Saturday, December 17, 2011

Suite dreams on Antarctic cruise

Seal basks in the sunshine as Zodiacs from L'Austral tour Foyn Harbour. Picture: Roderick Eime. 
Guests examine the wreck of the Norwegian
whaling vessel. Picture: Roderick Eime.
TRAVELLING to the end of the Earth can now be done in hedonistic comfort, writes Roderick Eime.

Antarctica is for the hardened traveller, the gritty explorer and world adventurer used to privations and hardships. That is, until the arrival of vessels like L'Austral.

French-flagged cruise line Compagnie du Ponant (or just Ponant) has launched two of its planned three new-generation, green-certified luxury expedition cruise ships.

Le Boreal took to the seas in May last year, followed by L'Austral in June this year. A third, as yet unnamed, vessel will be launched in the middle of 2013.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Port Lockroy celebrates 100 Years

Port Lockroy c.1962
By Roderick Eime, editor of Adventure Cruise Guide

One hundred years ago, the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration was at its height. Men like Scott, Shackleton, Mawson and others, forgotten to time, opened up the great Southern continent for science, exploration and adventure. Their exploits were consumed voraciously by the popular press, the adoring public following their every step as these incredible men, apparently impervious to hardship and deprivation, forged deeper and deeper into the harsh frozen realm in search of glory in the name of the great British Empire.

The Great War stifled many plans and left a world bruised and battered but Antarctic exploration continued, albeit subdued. In the Second World War, Britain was afraid its hard won Southern interests may be threatened and the secret Operation Tabarin was organised in 1943 to patrol and report on any enemy movements in the region around the Antarctic Peninsula. Bases at Deception Island, Hope Bay and Port Lockroy were expanded and manned by naval personnel who had no idea where they were headed. Issued sunglasses on their departure from Britain, they surmised their destination would be warm and tropical. Wrong.

Further bases were added and this effort gradually transformed into the current multi-national presence we see today. Visitors aboard Antarctic cruise vessels frequently visit these sites. Some are maintained while are others have been left to “benign neglect”. One in particular, Port Lockroy, celebrates one hundred years since its establishment, first as a whaling outpost, then 'Base A' as part of Tabarin in 1944.

Abandoned in 1962, but restored and preserved since 1996, Port Lockroy is now the most visited site on the Peninsula with visitor numbers hitting a peak of 17,000 in a recent year. As many as 30 vessels visit the 'living museum' in the course of a season (between November to March) and the little post office handles around 17,000 items of specially marked items of mail. The gift shop carries everything from postcards and books to fridge magnets and fleecies. One passenger from a private charter spent $12,000 in a single visit, so the little outpost certainly pays its way.

Once the preserve of the male-only British Antarctic Survey, Port Lockroy is currently manned, if that is the correct term, by a team of five, four of whom are women. Their duties include occasional surveys of the healthy Gentoo penguin colony and serving the stream of guests hungry for genuine Antarctic souvenirs. An additional Nissen hut has been built to enhance crew comfort, but otherwise the structure is faithful to its original design, complete with recreated radio room, kitchen and common areas.

“Anyone from any country can apply to work here for a season,” says Ulva the current base commander and officer of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, a not-for-profit charity set up to maintain the historic bases.”We're only supplied once a year, but also rely on help from the many cruise ships to bring additional items and ferry staff.”

Fancy a stint at an Antarctic base? Why not apply for a position on Port Lockroy? For information on the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and its work, visit

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tourists' iceberg dilemma

An iceberg the size of the ACT is
blocking access to Mawson's Hut.
by Craig Hoggett | The Mercury

TOURISTS forking out top dollar to visit Mawson's Hut for centenary celebrations this summer are likely to face disappointment as the "Antarctic factor" heaves an enormous icy obstacle in ships' paths.

Expedition cruise ship MV Orion is due to start its 19-night Southern Ocean voyage on Thursday, with prices for the 100 passengers starting at $19,365 a person.

Orion expedition leader Don McIntyre said the Antarctic always had challenges but an iceberg the size of the ACT blocking access was "unique".

"Whilst it's not looking good, no one will know until we get there," Mr McIntyre said.

"We always maintain a simple philosophy we work with the Antarctic factor. You cannot dictate terms with Antarctica, it lets you in at its pleasure you have to work with it, you can't fight it."

A 2500 sq km tabular iceberg was part of a much larger ice mass that broke free from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987 but subsequently broke up as it drifted westwards.

Parts of the "B9B" iceberg have grounded on the approach to the Mawson's Hut site at Commonwealth Bay.

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IAATO Launches New Website

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has launched a new website, providing a wealth of new information for prospective travelers to Antarctica. The new site also features an expanded Media Center for journalists and enhanced features for IAATO members.

"The familiar URL remains the same, but the similarity stops there," noted IAATO Executive Director Steve Wellmeier. "The new site provides much better graphics and navigation tools, including a search function and site map. One of our goals is to provide accurate information for the Antarctic traveler, particularly in the area of environmental stewardship, guidelines for visitors, and answers to the many questions they might have."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not all plain sailing in wild Antarctica

Cool fun: Australian adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones in the Antarctic Source: Supplied

THE weather is perfect. The sea is calm, the sky a dazzling blue. The day seems to challenge the common assumption that the frozen continent is almost always rainy.

I'm not saying my trip of a lifetime is all plain sailing. Our feisty little ship pitches through choppy seas while crossing the Drake Passage, south of Ushuaia - the Argentine tourist town from which most cruises to the icy land depart.

Read Full Story at The Daily Telegraph

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Qantas The Australian Way: Go with the floe

Photo essay and article by Peter Robinson and images by Peter Eastway from Qantas The Australian Way, October 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Historic Antarctic expedition

One Ocean Expeditions ship Akademik Ioffe in Antarctica.
A cruise voyage will take place to South Georgia in November to bury
the ashes of British explorer Frank Wild next to Ernest Shackleton. Picture: Supplied
photo of Sir Earnest Shackleton (L) and
Frank Wild in Antarctica. Picture: Anthony Reginato
IT WAS his final wish to be buried next to Ernest Shackleton and 90 years after their last expedition together, Antarctic explorer Frank Wild's request will finally be granted.

Wild, considered one of the great Antarctic explorers, will be buried beside his former boss in Antarctica this year after an exhaustive search for his long-lost ashes.

Four of his Australian descendants will be among the passengers taking part in a commemorative cruise with One Ocean Expeditions to South Georgia in November to take his ashes to their final resting place.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011


In what is seen as the most exciting development of the year for the expedition cruise industry, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) has announced that the highly regarded Akademik Sergey Vavilov will join Akademik Ioffe as its second polar expedition vessel with effect from November 2012.

The Vavilov has been described by OOE's competitors as 'one of the finest expedition ships to sail the polar seas' and is sister ship to the Ioffe, which OOE currently operates exclusively under a long term charter agreement.

Both vessels were built in Finland in the late 1980's for the Russian Academy of Science. Both undertook hydro-acoustic research and consequently are extremely quiet, fast and stable. They are widely acknowledged as the best expedition vessels for difficult polar waters.

One Ocean Expeditions was founded in 2006 by Canadian Andrew Prossin, a 20 year veteran of Antarctica and the Arctic. Known for his innovative approach to expedition cruising, he has worked extensively with both vessels and it was an obvious fit for his new company to bring these vessels into the fold.

"This addition to our fleet was both necessary and timely for OOE", he said. "It is necessary because our 2011/12 season has almost completely sold out and we definitely need a second vessel. It is timely because the opportunity to take the Vavilov now puts us in a leading position with the two best expedition vessels in the world".

With a capacity of 105 passengers, (but limited by OOE to 92) the Vavilov will initially be deployed in Antarctica, followed by the 2013 Arctic season. But first, the ship will be extensively refurbished. "The Vavilov is a great ship, and with the forthcoming improvement program we will have no trouble bringing her up to the high expectations of One Ocean Expeditions' clients", said Prossin.  "This is a terrific platform where we can offer an innovative expedition product and continue to hone the high levels of onboard guest services our clients have come to expect from us." A major renovation is planned, including redecorated cabins, enhanced, modernised public areas and a wellness centre.

For further details contact Active Travel on 02-9264 1231 or visit

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

East Antarctica: Frozen Folly

A trip to East Antarctica is anything but a walk in the park. Our Adventure Cruise Guide editor follows gingerly in the footsteps of Sir Douglas Mawson. Words & Photos: Roderick Eime

“Beyond the Roaring Forties there are the Furious Fifties and Shrieking Sixties, for the storms that ravage these regions become more and more severe as one proceeds further south.” – Herbert Ponting, 1921

Who in their right mind would willingly subject themself to this kind of discomfort? And to call a voyage to Antarctica a ‘cruise’– especially if you’re venturing beyond 70 degrees south – is a serious misrepresentation.

If your idea of a cruise is sitting on a deckchair beside a pool with a pina colada in one hand and a Jackie Collins potboiler in the other, read no further. Deep Antarctica is one of those places, like the moon, that is just so distant and unreachable that to travel there is almost the stuff of fiction.

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Rod travelled with Heritage Expeditions

SMH: In Memory of Mawson

On parade ... the MV Orion approaches the Antarctic continent.
On parade ... the MV Orion approaches the Antarctic continent.
Photo: Louise Southerden
A century after the explorer embarked on his expedition, Louise Southerden steps ashore on Australia's Antarctica.

You've spent days crossing the Southern Ocean from New Zealand, found your way through pack ice, seen your first house-sized berg. Now, here it is: the Antarctic continent, a wall of ice with a sloping brow, filling the southern horizon.

Nothing prepares you for that first glimpse of this alien land and the simple vastness of it. The South Pole is still, incredibly, 2630 kilometres further south, across all that ice, some of it four kilometres thick. All you can do is stand and stare.

Then, out of the whiteness, a rocky point appears: Cape Denison, on Commonwealth Bay. This is one of the few places in east Antarctica, due south of Australia, where the largest ice sheet on the planet kneels down to meet the sea, allowing you to step ashore. It's also where a timber hut built by Douglas Mawson and his men in January 1912 still stands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Aurora Expeditions Celebrates Sir Douglas Mawson's Centenary


Aurora Expeditions have three exciting voyages to commemorate the centenary of Sir Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition. In January 1912, explorer Douglas Mawson and 17 others landed at Commonwealth Bay. For the next year, they braved appalling conditions, when the wind speed averaged nearly 80 km/h, occasionally peaking above 320 km/h. Their expedition ranks as one of the most successful in polar exploration history.
Each of Aurora Expeditions' Centenary voyages visits three outstanding regions: Macquarie Island, where Mawson set up a communications base; the East Antarctic coast, a vast region where the polar plateau offers a dramatic backdrop to Mawson's Hut; and New Zealand's exquisite subantarctic islands.

Passengers departing on the first Mawson's centenary voyage will mark the departure from Hobart of the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) led by Sir Douglas Mawson on Dec 2 1911—exactly 100 years to the day after the AAE sailed for Macquarie Island. 

 "The Mawson's Huts Foundation is looking forward to welcoming all passengers to the Sir Douglas Mawson Centenary dinner in Hobart on Thursday Dec 1.   Over 500 guests are expected to attend the dinner which is being supported by the Federal and Tasmanian governments and a flotilla of hundreds of ships will farewell your ship as you sail down to the Derwent on the first leg of your voyage to Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison.

Patron of the Foundation the Governor General of Australia Ms Quentin Bryce AC has been invited to attend the dinner which will also mark the beginning of the "heroic era" celebrations for Antarctic exploration which saw the Norwegian Amundsen reach the South Pole ahead of the British Explorer Robert Falcon Scott, his demise and then Mawson's own incredible feat of survival after the loss of two colleagues". David Jensen, Mawson Hut Foundation.

These 26-day voyages are Aurora Expeditions' most adventurous in scope, with extended sea crossings and the chance to explore the pack ice edge, where much of Antarctica's marine life, including whales, seals and penguins, can be found. The voyages will visit Mawson's Hut and the abandoned French base at Port Martin, and the working research station of Dumont d'Urville. Prices start from US$17,475 per person twin share.

The voyage, "Emeralds of the Subantarctic" is a 13-day expedition, which takes you to Macquarie Island and Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands and, depending on sea conditions, a rare Zodiac cruise of the Snares Islands. This region contains the greatest diversity of seabirds in the world, often in astounding numbers. It's a tremendous opportunity to visit a wildlife wonderland. Prices for this voyage start from US$7,325 per person twin share.
Aurora Expeditions will be utilising their ship Akademik Shokalskiy for the East Antarctica voyages The decision to use small, ice-strengthened ships allows Aurora Expeditions to visit areas that other large cruise ships can't. For many years, Aurora Expeditions has been a leading expedition cruise company specialising in Antarctic and European Arctic expeditions. Since the early 1990s, Aurora Expeditions have shared their love of Antarctica with small groups of adventurous individuals keen to explore one of the wildest places on Earth.
Aurora Expeditions' dynamic team all share a great respect for natural and cultural environments. Aurora Expeditions continues to approach expedition travel as a catalyst for making a difference in one's life, and in the world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rabbits and rats targeted on Macquarie Island: ABC

For the past few days wild weather has held up plans to begin a special eradication program on a rugged Subantarctic island.

A team of specialists, including 12 dogs, has arrived offshore at Macquarie Island, ready to begin the crucial operation.

The project aimed at eradicating rabbits and rodents is no overnight quick fix. It's expected to take five years and cost at least $25 million.

From the island, Tracy Bowden reports.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

INTO THE FROZEN SOUTH - Historic Hurley Video from Pathe

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The World’s Most Innovative Antarctic Expeditions

Experience the magic of Antarctica in the Summer of 2011, aboard the celebrated research vessel, Akademik Ioffe. This ship is considered the best equipped, most stable and most capable Antarctic expedition vessel in the world, with a maximum of just 95 guests. All voyages include well presented lectures, up to three shore excursions per day when in Antarctica and a complimentary Antarctica wet weather gear hire package. For the adventurers, we include the option to spend a night camping on the ice as well as sea kayaking. You also enjoy outstanding international cuisine prepared by our team of chefs. There are 10 expeditions to choose from – departing between November 2011 and March 2012. With the Aussie dollar so strong, there will never be a better time to go! Popular expeditions include:

Antarctic Peninsula Adventure
(4-departures this season)

11-day expedition departing from Ushuaia, Argentina. Experience the breathtaking scenery of the Antarctic Peninsula – a region teeming with wildlife, towering glaciers, icebergs in all shapes and sizes and historic research bases. Our days are filled with excursions ashore accompanied by our naturalist guides. *Ask about our special airfares to South America.

Journey Below the Antarctic Circle
(1-departure this season)

On this 13-day voyage, we journey further south than we do at any other time in the season. Our aim is to cross the Antarctic Circle, below 66 ° 33' south. We aim to head as far south as Crystal Sound, an icy sweep of water surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Antarctic continent. The scenery here, combined with the extended light at the height of the Antarctic summer, make for truly jaw-dropping sights in every direction. Be quick, this expedition sells out every season! *Ask about our special airfares to South America.

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula (3-departures this season)

On this far-reaching expedition to the islands of the South Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic continent, you revel in 19 awe-inspiring days of exploration. Busybody penguins in rookeries by the thousands, stupendous icebergs reflecting startling greens and blues, humpback whales feeding on krill, and, of course, the continent-sized sweeping ice sheet of Antarctica are just some of the highlights of this outstanding expedition. *Ask about our special airfares to South America.

Contact Active Travel – the Antarctic travel experts.
Call 02 9264 1231, email or visit