Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica
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 including the deaths of Ninnis and Mertz and Mawson's almost superhuman trek to safety.
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. Maneuvering 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 18: Commonwealth Bay 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. Days 19 to 22: 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 23 to 24: 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. Day 25: At Sea At sea en route to the Port of Bluff, 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 26: Invercargill We arrive at the Port of Bluff 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 Airport.
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.