Board Pelagic Australis in Puerto Williams Chile. The afternoon is spent stowing personal gear, familiarizing the team with the vessel and having a safety briefing. New Years Eve will be spent tied up alongside the "Micalvi" - a ruined Chilean naval vessel cum Yacht Club.
Clear out of Puerto Williams and head east through the Beagle Channel and turn south through the Cape Horn archipelago. Weather permitting, we will sail directly across the Drake Passage for the Peninsula. On the other hand, if the forecast is for strong headwinds, or risk of storm, we will shelter in any number of three anchorages within the archipelago. If we are storm bound for a day or two while the system moves through, there are opportunities for long walks ashore on the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego.
Crossing the Drake Passage to first shelter on Deception Island should take no more than 60 hours. It is emphasized again that if storm winds are forecast, a day or two waiting in the Cape Horn archipelago will be necessary until a safe and comfortable crossing can be made.
Arrive on Deception Island in the South Shetland archipelago. This is a semi active volcanic island and we enter the lagoon which is the flooded caldera. The landscape is unique in the Antarctic region as the island's shape is a combination of volcanic ash and layers of ice. One night and day will be spent here rigging the boat for inshore sailing, briefing the team on the Antarctic guidelines with respect to the wildlife and taking any number of walks ashore which can include a visit to Whalers Bay, the site of the first commercial whaling operation in the region. On the day of departure, sea conditions permitting, we will try to land on the southeast corner of Deception where there is one of the largest Chinstrap Penguin colonies in the Antarctic.
Sail south for the Gerlache Straits. This can be done overnight (in relative daylight) as the majority of the passage is offshore through the southern portion of the Bransfield Straits. From the northern section of the Gerlache Straits, we would navigate in between Anvers Island and Weincke Island - the Neumayer Channel - and then continue south towards the Penola Straits.
From here on south, Humpback Whales will be in abundance, so we can divert at any time to try and get close to them, which involves turning off the engine and drifting, hoping they come to us. Leopard Seals can also be approached as they ride the ice floes feeding off the penguin population.
Early morning sail through the Lemaire Channel which is a narrow, ice filled passage fringed between the high mountains of Booth Island and the mainland. This is considered to be the most scenic stretch of water on the Peninsula and hence its nickname, "Kodak Valley!"
We would spend the day in the Penola Straits, with a possible temporary anchorage off Hovgaard Island. This and the nearby Pleneau Island are good places for a walk ashore where a small colony of Elephant Seals reside. The night would be spent anchored off Booth Island with stern lines to the shore on either side of an isthmus depending on which way the wind was blowing.
In the middle of Penola Straits lies Yalour Island which is one of the most attractive Adelie Penguin colonies on the Peninsula. On a sunny day, the views across to Mt. Shackleton and the peninsula plateau beyond are spectacular. In good weather we would anchor off here for the morning and go ashore.
The afternoon and night would be spent only a few miles away at the Ukrainian scientific station Vernadsky. This was formerly the British Antarctic Survey base Faraday, where the ozone whole was discovered with the Dobson spectrameter which is still in use today. We normally get a good welcome and a tour from the base commander. The anchorage is very protected and we moor to the shore in a narrow backwater in the small archipelago of the Argentine Islands. This is also the most secure of storm anchorages. This is probably the best example of one of the old Peninsula bases that is still functioning.
Three days would be spent probing south into the Grandidier Channel and possibly into Crystal Sound. Since last year's sea ice is very unpredictable, it is never sure how far we can get on the inside passage, so we may have to backtrack and go on the outside via the Pitt Islands where we have good shelter. On the outside of the island chain the big icebergs are usually stacked up touching the bottom and breaking up. If there is a swell running it is dramatic to see them heaving up and down and not uncommon to see quite a few capsize.
The culmination of the voyage and the goal on this stretch would be to reach the level of the Antarctic Circle and land on the mainland. If we can make it through the inside we would shelter near Prospect Point at the Fish Islands. Prospect Point is the site of an old British Antarctic Survey base that was abandoned in the 1950s and is soon to be removed. An interesting place if it is still standing!
This will be a highly variable part or the cruise (and therefore the most interesting part for some people!), as the landscape here is open and stunning, but on the other hand very challenging as the good shelters for the vessel are few and far between. This is where we "suck it and see", for want of a better turn of phrase.
Aggregate lost time assumed due to poor weather conditions. We will have been caught by a storm somewhere!
Working our way back up north through the Penola and Lemaire Channels we would anchor and put lines ashore to Weincke Island near Port Lockroy. This has become the de facto visitor center for the cruise ship trade, but it is always worth a visit. Formerly a British Antarctic Survey base and recently renovated as an information center, they provide the service of a British Post Office selling stamps, post cards, information sheets, maps, etc. The base, manned in summer only, has been declared a Site of Historic Interest within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System. The base was originally built on a Gentoo Penguin colony and today the humans are still very much the guests.
Going south along Weincke Island and back into the Gerlache Strait we will steam for a few hours into Paradise Harbour, again spotting Humpback Whales along the way. The night could be spent at Cuverville Island (bird and seal populations) to the north or within the Melchior Archipelago between Anvers and Brabant Islands.
Eventually, the Melchoir Islands are the best place to jump off from for the return passage across the Drake. By Day 16, we should be watching the weather closely for an opportunity to cross. The downside is an early departure, but any spare days can be spent near Cape Horn with a visit to Horn Island possible. The risk with a late departure is missing a favorable weather pattern and still being there on Day 20! When needed, we use a weather router in America so we can predict the situation for about five days in advance.
Recrossing the Drake Passage and/or spare days at Cape Horn.
Puerto Williams, last night on board.
The guests would fly back to Punta Arenas and connect to Santiago.
NOTE: This itinerary is for guidance only as each voyage will vary depending on ice and weather conditions, and opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is key and all part of the adventure of an expeditionary cruise.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
This trip can run as a group trip, with prices starting from $16,105 per person for a complete group. If you are looking to join a group or you are a solo traveller we will help to form likeminded groups of travellers. Please let us know your travel plans.
The trip can also run on a private basis to fit around your plans. Departures may be tailored and can be set up on a date of your choice. Please note that there is a higher price for smaller groups. Please enquire for further details.
- All food and drink once on-board
- The use of Sail Racing sailing foul weather gear, all
personal safety equipment for sailing (life jacket, harness) and the use of
the Inmarsat communications equipment. Please note: the vessel is run as a 'dry ship' when
at sea and possibly at some anchorages when there is a real possibility of
having to 'up anchor' and move off. This is at the Skippers discretion. In
port reasonable amounts of alcohol can be consumed but excessive alcohol
consumption that leads to situations putting people at risk, or where the
harmony of life on board is disturbed to an extent that other guests are
made uncomfortable will not be tolerated.
- Flights to / from Puerto Williams
- Travel insurance