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The unique highlight of this voyage to the Weddell Sea is the chance to visit, by helicopter, an emperor penguin colony, situated south of Snow Hill Island.

The remote eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the white continent’s hidden gems. A deeply incised, 2,000-kilometre wide bay takes its name from British sailor, James Weddell. Famed for its huge ice shelves and flat-topped icebergs, the Weddell Sea is the site of an upwelling of cold water from the ocean depths that provides food for any creature hardy enough to withstand the intense cold.

Once at the Weddell Sea, your vessel will be positioned to enable ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to Snow Hill Island, home of an emperor penguin colony.  The landing point of the helicopters will be carefully chosen to ensure that the emperors are not disturbed or stressed by helicopter noise, and then you will walk around 45 minutes to the colony, culminating in a memorable rendezvous with these magnificent penguins.

Before making your way back through the Drake Passage to Ushuaia, you will pay a visit to the South Shetland Islands, where you can see chinstrap penguins on Half Moon Island, and seals hauling out on the beach.

A typical Emperor Penguins tinerary is shown below, on board Ortelius

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Embark Ushuaia and set sail through the Beagle Channel

  2. Days 2-3 : Cross the Drake Passage and Antarctic Convergence

    Over the next two days you will sail across the Drake Passage. When you cross the Antarctic Convergence, you arrive in the circum-Antarctic up welling zone - in this area you may see wandering albatrosses, grey headed albatrosses, black- browed albatrosses, light- mantled sooty albatrosses, Cape pigeons, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels, blue petrels and Antarctic petrels.

  3. Day 4: Weddell Sea

    Today should see you sailing into the Weddell Sea where you will see the huge tabular icebergs on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Subject to local conditions, the plan is to land on the Antarctic Continent at Brown Bluff.

  4. Days 5-6 : Weddell Sea - Emperor penguins

    The use of helicopters has a great advantage in the attempt to reach the emperor penguin colony, however as always the itinerary is ruled by weather conditions and ice. If conditions are favourable, you will spend the first two days in the emperor penguin rookery. The helicopter operation will take a full day, with a 15 minute flight, the helicopter accommodating six passengers per flight. The landing point of the helicopters will be carefully chosen and we will make sure that the emperors are not disturbed or stressed by helicopter noise. Therefore, after landing, you will continue your expedition on foot, and after around 45 minutes’ walking, you will experience a memorable rendezvous with the magnificent emperor penguins.

  5. Day 7: Weddell Sea

    If conditions were favourable on both Days 5 and 6, and visits to the emperor penguins were successful, today you will visit Devil Island, Vega Island or Hope Bay. If you did not reach the colony on one or two of the previous days, then an attempt will be made again today to do ship-to-shore helicopter flights to Snow Island.

  6. Day 8: Half Moon Island & Deception Island

    In the morning you will visit Half Moon Island where you can see a variety of chinstrap penguins, and seals often haul out on the beach. These volcanic islands of the South Shetlands are windswept and often shrouded in mist and fog, but do offer subtle pleasures. There is a nice variety of flora (mosses, lichens and flowering grasses) and fauna, such as gentoo penguins.

    Early afternoon the vessel sails to Deception where the last landing of the voyage will be at Pendulum Cove. Deception is a sub-ducted crater, which opens into the sea, creating a natural harbour for the ship. Here you can find hot springs, an abandoned whaling station, thousands of Cape pigeons and many Dominican gulls, brown and South Polar skuas and Antarctic terns. Wilson’s storm petrels and black-bellied storm petrels nest in the ruins of the whaling station in Whalers Bay.

  7. Days 9-10 : Sail back across the Drake Passage

    On the way north, the ship will again be followed by a great selection of seabirds while crossing the Drake Passage.

  8. Day 11: Arrive in Ushuaia and disembark

You should note: Helicopters have a great advantage in being able to reach the emperor penguin colony, however their use is ruled by the forces of nature, ice and weather conditions. You will be in one of the world’s most remote areas and there are no guarantees - conditions may change rapidly, having an impact on helicopter operation.

Key info

  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 11 days from £9,000 pp
  • Group size: Varies according to vessel
  • When to go: Nov-Mar
  • Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Accommodation in twin-share cabin
    • All meals on board ship
    • Guided shore excursions
Featured locations:

Antarctic Peninsula

The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible part of the great white continent with some of its best wildlife and scenery. Ice-choked waterways, sculpted icebergs, imposing glaciers and rugged mountains provide the back drop to an area with more whales and dolphins than anywhere else on earth.

  • Ideal for viewing: elephant seal, hourglass dolphin, humpback whale, minke whale, orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching

Weddell Sea

The remote eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the white continents hidden gems. A deeply incised, 2,000-kilometre wide bay, the upwelling of cold water provides food for any creature hardy enough to withstand the intense cold. It is also famed for its huge ice shelves and flat-topped icebergs.

  • Ideal for viewing: elephant seal, humpback whale, leopard seal, Weddell seal, orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching
This itinerary is available on the following cruise vessel:

Ortelius

The ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. With the highest ice-class notation, it offers possibilities to travel to remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities.