Few people have had the privilege to stand surrounded by the lords of Antarctica, emperor penguins, the largest of all penguin species and regarded as one of the most difficult birds to see in their natural habitat. During this voyage, Antarctica is bathed in 24 hours of continuous daylight, reflecting off enormous glaciers and towering icebergs beset in mile after mile of frozen fast ice. Combine this splendor with the most majestic of penguins and the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand, and you have this expedition through the Ross Sea.
Days 1-2: USA / Day lost crossing the International Date Line
Depart on your independent flights from the USA.
Day 3: Christchurch, New Zealand
Arrive in Christchurch, a fitting place to begin your voyage to the Ross Sea. In 1908, Shackleton stayed in Christchurch before he embarked for Antarctica. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.
Day 4: Lyttelton / Embark Kapitan Khlebnikov
Embark the Kapitan Khlebnikov and follow in great Antarctic explorersÂ’ footsteps. Like Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott boarded a ship in Lyttelton when he began his journey to the South Pole.
Day 5: At Sea
This is the penultimate voyage as an expedition vessel for the legendary Kapitan Khlebnikov. Today the expedition team reminisces about the discovery of emperor penguin rookeries, the first visit to the Dry Valleys, and all the other firsts made possible by this icebreaker. Special guest Nigel Watson, Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ), cares for the expedition bases left by Scott, Shackleton, and Borchgrevink in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica and provides insight into the current efforts to save the historic bases.
Day 6: Snares Islands
Landings are not permitted in the Snares Islands. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Snares are without terrestrial mammals, making it a superb environment for birds and seals. Fur seals and penguins line the kelp-covered shores, aboard Zodiacs you cruise around the islands, home to endemic bird species such as the Snares tomtit, Snares fern bird, and the Snares crested penguin.
Days 7-8: Auckland Islands
The Auckland Islands are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Enderby, the largest island of the archipelago, is one of two of the islands that visitors are permitted to explore. The rare yellow-eyed penguin breeds here, as do endemic Auckland shags.
Day 9: Campbell Island
Campbell Island was declared a nature reserve in 1954 and vigorous eradication of introduced species has resulted in the successful return of seabirds and recovery of native vegetation. Birders and photographers thrill to close encounters with southern royal and light-mantled sooty albatross and HookerÂ’s sea lions. Broad bays, vertical headlands, and surf-washed beaches serve as backdrop to your exploration.
Days 10-11: At Sea
Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel, as you follow in the wake of Scott, Mawson, and Shackleton to the Ross Sea. A dramatic drop in water temperature represents the Antarctic Convergence and your first icebergs herald the frozen splendor of Antarctica. Your naturalists will be on deck to help spot and identify seabirds and marine mammals. Your shipÂ’s historian will begin recounting the history and heroic tales of the Ross Sea region and Antarctica.
Day 12: Cape Adare, Antarctica
Views of the 12,000-foot Admiralty Mountains herald your arrival at Cape Adare, discovered in 1841 by Captain James Ross. Here you see the hut where Carsten Borchgrevink was the first to over winter on the Antarctic Continent in 1899. Special guest Nigel Watson provides insight into the hutÂ’s preservation. Cape Adare is also home to 260,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, the largest rookery anywhere of this species.
Days 13-23: The Ross Sea
From Cape Adare, the Kapitan Khlebnikov negotiates the ice of the Ross Sea, steaming southward into the historic heart of Antarctic exploration. The next 10 days are spent exploring the coast along Victoria Land. The captain and expedition leader assess daily conditions and take full advantage of every opportunity to make landings by Zodiac or helicopter. Weather, sea, and ice conditions determine your exact itinerary. Visit several rookeries of emperor and Adelie penguins, and take in the breathtaking scenery of glaciers and tabular icebergs. You also visit McMurdo Station and Scott Base, and historic huts erected by Scott and Shackleton. If conditions permit, participate in a flight to the Dry Valleys, accessible only by helicopter.
Days 24-25: Balleny Islands
The uninhabited Balleny Islands straddle the Antarctic Circle. Adelie and chinstrap penguins breed here and you go ashore and cruise in Zodiacs past ice tongues in the channels and bays.
Day 26: At Sea
Today you bid Antarctica farewell as the ship crosses the Antarctic Convergence once more. Search for birds and marine mammals on deck, attend lectures, and relax as you head north.
Days 27-28: Macquarie Island
This remote island sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to an astounding three million royal penguins and 100,000 king penguins. Large groups of southern elephant seals slumber on the islandÂ’s sandy beaches and there is a rich variety of other wildlife to find and observe. Your landings depend on permissions, as well as local weather and sea conditions.
Days 29-30: At Sea
Recap your experience and celebrate this penultimate voyage with the captainÂ’s farewell dinner.
Day 31: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia / Disembark / USA
After breakfast, disembark and transfer to the airport for homeward flights. Cross the International Date Line and arrive home on December 7.