A unique opportunity to experience the captivating Weddell Sea that is the source of huge tabular icebergs, the biggest of which can be over 100km in length!

Forget everything you know about Antarctica and enjoy the unusual journey across this immense polar expanse where sea ice and open waters seem to go on for an eternity. 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.

During this 12-day Expedition Cruise, journey into the heart of this mystical sea, that promises exceptional landscapes and otherworldly encounters with nature in the company of National Geographic photographers and experts who will help you capture the spirit of your journey and create your own stories of exploration.

To the northwest of the Weddell Sea, stretching along the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula stands the imposing Larsen Ice Shelf. An extension of the ice sheet onto the sea, this white giant is equally disturbing and fascinating, if only due to its colossal dimensions and the impressive tabletop icebergs - amongst the largest ever seen - that it generates.

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 in the company of a National Geographic photographer, who will teach you how to capture the stunning wildlife and otherworldly landscapes of Antarctica through workshops and one-one one sessions, and will help you tell the story of your journey through your photos.

Sail in the company of a National Geographic Expert, who will reflect upon the history of the National Geographic Society’s work in Antarctica, and will give lectures and lead discussions to bring a global perspective to your voyage through the Weddell Sea.

See the epic tabular icebergs of the Weddell Sea before discovering the impressive Larsen Ice Shelf.

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 to the Weddell Sea, 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 - 12 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 allows, 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-rough 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 South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

The South Shetlands are a string of islands running parallel to the north-west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Covered almost completely by ice, only 2-3% is ice-free. These islands are home to a variety of wildlife, from penguins, seals to whales and giant petrels. Additionally, there are a number of scientific research stations located in this archipelago.

Islands that make up the South Shetlands include King George, Elephant, Deception and Half Moon. Some of the landing opportunities will allow for great exploration of the abandoned whaling stations and research bases and an opportunity to capture the spectacular scenery and wildlife alongside our National Geographic photographer.

5 North Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Throughout your time in the North Antarctic Peninsula, discover the otherworldly beauty that this navigation offers. Sailing through the Antarctic Sound, named after Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskjöld’s ship, which was trapped by the ice during an important scientific expedition in 1902.

The gateway to the Weddell Sea, this sound is filled with gigantic tabular icebergs and plates of sea ice drifting northward from the coastal areas of this vast sea. It is home to Adelie penguins and many leopard seals that you may be lucky enough to witness.

6 The Weddell Sea, Antarctica

The Weddell Sea offers some of Antarctica’s most iconic and eerie landscapes. From gigantic glaciers to impressive icebergs and miles of ice floes, the Weddell Sea is nothing short of remarkable and an experience in itself.

Populated by penguins, wandering albatross and other imposing seabirds as well as the sea’s namesake – the Weddell seal, which is the most southerly ranging mammal to permanently inhabit the Antarctic continent.

Populated by fur seals, penguins, wandering albatross and other imposing seabirds as well as the sea’s namesake – the Weddell seal, who is the most southerly ranging mammal to permanently inhabit the Antarctic continent.

7-8 Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica

The Larsen Ice Shelf is a long ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, named after the Norwegian whaler Captain Carl A. Larsen, who sailed along the ice front in 1893. In 2017, after months of threatening, a vast iceberg the size of Luxemburg, and roughly 10% of the total size of the shelf broke off which exposed the sea beneath and its marine life to light for the first time in around 120,000 years. These floating ice shelves help to prevent the erosion of the Antarctic ice sheet. However, over the last fifty years, scientists have observed regular collapses of these shelves, along giant cracks that can be several hundred kilometres long and deep.

9 The Weddell Sea, Antarctica

After exploring the Larsen Ice Shelf and better understanding how it has changed over the past few years, we will go back to the Weddell Sea to enjoy its landscapes and wildlife one more time before starting the journey back home.

10-11 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, make the most of your time to get some final tips from your National Geographic photographer, maybe on how to choose between your many photos, or 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 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 will 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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