Invercargill Arrive in Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, rich in Scottish history. Explore the town before meeting your fellow travellers for an informal get-together over dinner.
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Mason's Legacy - the most extensive exploration of East Antarctica ever undertaken!
VOYAGE DISCLAIMER: This voyage is yet to be 100% confirmed. As such voyage dates, ship, itinerary and pricing is subject to change. This information should be considered a guide only, until at which time the voyage is confirmed. We anticipate final confirmation on the voyage prior to 30 Oct. At this stage, we are accepting expressions of interest on cabins only. There has been a huge amount of interest in the voyage. If you are interested in a cabin or berth, please click 'Enquire' on the cabin type below or contact us on 1800960577 or info@iExpedition.com.
This voyage is also subject to approval from several Australian Authorities and may have to change depending on these approvals. Permits have been lodged for all the sites mentioned in the itinerary, depending on approvals these may have to be amended or substituted. We will endeavour to keep participants fully informed of any changes in the itinerary as and when they occur.
Invercargill Arrive in Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, rich in Scottish history. Explore the town before meeting your fellow travellers for an informal get-together over dinner.
Enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant and explore some of the local Southland scenery and attractions before heading to the Port of Bluff to embark the Akademik Shokalskiy. Settle into your cabin and join your expedition team and the captain for a welcome on board.
It has been claimed that the closest of the Subantarctic Islands to New Zealand, The Snares, are home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles put together. Uninhabited and protected, the only mammals are marine; New Zealand fur seals and sea lions found at the base of the imposing cliffs. Zodiac cruising the jagged coast we learn how the islands got their name, and in the sheltered bays, we should see endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Snares Island Tomtit and Snares Island Fernbird plus Sooty Shearwater and returning-to-nest Buller’s Albatross. From the water we can view the unique large tree daisies Olearia lyallii and Brachyglottis stewartite which dominates much of the island, draping the hills and creating a forest canopy.
Enderby Island is a wildlife rich island that has no equal in the Southern Ocean. Offering a varying landscape where the Rata forests are regenerating and there is a resurgence of herbaceous plants, it is one of the most beautiful islands in this group. The island is home to the Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion which breeds on Sandy Bay beach where we plan to land. This animal is the rarest sea lion in the world. We will walk to enjoy close encounters with the Royal Albatross nested amongst a hummocked sward of Oreobolus pectinatus and regenerating tussock. There is a good chance that we will see the endemic snipe, shag and Auckland Island Flightless Teal as we walk around the island. We plan to spend some time with the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the world’s rarest penguin and the fourth largest of the world’s penguins. Unique fields of megaherbs, whose languorous names promise the exotic: the Bulbinella rossii, the regenerating patches of Anisotome latifolia and the vivid red and white gentians, make an unforgettable sight. Native birds such as the Tui, Bellbird and parakeets benefit from the presence of Rata trees and can be heard in the forest.
As we make our way through the tumultuous Southern Ocean’s ‘Furious Fifties’, we will learn more about Subantarctic flora and fauna as we prepare for our arrival at Macquarie Island. En route there are great birding opportunities which may include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Blackbrowed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. We will also endeavour to spot the Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion and Antarctic Prion.
Australia’s jewel in the Southern Ocean, Macquarie Island’s history is firmly linked to Mawson’s endeavours. In 1911, he established the island’s first scientific station. As well as mapping the island and conducting geomagnetic observations, he studied the island’s botany, zoology, meteorology and geology. This expedition also established a radio relay station on Wireless Hill that could communicate with both Australia and the expedition group at Commonwealth Bay. This enduring windy, rocky outpost supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere. Millions of penguins breed here with four different species: King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and the endemic Royal calling this island home. We plan to spend our time divided between two approved landing sites, Sandy Bay and Buckles Bay, as well as taking a Zodiac cruise at Lusitania Bay if weather conditions permit. You will never forget your first experience of Sandy Bay’s perpetually active penguin metropolis, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of visitors. The King Penguin rookery at Lusitania Bay is noisy and spectacular. A welcoming committee will likely porpoise around our Zodiacs as a quarter of a million King Penguins stand to attention on shore. Large groups of Southern Elephant Seals slumber on the beaches and in the tussock. Unlike the penguins, these giant creatures will barely acknowledge our presence, lying in groups of intertwined bodies, undergoing their annual moult. In addition to the penguins and elephant seals, there are three species of fur seals to be found here and four species of albatross, Wandering, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty. An amazing island, and our last Subantarctic Island visit on this leg of our journey as we head to open seas.
Towards Commonwealth Bay Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel as we steam southward through the Southern Ocean. Lectures concentrate on the Antarctic region, and beyond the bow of the ship, drifting icebergs of extraordinary shapes and colour begin to appear. Manoeuvring 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 your just-taken photos.
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.
East from Cape Denison we can follow the ice edge towards the Balleny Islands. It is a very productive area for cetaceans; large numbers of Humpbacks have been recorded here. The Balleny Islands were discovered in 1839, by a sealing Captain in the employment of the Enderby Brothers. Because of their location, remote and isolated, they are rarely visited. The islands are rugged and landing sites are rare, but if conditions are right we will be able to Zodiac cruise Sabrina Island where there is a small colony of Chinstrap Penguins. This is also one of the few places where Greater Snow Petrels breed. Further south is Cape Adare, arguably one of the most historic sites in all of Antarctica. It was here in 1895 that one of the first landings on the Antarctic continent was made and in 1899 the first party to winter over in Antarctica built their hut here.
Other potential sites in the Northern Ross Sea that we could land if ice and weather conditions permit include the Possession Islands. These were named by Sir James Clark Ross in 1842 after he had landed on them and claimed the region in the name of Queen Victoria. A little further south is Cape Hallett, it was the site of a joint American New Zealand base from 1958-1973 when it was abandoned. It was demolished in the 1990s and now the Adelie Penguins are reclaiming the site which was rightfully theirs anyway. From Cape Hallett we can get amazing views of the northern transantarctic mountains.
Port-Martin West from Cape Denison is the French Research Base, Dumont d’Urville, which we will visit if permission is granted and ice conditions permit. The base’s main area of study is wildlife, notably the Emperor Penguin. In summer, the rocks near the base are also home to an Adelie Penguin rookery, as well as skua, Snow Petrel, Giant Petrel and Cape Petrel. This French base was rebuilt on the current site after a fire destroyed the original research station located at Port Martin, over 60 kilometres east of Dumont d’Urville. We will also attempt to visit this abandoned site.
We head further westward passing along the Wilkes, Banzare and Sabrina Coastlines. Ice conditions will determine our exact path – there may be opportunities to visit the Davis Bay area which includes the Dibble Glacier, Anton Island and Lewis Island, as well as the Henry Islands in Henry Bay. Given the true expeditionary nature of this voyage, these days of exploration will be the time to take opportunities as they arise and to enjoy being in such a remote and wild part of the world.
We have allowed ourselves plenty of time to explore the area surrounding the Australian Casey Station. The original station was completed in 1969 and named for Lord Casey, the then Australian Governor General. If conditions allow, we hope to visit the current Casey Station. Re-built not far to the west on Bailey Peninsula, its multi-coloured buildings are affectionately referred to as ‘Legoland’. Also nicknamed the ‘Daintree of Antarctica’, the area around Casey Station has extensive and well-developed moss and lichen beds – some of the richest anywhere in Antarctica outside of the Antarctic Peninsula. Current research at the station includes studying the influence of climate change and human impacts on the Casey moss beds. We also hope to explore nearby Frazier Islands, which are home to the largest known Southern Giant Petrel breeding colony. There are also large seabird breeding colonies on Ardery Island and Odbert Islands which are part of the Windmill Island chain, so named after the US Navy’s 1947-1948 Operation Windmill. The Windmill Islands are also the only extensive stretch of land to become snow free for 400km in either direction. As a result, they have extremely diverse and rich mammalian and birdlife including Weddell, Crabeater, Ross, Leopard and Elephant seals, Emperor and Adelie Penguins, petrels, fulmars, skuas, terns and gulls.
Shackleton Ice Shelf With the extended daylight hours, there is time to enjoy the light bouncing off the ice as we sail. Given the time we are spending down in these latitudes, take the time to study the different ice formations we encounter including fast ice, drift ice, frazil ice, slush, grease ice and pancake ice. Talk to one of the expedition staff, or browse through the library, to find out more information about the extraordinary variety of ice formations.
Russia started regular Antarctic research in 1956 and opened Mirny Station the same year. Located on the coast of the Davis Sea, Mirny Station was originally used as a main base serving Russia’s Vostok Station, located 1,400km inland from the coast. However, with the transfer of transportation operations from Mirny Station to Progress Station (which we will hopefully visit later in the itinerary), this base is now primarily scientific in nature. In summer, the station can host over 150 people, studying glaciology, seismology, meteorology, marine biology and the polar lights. Halswell Island, named for Sydney University zoologist, Professor William Halswell, sits in front of Mirny Station and was discovered by Mawson’s 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The island has a high density of nesting birds, including all Antarctic species.
Chance encounters with a large variety of whales are on the cards as we traverse these waters; Humpback, Orca, Minke and Blue Whales all have the potential to be sighted from the bridge, or on deck if the weather is kind, so keep your cameras handy. During these days at sea, we will pass the now extinct Gaussberg volcano. This ice-free landmark, discovered in 1902 by Erich von Drygalski’s German Antarctic Expedition, was named after his expedition ship, Gauss. The Gauss became trapped in ice and the men were forced to overwinter. The crew discovered the volcano during one of their many sledging trips. Drygalski also made the first ascent in a hydrogen-filled reconnaissance balloon, becoming the second man to fly in Antarctica, and the first to take aerial photographs.
Davis Station, named after Mawson’s Captain, John King Davis, and built-in 1957, is located in the Vestfold Hills, an ice-free area of approximately 400sqkm of the low-lying hilly country, deeply indented by sea-inlets, lakes and tarns. The Vestfold Hills is divided by three peninsulas bounded by narrow fjords. They contain a great variety of lake systems including the largest concentration of stratified lakes in the world. The area is considered to have the largest ice-free coastline in Antarctica and as such is classified as an ‘Antarctic Oasis’ (the term given to natural snow and ice-free areas). We will spend a couple of days exploring this unique environment as well as paying a visit to Davis Station. Visitors to the station may be surprised by the sculpture garden, established in 2002-2003 by contemporary Australian artist Stephen Eastaugh and envisaged as a living sculptural garden, with additional contributions added by inspired expeditioners.
Both the Russian Progress II Station and Chinese Zhongshan Stations are located on the shore of Prydz Bay and back on to the beautiful Larsemann Hills. Formally protected as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, the Larsemann Hills are a series of granite and gneiss peninsulas extending into Prydz Bay. Dissected by steep-sided valleys there are over 150 freshwater lakes in the hills ranging from ponds less than 1m deep to glacial lakes up to a depth of 38m. Most of the lakes thaw for up to two months in summer, but some are permanently frozen. If conditions allow, we hope to visit both stations and perhaps explore a bit of the surrounding landscape.
As we continue to sail westward, we pass the significant Amery Ice Shelf, fed by the largest glacier in Antarctica, the Lambert Glacier. Mawson mapped the ice shelf as part of the BANZARE expedition in 1931. At over 100km wide, more than 400km long and about 2,500m deep, the Lambert Glacier drains 8% of the Antarctic ice sheet into the Amery Ice Shelf. Studies have shown that surface ice flow velocity on the Amery Ice Shelf can reach over 2m per day. Hopefully, conditions are favourable for us to get close enough to view such a vast and impressive ice system.
Built-in 1954 and located on the south-eastern shore of Horseshoe Harbour, Mawson Station, named for Sir Douglas Mawson, was Australia’s first continental station and is the longest continuously operating station south of the Antarctic Circle. While Antarctica’s first aircraft hangar was built on the shore near Mawson Station in 1956, today, the station uses a blue-ice airstrip, and light aircraft and helicopters operate over summer. Located near the station is the Taylor Emperor Penguin colony, one of the largest Emperor Penguin colonies on land during the winter months. The largest breeding colony of Antarctic Petrels in Antarctica is also located near the base, in addition to the nearby Rookery Islands which are home to breeding colonies of six resident bird species: Adelie Penguin, Cape Petrel, Snow Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and Antarctic Skua. Ice conditions in February are generally favourable for access in the area, with ships in the past being able to anchor within 100m of the station – we hope to have similarly easy access, although anything is possible in these latitudes!
We turn the ship north and leave the icebound majesty of the East Antarctic coastline behind us. Take time to recover from the excitement of Antarctica’s long daylight-filled days and enjoy the quieter pace of shipboard life. Catch up on diaries and take part in a series of lectures designed to prepare you for a distinct change in scenery and wildlife: Heard Island.
Heard Island is dominated by Mawson Peak, an active volcano. The island remains one of the few places on earth believed to be free from introduced predators. We plan at least two days of landings on this remote Subantarctic Island. Now uninhabited and infrequently visited, for a time (in the late 1940s) Australia operated a research station here. And while the human history of these islands immediately after discovery was predictably brutal, with sealers hunting these animals almost to extinction, the island is now a wildlife haven. Antarctic Fur Seal and Southern Elephant Seal are now found in good numbers on the volcanic sand beaches. King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Rockhopper Penguins and breeding seabirds including albatross, petrels and the endemic Heard Island Shag can be spotted. Many other species have also been recorded offshore. Tourist landings are rare: the last expeditions of any significance were our own in 2002 and 2012, where we spent several incredible days exploring. When sea and weather conditions are suitable we plan landings at Atlas Cove, the abandoned site of the 1947 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) base, at Spit Beach and Long Beach. All these sites have artefacts and evidence of the sealing era, and good concentrations of wildlife. Weather dependent, we hope to spend some time around the small, rocky McDonald Islands which lie 44km west of Heard Island. The McDonald Island volcano is one of only two active volcanos (the other being Mawson Peak) within Australian territory. In 1992, after being dormant for 75,000 years, it erupted for the first time, and several times since, dramatically changing the size and shape of the island. (No landings are permitted).
Continuing our transit north, we set a course for Perth and hopefully, with strong westerlies behind us, we anticipate a fast sailing. Travelling along the Antarctic convergence for part of this, we will remain vigilant for all the sea and birdlife we will no doubt encounter along the way. With favourable weather you might find yourself out on deck enjoying the sun. Whatever the weather, you will have time to reflect on your amazing experience, download and edit freshly taken photos, pose questions to our knowledgeable expedition team, recap highlights with fellow passengers and staff and enjoy a farewell dinner as we sail the last leg of our journey. Just remember ‘God does not deduct from ones allotted life span time spent sailing,’ so relax and enjoy.
Early this morning we will arrive in the Port of Fremantle – the end of an epic expedition of exploration. After a final breakfast, and with customs formalities completed, we bid farewell to our fellow voyagers as you take a complimentary coach transfer to either a central city point or to the airport. In case of unexpected delays, due to weather and/or port operations, we ask you to book any onward travel after 1pm today.
Note: During our voyage, circumstance may make it necessary, or desirable, to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and making the most of opportunities for unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings are subject to government regulated authorisations and appropriate permits being issued. No landings are permitted at The Snares.
Important Notes: This expedition is subject to approval from several Australian Authorities and may have to change depending on these approvals. Permits have been lodged for all the sites mentioned in the itinerary, depending on approvals these may have to be amended or substituted. We will endeavour to keep participants fully informed of any changes in the itinerary as and when they occur.
Please consider that our voyages are expeditionary in nature. This means, that there are no concrete itineraries, your Captain and Expedition Leader will utilise their vast experience to chart the best course for your expedition depending on the climatic and environmental conditions. Mentioned highlights and wildlife cannot be guaranteed.
These unique valleys in a remote region of Antarctica, have alluded researchers for decades. On a continent covered in ice and glaciers, the McMurdo Dry Valleys are ice free and considered the closest known landscape to Mars. It is a striking anomaly, that on a continent where 98% of its surface is covered in ice hundreds of meters thick, there exists a region completely ice free.
The Dry Valleys are just one of the many highlights of exploring the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.
We plan to embark on a journey through the heroic era of exploration, where the ‘Race to the Pole’ took place. Shackleton, Shirase and Scott all tried, but it was the ever successful Amundsen that in the summer of 1911 reached the ‘Pole’. Many relics and a few huts from this era still remain in and around the Ross Sea, we plan to visit these sites and tell stories from the grandfathers of exploration from more than 100 years ago.
Australia and New Zealand’s Subantarctic islands are a wonderland of rugged landscapes, birds, penguins and seals. Little known and often forgotten about for the likes of South Georgia, these islands present a very similar experience. Macquarie Island in particular, is home to the Wandering Albatross, King Penguins and Elephant seal colonies of wild proportions. The New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands are made up of Auckland, Snares, Campbell, Bounty, Chatham and the little known Antipodes Island. These islands are home to rare and endemic birds species, rarely visited and in a number of instances our expeditions to these islands are the only ones permitted.
This special voyage will aim to explore Heard Island. One of the most rarely visited sub-Antarctic islands, it is home to similar species as on South Georgia and Macquarie Islands and is Australia's most remote outpost.
One night accommodation is provided before your expedition. Transfers to/from the expedition ship are provided on the day of embarkation and disembarkation.
A high quality expedition jacket is provided for the Ross Sea and Commonweatlh Bay regions. Please note you will still require a lighter Goretex style jacket for visiting the sub-Antarctic islands and thermal insulating layers.
Our expedition rates incorporate the required USD$880 landing fee
SPIRIT OF ENDERBY
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs. The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew. The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
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