FLY TO ANTARCTICA AND CRUISE
Bet that Shackleton and Amundsen could not have imagined this. Fly the Drake and cruise Antarctica. Yes you heard it right, miss the feared Drake Passage and go to the White Continent. Until recently, only scientists and researchers used the trunk door to find yourself in Antarctica. Not by ship, but flying from Chile. Why sail over the Drake if in only three hours you will be standing with both feet on the final Continent, safe and well.No fifteen metres high waves that produce the stretch of ocean between your tip of SOUTH USA and the Antarctic Peninsula so notorious. Flying does mean being ready and active to find this extreme section of Earth. In 2001, an inspired Chilean company developed the thought of creating an air bridge through the summertime between Punta Arenas, the southernmost town in Chilean Patagonia, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Not merely for biologists, oceanologists and weather scientists also for the normal tourist. So image: no Drake Passage, no 19-day Antarctica sailing itinerary that only travellers with oceans of time are able. No lost days at sea. But Antarctica in a concise way: an excellent, adrenaline-filled six days aboard a little expedition ship, without crossing the Drake.
Quick & intense
Should anyone ever imagined flying those legendary, rusty Russian cargo planes, you’ll be set for a disappointment. No Russian steel crate with a glass nose and a semi-drunk, bearded pilot when driving. The BAE-146 built by British Aerospace looks pretty neutral, except that “Antarctica” is painted on its fuselage. A cushty 3 hours later we land on King George Island, where Chile’s Eduardo Frei base can be found. Not on ice but on a typical gravel airstrip, which in probably the most extreme occasions is covered with dry snow. Technically, this isn’t the Antarctic Peninsula however the Southern Shetland Islands. In the length floats the Ocean Nova, our expedition ship for another six days. Purpose built-in Denmark to smoothly conquer icy seas, that is no ultra-deluxe ship, but an extremely comfortable home for 68 people. A great many other ships can take a lot more than 200 people up to speed but which makes things more difficult in Antarctica. A brief Zodiac ride from King George and we’re in the observation lounge of the Ocean Nova. A warming drink, a beaming 12-strong expedition team and the chance of seeing and doing things we’ve never experienced before. The Ocean Nova team just isn’t low calibre. Several seasoned biologists, young naturalists, a historian, an ornithologist, an ocean specialist, a health care provider along with other crew members who’ve sailed Arctic and Antarctic waters for quite some time. Some even done Russian nuclear ships and also have plenty of stories to inform. They are an ideal entertainment and companionship for when having a glass or two at the bar. Did we mention already it’s an open bar?
Crossing the Bransfield Strait
A glance through the cabin porthole and you also know enough: a sunny, morning hours overlooking Mikkelsen Harbour on Trinity Island where we shall soon create a landing. The strong rubber Zodiacs may take eight to ten passengers. Life jacket on, sunscreen and sunglasses and cameras at the ready. Several Weddell seals lie sunbathing in the snow and a leopard seal circles round the Zodiacs then disappears. “Dangerous animals,” smirks a biologist. “It’s known they can bite straight by way of a Zodiac.” Further up close to the old whaling station sit a flock of cackling Gentoo penguins. “Never get in the way of a penguin,” Mariano, the expedition leader explains. “Penguins also have right of way. No real matter what!” In the afternoon, after hours of sailing by way of a sensational silent white landscape and a hearty lunch, there’s a Zodiac trip between icebergs and ice floes in Cierva Cove. The positioning may be the south side of Cape Herschel in Hughes Bay across the Antarctic Peninsula. We glimpse the Argentine research station Primavera in the length, while near our Zodiac we see crab eater seals, penguins, and skua birds… Slaloming with the Zodiac between sculptured icebergs it is possible to pay attention to almost supernatural sounds: the ice releasing an incredible number of years-old air. In the far distance icebergs are breaking off glaciers, and just a little closer an iceberg is tipping over… The trip doesn’t end here and can take us to famous spots on the White Continent like Livingston Island, Port Lockroy, Petermann Island, Paradise Bay, Cuverville and Deception Islands. The mark of this trip would be the crossing of the Lemaire Channel and latitude 65° South. The highlight for all of us? A South-American BBQ on the deck of the Ocean Nova as the sun is barely setting behind the blue and pinkish frozen horizon and giant ice pieces are floating by the ship. Antarctica XXI may be the ultimate way to start to see the White Continent in a far more intense way. The trip is shorter but better and the dedication of expedition team is infectious. Travelling with a little group in Antarctica means more landings and time ashore.
A visit with Antarctica XXI starts at 9.260 US dollars. Most notable price: Flights based on the itinerary, cruise completely board plus all drinks, excursions and lectures, transfers and when needed accommodation on land. Good to learn is that due the limited availability the trips sell out fast, if you wish to accomplish this in the growing season 2012-2013, it is advisable to book now! We loved the trip, whilst there’s big room for improvement on the Chilean pre-&post- travel ground control side (but we heard rumours they’re working on it). It is important: big thumbs up for the expedition team of the Ocean Nova! These were our dream team and made this trip the perfect experience!
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Special waterproof boots are given by Antarctica XXI, but warm clothes aren’t. Ideally would be to bring water- and windproof outdoors clothes. Patagonia and Canada Goose resist the Artic temperatures and extreme wind.
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