Late summer offers the best chance to chart a course through the Weddell Sea’s shifting pack ice and vast tabular bergs, where Shackleton’s ship Endurance was trapped and crushed. We hope to explore fossil-rich islands, historic huts and set foot on the continent before retracing Shackleton’s heroic journey to save his men – first to Elephant Island, then on through waters where blue, sei and fin whales roam. South Georgia offers nesting albatross, mating elephant seals, the world’s largest king penguin rookeries and a visit to Shackleton’s grave.
Your Voyage Includes: Flight from Stanley to Punta Arenas OR Santiago (no reduced fare for finishing in Punta Arenas)
• Australian Geographic Society voyage
• Vast tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea
• Historic huts and whaling history
• Attempt to land at Elephant Island
• Fur seals, albatross & thousands of King penguins
• Shackleton Alpine Crossing (surcharge applies)
Step aboard Polar Pioneer in the late afternoon to a warm welcome, introductory briefing and an evening departure along the Beagle Channel with your shipmates.
As we cross Drake Passage, we keep watch for giant petrels, wandering and black-browed albatross and our first icebergs. Fur seals and penguins pepper the sea surface as we approach our first landing in the South Shetland Islands.
An autumn dawn greets us in spectacular Antarctic Sound where we may stop at towering Brown Bluff before pushing on into the Weddell Sea. There’s a strong fossil focus this time of year, as the pack ice movement may allow a continental landing and visits to the world-renowned fossil beds of Seymour, Vega and James Ross islands, and Nordenskjold’s Hut on Snow Hill Island.
So exposed is Cape Wild on Elephant Island, landings are rare, but we’ll try, if only to pay tribute to the man who’s leadership kept Shackleton’s men alive for four months while awaiting rescue. We keep watch for great whales while sailing the Scotia Sea to South Georgia.
We enter King Haakon Bay and attempt a ceremonial landing at Cave Cove, Shackleton’s first landfall before continuing up past Peggotty Bluff, where Shackleton, Worsley and Crean set off to cross the island
While our “Crossers” negotiate Shackleton’s historic route, we immerse ourselves in one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. King penguin rookeries half-million strong, chinstrap, gentoo and macaroni penguin colonies, wandering albatross on nests, beaches thick with elephant and fur seals. We hope to walk the final leg of Shackleton’s epic, from Fortuna Bay to Stromness, before visiting “The Boss’s” grave and whaling museum in Grytviken.
Crossing the Scotia Sea, we watch for whales and enjoy entertaining talks by our expedition team as we cruise back towards the Falklands Islands/Malvinas. On this leg we are usually travelling into the prevailing weather so it is difficult to estimate our arrival time in the Falklands.
Dawn greets us in the Falkland Islands/Maldivas capital, Stanley; where we bid farewell to Polar Pioneer. You have the option of either spending more time exploring the Falkland Islands or continuing on to Punta Arenas or Santiago, Chile.
Please note that all of our itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. Our itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.
Cabin Numbers: 300, 301 Deck: Deck 3 Cabin Features: Two lower bunk beds and one upper bunk bed Outside porthole Wash basin Lounge and desk Cupboard with hanging space Air-conditioning control Shared bathroom facilities on same deck Outside deck accessed via Deck 4 Cabin Size: 10.2 m2
Cabin Numbers: 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313 Deck: Deck 3 Cabin Features: Two lower bunk beds Outside porthole Wash basin Lounge and desk Cupboard with hanging space Air-conditioning control Shared bathroom facilities on same deck Outside decks accessible via Deck 3 and 4 Cabin Size: 9.8 m2
Cabin Numbers: 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 407, 408, 504, 505, 506, 507 Deck: Deck 4 & Deck 5 Cabin Features Private en-suite Two lower bunk beds (Note: #402 and #403 have an upper and lower bunk and a couch) Side-facing window Desk and chair Cupboard with hanging space Air-conditioning control Outside deck access to main deck (Deck 4 cabins only) Outside deck access to upper deck (Deck 5 cabins only) Cabin Size: 12 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.9 m2
Cabin Numbers: 502, 503 Deck: Deck 5 Cabin Features Private en suite Double bed in separate room Side-facing windows Separate lounge area Desk and chair Cupboard with hanging space TV, DVD player and mini fridge Air-conditioning control Outside deck access from Deck 5 Cabin Size: 16.8 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.92 m2
Cabin Number: 501 Deck: Deck 5 Cabin Features Private en-suite Double bed in separate room Forward- and side-facing windows Separate lounge area Desk and table area TV, DVD player and mini fridge Air-conditioning control Outside deck access from Deck 5 Cabin Size: 22.5 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.92 m2
Vessel Type: Expedition
Length: 71 metres
Passenger Capacity: 50
Built / refurbished: 1985 / 2000
Polar Pioneer was built in Finland in 1985 as an ice-strengthened research ship, and for many years she plied the treacherous waters of the USSR's northern coast. In 2000 she was refurbished in St Petersburg to provide comfortable accommodation for 54 passengers.
A combined bar/lounge/library area (stocked with a good collection of polar books) was also created by simple internal restructuring.
This class of vessel has a fine reputation for polar expedition cruising, due to its strength, manoeuvrability and small number of cabins. All cabins have outside portholes plus ample storage space. The Russian captain and crew are among the most experienced ice-navigators in the world and their enthusiasm is legendary.
The spacious bridge is always open to us and the decks are ideal for viewing. The chefs are European, and the dining room is attended by Russian stewardesses.
Polar Pioneer is not a luxury vessel as such, but this is a popular ship for travel to the Polar regions. The accommodation is simple yet comfortable, and the meals are wholesome and uncomplicated. A small fleet of inflatable Zodiacs with outboard motors enable us to travel from ship to shore.