The Ross Sea takes its name from Sir James Clark Ross who discovered it in 1841. 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. Amundsen had deceived his supporters and sailed the Fram to the Bay of Whales, in the Ross Sea where he established his base Framheim. 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 back from the edge of extinction, and some species have done better than others. 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. 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. This is just 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. 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.
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. Day 4: Auckland Islands 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. Day 5: 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 6 to 7: 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 8 to 11: 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 12 to 27: Antarctica – the Ross Sea Region, including Bay of Whales and Balleny Islands 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: Balleny Islands: Remote and often beset by ice, we will attempt not only to visit but to make a landing here. We are also keen to see and photograph the Greater Snow Petrel which is known to breed on these islands. Bay of Whales: The site of Amundsen’s Framheim and Richard Byrd’s “Little America”. Cape Adare: One of the largest Adelie penguin rookeries in the world and also site of Carsten Borchgrevink’s 1899 Hut. Cape Hallett: The mighty Admiralty Range dominates this site. A former NZ/American base. Franklin Island: Desolately beautiful and rugged, home to a large Adelie Penguin population. Ross Ice Shelf: Formerly called the “Ice Barrier” the world’s largest body of floating ice. Ross Island: Mount Erebus and visits to Cape Bird, Shackleton’s Hut, Scott’s Hut(s) and Scott and McMurdo Stations are high on our wish list. Possession Islands: These islands support tens of thousands of penguins. Terra Nova Bay: Both the Italian and Koreans have research stations here. Days 28 to 30: 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. Days 31 to 32: 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 33 to 34: 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 35: Christchurch We disembark in the Port of Lyttelton and this adventure ends as we disperse to begin others. After fond farewells we transfer you to central city hotels or to the airport.
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition cruising. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2012 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins, approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top New Zealand and Australian chefs. The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.