Antarctic Peninsula Expedition (February 3 – February 28, 2018)
Join Spirit of Sydney in Ushuaia, Argentina for a 25 day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula AND
…THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME!
This is your chance to experience Antarctica as one of just 6-7 guests aboard a thoroughbred sailing yacht, where you will be in awe of spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife within one of the last wildernesses on earth. As a small flexible group we can tailor-make our adventures and adapt itineraries to satisfy even the most seasoned adventure traveler. A cruise to Antarctica to see its dazzling landscapes and plentiful wildlife should be on everyone's "to-do" list, but this adventure simply beats them all!
Day 1- Come aboard, stow your gear, and take in the briefings, as we set sail down the spectacular mountain lined Beagle Channel toward the famed Drake Passage.
Days 2,3,4 - Depending on weather windows, we head out into the Drake Passage to commence our 550nm ocean passage, where landfall will be the snow, rock and ice of the Antarctic Peninsula. We are sailing the "furious fifties" with landfall in the "screaming sixties", but thankfully the ‘state of the art’ weather systems aboard Spirit of Sydney enable us to negotiate the deep lows the Drake Passage is legendary for. Often we are able to choose weather windows that provide a safe, comfortable, and fast passage across- and you’ll find that with the routine of watches at sea, the time passes quickly.
Spirit of Sydney is an ocean greyhound and her origins as a southern ocean 'round the world' racing yacht reflect in her thoroughbred handling and the chance to steer a real racing yacht in the southern ocean is an exhilarating experience in itself, an exhilaration matched by the soaring flight of wandering albatrosses as they lift off the wave tops and soar above the yacht. Adventurous guests of all abilities are catered for, (you don’t need to be an experienced sailor to lend a hand) as the yacht is easily shorthanded, and even non-sailors have returned as seasoned veterans of southern ocean sailing.
Landfall in Antarctica- High jagged peaks, overhanging seracs, huge glaciers dropping newly formed ice bergs into the ocean…… and everywhere life abounds in this icy paradis. Perhaps your first impressions of Antarctica will make you feel that you have entered an alternative reality!
Our arrival in Antarctic waters is heralded by porpoising penguins and the fantastical shapes of weird and wonderful icebergs, with anchorage perhaps at Whaler’s Bay in the sunken caldera of volcanic Deception Island - home to 300,000 pairs of bustling, noisy chinstrap penguins.
As we enter Port Foster through the narrow Neptune’s Bellows the sunken caldera opens before us, and we sight the remnants of what was once a bustling whaling industry at the turn of last century, with fleets of whale catchers and factory ships anchored in the harbour and more than a few interesting anecdotes and shenanigans to relate! Perhaps we’ll wash off the last few days at sea with a dip in the volcanic hot springs at Pendulum Cove where steam rises eerily from the shore obscuring the dark brooding volcanic landscape.
A six hour traverse over the island to Bailey’s Head is rewarded with stunning views of the sea cliffs and “Sewing Machine Needles” rock formations…..and the incredible sight of penguins as far as the eye can see. At Baileys Head you can watch the chinnies surf in on to the black sand beach and pop out walking on their two feet!
Days 6-21 Our next days merge into each other as we cruise the relatively sheltered waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, exploring the wild and beautiful landscape and fascinating plethora of animal life. Now’s your chance to take to the kayaks out and slip along the side of an iceberg as lazy crab-eater seals plop into the water beside you, or perhaps to just drift along, wondering at the sheer immensity of the glacier wrapped mountains that loom over you. Perhaps you’d like to take the snow-shoes and hike up a snow hill to take in the view that literally extends for 50 miles or more in the clear crisp Antarctic air.
Paradise Harbour, Lemaire Channel, Neumayer Channel - all offer dramatic scenery, but we will have the chance to cruise these and many other less visited places, in depth. The chance to see this "Last Paradise" as part of a small and flexible group offers opportunities for adventures that are beyond the realms of travel by any other means.
As an independent yacht we are able to visit tiny coves and shallow anchorages where one can enjoy the magnificent solitude of one of the most remote places on earth, while watching close-up the antics of the local inhabitants, curious leopard seals, playful humpback whales, or frenetically busy penguins. You are part of the landscape - and we have the time and flexibility to stop and enjoy it.
This is an expedition and you are a participant. As we sail through spectacular islands and straits you may take the helm or climb the mast to look for leads in the ice. Imagine yourself as one of the first visitors, early explorer or whaler, pushing into new territory, dwarfed by the awesome majesty of the landscape, and astonished by the amazing wealth of animal life.
The Argentine Islands are home of the ex-british base ‘Faraday’ now Ukrainian “Vernadsky” where the original instrument used to establish the existence of the ozone layer hole is proudly kept, although today’s Ukrainian scientists are still heavily involved in atmospheric research and distillation of a particularly fine vodka! As yachties we will be invited to join the scientists for an evening of merriment! Be prepared to discuss the doppler frequency shift to radio waves caused by ionising gases in the upper troposphere!
We head through the Penola Straits, which were named by Australian John Rymill of the winemaking family when he led the British Graham Land Expedition in 1932, and we pass close under the base of towering Mt Scott before slipping into Pleneau Bay often described as the ‘Iceberg Graveyard’, where currents and shallow water combine to trap and break up the ice monoliths. It makes for interesting zodiac cruising, when the spectacle of hundreds of tons of ice grinding on the sea floor is likely to explode into fragments. It’s also a favorite spot for family pods of orcas to hunt the crab-eater seals lazing on the floating sea ice.
We spend the night tucked into a narrow rocky channel out of the way of the ice and our backdrop is the towering peaks of Booth Island often lit up in the Antarctic sunsets that literally last for hours at this latitude.
The famed Lemaire Channel is home to dark, majestic waters overhung by precarious seracs and snow cornices that make us hesitant to sail too near the rocky cliffs. We breathe a sigh of relief as we pass Cape Reynard (otherwise known as ‘Eunice’s titties’ after the secretary of a Falklands Islands Dependencies Governor!) and set our sails for a brisk sail across the Gerlache Strait to the Peltior Channel.
As we cruise down the spectacular channel the Fife Mountain Range looms over our starboard hand. We drop our anchor under the ice cliffs at Port Lockroy and visit the English historic base that was pivotal in the days of early exploration and of fascinating Operation Tabarin, a secret wartime initiative to counter Nazi intelligence. The antiquated risqué paintings of 1940’s temptresses seem demure by today’s standards!
We head round to Dorian Bay and take a snow shoe walk up onto Harbour Glacier where the panorama includes: Thunder Glacier to the north, with the Fife Brothers range towering above, Jabet peak to the west, and across the Neumayer Strait - snowy Mount Francais (the highest peak on the peninsula at 2760m) rises majestically above all else.
Spirit of Sydney is equipped with snow shoes and toboggans. Imagine tobogganing down virgin snow slopes, where surprised penguins gawk at ungainly humans!
Days 22, 23, 24 - After a couple of exciting weeks cruising….exploring….kayaking… weeks, we begin to watch for a weather window to sail back across the Drake and make a possible sailor's 'Rounding of the Horn'.
Cape Horn and Land ho! As we round the Horn the obligatory bottle of whiskey comes out…a share to King Neptune and the rest for the crew! If we missed a landing on the way out, we try again, and hopefully visit the monument which evokes the souls of lost sailors, with its interesting sculpture that sings hauntingly in the wind. As we sail up the Beagle Channel, the verdant green magic of Patagonia with its lush Antarctic beech forests and cascades will delight senses accustomed to sea ice and snow.
Day 25 - Our first night in 'Civilization' will be a de-brief in Ushuaia where a 'pisco sour' or two will help provide a fitting ambience to celebrate the end of a fabulous adventure. A return to relative civilisation, but Ushuaia’s claim to ‘el Fin del Mundo’ will leave you sceptical, as like most people who travel to Antarctica, you will be forever haunted by the landscapes and thriving inhabitants of ‘that other world’…….that lies to the South, bound by ice but rich in life.
Sea Kayaking option Spirit of Sydney owns 8 Boreal Designs ‘Epsilon’ making it possible for you to not only cruise the Antarctic Peninsula but drop your kayak in the water and paddle it. There is no better way to see this place than from a kayak. It has a magic power over everyone who paddles in this area! You may want to paddle for a few hours, or a few days, may be camping over on an Island for the night. Spirit of Sydney Expeditions is the only company working in Antarctica that can offer the equipment, the time and flexibility for extended paddling that is not possible on a ship based trip. Sea kayaking is highly recommended as the ultimate way to experience Antarctica ‘up close and personal’. (Kayakers must paddle in pairs.)
These trips are designed for fit, agile and active people who have adventurous and positive outlooks. Participation is the key to enjoyment. No sailing experience is required. There is no age limit as we have had fit and active people of all ages, even a 77 year old sea kayaker who was out paddling almost every day!
All expeditioners will need to have a medical before departure as we are operating in a remote area, and its best for all concerned to have no surprises.
What’s Included Aboard?
Once you step aboard Spirit of Sydney all food, drinks (including local beer and Argentine wine), port fees, Antarctic permits, and IAATO passenger fees are supplied. You need only bring some US dollars for buying souvenirs at Antarctic bases we may visit and for gratuities. You may also wish to bring a bottle of whiskey etc. for nightcaps. Kayak rental is included and 4 kayaks are carried aboard, although more can be provided by arrangement. What’s not included: Personal clothing and equipment, travel insurance, entry visa for Argentina, hotel and meals in Ushuaia, travel to and from Ushuaia, iridium communications while on board, cost of medicals, and dry suits for kayaking.
Included: Boreal Design kayaks, paddles with pogies, spray deck, pump, and lifejacket. We also have hand held VHFs, 2 hand held GPS. Drysuits are mandatory for safe kayaking – you may bring your own, or rent from us for the duration of the trip.
Latam Chile, and Aerolineas Argentinas each offer regular flights to Buenos Aires with connections to Ushuaia. Hotel accommodation in Ushuaia is relatively inexpensive and we can suggest a few favorite places based on any customer’s budget - from luxury to best-value. It’s a good idea to book flights in advance for better rates, and please allow a few days pre and post trip to allow for the flexible nature of expedition travel.
About …. Spirit of Sydney
Spirit of Sydney, an icon of Australian yachting, was originally designed and built for the 1986 BOC single handed around the world race by America’s Cup winner Ben Lexcen. Spirit is an ocean greyhound with real sailing ability and thoroughbred performance, and has been sailing the Southern Ocean and plying Antarctic waters every summer since 1994, having made over 60+ trips to various parts of Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic. Spirit is a tough, heavily constructed 60 foot aluminium yacht with 6 watertight compartments and an over built sailing rig ready for the southern ocean.
Check ExpeditionYachtSpiritofSydney on Facebook to see exciting images and videos.
Spirit of Sydney regularly supports expeditions in all parts of Antarctica with groups such as documentary makers from Discovery Channel’s Globetrekker, or scientists from Australian Antarctic Division, (albatross research) Oregon State University Marine mammals Institute (tagging humpback Whales ) ,University of British Columbia, (Orca study), as well as television documentaries, like Animal Planet’s Steve Irwin “The Croc Hunter”, or “2 Below Zero” where Spirit of Sydney delivered 4.5 tons of equipment from Hobart to Commonwealth Bay for a 12 month winter-over near Mawson’s Hut. Other expeditions have included, National Geographic photographers, mountaineers, dry suit divers and kayaking expeditions including Andrew McCauley’s epic sea kayaking expedition in Antarctica. Thirteen school children from Geelong Grammar sailed aboard Spirit of Sydney for a very memorable expedition, sailing, kayaking and ski touring the peninsula. Spirit of Sydney has also sailed to Macquarie Island, Ross Sea, Weddell Sea, South Georgia Island and to the Magnetic South Pole. Spirit has been meticulously maintained and refitted, so that she has evolved on a yearly basis. For example, in 2002 Spirit had a major refit which included a new engine, new mainsail, installation of a Plexiglas cockpit dodger and other work. In 2004, Spirit sailed to Buenos-Aires for another full refit, gaining at that time a new saloon and navigation area, central heating, a hot water system and a custom water maker designed specifically for Antarctic waters. During the winter of 2006 2008 2010, 2012 and 2014, 2016, Spirit was again refitted, carefully surveyed and much preventative maintenance carried out.
Trip Format: If you’ve been on luxury charters in the Caribbean or Mediterranean before…. FORGET IT! This is a real ‘hands on’ expedition and everyone will need to be active in making the trip work. All tasks aboard are shared including: sailing, helming, anchoring, even cooking and domestic duties….. You can always opt for the barbecue! Our aim is to take like-minded people on an experience of a lifetime and the expedition will work best if everyone is prepared to lend a hand and be a part of the crew. When you steer the yacht around Cape Horn and return to South America, you will have a real sense of achievement knowing you have been a part of a small team that has not just ‘been to Antarctica’, but you actually did it with your own hands!
Spirit of Sydney has 'state of the art' weather and communications systems. Individual email accounts are provided for guests and daily uploads are possible via the Iridium satellite phone network. She is also equipped with Xaxero’s Sky-Eye System for real time satellite image downloads of weather systems which can be cross referenced with weather information from the Global Marine Network.
Ready to Sail Away?
This year’s cost is US $ Contact Us per person for the 25 days. Due to the forward planning necessary, and seasonal nature of expeditions, a deposit of 30% is due upon booking with 2 final instalments for full payment by December 15th, 2017. Upon booking, guests will be provided with charter agreements, medical forms, gear lists, or feel free to contact us for if you have any questions or would just like additional details. Please note that the terms of the Charter Agreement, provides for full refunds in the unlikely event that we do not proceed with the trip.
We look forward to sailing with you!