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Antarctica Expedition: In the Footsteps of Sir Douglas Mawson

offered by supplier M19682 (read about supplier)

Key Information:
Tour Duration: 27 day(s)
Group Size: 15 - 50 people
Destination(s): Antarctica  
Specialty Categories: Wildlife Viewing   Boating and Sailing  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 19020 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 24810 US Dollar (USD)

Sir Douglas Mawson is arguably the grandfather of Antarctic science. The Australian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914 is notable for its achievements and sadly its tragedies.

This expedition departs from Tasmania, an island with strong historical links to Antarctica from the beginning of the twenty-first century. Hobart's deep-water estuary and southernmost location meant many Antarctic explorers used its harbour.

Encouraged by the success of Shackleton’s 1908-09 Nimrod expedition, of which he was a member, Douglas Mawson planned his own expedition to explore the Antarctic coastline directly south of Australia. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition sailed from Hobart on the 2nd of December 1911, making a brief stop at Macquarie Island to establish a radio base and then making landfall at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay. Unbeknownst to Mawson and his men, they had discovered the windiest place on the planet – renowned as the ‘home of the blizzard’. Tragedy struck the expedition when Ninnis and Mertz, the other two members of Mawson’s three-man Far Eastern Sledging Party, died. Mawson returned to base blinded by snow and having cheated death on more than one occasion. He made it back so late in the season that he had to overwinter in Antarctica as his relief ship had sailed.

Mawson’s Hut at Cape Denison still stands; protected against the extreme weather for which the region is renowned. Cape Denison has historically been one of the very few ice free and readily accessible areas along the East Antarctic coastline. However when the Mertz Glacier tongue broke off in 2010 it blocked the annual movement of sea ice preventing any shipping and effectively isolating the area.

Ice conditions in the region have gradually been improving. Attempts have been made to reach Mawson’s Hut over the last three austral summers, with the 2017/18 season coming the closest yet with only the strong Katabatic winds making a landing unachievable with the vessel having successfully negotiated the ice to an anchoring position. The ice situation in the region is dynamic and constantly changing, even more so in January of each year, so as we approach Commonwealth Bay we will be sourcing up-to-date ice maps and predictions from a number of specialist institutions. This information will enable us to make informed decisions on the best way to approach Commonwealth Bay. Despite missing a landing at Mawson’s Hut on the last three expeditions, we believe with the recent changes in the ice that it is worthy of another attempt.

If we are unfortunate and are unable to make a landing at Mawson’s Hut, we will look to the west and Cape Martin and the Petrel Islands (including the French Base) for a number of really exciting landings and/or to the east and the northern Ross Sea region including the Balleny Islands and Cape Adare for some equally stunning wildlife encounters and landings including some fascinating historic sites.

Day 1: Hobart.
Arrive in Hobart, Australia’s second-oldest city and southernmost capital with strong connections to the Antarctic continent. Meet your fellow voyagers and expedition staff for an informal get-together over dinner at the hotel, where you will stay overnight.

Day 2: Port of Hobart.
We transfer you to the port where staff will welcome you on board the Akademik Shokalskiy and as you settle into your cabin, our adventure begins.

Days 3 to 5: At Sea.
As we make our way through an area known as the roaring ‘40s we will have a series of lectures on the biology and history of the Subantarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean and we will prepare for our arrival at Macquaire Island. En route to Macquarie Island, we can observe pelagic species at our ease. Great birding opportunities may include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and Little Shearwater. We will endeavour to spot the Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion and Antarctic Prion – never an easy task – but we should get some great views.

Days 6 to 7: Macquarie Island.
Described by one Australian explorer as “One of the wonder spots of the world” this is the only place in the world where the beautiful Royal Penguin breeds. Three other species of penguins, the King, Gentoo and Rockhopper also breed here. You will never forget your first experience of a noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors and where you will be immersed in a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays. This all happens amongst the hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals lolling on the beaches and dunes. On arrival we meet with scientists and Park Rangers based here who will accompany us on all our landings.

Days 8 to 10: At Sea.
Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel as we steam ever southward through the Southern Ocean. Lectures now concentrate on the Antarctic region and beyond the bow of the ship; drifting icebergs of extraordinary shapes 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 photos while they are fresh in your mind.

Days 11 to 19: Commonwealth Bay and beyond.
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.

Days 20 to 22: At Sea.
Taking time to rest and enjoy shipboard life in the bar or library after the excitement and long daylight hours of the Antarctic, we have time for lectures on our final destination and for some pelagic bird spotting.

Days 23 to 24: Campbell Island – Perseverance Harbour.
We spend two days exploring the island by foot taking in the panorama of rocky islets and sea stacks; once the lonely preserve of settlers and seal hunters and now returned to nature. Enjoy an easy walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross at Col Lyall or walk across the hills to Northwest Bay and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge pink and yellow wild flowers have adapted well to the harsh conditions. We also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and, on the beaches beyond, young male sea lions testing their strength.

Day 25: At Sea and Auckland Islands.
We spend this morning en route to the Auckland Islands, arriving in Carnley Harbour this afternoon. These islands have witnessed many a shipwreck in days gone by. Loaded in human history, they harbour tales of castaways, bullion and coastwatchers through to today’s scientific visitors. If weather and sea conditions permit visit the Shy Mollymawk colony at South West Cape or if weather is not suitable we will select one of a number of other sites available to us.

Day 26: Auckland Islands – Enderby Island.
Named for the same distinguished shipping family as our own vessel and one of the most beautiful islands in the group, this is a great birding location and a chance to see everything from the famous Southern Royal Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel to parakeets, Bellbirds and the endemic shag, teal and snipe. Sandy Bay is one of three breeding grounds on the Auckland Islands for the rare Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion.

Day 27: The Snares – North East Island.
North East Island is the largest of The Snares and staggeringly, this one island is claimed by some to be home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. Zodiac cruising the rugged coastline we learn how the islands got their name and encounter Snares Crested Penguins, Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross on the imposing cliffs. We are also likely to encounter Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns, Red-billed Gulls, Tomtits and Fernbirds.

Day 28: Invercargill.
We arrive at the Port of Bluff early in the morning. After breakfast, customs formalities and a last minute opportunity to bid farewell to your expedition team, you disembark and board our complimentary coach transfer to downtown Invercargill or Invercargill Airport.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Heritage Suite - $24,810 pp
Mini Suite - $23,610 pp
Superior Plus - $22,510 pp
Superior - $21,110 pp
Main Deck - $19,020 pp
Landing Fees - $880 pp
(All prices are per person in USD)

About This Supplier
Location: New Zealand
Joined InfoHub: Sep 2009

M19682 was formed in 1985, as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel. It’s founder Rodney Russ was a biologist working for the New Zealand Wildlife Service. Through his work on Kakapo, Black Robin and other endangered species he appreciated that...

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