The continent of Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest, and iciest place on Earth. It is one of the last true wilderness areas, home to the greatest concentration of wildlife on the planet. Come experience the White Continent aboard one of our small vessels for an expedition style cruise that will leave you speechless from its sheer beauty. Walk amongst the penguins, kayak through the icebergs or just sit and listen to symphony of sounds this amazing landscape has to offer.
Size: 5 million+ sq mi (varies due to changing ice shelves).
Percent of Earth's Land: 8.9% (Almost 98% solid ice, much of Antarctica's land mass lies beneath more than a mile of ice and snow).
Ice Cap: holds 70% of the Earth's fresh water.
Highest Point: Vinson Massif at 16,066 ft. (4,897 m).
Antarctica has numerous penguin species: adelie, chinstrap, gentoo, king, emperor and macaroni. The emperor, the largest, stands over three feet tall and can weigh up to 80 pounds. Ten whale species can be found in the Antarctic Ocean including: humpback, blue, minke, sperm, right, sei, pilot and finback. The blue whale, the largest creature on earth, exceeds 100 feet in length and weighs over 125 tons. Six seal species are found here including: crabeater, weddell, leopard, fur, ross and elephant. Huge male elephant seals can weigh over 4 tons. Over forty species of seabirds can be seen including: albatross, petrels, skuas and terns.
In 1522 Ferdinand Magellan ventured to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. A half-century later, Francis Drake made it between Cape Horn and the South Shetlands. In 1772 Captain James Cook's ship, Resolution, reached all the way to 71 degrees south, just shy of the Antarctic shore. The 19th c. brought seal hunters and whalers. The 20th c. brought on the race for the South Pole between Norwegian, Roald Amundsen and British, Robert Scott. Amundsen's party reached the Pole in December,1912. Scott's party arrived a month later; however, Scott and all four of his men died of hunger on the way back. In 1914 British captain Ernest Shackelton was on his thrid Antarctic expedition when his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice and sunk. The crew salvaged supplies, climbed onto the pack ice and floated to Elephant Island. Faced with no chance of rescue, Shackelton set out with five of his best men in an open rowboat and crossed 800 miles across some of the world's roughest waters to South Georgia.They then made a difficult trek over the snow-covered mountains to reach a whaling station on the other side. Shackelton returned to Elephant Island to rescue his crew. Throughout this entire ordeal, not one life was lost - the entire crew survived. Today, research stations are set up and scientific studies include geology, biology, and ice-core and weather analysis.
What is Expedition Cruising?...
Typical vessels are ice-reinforced and range in size from 50 - 150 passengers. Expedition Cruising differs from typical cruises in that a great deal of your time will be spent off the ship. Zodiacs, rubberized landing crafts enable passengers to journey away from the ship and and virtually anywhere. Naturalist accompany travelers and offer a wealth of knowledge when interpreting the destinations and wildlife. These trips are very casual, with open seating in the dining area and simple yet comfortable accommodations.
Choosing the Right Trip...
All short-duration trips visit the Antarctic Peninsula. This area has abundant wildlife, towering granite mountains and immense icebergs. Longer trips also visit the 'Sub-Antarctic Islands' notably the Falklands and South Georgia. These islands are ice-free in the winter and are subsequently a year-round haven for numerous wildlife species. Tens of thousands of King Penguins, stunning scenery, immense jagged mountains, pristine beaches and whaling stations (of Shackelton fame) allow South Georgia to offer visitors an entirely different experience than the Antarctic Peninsula alone.
Choosing the Right Ship...
Expedition Ships:Expedition ships such as Orlova and Endeavour offer more comfortable accommodations and higher quality of onboard service and dining. They typically accommodate around 110 passengers. They provide a higher academic experience and have excellent expedition staff of 10 or more, each with a specific area of expertise.
Smaller Russian Ships: Smaller Russian ships such as Molchanov, Multanovskiy and Akademik Shokalskiy are typically smaller, around 49-passengers and offer more active programs. These ships were originally built for polar research and have ice-strengthened hulls. The accommodations on these vessels is simple - comfortable, but not luxurious.
With small vessels, limited season and extreme popularity... you should consider planning ahead and reserving your dream Antarctica journey at least 9 months or more in advance. Call us and we can help you realize that dream!