Forget everything you know about Antarctica. Onboard Le Commandant Charcot, a new luxury ship shaped for polar exploration, you will reach the most isolated and remote regions of the planet, and explore them as you’ve never done before.

Le Commandant Charcot’s cutting-edge technology, including its hybrid propulsion combining liquefied natural gas (LNG) and electric generators, goes above and beyond sustainability regulations to minimise our impact in the regions we visit.

Join this unrivalled expedition cruise south of the Antarctic Circle to reach two of the world’s most seldom-visited places; Peter I Island and Charcot Island.  You will travel south in the company of both a National Geographic photographer and expert, who through lectures, workshops and smaller discussions, will give you a deeper understanding of the sights and significance of your journey, and teach you how to capture the story of this incredible expedition through your own photography.

Departing from Argentina’s Ushuaia, cross the legendary Drake Passage and Antarctic Circle, before arriving in some of Antarctica’s most remote and elusive islands that were discovered by legendary explorer Captain Jean-Baptiste Charcot, on his voyage of exploration from 1908-1910.

We will visit Detaille Island, a small island home to an historic British research base, before sailing south through the Gullet, a narrow channel often filled with ice floes and impressive bergs, and continuing on to Pourquoi Pas Island and Marguerite Bay.

From Marguerite Bay, we will sail west into the Bellinghausen Sea, for Charcot island. This remote island was discovered in 1910 by Jean-Baptiste Charcot and named for his father. Our voyage continues far to the west to Peter I Island. This small volcanic island is considered to be one of the most remote islands on earth. While it was discovered in 1821, it was not until 1929 that anyone managed to land here. Since this time, few have ever visited this remote and wild destination.

At the end of your trip, sit down with your National Geographic Expert and photographer and reflect on the experiences you have shared on your voyage and how they have changed you upon your return. National Geographic and Ponant share the deep belief that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot ship.

We are privileged guests in these remote lands, and we are at the mercy of the weather, ice, tide and current conditions. Landings on certain sites and the observation of certain wildlife cannot be guaranteed. This makes each National Geographic cruise a unique experience.

Overnight in Santiago + flight Santiago/Ushuaia + transfers + flight Ushuaia/Santiago

Trip highlights

Sail with a National Geographic photographer, who will help you capture the stunning wildlife and otherworldly landscapes of Antarctica through photographic workshops and lectures, as well as being available for one-on-one discussions about photography.

Sail with a National Geographic Expert, who will reflect upon the history of the National Geographic Society’s work in Antarctica, while allowing you to experience the remarkable and largely unexplored islands beyond the Antarctic Polar Circle through the lens of National Geographic.

Onboard Le Commandant Charcot, a unique ship a new luxury ship shaped for polar exploration, cross the Antarctic Circle, a key landmark of our voyage as most visitors to the Antarctic Peninsula never make it this far south, and explore some of the most and remote islands of the planet like you’ve never done before.

Get closer to the wonders of Antarctica during Zodiac® cruises and landings, which will allow you to witness an array of wildlife from a variety of penguin species and seals, to the whales that can be found in these waters.

By travelling with National Geographic beyond the Antarctic Circle, you will also be doing your part to protect it, as part of the proceeds of your trip are returned to the National Geographic Society, who works to further the understanding and protection of our planet.

Itinerary - 15 Days

1 Ushuaia, Argentina

Start your journey at the very southern part of Argentina in Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego province. The contrast of its colourful houses against the great mountain background makes this city unique. If your schedule permits, discover the natural and indigenous history of Tierra del Fuego at the End of the World Museum, explore the National Park or sail along Ushuaia bay for the best views of the city and the chance of spotting some sea lions and Magellanic penguins. After boarding Le Commandant Charcot and settling in, the ship will sail down the Beagle Channel to start your voyage south.

2-3 Crossing the Drake Passage

The Drake Passage is situated at the latitude of the infamous Furious Fifties winds, between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, and is the shortest route to Antarctica.

Harbouring unique and diverse marine fauna, the Drake Passage is where the cold currents of the South Pole meet with the warmer equatorial waters, making for a sometimes rougher voyage, but it is completely worth it for what awaits once you reach the Antarctic Peninsula.

During the voyage, take a look up to the sky where you will often find albatross following the ship. With an average wingspan of 3.1m, the wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any living bird and can fly for hours, just above the surface of the water, without flapping their wings.

During your time crossing the Drake Passage, it is a great time to get to know your National Geographic photographer and Expert, with lectures and workshops, or just chatting over a meal. Practise your new-found skills out on deck capturing some albatross photos, or treat yourself to a moment of relaxing reading in the observation lounge while taking in the surroundings.

The Expedition Leader will first present the IAATO rules of conduct that must be observed during landings in the region and will explain everything you need to know about the Zodiac® outings.

4 Crossing the Antarctic Circle & Detaille Island, Antarctica

Today, we will cross the Antarctic Circle, located along 66°33’ south of the Equator. This line marks the point from which it is possible to view the midnight sun during the December solstice. Within this circle, the sun remains above the horizon for 24 consecutive hours at least once a year. This line also represents a key landmark of our voyage as most visitors to the Antarctic Peninsula never make it this far south.

Situated just off the Loubet Coast in the Crystal Sound is Detaille Island, a small, sheltered island that is home to an abandoned Antarctic base; Base W. Having previously been used by the British Antarctic Survey, the base was established in 1956 but it was deserted in 1959 after the unstable ice around the island cut the scientists off from their supply ships. The base was used again in 1996/97 by the BAS but in 2009 it was declared a historic landmark.

Today, the base remains in good condition and is maintained by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. The doors are left unlocked with visitors able to go inside and step back in time, many of the original items left by the research team can be viewed in the hut including old magazines, cooking equipment and various research items including training books.

Crossing the Antarctic Circle is weather dependent.

5 The Gullet & Pourquoi Pas Island, Antarctica

Situated at the very southern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Gullet is an often ice-filled channel offering specular scenery and mirror-like waters. The narrow channel between Adelaide Island and Graham Land was first explored by Jean-Baptiste Charcot in 1909, who sketched its position. It was then surveyed in 1936 by a British expedition under John Rymill. It is here in this magical setting that some of the first subaquatic images of the Antarctic were shot during Philippe Cousteau’s four-month expedition to Antarctica between 1972 and 1973.

Le Commandant Charcot will continue on to the mountainous Pourquoi Pas Island, situated in the north of Marguerite Bay between Graham Land and Adelaide Island. Pourquoi Pas was also named and explored by Jean-Baptiste Charcot, who discovered it from aboard his ship Le Pourquoi Pas ? during his second expedition to Antarctica between 1908 and 1910. Scattered with narrow fjords and snow-covered mountains, enjoy a unique Zodiac® outing where you may have the opportunity to land and observe Adelie penguin colonies.

6 Marguerite Bay, Antarctica

One of the most beautiful regions in Antarctica, Marguerite Bay was also named by Charcot. It is delimited in the north by the mountainous Adelaide Island, in the south by George VI Sound and Alexander Island, and in the east by the Fallières Coast.

This island was named after Charcot’s wife during his second expedition to the Antarctic between 1908 and 1910. In 1909, in the southern summer when the skies are at their clearest, he led an important scientific mission to map and study this region. The bay is home to a number of cetaceans, and you may get the chance to observe leopard seals or Adelie penguins.

7-8 Charcot Island, Antarctica

When Jean-Baptiste Charcot discovered the island, he could not get closer than 40-miles due to the sea-ice. Situated in a zone that experiences frequent low-pressure systems and regular cloud cover, the island remains in many ways an enigma. It is entirely covered in ice and sheer cliffs, with the exception of the rocky outcrops extending over a dozen kilometres in the far north-west.

The ice in the narrowest part of Wilkins Sound has been cracking in recent times, thus officially detaching this island from its neighbour, Alexander Island, lying 50 km away. Very few people have landed on this largely untouched island, but even from the waters, you can observe the magnificent seabirds and wildlife that resides here.

9-10 Peter I Island, Antarctica

Continue your journey to Peter I Island that was discovered in 1821 by the Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who named it in honour of the Russian tsar Peter the Great. In 1909, Captain Charcot sighted it for the first time from aboard the Pourquoi Pas, but was unable to land there. Considered one of the most remote islands on earth, our goal is to make a landing.

This uninhabited volcanic island is largely covered, with an impressive 95% of the island's surface covered in ice. Its highest peak reaches 1,640 metres and is furthermore protected by ice cliffs some 40 metres tall, making any approach difficult.

11 At Sea

As we return towards the Antarctic Peninsula, we will traverse the Bellinghausen Sea and be some of the most isolated people on earth. This will provide a great opportunity to sit down with your National Geographic expert and reflect on the experiences you have shared on your voyage and how they have changed you upon your return. National Geographic and Ponant share the deep belief that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

12 The Gullet, Antarctica

Once more, you will have the chance to experience the Gullet, an often ice-filled channel offering specular scenery and mirror-like waters, situated at the very southern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. The National Geographic photographer onboard can give you some tips on how to capture some subaquatic images, following what Philippe Cousteau did during his four-month expedition to Antarctica between 1972 and 1973.

13-14 Crossing the Drake Passage

As we cross the Drake Passage once more, we will steadily leave the landscapes and wildlife of the Antarctic in our wake. Take time out on deck to watch the seabirds that soar alongside us and look for the albatross that glide across the water’s surface. This turbulent zone is full of life as the great mixing of ocean currents brings food to the surface.

During your time at sea, get some final tips from your National Geographic photographer, maybe on how to choose between your many photos or practising your new-found skills out on deck capturing some albatross photos. Visit the photo gallery area where you can take a look at some of the professional photos that have been taken during your trip so far.

This is your last day at sea, so make the most of the amenities onboard the newest ship of the fleet, Le Commandant Charcot, and talk to the expedition team to learn more about the outstanding sustainability features of this ship.

15 Ushuaia, Argentina

End your Antarctic adventure in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Formerly a missionary base, penal colony and naval base, Ushuaia is now a great tourist destination where you’ll find all kind of hikes, tours, ski trails and boat trips to fill your days. As the plane climbs away from the tarmac for your journey back home, take a last look at the dramatic landscapes you leave behind as you return from one of the most remote regions on earth.

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