On our sailing trips we ask a lot of our voyage crew: watchkeeping, climbing the rigging, hoisting the sails, helping with maintenance. We will encounter various weather conditions and being active on deck is a large part of the experience. Because of this we always aim to ensure that every trip has a nice range in ages and nationalities. It is precisely this division that provides interesting conversations on board, between the youngest and older guests among us. We therefore keep in mind the number of people in a certain age group on our voyages. This could mean that if the limit has been reached, we might have to add someone on the waiting list. At this moment we unfortunately do not have availability on this voyage for 60+ sailors.
The first expedition of the Antarctica season 2023/2024 will start in Montevideo, Uruguay and it promises to be a fantastic voyage with a visit to multiple remote locations in the Southern ocean. During this expedition we will visit three beautiful locations and we will spend our days exploring everything the Falklands / Las Malvinas, South Georgia and Antarctica has to offer. We will take our time in these regions, to be fully immersed in the impressive landscapes, history and abundant wildlife.
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 or the green cliffs of the Falklands / Las Malvinas, where many birds raise their young. Travelling to the Falkland Islands / Las Malvinas, 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, we explore this magnificent continent with you, 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. The remains of the lonely historic huts on the snow-covered hills tell the stories of these adventurers of the past and we, we follow their stories, curious of where Bark EUROPA will bring us on our quest for adventure.
Departure from Montevideo
Departing from Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, we will set sail to one of the most spectacular destinations of all: the Falklands / Las Malvinas. 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 the Falklands / Las Malvinas, South Georgia and Antarctica on board EUROPA.
As with all remote places in the world, the route to our destination is long and before we arrive in the Falklands / Las Malvinas we will have to cross a distance of roughly 1250 nautical miles. The crossing will take approximately 10 days of sailing and during these days you will see Bark EUROPA 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 our guides and crew. During these talks you will learn more about the various bird species, the history of the area we visit, glaciology, meteorology and how to make the best pictures of everything we will encounter.
When you have all gotten 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 coastal cliffs and beaches of the Falklands / Las Malvinas will appear.
Discover the Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas
Situated between the latitudes of 51° and 53° south and 57° and 62° west in the South Atlantic Ocean, these islands are something truly special. Imagine miles and miles of unspoiled breathtaking landscapes, where the main occupants of the land are thousands of birds, penguins, albatrosses, sterns and many more. You hear their calls and cries everywhere in this otherwise silent wilderness.
The steep cliffs of the island are home to the black browed albatross and the rockhopper penguin colonies. Located several hundred feet above the ocean, there is constant traffic of penuings going on, hopping from rock to rock as only a rockhopper knows how to hop. This island is not an easy place for many to live, but for the birds, this treeless landscape whipped by a biting Antarctic wind is the only place to bring up their chicks and prepare them for a tough life at sea ahead.
Spot Gentoo penguins, Magellanic penguins and a lone King penguin with their chicks in their natural habitat, standing guard over their burrows. Spot the everpresent seabirds like the Kelp Geese, White Tufted Grebes, oystercatchers, petrels, and of course, the magnificent albatross. During zodiac expeditions to shore, you’ll be accompanied by many playful and curious Commerson's Dolphins and seals.
The archipelago consists of over 700 islands. The two main islands are East Falkland and West Falkland, with other smaller islands of varying sizes around it. East Falkland is home to the capital, Stanley, where most of the islands' people live. The coastline varies from rugged coastal cliffs to long miles of undisturbed white sandy beaches interspersed with rocky headlands and large kelp forests. Many sheltered harbours are found around the coast. Mount Usborne on East Falkland is the highest peak at 705 meters (2,312 feet).
The Falklands have an oceanic climate with temperatures ranging from 25°c to -5°c. Prevailing westerly winds lower the temperatures and have created a notable difference between the east and west both in terms of climate and flora. The islands of the west are significantly drier and experience more sunshine than those on the east. Higher rainfall on the east encourages the growth of ferns and tussac grass. A typical summer day will be windy with a blue sky and sunshine.
After a few days of exploring the remarkable Falkland Islands / Las Malvinas, we heave anchor and set sail to our next destination: South Georgia. When we reach South Georgia we will 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 traveler 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 we will also see the wandering albatross nesting colonies or visit the derelict whaling stations of past times and of course, we will also 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 of landings ashore are highly dependent on weather and sea conditions. Nevertheless, we will make the most of our visit and try to make landings on different sites, mixing activities themed on history, wildlife, glaciology, and geology.
Following our course south
After approximately one week, it is time to leave this sub-Antarctic paradise. We have 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 on 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 we sail south, the likelihood of seeing icebergs increases. Large ice plateaus are visible on the radar, but sometimes smaller ones are not; we keep a good lookout so that we avoid them. It is amazing when we see the brilliant white shapes of the floating icebergs on the horizon. This is the first sign that we are really approaching the great white mass of Antarctica!
The wildlife is overwhelming: the sound and smell of hundreds of penguins reaches you when we get closer to the shore, whales slowly pass by the ship and we 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.
We will go ashore in small groups with zodiacs. Led by our team of guides, you will see the first penguins from up close and you will make your first hikes with as a result the sight of Bark EUROPA in a breath-taking white and icy landscape. 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 we drop and lift anchor, slowly making our way more south. We make landings, zodiac cruises, and hikes to explore the fascinating nature, wildlife, and history of these islands. But not only ashore we encounter wildlife. The sight of whales from the ship feeding on krill is truly spectacular. Slowly, from a safe distance, we can 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 crewmates, 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 EUROPA and her crew. We hope to inspire our trainees to focus on everything that’s around them: not just a vast open ocean but a world on its own. We ask our voyage crew to listen to the sound of the ocean, the wind in our sails, and to the peace and tranquillity around us in Antarctica.
We encourage our 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, we offer first-hand travel experiences to give our guests a better understanding of the destination they visit. This way we create a group of Antarctica ambassadors all over the world.
During our visit to Antarctica, we strictly adhere to the regulations of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). This organization 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.
At the end of each voyage, we hope that you, as our guest, will be overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, be inspired by the vastness of the seas and have a better understanding of the importance to keep Antarctica and the oceans as majestic and pristine for many future generations to come.
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 our trip. We 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, we finally have some time to absorb everything we 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.
Each voyage to the Falklands / Las Malvinas, South Georgia and Antarctica is different. We 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 our team of experienced guides and crew will always strive to create a remarkable trip for everyone: an expedition to remote islands of the Falklands / Las Malvinas, South Georgia and the white continent of Antarctica that you will never forget.