MV Ortelius will sail into the Ross Sea
The MV Ortelius will operate the two voyages. Image: Oceanwide Expeditions

Two new expedition cruise itineraries, one in each direction between South America and New Zealand via the Ross Sea in Antarctica, have been scheduled by Oceanwide Expeditions. The expeditions come after two series’ of exploratory runs in both 2013 and 2015.

Guests will travel onboard the ice-strengthened vessel Ortelius on a 32-day journey. The ship will be equipped with a helicopter both for sightseeing and in the unlikely event the ship gets stuck in the ice, as happened before to another vessel, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy in Commonwealth Bay two years ago.

The first voyage departs from Ushuaia, at the bottom tip of South America, on 13 January 2017. After crossing the Polar Circle, the ship will head west to Peter I Island and into the Ross Sea after crossing the region known as “Deep Antarctica” via the Bellingshausen Sea. After a visit to the Sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, the voyage ends in the New Zealand town of Bluff on 14 February. The reverse voyage will depart from Bluff the following day.

For explorers, the Ross Sea has always provided a unique challenge, with the region normally inaccessible for much of the season due to the Ross ice shelf and a lack of suitable landing sites. During this voyage, an attempt will be made to land a helicopter on the ice itself (weather permitting).

Helicopter flight over the Ross Sea Ice Shelf
Guests will be able to see the Ross Sea Ice Shelf from a helicopter, weather permitting.

The Ross Sea was discovered in 1841 by British explorer Sir James Clark Ross. Around 60 years later, the ‘Race to the South Pole’ saw a number of explorers attempt to reach the site, with many relics from their adventures still preserved by the ice and able to be visited today. Due to the region’s limited accessibility, only a very limited number of voyages are able to visit each season, while most ships tend to limit themselves to Peter I Island, Ross Island, McMurdo Station and the Dry Valleys. The area is virtually untouched and part of Antarctica which remains virtually untouched by human explorers.

Such an in-depth adventure is expensive, with cabin prices on the 32-night itinerary starting from $25,700 per person twin quad share for a porthole view. Included are all meals onboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea, all shore excursions and zodiac trips, rubber boot and snowshoe usage, a lecture program conducted by experts and all taxes.