East Antarctica: In the wake of Mawson with Heritage Expeditions

By AG Staff 24 April 2019
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Voyage to one of the least-visited coastlines in the world and discover for yourself why East Antarctica held such a fascination for pioneering Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson. Enjoy the pleasures of exploration and observation, and experience the panoramic and the intimate; the majestic vista of the world’s largest glacier and a young Adelie Penguin taking its first ocean dip. The natural world beckons and rewards with rare whale sightings and abundant birdlife.

A contemporary of legendary explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Mawson was a passionate scientist, explorer and academic who spent his life devoted to exploring and studying Antarctica. Mawson’s 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) and joint 1929-1931 British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) mapped and explored the coastal area of Antarctica closest to Australia, and in so doing defined Australia’s claim over the icy continent.

This journey will take you from New Zealand via the ‘stepping stones’ of the rugged and wild Subantarctic Islands – The Snares, Auckland and Macquarie islands – breaking the long journey and introducing travellers to nesting seabirds, seals and rare flora, and the islands’ rich biodiversity paving the way to an incredible Antarctic experience. There will be opportunities for thrilling wildlife encounters from nesting albatross and rowdy penguin rookeries to lazing seals and sea lions.

Crossing the Antarctic Circle, where the sun stays above the horizon, you’ll move closer to Mawson’s Antarctica. Pelagic birdlife wheels overhead on your journey south as you navigate astounding ice formations and marvel at Mertz Glacier’s ice tongue.

Weather conditions will determine your final expedition explorations in East Antarctica; the aim is to gain first-hand insights into this remarkable destination. Highlights of your voyage in this region will include exploring and retracing history at Cape Denison, the location of Mawson’s Hut, where you’ll visit the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory, conditions permitting. While visiting the hut is high on the wish list, landings in this area are determined by the effects of Katabatic wind and ice. Mawson was very much one for science and knowledge, but realised the need to push the boundaries of endurance to achieve this goal. Your experienced crew and expedition team will be monitoring conditions closely so you’re as likely as possible to achieve your goal, and follow in the footsteps of this legendary explorer.

The itinerary has a good number of days in Antarctic waters to maximise the time for landings, so there will be opportunities to explore on Zodiac cruises along the ice edge and among passing floes. You should encounter adelie penguins swimming close by or resting on floes, and ,if  lucky, emperor penguins too. Cetaceans on previous expeditions have included fin, minke, blue and humpback whales; orca also can be seen in this region. Birds you’re likely to encounter include snow, Antarctic, giant, Wilson’s storm and cape petrels, as well as Antarctic fulmar, while crabeater, weddell and leopard seals may be resting along the ice edge. With long daylight hours and magnificent landscapes, the photographic opportunities are endless in this land of snow and ice.

Also planned is a visit to the region Terre Adelie, which has a coastline of roughly 300km and comprises the French sector where the French station Dumont D’Urville is located, and close by, Port Martin.

Heritage Expeditions’ 25-plus years experience travelling to Antarctica, its experienced sailors and knowledgeable guides, and its fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, means it is well prepared to embark on this truly epic adventure.

Find out more about dates, prices and the itinerary on this Heritage Expeditions trip here.