The Weddell Sea—Emperor Penguin Voyage is one of the most spectacular Antarctic adventures around. This 11 Days expedition cruises aboard the 116 passenger ship Motor Vessel Ortelius and offers the unique experience of close emperor penguin encounters at their more secluded rookeries via exciting helicopter rides. Finish the voyage passing through the South Shetland Islands.
An emperor penguin rookery is situated south of Snow Hill Island, below Hope Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula and James Ross Island. The captain will do the utmost to position the vessel close enough to Snow Hill Island in order to enable ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to approximately 45-minute walks to the emperor penguin rookeries.
Hope to see the western side of the Antarctic Sound, an area only rarely seen from the air with stunning landscapes of layered sandstones, lava flows, glaciers tumbling into the sea and icebergs and pack-ice as far as the eye can see. Observe individual emperor penguins and adélie penguins on the ice floes; cape, snow, and giant petrels flying overhead; and kelp gulls, skuas and Wilson’s storm petrels scavenging below. Walk over frost-shattered rocks covered in fascinating lichen and visit Seymour Island, where the Swedish Antarctic Expedition from 1901-04 overwintered under miraculous circumstances.
Within the 11-day itinerary, the Weddell Sea Emperor Penguin Voyage reserves four days to visit the emperor penguin rookeries by helicopter.
ITINERARY IN BRIEF:
Day 1: Embark Ushuaia
Day 2: Drake Passage
Day 3: Drake Passage
Day 4: Weddell Sea
Day 5: Weddell Sea
Day 6: Weddell Sea
Day 7: Weddell Sea
Day 8: Deception
Day 9: Drake Passage
Day 10: Drake Passage
Day 11: Disembark Ushuaia
NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The on-board expedition leader will determine the final itinerary. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Average cruising speed of Motor Vessel Ortelius is 10.5 knots. If ice conditions are favorable and the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice, you have the chance for ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island (roughly 45 minutes walking distance from the emperor penguin rookery). If successful, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But please remember that nature writes the final itinerary out here: Attempts to reach Snow Hill Island during the voyages of 2012 – 17 did not always succeed. In 2013 and November 2017 and November 2018 conditions were favorable to land by helicopter on Snow Hill Island and to visit the emperor penguin rookery.
Ushuaia - Embark
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America.
Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening.
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray.
After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. Wandering albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, black-browed albatrosses, light-mantled sooty albatrosses, cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels, and Antarctic petrels are a few of the birds you might see.
You may sail into the Weddell Sea via the Antarctic Sound. Here huge tabular icebergs herald your arrival to the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. During this part of the cruise, the search is on for emperor penguins. Using both the vessel and helicopters, there’s a good chance you’ll find them. You might also enjoy scenic flights, and if conditions allow, helicopter landings in locations otherwise out of reach this time of year.
Helicopter flights are a true trip changer, and may include:
The west slopes of the Antarctic Sound – The western side of this area is only rarely seen from the air, though the landscape is truly worth the flight: Layered sandstones, lava flows, glaciers, icebergs, and pack-ice extend as far as the eye can see. There are often individual emperor penguins and Adélie penguins on the ice floes, as well as kelp gulls, skuas, and various breeds of petrel. Jagged mountain peaks stab through the snow, and enormous walls of ice lie shattered on the slopes below.
Duse Bay – A soaring helicopter flight may deposit you on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut overlooking this bay. There’s still a lot of snow and ice this time of year, but much of the walk in this location is over frost-shattered rock covered with lichen of all shapes and colors.
Seymour Island – This is where the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901 – 4 wintered under harrowing polar conditions. Sedimentary rock, fossils, and expansive views define this location.
If conditions allow for deeper ventures into the Weddell Sea, Zodiac trips may include:
Devil Island – Home to a large colony of Adélie penguins, this island offers a magnificent vantage point for hikers willing to foot it to the top of the hill. Melting ice sometimes forms a waterfall dropping from the cliffs close to Cape Well-met.
Brown Bluff – Maybe the most scenic location in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent: sheer canyon walls, fallen boulders, beautiful volcanic creations capped with ice. A large Adélie penguin rookery lives here, with gentoo penguins and nesting snow petrels also to be found.
Gourdin Island – Chinstrap, gentoo, and Adélie penguins love this island, which is yet another landing option for your continuing Antarctic adventure.
Esperanza Base – This Argentine research station, which operates year-round and is one of only two civilian settlements in Antarctica, could serve as an alternative landing site.
In the morning, you sail to Deception Island for the last landing of the voyage, either at Pendulum Cove or Whalers Bay. Conditions on the Drake Passage determine the exact time of departure.
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.
Crossing the Drake
Disembark - Ushuaia
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
- Guests: 116
- Staff / Crew: 52
- Length: 90.95m
- Cruising Speed:14.5 knots
- Year Built: 1989
- Renovated: 2016
- Ice capability: Highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A)
The Motor Vessel Ortelius has six cabin categories located on three decks. Cabins range from simple affordable quadruple or double rooms to more spacious deluxe and superior cabins with view windows. All cabins are roomy outside cabins with a sink, private shower and toilet, hairdryers, desk and chair, ample storage space and a minimum of two portholes or windows per cabin.
Quad cabins have 2 porthole windows, 2 upper and 2 lower berths. Also a private shower and toilet, desk and chair, hair dryer and ample storage space. Ortelius has 4 quadruple cabins #341-344 located on deck 3
Each Twin Porthole cabin has two porthole windows, private toilet and shower, two single lower berths, desk and chair, hair dryer and ample storage space. Ortelius has 27 twin porthole cabins: #334 and #339-340 located on Deck 3 and #428-439 and #445-456 on Deck 4
Ortelius has 12 twin window cabins #511-517, 522-527 located on Deck 5, approximately 183 square feet each. Each cabin has view windows, two single lower berths, private toilet and shower, desk and chair, small sofa, hair dryer and ample storage space. Deck 5 is the quietest cabin deck and has the best access to upper observation decks and the ship’s bridge
Ortelius has 2 newly renovated twin deluxe cabins #510 and #528 located on Deck 5. These cabins are corner cabins and are slightly more spacious than the normal twin window/porthole cabins. Each cabin has three view windows, two single lower berths, private toilet and shower, desk and chair, small sofa, hair dryer, refrigerator, coffee and tea maker, flatscreen TV and ample storage space. Deck 5 is the quietest cabin deck and has the best access to upper observation decks and the ship’s
Each superior cabin has a double bed with a flatscreen TV, a single sofa bed, private toilet and shower, desk and chair, refrigerator, coffee and tea maker, hair dryer and ample storage space. Ortelius has 6 superior cabins #509, 518-521 and 529 on Deck 5
- Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the itinerary
- All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea.
- All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac.
- Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff.
- Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes.
- Luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on the day of embarkation, in Ushuaia.
- Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation).
- All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme.
- Comprehensive pre-departure material.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
- Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights
- Pre- and post- land arrangements.
- Passport and visa expenses.
- Government arrival and departure taxes.
- Meals ashore.
- Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is mandatory).
- Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges.
- The customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided).
Day 5 – 6: (Alternate program if the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack ice – less than 50 % probability)
Helicopters provide an advantage in reaching the emperor penguin colony, but nature makes the rules in Antarctica. If conditions are favourable, you’ll spend the first two days at the penguin rookery. The helicopter operation takes a full day, and the flight duration is approximately 15 minutes. Each helicopter can accommodate 4 – 6 passengers per flight, and the landing site is carefully chosen so that the penguins are not disturbed. Upon arrival to the site, it is about a 45-minute walk to the rookery. Please keep in mind that you are in the world’s most remote area: There are no guarantees. Conditions may change rapidly, which can have a profound impact on our helicopter operations. It is important to understand and respect this. Safety is our greatest concern, and no compromises can be made.
Age and Nationality
Passengers on a typical voyage range from their 30s to their 80s – with a majority usually from 45 – 65. Our expeditions attract independent-minded travellers from around the world. They are characterised by a strong interest in exploring remote regions. The camaraderie and spirit that develops aboard is an important part of the expedition experience. Many departures have several nationalities on board.
In keeping with our expeditions atmosphere, dress on board is informal. Bring casual and comfortable clothing for all activities. Keep in mind that much of the spectacular scenery can be appreciated from deck, which can be slippery. Bring sturdy shoes with no-slip soles and make sure the parka is never far away in case of the call “Whales!” comes over the loudspeaker and you have to dash outside. Wear layers since it is comfortably warm aboard the ship – and often cold on deck.
Currency & Payment
Refreshments from the bar and souvenirs will be charged to your cabin. The day before departure you can settle your bill with the Hotel Manager and pay by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or cash (Euro or Dollar). We do not accept cheques of any kind. The prices and standard currency on board our vessels is the Euro. Other currencies may be accepted at the discretion of the hotel manager at prevailing rates.
The electrical supply aboard the ship is 220v, 60Hz. Electrical outlets are standard European with two thick round pins. You may need a 220v/110v converter.
The customary gratuity to the ship’s service personnel is made as a blanket contribution at the end of the voyage which is divided among the crew. Tipping is a very personal matter and the amount you wish to give is at your discretion. As a generally accepted guideline, we suggest US$8 to US$10 per person per day. It is better for the crew, if you can give them cash US Dollar.
On board our vessels we have a non-smoking policy. It is prohibited to smoke inside the ship. You can smoke in the designated smoking areas. Please respect the wishes of non-smokers.
Your physical condition
You must be in good general health and you should be able to walk several hours per day. The expedition is ship-based and physically not very demanding. Although we spend as much time as possible ashore, you are welcome to remain aboard the ship if you like. To join most excursions, you must be able to get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level to board the Zodiacs. Staff will assist you in and out of the boats. This will become progressively easier with practice. Ashore it can be slippery and rocky. You are travelling in remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities, so you must not join this expedition if you have a life-threatening condition, or need daily medical treatment.
All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The on-board expedition leader will determine the final itinerary. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Average cruising speed of Motor Vessel Ortelius is 10.5 knots.