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Antarctica: Ross Sea and the Far Side

35 days from £17,321pp

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Antarctica: Ross Sea and the Far Side:
Trip Dossier

Last call for the adventure of a lifetime at an extra special price.

This ambitious route, followed by the ship MV Ortelius, takes you beyond the Antarctic Peninsula, the final destination of many cruises, and travels down the rarely visited west coast of Antarctica proper to cross the Antarctic Circle en route to New Zealand. 

Way beyond the Antarctic Peninsula and the Phantom Coast, close to the shores of the Ross Sea, research stations cling to the ice shelves alongside the poignant reminders of the heroic, early expeditions. The ship’s itinerary is designed to stop at some of these sites, along with the wildlife-rich bays and islands – including the little-visited volcanic Peter 1 Island – where the cries of penguins and seabirds pierce the frozen austral silence of this most remote side of the world. The huts of Scott and Shackleton are well preserved and maintained. 

Conditions permitting, helicopter and Zodiac landings will allow you to set foot here and on the Ross Ice Shelf, Dry Valleys and Campbell Island.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the chic Recoleta district.

Day 2

Guided city tour.

Day 3

Fly south to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), overnight in hotel.

Day 4

Embark MV Ortelius; sail along the Beagle Channel.

Days 5-6

Cross the Drake Passage.

Day 7

Arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 8

Cross the Polar Circle.

Days 9-10

Sail through the Bellingshausen Sea.

Day 11

Visit Peter Island.

Days 12-17

Sail through the Amundsen Sea.

Day 18

Approach the Ross Ice Shelf.

Day 19

Continue sailing.

Days 20-24

Explore the Ross Sea.

Days 25-26

Sail north along the coast of the Ross Sea.

Day 27

Arrive at Cape Adare.

Days 28-32

At sea.

Day 33

Arrive at Campbell Island, a New Zealand reserve and UNESCO heritage site.

Days 34-35

Sail to and arrive at Invercargill, New Zealand; disembark.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the chic Recoleta district.
 
You will be escorted to your hotel in the chic residential district of Recoleta by one of our local representatives.

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.\,/p\.

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of French belle époque and Italian influence.

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Buenos Aires

Day 2

Guided city tour.
 

Your small-group guided city tour takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best. On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on 3 sides by the metropolitan cathedral, the town hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Visit the district of Recoleta.

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Buenos Aires

Day 3

Fly south to Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), overnight in hotel.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, southern Patagonia. The city has grown rapidly in recent years, partly as a result of government incentives to settlers, and its establishment as a Free Port, and partly a tourist centre - most Antarctic cruises, like yours, leave from the port here. The setting is spectacular; jagged mountains hem in the town down to the shore of the Beagle Channel. Spend a night here prior to embarking on your cruise ship.

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Ushuaia

Day 4

Embark MV Ortelius; sail along the Beagle Channel.
 

Walk to the nearby jetty and embark the expeditionary ship Ortelius. Set sail along the Beagle Channel, so named after the HMS Beagle which later took Charles Darwin on his explorations around the South American continent. Cruise through the wildlife-rich waters of the open ocean. Lectures introduce passengers to the various bird species and marine life that will become features of the expedition.

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Beagle Channel

Days 5-6

Cross the Drake Passage.
 

Cross the Drake Passage, hundreds of kilometres of open water and the shortest crossing between Antarctica and the rest of the world. Very occasionally the crossing is gentle, but the odds are against it. Force 5/6 winds are considered normal conditions. Whales and dolphins can often be seen as well as an abundance of marine birds such as petrel, albatross and penguin. During this part of the voyage, there are briefings and presentations on the Antarctic ecosystem.

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petrel

Day 7

Arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula.
 
Arrive at and explore the Antarctic Peninsula, the most accessible area of the continent which hosts some of the most interesting scenery and wildlife, as well as many of the continent’s scientific bases. The ship edges southwards through the slush and abstract patterns formed by the fractured sea.

The ship plans to sail in the early morning amid the soaring peaks and stark rocks of Lemaire Channel and later visit Petermann Island, where you may encounter gentoo, chinstrap and Adélie penguins, petrel, shag, elephant and fur seal, and perhaps whales en route.

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Lemaire channel

Day 8

Cross the Polar Circle.
 

Sailing south through the Penola Strait, you cross the Polar Circle and arrive at the Fish Islands. The small islands lying east of Flouder Island are called the Minnows, first charted by the British Graham Land Expedition (1934-37) of John Rymill. Detaille Island was discovered by the French expedition of Charcot (1903-05) and named for a share holder in the Magellan Whaling Company. From 1956 till 1959, The British Antarctic Survey had their “Station W” located on Detaille Island. You may observe Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags.

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Adelie penguins

Days 9-10

Sail through the Bellingshausen Sea.
 

Sail through the Bellingshausen Sea, where you may see pack-ice for the first time.

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Tabular ice

Day 11

Visit Peter Island.
 

Peter I Island is an uninhabited volcanic island (19km long) in the Bellingshausen Sea. It was discovered by Fabian von Bellingshausen in 1821 and was named after the Russian Tsar Peter I. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory by its own. It is only sporadically visited by passenger vessels. On previous landings groups of elephant seals and colonies of southern fulmars and Cape pigeons have been seen.

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Seals

Days 12-17

Sail through the Amundsen Sea.
 
Sail through the Amundsen Sea along and through the outer fringes of the pack-ice, which - depending on ice-conditions - will give you glimpses of the Antarctic Continent. The voyage along and through the ice is very lively, with sightings of single straggling Emperor penguins, groups of seals on ice-floes, and also orca and minke whales along the ice-edge, often accompanied by different species of fulmar petrels.

If the sea-ice allows, there will be a landing on Shepard Island in Marie Byrd Land among colonies of chinstrap penguins and South Polar skuas. Shepard Island was discovered by the US Antarctic Expeditions of 1939-41 and was named after one of the promoters of this expedition: John Shepard.

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Chinstrap penguins

Day 18

Approach the Ross Ice Shelf.
 

Approach the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating mass of land-ice, with a front 30m high. If conditions allow there will be a helicopter landing on the Ross Ice Shelf. In the Bay of Whales at the eastern side of the shelf, close to Roosevelt Island (named after President Franklin D. Roosevelt), Roald Amundsen gained access to the Shelf and ventured to the South Pole, where he finally arrived on 14 December 1911.

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Ross ice shelf

Day 19

Continue sailing.
 

Sail along the Ross Ice Shelf.

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petrel

Days 20-24

Explore the Ross Sea.
 
In the Ross Sea the intention is to visit Ross Island, guarded by Mount Erebus, Mount Terror and Mount Bird. These are all infamous places which played an important role in the dramatic British expeditions of the 20th century. If possible, the ship will visit Cape Evans where you find the cabin of Robert Falcon Scott. From Hut Point Scott and his men set out for the South Pole. Attempts will be made to visit the US-station McMurdo and Scott Base (New Zealand). If ice and weather conditions are favourable, helicopters will be used to offer landings.

From Castle Rock there is a great view across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. There’s a view into Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, where Earth has conditions resembling those on Mars. For exploration of the Dry Valleys the plan is to use helicopters.
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Ice floe Antarctica

Days 25-26

Sail north along the coast of the Ross Sea.
 

Sailing northward along the eastern west coast of the Ross Sea, passing the Drygalski Ice Tongue, the Italian Station in Terra Nova Bay and Cape Hallet.

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Antarctic ice floe

Day 27

Arrive at Cape Adare.
 

Arrive at Cape Adare, where humans wintered on the Antarctic Continent for the very first time. The hut where the Norwegian Borchgrevink stayed in 1899 is surrounded by the largest colony of Adélie Penguins in the world.

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Adelie penguin

Days 28-32

At sea.
 

At sea. The ship will work her way through the sea-ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea, later sailing along Scott Island en route to Campbell Island.

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Ice floes

Day 33

Arrive at Campbell Island, a New Zealand reserve and UNESCO heritage site.
 

Arrive at Campbell Island, a sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and a Unesco World Heritage Site, with luxuriant vegetation. The fauna on Campbell Island includes a large and easily accessible colony of southern royal albatrosses on the main island and breeding wandering, Campbell, grey-headed, black-browed, and light-mantled sooty albatrosses on the satellite islands. Also three penguin species, eastern rockhopper, erect-crested and yellow-eyed penguins breed here. In the 18th century seals were hunted to extinction, but elephant seal, fur seal and sea-lion numbers have recovered.

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Days 34-35

Sail to and arrive at Invercargill, New Zealand; disembark.
 

The ship makes her way to Invercargill, New Zealand. The ship arrives in Bluff, the port for Invercargill (New Zealand) where passengers depart for their homebound or onward journey.

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Essential information

The nature of Antarctic travel

Many factors play a role in shaping the expedition's progress - the prevailing wind, weather and ice conditions, for example. Ideally, depart the ship by zodiac to explore Antarctica with excursions on land, by zodiac or a combination of both, lasting anything between 2-4hrs.  There are no man-made jetties in Antarctica so landfalls are 'wet landings' where you scramble ashore from the zodiac in wellingtons and waterproofs. You are then free to explore on your own or in groups, before later being picked up again by zodiac. Evenings may be spent relaxing, reliving the days' events with a briefing or lecture, or out on the deck, keeping an eye on the dramatic, ever-changing scenery.

Helicopter transfers: If zodiacs cannot be used, transfers will be by helicopter at Peter I Island, The Ross Ice Shelf, the Dry Valleys, Mc Murdo Station, Cape Evans (Scott’s hut) and Cape Royds (Shackleton’s hut). In theory the plan is for 5 helicopter-based landings.

Conditions may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter operation - safety is the greatest concern and no guarantees can be given. The vessel is equipped with 2 helicopters, but in the case that either helicopter is unable to fly owing to a technical failure, for example, the helicopter operation altogether will cease or even be cancelled, since one helicopter always needs to be supported by a second operational helicopter.

This is the ultimate in Antarctic expedition cruising, so come with a flexible approach. Expect plans to change and itineraries to vary, but expect an adventure. It’s a long time at sea, but the variety and intrinsic fascination of what can be seen is spell-binding.

What to see and when

The theatre of wildlife in Antarctica as a whole displays an ever changing narrative of birth, struggle, pleasure, fulfilment and death. You may witness the comedy of a waddling penguin building its nest, a mother bird feeding its young or reuniting with a returning mate; a wily seal escaping the clutches of a hunting whale.

A large variety of marine birds (includes 6 species of penguin - Emperor, King, macaroni, chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie) visit the White Continent. Mammals abound here: blue, orca, humpback, minke and southern right whales prowl the chilly ocean, while Weddell, Ross, crab-eater, leopard and elephant seals sprawl on the beaches. 

Plant life in Antarctica is restricted to lichen, mosses and algae but there are hundreds of colourful varieties of these. 

What you may see during your voyage:

Drake Passage and the Antarctic Convergence:
Over 35 species of birds may accompany your crossing. Species include giant petrels, Antarctic fulmars, and the black-browed and wandering albatrosses with wingspans up to 3m.

Antarctic Peninsula:
Chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins abound. Breeding birds include skuas, Antarctic terns, giant petrels, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic shags, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm, and Antarctic and snow petrels. 

Fish Islands:
Adélie penguins, blue-eyed shags.

Peter Island:
Elephant seals, southern fulmars, cape pigeons.

At sea approaching Ross Ice Shelf:
Orca whales, Emperor penguins, minke whales.

Cape Adare: 
Huge colony of Adélie penguins.

Campbell Island:
Southern royal albatross, eastern rockhopper penguins, erect-crested and yellow-eyed penguins.

Of course, sightings of this plethora of wildlife cannot be guaranteed.

Transport

1 flight (4hrs); 32-day cruise.

Accommodation

The hotels in Argentina are good, practical mid-range options. The ice-strengthened MV Ortelius was formerly a Russian scientific ship and has a true expeditionary ambience, along with comfortable cabins with private facilities.

Meals

Breakfast daily; full board days 4-34.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• City tour of Buenos Aires.
• Shore and (if necessary) helicopter landings on the Antarctic cruise.

Summary of nights

35 days, 34 nights: Buenos Aires 2; Ushuaia 1; Antarctic cruise 31. (The cruise is regarded as a 32 night voyage as you will cross the international date line).

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Travelling alone

Cruise ships will accept individuals travelling alone who are willing to share a cabin with a person of the same sex, they will be charged a per person price based on two travelling together. If you prefer not to share a cabin you may opt to pay the single cabin supplement.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso. The ship works with euros and US dollars.

Daily spend

Meals on board ship are included. Water, coffee and tea are complimentary but other drinks are charged. You pay for your extras (in US dollars, euros or by credit card) at the end of the cruise. There isn’t much else to pay for on board.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

On the cruise ship you can pay your bill for extras with a credit card (Most accepted excluding Diner’s Card), or in euros or US dollars cash.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for cruise ship staff, hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants. On the cruise, a tip of $US 8-10 per person per day for the crew and guides is considered appropriate. 


Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Make sure your insurance covers you for the full amount if you have to cancel.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

The ship still has an expeditionary feel, as it was operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences before refurbishment for leisure travel. Accommodation is in compact but comfortable cabins and there are 2 restaurants, a bar/lecture room and a sauna.

The cruise:
Antarctica is very remote: once committed to your journey, you are at the mercy of the weather and ocean conditions, the melting and freezing of ice-packs, and the movement of icebergs. This is expeditionary cruising: you will be facing the same environmental challenges as the early explorers, albeit in much greater comfort, and with the assistance of modern technology and communications. 

You need to be sufficiently agile to get in and out of small landing craft and walk over rocky terrain.

There is a doctor on board, but if you fall ill while on the cruise or have an accident, it could be a long time and maybe an arduous journey before you return to a destination with good medical facilities, so  bear this in mind if you have a pre-existing condition.

Climate

Buenos Aires is hottest January-March (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). The weather can be cooler in November.

Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego is best to visit in the summer (December-February) when days are long and mild.  March and November can be sunny and clear, but it can be windy.

Antarctica is technically a desert; precipitation averages only 166mm per year. Depressions can bring in cloud and snow or rain but the sun often shines. Weather conditions can be unpredictable: periods of calm, frozen intensity give way to a sudden storm or blizzard. White-outs are not infrequent, and winds can career down from the polar plateau to the coast at velocities of up to 300km an hour – treacherous conditions for the unprepared and it can be bitterly cold.

Clothing and special equipment

The southern hemisphere summer is hot in Buenos Aires, so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort at this time. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. Spring and autumn are milder and less predictable.

South America is in general a relaxed continent and you won’t need clothes for formal dining but you may wish to take some smart casual wear for dining at the estancias or at top of the range restaurants.

On the cruise: 
Protective clothing is the single most important way of ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable cruise and the key is to dress in layers. For Antarctic landings we recommend a breathable, thermal base layer to wick away perspiration; a warm mid-layer such as a fleece or down sweater and a wind and waterproof (but breathable) outer shell garment. Trousers should have a thermal lining (or wear a base layer of thermal leggings) and you will need waterproof trousers to wear over them. Plus of course warm socks, hat, scarf, gloves and sunglasses. Rubber boots are essential for Antarctic landings; these can be pre-ordered and are loaned on board free of charge.  Dress on board ship is informal and it’s sensible to bring a spare change of warm, dry clothing for wearing out on deck between landings.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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