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South Georgia & Antarctic at Christmas aboard the Greg Mortimer

Starting with a night in the world's southernmost city, Ushuaia, we set sail down the Beagle Channel and across the South Atlantic Ocean, headed to South Georgia - an island of incomparable beauty. The northern flanks of the island comprise of a series of harbours that once sheltered large fleets of whaling ships, now a safe haven for a staggering variety and profusion of wildlife. Our time here will be spent visiting rookeries home to thousands of King, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins. From here we continue our voyage to explore the western flanks of the Antarctic Peninsula, where we will spend Christmas Day amoungst the white wonderland. With ample time for shore excursions to visit scientific stations and historic sites, walk among wildlife and savour the surreal landscapes of the world's most pristine wilderness, this voyage aboard the state-of-the-art new vessel Greg Mortimer will be one to remember.

Inclusions

20 breakfasts, 18 lunches and 19 dinners
Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner aboard the ship
One night hotel accommodation in Ushuaia pre voyage (twin share)
Half day city tour in Ushuaia on Day 2 prior to embarkation
Comfortable cabin accommodation and use of all public areas on cruise
Specialist expedition staff
All sightseeing and shore excursions from the ship including the use of Zodiacs
Lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services
Medical services. There is a resident medical officer and infirmary on board
Port taxes and port charges imposed by government authorities
Pre-departure information
Complimentary Polar Expedition Jacket
Keepsake Photo Book (one per booking) created from photography taken during your voyage
Hightlights
Spend Christmas in Antarctica
Magnificent South Georgia
Falkland Islands & Port Stanley
Historic sites, including Shackleton's last resting place
Spectacular mountains rising directly out of the sea
The most accessible and wildlife-rich part of Antarctica - penguins, whales, seals, sea birds
Narrow sheltered waterways and fjords
Great variety of terrain over short distances
Kayaking through Antarctic waters (optional charge applies)
Re-enact Shackleton's crossing of South Georgia on foot (optional charge applies)
Tour Provider World Expeditions
Number of Days
21
Price From
AUD $19,800
Start Location
Ushuaia, Antarctica
End Location
Antarctica
Age Range
Avg. 30+
Group Size
1 to 120
Tour Style
Standard
Tour Themes
Polar, Small Marine/Cruise
Physical Rating
Mild
Tour departure dates
StartEndAvailabilityPrice
08 Dec 202028 Dec 2020AvailableAUD $19,800
ItineraryExpand
Day 1
Arrive in Ushuaia, where you will be met and transferred to your downtown hotel (preferred flights only).
Day 2
This morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before exploring Ushuaia on a half-day city tour. Ushuaia is located on the shores of the Beagle Channel and it is surrounded by the Martial Range, which offers a unique landscape as a result of the combination of mountains, sea, glaciers and forest. The city tour will visit The Mission, Brown and Solier neighbourhoods, where you can see old houses belonging to the first families in Tierra del Fuego, such as the Beban, the Pastoriza, and the Ramos. Head 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) out of town to Martial Glacier. The ride in the chair lift to the trails leading up to the glacier provides wonderful regional views and of Ushuaia town, the Beagle Channel and its islands. Afterwards, continue to the End of the World Museum with exhibitions explaining the history of Tierra del Fuego. Transfer to the pier where our expedition team will warmly welcome you on board the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4.00 pm. As the Greg Mortimer pulls away from port, we’ll gather on the deck to commence our adventure with spectacular views over Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings.
Day 3
As we commence our trip across the South Atlantic Ocean, we make the most of our time getting comfortable with the motions of the sea. Our expedition team prepare you for our first landing with important wildlife guidelines and biosecurity procedures, and start our lecture program to help you learn more about Antarctica’s history, wildlife and environment. Our wildlife experiences begin as we enjoy watching and photographing the many seabirds, including majestic albatrosses and giant petrels following in our wake. They rise and fall skilfully, using air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.
Day 4
Located 477 kilometres/296 miles east of southern Argentina, the Falklands~Malvinas are a unique mix of wildlife hotspot and inhabited outpost. An archipelago of over 700 islands, but consisting of two main islands, East and West, only seven of the islands are inhabited. The cold nutrient-rich waters surrounding the islands makes them a prime location for marine life including seabirds and seals. Our time in the Falkland~Malvinas includes a short walk in historic Stanley town, and Sealion Island located in East Falkland’s south, where you can get insight into the unique experience of Sealion Island Nature Reserve. You will discover how the raw beauty and solitude of the island makes it a haven for wildlife and visitors alike. In 2009, Sealion Island was officially declared a National Nature Reserve, with no introduced predators living on the island. Tussac grass covers much of the island providing an ideal habitat for elephant seals and sea lions that can be found on many of the island’s spectacular beaches. A plethora of birds such as thrushes, finches, tussac birds and Megallenic penguins also inhabit the tussac. Pods of orcas, Peale's dolphins and leopard seals are regularly seen in the waters around the island. The island's southern giant petrels, with a wingspan of two metres, act as a welcoming party to ships as they approach Sealion Island. Rockhopper, gentoo and Magellanic penguins come to Sealon Island to breed. Macaroni, king penguins and Striated and Crested Caracaras are also common seen on the island.
Days 5-7
Between the Falklands~Malvinas and South Georgia, you will be entranced by the ceaseless flight of the many seabirds that follow our wake, skilfully using the air currents created by the ship to gain momentum. On this leg, we are usually travelling into the prevailing weather so it is difficult to estimate our precise arrival time in South Georgia. Our lecture program will continue highlighting all of the incredible sights we have witnessed over the past few days. You will have ample time to enjoy observing the sea birds, whale-watching from the observation areas, or simply relaxing with a book. If time and weather conditions permit, we may pass close to Shag Rocks, a fascinating group of jagged rocky islets protruding from the sea, in the proximity of South Georgia.
Days 8-12
South Georgia is one of the world’s most amazing natural environments. Just a speck in the vastness of the South Atlantic Ocean, and lying wholly within the Antarctic Convergence, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are a life-sustaining haven to some of the world’s largest congregations of wildlife. The surrounding sea is one of the most productive areas on Earth and supports the life of millions of seals, whales, penguins and other seabirds. A 3,000-metre / 9,842-foot mountain range forms the spine of this long, narrow island. Between the mountains, shattered glaciers carve their way through tussock grass to the deeply indented coastline – a landscape that is synonymous with the epic expedition of survival by Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean. Abandoned rusting whaling stations and remnants of explorers reflect a time of long ago, while summer workers conduct scientific and regeneration projects. Politically speaking, South Georgia lies north of 60° South latitude and is therefore not part of the Antarctic treaty. It is a wholly British possession, claimed and named for King George III on 16 January, 1775 by Captain James Cook. Grytviken Originally a Norwegian sealing and whaling station, it was finally closed in 1965. Now it is the administrative centre and a hub of activity in South Georgia. The former whaling station stands as a solemn testament of the whaling days, but the museum offers much more than glimpse into Grytviken’s whaling past, including exhibitions of many of the local animals on display as well as the island’s history of exploration. As you wander around the site, skirting the ruins of factory buildings, peering into the past, you must be careful to avoid sleeping elephant seals or disturbing small groups of king penguins as you imagine what it was like when whale processing was in full swing. Abandoned ships lie sunken alongside hundred-year old wharves, while pitted concrete walls remind us of the more recent Falkland's War, which started here. Sir Ernest Shackleton died from a heart attack during his final expedition on board the Quest on 5 January, 1922. His body was laid to rest at Grytviken. We pay our respects at his grave and possibly visit the cross his men erected in his memory looking out across beautiful Cumberland Bay. St Andrews Bay The long black sandy beach fronts a broad valley that stretches well back from the sea. This valley shelters the largest king penguin colony on South Georgia. Toward the landing beach on the north end of the bay, the beach is a resting place for hundreds of elephant seals that haul out on the shore to moult. Behind the beach and as you move along to the south, the sight and sound (and smell) of over 200,000 pairs of King Penguins at different stages of their breeding cycle will be overwhelming. The colony can be so dense that the penguins prevent even the seals from using the beach! The glacial river that runs into the sea here will be alive with penguin chicks and elephant seal pups testing their skills. If we lift our gaze from the wildlife for a moment, we will glimpse the snow-capped peaks of some of the world's most spectacular mountains. Godthul Imagine indented bays lined with bleached whalebones, teeming with fur seals and penguins just ‘hanging about’. In Godthul you have the opportunity to clamber through the tussock to a spectacular plateau offering magnificent views across the island and the waters beyond. A careful descent leads us to a magnificent Macaroni penguin rookery. Salisbury Plains Salisbury Plain has one of the largest King Penguin colonies on South Georgia. With about 100,000 pairs, the shore and beach can be completely crammed with penguins. Along the beach you will also find fur and elephant seals in the mix. You will have plenty of free time for walking and exploring independently during this landing, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy some personal time amongst the kings. Fortuna Bay & Stromness Fortuna Bay is surrounded by high mountains with glaciers pushing down from the high country to terminate in the open valley that is home to a small king penguin colony. This is where Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean descended from the treacherous glaciers of the interior on their way to Stromness whaling station. If conditions allow, we can retrace the footsteps of the explorers and follow their track over the last mountain pass. It’s a moderately difficult 6 km / 3.7 mi. walk over a 300-metre pass, and is well worth the experience for those that are fit and able. The Greg Mortimer will meet us as we arrive into Stromness Bay. Bay of Isles One of the wildlife highlights will be visiting the serene wandering albatrosses sitting proudly on their cute downy chicks. We can observe within respectful distance of these magnificent gentle birds while they perform intimate courtship dances, feed their young or clumsily launch themselves into the air, bound for a fishing trip.
Days 13-14
En-route to the Antarctic Peninsula we'll head across the Scotia Sea, following the route that Shackleton and five of his men took in order to find help for the rest of their crew. On 24 April, 1916, they piled into the James Caird, the most seaworthy of their open boats, to attempt this perilous journey to South Georgia - some 1,290 km / 801 mi. distance. Shackleton hoped to reach South Georgia in two weeks. There he would enlist the help of the whalers to return to Elephant Island and rescue the men who had been left behind. As excitement builds for our arrival to Antarctica, be out on deck or from the open bridge to spot large iceberg.
Days 15-19
Over the next few days a host of choices are open to us, and depending on ice and weather conditions, the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because we are so far south, we will experience approximately 18-20 hours of daylight and the days can be as busy as you wish. We will generally try for two landings or Zodiac excursions each day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs; following whales that are feeding near the surface; and landing on the continent and its off-shore islands to visit penguin rookeries, seal haul outs, historic huts, and a few of our other favourite spots along the peninsula. There will be plenty of time for sleep when you get home! There are many exciting places we can choose to visit; a sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, and photograph or view spectacular wildlife follows: Paradise Harbour A protected bay surrounded by magnificent peaks and spectacular glaciers, the rocky cliffs of this spectacular harbour provide perfect nesting sites for blue-eyed shags, terns and gulls. The serenity of Paradise Harbour envelops us once the ship’s engine is turned off. This is a haven for whales and we keep our eyes open for humpbacks, orcas, minkes, and crabeater seals, as we explore the bay in Zodiacs. Hydrurga Rocks This group of low-lying unprotected granitic rocks protrude from the sea, swept by ocean swells. At first these rocks appear uninteresting, but on closer investigation, calm channels lead to a hidden interior where Weddell seals are hauled out on protected snow beds and noisy chinstrap penguins raise their families on rocky platforms. Hydrurga is the Latin family name for leopard seal (Hydrurga Leonina), and on occasions we see some skulking in the shallows. There are many places to simply sit and watch the rise and fall of clear green water and listen to the magic sounds and calls of the wildlife. Half Moon Island This wildlife-rich island is tucked into a neat bay at the eastern end of Livingston Island. On a clear day, the glaciers and mountains of Livingston Island dominate the vista. There is a large chinstrap penguin colony tucked in between basaltic turrets coloured by yellow and orange lichens. Gulls nest on these turrets and there are often fur seals and elephant seals hauled out on the pebble beaches. There is a large rookery of nesting blue-eyed shags at one end of the island, while at the other end of the island lies a small Argentinian station that is sometimes occupied by scientists conducting research on the penguin colony and surrounding waterways. Lemaire Channel If ice conditions allow, standing on the observation deck of the Greg Mortimer quietly as the ship sails along the narrow Lemaire Channel could certainly be one of the highlights of our voyage. Cliffs tower 700 metres / 2,296 feet straight out of the ocean on either side of the ship. The water can sometimes be so still that perfect reflections are mirrored on the surface and it is clear to see why this Channel is often called “Kodak Alley”. Gigantic icebergs may clog the channel, creating navigational challenges for our Captain and crew; occasionally they may even obstruct our passage. Port Lockroy Located on Goudier Island, British Port Lockroy is an important site for both scientific research and visitors to the Antarctic continent. Designated a historic site in 1994 and opened to the Antarctic tourism industry in 1996, it was discovered in 1904 and used by the whaling industry in the first half of the 1900s. It was part of the British Operation Tabarin during World War II, and was later used as a British Research Station. Today, Pork Lockroy is manned by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and operates as a museum, gift shop and post office for visitors from passing Antarctic expeditions. You can even send a post card home from the Penguin Post Office, the world’s most southern Post Office. Neko Harbour Located in Andvord Bay, Neko Harbour is an inlet home to gentoo penguins, and regularly welcomes Weddell seals. The scenery is dramatic - towering peaks and calving glaciers surround the harbour. The thundering crack of the glaciers as they calve is sure to stop you in your tracks. Robert Point A fine example of the South Shetland Islands – tiny ts of land that are literally alive with wildlife. Here, there are two species of penguins breeding - chinstrap and gentoo. It is not uncommon to find wallows of elephant seals that are 60 beasts strong. Giant petrels nest on the ridgeline.
Day 20
You may choose to spend the sea days returning to Ushuaia editing your photos, enjoying the onboard facilities, or listening to an informative lecture.
Day 21
During the early morning, we sail along the Beagle Channel, before quietly slipping into dock in Ushuaia, where we begin disembarking at around 8.00 am. Farewell your expedition team and fellow travellers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.