Antarctica - Beyond the Polar Circle - Wilkins Ice Shelf - 16 Days

Aboard Ortelius – 108 passengers

This voyage is a true expedition, exploring the rarely visited region of the Bellingshausen Sea, Marguerite Bay, and Alexander Island. We explore many of the places discovered by Adrien de Gerlache on his Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897 – 1899) aboard the Belgica. This voyage leaves Ushuaia and heads straight beyond Antarctic Circle, where we aim to spend the rest of the trip. The variety of landings and wilderness in this region are rivalled by few other places on Earth.

We will see Antarctic ice shelves, land on islands where few people have set foot, and enjoy this awe-inspiring area far from the beaten track of regular Antarctic cruises. We may also see a range of exotic wildlife, including humpback and minke whales, orcas, and a variety of seals: leopard, elephant, crabeater, Weddell, Antarctic fur, and maybe even a Ross seal. Gentoo and Adélie penguins, skuas, terns, and giant petrels are just some of the bird species we may see as well.

Tour Dates


Spring 2025 marks the best chance to see the rare aurora australis, also known as the southern lights. Unlike the northern lights, the southern lights travel over no cities or villages and are only rarely seen from land. The sun’s 11-year cycle of activity peaks around 2025, making for more active auroras that are best seen around the equinoxes. We will maximize our chances of seeing the elusive and enchanting southern auroras by traveling below the Antarctic Circle when there is little moonlight in the sky. We will also have the chance to see many Southern Hemisphere stars and celestial objects, including the Southern Cross and Magellanic Clouds.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren will lead our night sky viewing activity on deck when the weather and auroras are favorable, speaking about the southern sky and its auroras. Nordgren is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Redlands as well as a former member of the Board for the International Dark Sky Association.

Dr. Julie Rathbun will continue this trip’s theme of polar and astronomical exploration, leading discussions about how Antarctica is used as a site to study Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. A senior scientist with the Planetary Science Institute, she is part of NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft mission, which launches in October 2024 to investigate the liquid ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface. 

Day 1: Embarkation from Ushuaia, Argentina 
Your voyage begins where the world drops off. Ushuaia, Argentina, reputed to be the southernmost city on the planet, is located on the far southern tip of South America. Starting in the afternoon, you embark from this small resort town on Tierra del Fuego, nicknamed “The End of the World,” and sail the mountain-fringed Beagle Channel for the remainder of the evening. 

Day 2-3: Drake Passage
Over the next two days on the Drake Passage, you enjoy some of the same experiences encountered by the great polar explorers who first charted these regions: cool salt breezes, rolling seas, maybe even a fin whale spouting up sea spray. After passing the Antarctic Convergence – Antarctica’s natural boundary, formed when north-flowing cold waters collide with warmer sub-Antarctic seas – you are in the circum-Antarctic upwelling zone. Not only does the marine life change, the avian life changes too. 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 are a few of the birds you might see.

Days 4: Through the Pendleton Strait
You arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula near the Antarctic Circle in the afternoon. If sea ice allows it, you can then continue through Pendleton Strait and attempt a landing at the rarely visited southern tip of Renaud Island. Here you have the opportunity to see the first Adélie penguins of the trip as well as enjoy spectacular views of the icebergs in this surreal, snow-swept environment.

In the afternoon we sail to the Fish Islands and encounter one of the southernmost Adélie penguin and blue-eyed shag colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Spending the night in the area of Crystal Sound the scenery will leave you staying up until the small hours, there is a chance to see Orca, Humpback and Minke Whale in this area. 

Day 5: Detaille Island and The Gullet 
Detaille Island – You may make a landing at an abandoned British research station here, taking in the island’s lofty position and imposing glaciers scenery.

We then sail through The Gullet, one of the most impressive narrow channels in Antarctic, with towering mountains either side, birds following the ship and playful penguins and seals frolicking in the water as we sail through this very special part of the journey. If ice conditions allow we will also carry out a landing or cruise in the afternoon.

Day 6: Porquoi Pas & Horseshoe Islands
Discovered and charted by the famous explorer Charcot, Pourquoi Pas offers a pleasant landing on a rocky beach against the backdrop of the mighty Moider Glacier. A gentle walk from the landing site provides an impressive view, while Antarctic furs seals relaxing behind the beach are a nice addition to the wildlife we’ve encountered on this voyage.

After lunch we head toward Horseshoe Island, named for its distinctive shape. An abandoned research station provides an insight into the early days of scientific research, and original artifacts show how different life was in those pioneering days. The hut is set among some of the most beautiful scenery in Antarctica, with views over the mountains and snow of Pourquoi Pas Island as well as Horseshoe Island’s mountain range. This is a photographic landing in many senses. Two old wooden boats even remain at the landing site as if waiting for their final launch.

Day 7-10 George IV & Wilkins Ice Shelf
Provided ice and weather conditions allow, you next head toward Antarctica’s ice shelves (the George IV and Wilkins). Here we hope to show you the scale of these vast cliffs and expanses of ice that will dwarf us and our ship. A range of Antarctic wildlife like humpback whales, fur seals, Adélie penguins, and maybe even one or more Ross’ seals may appear.

Day 11: Jenny & Leonie Islands
Jenny Island will give another aspect to your Antarctic experience, offering raised beaches, hanging glaciers, and moss carpets. The island is also popular with wildlife: Terns, skuas, elephant seals, leopard seals, and Adélie penguins are all regular visitors.

A landing at Leonie Island will take your breath away. There is also the possibility to take a hike to the peak of the island, giving you a dramatic panorama of Marguerite Bay and Adelaide Island.

Day 12: Lagoon & Mikkelsen Islands 
Lagoon island is the most northern island of the Leonie Islands group, also discovered and charted by Jean-Baptiste Charcot. This low laying island will provide a stark contrast to the previous days with its gently sloped beaches and flat areas to explore. The wildlife here will varies depending on snow cover. If there is little snow the ground is almost desert-like in appearance.

The Mikkelsen Islands offer a spectacular Zodiac cruise where we hope to encounter up to five Antarctic seal species. We may also see some beautiful birdlife, such as giant petrels and Adélie penguins.

Day 13-15: Drake Passage
Your return voyage is far from lonely. While crossing the Drake, you’re again greeted by the vast array of seabirds remembered from the passage south. But they seem a little more familiar to you now, and you to them.

Day 16: Disembarkation in Ushuaia
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. It’s now time to disembark in Ushuaia, but with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.

 PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per IAATO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with IAATO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. The average cruising speed for our vessel is 10.5 knots.

Route Map

Trips and Rates

Please note, rates are Per Person in USD
Quad Porthole
Twin Porthole
Twin Window
Twin Deluxe

Single Travelers:

  • Can book into a share cabin in Quad – Twin Deluxe
  • Can book a twin cabin at solo occupancy at 1.7x the per person share price

Adventure Options:

  • On Basecamp departures all activities are free

Single Travelers:

  • Can book into a share cabin in Quad – Twin Deluxe
  • Can book a twin cabin at solo occupancy at 1.7x the per person share price

Adventure Options:

  • On Basecamp departures all activities are free

Availability & prices are subject to change at anytime. Please contact us for the real time availability & prices.

Cabin Descriptions


The 6 Superior cabins are the most spacious and the only cabin category with a double bed. They are all located on deck 5. Features: 2 windows (minimum), 1 double bed, 1 single (sofa) bed, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Refrigerator, Coffee & tea maker, Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space. 

198 – 220 square feet / 18.4 – 20.4 square meters.

Ortelius twin deluxe cabin

Twin Deluxe

There are just 2 Twin Deluxe cabins located on deck 5. Features: 3 windows, 2 lower berths, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Small sofa, Refrigerator, Coffee & tea maker, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space. 

190 square feet / 17.7 square meters

Ortelius, twin window cabin

Twin Window

The 12 Twin Window cabins are all located on deck 5. Features: 2 windows, 2 lower berths, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space. 

188 – 190 square feet / 17.5 – 17.7 square meters

Ortelius, twin porthole cabin

Twin Porthole

The most abundant cabin category, most of which are located on deck 4 (there are 2 on deck 3). Features: 2 portholes, 2 lower berths, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space. 

123 – 163 square feet / 11.4 – 15.1 square meters

Ortelius, triple cabin

Triple Porthole

2 Triple cabins located forward on deck 3. Features: 2 portholes, 1 upper berth & 2 lower berths, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space.

Ortelius, quad porthole cabin

Quad Porthole

4 Quad cabins midship on deck 3. Features: 2 portholes, 2 upper berths & 2 lower berths, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Hair dryer, Safe deposit box and Ample storage space. 

133 – 152 square feet / 12.4 – 14.1 square meters

Deck Plan

Inclusions & Exclusions


  • Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the itinerary
  • All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea.
  • All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac.
  • Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff.
  • Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes.
  • Luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on the day of embarkation, in Ushuaia.
  • Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Ushuaia (directly after disembarkation).
  • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme.
  • Comprehensive pre-departure material.


  • Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights
  • Pre- and post- land arrangements.
  • Passport and visa expenses.
  • Government arrival and departure taxes.
  • Meals ashore.
  • Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended).
  • Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges.
  • The customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided).