Starting from Ushuaia and ending in New Zealand, this voyage takes you across the Ross Sea, where around one third of the world’s population of emperor penguins breeds.
You visit the volcanic Peter I Island; explore the outer fringes of the pack-ice in the Amundsen Sea, and pause at the huts of British explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott. En route you explore Campbell Island, home to the southern royal albatross, and the South Shetland Islands, where you visit enormous rookeries of penguins, land on beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals, and see wallowing elephant seals. You sail on to the Antarctic Peninsula, with plenty of time to experience its magic.
A typical Ross Sea itinerary is shown below, on board Ortelius.
During this voyage passengers are transferred ashore by Zodiac inflatable. If Zodiacs cannot be used the ship’s two helicopters will be deployed. Potential locations for helicopter landings are Peter I Island, the Ross Ice-shelf, the Dry Valleys, McMurdo Station, Cape Evans (the site of Scott’s hut) and Cape Royds (where Shackleton’s hut is located). A total of five helicopter landings are planned, however it is impossible to predict the exact number as the expedition visits some of the world’s most remote areas, where the forces of nature, weather and ice conditions may all affect helicopter usage.
Special note – crossing the date line
Both trips are of identical duration i.e. 31 nights / 32 days. However, if you look at the dates of operation, it appears that one lasts for 32 nights, while the other lasts for only 30 nights. This is due to the effect of crossing the International Date Line at 180⁰ longitude. At this point one day is added to the trip that heads from Argentina to New Zealand, while one day is deducted from the reverse trip.
Day1: Embark in Ushuaia
Embark your vessel in Ushuaia and set sail along the scenic Beagle Channel for the rest of the evening.
Days2-3: At sea
Day4: Arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula
Arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula and in the early morning sail along the spectacular Lemaire Channel before landing on Pleneau Island, known for its elephant seals, gentoo penguins, kelp gulls, and South Polar skuas. Pleneau Island was first charted by the French Antarctic expedition of 1903-05 of Jean-Baptiste Charcot, and named after the expedition’s photographer, Paul Pleneau. Today you also explore Petermann Island with its colonies of Adélie and gentoo penguins, and imperial cormorants (also known as blue-eyed shags). Petermann owes its name to German photographer August Petermann, a member of the 1873-74 expedition.
Day5: Sail through the Penola Strait & cross the Polar Circle
The small islands lying east of Flounder Island are called the Minnows, first charted by the British Grahamland Expedition (1934-37) of John Rymill. Detaille Island was discovered by Charcot’s French expedition (1903-05) and named after a shareholder in the Magellan Whaling Company. From 1956 until 1959 the British Antarctic Survey’s Station W was located on Detaille Island. At both locations you can see Adélie penguins and blue-eyed shags.
Days6-7: At sea
Over the next couple of days you continue across the Bellingshausen Sea, where you may come across the first pack ice.
Day8: Sail to Peter I Island
Peter I Island is an uninhabited volcanic island (19 kilometres long) in the Bellingshausen Sea, which was discovered by Fabian von Bellingshausen in 1821 and named after the Russian Tsar, Peter I. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory on its own. The site is occasionally visited by passenger vessels.
Days9-14: At sea
The route continues through the Amundsen Sea along the outer fringes of the pack ice, which – depending on the conditions – may give glimpses of the Antarctic Continent, taking advantage of the westerly Antarctic coastal current. There is a lot of life here, with sightings of single straggling emperor penguins, groups of seals on ice floes, and orcas and minke whales along the edge of the ice, often accompanied by different species of fulmar petrel. If the sea ice allows, there will be an attempt to land on Shephard Island in Marie Byrd Land among colonies of chinstrap penguin and South Polar skua. Shephard Island was discovered by the United States Antarctic Expedition (USAS) of 1939-41, and named after one of the expedition’s promoters, John Shephard.
Days15-15: Sail along the Ross Ice Shelf
Today you sail along the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating mass of ice, with a front 30 metres high. There may be an opportunity for a helicopter landing on the ice shelf. It was in the Bay of Whales on the eastern side of the shelf, close to Roosevelt Island (named by American aviator Richard E. Byrd in 1934 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt), that Roald Amundsen gained access to the ice shelf and ventured from there on to the South Pole, finally arriving on 14 December 1911. For you too, there may be a chance to climb onto the ice shelf.
Day16: Sail along the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, then continue west
Days17-21: Ross Island, Cape Roy & Cape Evans
In the Ross Sea you may visit Ross Island, guarded by the mountain peaks of Erebus, Terror and Bird with famous spots which played such a major role in the British expeditions of the last century; thse include Cape Royds, the site of Ernest Shackleton’s cabin. A visit to Cape Evans is also planned, to see Robert Falcon Scott’s cabin. It was from Hut Point that Scott and his men set out for the South Pole. The next site is the US McMurdo Station and Scott Base (New Zealand). If ice and weather conditions are favourable, you should be able to land by helicopter. Castle Rock offers a great view across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole. Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys, is the place that offers the closest conditions to those on Mars. Weather permitting, it may be possible to make a helicopter landing at the Dry Valleys.
Days22-23: Sail northward
While sailing northward along the west coast of the Ross Sea, you pass the Drygalski Ice Tongue and the Italian Station in Terra Nova Bay, and further on Cape Hallet.
Day24: Cape Adare
Cape Adare is the spot at which the first visitors to the Antarctic Continent wintered. The hut where the Norwegian explorer Borchgrevink stayed in 1899 is surrounded by the world’s largest colony of Adélie penguins.
Day25: Navigate through the sea ice at the entrance of the Ross Sea
Day26: Sail along the side of Scott Island
Days27-29: Head towards Campbell Island
Day30: Campbell Island
Campbell Island is a sub-Antarctic New Zealand reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with luxuriant vegetation. The island’s fauna is fantastic, with a large and easily visited colony of southern royal albatross on the main island, and a breeding ground for wandering, Campbell, grey-headed, black-browed, and light-mantled sooty albatross on the satellite islands. Three penguin species – eastern rockhopper, erect-crested and yellow-eyed – breed here. In the 18th century seals were hunted to extinction, but the populations of elephant seal, fur seal and sea lion have now recovered.
Day31: Head to Invercargill, on the mainland of New Zealand
Day32: Disembark at Bluff near Invercargill
You should note: Some trips operate in reverse, starting from Bluff, near Invercargill, and ending in Ushuaia, Argentina. The itinerary is the same as described above, but in the opposite direction. Exact itinerary and duration will depend on your chosen vessel, departure date and local conditions.
Duration and price excluding international flights: 32 daysfrom £25,500 pp
Group size: Varies according to vessel
When to go: Feb-Mar
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
If you long to see emperor penguins, the largest species of penguin, which is rarely found outside the High Antarctic, then this is the area to view them. Around one third of the world’s population breed in the Ross Sea area, as well as a substantial number of Adélie penguins.
The Lemaire Channel is an 11 kilometre strait off Antarctica leading to a jigsaw of jewel like islands. Filled with icebergs and hemmed in by steep glacial cliffs, the waters are calm and passing through it makes for an unforgettably scenic journey, upon which orca or humpback whales may be seen.
The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible part of the great white continent with some of its best wildlife and scenery. Ice-choked waterways, sculpted icebergs, imposing glaciers and rugged mountains provide the backdrop to an area with more whales and dolphins than anywhere else on earth.
This itinerary is available on the following
The ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. With the highest ice-class notation, it offers possibilities to travel to remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities.