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  • Mawson's Hut at Commonwealth Bay
    Mawson's Hut at Commonwealth Bay
  • Adelie penguins
    Adelie penguins
  • Dramatic ice shelves
    Dramatic ice shelves
  • Explore glaciers with Zodiacs
    Explore glaciers with Zodiacs
  • Lone emperor penguin
    Lone emperor penguin
  • Elephant seal, Macquarie Island
    Elephant seal, Macquarie Island
  • Royal penguins, Macquarie Island
    Royal penguins, Macquarie Island
  • King penguin colony, Macquarie Island
    King penguin colony, Macquarie Island
  • Royal albatross, Campbell Island
    Royal albatross, Campbell Island

East Antarctica: In the Wake of Mawson: Shokalskiy

Built in 1911, Mawson's Hut at Cape Denison still stands; protected against the extreme weather the region is renowned for. Cape Denison is one of the very few ice free and readily accessible areas along the East Antarctic coastline. However when the Mertz Glacier tongue broke off in 2010 it blocked the annual movement of sea ice preventing any shipping and effectively isolating the area. Conditions in this region have been carefully monitored since and there are now opportunities to return and explore this majestic, remote coastline. Adelie penguin colonies abound.
  • Visit Mawson's historic hut and scientific research bases (where possible)
  • Experience 24 hours of daylight and possible Aurora Australis activity
  • Emperor, King, Adelie, Gentoo, Rockhopper penguins, cetaceans, seals and a host of other wildlife
  • Confront the impressive Mertz Glacier an enormous body of floating ice
  • Visit New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands and Australia's Macquarie Island

Sir Douglas Mawson is arguably the grandfather of Antarctic science. The Australian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914 is notable for its achievements and sadly its tragedies.

Encouraged by the success of Shackleton's 1908-09 Nimrod expedition, of which he was a member, Douglas Mawson planned his own expedition to explore the Antarctic coastline directly south of Australia. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition sailed from Hobart on the 2nd of December 1911, making a brief stop at Macquarie Island to establish a radio base and then making landfall at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay. Unbeknownst to Mawson and his men, they had discovered the windiest place on the planet - renowned as the ‘home of the blizzard'. Tragedy struck the expedition when Ninnis and Mertz, the other two members of Mawson's three-man Far Eastern Sledging Party, died. Mawson returned to base blinded by snow and having cheated death on more than one occasion. He made it back so late in the season that he had to overwinter in Antarctica as his relief ship had sailed.

Mawson's Hut at Cape Denison still stands; protected against the extreme weather for which the region is renowned. Cape Denison has historically been one of the very few ice free and readily accessible areas along the East Antarctic coastline. However when the Mertz Glacier tongue broke off in 2010 it blocked the annual movement of sea ice preventing any shipping and effectively isolating the area.

Ice conditions in the region have gradually been improving. Attempts were made to reach Mawson's Hut in the summer of 2015/16 and again in the summer 2016/17 and although the ice conditions weren't ideal with the right conditions a landing might have been possible but unfortunately they weren't lucky. The ice situation in the region is dynamic and constantly changing, even more so in January of each year, so as we approach Commonwealth Bay we will be sourcing up-to-date ice maps and predictions from a number of specialist institutions. This information will enable us to make informed decisions on the best way to approach Commonwealth Bay. Despite missing a landing at Mawson's Hut on the last two expeditions, we believe with the recent changes in the ice that it is worthy of another attempt.

If we are unfortunate and are unable to make a landing at Mawson's Hut, we will look to the west and Cape Martin and the Petrel Islands (including the French Base) for a number of really exciting landings and/or to the east and the northern Ross Sea region including the Balleny Islands and Cape Adare for some equally stunning wildlife encounters and landings including some fascinating historic sites.


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Day 1: Invercargill Meet your fellow voyagers and expedition staff for an informal get-together over dinner at the hotel, where you will stay overnight. Day 2: Port of Bluff We transfer you to the port where staff will welcome you on board the Akademik Shokalskiy and as you settle into your cabin, our adventure begins. Day 3: The Snares – North East Island North East Island is the largest of The Snares and staggeringly, this one island is claimed by some to be home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. Zodiac cruising the rugged coastline we learn how the islands got their name and encounter Snares Crested Penguins, Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross on the imposing cliffs. We are also likely to encounter Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns, Red-billed Gulls, Tomtits and Fernbirds. Days 4 to 5: Auckland Islands Characterised by towering cliffs and rugged sea stacks, these islands have borne witness to many a shipwreck in days gone by. We spend the day ashore on Enderby Island which is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Subantarctic Islands. Here we find parakeets flitting above carpets of red, white and yellow wild flowers and on the beaches beyond, the rare Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion. We land in Carnley Harbour and if conditions are suitable climb to a Shy Albatross colony, otherwise we explore sites within the harbour. Day 6: At Sea Take the chance to learn more about the biology and history of these islands and the tempestuous Southern Ocean through informal lectures with our experts. This particular stretch of ocean is very productive and we can expect many seabirds, including five or six kinds of albatross and numerous species of petrel. Days 7 to 8: Macquarie Island This remote, rocky outpost which endures roaring westerly winds, supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere. Four species of penguin, King, Royal, Rockhopper and Gentoo breed here. You will never forget your first experience in a ceaselessly active ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors. We will also meet with the Park Rangers, visit the Australian Antarctic Base and observe the hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals along the beaches. Days 9 to 11: At Sea Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel as we steam ever southward through the Southern Ocean. Lectures now concentrate on the Antarctic region and beyond the bow of the ship; drifting icebergs of extraordinary shapes begin to appear. Manoeuvring in close for your first ice photographs we pass the Antarctic Circle and into the continent’s realm of 24-hour daylight. Relax in the ship’s bar and catch up with some reading in the library. If you have brought your laptop with you there will be time to download and edit photos while they are fresh in your mind. Days 12 to 21: Commonwealth Bay and beyond Our first landing on the remote East Antarctic coastline will be Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay. Notoriously known as the ‘home of the blizzard’. Here we will see (and experience) Mawson’s Hut and its environs which include other relics from the 1911-14 expedition and Adelie Penguins. West from Cape Denison is the French Research Base, Dumont D’Urville which, if permission is granted and ice conditions permit, we will visit. There is also an Emperor Penguin colony nearby. Breeding season will be over but there could be birds around. Other landings could include Port Martin (abandoned French Base) and the McKellar Islands. We will also cruise in the Zodiacs looking for wildlife. East from Cape Denison we can follow the ice edge towards the Balleny Islands. It is a very productive area for cetaceans; large numbers of Humpbacks have been recorded here. The Balleny Islands were discovered in 1839, by a sealing Captain in the employment of the Enderby Brothers. Because of their location, remote and isolated, they are rarely visited. The islands are rugged and landing sites are rare, but if conditions are right we will be able to Zodiac cruise Sabrina Island where there is a small colony of Chinstrap Penguins. This is also one of the few places where Greater Snow Petrels breed. Further south is Cape Adare, arguably one of the most historic sites in all of Antarctica. It was here in 1895 that one of the first landings on the Antarctic continent was made and in 1899 the first party to winter over in Antarctica built their hut here. Other potential sites in the Northern Ross Sea that we could land if ice and weather conditions permit include the Possession Islands. These were named by Sir James Clark Ross in 1842 after he had landed on them and claimed the region in the name of Queen Victoria. A little further south is Cape Hallett, it was the site of a joint American New Zealand base from 1958-1973 when it was abandoned. It was demolished in the 1990s and now the Adelie Penguins are reclaiming the site which was rightfully theirs anyway. From Cape Hallett we can get amazing views of the northern transantarctic mountains. Days 22 to 25: At Sea Taking time to rest and enjoy shipboard life in the bar or library after the excitement and long daylight hours of the Antarctic, we have time for lectures on our final destination and for some pelagic bird spotting. Days 26 to 27: Campbell Island – Perseverance Harbour We drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour, an occasional refuge for Southern Right Whales who come here to calve. Walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge wild flowers that have adapted to the harsh conditions have unusual colourings and weirdly-shaped leaves. We also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and sea lions. Days 28 to 29: At Sea At sea en route to the Port of Lyttelton, take the opportunity to relax and enjoy our last few days of shipboard life and to reflect on an amazing experience. On your last evening we will review and celebrate our discoveries over a farewell dinner. Day 30: Christchurch We arrive at the Port of Lyttelton early in the morning. After breakfast, customs formalities and a last minute opportunity to bid farewell to your expedition team, you disembark and board our complimentary coach transfer to a central city drop off or Christchurch Airport. Enquire for a full itinerary.

Expedition Vessel: M/V Akademik Shokalskiy

The Akademik Shokalskiy is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research. This class of vessel is world renowned for polar exploration, because of its strength, maneuverability and small passenger numbers. The Shokalskiy provides comfortable accommodation in double and twin cabins with private facilities. All cabins have outside windows and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room, where the science team and expedition staff will present a programme of talks.

For full information about this vessel click here:

deckplans for ship

Dates, Costs & Booking

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Date Selected: 8th Jan 2018

Adult (1) US$15000
Sub total US$15000

Essential Information

Additional Charges - Landing Fees of $880 per person for visits to sub-Antarctic Islands. These will be added during the booking process. Deposits - Reservations require a deposit of 25% at the time you receive a booking confirmation from Expeditions Online. A payment link will be sent to you and this may be paid by major credit card. Bookings within 120 days of departure require full payment. Final Payments - Balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Cancellations - All requests for cancellation must be received in writing to Expeditions Online. Cancellations received 180 days or more prior to departure, are refunded less a $US750.00 per person administration fee. For cancellations received within 179 and 121 days of the embarkation date the full deposit will be forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 120 days prior to the departure date the total price is forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days and full payment has not yet been received, the total price will still apply and any unpaid monies are due immediately. We strongly recommend that you obtain adequate trip cancellation insurance. Booking Terms - Please read carefully the General Booking Conditions for Expeditions Online. This voyage is operated by Heritage Expeditions and you additionally travel under their terms and conditions as the operator as well as of the Shipping Company/transport carrier. Details will be forwarded to you at the time of booking.


  • Pre/Post cruise transfers
  • one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (inc. dinner/breakfast)
  • all on board ship accommodation with meals
  • all expedition shore excursions.


  • All items of a personal nature
  • laundry
  • drinks
  • gratuities
  • International/domestic flights,
  • visas and travel insurance.