Semi-Circumnavigation

 

THE FAR SIDE:

SEMI-CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF THE LEAST VISITED REGIONS OF ANTARCTICA

December 1, 2007 - January 7, 2008

An early booking discount of US$ 500 per person is available for reservations made with deposit by March 30, 2007

March 2007 marks the beginning of the 24-month International Polar Year. Researchers from around the world will cooperate to further our understanding of the polar regions. To celebrate the occasion we are mounting the 38-day Far Side Semi-circumnavigation, a momentous voyage to the least visited regions of Antarctica. The expedition starts from Stanley, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and travels via the Weddell Sea to Antarctica's Far Side, ending in Fremantle, Australia. On this exciting itinerary visits are planned to Cape Norvegia and Neumeyer Station, the Atka Bay Emperor Penguin rookery, Proclamation Island, the Mawson Coast, and several other remote areas.

Antarctica is a continent of superlatives. It is the coldest, windiest, driest, iciest and highest of all the major landmasses in the world. It is the continent with the longest nights and the longest days and it is home to the world’s greatest concentration of wildlife. It is also one of the last true wilderness areas left on earth – largely unchanged since the early explorers and whalers first landed on its inhospitable shores less than two centuries ago.

Considerably larger than either the United States or Europe, and twice the size of Australia, the continent is surrounded by a frozen sea that varies from one million square miles in summer to 7.3 million square miles in winter. Beyond the ice are the waters of the vast Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica in a continuous ring several hundred miles wide. The Southern Ocean isolates the continent from the warmer waters of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans to the north and this meeting point, called the Antarctic Convergence, is the ecologically defined northern boundary of the region.

Our journeys occur at the peak of the summer wildlife season. Bathed in long hours of daylight, the area will be erupting with wildlife activity. Millions of penguins gather to tend their fast-growing chicks; whales are seen in great numbers, seals haul out onto ice floes and beaches, and numerous albatrosses and other seabirds trail in our wake. We explore historic sites from the Heroic Age of early Antarctic exploration and visit scientists working in modern research bases. And there is plenty of time to enjoy the sheer beauty and the breathtaking scenery of ice-choked waterways, blue and white icebergs, impressive glaciers and rugged snow-capped mountains.

This is a sample itinerary only. Our exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions – and the wildlife we encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.

Day 1.                              Falkland Islands

Make your way to Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).

To simplify your arrival, we suggest you reserve our optional package that includes overnight hotel accommodation in Santiago, Chile, airport transfers in Chile and the Falkland Islands, and a one-way flight from Santiago to the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Call or e-mail us for details.

Price per person based on twin occupancy: US$940

Single occupancy: US$1,080

Embarkation of Kapitan Khlebnikov, the only polar-class icebreaker equipped for passenger travel in Antarctic waters, will begin at 4 pm. The ship has 4 decks of living space above the main deck, where the Zodiacs and helicopters are battened down in anticipation of departure.

Day 2.                              At sea

Well rested and eager for a new day, rise with the sun to watch for seabirds from the open-air observation deck high above the Bridge. One of the Expedition Team members will join you to answer questions and assist with the identification of Wandering Albatross, or Wilson’s Storm-petrels as they swoop to feed.

Formal presentations begin in the auditorium to prepare you for the adventures to come. Learn how to board a Zodiac and a helicopter. The mysteries of the Antarctic Convergence are explained, stirring up anticipation as the ship ploughs east southeast toward the Southern Ocean.

Day 3 & 4.              Shag Rocks and South Georgia

En route to South Georgia, Captain will chart a course past Shag Rocks, where the only inhabitants are seabirds and seals. Marked on seafaring charts since 1792, the first record of humankind setting foot on one of the six small islands did not occur for nearly 200 years, when an Argentine geologist was lowered from a helicopter to collect rock samples in 1956.

Anticipate sighting South Georgia, sometime out from Stanley. The tides of the Southern Atlantic Ocean wash the north shore, and the Scotia Sea the southern shore. As you have crossed the Antarctic Convergence, you are now in Antarctica.

Day 5.                              South Georgia

When whaling was a lucrative industry, 2,000 people inhabited this tiny piece of the British Empire, there are no longer any permanent residents. During the southern summer the British Antarctic Survey conducts research at two stations, while a Marine officer keeps the peace and a museum curator makes expedition members welcome.

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s name is synonymous with South Georgia. He and his companions climbed the snow covered mountain range that runs the length of the island after an 800 mile sail in a small boat from Elephant Island, where the members of his Endurance expedition were stranded. Shackleton returned to South Georgia, years later, where he died and was buried at the request of his widow. You will visit the gravesite during your exploration of Grytviken, the former whaling town.

South Georgia is a birder’s paradise. Landings on the island should include visits to several King Penguin rookeries and you will sight many albatross. Three other species of penguin breed on the island: Chinstrap, Macaroni and Gentoo. Since the collapse of the sealing industry, fur seals and elephant seals have re-established breeding colonies. Elephant seals, the largest in the world, love to haul out on the coast of South Georgia. Pack your camera!

Day 6 & 7.              South Sandwich Islands

Our visits to the South Sandwich Islands are rare indeed. For the next two days, we will attempt a number of landings, but as we anticipate there will be ice in the vicinity – the first you will see on this journey – we cannot predict exactly where the landings will occur. Our Expedition Team always takes advantage of local conditions when planning landings.

From the deck, watch for Mount Curry, an active volcano and the highest peak on Zavadovski Island, where one of the world’s largest Chinstrap Penguin rookeries is located. The first person to record sighting the island was the man credited with the first sighting of the Antarctic continent, von Bellingshausen, in 1819. Forty-four years earlier Captain James Cook had discovered the southernmost islands of the archipelago, naming them after the Earl of Sandwich. We will make our best effort to go ashore here, and if not Zavadoski, which sometimes can be difficult, we hope to land on Thule.

Thule is an old Scandinavian word used to denote a place in the far north. To medieval cartographers Ultima Thule designated a place beyond the known world. Cook and his men must have felt as if they were at the end of the world when they encountered the South Sandwich Islands. You, however, know better, there are many more nautical miles to sail before this expedition is complete.

Day 8 - 10.             Weddell Sea

The Weddell Sea has confounded explorers for more than two centuries. When James Weddell, after whom the sea is named, first sailed there in 1824, he was able to navigate as far south as 74°. He had arrived in a relatively ice free year. However, more often than not, much of the sea is covered in permanent ice, making exploration extremely challenging for most sea-going vessels. We plan to launch our helicopters to allow you to watch Kapitan Khlebnikov maneuver through ice as only this icebreaker can.

The Expedition Team will conduct wildlife watches. You may wish to volunteer to assist them, as they search for Weddell seals, the southernmost living mammal in the world, as well as the rarely seen Ross seals that live within the ice-covered ocean.

The Weddell Sea should provide many opportunities for iceberg sightings. To assist you in capturing them for posterity, the Expedition Team will include a media specialist and a visual artist. During onboard workshops the media specialist will introduce you to traditional and digital photography techniques for shooting ice and snow. During the visual art workshops you will learn to see that ice and snow in an entirely new light. Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard wrote “…snow seldom looks white, and if carefully looked at will be found to be shaded with many colours but chiefly with cobalt blue or rose madder, and all the gradations of lilac and mauve which the mixture of these colours will produce.”

Day 11 & 12.           Cape Norvegia and Neumayer Station

If permission is granted, and conditions allow, we will visit Georg von Neumayer Station, where scientists study geophysical, meteorological, and air chemistry. The station is located below the ice and accessed by a series of stairs and ramps, on a 200 meter thick ice shelf, 10 kilometers from the sea.

Every landing is operated to meet standards designed to protect the biological and physical environment. Nearby at Atka Bay there is a large and well established Emperor Penguin rookery. If weather conditions permit, we plan to visit these extraordinary birds.

Day 13.                  Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf

Sightings of this remote region of Antarctica were made in 1904, 1915, and in 1930 by Norwegian Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, after whom the 402 km (250 mile) long ice shelf is named. Ice shelves are extremely large glaciers, which have flowed to a seacoast where they float in the water. When large chunks of the ice shelf break off at the water’s edge they are said to calve. Calving ice shelves create icebergs.

If conditions permit Zodiacs and helicopters will be deployed to observe icebergs, wildlife and the shelf itself.

Day 14 - 18.            At sea

At some time during the next few days at sea, the ship will transit 0° degrees of latitude, the Greenwich Meridian, an imaginary line which runs from the geographic North Pole to the geographic South Pole. Also known as Zero Longitude, it is the line from which all other lines of longitude are measured.

Many activities are planned for days at sea – wildlife watches; ice-chart reading lessons; media and visual art workshops; presentations on the life cycle of Antarctic wildlife, the workings of an icebreaker and glaciology. The ship’s library will be open for quiet moments of contemplation.

Day 19.                  Syowa Base

Japanese scientists have been launching rockets into the atmosphere from Syowa Base since 1970. It is very difficult to reach the base due to heavy ice in this region. However, if permission is granted and conditions permit, we will try to visit the Base, providing helicopter flights are within safety limits.

Day 20.                  At sea

Day 21.                  Proclamation Island

The southern summer solstice will be cause for a celebration.  The sun should be in the sky for nearly 18 hours, because you will be close to the Antarctic Circle on December 21, 2007.

Day 22 & 23.

As we explore pack ice, we will visit an Emperor Penguin rookery known to exist in the region. We will attempt a landing if conditions permit.

Day 24.                  At sea

Just as the Expedition Team takes advantage of local conditions, the Hospitality Team takes advantage of holidays and memorable dates to inspire menus. While at sea, Christmas Eve, the ship will be transformed with decorations as the scent of Christmas pudding and roasting turkey drifts across the deck.

Day 25.                  Mawson Station

By the time you reach Mawson Station, our polar historian will have related the exploits of Sir Douglas Mawson, Australia’s most beloved Antarctic explorer. His first expedition to the Antarctic was in 1907, during which he became one of the earliest to climb Mount Erebus. In 1911 with an expedition team, he returned to Antarctica for further scientific investigation, and undoubtedly earned his reputation as a brave and tenacious explorer. He traveled with two companions about 500km (312 miles) from Commonwealth Bay, One companion, known by his initials, B E S (Belgrave Edward Sutton) Ninnis, with a sledge carrying most of their supplies and its dog team, broke through a crevasse and disappeared. The loss compelled Mawson and his remaining companion Xavier Mertz to turn back. Mertz never reached safety, dying 25 days into their arduous return journey. Now alone, Mawson discarded nonessentials, except geological specimens and records of the journey. With a pocket saw, he cut his sledge in half and, for 30 days, dragged it 160 kilometers (66 miles) back to his base camp, where a small party had waited to search for him. They remained in the Antarctic for another year. While recuperating, Mawson wrote, The Home of the Blizzard, his account of the ordeal.

Mawson Station is located near one of the 40 known Emperor Penguin rookeries. If conditions permit you may march with the penguins.

Day 26.

We plan to explore the locale near the Scullin and Murray Monoliths as well as the Amery Ice Shelf over the next two days. We will not visit the monoliths themselves as they have been designated a Specially Protected Area, because “the Scullin and Murray Monoliths (67° 47'S 66° 42'E and 67° 47'S 66° 53'E) hold the greatest concentration of breeding seabird colonies in East Antarctica, including the second largest colony of Antarctic petrels Thalassoica antarctica. The Scullin and Murray Monoliths ASPA is a breeding locality for at least 160,000 pairs of Antarctic petrels from a minimum estimated global total of approximately half a million pairs (van Franeker et al. 1999).”

The Australian report continues “Adélie penguin colonies occupy the lower slopes of both monoliths, extending almost to the foreshore. Approximately 50,000 pairs nest on Scullin Monolith and a further 20,000 pairs on Murray Monolith. This represents approximately 10% of the Adélie penguin breeding population for East Antarctica and approximately 3% of the global population. Many of the ocean-facing slopes of both monoliths are used for breeding by petrels.”

The largest concentration of grounded icebergs on Earth can be found in the area. We will attempt to navigate through them, an unforgettable experience.

Day 27.                  Fram Bank, Amery Shelf

Day 28.                  Zongshan Station

If we are granted permission, a visit to the Chinese research station Zong Shan, located in the Larsemann Hills, may occur today.

Day 29 & 30.           Davis Station and Prydz Bay

Australians are researching the biology, geology and glaciology of the Lambert-Amery region, at Davis Station, the home of a new atmospheric physics program using laser technology to investigate the Antarctic stratosphere. If permission is granted, we may tour the station.

Day 31.                  New Year’s Eve

Bid farewell to Antarctica as you welcome in the New Year, while sailing north toward the Australian continent.

Day 32 - 37.            At sea

The last days at sea will be full as you exchange digital photographs with newly made friends; complete the masterpiece on which you have been working since the first art workshop; attend our continuing education program presentations – or do absolutely nothing other than bask in the sun on deck as seabirds circle the ship.

Day 38.                  Fremantle, Australia

The port of Fremantle is located on the west coast of Australia near Perth. After breakfast aboard, all passengers will be transferred as a group to the Perth airport for your homeward flights.

* Airfares are not included in the progra

SUMMARY

Inclusions:

·     Voyage aboard the ‘Kapitan Khlebnikov’ as indicated in the itinerary;

·     All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship;

·     A glass of house wine with every dinner on board;

·     All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac and helicopter (as included in group excursions with no specific amount of helicopter time guaranteed);

·     Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff;

·     All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program;

·     Comprehensive pre-departure materials and Antarctic handbook;

·     Complimentary expedition parka;

·     Rubber boots service;

·     Detailed post-expedition log.

Trip grade: Easy

Cost:

Triple cabin                       US$ 33,500
Twin cabin                         US$ 38,400
Suite                                 US$ 42,600         
Corner suite                      US$ 45,600

All cabins are smoke-free. Smoking is only permitted in designated areas only

An early booking discount of US$ 500 per person is available for reservations made with deposit by March 30, 2007

Kapitan Khlebnikov

A Day Onboard Kapitan Khlebnikov


1-866-318-5050    office@50plusexpeditions.com