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March 2019


Special Antarctica Expedition 

March 2nd-15th 2019

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be onboard the beautiful Island Sky to conduct a ground-breaking study on the feeding habits of humpback whales

WHOI  - the world's leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research

As the Antarctic summer comes to a close in March, migratory whale species like the humpback are very active, socializing and feeding in preparation for the long journey ahead. Resident whale species like the Minke and orca are abundant, and you stand a good chance of encountering Southern Right whales and some of the larger pelagic species. Leopard seals are also very busy in March, hunting naive penguin chicks as they mature, develop their waterproof feathers, and make their first journeys to the sea. 

On this very special voyage, join the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI*), the world's leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research, for a trip to Antarctica and a study on the feeding habits of humpback whales. Humpbacks migrate thousands of miles to their feeding ground in the Southern Ocean, yet virtually nothing is known about how these whales find the krill that they consume. The more that can be learned through this study, the better the world can understand how global warming—which is impacting the distribution and volume of krill in the oceans—will affect large whale populations.

All guests on this voyage will have the opportunity to participate as the scientists onboard track whales and collect data. In addition to ongoing briefings on the study’s progress, a panel discussion will be held on The Future of the Antarctic. The panel will feature the WHOI Team, whale expert Annette Bombosch, PhD, and special guest Peter Neill, the founding Director of the World Ocean Observatory, a platform for education and information exchange on the health of the ocean. In addition, a British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) film crew will be on board to gather footage for their "Big Blue Live" series.

Day 5-8

South Shetland Islands / Antarctic Peninsula

Exploring the South Shetland Islands, you may visit Half Moon Island with its stunning backdrop or mountainous and glaciated Livingston Island. Or perhaps the ship will sail into an active volcano and you'll have an opportunity to take a dip in the relatively balmy waters that surround Deception Island. Bransfield Strait, once the site of an abandoned whaling station, offers an excellent chance to see whales that often return to its rich waters.

In the waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula, your expedition leader and captain will create a flexible itinerary based on weather, ice, and previous sightings to maximize your whale watching opportunities, while also exploring some of the lesser-traveled areas of the Peninsula. They will aim for the most scenic bays and channels, with stops at penguin rookeries, seal wallows, bird colonies, and whale feeding areas, as well as sites of historic and scientific interest. The WHOI team will begin their research and give periodic updates on the study's progress.

Day 9 – 11

Antarctic Peninsula

Heading further South, you will explore the Gerlache Strait and its surrounding channels and islands. They may include trips to picturesque Neko Harbor, sheltered Paradise Harbor, the humpback whale-favored Wilhelmina Bay, the striking Lemaire Channel, the wildlife-filled Penola Straight, or the majestic Neumayer Channel. You may stop at an active scientific base such as Poland's Arctowksi or Ukraine's Vernadsky, as well as an historic base such as U.K.'s Port Lockroy or Wordie House.

At this time of year, most areas have amazing marine mammal viewing opportunities with Antarctic fur, Weddell, and Crabeater seals often found hauled out to rest along with predatory Leopard seals. Minke and humpback whales are frequent visitors during this season and Orca sightings are also common.

During this time, all onboard experts will take part in a panel discussion entitled The Future of the Antarctic Ecosystem.

Day 12 – 13

Drake Passage

As you leave this magical place and make your way north, heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage, the presentation series and wildlife spotting will continue. The WHOI team will give a final briefing on their field results. Sailing back to Ushuaia through the Beagle Channel, you will celebrate the conclusion of the expedition with a special slideshow.

Day 14

Ushuaia / Disembarkation

A morning disembarkation in Ushuaia allows you to catch a flight to Buenos Aires or stay in Ushuaia for more sights and adventure.

Pod of Whales

Get a taste of Antarctica as it was experienced by the early explorers. After a delicious dinner onboard, jump back in the Zodiacs and head ashore for a night of camping in Antarctica! Help to set up camp, then enjoy the sounds of the waves, the creaking of the glaciers, and perhaps even the blow of a passing whale!

Ushuaia, Argentina

Arrive in Ushuaia anytime today or take advantage of a complimentary pre-arrival night (up to 24 hours in advance) and stay at the Arakur Hotel & Resort. Today is all yours: explore some of the sights that Ushuaia has to offer, from museums to Argentinean leather markets, or continue relaxing at the lovely Arakur. Join an optional evening briefing to ask questions and meet some of your fellow travelers.

Day 1


After a complimentary buffet breakfast, you're free to explore Ushuaia or unwind at the resort until your mid-afternoon transfer to the ship. Onboard, you'll be greeted by your expedition team and the ship's officers. A concise safety and orientation briefing will be followed by the captain's welcome dinner. After dinner, relax and take in the scenery on your early evening sail through the Beagle Channel, past Magellanic Penguin, Rock Cormorant, and Sea Lion colonies.

Day 2

Drake Passage

As you make your way ever closer to the Great White Continent, your expedition team will be out on deck and on the bridge, looking for whales and dolphins as you travel south. They will prepare you with presentations on everything Antarctic – from wildlife to history, including helpful briefings on environmental regulations and expedition safety. The WHOI team will present an overview of their study's goals and methods. Eventually, you'll cross the Antarctic Convergence, where you'll notice a distinct drop in temperature as you enter the waters of the Southern Ocean. 

Those eager to participate in Citizen Science can take part in seabird sighting surveys or help collect salinity samples and weather data along the way. The length of the journey depends on sea conditions, but you should approach the South Shetland Islands on the evening of Day 4. The expedition team will keep an especially keen watch for pelagic whales as you approach the nutrient rich upwelling areas of the Continental Shelf.

Day 3-4

The Citizen Science program is complimentary and open to anyone onboard who wants to help with real-world scientific research.  From penguin surveys to measuring ocean salinity, there are several projects you can take part in. Participation availability can vary. On this voyage, follow the work of four scientists as they collect data about the feeding habits of Baleen whales for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Little is known about how these whales find the krill that they consume, and gaining an understanding is important as global warming continues to impact the distribution and volume of krill in our oceans. There will be opportunities to participate and receive ongoing briefings on the data gathered as the study progresses. 

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Contact Greig Smith Travels for full itinerary details, cabin specifics and rates!   Don't miss this unique expedition.  

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