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DAY 1 ARRIVAL PUNTA ARENAS AND GETTING READY FOR OUR EXPEDITION CRUISE
Arrive and check in at our hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile – the capital of Chile’s southernmost region. The historic city with rolling hills surrounding it and the Strait of Magellan in front. Its past is rich in exciting events, from being a penal colony to becoming a sheep and gold rush colony with many European settlers. The present-day city remains home to a major port; and with the Andes mountains and a multitude of national parks close by, it is a favored staging point for many wonderful adventures. Even our own adventure is beginning!
Our 4-star hotel is centrally located, which allows you to make full use of your time outside of the scheduled events.
If you plan to arrive early, you can even take your time to explore the historical city.
Our “journey” begins at 15:00 with all the necessary safety briefings, the latest weather forecasts and embarkation information needed to enjoy our upcoming expedition cruise and trans-Drake flight. All mandatory activities are held at the hotel and you will receive information about all these as you arrive to the hotel. We finish our daily schedule with a welcome dinner, where you can enjoy a typical Chilean meal.
DAY 2 FLYING THE DRAKE. FLIGHT TO KING GEORGE ISLAND, EMBARKATION
We are packed-up, excited and ready-to-go from the very early morning, as we await information on the landing conditions on King George Island. Normally the flights take off early, but we are ready to wait in case the flights are postponed.
We keep ourselves close to the hotel and the Punta Arenas land team, and drive to the airport as soon as our chartered airline gives us the green light. The expectation of exploring the 7th Continent builds, as we have donned our parkas, warm clothes and boots.
Once the fasten your seatbelts sign lights up, it is time to fly across the famed Drake Passage - a body of water that marks the intersection of the cold Antarctic with the warmer Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. We substitute 2 days of sailing with 2 hours of flying.
Our landing is smooth as the planes are built for these types of landings and runways. Our luggage is transported to the ship and we enjoy a 2 kilometre walk along the Chilean Eduardo Frei base and the neighbouring Bellingshausen Russian research station. King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands and home to no less than 10 research stations, 2 churches and of course the continent’s only airstrip in use for commercially chartered flights. The expedition team is awaiting us with Zodiacs on the Fildes Bay beach and will ferry us to our ship.
Once onboard, the exciting Antarctic wildlife comes into view with our first sight of seals, penguins and albatrosses. In other words, it is time to explore the Antarctic islands of the South Shetland chain and be marvelled by the captivating landscapes we will encounter along the way.
DAY 3-4 ANTARCTIC SOUND, WEDDELL SEA AND ELEPHANT ISLAND
Over the coming days, we will begin the exciting Antarctic experience at the very tip of the Continent. During these days in the Antarctic Sound, named in 1902 after the Swedish vessel Antarctic, the Captain and the Expedition Team will keep a watchful eye on the mighty tabular icebergs, born from the floating Larsen Ice Shelf further south. We aim to have both continental and island landings on the shores of Antarctic Sound and Weddell Sea, always on the lookout for some of the unusually large penguin colonies, which have recently been observed.
The Weddell Sea takes its name from the early British explorer James Weddell, who by hunting seals through a break in the ice in 1823 got to the southernmost point at his time. As we enter the Weddell Sea of today, we grow accustomed to giant floating icebergs and witness the sheer quantity of sea ice in these waters. Apart from penguins, the wildlife here includes Weddell and elephant seals and seabirds. Humpbacks feed in the nutrient-rich waters (caused by the upwell of cold water from the ocean depths), so there are opportunities to see whales, as well as the Antarctic’s largest predator, the solitary leopard seal.
Landfalls could include: Brown Bluff; with abundances of wildlife living on the beaches under the basalt cliffsides and Esperanza Base with its year-round Argentinian research station; Danger and Paulet Islands, where we would experience a large colony of Adélie penguins.
Because of the considerable sea ice and enormous bergs in the Weddell Sea, navigation through this remote nature is at the edge of what is possible; your captain and expedition leader are well aware that shifting ice means that no individual part of this area can be guaranteed as accessible at any time, so they will work together to find the most magnificent opportunities. This is part of the wonder of this part of the world, and you will be visiting an area few humans have ever seen.
We plan to finalize our Weddell Sea/Antarctic Sound adventure by navigating to Elephant Island, home to elephant seals, maybe even along the same route as Shackleton’s daring lifeboat escape (this route is only possible if conditions allow it!). While a landing is unlikely, we hope to see where the Shackleton and his five commenced their historic voyage across 1,000 kilometres of open sea to call for help. A route which we are about to follow for the next days.
DAY 5-6 AT SEA BETWEEN ANTARCTICA AND SOUTH GEORGIA
En-route for South Georgia, we will make a diagonal crossing of Drake Passage and the ‘Roaring Fifties’. But Ocean Albatros’ unique design, reclined bow, and automatic stabilizers, ensures a more stable ride as well as far less fuel consumption than other expedition vessels.
During our time at sea, a variety of activities will be arranged on board which will provide the perfect opportunity to socialize with fellow travelers equally passionate for discovering the world, enjoy the lectures by our expedition on board, visit our shop or relax at leisure on our ship’s facilities, designed to provide a comfortable, relaxing time.
DAY 7-10 WILDLIFE WONDER OF SOUTH GEORGIA
South Georgia offers stunning wildlife experiences with a wealth of breeding penguins, sea birds, sea lions and elephant seals, all seeking shelter in this oasis amidst the roaring Southern Ocean. Previous whaling history pops up in most of fjords we will explorer – not least in Grytviken the only inhabited settlement on this mountainous island. Grytviken is also the last resting place for Ernest Shackleton, after he died on yet another Antarctica voyage in 1922.
We will explorer the fjords of the north coast for three to four days and take as many shore landings as time and the swelling sea will allow us.
DAY 11-12 AT SEA TOWARDS FALKLAND ISLANDS
While we make our way towards the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) you can participate in the many activities offered on board, for example about wildlife and the history of the Falkland Islands, or you can join our wildlife experts on top deck looking for sea birds and mammals.
DAY 13 PORT STANLEY, DISEMBARKATION. CITY TOUR AND TRANSFER TO AIRPORT FOR HOME FLIGHT
During the morning we approach Falkland Islands and Ocean Albatros go alongside in the sheltered natural harbour of Port Stanley. Stanley is the capital of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), a remote South Atlantic archipelago.
After breakfast on board, it is time to bid farewell to vessel and crew. Busses are ready for a city tour of Port Stanley. The capital of the islands is a charming little town with wooden houses, small well-kept gardens, pubs, a real English cathedral, and an excellent little museum. The tour stops at quaint restaurant for some lunch refreshments before the busses take us to the airport for the return flight back to the South American continent after a compact but still adventure-filled polar voyage.