Superyacht Arctic's owner on planning the perfect voyage to Antarctica
Arctic’s southern sojourn begins in the Falkland Islands. ‘The Falklands is one of the best places on Earth to see the wildlife of the South Atlantic, such as the black-browed albatross,’ says EYOS naturalist Matt Drennan. ‘At sea they are zipping along on a gale, but in the Falklands we can get feet away from a nest with a chick underfoot. You’re standing in vast colonies, and spending an afternoon with these massive, gentle birds is something you never forget.’
From the Falklands, Arctic voyages 800 nautical miles southeast to South Georgia. On arrival at Grytviken, Arctic is met with the rare sight of giant tabular icebergs. Time in Grytviken is spent visiting the old whaling station, museum, and the original Norwegian church. The highlight is a visit to Ernest Shackleton’s grave where we toast ‘the boss’. Remote and little-visited, South Georgia boasts unforgettable scenery and wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of charismatic king penguins crowd the wild sandy beaches, sharing space with fur seals, while 2,500-metre peaks create a stunning backdrop.
Arctic voyages on, traversing 850 nautical miles south west past Elephant Island (where Shackleton’s men were marooned) to the Antarctic Peninsula. Here 12 days of intensive polar activities begin. ‘The guests wanted to sample every experience,’ says McCallum. ‘They embraced landings ashore to see penguin rookeries teeming with life, or Zodiac cruising with leopard seals. They jumped at the chance to visit a scientific base at midnight after an invitation for a Christmas drink. Hiking, kayaking, walking on fast ice… And in what is perhaps the ultimate test of true enthusiasm; every single guest and most of the crew undertook the polar plunge into waters with a temperature of minus one degree centigrade!’
The highlight is the day Arctic is joined by a curious humpback whale and her calf. Adrift on a mirror calm sea, we enjoy a rare lunch outside as the whales explore Arctic’s stern; diving and resurfacing at the aft platform, nosing the hull and inspecting the boat for hours. It is simply magical, a truly natural and genuine experience.
Even transit is rewarding, with endless vistas of mountains and ever-changing icescapes. ‘Ask our clients what their enduring memory of Antarctica is, and it’s often the light,’ says McCallum. ‘Below the Antarctic Circle the sun barely dips for two to three hours and slowly rises again in a drawn out, vibrant sunrise. Between 10pm and 3am, the light yields colours of crushed apricot, fiery copper and gold. It is spellbinding, and unforgettable.’
After 21 days, Arctic’s voyage comes to an end at King George Island, one of the few places in Antarctica with a serviceable runway. The guests bid sad farewells to captain and crew, before heading to Chile and on home. There is something about Antarctica that grabbed my heart: the ice, the mesmerising light, the vastness of space and the infinite sky. It’s an amazing place; every day brings a magical adventure. I can’t wait to return.
‘It’s been a pleasure to work with a vessel as capable as Arctic,’ says McCallum. ‘We always design an itinerary to the limits of the yacht’s capabilities, but Arctic is one of the most capable expedition vessels we have seen in a while, so we were able to really expand the itinerary and do things beyond the reach of many vessels.’
Arctic’s captain agrees: ‘Arctic’s successful first foray to Antarctica paves the way for other polar voyages: the Ross Sea, Northwest Passage, and Svalbard. We know what she is capable of; she has proven herself a true expedition yacht. She can go anywhere the owner desires.’
Photography by EYOS Expeditions; courtesy of Arctic