Day 1: Depart from Ushuaia
On Day 1, a pre-race competitor briefing will take place in the town of Ushuaia. In the afternoon, all participants will board the expedition ship, meet the ship’s crew and have a safety briefing. After settling into the ship’s cabins (twin sharing), we will sail through the famous Beagle Channel and scenic Mackinlay Pass.
Days 2 & 3: At Sea
Named after the renowned explorer Sir Francis Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage also marks the Antarctic Convergence, a biological barrier where cold polar water sinks beneath the warmer northern waters. This creates a great upwelling of nutrients, which sustains the biodiversity of this region. As a result, the Drake Passage also marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. As we sail across the passage, expedition lecturers will be with you on deck to help in the identification of an amazing variety of seabirds, including Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatrosses, Light- mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Cape Pigeons, Southern Fulmars, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Blue Petrels and Antarctic Petrels which follow in our wake. A full program of lectures will be offered. In 2008, we were treated to many sightings of Humpback whales and in 2010 we stopped to watch at least twenty Orca (killer) whales hunting penguins around the ship.
The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains will indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Captain William Smith of the Brig Williams.
Days 4 – 9: Antarctica
Competitors will land, weather permitting, on several locations in and around the Antarctic Peninsula and Mainland and embark on what will be the final journey of the 4 Deserts for many.
The Antarctic Peninsula's remarkable history will provide a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have time to explore the amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of snow, ice, mountains and waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. Apart from penguins and seabirds you are very likely to see Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals as well as Minke, Killer (orca) and Humpback whales at close range.
Some of the places that we may land include:
The South Shetland Islands which are a haven for wildlife. Vast penguin rookeries, beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals make every day spent in this amazing island group unforgettable.
Jougla Point which forms the west side of the entrance to Alice Creek in Port Lockroy. It lies on the west side of Wiencke Island, in the Palmer Archipelago
Deception Island is reached by sailing through the narrow passage into the flooded caldera of the horseshoe shaped island. Seeing the hot springs of Pendulum Cove is truly amazing. Weather permitting, a marathon is planned for Deception Island.
Petermann Island (if ice conditions permit) for a visit to the southernmost colony of Gentoo Penguins and a stage of the race.
Paradise Bay is perhaps the most aptly named place in the world. It is on the continent (or “Mainland”) and requires the ship to navigate the iceberg-strewn waters of the Antarctic Sound. Bustling Adélie Penguin (over 100,000 pairs breed here) and Blue-eyed Cormorant colonies on Paulet Island close-by. The Nordenskjöld expedition built a stone survival hut here in 1903. Today its ruins have been taken over by nesting penguins.
Other landing sites could include Melchior Island, Aitcho Island, Dorian Bay, Cuverville Island, Portal Point, Neko Harbour, Lamaire, Port Charcot, Booth, Pléneau Island, Hoovgard Island, Waddington Bay and others.
We will also navigate some beautiful waterways (depending on the ice conditions): the Gerlache Strait, the Neumayer Channel and the Lemaire Channel - the latter are narrow passages between towering rock faces and spectacular glaciers.
We plan to implement a possible night of camping on the shore and may be able to incorporate reaching the summit of Mt. Demaria (640 m) at Waddington Bay.
Days 10 – 11: At Sea
We will leave Antarctica, having completed The Last Desert 2012, and head north across the Drake Passage. You may join lecturers and naturalists on deck as they search for seabirds and whales and enjoy some final lectures indoors. You can take the chance to relax and reflect on the truly remarkable 4 Deserts expedition of the past week and the past year(s) on the way back to Ushuaia.
An Awards Banquet will be held. The Last Desert champions will be awarded special plates; the 4 Deserts champions will be awarded unique trophies; and any new members of the 4 Deserts Club will be awarded special medals.
Day 11: Arrival in Ushuaia (3 December 2012)
We will arrive in Ushuaia in the early morning and disembark the ship after breakfast.
Please note: The above itinerary is a guide only. Our exact route and program will vary to take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions. Changes will be made by the Captain and/or RacingThePlanet to facilitate the best results from the prevailing conditions. A daily race briefing will be given on board. Flexibility is the key to success.
We highly advise you to purchase a flexible plane ticket and to arrive well in advance in case of any problems with your flights. Although not likely, the itinerary is subject to change and RacingThePlanet Limited will not be held responsible for any fees incurred due to airline ticket changes, re-bookings, etc.