Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Opinion: Shokalskiy stranding to boost interest in Antarctic tourism

Passengers disembark from a Chinese helicopter during the rescue (Yahoo!7)

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success." – Ernest Shackleton

It may seem like a contradiction, but the recent rescue of 52 stranded scientists and passengers from the beleaguered Akademik Shokalskiy near Mawson’s Huts will surely lead to a surge in enquiry from would-be adventurers.

Ernest Shackleton’s famous century-old recruitment advertisement bears testament to the attraction of danger, even possible death, in the quest for adventure and discovery.

If you believe the advertisement as fact (many don’t) the story goes on to tell of more than 5000 hopeful applicants applying for the few places available.

More recently, Prince Edward (as seventh in line to the British throne and chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh Award) commented on the tragic death of schoolboy, David Iredale, who died in December 2006 in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, while accepting the Duke’s challenge.

"All the trustees were convinced that (Iredale’s death) was the end of it, that it (the Award) would never go any further," Prince Edward said. But the publicity had a surprising reverse effect. In the days following the news, enquiries skyrocketed.

"Suddenly the award, which was new and its reputation among young people was: 'Wow, this is serious. You could die doing this.'

"The sense of adventure, the sense of excitement, that it gave you that sort of risk element, the sense that it (death) is possible,” said the Prince, perhaps a little insensitively.

About the same time (November 2007), in another part of Antarctica, the famous MV Explorer (aka ‘the little red ship’) originally commissioned by Lars Eric Lindblad in 1969, hit multi-season ice, punched a “fist-sized” hole in its double hull and sank. Fortunately without loss of life or injury to any of the 154 passengers, but the circumstances were hairy nonetheless.

Now, I’ve never been able to substantiate this, but I heard from sources close to the action that Bruce Poon Tip (high profile owner of the ship and then GAP Adventures, now G Adventures) was justifiably concerned about how the fallout from the event would effect his otherwise highly-respected business.

But join the dots and you’ll see what I mean. Instead of scaling back or closing down his cruise department, GAP rushed to find a replacement vessel (M/S Expedition) to fill both the existing forward bookings and waves of new enquiry.

Let's not forget this time last year, solo yachtsman, Alain Delord, was rescued by the luxury expedition ship Orion, north of the Shokalskiy's current position. While the publicity was similarly enormous, not all passengers appreciated the expensive detour.

Other recent Antarctic and expedition cruise dramas: Polar StarOrion II : NG Sea Lion : Marco Polo : MV Ushuaia : Ocean Nova

Already there are signs that existing expedition cruise operators are sensing an approaching tsunami of enquiry.

Stewart Campbell began his career as an Antarctic expedition leader in the early 1990s and is intimately familiar with the region where the Akademik Shokalskiy found itself beset. He was also involved in a similar rescue in the region almost 20 years ago. Campbell now runs his own online expedition cruise agency, ExpeditionsOnline.com

“Traffic to my site spiked 100-fold as the news broke,” says Campbell, whose company is an agent for the operators of Akademik Shokalskiy and dozens of other similar vessels, “that traffic has settled down now, but still remains at 10 to 20 times what it was prior to the event.”

Other expedition cruise agencies and operators are likely to be experiencing similar surges in web traffic. The sales conversion ratio of that traffic is yet to be determined, but bookings are sure to grow.

When one thinks of ships and ice, it automatically raises comparisons to the RMS Titanic disaster where more than 1500 passengers perished in the icy waters due to inadequate safety procedures – among many other factors.

In a scene reminiscent of Shakleton's Endurance, Akademik Shokalskiy
is beset by ice in Commonwealth Bay.

“There are always risks in expedition travel, but the Shokalskiy, her crew and the voyage organisers are all extremely experienced and I would certainly say those risks were calculated and 99 times out of 100 the ship should have had no issues in fulfilling the expedition itinerary,” explains Campbell. “It was just an unfortunate combination of circumstances with wind, ice breakouts and nature's power!

“People contemplating a trip to Antarctica should not be put off - the vast majority of cruises to Antarctica explore the Peninsula area which has far lighter or zero sea ice coverage during the summer. Risks of being trapped in ice like this are really very minimal.”

But do prospective adventurers really want the path of least risk? Maybe the wild and unpredictable seas around East Antarctica and Mawson’s Base at Cape Adare are just the ticket? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the profile and demand for expeditions to Antarctica will not be harmed one bit.

Roderick Eime is a specialist expedition cruise writer and has been sailing aboard the world’s fleet of small adventure vessels since 1998. He travelled to Mawson’s Huts in 2010, just before ice made future landings impossible. He is the editor of The Adventure Cruise Guide (www.adventurecruiseguide.com) and webmaster of www.expeditioncruising.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Luxury Seabourn Quest voyage to Antarctica

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Luxury Journey to the Seventh Continent

Cruise from colourful Valparaiso in Chile to the flamboyant Buenos Aires in Argentina on board the elegant  Seabourn Quest, part of a luxury expedition cruise package now available from cruise specialist ecruising.travel.

The voyage departs on December 20 and includes extensive scenic cruising through Reloncavi Sound, Gulf of Corcovado, Chilean Fjords, Amalia Glacier, Canal Sarmiento, Glacier Alley and Beagle Channel.

A highlight of this special cruise is the five day Antarctica experience, which consists of five planned Antarctica landings via Zodiacs that hold a maximum of 100 people. This ensures guests receive an up close and personal experience ashore exploring the spectacular landscape and wildlife.

On-shore visits will also be made at Puerto Mont, Castro and Punta Arenas in Chile, Ushuaia in Argentina, Grytviken in South Georgia and Montevideo in Uruguay. Whilst on board you can take part in special guest lectures, photography workshops and other exclusive amenities and activities to enhance your cruising experience.

The package also includes return economy air fares from Australia, three nights at the Ritz Carlton Santiago, three nights at the Alvear Palace Buenos Aires, 24 night Seabourn suite accommodation, all gourmet meals and complimentary open bar on board, Santiago and Buenos Aires city tours, air and port taxes as well as all airport transfers.

Prices start from $21,799 per person twin share for Sydney, Gold Coast and Perth passengers, from $22,129 from Adelaide and from $22,149 for Melbourne passengers. Prices are subject to change due to the airfare component of the package.

The voyage is on sale until February 28. For more details contact ecruising.travel on 1300-369-848 or visit www.ecruising.travel

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Featured Brochure: Active Travel Antarctica

click to order this brochure now for free

Innovative Expeditions & Adventures to Antarctica

Antarctic Peninsula, Across the Antarctic Circle, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia

Join Active Travel and One Ocean Expeditions for a voyage to Antarctica and one of life's great adventures. This extraordinary and remote southern land, sheathed in layers of ancient ice, has long fascinated the world's great explorers and scientists, and for those lucky enough to experience it first-hand, an Antarctic expedition is a remarkable journey that stays with you for the rest of your life.

Active Travel is the Australian agent for One Ocean Expeditions, an industry leader and one of the most innovative polar expedition companies in the world.

Expeditions operate during the Antarctic summer, a time of great activity with seabirds swooping through the skies, whales feeding on vast schools of krill and busybody penguins rearing their young. As much time as possible is spent off the ship - exploring in zodiac inflatable boats, going ashore for walks, visiting historic sites, scientific bases and wildlife colonies. The towering icebergs, in all shades of blue, will take your breath away.

Longer expeditions take you further a field, below the Antarctic Circle, and on to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. These remote island groups are home to some extraordinary wildlife - beaches covered in King Penguins, Elephant and fur seal, and a profusion of sea birds in all shapes and sizes.

There are several new voyages in 2013 – including a wonderful new Christmas trip which is easily combined with South America touring. Due to popular demand, there are more 12 night voyages below the Antarctic Circle. The ground-breaking ‘Active Antarctica’ voyage returns, for the skiers, hikers, kayakers and activity buffs.

What makes Active Travel Different?

Active Travel's voyages have the most experienced team of leaders in the business including Australian Polar Medal recipient, Ray McMahon, and Andrew Prossin - a veteran of Antarctic and Arctic waters, having led over 150 expeditions south.

The two expedition ships, the Akademik Ioffe and sister-ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov, are modern and stable vessels – both well known in the Australian market - with an outstanding track record in polar exploration and navigation in Antarctica and the High Arctic. Equipped to take 115 guests, limited to just 95 per voyage.

Expeditions include well-presented lectures, an exciting range of activities, great staff and hearty meals prepared by a team of chefs.

A deep respect for the great southern land guides our attitude towards environmental protection. The team includes renowned wildlife conservationists, who have been instrumental in mobilising some of the world's most notable organisations to better protect Antarctica.

This brochure offers 21 outstanding expeditions in the Summer of 2013, starting in November and ending March 2014 - as well as a selection of South America travel options to add to your holiday. You can also find details of the High Arctic Expedition series in 2013 – featuring Greenland, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Baffin Island and the North-West Passage, plus Spitsbergen.

Expeditions include:

• NEW – Christmas in Antarctica – 9 days (one voyage)
• NEW – Christmas in Antarctica and New Year in Buenos Aires – 14 days (one voyage)
• Marine Mammals of Antarctica – 11 days (one voyage)
• Antarctic Peninsula Adventure – 11 days (eight voyages)
• Journey Below the Antarctic Circle - 13 days (four voyages)
• Active Antarctica – Skiing, Kayaking, Hiking! - 13 days (one voyage)
• The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula - 19 days (five voyages)

Orion voyages to New Zealand and sub-Antarctic islands

A voyage for the adventurous - New Zealand and remote sub-Antarctic islands
Join Orion's first expedition in 2014, a voyage exploring both the south island of New Zealand and rarely visited World Heritage-listed sub-Antarctic islands.

Book now to receive savings of up to 15% PLUS a $1,000 per person land/air credit

Located in the Southern Ocean, south east of New Zealand, referred to as the Albatross Latitudes, lie New Zealand's rarely visited sub-Antarctic islands. Strictly controlled, other than scientists only a limited number of visitors a year receive permits to visit, the majority arriving on the specialist expedition ship Orion.

Isolated and fragile, New Zealand's beautiful sub-Antarctic islands are unique and irreplaceable, a privilege to visit. Described by the United Nations Environment Program as "The most diverse and extensive of all sub-Antarctic archipelagos", these locations are a birders and photographers paradise, blessed with the most significant populations of many species including the Southern Royal Albatross, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin and the New Zealand Sea Lion.

This expedition combines the remote sub-Antarctic islands with south island of New Zealand highlights including visits to Dusky, Doubtful, Milford and Marlborough Sounds and the coastal towns of Akaroa, Kaikoura and Picton.

This voyage will appeal to those who prefer to participate rather than merely observe, yet who appreciate the comforts of fine dining, unobtrusive service, spacious accommodation and the company of 100 like-minded adventurous spirits. A very civilised way to travel to rarely visited and remote destinations.

Orion 2014 New Zealand and sub-Antarctic Islands

3 January 2014: New Zealand and sub Antarctic island Exploration /14 nights
Includes Dunedin, Snares Islands, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, Milford Sound, Stewart Island, Auckland Islands, Campbell Island, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Marlborough Sound, Picton.
Fares vary by itinerary starting from: $11,030 per person for an ocean view A Stateroom, $15,205 for a Junior Suite and $23,095 for an Owners Suite.
Book now to receive savings of up to 15% PLUS a $1,000 per person land/air credit

All prices twin share.  Limited single pricing accommodation available.

Much like Orion's Antarctic explorations, itineraries, landings and access to these areas will be influenced by permits and prevailing weather conditions.

For reservations, or to obtain more information call Orion Expedition Cruises:

61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) / 0800 444 462 (New Zealand) or see your travel agent. Email: info@orionexpeditions.com

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seabourn Offers Ultra-Luxury White Christmas in Antarctica

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Seabourn is offering guests the chance to enjoy the ultimate white Christmas with one of the cruise line's first Antarctica sailings scheduled to visit the "white continent" on Christmas Day.

The ultra-luxury cruise line will begin sailing to Antarctica later this year with Seabourn Quest offering four cruises to Patagonia and Antarctica between November 2013 and February 2014.

Departing Valparaiso in Chile on December 11, 2013, guests will wake up to the splendours of Antarctica on Christmas morning, in the midst of five days of cruising and landings on the Antarctic Continent and islands over the festive period.

The 24-day cruise also includes days exploring the Chilean coast and fjords, Beagle Channel, Glacier Alley, the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, Cape Horn, Montevideo and a rare visit to the sub-Antarctic wildlife Eden of South Georgia Island, renowned for its teeming rookeries of king penguins as well as breeding elephant and fur seals. Fares start from $14,999* per person double occupancy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Antarctica Voyages - Earlybird savings - get brochures now

Antarctica, the experience of a lifetime

The world's most enticing destination with Orion Expedition Cruises

Discover the far icy reaches of our planet in comfort, where sightings of seals, penguins and whales are daily occurrences, and majestic icebergs often form the backdrop for your adventure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chimu Adventures celebrates Shackleton centenary with exclusive cruise to Antarctica

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Clipper Adventurer, now renamed Sea Adventurer

Leading Antarctica specialists Chimu Adventures is offering the chance for budding adventurers to retrace the steps of one of history's greatest explorers, Sir Ernest Shackleton.

In 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to cross the continent of Antarctica from sea to sea. Unfortunately, en-route to the continent his ship, Endurance, became frozen in an ice floe stranding Shackleton and his crew.

What followed was one of history's greatest survival stories, which saw Shackleton and his men cross the world's roughest seas in open life boats and traverse the most inhospitable of terrains. Incredibly not one crew member was lost, many owing their lives to Shackleton's leadership and survival instinct.

To celebrate the epic journey, Chimu Adventures has launched an exclusive Antarctica cruise on-board the Sea Adventurer, departing Ushuaia in southern Argentina on the 24 February 2014.

The 16-day cruise will retrace the path of Shackleton's expedition visiting the island of South Georgia, Shackleton's final resting place, the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. The ship's zodiacs will also attempt a landing on the famous Elephant Island, the starting point of Shackleton's 800 nautical mile journey in an open life boat to South Georgia.

On-board the Sea Adventurer, passengers  will be entertained by a few special guests - Australian TV presenter and Golden Logie nominee Andrew Denton and award winning artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis.

Commenting on the upcoming voyage Andrew Denton said: "I am a self-professed Antarctica enthusiast. So far I have visited the white continent four times, and I can't wait to go again. Antarctica is a true wilderness: beautiful, hostile, fragile. I'm always amazed at how many colours there are in the white."

Artist Wendy Sharpe said: "Seeing Antarctic was without doubt one the most incredible experience I have ever had. The colours of the ice, sea and sky are unimaginable. I can't wait to go back, especially as on this trip we will see more penguins and seals. Every photo I have seen is astonishing and I'm very much looking forward to painting it."

Artist Bernard Ollis said: "Antarctica still feels like the final frontier for an artist. The amount of paintings or drawings actually made there can still be counted by hand. I feel this voyage will be powerful on many levels and challenge my pre-conceived perceptions. I am looking forward to producing an exciting body of new work."

Funds raised by the cruise will be donated to the Mawson's Huts Foundation, which helps conserve the historic huts used by Australian Explorer Douglas Mawson in Cape Denison.