During our time in the Ross Sea region, we will visit the highlights of Antarctica’s most historic region. Due to the unpredictable nature of ice and weather conditions, a day-by-day itinerary is not possible. The Captain and Expedition Leader will assess daily conditions and take advantage of every opportunity to make landings or send you out in the Zodiacs. Our program emphasises wildlife viewing, key scientific bases and historic sites, as well as the spectacular scenery of the coastal terrain, the glaciers and icebergs of the Ross Sea. Zodiacs and/or hovercraft are used on a regular basis for sightseeing and landings. Whilst specific landings cannot be guaranteed, we hope to visit the following as well as explore for new, perhaps previously unvisited areas:
Cape Adare’s bold headland and the Downshire Cliffs greet us as we approach Cape Adare – ice conditions permitting – at the tip of the Ross Sea, the site of the largest Adélie penguin rookery in Antarctica. Blanketing the large, flat spit which forms the Cape is the huge rookery which now, at the height of summer, numbers up to one million birds – an absolutely staggering sight. You will never forget your first experiences in a ceaselessly active and noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors. Our naturalists will point out various aspects of their lifestyle and, by sitting down quietly, one may observe the often-comical behaviour of the penguins, courtship displays, feeding ever-hungry chicks, territorial disputes and the pilfering of nest material. Curious penguins often come and visit us very closely, presenting superb photographic opportunities. Surrounded by a sea of penguins, we will find Borchgrevink’s Hut, the oldest in Antarctica, an overwintering shelter for the first expedition to the Antarctic continent in 1899. It is a fascinating relic of the ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic exploration and we are able to inspect the interior, which still contains artifacts of the early explorers. One thousand feet up in the hills behind Cape Adare is the oldest grave in Antarctica, that of 22 year-old Nicolai Hansen, a member of Borghgrevink’s expedition.
Terra Nova Bay
Baia Terra Nova, an Italian summer research station, is one of the most modern and attractive in Antarctica. The scientists and support staff here are always most hospitable and enjoy showing us around their lonely but beautiful home. The Italians conduct many streams of scientific research and also claim to have the best ‘caffe espresso’ in Antarctica!
The enormous Admiralty Range heralds our arrival at Cape Hallett, near the head of the Ross Sea. The scenery here is wild and spectacular; mountains rear up from the sea to over 4,000 metres and giant glaciers course down from the interior to the water’s edge. We land next to an abandoned American-New Zealand base, home to large numbers of Adélie Penguins and Weddell Seals.
Ross Island – Mount Erebus / Cape Bird / Shackleton’s Hut / Scott’s Hut
At the base of the Ross Sea we arrive at Ross Island, dominated by the 13,000 foot high volcano, Mt Erebus. The New Zealand Antarctica programme maintains a field station at Cape Bird, where scientists study many aspects of the region’s natural history, including the large Adélie Penguin colony. Scientists may be at he field station when we arrive. At Cape Royds we visit Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut, built during the Nimrod polar attempt of 1907- 1909. Lectures explain many facets of Shackleton’s amazing expeditions. He was possibly one of the greatest, and certainly one of the most heroic of the Antarctic explorers. Though the legendary explorers are long gone, the area around the hut is far from deserted, having been reclaimed by the original inhabitants of the area - thousands of Adélie penguins – in the world’s southernmost penguin rookery. Also found on Ross Island is Cape Evans, the historic site of Captain Scott’s second hut, erected in 1911 and beautifully preserved by the staff at New Zealand’s Scott Base. It stands as testimony to the rigours faced by pioneering explorers. Inside the hut we will witness the living conditions almost exactly as they were when Scott, Wilson and Ponting occupied these quarters. Behind the hut, Mt. Erebus looms above with its plume of white smoke spiralling up from the still-active inferno in its bowels.
Ross Ice Shelf
The largest ice shelf in Antarctica, the Ross Ice Shelf is also the world’s largest body of floating ice. A natural ice barrier, at times it creates hazardous weather conditions, with sheets of snow blown at gale force by the katabatic winds coming off the polar ice cap. Just 800 miles from the South Pole, this daunting spectacle prevented many early Antarctic explorers from venturing further south. From the Ross Ice Shelf we cruise eastward along the Shelf front, with its spectacular 30 metre high ice cliffs, which sometimes calve tabular icebergs.
This rugged Island, deep in the Ross Sea, is gouged by numerous glaciers and is home to a large Adélie Penguin population and other nesting seabirds. We will attempt a Zodiac landing near a rookery as well as exploring the coastline. If a landing is achieved, there will be an opportunity for those who are feeling fit to climb to the summit of the Island.
These small, rugged and rarely visited islands lay off the shore of Cape Hallett. An Adélie Penguin rookery, numbering tens of thousands of birds, blankets Foyn Island. Observe their busy and sometimes humorous activities, with the Admiralty Mountains forming a superb backdrop across the water.