Ross Sea: Antarctica, Emperor Penguins, Historical Huts & Subantarctic Islands

An expedition to one of the most remote places on earth

At a Glance

FOCUS:

Birds, wildlife and history cruise: seabirds, island endemics, remote islands and historic huts.

WHERE:

Invercargill - The Snares - Auckland Islands - Macquarie Island - Ross Sea - Campbell Island - Invercargill.

SAMPLE WILDLIFE:

Southern Ocean: numerous species of albatrosses, petrels, penguins, diving-petrels, storm-petrels and shearwaters.

Subantarctic Islands: five species of penguins (King, Gentoo, Yellow-eyed, Royal, Rockhopper and Snares), three endemic cormorants, Auckland and Campbell Island Flightless Teal and Subantarctic Snipe.

Ross Sea: Emperor, Chinstrap and Adelie Penguins, Antarctic Cormorant, Greater Snow Petrel, Brown Skua and Snowy Sheathbill.

Marine mammals: Humpback Whale, Sperm Whale, Antarctic Minke Whale, Ross Sea (Type C) Orca, Dusky Dolphin, Hourglass Dolphin, Southern Right Whale Dolphin, Gray's Beaked Whale, Strap-toothed Beaked Whale, Hooker's Sea-lion, Southern Elephant Seal, Crabeater Seal, Weddell Seal and Leopard Seal.

Dates and Prices:

Dates: typically January-February and February-March

Leader: Ship's expedition team

Prices: TBC


Although New Zealand is currently on the UK government's "green list", the country's borders are closed to foreigners so we do not recommend booking until this situation has changed.


  • Emperor and Adelie Penguins, Ross Sea
  • Snares (Crested) Penguins, Snares Islands
  • sea ice, Ross Sea
  • Snares Fernbird, Snares Island
  • Greater Snow Petrel, near Balleny Islands
  • Royal Penguin, Macquarie Island
  • Royal Penguin, Macquarie Island
  • Royal Penguins, Macquarie Island
  • White-headed Petrel
  • Greater Snow Petrel, near Balleny Islands
  • Adelie Penguins, Ross Sea
  • White-headed Petrel
  • Scott's Hut, Ross Sea
  • Scott's Hut, Ross Sea
  • supplies in hut
  • supplies in hut - signed by Ernest Shackleton
  • Mount Erebus, Ross Sea
  • Emperor Penguin, Ross Sea
  • Emperor Penguin, Ross Sea
  • Shackleton's Hut, Cape Royds
  • Emperor Penguin, Ross Sea
  • Shackleton's Hut, Cape Royds
  • Southern Royal Albatrosses, Enderby Island
  • "Pancake ice", Ross Sea
  • Lesser Snow Petrel, Southern Ocean
  • sea ice, Ross Sea
  • "Pancake ice", Ross Sea

Tour overview

The Ross Sea is one of the remotest places on Earth and with a combination of some fascinating history, magnificent Antarctic landscapes and special wildlife, it is a truly unique place to visit.

With this part of Antarctica frozen up by sea ice for almost 10 months every year, it is only in January and February that it is realistic to visit with only a few hundred tourists per annum getting to experience this magical place.

Whilst the Ross Sea is named after Sir James Clark Ross who first came to this region in 1841, it is probably better known for the exploits of explorers such as Captain Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton and what makes expeditions to this region so special is the opportunity to visit some of the huts where these explorers spent time before setting off on their treks into the unknown. Some of these buildings have been preserved like time capsules and with supplies on the shelves, coats hanging by the door and a journal on the table, it is as if Captain Scott or Ernest Shackleton only left a matter of moments ago rather than in the early years of last century.

Sometimes permission can also be obtained to visit the bases of the modern-day explorers and scientists who make their homes down here for months at a time. The Italians, New Zealanders and Americans to name but a few have scientific bases and if conditions allow and permission can be obtained, we may be able to go ashore and meet some of them.

Whilst the human history is an important part of any trip to this region, it is also a phenomenal place to see a very different part of Antarctica for those who may have been to the Antarctic Peninsula. Being well to the south of the Antarctic Circle, the climate is far more extreme and even in February, it is possible to see the sea beginning to freeze over.

On most trips, a visit is likely to be made to the Ross Ice Shelf which stretches for over 300 miles and contains an unbelievable volume of ice and occasionally this may include a visit to the Bay of Whales where our recommended vessel, Spirit of Enderby, set a world record a few years ago as the most southerly ship ever.

Landings will also be made at locations which are good for wildlife and one of the special species we can expect to see here is Emperor Penguin. January and February are, of course, outside the breeding season of this incredible bird (with the females laying the single egg just before the onset of winter) but we stand excellent chances of seeing adult birds.

As well as Emperor Penguins, we should also find the much smaller Adelie Penguin and we will also be looking out for the Ross Sea Orca which are distinctly different from other populations and have been proposed as a separate species.

A little to the north of the Ross Sea, we may get an opportunity to cruise close to the rarely visited Balleny Islands where another poorly known species occurs, the Greater Snow Petrel. When flying with their more widespread ‘cousins’, the Lesser Snow Petrel, these birds are obviously different and when they also have a different moult strategy, there are surely good reasons for regarding this as a cryptic species.

During the journey from New Zealand to Antarctica, there will, of course, be fantastic opportunities to see a mouth-watering selection of pelagic seabirds which will include a host of albatrosses, petrels, prions and storm-petrels. A great range of cetaceans are also possible including the spectacular Southern Right Whale Dolphin, as well as several of the beaked whales.

As it heads for Antarctica, the ship makes stops at three special island groups, the Snares, Auckland Islands and Macquarie Island and this gives those keen on wildlife some great opportunities to see species which will not be seen further south. As well as endemic penguins at the Snares and Macquarie, there are also good chances of finding the endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin at the Auckland Islands, whilst our stop at Macquarie should provide us with the chance to enjoy great views of King Penguins.

Whilst heading back to New Zealand, the ship typically stops for a couple of days at Campbell Island where we should see our second species of flightless teal (as there are good chances on Auckland Island for the lookalike species there). By following an amazing four kilometre long boardwalk into the hills, we will also get an opportunity to see nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses and hopefully views of Subantarctic Snipe giving this epic trip, a fantastic finale.

Sample Itinerary


Day 1: Invercargill

Day 2: Bluff and board ship

Day 3: Snares Island

Day 4: Auckland Islands - Enderby Island

Day 5: Auckland Islands - Carnley Harbour

Day 6: At sea

Days 7-8: Macquarie Island

Day 9-12: At sea

Days 13-22: Exploring Ross Sea

Days 23-26: At sea

Day 27-28: Campbell Island

Day 29: At sea

Day 30: Disembark in either Invercargill or Christchurch



NB: As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact itinerary will be subject to weather and local conditions. All landings are subject to government permissions.

Potential Seabirds (selected species only)

Antarctic Tern, Brown Skua, Emperor Penguin, King Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Yellow-eyed Penguin, Royal Penguin, Southern (Eastern) Rockhopper Penguin, Fiordland Penguin, Snares Penguin, Erect-crested Penguin, Wilson's Storm-petrel, Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Wandering Albatross, Antipodean Albatross, Gibson’s Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Albatross, White-capped Albatross, Salvin's Albatross. Grey-headed Albatross, Buller's Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel, Blue Petrel, Broad-billed Prion, Antarctic Prion, Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion, White-headed Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Subantarctic (Little) Shearwater, Common Diving Petrel, Macquarie Shag, Auckland Shag, Campbell Shag, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Grey-backed Storm-petrel and Black-bellied Storm-Petrel.

Potential ‘Landbirds' (selected species only)

Auckland Island Flightless Teal, Campbell Island Flightless Teal, Double-banded Plover, Subantarctic Snipe, New Zealand Falcon, Red-crowned Parakeet, (Snares) Tomtit, New Zealand (Snares) Fernbird and New Zealand Pipit.

Potential Cetaceans and Marine Mammals (selected species only)

Sperm Whale, Humpback Whale, Antarctic Minke Whale, Ross Sea (Type C) Orca, Dusky Dolphin, Hourglass Dolphin, Southern Right Whale Dolphin, Arnoux's Beaked Whale, Gray's Beaked Whale, Strap-toothed Beaked Whale, Southern Elephant Seal, Hooker's Sea-lion, Crabeater Seal, Weddell Seal and Leopard Seal.