insights from the ultimate cruising team

Another Side of Antarctica

Another Side of Antarctica

 

When travelling to Antarctica, it often involves a long flight to South America, an overnight before another charter flight to Ushaia and then onto the ship, heading across the dreaded Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula.

 

But not always!  How does stepping aboard your Antarctica-bound ship in Hobart sound?  One of the many benefits we antipodeans have, is our close proximity to the ice continent and we have the opportunity to explore East Antarctica, including the huts of Scott, Shackleton, Mawson and others, McMurdo Sound, Mt Erebus, Ross Island and more.  Many of these sites mean more to Australians and New Zealanders than those on the Antarctic Peninsula and you’ll still see loads of penguins, seals and more.

 

Have a read of this itinerary description from Aurora Cruises and see if this doesn’t get your feet itching!  Then head to our package page for more information.  This is such a great way to see Antarctica without the long-haul flight. 

 

Over these next expedition days, the nature and timing of our outings will be dictated by ice, wind and weather and other conditions beyond our control. The places of interest below are a general guide of the places we hope to visit.

 

Cape Adare, at the tip of the Ross Sea, is home to Antarctica’s largest Adélie penguin colony and site of the first recorded landing in Antarctica. Ice and weather permitting, wend your way through ice-floes to land on the flat, cobbled spit shared by more than a million noisy penguins, many busy feeding chicks before joining the endless conveyor of adults moving to and from the sea. Treading carefully, we plan to make our way to Borchgrevink’s Hut, the oldest in Antarctica, where Norwegian/Australian Carsten Borchgrevink and his small team overwintered in 1899-1900. Step inside to inspect the interior and its artefacts and marvel at what it took to spend a dark winter here.

 

Set against the spectacular backdrop the wild Admiralty Mountains, Cape Hallett was the Antarctic foothold for the Australian Bicentennial Antarctic Expedition led by Aurora Expeditions founder (and ship’s namesake) Greg Mortimer. In 1988, Greg Mortimer and his team hauled sledges inland from here to climb 4263-m Mt Minto. If conditions permit, we plan to land near an abandoned American/New Zealand base to photograph the many Adélie penguins and Weddell seals on this breathtaking site.

 

Named after one of Robert Falcon Scott’s relief ships for his 1901-04 Discovery Expedition, Terra Nova Bay contains the remains of Drygalski Ice Tongue, what’s left after two massive icebergs sheared more than 200 sq km of ice from it in 2005 and 2006. We hope to visit the second largest emperor penguin colony in Antarctica at Cape Washington, and Inexpressible Island, where in 1912, Scott’s Northern Party dropped off six men for geological work over six weeks. Pack ice stopped their ship from returning and they spent a miserable winter in a 3.7 m x 2.7 m ice cave they excavated, living on the few seals and penguins they could find. In the Spring, they trekked 320 km around the coast to the main expedition party on Ross Island.

 

McMurdo Sound could be described as the ‘heart of Antarctica’. If the ice permits, we enter a surreal world of exquisite beauty, where steam erupts from the 3,794 metre summit of Mt Erebus, the Transantarctic Mountains shimmer to the west, and the polar icecap wraps around Ross Island, home to Antarctica’s greatest monuments from the Heroic Age of Exploration. If conditions permit, we may have a chance to visit Discovery Hut (Scott’s Nimrod expedition), Shackleton’s Hut at Cape Royds, or Scott’s Hut (British Antarctic Expedition) at Cape Evans. Stand quietly amidst artefacts from these great expeditions then step outside to the busy world of Adélie penguins and Weddell seals.

 

Sail along the perfectly cleaved ice cliffs of Antarctica’s largest ice shelf. Rising 30 metres from icy waters patrolled by pods of orca, the Ross Ice Shelf is about the size of France and the world’s largest body of floating ice. Watch for ethereal snow petrels as they play on air currents sweeping down from the polar ice cap.

 

 

Enjoy an exploration day, as we make our way back to the top of the Ross Sea. We may try landing on Franklin Island, with its vast Adélie penguin rookery and the chance to hike to the island’s summit. Or Zodiac-cruise the small rocky islets of Possession Islands; or simply pick a spot on the map to see what we can see.

 

We may attempt to reach the remote Balleny Islands, a 160-km chain of islands that provides resting and breeding habitat for seabirds and three seal species, yet few people have ever landed here. Volcanic in origin, some islands are still active. Elephant, leopard and crabeater seals have been identified in surrounding waters and Adélie penguins breed on shore. Simply seeing the islands would be a thrill, to Zodiac-cruise amongst them even better, a landing – the best. True expedition cruising.

 

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