Celebrate crossing latitude 66° 33’ South in the wake of hallowed explorers including the first to do so, Captain James Cook. In this frozen area of extraordinary beauty, powerful orcas and leopard seals patrol, while ethereal snow petrels grace the skies against a background of bristling mountains and surreal icebergs. Threading our way through an intricate system of icy waterways, we aim for the glorious Crystal Sound at the mouth of The Gullet. It’s midsummer, moulting time for penguins and flight school for cormorant chicks.
Day 1 – Punta Arenas
Day 2 – Drake Passage
Day 3 – Antarctic Convergence
Day 4 – 9 – Bellingshausen Sea / Marguerite Bay / Stonington
Day 10 – King George Island
Day 11 – Punta Arenas
Polar Pioneer Ship – Polar Pioneer is a small and sturdy expedition ship. A regular in polar waters having initially been built in 1982 as an icestrengthened research vessel, she was refurbished in 2000 to provide a comfortable range of triple, twin and suite cabin options for a maximum of 54 expeditioners. Her excellent reputation for polar expedition cruising is due to her strength, maneuverability and size, allowing her to access areas where larger vessels simply can’t reach.
Day 1 – Fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, enjoy a tour of the scenic port before being warmly welcomed aboard Polar Pioneer. We’ll have introductory and safety briefings before our evening’s cruise down the Beagle Channel.
Day 2 – We cross the Drake Passage, accompanied by albatross, petrels, fulmars and prions. Our polar experts speak about Antarctica’s unique wildlife and history and prepare us for landings with environmental and Zodiac briefings.
Day 3 – Spirits soar as air and water temperatures fall, marking our crossing of the Antarctic Convergence. All eyes are peeled for the first iceberg, the first penguin and the first glimpse of land, the mercurial sea stacks outlying the South Shetland Islands. If conditions allow, we go ashore this afternoon.
Days 4-9 – We explore the Peninsula’s west coast, with time to watch the frenzied activities of penguin parents and chicks as the summer days begin to shorten. Watch for imperial cormorant chicks bravely making their first flights from sea cliffs. Zodiac cruise amongst icebergs and floes replete with basking Weddell and leopard seals and revel in the unparalleled beauty of vast, Antarctic landscape. Besides landing on wildlife-rich offshore islands, we make a continental landing, possibly hiking up for spectacular views. As we continue south, ice conditions govern our movements.
Whether we cross the Circle via the ‘inner route’ or the Bellingshausen Sea, we celebrate in style. With luck we reach magnificent Crystal Sound, pass through the Gullet and steam on to Marguerite Bay, where relatively few have gone before. Orcas, humpbacks and minkes feed in the channels. We may visit historical Stonington, Pourquoi Pas and Detaille islands before turning north to warmer climes.
Day 10 – We arrive at mountainous King George Island. If time and weather permit we explore penguin and seal-rich waters of Fildes Bay and visit the surprising Trinity Church at Bellingshausen Station, before catching our charter flight back to Punta Arenas in Chile. On arrival into Punta Arenas we will be transferred to our hotel, where tonight’s accommodation is included.
Drake Passage (one-way only)
South Shetland Islands
Chinstrap and Adélie penguins
Fur and elephant seals
International scientific stations
Circle Crossing celebration
Rare glimpse of southern regions
Mid-summer wildlife frenzy
Punta Arenas – is a commune and the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. The city was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 it was changed back to Punta Arenas. It is the largest city south of the 46th parallel south. As of 1977 Punta Arenas has been one of only two free ports in Chile.
The Drake Passage – or Mar de Hoces—Sea of Hoces—is the body of water between the southern tip of South America at Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean (Scotia Sea) with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.
The Antarctic Convergence – is a curve continuously encircling Antarctica where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the subantarctic. Antarctic waters predominantly sink beneath subantarctic waters, while associated zones of mixing and upwelling create a zone very high in marine productivity, especially for Antarctic krill.
Marguerite Bay – is an extensive bay on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is bounded on the north by Adelaide Island and on the south by Wordie Ice Shelf, George VI Sound and Alexander Island. The mainland coast on the Antarctic Peninsula is Fallières Coast. Islands within the bay include Pourquoi Pas Island, Horseshoe Island and Lagotellerie Island.
King George Island – is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, lying 120 kilometres off the coast of Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The island was named after King George III.