Saturday, March 7, 2009


A food depot established by the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) led by the legendary Sir Douglas Mawson, has been discovered nearly 100 years later by a small team of explorers led by Greg Mortimer, founder of Aurora Expeditions.

The cache is at Madigan Nunatak (Nunatak is the Antarctic term for a rocky peak surrounded by ice), named after Cecil Madigan, a geologist with Mawson’s AAE who established the food store in case of emergency for sledging parties.

Found this week, it is 70 kms east-south east of Cape Denison which was the AAE’s base for two years and which is now being conserved by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation which currently has a team of eight working on Mawson’s Huts for the next four weeks.

Mortimer, the managing director of Aurora Expeditions and a member of the first Australian team to climb Mt Everest., flew by helicopter from his ship the Marina Svetaeva, which is carrying 100 passengers on an Antarctic cruise to Mawson’s Huts. On board is a grand-daughter of Madigan, Julia Butler.

Attempts to find Madigan Nunatak in the 1980’s failed with ice covering the rocky peak and only a long bamboo pole protruding from the cache sighted in 1985.

“I have been trying to get to Madigan Nunatak for years” said Mortimer from onboard the Marina Svetaeva. “This year we were in the right place at the right time.”

“It was a tiny ridge in the white expanse of the polar plateau about 2400 feet above sea level. We observed a cairn surmounted by a tin consistent in shape and construction with kerosene tins associated with the AAE” he said. “The tin contains at least three calico bags held in place by a rock. One contains white powder, probably flour and the other a brown substance, possibly pemmican (a food mix favoured by the AAE on sledging parties).

The long bamboo pole which marked the spot for the AAE still remains but now lies on the rocks.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation team which was landed by a Marina Svetaeva eight days ago is carrying out an extensive works programme which includes locating the first aircraft ever taken to the Antarctic and fitting out a special laboratory to conserve the thousands of artefacts left inside the hut when the AAE left for home in December 1913.

Aurora Expeditions Antarctic Adventures 2009/10

Aurora Expeditions 2009/2010 Antarctic season features thirteen expeditions on two ice-strengthened vessels that offer camping, kayaking, climbing and helicopter excursions, as well as unequalled wildlife viewing opportunities on the great white continent.

In its ongoing quest to provide the most extraordinary adventures in Antarctica, Aurora Expeditions is offering thirteen itineraries for the 2009/2010 Antarctic season between November 2009 and March 2010, showcasing the beauty, remoteness, history and wildlife of the frozen south and offering the most comprehensive program of adventure activities of any Antarctic tour operator.

Whether travellers want to see the tallest penguins in the world; paddle a kayak in clear waters dotted with icebergs; scuba dive in the remotest place on earth, or follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, Aurora has an expedition that will match their wildest dreams.

Aurora’s 54 passenger ice-strengthened ship Polar Pioneer will undertake ten voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula during the season; while the 100 passenger ice-strengthened and helicopter equipped Marina Svetaeva will make three voyages to ‘Deep Antarctica’ including Commonwealth Bay and the Ross Sea.

While not luxury vessels, both ships provide simple, comfortable accommodation with meals prepared by Western chefs. All voyages include all meals on board, shore excursions, and an in-depth education program with expert commentary and talks by Aurora’s team of naturalists, historians, geologists, expedition staff and special guest lecturers.

The small group size makes it possible for all passengers to go ashore at every landing, allows the wildlife to be observed without disturbance and makes for more relaxed visits to historic sites and scientific stations. The maneuverability of these smaller vessels, along with a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs, allows travellers to visit places conventional ships cannot reach.

Unlike some other operators, Aurora is not concerned with hairdryers, bathrobes, spa treatments, dress codes or room service – the emphasis of its expeditions are on true exploration and discovery in some of the most extreme wildernesses on the planet.

The Antarctic Peninsula is the warmest and most accessible region of the frozen continent, reached by two days sailing from Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of Argentina. In addition to witnessing the most amazing wildlife spectacle on earth, for intrepid travellers, Aurora offers adventure options in the Antarctic Peninsula such as sea-kayaking, camping overnight on the ice, climbing and scuba diving.

The 12-day ‘Antarctic Peninsula for Climbers and Kayakers’ (7 -18 December 2009) voyage offers the chance to climb icebergs and unclimbed peaks or paddle in pristine waters led by some of the world’s most experienced mountain climbers and guides.

The 12-day ‘Across the Circle’ (16 – 27 February 2010) voyage includes the opportunity to scuba dive amongst glaciers and gigantic icebergs and meet seals and penguins in their element in a once-in-a-lifetime underwater adventure.

The 20-day ‘Shackleton Odyssey’, (27 February – 18 March 2010) voyage retraces the epic journey of the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and offers the option for experienced climbers to repeat his alpine crossing on foot from King Haakon Bay to the now deserted whaling station at Stromness.

Voyages will also visit scientific bases and historic sites. Prices for Antarctic Peninsula voyages start at US$5990 (ex-Ushuaia) per person triple share.

‘Deep Antarctica’, the most southerly region accessible by ship, stretches from the Ross Ice Shelf to Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica. It’s a wild place guarded by pack ice and is reached four days sailing across the Southern Ocean from Australia or New Zealand. This area is the stuff of polar legend, with century-old huts and base camps that are literally frozen in time. Voyages also plan to call in at two or three sub-Antarctic islands – home to millions of royal, king and other penguin species, several species of albatross, snorting elephant seals and frisky fur seals.

The 27-day ‘Mawson’s Antarctica’ (11 December 2009 – 6 January 2010) voyage to Commonwealth Bay departs from Hobart, visiting the wildlife-rich sub-Antarctic islands on route to Cape Denison, site of Mawson’s historic hut, and the French Antarctic base, Dumont D’Urville.

The two 26-day ‘Ross Sea Explorer’ expeditions will depart from Hobart (7 January – 1 February 2010, returning to Bluff New Zealand) and Bluff, New Zealand (2 February – 27 February 2010, returning to Hobart). These expeditions aim to sail to the Ross Ice Shelf, dry valleys, and historic huts of explorers Scott and Shackleton. Helicopter excursions are included on all voyages to Deep Antarctica.

Prices for all three voyages start at US$12,590 per person quad share.

Although suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities, these are not ordinary cruises. Weather and ice, not clocks and calendars, set the schedule for a journey here. In the spirit of exploration, landings and activities will depend on ice, sea and weather conditions and the daily schedule may change in line with the dynamic environment.

Aurora Expeditions is a licensed travel agent who can arrange competitive airfares and pre and post touring options in conjunction with these voyages.

For further information contact Aurora Expeditions on 1800 637 688 or visit

Orion expeditions to Sub-Antarctic islands

Immerse yourself in some of our planet's most extraordinary biodiversity. 

Protected by the Southern Ocean, secluded and seldom visited, the Australian and New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, recognized by UNESCO as one of the worlds' precious regions of unique biodiversity, will be visited by the expedition cruise ship Orion in December, 2009.

Today these remote nature reserves enjoy World Heritage status, recognised for their volcanic and glacial geological formations and extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna - much of which endangered or recovering since being discovered and later plundered in the late 1700's and early 1800's by sealers and whalers.

Home to over half of the world's seabirds, some of which exist nowhere else, this wildlife paradise contains 40% of the world's albatross species and 50% of the world's penguin species including the endangered yellow-eyed penguin, plus hundreds of thousands of other endemic birds - petrels, prions and cormorants. 

The expedition team will include the highly respected British zoologist and naturalist Dr John Sparks, who travelled to Antarctica onboard Orion in 2006.  

At Snares there is every expectation guests will see Sooty Shearwaters, the endemic Snares Crested Penguins, Snares Fernbird and Tomtits.  On Enderby Island expect to see pipits, parakeets and plovers, Hooker's Sea Lions, and perhaps even the Auckland Island Flightless Teal and Sub-Antarctic Snipe. Campbell Island, home to the Southern Royal Albatrosses, has the highest diversity of breeding albatrosses of any island in the world. 

And then there are plant species that have to be seen to be believed, including 5 meter high tree daisies on Snares, giants compared to their relatives in more temperate climates. 

With convenient embarkation in Bluff (Invercargill, New Zealand) or Hobart, Orion will head south to visit (depending on voyage) Macquarie, Campbell, Stewart, Snares and Auckland islands as well as spending time exploring New Zealand's beautiful Fjordlands (including Milford and Doubtful Sounds).  

These two expeditions to the Sub-Antarctic islands are designed for nature lovers and photographers alike. The remnants of the old whaling station on Macquarie Island, the high cliffs and numerous caves and arches formed by marine erosion on Campbell Island and the enormous sea stacks on the southern peninsulas of Snares present dramatic contrast to the prolific bird life, penguins, seals, sea lions and flora in this remote sanctuary. 

Dr John Sparks has travelled all over the world making wildlife films, including five with Sir David Attenborough; he has written 11 books and visited Antarctica on many occasions. Details available at 

Orion Fares Guide:

13 night Sub-Antarctic Adventure –departs Hobart 1 December 2009 or Bluff (Invercargill) NZ  14 December 2009. Itineraries vary.

Fares from $10,630 per person twin share for an ocean view Category B stateroom

Suites from $14,660 per person twin share for a Junior Suite

Owners' Suites with French Balcony are $22,265 per person twin share 

Ranked #2 expedition cruise ship in the world in the current Berlitz Cruise Guide, Orion is the world's latest purpose-built luxury expedition cruise ship, featuring an unmatched range of onboard facilities. 

With 75 crew and a maximum of just 106 passengers Orion offers the highest staff to guest ratio and guest to public space ratio of any ship based in Australian waters. 
Further information on all Orion Expedition Cruises to Antarctica, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Asia, New Zealand, the Kimberley and Arnhem Land can be obtained by visiting the website  

For reservations or to obtain a brochure call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) or your travel agent. Email: 

New Ship for Antarctica

Clelia II
(100 Passengers)

To be re-launched early in 2009 (constructed 1991) for Antarctica expeditions, the all-suite luxury ship Clelia II was extensively refurbished, redecorated and otherwise improved to offer the finest in small-ship cruise travel. This private, yacht-like, ice-strengthened expedition ship accommodates only 100 guests in 50 suites. Each suite provides ocean views, measures 215 square feet or more, and includes a sitting area or separate living room, twin or queen-size beds, spacious closets, air conditioning.


Decorated with rich fabrics, handsome wood, polished brass, rare antiquities and fine works of art, the yacht’s public spaces are warm and inviting. These include:

• Library with Internet access
• 2 Lounges with audiovisual facilities
• State-of-the-art gym/spa
• Beauty salon
• Boutique
• Hospital
• Elevator serving all passenger decks
• Dining room
• Two sun decks
• Jacuzzi
• Swimming platform

Clelia II complies with the latest international and U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations and is outfitted with the most current navigational and communications technology as well as with retractable fin stabilizers for smooth sailing, an ice-strengthened hull and a fleet of Zodiacs. Clelia II is staffed by 60 European officers and crew. Taken together with her limited guest capacity, excellence of design, craftsmanship and material, Clelia II's spaciousness and intimate ambience combine to make her ideal for distinctive cultural and expedition voyages.


Length: 290 ft
Beam: 50 ft
Draft: 12 ft
Gross Tonnage: 4200

The Clelia II will be operated by Polar Cruises of Oregon, USA and can be booked in Australia by Cruise Traveller.

Cruise West to Antarctica

Seattle, WA - Continuing to add exciting new destinations to its global offerings, exploration cruise line Cruise West ( is pleased to announce that it is adding an exclusive, 19-night Antarctica expedition to its product line-up for 2010.

On board the 114-guest, all-suite Corinthian II, a very select group of guests will have the opportunity to explore the very best that the most remote continent on earth has to offer. Ports of calls and sites include the Falkland, South Georgia and Orkney Islands as well as the Antarctic Peninsula and the myriad of islands that dot its shore.

"Cruise West is making a conscientious effort to keep itinerary offerings fresh and intriguing," said President and CEO Dietmar R. Wertanzl. "We are seeking out destinations that complement our core products, create excitement for repeat guests and appeal to new guests - so introducing Antarctica was a natural progression. The Corinthian II is a sister ship to our Spirit of Oceanus, so we know our repeat guests will feel right at home."

Diversity - in cultures, landscape and temperatures - will be one of the hallmarks of this maiden voyage as guests begin their adventure in luxury at the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Hotel in Buenos Aires before departing for the quaint, southernmost city in South America, Ushuaia.

After boarding the Corinthian II, guests will gain fascinating insight on the flora, fauna, history and geology via presentations by an expert staff of eight naturalists. In the tradition of Cruise West's up-close, casual and personal style, guests will have extraordinary opportunities to view Rockhopper penguins in the remote British outpost of the Falkland Islands; thousands of King penguins and nesting grounds of wandering albatross in South Georgia, while simultaneously admiring the water-loving larger species of whales, fur seals, elephant seals and the icebergs and glaciers that surround them.

Antarctica, owned by no country but managed under a 46-country scientific treaty, is the fifth largest continent on the planet while remaining the least populated. Its exotic remoteness combined with legendary stories of exploration and adventure spur on the fantasies of armchair travelers and documentary-watchers all over the globe; for 114 Cruise West guests, the fantasy has now become an attainable reality.

Cruise West's 19-night maiden voyage to Antarctica will depart February 7, 2010. Prices start at $13,899 (US dollars); save $1,000/person, based on double occupancy, by booking and paying in full by May 1, 2009.

To learn more about this itinerary or other Cruise West voyages, consumers are encouraged to attend one of the company's online live presentations - Visit to view the schedule.

More information about advance reservations for this itinerary - as well as Cruise West's other itineraries to destinations as diverse as Alaska, Panama and Costa Rica, Mexico's Sea of Cortes, Japan, Vietnam, the Galapagos, the Pacific Northwest or the romantic rivers of Europe - can be found online at, by calling 1-800-296-8307 or contact a Travel Professional.