The Drake Passage The infamous Drake Passage extends about 1,000 km (600 miles) between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. To reach the Antarctic Peninsula it is necessary to traverse this stretch of water at right angles to the current flow. This, coupled with the propensity for high winds in the region, can cause rough seas, and conditions sometimes referred to as the “Drake Shake.” While the seas can be quite lively, our Quark Expedition – Antarctica vessels have stabilizers designed for this type of weather.
Conversely, the “Drake Lake” is occasionally encountered when the passage is calm. Many people consider the Drake Passage a rite of passage on their voyage to the Antarctic.
On all Antarctic voyages, the crossing takes approximately 48 hours in favorable conditions. Due to the great unpredictability of the weather patterns, it is really just up to chance which Drake you will experience.
Cape Horn On select Polar voyages, we’ll attempt to land on Cape Horn. The Cape Horn National Park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in June 2005. Before the construction of the Panama Canal, the only way for ships to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was to brave the Southern Ocean. Cape Horn is located on the most extreme southern tip of Chile and the seas there are as rough today as they were hundreds of years ago. Sailing around the ‘Horn’ is considered by some to be the “Everest” of sailing.
Antarctica Peninsula Your first step on the 7th continent will take place in the most readily accessible part of the Antarctic Peninsula, the most northern stretch of Antarctic land. Stepping foot on the 7th continent is a moment of pleasure and excitement that affects each traveler differently.
On land you’ll encounter wildlife in abundance, and have the chance to stand amongst enormous penguin rookeries, and from the deck of the ship see Minke and humpback whales at close range.
The Falkland Islands The Falkland Islands, also known as Islas Malvinas by the Argentines, are located some 400 km northeast of Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most point in South America. This archipelago itself consists of East and West Falkland, divided by Falkland Sound.
The Falklands are of great interest for birdwatchers. There are 63 breeding species and 23 annual migrants, plus a long list of others that occasionally arrive. Thanks to the rich surrounding seas, the Falklands boast no less than six breeding species of penguins
South Georgia This slightly crescent-shaped, mountainous island lies some 1,300 km (800 miles) east-south-east of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). It has not only an astonishing concentration of wildlife, but also glaicers, fjords and low-lying grassland. It is at Grytviken, a once-active whaling station where Ernest Shackleton is buried. Often referred to as the “Galapagos of the Poles,” you’ll likely be greeted by a massive king penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, and a beach with thousands of fur seals or elephant seals at Gold Harbour.
South Orkney Islands These are a group of rather barren islands 1,360 km (850 miles) north east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The climate is rather harsh, with strong winds, frequent rain and snow. Snow falls about 280 days each year. The bird life of the South Orkneys is plentiful, and Coronation Island is an important breeding site for the beautiful, but rather elusive pure white snow petrel. There are some large penguin rookeries, and a host of other seabirds also breed here.
South Sandwich Islands The South Sandwich Islands are located about 800 km (460 miles) south-east of South Georgia. The islands form a chain some 390 km (240 miles) long, comprising 11 major and several smaller islands. The islands are volcanic in origin and some remain active.
There is at least one extraordinary wildlife spectacle within the South Sandwich Islands: Zavodoski Island is home to approximately 1,000,000 pairs of breeding chinstrap penguins on its volcanic slopes, making it one of the largest penguin colonies in the world. Those who have seen this massive penguin colony speak of it with awe.
South Shetland Islands The South Shetland Islands are approximately 120 km north of the Antarctic Peninsula and will usually be your first stop en route to the Peninsula. Home to a great number of animals, you’ll spot an abundance of wildlife, including various species of penguins, seals and sea birds.