Punta Arenas, Chile
Welcome to Punta Arenas, Chile, where your Antarctic adventure begins. Punta Arenas, which is on the Strait of Magellan, is the most populated city in Patagonia. In the afternoon, meet your leader and fellow explorers at the official starting point hotel. Enjoy a first meal together and be briefed on the necessary preparations for embarkation day. If you arrive into Punta Arenas early, there are plenty of things to see and do. For a poignant look into the city's history, perhaps visit the Cementerio Municipal to see the lavish tombs of wool barons and the modest graves of immigrants and explorers.
Fly to Antarctica
Today, cross the famous Drake Passage on a three-hour charter flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica. Instead of two days by sea, cross the infamous Drake Passage by air in only a few hours. Get your first glimpse of the dramatic Antarctic landscape, as your plane descends for landing on King George Island. As the largest island in the South Shetlands, King George is home to research stations belonging to Argentina, China, Russia, South Korea, Holland and the US, among others. On landing, spend some time exploring before being transferred by Zodiac to the ship. Meet the rest of your shipmates and set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula.
Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands
Enter an unknown world as your ship approaches the mainland of the White Continent. The Antarctic Peninsula is an extension of the Transantarctic Mountain chain. Your captain and expedition team will help point out penguins, seals, seabirds and whales throughout the journey. You'll also learn about the history, geology and wildlife of the region through in-depth presentations.
Each day, if the weather allows, you'll make a couple of trips onto land by Zodiac for various activities. You might take a Zodiac cruise in search of whales and icebergs around Pleneau Island one day, then hike to a penguin rookery the next. You might even choose to camp for a night on the Antarctic ice. If you take this option, ensure you dress warmly and eat plenty before you leave the ship, as no food is allowed on land.
Possible Landings and Wildlife Sightings
- CUVERVILLE ISLAND
A gentoo penguin rookery is situated on the north end of the island on a rocky beach. Depending on the time of season you visit, you may see them building nests or attending to their chicks. Giant petrels and kelp gulls also breed on the island.
- DAMOY POINT
If you're lucky enough to mail a postcard in Antarctica, you'll likely pass through Damoy Point. This is the northern entrance to the harbour on which Port Lockroy is located.
- DANCO ISLAND
This small island, 1. 6 km (one mile) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. Visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch out for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.
- ENTERPRISE ISLAND
Located in Wilhelmina Bay, this island was once used by whalers. A Zodiac cruise around the island passes by a wrecked whaling ship.
- LEMAIRE CHANNEL
This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, and is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 11 km (6. 8 mile) channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we'll hope for clear waters.
- MELCHIOR ISLANDS
This is a group of low islands in Dallmann Bay, on which you may see male fur seals haul-out at the end of the breeding season to recuperate from their battles for supremacy.
- NEKO HARBOUR
This bay was once used by the floating whale factory ship Neko. You may see some whale vertebrae used by resident gentoo penguins as shelter from the wind. There's an unmanned refuge hut here, erected by Argentina. Climb past the hut and up a steep slope for spectacular views of the glacier-rimmed harbour.
- PETERMANN ISLAND
Here, near the Lemaire Channel, you can stand ashore and see the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins. Adelie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island. The dome of the island rises 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views.
- PORT LOCKROY
Journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbour is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built here during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It's now designated as a historic site, featuring a museum and the world's southernmost post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.
- WATERBOAT POINT
At low tide this historic point is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs can be used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behaviour lived in a water boat on the point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated as an Antarctic historic site.
- AITCHO ISLANDS
This is a group of small islands, some still unnamed, situated in the northern entrance of the English Strait. You can often spot a great mix of wildlife here, including at the established rookeries of gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Southern elephant and fur seals are frequently hauled-out here too.
- BAILY HEAD
Also known as Rancho Point, this area is a rocky headland on the southeastern shore of Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins build nests on slopes leading to a high ridge, which dominates a natural amphitheater and provides a superb setting for landscape photography.
- HALF MOON ISLAND
This crescent-shaped island was known to sealers as early as 1821. Unlike the sealers who liked to keep their best locations secret, we're happy to bring you ashore on this impressive island. Many Antarctic birds breed here, including chinstrap penguins, shags, Wilson's storm-petrels, kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic terns and skua.
- HANNAH POINT
Macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguin rookeries are located on the point, which is on the south coast of Livingston Island. Due to the rather congested area available to the nesting penguins, you can only visit here from 10 January onwards.
- PENDULUM COVE
Hot geothermal waters are found along the shoreline of this cove, which was named after observations made in 1829 by a British expedition. You may see yellow algae and boiled krill floating on the surface because of the scalding hot water.
- PENGUIN ISLAND
Antarctica has two flowering plants, both of which you can find on Penguin Island: Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis. Chinstrap penguins, fur seals and southern elephant seals use the island for breeding purposes.
- ROBERT POINT
A nice spot for Zodiac cruising, this point was known to sealers as early as 1820. Chinstrap penguins, kelp gulls and pintado breed here, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters.
- TELEFON BAY
Your expedition team will point out where the most recent evidence of volcanic eruption on Deception Island can be seen.
- TURRET POINT
Chinstrap and Adelie penguin rookeries are found on this point, which is situated on the south coast of King George Island. The beaches are often crowded with southern elephant, fur, and Weddell seals hauled-out on the rocks.
- WHALER'S BAY
To reach Whaler's Bay, sail through the narrow passage of Neptune's Bellows. The bay was used by whalers from 1906 to 1931 and is part of a protected harbour created by a circular flooded caldera, known as Deception Island. Along with waddling penguins and lounging seals, you'll see the rusty remains of whaling operations on the beach. Watch for steam rising from geothermally-heated springs along the shoreline.
- YANKEE HARBOUR
Gentoo penguins have established a rookery on this harbour, which is situated on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. You can also see an abandoned Argentine refuge hut and a huge glacier stretching along the east and north sides of the bay. An abandoned try-pot is all that remains of the sealing activity that brought men thousands of miles to seek their fortune.
Few people can say they've crossed the Antarctic Circle, and you are one of them. Toast to your adventure with a glass of champagne, while paying homage to the first explorers to journey this far south. This is now deep Antarctica, home to Weddell seals, spectacular ice formations and the midnight sun. This region is also home to the densest concentration of wildlife in Antarctica. While not a typical landing, the crossing of the Antarctic Circle is a moment to remember. The event will usually happen while at sea, so be sure to head up to the bridge and snap your photo of the GPS reading 66° 33' S.
Northbound along the Antarctic Peninsula
As you travel north along the western Antarctic Peninsula, continue to make the journey onto land twice a day. The expedition team will always be on the lookout for new species of wildlife. With the help of presentations and the team, you may now be able to tell the difference between Adelie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. If you haven't already had your fill of icebergs and Antarctic wildlife, you'll be satisfied by the time you return to King George Island.
Disembark and fly to Punta Arenas, Chile
Today, say goodbye to the expedition team and disembark the ship at King George Island for the three-hour flight back across the Drake Passage to Punta Arenas. We will transfer you from the airport to the hotel where you can enjoy a final dinner, reminiscing about the sights and sounds of Antarctica.
Depart Punta Arenas
There are no activities planned for today. After breakfast, make your way to the Punta Arenas airport for your flight home or continue on your travels.