Antarctica's Ross Sea

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Tour Description

A once-in-a-lifetime Antarctica expedition, our month-long Ross Sea tour combines the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia with 24 hours of continuous daylight and the most majestic of all penguins, the emperor penguin, in the Ross Sea. Here, we spend ten days searching for these lords of Antarctica, regarded as the most difficult to see in their natural habitat, as well as the elusive Ross seal. We hope to land, ice-dependent, on Cape Adare, Cape Hallet, and Terra Nova Bay. Join us as we meet the Campbell Island teal, the majestic southern royal albatross, yellow-eyes penguins, and more on this Ross Sea adventure travel expedition.

Ross Sea Expedition highlights include:

  • Helicopter flightseeing over the Dry Valleys, if weather permits; this region is one of the world’s most extreme deserts and a hallmark of true Antarctica adventure travel.
  • Travel aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov for its penultimate voyage; on board Nigel Watson, Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, enlightens us on the efforts to save historic expedition bases.
  • Some of the most stunning seabird life of our Antarctica tour, on Campbell Island: see southern royal and light-mantled sooty albatross.
  • Macquarie Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to three million royal penguins and 100,000 king penguins.
  • The uninhabited Balleny Islands, straddling the Antarctic Circle, and home to Adelie and chinstrap penguins.

What to expect:

An Antarctica expedition is considered one of life’s greatest travel accomplishments—and one most enjoyed by those with a healthy spirit of adventure. A relatively moderate level of exertion is required; you can expect to climb in and out of Zodiacs and walk moderate distances over uneven terrain, and on the beaches of the sub-Antarctic islands. Temperatures, while dipping as low as 30°F, feel quite temperate, thanks to sunshine and low humidity. To whet your appetite for Ross Sea and Antarctica adventure travel, we’ll mail you a reading and recommended clothing list prior to departure. We look forward to introducing you to the White Continent.


Day 1-2

USA / Day lost crossing the International Date Line

Depart on your independent flights from the USA.

Day 3

Christchurch, New Zealand

Arrive in Christchurch, a fitting place to begin our voyage to the Ross Sea. In 1908 Shackleton stayed in Christchurch before he embarked for Antarctica. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 4

Lyttelton / Embark Kapitan Khlebnikov

Embark the Kapitan Khlebnikov and follow in great Antarctic explorers’ footsteps. Like Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott boarded a ship in Lyttelton when he began his journey to the South Pole.

Day 5

At Sea

This is the penultimate voyage as an expedition vessel for the legendary Kapitan Khlebnikov. Today the expedition team reminisces about the discovery of emperor penguin rookeries, the first visit to the Dry Valleys, and all the other firsts made possible by this icebreaker. Special guest Nigel Watson, Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ), cares for the expedition bases left by Scott, Shackleton, and Borchgrevink in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica and provides insight into the current efforts to save the historic bases.

Day 6

Snares Islands

Landings are not permitted in the Snares Islands. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site the Snares are without terrestrial mammals, making it a superb environment for birds and seals. Fur seals and penguins line the kelp-covered shores, aboard Zodiacs we cruise around the islands, home to endemic bird species such as the Snares tomtit, Snares fern bird, and the Snares crested penguin.

Day 7-8

Auckland Islands

The Auckland Islands are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Enderby, the largest island of the archipelago, is one of two of the islands that visitors are permitted to explore. The rare yellow-eyed penguin breeds here, as do endemic Auckland shags.

Day 9

Campbell Island

Campbell Island was declared a nature reserve in 1954 and vigorous eradication of introduced species has resulted in the successful return of seabirds and recovery of native vegetation. Birders and photographers thrill to close encounters with southern royal and light-mantled sooty albatross and Hooker’s sea lions. Broad bays, vertical headlands, and surf-washed beaches serve as backdrop to our exploration.

Day 10-11

At Sea

Soaring albatross and petrels circle the vessel, as we follow in the wake of Scott, Mawson, and Shackleton to the Ross Sea. A dramatic drop in water temperature represents the Antarctic Convergence and our first icebergs herald the frozen splendor of Antarctica. Our naturalists will be on deck to help spot and identify seabirds and marine mammals. Our ship’s historian will begin recounting the history and heroic tales of the Ross Sea region and Antarctica.

Day 12

Cape Adare, Antarctica

Views of the 12,000-foot Admiralty Mountains herald our arrival at Cape Adare, discovered in 1841 by Captain James Ross. Here we see the hut where Carsten Borchgrevink was the first to over winter on the Antarctic Continent in 1899. Special guest Nigel Watson provides insight into the hut’s preservation. Cape Adare is also home to 260,000 pairs of Adelie penguins, the largest rookery anywhere of this species.

Day 13-24

The Ross Sea

From Cape Adare, the Kapitan Khlebnikov negotiates the ice of the Ross Sea, steaming southward into the historic heart of Antarctic exploration. The next 10 days are spent exploring the coast along Victoria Land. The captain and expedition leader assess daily conditions and take full advantage of every opportunity to make landings by Zodiac or helicopter. Weather, sea, and ice conditions determine our exact itinerary. Visit several rookeries of emperor and Adelie penguins, and take in the breathtaking scenery of glaciers and tabular icebergs. We also visit McMurdo Station and Scott Base, and historic huts erected by Scott and Shackleton. If conditions permit, participate in a flight to the Dry Valleys, accessible only by helicopter.

Day 25

Balleny Islands

The uninhabited Balleny Islands straddle the Antarctic Circle. Adelie and chinstrap penguins breed here and we go ashore and cruise in Zodiacs past ice tongues in the channels and bays.

Day 26

At Sea

Today we bid Antarctica farewell as the ship crosses the Antarctic Convergence once more. Search for birds and marine mammals on deck, attend lectures, and relax as we head north.

Day 27-28

Macquarie Island

This remote island sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to an astounding three million royal penguins and 100,000 king penguins. Large groups of southern elephant seals slumber on the island’s sandy beaches and there is a rich variety of other wildlife to find and observe. Our landings depend on permissions as well as local weather and sea conditions.

Day 29-30

At Sea

We recap our experience and celebrate this penultimate voyage with the captain’s farewell dinner.

Day 31

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia / Disembark / USA

After breakfast disembark and transfer to the airport for homeward flights. Cross the International Date Line arriving home on December 7.


Pricing Information

Kapitan Khlebnikov

Take advantage of the final opportunities to experience a Kapitan Khlebnikov expedition. This powerful working icebreaker will retire as an expedition vessel in March 2012. Until that time, guests can enjoy its 56 outside cabins and suites, each as spacious and comfortable as the next, and all with private facilities. Passengers aboard Kapitan Khlebnikov cruises have access to two dining rooms and a digitally-equipped lecture room, small heated indoor pool, gym, library, sauna, elevator, and small infirmary. It’s the more adventure-minded amenities that truly set Kapitan Khlebnikov voyages apart, though: a comprehensive polar library, six Zodiac landing craft for shore transfers, and two helicopters used for ice reconnaissance and flightseeing. Join this historic ship on its final journeys—it is the icebreaker that has transited the Northwest Passage more than any other expedition ship in history. Ship registry: Russia.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.