Spectacular Ross Sea: West Antarctica Cruise
On the 33-day Spectacular Ross Sea: West Antarctica Cruise, sail along Antarctica’s west coast between Argentina and New Zealand, stopping at places very few humans have seen. A true polar expedition, this small ship cruise explores islands, straits and entire seas named after the courageous polar explorers from centuries past. With the added excitement of using helicopters to make some landings, this Antarctica cruise is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As pack ice allows, sail from the Antarctic Circle through the Pendleton Strait and attempt to land on the rarely visited southern tip of Renaud Island. Across the Bellingshausen Sea, set course for Peter I Island, an uninhabited and exposed volcanic island that is one of the most remote islands in the world. Along the outer fringes of the pack ice, sail the Amundsen Sea while keeping a lookout for emperor penguins, seals, orca and minke whales, finally reaching a truly famous Antarctica landmark: The Ross Ice Shelf.
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in the world, with constantly changing ice masses and great wildlife viewing opportunities. It is also the access point for many historic and present-day South Pole expeditions. Along with natural monuments like Mount Erebus, Mount Terror and Mount Byrd, markers of human history like Sir Ernest Shackleton’s cabin and Robert Falcon Scott’s cabin can be seen here, as well as large adelie rookeries. Unlike past explorers who relied on wooden dinghies to get from ship to shore, the 108-guest Ortelius is equipped with Zodiacs and two helicopters to assist with shore landings.
In the Southern Ocean between Antarctica and New Zealand, explore remote windswept islands, skies with prolific seabirds and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Campbell Island and Macquarie Island. With blooming vegetation Campbell Island is home to a colony of southern royal albatrosses and dozens of species of seabirds. Making homes on smaller satellite islands are wandering, Campbell, grey-headed, black-browed, and light-mantled albatrosses, as well as three breeding penguin species: eastern rockhopper, erect-crested, and yellow-eyed penguins. On Macquarie Island, the fauna is fantastic, and there are colonies of king, gentoo, and southern rockhopper penguins, as well as almost one million breeding pairs of the endemic royal penguins, plus elephant seals and various fur seal species.
While more travelers are visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, few Antarctica hopefuls are adventurous enough to tour the spectacular Ross Sea. Realize how vast and otherworldly Antarctica is by going beyond the common corridor and reaching the Ross Ice Shelf, the one place where conditions are closer to Mars than anywhere else on Earth.