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Scotia Arc – Voyage to Another World

Original post: Another World Adventures

13/10/2021
9mins read
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An epic expedition from Uruguay to the southern tip of Argentina via South Georgia and Antarctica on a sailing tall ship.

There are voyages. And then there are VOYAGES. 

In November 2021 a lucky crew will be sailing on board a historic Dutch tall ship from Montevideo towards South Georgia and Antarctica and its endless ice shelves, superb shades of turquoise blues that glow within the hollows and crevasses of the glaciers and the most extraordinary wildlife inhabiting these lands: this remote, cold and white continent in the South is just breath-taking.

Not to mention the impressive landscapes, the derelict whaling stations of past times and the king penguin rookeries as far as the eye can see of South Georgia. Travelling to South Georgia and Antarctica is a surreal experience, that fills you with happiness, inspiration and inner calm, encouraging you to enjoy life to the fullest.

In total silence, with just the ship’s bow crunching through the small bits of ice, the crew explore this magnificent continent together, each trip again in awe of the rich wildlife and the beauty of the unspoilt natural environment. Not to mention the rich history of explorers that came to these lands and endured the dangers and fears on their way across the Drake Passage and the Southern seas.

Departure from Montevideo

Departing from Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, the crew will set sail to one of the most spectacular destinations of all: South Georgia. After signing you on to the crew list at the gate, you will be welcomed on board. You will meet your fellow travellers, a first glance at who you will share your Scotia Arc Experience with. They will be solo travellers, friends or couples, young and old, from various countries and with different backgrounds, all united in one dream of visiting the remote wilderness of South Georgia and Antarctica on board EUROPA.

As with all remote places in the world, the route to your destination is long and before arriving in South Georgia you will have to cross a distance of roughly 1400 nautical miles. The crossing will take approximately 10 days of sailing and during these days you will see the magnificent vessel showing off her strength and resilience.

At this time, the watch system will be in full force. During your watch you will stand on look out, steer the ship and help with sail handling. Together with your fellow watch mates you will help the permanent crew with sailing the ship through heavy weather. For many on board this will be their first time on the Southern Ocean, while some will have done similar voyages before. This mix of beginners and more experienced tall ship sailors creates a learning atmosphere on board, where each person can contribute in their own way to keep the ship sailing.

Sailing the Southern Seas

The Southern Ocean is infamous for its roughness, hence the names ‘roaring forties’, ‘furious fifties’ and ‘screaming sixties’ corresponding with the degrees of latitude. This Scotia Arc expedition is therefore definitely a real sailing trip, with more than half of the voyage days as sailing days. During these many sailing days, you will experience all the aspects of the seaman’s life. Nature decides the daily work on board and it forces you to adjust to it. You will learn how to sail a square rigger and when the weather allows: to enjoy the lecture program put together by the ship’s guides and crew. During these talks you will learn more about the various bird species, the history of the area you visit, glaciology, meteorology and how to make the best pictures of everything you will encounter.

When you are all used to the movement of the ship and the rhythm of the watches, the silhouette of land will appear in the distance. On the horizon, the ice-covered mountains of the Sub Antarctic Island South Georgia will appear.

South Georgia

When the crew reach South Georgia you’ll anchor in different bays every day. Surrounded by mountains, glaciers, beaches and steep cliffs, inhabited by albatrosses and thousands of penguins, including the King Penguin, we will make landings, hikes and follow the stories of the heroic pole traveller Ernest Shackleton.

This island is a remote and spectacular oasis in the Southern Ocean and offers one of the best wildlife spectacles on earth. The helm grass on the coast of South Georgia provides ideal shelter for Fur Seals and Elephant Seals and the King Penguin rookeries are spread all over the beaches and lower slopes of the mountainous landscape. Perhaps you’ll also see the wandering albatross nesting colonies or visit the derelict whaling stations of past times and will have a chance to follow the path of Shackleton and drink a glass of whiskey at his grave.

The island is well known for its changeable weather and harsh conditions and therefore the chances for landings ashore are highly dependent on weather and sea conditions. Nevertheless, the crew will make the most of the visit and try to make landings on different sites, mixing activities themed on history, wildlife, glaciology and geology.

Following the Course South

After approximately one week, it is time to leave this sub-Antarctic paradise. You’ll prepare to cross over 1000 nautical miles to arrive in Antarctica. The watch system will be in use again and some might need some time to get used to the rhythm of the seas again. These seas of the Scotia Sea have the reputation to be stormy. The crew is alert and standby for steering, reefing, furling, setting and taking in the sails. Tired and maybe cold after an active watch on deck, you will sleep like a log. Not a single sound of wind, water or sails will keep you awake.

As you sail south, the likelihood of seeing icebergs increases. Large ice plateaus are visible on the radar, but sometimes smaller ones are not; keep a good lookout so that you avoid them. It is amazing to see the brilliant white shapes of the floating icebergs on the horizon. This is the first sign that together you are really approaching the great white mass of Antarctica!

Destination Antarctica

The wildlife is overwhelming: the sound and smell of hundreds of penguins reaches you as you get closer to the shore, whales slowly pass by the ship and you’ll encounter the first seals ashore. It is something out of your wildest dreams, something you looked forward to for so many months or years and now you’re here.

The crew will go ashore in small groups with zodiacs. Leaded by a team of guides, you will see the first penguins from up close and you will make your first hikes. From time to time, you perhaps need some time to take it all in, the white peaks and mountains, the rocks, whale bones, penguin highways, crevasses and glaciers. There will be plenty of time to do so, to sit back and relax and to focus on what’s in front of you.

Every day the crew drop and lift anchor, slowly making a way more south. Look forward to landings, zodiac cruises and hikes to explore the fascinating nature, wildlife and history of these islands. But not only ashore can you hope to encounter wildlife. The sight of whales from the ship feeding on krill is truly spectacular. Slowly, from a safe distance you may be able to follow these majestic animals, sometimes chased by a killer whale, sometimes feeding their calves.

After a day of zodiac cruises, landings, hikes, lunch and dinner on deck, lectures and drinks with your fellow crew mates, you might call it time for bed, but waiting a little longer is definitely worth it. The night cruises are just as spectacular. The light, with the sun just below the horizon and rays of pastel tones of pink, red and orange intermingled in the sky, could not be more beautiful.

Responsibility to Care

Respect for the environment plays an important role in the philosophy of the tall ship EUROPA and her crew. They hope to inspire their trainees to focus on everything that’s around them: not just a vast open ocean but a world on its own. They ask their voyage crew to listen to the sound of the ocean, the wind in the sails and to the peace and tranquillity around them in Antarctica.

They encourage the voyage crew to take care of the environment by showing them the state of the oceans, the uniqueness of this white continent and why all this needs to be kept preserved as best as we can. By conducting safe and environmentally responsible sailing voyages, you are offered first-hand travel experiences and to gain a better understanding of the destination you visit. This way a group of Antarctica ambassadors is created all over the world.

During the visit to Antarctica the EUROPA strictly adhere to the regulations of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). This organisation was founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to Antarctica. As part of IAATO, we follow their procedures and guidelines for expedition cruising in remote and delicate areas with great care.

The unique experience of a Scotia Arc expedition

Each voyage to South Georgia and Antarctica is different. Crews encounter unique weather conditions, sea ice conditions and wildlife viewing opportunities. These circumstances make that your voyage will definitely be one of a kind. Sometimes plan A might have to be changed into plan B or C and sometimes it means that a visit to a specific landing site or research station needs to be cancelled. This is the True Scotia Arc Experience: spontaneity, discovery and exploration! What is certain, is that the team of experienced guides and crew will always strive to create a remarkable trip for everyone: an expedition to remote island of South Georgia and the white continent of Antarctica that you will never forget.

The Drake Passage

After having spent the past week doing daily trips ashore, it is time to say goodbye to Antarctica and sink back into the rhythm of the sea watches. The crossing of the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia will be the last part of your trip. You have to sail approximately 450 nautical miles to cross the stormy seas of the Drake. One last time the watch system will be back in place and together with your fellow watch mates you will help our lady EUROPA ride these untamed seas. During your time on lookout, or while steering the ship, you’ll finally have some time to absorb everything you have experienced, to let it all settle in. You can be certain that you leave Bark EUROPA with new-found friends and memories that last a lifetime.

Dates & Prices – The Scotia Sea expedition 2021

Dates: 16th November 2021 – 26th December 2021, 41 days

Embarkation: Montevideo, Uruguay.
Disembarkation: Ushuaia, Argentina

**As of 13/10/2021 there are two places available in a 2-person cabin which must be booked together** You can also make an enquiry just to register your interest for the 22/23 season, dates will be announced soon.

Register your interest in taking part – click here

Words: Edit from the Bark Europa Blog

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Hi I’m Larissa, a Co-Founder of Another World Adventures. Welcome to my blog Adventure365 where I curate a weekly pick of the best adventure travel writing and storytelling from around the web and share original stories from our team and adventure community. Think unusual destinations, expeditions, slow, solo and sustainable travel and epic journeys! Enjoy!

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