Sunday, December 28, 2003

Antarctic Cruise


The Antarctic continues to amaze, enthral and captivate travellers. One of the last true wilderness areas left on earth, Antarctica is a continent overflowing with superlatives. A world within the world, these inhospitable shores play host to the greatest concentration of wildlife known to man and despite centuries of exploration, and some exploitation, it remains largely unchanged since the first men sighted its windswept shores.

are proud to have played a small part in the opening up of this huge landmass to regular travellers. For thirty years, we have brought visitors from all around the world to marvel at Antarctica’s extremes and sheer beauty. Many of the people who travelled with us in our early days continue to venture south with us today.

We believe our ability to keep adventurers coming back again and again is our commitment to continually come up with new and exciting itineraries. Ultimate Antarctica is such an adventure.

an absolute polar wilderness experience.

Imagine the exhilaration when our adventurers created a world record in January 2001 as our Kapitan Khlebnikov reached further south than any ship in history – 78 deg 37 min! Although not every voyage breaks records, your own personal experience will be one that lasts forever.

The Kapitan Khlebnikov will be under way almost constantly for over one hundred days

Her first thirty days will one of the most amazing journeys any expeditioner could possibly undertake. Even for many of our highly experienced crew, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Why? Because on November 24 you’ll bear witness to a total eclipse of the sun and quite likely be the first people ever to do so in this extremely remote part of Antarctica – the West Ice Shelf.

The Far Side on Antarctica from the scenic South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth and immediately plunges deep into the rich waters of the Southern Ocean to be escorted by a variety of exotic seabirds including albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters. All the way your knowledge of these majestic birds will be enriched by illustrated lectures from our expert expedition staff.

First landfall is made on November 9 at the Crozet Islands. Previously a staging point for sealers and whalers, and now home to a French research station dramatically situated amongst the island’s mountains, headlands, coastal cliffs and sandy beaches. This remote land is also home to numerous species of albatross and thousands of enchanting King Penguins. Moulting southern elephant seals add their own special sounds and smells to this abundant mix of sub-antarctic wildlife.

The voyage continues deeper south to the French administered Kerguelen Island where another landing will investigate the ever-increasing wildlife populations. More than thirty species of nesting birds can be seen, including Rockhopper, Gentoo and King Penguins. The exact landing point will be determined by prevailing conditions and a visit to the biological station, Port aux Francais is anticipated.

Still further south, the Kapitan Khlebnikov will skirt the loftiest and most southern of the Indian Ocean Islands, Heard Island. Inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage in 1997 for its ecological and biological significance, it is often described as the wildest place on earth thanks to its smoking volcano (Big Ben) and enormous glaciers.

Soon after the last glimpse of Heard Island has disappeared below the horizon, the temperature begins to dip markedly as we are subject to the frozen breezes emanating from Antarctica itself. Whales and icebergs become part of the seascape, heralding our ultimate destination.

Now two weeks out of Port Elizabeth, we begin to see our mighty icebreaker at work, lunging at and subduing huge ice floes. The first helicopter flights will take place about this time, affording breathtaking views of the vessel in its element.

Our first contact with the great continent approaches as we make for the Chinese station of Zhongshan near the Larsemann Hills, where a visit is planned.

Immediately following our first continental landfall we proceed to the frozen cove of Amanda Bay, a fairytale setting of granite islands, glaciers and icebergs. Again we will join the very select few who have visited an Emperor Penguin colony, unique in the fact that they are the only birds to breed on the frozen sea. The largest of the penguin family, you’ll see their solitary grey chicks still huddling at the parent’s feet extracting whatever warmth they can. Again, an experience only a very few people will ever be able to recount.

The following day we visit the famous Australian base of Mawson where, time permitting, we’ll have a conducted tour of the base and a chance to see some of the huge Adélie penguin population and attendant leopard and Weddell seals.

Next, in company of Minke Whales and Orcas, we skirt the massive West Ice Shelf in search of the rare Ross seal, all the while in anticipation of our impending total solar eclipse.

We plan to observe the celestial event off the Queen Mary Coast, smack in the middle of the eclipse’s path. As a further enhancement to this unique occurrence, the ship’s position so far south and so near to the southern summer solstice, it will give the impression of an eclipse of the night-time sun!

The final leg visits Australia’s Casey Station amidst an ongoing abundance of vast tabular icebergs past the spectacular Petersen Bank. A floating ice BBQ is planned before the ship finally makes its way back to Hobart for the culmination of this eternally memorable adventure.

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