This trip to the Antarctic circle on M / V Ortelius begins in Ushuaia, we cross the Drake Sea to enter the Antarctic continent on the fourth day of the expedition. Already in Antarctica we visit Cuverville Island, Errera Channel, Puerto Neko and Paradise Bay, ideal place to observe humpback whales and minke whales. Then on the sixth day of navigation we approach the GREAT THROAT. What is it ? It is a huge depth very similar to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, in Arizona. Millions of years ago it was a valley, today it is hidden by ice. A few months ago it was measured with radar technology. The information provided by NASA shows a hidden valley that can be seen from space, deeper than the canyon recently discovered in Greenland and also deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Then we continue to the Antarctic Circle. It is one of the five main parallels that demarcate land maps. It is the parallel of latitude 66° 33' 38"south of the equator. The places that are located at a point farther south of the Antarctic circle there is at least one day of the year in which the sun is on the horizon for 24 hours continuous and at least one day when the sun is under the horizon for 24 hours. This is because the axis of rotation of the earth is inclined 23° 26' 22"in relation to the Earth's orbit around the Sun.
14 days - 13 nights
Day 1 - Ushuaia
The trip begins at the southern tip of South America, on the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego, more precisely, in Ushuaia, the city closest to Antarctica. In the afternoon of the first day, embarkation begins at the port of the homonymous city in order to set sail at sunset in a southerly direction through the waters of the Beagle Channel.
Day 2 to 3 - Crossing the Drake Passage
During the next two days in the Drake Sea, we will live the experience that the famous explorers who came to these latitudes of the planet had to define the first cartographies of these Antarctic areas. We find very moving seas, salty and fresh breezes and the presence of a whale that accompanies us on the tour. It crosses the Antarctic Convergence, defined as the Antarctic biological limit, since the temperate waters of the sub-Antarctic seas are mixed with the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean. We will also begin to see the transformation of marine fauna and birds. We will see wandering albatrosses, with a gray head, black eyebrow and albatross with a light mantle, checkered petrels, storms, blues and Antarctic petrels.
Day 4 to 5 - Entering Antarctica
During the course of these days we will arrive in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula is the most important geographical accident on the White Continent. Located in the western region of Antarctica, in front of South America, in the west surrounded by the Bellingshausen Sea and in the east by the Weddell Sea. The landscape is made up of snow-covered gray mountains, cracked ice towers of whitish blue, and very dissimilar marine fauna with respect to the sub-Antarctic area. We leave behind the snowy peaks of the Melchior Islands and the Schollaert Channel to navigate between the Brabant and Antwerp Islands.
Some of the sites you can visit include:
- Cuverville Island: Also called Cavelier de Cuverville, this steep and dark island that is located on the Errera Channel, is surrounded by the mountains of the Arctowski Peninsula and Rongé Island, on the west coast of the Land of Graham. It is the habitat of a large colony of Papua penguins and Antarctic skis. At the end of the 19th century a Belgian navigator Adrien de Gerlache discovered it and his name is due in honor of a French military.
- Neko Harbor The landscape takes hold of us, is truly epic the fantastic snow-covered glaciers that seem carved by wind sculpture. In the Neko Harbor you can navigate in Zodiac boats to disembark near the alpine peaks.
- Paradise Bay In this bay we can sail in the Zodiac boats and have good possibilities to spot humpback whales and Minke whales.
Day 6 to 8 - Through the throat
After having spent a pleasant night of navigation, we will wake up with a landscape full of islands, located south of the Lemaire Channel. This is a good indication that we are approaching the Antarctic Circle. If the ice is not extremely dense we can pass through the gorge - it is a narrow passage channel but of a unique beauty, which is located between Adelaide Island (Belgrano) and the Antarctic Continent.
Crossing the Antarctic Circle remains an impressive achievement. The Antarctic Circle is one of the five main parallels that demarcate Earth maps. It is the parallel of latitude 66° 33' 38"to the south of the equator. Every point that is south of the Antarctic circle there is at least one day of the year in which the Sun is on the horizon for 24 continuous hours and for at least one day the sun is under the horizon for 24 hours. This is because the axis of rotation of the earth is inclined 23° 26' 22"in relation to the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Antarctica is constituted by a mass of land that is almost entirely within the Antarctic Circle. It advances over the Antarctic continent, from west to east: along the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, near the Matha Strait and south of the Jason Peninsula. In Eastern Antarctica the polar circle passes through the Land of Enderby and the Land of Wilkes and Land Adelia, lands that barely exceed the circle, finally passes between the Balleny Islands.
The Great Antarctic Gorge: A very deep gorge is hidden in Antarctica, similar to the Grand Canyon of Colorado in Arizona. It was discovered very recently, in 2012 by English scientists who measured it being stunned by the huge dimension of its depth: 2.9 kilometers. Millions of years ago it was a valley, today it is hidden by ice. A few months ago the valley called Ellsworth Trought, near Lake Ellsworth, was measured with radar technology. The information provided by NASA shows a hidden valley that can be seen from space, deeper than the canyon recently discovered in Greenland and also deeper than the Grand Canyon of Colorado.
Some of the sites you can visit:
- Pourquoi Pas Island: Pourquoi Pas Island faces the west coast of Fallières of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Fallières coast is the west coast portion of the Antarctic peninsula, between the Bourgeois fjord and the Jeremy cape. There is a high probability of circumnavigating this island, whose name is in honor of the ship (Pourquoi Pas, its translation: Why not?) By the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot who discovered it in one of his many Antarctic expeditions in 1909, but which was originally not considered an island. The outstanding features of the island are its height and its mountains with glaciers all covered with snow next to its fjords.
- Herradura Island: it is located at the entrance to the Square Bay and the Bourgeois Fjord. Here was the old British research base and, also called Horseshoe Base, a remnant of the 50's, today it is completely deactivated, but it maintains the technology it had when it was in service. It includes a shelter hut that is very close called Blaiklock.
- Stonington Island: On this rocky island, like Herradura Island, there was also another research base, there was a United States base and an English base. The American base was called East Base and was established in 1940 and was used until after World War II in 1948. Instead, the English base was known as Base E and was inaugurated in 1946 by the Ronne Antarctic expedition and was used until the beginning of 1975. Studies of meteorological, geology and biology research were carried out. The island joins the Antarctic continent by a thread of ice from the Uspallata glacier. It is possible to make a landing on Stonington Island, then continue north on the Gunnel Channel.
- Bahía Hanusse Hanusse Bay: We can find icebergs scattered in this scenic bay, which gives us high chances to observe whales.
Option B: if the Crystal Strait / Hanusse Bay strait is blocked with ice The ship can turn around the western side of Adelaide Island to reach Margarita Bay. If the ice conditions do not allow this approach, we can continue the program exploring the Antarctic Peninsula in the Penola Strait and Gerlache and its surroundings.
Day 9 to 11 - Crystal Strait Whales
Again we are in the immediate vicinity of the polar circle, traveling north through the countless ice sheets of the Crystal Strait. It is a suitable area to observe humpback whales and its approach to the Fish Islands offer opportunities to navigate in Zodiac boats or even get to make a landing. The views are really incomparable, we can see Adelia penguins gathered in the nearby icebergs. The islands of Petermann and Pléneau provide them with a great variety of fauna, together with possibilities of sailing in Zodiac boats between icebergs and with the presence of leopard seals and crabs. Minke whales, humpbacks, and Papua penguins are very possible to see in this area.
Day 12 to 13 - Towards the Drake Passage
As we cross the Drake Passage once more, stay late with new friends as the persistent twilight of the Southern Antarctic summer fades. Exchange indelible memories while thinking about the mystery that makes up Antarctica.
Day 14 - Ushuaia
We disembarked at the port of Ushuaia, on the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego, saying goodbye to a trip to remember, we were participants and one of the few privileged who go the chance to get to the Polar Circle.
Map of Route
- The trip on board the ship mentioned as indicated in the itinerary.
- All meals during the trip on board the ship including snacks, coffee and tea.
- All excursions and activities in Zodiac boats during the trip.
- Conference program dictated by naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition team.
- Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes.
- Transfer of luggage from the hotel to the ship on boarding day, in Ushuaia.
- Group transfer with prior notice from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarking).
- All service and port taxes during the program.
- Informative reading material before embarking.
Services not included:
- Regular or charter air flights.
- Procedures before or after the start of the trip.
- Passport and visa expenses.
- Government arrival and departure taxes.
- Meals not included in the trip.
- Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (highly recommended).
- Excess baggage charges and all personal items such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunications charges.
- The tip at the end of the trip for the waiters and other on-board service personnel (guidelines will be provided).