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In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton

Antarctica Birding Tours: our Antarctica bird watching and wildlife holiday to the Ross Sea region also visits the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia. This unusual Antarctica birding tour is undoubtedly one of the best trips for seabirds on Earth! Numbers and variety are quite extraordinary, from huge albatrosses to tiny storm-petrels and diving-petrels. This fantastic Antarctica bird watching expedition visits the Ross Sea coast of the continent, where Emperor and Adelie Penguins and Snow Petrels occur amidst fantastic scenery and fascinating historical artefacts. It also explores the Snares, the Aucklands, Macquarie and Campbell, the very best of the Subantarctic islands, known as ‘The Galapagos of the Southern Ocean’.

Saturday 8th February — Sunday 8th March 2020
(30 days)

Leader: Heritage Expeditions leaders

Group Size Limit: 15

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

For seabird enthusiasts, this has to be one of the greatest experiences possible on earth - nowhere will you see more penguins and albatrosses! This Royal Penguin is emerging from the surf on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

For seabird enthusiasts, this has to be one of the greatest experiences possible on earth - nowhere will you see more penguins and albatrosses! This Royal Penguin is emerging from the surf on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent's human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non-scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. Heritage Expeditions offers such a voyage on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.

The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1842. The British Royal Geographical Society chose the Ross Sea for the now famous British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901-04 led by Robert Falcon Scott. That one expedition spawned what is sometimes referred to as the ‘Race to the Pole'. Ernest Shackleton almost succeeded in 1907-09 and the Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase tried in 1910-12. Scott thought it was his, but was beaten by his rival, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the summer of 1911. Shackleton's Trans Antarctic expedition in 1914-17 marked the end of this ‘heroic' or ‘golden age' of exploration, but many of the relics of this era, including some huts, remain. The dramatic landscape described by these early explorers is unchanged. Mt. Erebus, Mt. Discovery and the Transantarctic Mountains are as inspiring today as they were 100 years ago. The penguin rookeries described by the early biologists fluctuate in numbers from year to year but they still occupy the same sites. The seals which are no longer hunted for food, lie around on ice floes seemingly unperturbed. The whales, which were hunted so ruthlessly here in the 1920s, are slowly coming back, but it is a long way from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. Emperor and Adelie Penguins, Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Antarctic Prions and South Polar Skuas all breed in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

There is so much to do and so much to see here, from exploring historic huts and sites to visiting penguin rookeries, marvelling at the glacial ice tongues and ice shelves and understanding the icebergs and sea ice. Then there are all the seabirds, seals and whales to observe and photograph, modern scientific bases and field camps to visit and simply the opportunity to spend time drinking in the marvellous landscape that has always enthralled visitors.

Lying like stepping stones to the Antarctic continent are the little known Subantarctic Islands. Our journey includes The Snares, Auckland's, Macquarie and Campbell Island. They break our long journey but more importantly they help prepare us for what lies ahead, for these islands are part of the amazing and dynamic Southern Ocean ecosystem of which Antarctica is at the very heart. It is the power house which drives this ecosystem upon which the world depends.

We shall be sailing on the Professor Khromov, a ship operated by Heritage Expeditions of New Zealand (who call her Spirit of Enderby). Ships of this class are Finnish-built vessels under Russian registry that were built in the 1980s and early 1990s under commission from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. They were originally intended for oceanographic research, but were subsequently adapted for expedition-style cruising following the financial cutbacks that later affected all formerly Soviet research programmes. These ships are, of course, not ‘cruise ships’ in the traditional manner and will appeal most to those for whom exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers, is the prime attraction.

Cabins are furnished with two berths and have some storage space and an outside view (many having en-suite bathroom facilities). Public facilities include restaurant, lounge/bar, lecture facilities and library. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waiter-served and prepared by European, New Zealand or Australian chefs. The ship carries a small complement of expedition staff, including a naturalist, who give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the region, where required, and also guide shore excursions.

As much of the sailing as possible is done at night, thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the beautiful landscapes to the full. Landings are carried out by means of a fleet of zodiacs and naiads, rugged, fast-moving inflatables designed for expedition work, which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions. The sheer speed and efficiency with which the crew carry out these landings, coupled with the small complement of passengers, allows everyone plenty of time ashore at most locations. Further information about the cruise, including photographs and details of the ship layout, including cabin layouts, are available on the Heritage Expeditions website (www.heritage-expeditions.com).

The great advantage of taking this particular cruise, if you are especially interested in seeing the fantastic wildlife of the region, is that the itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly bird and wildlife-orientated, and Heritage Expeditions always have at least one experienced ornithologist/birder amongst their expedition leaders.


Day 1: Invercargill

Arrive at Invercargill, New Zealand’s southern most city and rich in Scottish history. Grab your last-minute luxuries before meeting your fellow expeditioners for an informal get-together over dinner.

Day 2: Port of Bluff

Enjoy a visit to the museum to view the Subantarctic display before transferring to the Port of Bluff, where you will board the Spirit of Enderby. Settle into your cabin and join your expedition team and the Captain for a welcome on board.

Day 3: The Snares - North East Island

Staggeringly, The Snares Islands are home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles put together. Zodiac cruising the coast we learn how the islands got their name and in the sheltered bays we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, the Cape Petrel and Buller’s Albatross nesting on the imposing cliffs.

Days 4 to 5: Auckland Islands

Characterised by towering cliffs and rugged sea stacks, these islands have borne witness to many a shipwreck in days gone by. We spend the day ashore on Enderby Island which is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Subantarctic Islands. Here we find parakeets flitting above carpets of red, white and yellow wild flowers and on the beaches beyond, the rare Hooker’s or New Zealand Sea Lion. We land in Carnley Harbour and if conditions are suitable climb to a Shy Albatross colony, otherwise we explore sites within the harbour.

Day 6: At Sea

Take the chance to learn more about the biology and history of these islands and the tempestuous Southern Ocean through informal lectures with our experts. This particular stretch of ocean is very productive and we can expect many seabirds, including five or six kinds of albatross and numerous species of petrel.

Days 7 to 8: Macquarie Island

This remote, rocky outpost which endures roaring westerly winds, supports one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere. Four species of penguin, King, Royal, Rockhopper and Gentoo breed here. You will never forget your first experience in a ceaselessly active ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors. We will also meet with the Park Rangers, visit the Australian Antarctic Base and observe the hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals along the beaches.

Days 9 to 12: At Sea

Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel as we steam south through the Southern Ocean. Lectures now concentrate on the Ross Sea 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.

Days 13 to 23: Antarctica's Ross Sea Region

With unpredictable ice and weather conditions, a day-by-day itinerary is not possible but we assess the conditions daily and take every opportunity to make landings and launch the Zodiacs. You can anticipate wildlife viewing, visits to scientific bases and historic sites, as well as the spectacular white and blue scenery. We hope to visit the following areas:

Cape Adare: A large flat spit of land, teeming with the staggering sight of Antarctica’s largest Adelie Penguin rookery: a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays. Curious penguins often come very close, offering superb photographic opportunities. Among the shifting mass of penguins we will find Carsten Borchgrevink’s Hut, the oldest in Antarctica, an overwintering shelter for the first expedition to the Antarctic continent in 1899.

Cape Hallett: The enormous Admiralty Range heralds our arrival; wild and extraordinary, the mountains rear up from the sea to over 4,000m, bounded by colossal glaciers. We land at an abandoned base site, now home to large numbers of Adelie Penguins and Weddell Seals.

Franklin Island: Desolately beautiful and rugged, this is home to a large Adelie Penguin population and other nesting seabirds. We attempt a landing and explore the coastline.

Possession Islands: Rarely-visited, small and rugged, these rocks support tens of thousands of penguins. Observe the birds’ busy and humorous activity, with the Admiralty Mountains forming a superb backdrop across the water.

Ross Ice Shelf: The world’s largest body of floating ice and a natural barrier, at times creating hazardous weather, with sheets of snow blown at gale force by winds off the polar ice cap. Just 800 miles from the South Pole, this daunting spectacle prevented many early explorers from venturing further south. We cruise along its dizzying 30m high ice cliffs, perhaps lucky enough to see icebergs ‘calving’. This is the best area for seeing the impressive Emperor Penguin and late February/early March is generally considered the best time for finding this much-wanted species during expedition cruises to the Ross Sea.

Ross Island: Mount Erebus/Cape Bird/Shackleton’s Hut/Scott’s Hut(s) and visits to a scientific field station (Scott and McMurdo Stations are high on our wish list but ice, weather and station operational requirements often make them inaccessible). Ross Island was and is the 'hub of activity’ in the Ross Sea, dominated by Mt. Erebus, a monstrous active volcano named after the ancient Greek God of Darkness. The carefully preserved huts of the ‘Heroic Era’ help make the history come alive. If we can reach the bases we get a modern perspective on Antarctic research.

Terra Nova Bay: An Italian research station where the scientists are always hospitable and enjoy showing us around their lonely but beautiful home. They share with us their scientific research and also, perhaps, the best ‘cafe espresso’ in Antarctica!

Days 24 to 27: 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.

Day 28: Campbell Island - Perseverance Harbour

We drop anchor in Perseverance Harbour, an occasional refuge for Southern Right Whales who come here to calve. Walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge wild flowers that have adapted to the harsh conditions have unusual colourings and weirdly-shaped leaves. We also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and sea lions.

Days 29: At Sea

Relax and reflect on a remarkable journey as you join our experts for a recap of highlights and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight.

Day 30: Invercargill

We disembark in the Port of Bluff and this adventure ends as we disperse to begin others. After fond farewells we transfer you to a central city hotel or to the airport. (Note: Some cruises end in Christchurch rather than Invercargill.)

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel in Invercargill is of good standard. For details of the ship, see the introductory section. Road transport is minimal and is by coach.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are one or two optional moderate hikes.

Climate: Conditions will range from cool to distinctly cold and dry and sunny periods will be interspersed with overcast weather. There may be some rain or snow.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are superb.

Important: Please bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and unexpected opportunities for making additional zodiac excursions. The ship’s expedition leader will keep us fully informed throughout.


For Invercargill/Invercargill (or Christchurch) arrangements:

£17030, $23000, €19490 in a Main Deck twin-berth cabin with shared bathroom facilities

£18510, $25000, €21180 in a Superior Cabin with private bathroom

£20960, $28300, €23980 in a Superior Plus Cabin with private bathroom

£21770, $29400, €24910 in a Mini Suite with private bathroom

£23700, $32000, €27110 in an Heritage Suite with private bathroom.

In addition, there will be a charge to cover the landing fees levied by the local governments of £652, $880, €746 per person.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, some soft drinks and entrance fees.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew, and the taxi transfer to the hotel, are not included in the tour price. Gratuities are entirely at your discretion. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that most passengers give gratuities of around US$300-450 for such a cruise.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not already in New Zealand have two nights in Invercargill prior to the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request.

Single Room/Cabin Supplement: Single occupancy of most twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for an 80% supplement on top of the cruise-only price (but suites require a 100% supplement). Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.

Deposit: 25% (including any single supplement).

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Kindly note that the balance due will be invoiced around 5 months before departure for payment not later than 120 days before departure.

Cancellation Charges: For cancellations made 180 days or more before departure, the cancellation charge is US$850 per person or equivalent. For cancellations made 91-179 days before departure, the cancellation charge is 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 1-90 days before departure, or on the day of departure or later, the cancellation charge is 100% of the tour price.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Emperor Penguins are surely the star attraction for birdwatchers in the Ross Sea. (Courtesy T Bickford and Heritage Expeditions)

Emperor Penguins are surely the star attraction for birdwatchers in the Ross Sea. (Courtesy T Bickford and Heritage Expeditions)

The graceful Light-mantled Albatross (Pete Morris)

The graceful Light-mantled Albatross (Pete Morris)

The huge Southern Royal Albatross (Pete Morris)

The huge Southern Royal Albatross (Pete Morris)

... and the as yet undescribed Pacific Albatross (possibly just a subspecies of Buller's Albatross) (Pete Morris)

... and the as yet undescribed Pacific Albatross (possibly just a subspecies of Buller's Albatross) (Pete Morris)

Other ocean wanderers such as this White-headed Petrel are plentiful (Pete Morris)

Other ocean wanderers such as this White-headed Petrel are plentiful (Pete Morris)

Snares Island Penguin is endemic to the area (Pete Morris)

Snares Island Penguin is endemic to the area (Pete Morris)

Doey-eyed Southern Elephant Seals are a common sight on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

Doey-eyed Southern Elephant Seals are a common sight on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

Whilst on Enderby Island in the Auckland group, we can expect Auckland Island Teal (Pete Morris)

Whilst on Enderby Island in the Auckland group, we can expect Auckland Island Teal (Pete Morris)

... Auckland Island Shag (one of several endemic shags we'll see) (Pete Morris)

... Auckland Island Shag (one of several endemic shags we'll see) (Pete Morris)

... and the highly-sought Subantarctic Snipe (Pete Morris)

... and the highly-sought Subantarctic Snipe (Pete Morris)

Many of the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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