Total Solar Eclipse Cruise
Antarctica - 21st Nov to 11th Dec 2021
The total solar eclipse this year will be visible from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. We will aim to observe the event from the South Orkney Islands if the weather conditions look promising or alternatively our charter vessel will seek to move to the most likely position for observation from the sea. This is a challenging venture with unpredictable weather, ice and sea conditions to battle, but it is one of the world's last great adventures and we can promise a unique experience!
South Georgia, the principle focus of our cruise, offers spectacular scenery, outstanding wildlife and history of human endeavour and is at the same time such a remote island group, that a visit turns into a real privilege. It is easy to think "small" with islands, but South Georgia is something very different. The mountain ranges offer a beguiling landscape. There are sheltered valleys with melt water streams, tussock grass covered moraines with close-up wildlife. Glaciers
cover the mountains and even huge tabular icebergs from the shelves of the far south thump along South Georgia's weather shore to become features of its great landscape.
We will explore all the facets South Georgia has to offer. Big elephant seal bulls will be most active defending their harems, there will be bull fighting on the beaches everywhere and breathtaking moments are almost guaranteed. King Penguins are of course also around. As this species has an odd breeding cycle of 14 months, there are always huge groups of King Penguins involved in the breeding process no matter when one arrives at South Georgia. Black-browed Albatross, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross have just started nesting in October. The Wandering Albatross has been breeding since the previous year, so the chicks are sitting on the nest and waiting for their parents to come in and feed them. And with some luck we might see the giants flying near by.
21st November 2021 Buenos Aires
Arrive in Buenos Aires today and join the expedition party who will assemble in a hotel in the city.
22nd November Ushuaia
Transfer to the airport and join a flight to the small souther Argentine city of Ushuaia. This afternoon we board our expedition ship, the USHUAIA. A welcome drink and then an introduction to the crew and expedition staff will follow, and we will have time to get to know our new shipmates. The ship will then set sail towards the eastern Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
23rd November At Sea
The open bridge policy on the USHUAIA allows us to join the officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, watch for marine life, and enjoy the views of the open ocean. These waters are also home to an interesting group of seabirds, which often ride the currents created in the wake of the ship, such as albatrosses and petrels. Join the expedition staff and naturalists on deck whilst we are at sea as we search for seabirds and other local wildlife, such as orcas and dolphins. An interesting selection of lectures will help us to prepare for our first excursions in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
24th November Eastern Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
In the morning hours we will have time to explore the quaint little town of Stanley and its wonderful Museum, souvenir shops and pubs. The town was established in the early 1840´s. Isolation and the weather conditions made life hard, but progress was gradual and punctuated by the extremely eventful times of involvement in two world wars.
For those who are more interested in the outstanding wildlife the Islands have to offer, you do not even have to leave town to enjoy it. Southern Giant Petrels often fly close to the shoreline. The endemic Falkland Steamer Ducks abound on the shorelines while Kelp Gulls can often be seen flying together with Dolphin Gulls. The less obvious but frequent visitors to Stanley area are Black-crowned Night Herons, Red-backed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Turkey Vultures are regularly seen on top of any prominent building. Many pairs of Upland Geese frequent the park and it might be nice to take a stroll around the gardens of town to see some of the singing birds as well.
In the early afternoon it is time to set sail, heading for South Georgia.
25th and 26th November At Sea
An extensive lecture program will be offered during the days at sea. Expert naturalists share their knowledge of the wildlife and unique ecosystems we will encounter throughout our voyage. South Georgia is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth with more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.
27th November At Sea
South Georgia will come in sight! Though extremely isolated, it has amazing scenery ranging from high mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland. If the weather is favourable, we would aim to visit one of the following sites in the late afternoon:
Elsehul: Situated at the north-western extremity of South Georgia on the eastern side of the knife-edged summit ridges of Parydian Peninsula, Elsehul is a beautiful little harbour. It is the only
visitor site on the island, where colonies of Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses can be viewed from zodiacs within the protection of sheltered inshore waters.
Right Whale Bay: Right Whale Bay is a bay 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, entered between Craigie Point and Nameless Point along the north coast of South Georgia. The name dates back to at least 1922, when South Georgia was still a centre for commercial whaling. Today we hope to encounter a small colony of King Penguins, along with Giant Petrels, gulls and breeding elephant seals on the black ashen beach.
28th November to 1st December South Georgia
Our exact itinerary will depend on local land and sea conditions but the following destinations are among those that we would like to explore:
Salisbury Plain: Sometimes called the “Serengeti of the South”, Salisbury Plain is a wildlife site without parallel. Several large glaciers provide a dramatic backdrop for the tens of thousands of King Penguins that nest in the tussac grass of this remarkable ecosystem. The wide beach makes for excellent walking as we visit the colony, where we are literally surrounded and delightfully outnumbered by throngs of curious, gentle penguins. Elephant and fur seals also abound, as well as Southern Giant Petrels and the occasional wandering Gentoo Penguin. Prepare for an awe-inspiring experience, as the elephant seals are giving birth on the beaches.
Grytviken: Grytviken lies within King Edward Cove, a sheltered harbor tucked between Hope Point and Hobart Rock on the western shore of Cumberland East Bay. The rusting ruins of the Grytviken whaling station are situated on a level plain at the head of the cove, backed by steep hills and mountains. Now the site of the South Georgia Museum, the station remains a focal point of interest for many visitors, as does Sir Ernest Shackleton´s grave in the nearby whaler´s cemetery and his memorial cross on Hope Point.
The scenery in this area is exceptionally beautiful even by South Georgia standards: the glaciers and snow covered peaks of the Allardyce Range – Mt. Sugartop, Mt. Paget, Mt. Roots, Nordenskjöld Peak, Mt. Kling and Mt. Brooker – form a magnificent backdrop to the cove, and the views from King Edward Point in particular, must be among the finest on earth.
Godthul: Situated 9km east of Cumberland East Bay on the eastern shores of Barff Peninsula, Godthul is a 3km long inlet that lies between Cape George and Long Point. Gentoo Penguins are abundant on the tussac plateau and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses echo off the natural cliff amphitheatre that encircles the harbour. A floating factory ship serviced by two whale catchers was stationed here each summer between 1908 and 1929. A small shore depot supporting the whaling operations was established close by the stream in the southeast corner of the harbour, and the rusting barrels, wooden shed and boats are fascinating relics of the whaling era, as is the impressive collection of whale and elephant seal bones scattered along the beach.
St Andrews Bay: The surf beaten coastline at St. Andrews Bay runs north-south in a 1.86 mile (3 km) long uninterrupted sweep of fine dark sand, covered in penguins and seals and bounded in the interior by the Cook, Buxton and Heaney Glaciers. The bay hosts the biggest colony of King Penguins on South Georgia. Early in the season, the beach is also carpeted with fur and elephant seals. Such a large assemblage of wildlife attracts an entourage of persistent and voracious scavengers. Sheathbills dart in and around the penguin colony. Cape Petrels nest in a small number on the cliffs north of St. Andrews Bay. Leopard seals patrol the rocks at this end of the beach too, hunting for penguins along the edge of kelp beds. A few White-chinned Petrels and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses nest on the tussac slopes. Brown Skuas and Antarctic Terns breed on the outwash plain and scree slopes at the north end of the beach, defending their nest sites with their characteristic noise and vigor.
Cooper Bay: Cooper Bay is found at the southeast extremity of South Georgia. There is a wealth of wildlife at this site, in a spectacular setting. Chinstrap, Gentoo and maybe one or two Macaroni Penguins dot the tussac slopes and there are plenty of fur seals on the beaches. Fascinating volcanic rocks tower over small fjords, giving a stunning invitation for a thrilling zodiac cruise to watch wildlife from the waterfront.
Drygalski Fjord: Drygalski Fjord is also located in the far south east of the island. The glaciers found in this dramatic fjord have retreated significantly in recent decades, but they still remain one of the most striking features of this coastline, particularly the Risting and Jenkins Glaciers. With a little luck, we might see the glaciers calve and witness the birth of a new iceberg from on board the ship.
2nd December to 6th December At Sea
We spend the next two days crossing the Scotia Sea towards the Antarctic Peninsula. The eclipse will occur in the early hours of the 4th December and the time of our departure will be adjusted to enable us to be in position on the track with a reasonable prospect of a clear sky. The ideal location will be on the South Orkney Islands, otherwise we will omit the landing on the islands and intersect the eclipse track at the clearest location with observation from the sea. After the eclipse the vessel will then proceed directly to the next point on the itinerary.
7th December South Shetland Islands
Our expedition team will prepare you for our experience in the South Shetland Islands.
Deception Island: We plan to sail through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of Deception Island - the largest of three recent volcanic centers in the South Shetlands- which is truly amazing. Once inside, the rising slope of the black, cinder-covered volcanic rim can be walked uphill to a rather spectacular vantage point.
Half Moon Island: This crescent-shaped island, in the entrance of Moon Bay between Greenwich and Livingston Islands, is home to Chinstrap Penguins in breathtaking surroundings.
8th and 9th December At Sea
We leave Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. Join our lecturers and naturalists on deck as we search for seabirds and whales. We will also enjoy some final lectures. Take the chance to relax and reflect on the fascinating adventures we have had over the past days.
10th December Ushuaia/Buenos Aires
We arrive at the port of Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the USHUAIA after breakfast. This afternoon we join the return flight to Buenos Aires for a final night at a hotel in the city.
11th December Buenos Aires/Home
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to your home city.
The above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and programme will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions and opportunities to view wildlife. Changes will be made by the Captain and/or Expedition Leader to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. There will be a priority to position the vessel with the best prospect for a clear sky at the time of the eclipse, however it is not possible to guarantee observation of either specific wildlife or the eclipse. A daily program sheet will be issued on board.