Weddel Sea - In search of the emperor
penguin (including helicopters), 11 days
Specialpris!The Emperor Penguin
rookery is situated south of Snow Hill Island. Although we
will probably not be able to reach that far through the ice
(less than 50 % chance based on our voyages in the last
three seasons), the idea is mainly to situate ourselves in
or between the Antarctic Sound and James Ross Island, close
to the ice-edge and observe the emperor penguins on their
way to the open water. We will use our helicopters in our
attempts to search for individual Emperor Penguins and to
make scenic flights.
We will start and end the
expedition in Ushuaia in the land of fire, Tierra Fuego.
Emperor penguin (klick to enlarge)
Route in short
Day 1: Departure Ushuaia
Dag 2-3: At sea
Dag 4-7: Weddel Sea *)
Dag 8: Deception island
Dag 9-10: At sea
Dag 11: Arrival in Ushuaia and disembark
Day 5-6: Alternative program if the route to Snow Hill
Island is free of multi year pack-ice (less than 50% chance)
Read more about the vessel we travel with
This is a plan and the program can
change, due to weather, ice
conditions or other circumstances. Flexibility is the key for a
PLEASE NOTE: A typical itinerary to the Weddell Sea
is illustrated below. All itineraries are for guidance only.
Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather
conditions, the availability of landing sites and
opportunities to see wildlife. The final itinerary will be
determined by the Expedition Leader on board. Flexibility is
paramount for expedition cruises. If ice-conditions are
favourable and the route to Snow Hill Island is free of
multi-year pack-ice, we will reschedule our voyage and offer
ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island (as
carried out successfully in 2013) at approx. 45 minutes
walking distance from the emperor penguin Rookery. If we
succeed, this will be a fascinating and a once-in-a lifetime
experience. However, we made attempts to reach Snow Hill
Island during our voyages in 2012, 2013 and 2014. We only
succeeded in 2013; therefore the chances to reach Snow Hill
Island are indeed less than 50 %.
Day 1: Ushuaia
In the afternoon, we embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del
Fuego, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located
at the Beagle Channel and sail through this scenic waterway
for the rest of the evening.
Day 2-3 At sea
During these two days we will sail across the Drake Passage.
When we cross the Antarctic Convergence, we arrive in the
circum-Antarctic up welling zone. In this area we may meet
Wandering albatrosses, Grey-headed albatrosses, Black-browed
albatrosses, Light-mantled Sooty albatrosses, Cape petrels,
Southern fulmars, Wilson’s Storm petrels, Blue petrels and
Photo: Hanneke Dallmeijer-Veda
Day 4-7: Weddel Sea
A typical itinerary in the
Weddell Sea could be as follows. This is a sample only, the
final itinerary will be determined by the Expedition Leader
We will sail into the Weddell Sea and if the Antarctic Sound
is accessible and the ice does not prevent us to sail
further, we might see the huge tabular icebergs that
announce our arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic
During these days we use the helicopters in our attempts to
find individual Emperor Penguins. During our previous
voyages we were always able to locate emperors. We will also
offer scenic flights and – if the conditions allow us -
helicopter landings on tabular ice-bergs and locations
otherwise inaccessible so early in the season.
Possible landing sites is for example Brown Bluff, probably
the most scenic spot in the entire northern tip of the
Antarctic Continent. With steep canyon walls and tumbling
boulders, an ice-cap looming above, beautiful volcanic
creations and the scene is complete with thousands of adelie
penguins nesting on the slopes, and a few gentoos mixed in
Helicopters are used to extend our reach and to get great
panorama views over the area. (Click to enlarge)
Helicopter flights are a great contribution to the voyage,
for example on the west side of the Antarctic Sound, an area
usually only rarely seen from the air. The scenery is
stunning with landscapes of layered sandstones, lava flows,
glaciers tumbling into the sea and ice-bergs and pack-ice as
far as the eye can see. We can observe individual emperor
penguins and adelie Penguins on the ice floes; cape, snow
and giant Petrels fly high in the sky while kelp gulls,
skuas and wilson’s storm petrels scavenge down below us. The
landscape is dominated by Jagged mountains pierced through
the ice-caps and walls of ice dropped onto the slopes below.
Brown Bluff is a remarkable place were a gigantic explosion
happen million years ago when a glacier melted into a
vulcano. Here we find gentoos and adelei penguins.
We use our helicopters to do scenic flights over the area.
We might be able to reach the emperor penguin collony.
(Klick to enlarge)
A beautiful helicopter flight over huge blue ice bergs and
fast ice can also be made close to View Point in Duse Bay.
We land on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut
overlooking the bay. There will be still a lot of snow and
ice but much of the intended walk on the Antarctic continent
will be over a beautiful frost-shattered rock, almost
entirely covered with the most fascinating lichen of all
shapes and colors.
If the ice-situation allows us to go further into the
Weddell Sea area, we will visit Devil Island and Vega Island
with a large colony of Adelie Penguins and a magnificent
view for those hikers who can make it to the top of the
hill. Melting ice sometimes provides spectacular waterfall
from the cliffs close to point ‘Well-Met’. Further south, we
may also visit Seymour Island, where many fossils can be
On our way north through the Antarctic Sound we might pay a
visit to the Argentinean station Esperanza on the Antarctic
Continent. We will still look out for emperor penguins on
the ice-floes. In the afternoon we may visit Gourdin Island,
with three penguin species; chinstraps, gentoo and adelies.
Ortelius is parked as far as possible in the ice.
Day 8: Deception Island
Early in the afternoon we will sail to Deception Island
where we have the last landing of our voyage at Pendulum
Cove or Whalers Bay.
Deception Island - Photo: Mikael Grönvik, Grönlandsresor
Day 9-10: At sea
In the Drake Passage we have again a chance of seeing many
seabirds and to take advantage of the knowledge of our
Day 11: Ushuaia
We arrive in the morning and disembark.
Day 5-6: Alternative program if the route to Snow Hill
Island is free of multi-year pack-ice (less than 50 %
The use of helicopters has a great advantage and can
support us in our goal to reach the Emperor penguin colony,
but the itinerary is ruled by the forces of nature, ice and
weather conditions. If the conditions are favourable, we
intend to spend the first two days in the Emperor penguin
rookery. The helicopter operation will take a full day and
the flight duration takes approximately 15 minutes. The
helicopter can accommodate 4-6 passengers per helicopter
flight. The landing point of the helicopters will be
carefully chosen and we will make sure that the Emperors
penguins are not disturbed or stressed by helicopter noise.
Therefore, after arrival, the passengers continue their
expedition on foot. After a walk of approx. 45 minutes,
passengers will experience an amazing rendezvous with the
magnificent Emperor penguins. Keep in mind that we are in
the world’s most remote area and there are no guarantees,
including a specific amount of helicopter time. Conditions
may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter
operation and passengers should understand and accept this.
Safety is our greatest concern and no compromises can be
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