An article in The Independentnewspaper asks questions about safety matters relating to cruise ships sailing to Antarctica.
General and specific information on Antarctic tours can be located at the very useful website of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO).
IAATO advocates, promotes and practises safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic, and provides a full list of members and guidelines for visitors, plus links and recommended reading.
Further information on Tour Operators and destinations covered can also be found collected together at the website of IAATO member ExpeditionTrips.com (6553 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98136, USA, Phone: 206 547-0700 Fax: 206 634-9104 email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Aurora Expeditions (www.auroraexpeditions.com)
Fathom Expeditions (www.fathomexpeditions.com)
Heritage Expeditions (www.heritage-expeditions.com)
Quark Expeditions (www.quarkexpeditions.com)
Zegrahm Expeditions (http://www.zeco.com)
Australian-based Aurora Expeditions run expeditions regularly to South Georgia and the Antarctic Pensinsula.
2004 trips included Commonwealth Bay and Mawson's camp; Christmas/New Year cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula; South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula; the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula; and perhaps most importantly, Aurora's Shackleton Odyssey.
Aurora first included the Shackleton Odyssey in its programme in 2000. The voyage was immensely popular and very successful, and managed to visit all of the accessible sites significant to The Boss's Southern Ocean epic.
This 2004 Shackleton Odyssey departed from Ushaia and explored the northern Weddell Sea, skirting Elephant Island and returning across the Scotia Sea to the south-western side of South Georgia (reversing the route of Aurora's other two 'South Georgia' voyages).
Aurora Cruises for 2005 and 2006 will once again include, from 26 Feb to 17 March 2006, the Shackleton Odyssey. Other cruises include The Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula; The Antarctic Peninsular Christmas and New Year Trips 05-06; Ross Sea Bluff to Hobart; and Across the (Antarctic) Circle. Cruises are aboard the Polar Pioneer.
Contact details : 182A Cumberland Street, The Rocks, NSW 2000, Australia.
Tel +61-2-9252-1033 Fax +61-2-9252-1373 email http://auroraexpeditions.com/html/mailto.html
Details of Elderhostel Tours, which in the past have taken in South Georgia, the South Shetlands, Drake Passage and the Antarctic Peninsula aboard the Swedish icebreaker MV Polar Star are available online.
Elderhostel is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing extraordinary learning adventures for people 55 and over based in the United States, and is the world's largest educational and travel organization for adults aged 55 and over.
Elderhostel lists two study trips to Antarctica, one in 2005 and the other in 2006.
Global Holiday Traditions: A Celebration in Antarctica (Study Cruise) runs from 17 Dec 2005 to 3 Jan 2006: 'Celebrate the season learning about holiday traditions from around the world as you venture through Antarctica. This festive journey also introduces the Antarctic Peninsula and its rich natural world. Study penguins, seals, whales, birds and the nutrient-rich waters in which they feed as you move past deeply crevassed glaciers, and huge icebergs floating in fjords and sounds. Spend Christmas aboard the MV Polar Star, and ring in the New Year in Buenos Aires, "the Paris of South America." Vessel itinerary subject to local conditions, and regulations set forth by the Antarctic Treaty system.'
The Antarctic Peninsula (Adventure Afloat - Study Cruise) runs for 15 nights from 2 - 17 Feb 2006: 'Journey along the Antarctic Peninsula and, conditions permitting, to the Antarctic Circle. Our expedition takes us past majestic mountains that reach 9,000', deeply crevassed glaciers, and huge icebergs floating in fjords and sounds. Amazingly, life thrives here. Observe penguins, seals, whales, birds and the nutrient-rich waters in which they feed.'
Expeditions during 2005 also include Patagonia and Southern Argentina (Patagonia: Hiking At The End Of The Earth. Nov 2005).
Elderhostel's address is 11 Avenue de Lafayette, Boston, MA 02111-1746 (Massachusetts), USA. Tel +1-978-323-4141 Fax +1-617-426-0701 email email@example.com
Fathom Expeditions was born, it says, 'on the inspiration of the Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Drawing on 110 previous Antarctic expeditions and a strong passion for exploration and learning, we have created a boutique and personal expedition company dedicated to once-in-a-lifetime experience using small ships to travel the remote regions of the world.
'The company is owned and operated by the very expedition leaders that guide our trips. We work closely with every client to ensure proper preparation and information flow. Our experienced team holds a tremendous passion for the planet's wilderness regions and we hope that this enthusiasm shows in our itineraries and programs. We have purposely kept our product line small and specialized to ensure every detail is well laid out and of the highest quality. The rewards that stem from one of our trips to the last continent are varied and numerous. Our Expedition Leaders delight in demystifying these places for travelers of all walks of life. In the words of explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton - "Never the last endeavour"'
What sets them aside, they maintain, is the fact that their Expedition Leaders deal with clients directly. Furthermore, they have extensive experience: 'Antarctica is a remote, little known destination. We specialize in this region. Our staff (from the president on down) have journeyed South dozens of times to lead a variety of interest groups including IMAX film teams, scientists, naturalists, and explorers. Our on-land knowledge has been honed during hands-on expedition experience. Our experience translates directly into our products.'
Over the years, Fathom have (they maintain) developed a widespread network of friends, associates and institutions. They utilize all our contacts to ensure each expedition is meticulously crafted and flawlessly executed.
Thir trips, they assert, 'tend to be slightly longer than other to ensure a relaxed unhurried, thorough experience. Itineraries are ambitious and exciting. They visit the secret places we have discovered over the years.'
Fathom Expeditions'Antarctic trips early in 2004 included the Spirit of Shackleton/Scotia Voyage.
The voyage retraced the route of Shackleton, the Endurance and the James Caird, from the five mile icebergs of the Weddell Sea to Elephant Island and the Stromness whaling station on South Georgia, cataloguing Shackleton's trials with a visit to his grave at the abandoned Grytviken whaling station. Adventurers had the opportunity to follow part of Shackleton's path on foot (walk/hike/or climb) and to land in King Haakon Bay, where the James Caird beached and Shackleton and his five men - Worsley, Crean, McCarthy, McNeigh and Vincent - came ashore.
In addition to retracing this famed route by steam and foot, there was the opportunity to sail a small boat : in 2002, Fathom built their very own replica of the James Caird, Shackleton's famed lifeboat; this new version of the Caird took the Spirit of Shackleton voyage to a whole new level, making modern-day history. On the voyage Fathom again offered passengers the opportunity to re-live the experience of sailing in the southern ocean in a veritable 22 ft. wooden lifeboat akin to the original James Caird of 1914.
'To our delight, we had master boat builder, Bob Wallace, aboard. And there was an opportunity to forge part of the Shackleton route, with our special guest, David Hahn, climber/explorer and adventurer. This is a rare adventure cruise with the opportunity to venture inland in both South Georgia and Antarctica.'
Into the Ice, Fathom's other expedition (12th February 04 to 21st February 04), heads for Terra Australis Incognita, the Unknown Southern Land, which lies at the bottom of the world surrounded by the Antarctic Ocean. It is a place of profound beauty, isolation, and wilderness - a world blanketed with ice at times 15,000 feet thick and 60,000 years old. The expedition attempts to approach the Antarctic Circle through the protected bays and fjords of the Peninsula Region, making daily use of Fathom's fleet of Zodiac boats for planned and spontaneous landings and cruises.
Heritage Expeditions, New Zealand’s award winning Expedition Company, was established in 1985 by NZ Wildlife Officer Rodney Russ. The company runs Expeditions to the the Ross Sea including Franklin Island, McMurdo Bay and visit to Shackleton's Hut) and to the New Zealand Galapagos (embracing the sub-Antarctic islands south and east of New Zealand's South Island).
Heritage Expeditions aims to introduce more people so that more people can see and experience these remote, isolated environments and the birds and animals that breed there.
Rodney Russ, the company founder, worked for the New Zealand Wildlife Service (now Department of Conservation) as a biologist responsible for the management and conservation of rare and endangered bird species. His work took him the length and breadth of New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic Islands. He left the Wildlife Service after 12 years to further his studies at the University of Otago.
He has always been passionate about the urgency and importance of sharing the natural world with people, emphasising the need for advocacy in a successful conservation strategy. Heritage Expeditions was formed in 1985 to co-ordinate an increasing number of guiding and lecturing assignments.
Today the company regularly organises expeditions throughout New Zealand, the Sub Antarctic Islands and Antarctica. It is a family run business: eldest son Aaron works as zodiac driver/lecturer while completing his PhD studies in zoology; younger son Nathan, who is studying to be a chef at the Christchurch Institute of Food Technology, works on the ship as a chef.
The company has been at the forefront of developing what is now called “Ecotourism” or responsible tourism. It has been awarded the Air New Zealand Ecotourism Award, the New Zealand Tourism Board – Best Natural History Operator and highly commended in the British Airways – “Tourism for Tomorrow” Awards. Rodney has presented papers at international and domestic conferences on Ecotourism.
The company has put a lot of energy and money back into Conservation work in New Zealand. It funded a major research project into the distribution and abundance of the Fiordland Crested Penguin. It donated money for the purchase of some of the first radio tracking devices for Wandering Albatross work in the New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands. They provide transport for researchers and equipment to the Sub Antarctic Islands for the Dept of Conservation and Universities and recently undertook to deploy a number of weather bouys in the southern ocean on behalf of the University of Washington and the New Zealand Metrological Service.
Recent Heritage Expeditions included In the Footsteps of Scott and Shackleton (2003); South to Antarctica - the Ross Sea (Jan-Feb 03) and two expeditions to the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia (Nov-Dec03 and Feb-Mar 04).
'The Ross Sea region is the "Heart of Antarctica". It was the backdrop to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration and will always be the most historically interesting part of Antarctica. Borchgrevink's, Shackleton's and Scott’s huts stand as a monument to these and other great Antarctic Explorers. Visitors to Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds say they can feel the presence of "The Boss" when they enter his hut.
'The region is also a place of unparalleled opportunities:- A voyage to this part of Antarctica takes you across the Antarctic Circle and to within 780 miles of the South Pole, as far south as any ship can penetrate. Other highlights include the huge Adelie Penguin Colony (arguably the largest in the world) at Cape Adare, spectacular Cape Hallet, beautiful Coulman Island, the vast Ross Ice Shelf, Mount Erebus volcano, the scientific bases of McMurdo, Scott and Terra Nova. The wildlife includes emperor penguins, whales and seals.'
'By contrast, from South America Antarctica is much more accessible than from the Ross Sea, everything is much closer, meaning less time at sea and more time ashore with the wildlife. Because the Antarctic Peninsula is further north winter pack ice clears earlier allowing shipping access from November till March, giving you much greater flexibility with your travel plans.
'All departures feature the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. Icy peaks fall straight to the sea, humpback whales feed among icebergs and countless penguins bustle about. With so much to see there are numerous opportunities for landings in the sheltered waters, in just a few days you experience a disproportionately large amount.'
The company has also organised and led expeditions to the Pacific, Asia, South Georgia, Antarctic Peninsula and the Arctic. Their goal in everything they do is to provide opportunities which enhance the travellers experience and understanding of the natural world.
Heritage Expeditions are led by experienced Southern Ocean naturalists who have devoted a lifetime to research in this region.
Lindblad Expeditions helps turn vacationers into explorers. Small groups set sail on nimble expedition ships and voyage to unique destinations around the globe, going places cruise liners can't. A roster of celebrated expedition leaders and naturalists will guarantee every minute of every day is filled with excitement and discovery.
'Come aboard and experience a world of adventure travel you never knew existed': LIndblad runs trips via Santiago, Chile to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica, and also expeditions to Arctic Norway and the Galapagos Islands.
A special feature of Lindbblad is that 'Every day our expedition teams file accounts directly from their cruise ships, detailing intriguing aspects of their voyages. Track your friends and family on their group adventure travels, or explore a destination of interest.'
Quark Expeditions has been one of the leading innovators and operators of expedition cruises, especially in polar regions, since 1991. The company has pioneered and developed a concept of fantastically adventurous journeys in first class comfort on powerful, polar icebreakers.
Many "First-Ever" passenger voyages have been successfully operated by Quark: the first Weddell Sea voyage, the first Circumnavigation of Antarctica, the first "Far Side" of Antarctica voyage, the first North Pole voyage, the first transpolar voyage through the North Pole, the first Northeast Passage and the first Circumnavigation of the Arctic are all part of this tradition.
Zegrahm Expeditions, based in Seattle, USA, runs regular expeditions to Antarctica. Zegrahm also mounts expeditions to the Galapagos Islands and the South Pacific, as well as to Mongolia and other destinations.
'Our expeditions to Antarctica offer the opportunity of treading where no one may have been before as we ride Zodiacs through waters populated by whales and seals to land amid masses of raucous penguins or albatross colonies, or negotiating pack ice and tabular icebergs aboard an icebreaker. We well deserve our reputation as the most experienced operator in Antarctica; combined, our leaders have visited the Great White Continent more than 250 times.
Current and future Zegrahm expeditions include:
Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands (Departures: Dec 1-20 2005 and Jan 3-24 2006). 'This Antarctica cruise (aboard the Clipper Adventurer), sails from Argentina to the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula and Elephant Island, the little-known natural wonderland of South Georgia, and finishes in the Falkland Islands. Join us as we journey through this thrilling land of penguins, icebergs, and Sir Ernest Shackleton. Activities include Birding, Hiking, Natural history, Photography, Sightseeing, Zodiac cruises.
The Clipper Adventurer is a superb ocean-going vessel equipped with stabilizers and an ice-hardened hull that allow her to navigate easily in the most rugged natural environments. The vessel is outfitted with state-of-the-art satellite navigation and communication equipment. A fleet of Zodiac landing craft permits us to land anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. Each cabin has an ocean view, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, an in-room music system, and en suite bathroom. Facilities on board the Clipper Adventurer include a dining room, lounge, library, hair salon, gift shop, infirmary staffed by a registered physician, laundry, and small gym. The Clipper Adventurer is classified A-1 ice class for unrestricted passenger service by the Lloyd’s Register.
Zegrahm's other 2005 Antarctic expedition is 'Emperors of Antarctica: An Expedition to the Ross Sea'. 'Join us on a remarkable journey to the bottom of the world, Antarctica’s Ross Sea, a region of pack ice, emperor penguin rookeries, and a significant heritage of polar exploration. Traveling aboard an icebreaker, we are able to reach otherwise inaccessible sites and wildlife sanctuaries. Conditions permitting, we will land by helicopter atop the Ross Ice Shelf, an ice barrier the size of France.'
Contact details are : Zegrahm & Eco Expeditions, 192 Nickerson Street, #200 Seattle, WA 98109, USA. Tel 800-628-8747 or 206-285-4000 Fax 206 285-5037 email firstname.lastname@example.org.