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Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Expedition-Jami Tarris and Theo Allofs
October 24 - November 14
Join us on an Antarctic adventure like no other and on one of the best ships that sails the Antarctic waters, the ice-strengthened M/V Ortelius. We have assembled a team of naturalists, scientists, expeditions leaders and professional photographers to provide personalized photography instruction, south pole early exploration history and natural history education.
Wild Focus is the primary charterer of the M/V Ortelius for this expedition. What this means is that Wild Focus has its own expedition team on the ship. We have created a customized unique itinerary with the charter company and we have the freedom to work with the Captain and expedition team en route to control the itinerary ice and weather permitting. We will be able to make adjustments for light, extraordinary wildlife viewing, landscapes, ice conditions and unique situations as we go. This will allow us to maximize our Antarctic experience, our shore landings, zodiac excursions and photography opportunities. Unlike other Antarctic expeditions, we will be flexible in order to adjust for extraordinary experiences and viewings. We will be flexible with mealtimes and other on-ship activities based on our shore and zodiac excursions – photography and wildlife comes first!
On this all-inclusive 22 day expedition, we will experience the best that this region has to offer including encounters with diverse and abundant wildlife, expansive landscapes, and historic sites that make the days of early exploration a reality for us during our journey.
The M/V Ortelius is a small ship that can go where the larger ships cannot. We will be able to access all of the potential landing sites (weather permitting). The M/V Ortelius captain, officers, crew and expeditions staff are highly experienced in Antarctic navigation. Our captain maintains an open bridge policy in order to share the navigation teams’ enthusiasm for this stunningly pristine region of the world.
Antarctica – the name alone sounds magic and mysterious. It is one of the last unspoiled wildernesses on earth, a naturalist’s and photographer’s paradise. The most amazing fact is that most animals or birds do not run or fly away from you unlike animals on the northern hemisphere. Antarctica lacks land predators, so don’t be surprised when penguins are checking out your boots or pecking at your tripod legs!
First discovered in 1675 by Captain James Cook, South Georgia is a legendary place for historians and nature lovers. With mountain peaks extending above 9,000 feet, towering glaciers and rugged canyons, it is a remote island that is famous for its final stage of one of the greatest survival stories of all time: Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic aboard the Endurance. Historians speak of South Georgia Island in hushed, almost reverent terms. During this expedition, you will walk into the past in a literal sense and experience the mystery and remoteness of one of the most ill-fated expeditions in history. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton and his crew had become trapped in pack ice that stayed firmly in place until October of that year. The tremendous pressures of the ever-shifting ice sheets cracked the hull of the Endurance, sending her to the bottom of the sea. You will learn about Shackleton and much more during your Wild Focus Expedition!
We have chosen this time of year because of the wildlife. By November, most of the Falklands’ and South Georgia’s penguin and albatross species are incubating their eggs. The weather can be quite unpredictable, and it is not unusual to experience snow. The changing weather, coupled with the light conditions and ensuing colours, make for stunning photo opportunities.
Spring in South Georgia brings the rare treat of witnessing huge elephant seal males as they consolidate their harems. The beaches become inundated with females and the massive males during mid-November and with this comes a lot of action and interaction. Spring also brings the greatest gathering of seabirds on earth. Wandering Albatross chicks are now testing their wings and shedding their down, ready to head off to sea for their first few years of life. At this time of year, not only are the early breeding king penguins laying their eggs, but Gentoo, Macaroni and Chinstrap penguins have returned to begin the laying and incubation of their eggs as well.
King penguins are the second largest penguin species and the most colorful. The sheer number of these penguins breeding behind the beach of Salisbury Plain on South Georgia is enough to truly challenge belief. South Georgia has one of the largest king penguin colonies and rookeries worldwide. Some 60,000 king penguin pairs are all gathered here into one very popular hangout.
It is hard to imagine that there is another place that has an even greater population of king penguins, but there is – St. Andrews Bay! It hosts a breeding colony numbering more than 150,000 king penguin pairs with a stunning backdrop of snow-covered mountains – a sight you will never forget. And the beaches of St. Andrews Bay are also occupied by relaxed fur seals and feisty southern elephant seals. Keeping in mind that when penguins are present, so are the third largest seal in the world: the leopard seal.
We hope to see these predators of the south pole as they have an acquired taste for Gentoo, Chinstrap, King, Rockhopper and even Emperor penguins. They can reach up to 1300 lbs (590 kgs) in weight and grow up to 10 feet/3 meters. Their bodies are long and slender and their heads appear to be too large for their thin, serpent-like bodies. Because their body is streamline-shaped, it is excellent for propelling through the water at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. They are solitary except until breeding time which occurs from November until March. They have few predators and can be dangerous to humans.
The island of Steeple Jason extends off the far northwest side of the Falkland Islands into the Atlantic Ocean. Over 70% of the global population of Black-browed Albatross breed here. According to a recent aerial survey, about 183,000 pairs of Black-browed Albatrosses nest along one side of the island—one elevated nest after another spanning for miles. It is a noise-filled place of continuous Albatross chatter competing with the squawking of Rockhopper Penguins who have elected to nest on the ground directly beneath the elevated Albatross nests. In addition, a screeching chorus is often heard from attacking Striated Caracara. Steeple Jason is the largest nesting colony of these aggressive birds of prey who continually patrol above and around the Albatross and Penguins searching for food for themselves and their chicks.
Every day on shore is packed with unforgettable eye-to-eye wildlife experiences. It is not possible to adequately describe all of them here. And during our time at sea cruising from island to island, we may be lucky to spot several different whale species.
This is an incredible adventure that you don’t want to miss. And go as soon as possible because Antarctica is experiencing global warming with a devastating impact on the natural environment. At the time of writing this text, Antarctica was experiencing the highest temperatures recorded in history – +70ºF/+20ºC during their fall season.
Join Wild Focus Expeditions as we explore the Antarctic together for yet another once-in-a-lifetime experience. Help us make unforgettable memories on this exciting and fun voyage.