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Antarctica Travel

A trip to Antarctica is high on many people’s bucket list. No surprise: It’s a unique region of the world. While it’s challenging to reach, these days small cruise ships have made the white continent somewhat more accessible. And a few adventurers always manage to spend time on the ice during the short Antarctic summer. The lure of Antarctica is strong.

If more motivation was ever needed to take a trip to the Antarctic, nature has provided one. On December 4, 2021, a total eclipse of the Sun sweeps across the white continent. Passing over one of the most remote regions on Earth, this eclipse is a challenge for all who want to stand in the shadow of the Moon.

Because this eclipse is unique, TravelQuest has two equally unique excursions in our travel groups, by land and by sea, to the white continent. On our Antarctic Expedition to Totality, we spend six nights at our private eclipse camp on Union Glacier, with a special eclipse-viewing site nearby. Our Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise not only lets you land on the Antarctic continent, but it also provides a reasonable chance of seeing the eclipse at sea.

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TravelQuest On the Ice

This is not TravelQuest’s first expedition to the Antarctic; we’ve made this journey several times previously, always partnered with Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE). They provide air transportation, logistic support, and guided experiences for those venturing to the interior of Antarctica.

It might seem odd that TravelQuest, a company focused on astronomical tourism, has been to Antarctica numerous times. A few of our previous trips did have an astronomical component, as we searched for snow-covered meteorites on the ice at Union Glacier. But even a decade ago, TravelQuest was mindful of the concept of seeing totality in 2021 from the white continent. Those previous trips paved the way for us to be the only travel company with access to ALE’s camp on Union Glacier during early December 2021—totality time.

On each trip to the Antarctic, we first assemble in Punta Arenas, Argentina. After a few days devoted to acclimatization and preparation, we fly to Union Glacier. Once on the ice, it’s a short drive in a tracked vehicle to our full-service ALE camp.

Sleeping accommodations are in dual occupancy clamshell tents. These double-walled sleeping tents are incredibly comfortable to live in with large doors and a tall interior that allows you to stand upright. Tents are naturally heated by the 24-hour sunlight and have a wooden floor underneath to provide solid footing and insulation from the snow.

The dining tent is a communal experience, with the chefs utilizing a fully equipped kitchen to create fresh-cooked buffet-style meals, baked goods, and fantastic desserts. It’s also a general gathering place where the day’s events are recounted and plans made for future activities. All excursions are tailored to the weather and individual interests. On offer are a variety of included group outings, plus there plenty of solo activities around camp—walk, cross-country ski, or try out one of their fat-tire bikes on the groomed 6 mile (10 km) loop. In the evenings, guest lecturers host engaging talks on a variety of topics from polar history to glaciology. At Union Glacier Camp a basic medical clinic is maintained, staffed by doctors and medics who specialize in emergency, high altitude, and remote medicine.

Before departing on an Antarctic trip, TravelQuest clients are offered a number of optional excursions at an additional cost. A popular outing is a flight to the geographic South Pole. Here you can stand at 90° South where, below your feet, all 360 lines of longitude meet. In just a few steps, you can walk around the world.

Contemplating the Antarctic’s vastness. (Photo by Landon Noll/TQ)
Exploring a few of Antarctica’s icebergs. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)

Travel to Antarctica for Totality 2021

For TravelQuest’s 2021 Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise, we have chartered the 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance, a next-generation expedition ship purpose-built for polar navigation. On this 20-night cruise, Lindblad Expeditions takes care of all the cruise logistics and Antarctic expedition programming. Our on-board astronomers discuss the latest discoveries in astronomy, explain the science of eclipses, and describe what to expect on eclipse day. This is particularly important if you have never seen a total eclipse of the Sun. Our astronomers have witnessed numerous totalities, and they will help you get the best images of this mind-bending event. Since they’re present during the entire cruise, you can pick their brains about the eclipse at meals, or after talks, or at any time during our days at sea.

Sailing from Ushuaia at the tip of South America, we spend six days traveling alongside, and landing on, the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands. Then, after two days at sea, we reach Ernest Shackleton’s historic South Georgia Island. During the next five days, we discover the island’s breathtaking scenery and fascinating wildlife—including a vast colony that is home to tens of thousands of King penguins.

After our South Georgia visit, we strategically position ourselves for the December 4th total solar eclipse. Our preferred eclipse-viewing location is near the start of the eclipse track. This places us outside the gloomiest parts of the Southern Ocean, at a location where the cloud cover is not as obstinate. We’ll keep our sailing plans flexible and take advantage of real-time satellite images as well as hour-by-hour numerical models of the atmosphere. Working with the ship’s captain, our astronomer-meteorologist can use the ship’s mobility to nearly double our chances of seeing the eclipse. Post-eclipse, we enjoy two days among the natural and cultural attractions of the Falkland Islands, including the photogenic colonial port of Stanley, before returning to port at Ushuaia.

As per the description of our previous Antarctica trips, TravelQuest’s 2021 Antarctic Expedition to Totality begins with a flight from Punta Arenas to our fully equipped camp on Union Glacier, located deep in the Antarctic interior. Here we spend six nights at our private eclipse camp that features a complete kitchen and dining area, outlying structures housing a communications center, washroom facilities, and workshop, and guest accommodations consisting of spacious and comfortable walk-in, two-person clamshell tents. There are organized daily activities while on the ice, but the climax of this journey is the total eclipse of the Sun on December 4th.

On our 2021 Antarctica vacation, there are a number of optional expedition add-ons available for booking (for an extra cost) prior to departure. These include visiting the geographic South Pole, camping with Emperor Penguins, summiting 16,000-foot (4,850-meter) Mount Vinson, skiing the “Last Degree” (from 89°S to 90°S), or taking a scenic flight over the Heritage and Sentinel Ranges and, weather permitting, viewing Mount Vinson, Antarctica’s tallest peak. Space on these add-ons is very limited and is subject to local conditions.

ALE’s base camp on Union Glacier. (Photo by Aram Kaprielian/TQ)
Antarctic scenery. (Photo by Landon Noll/TQ)
National Geographic’s Endurance. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)

Visit Antarctica with TravelQuest

If you want to see a total eclipse of the Sun while standing on the white continent, TravelQuest is your best option. During the past decade, we have undertaken numerous trips to Antarctica, and for this upcoming once-in-a-lifetime totality experience, we have again partnered with Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions. ALE is the leader in polar expeditions with more than 30 years of experience and is the premier provider of logistical services supporting responsible tourism in Antarctica.

To see totality, good weather is needed. Twenty years of satellite observations have revealed that our Union Glacier camp is located in the midst of a good-weather band. Experiencing a total solar eclipse in Antarctica will serve as the crown jewel for anyone seeking to stand in the Moon’s shadow on all seven continents.

TravelQuest’s Antarctic Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise provides another option for those who prefer mobility when chasing totality. Totality over the South Atlantic Ocean near Antarctica presents a challenge for viewing—a challenge complicated by the low altitude of the Sun during the magic moments of eclipse. Our position near the start of the eclipse track places us outside the gloomiest parts of the Southern Ocean, at a location where the cloud cover is not as obstinate. By keeping sailing plans flexible and taking advantage of real-time satellite images, we can use the ship’s mobility to nearly double our chances of seeing the eclipse.

TravelQuest has plenty of successful ship-based, eclipse-chasing experience going back more than 15 years. The ship for our Antarctica expedition is National Geographic’s Endurance, a new, next-generation expedition ship, purpose-built for polar navigation. As a fully stabilized, highly strengthened, ice-class vessel, it is designed to navigate polar passages year-round while providing exceptional comfort. The ship’s powerful, wave-slicing bow provides an extremely smooth ride in even adverse conditions. She carries a full suite of expedition tools and offers a variety of experience-enhancing amenities.

A composite image of totality in 2015, shot in Svalbard, Norway, at 71° North latitude. (Photo by Judy Anderson/TQ)

Join Us For Totality in Antarctica in 2021

If you’re looking to travel to Antarctica for the total solar eclipse of December 4, 2021, join us on one of our two expeditions. Antarctic Expedition to Totality places you in our private eclipse camp on the ice at Union Glacier for six nights, with our special eclipse-viewing site nearby. Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise lets you land on the Antarctic continent and, thanks to our ship’s mobility, provides a reasonable chance of seeing totality at sea.

Do one of these 2021 Antarctica excursions appeal to your sense of adventure…your desire to set foot on a continent that remains challenging to reach and is seldom visited? If so, contact TravelQuest today to learn more.

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Header image by Landon Noll/TQ