning before slipping into to dock in Ushuaia, where our voyage concludes after breakfast. You will be transferred to your hotel or the airport for your ongoing flight.