Antarctic adventures to continue with G.A.P.

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2008 10:00 travelbite.co.uk

Adventure travel company G.A.P. Adventures has announced the purchase of a new ship for Antarctic travel, as it looks to make a comeback after last year’s sinking of the MS Explorer.

The new MS Expedition is a 345ft vessel that will carry up to 120 passengers into Antarctic waters.

It is currently undergoing a complete refit in Las Palmas, ahead of its January 1st 2009 launch.

The first tour will depart on January 4th and G.A.P. Adventures will be offering its full range of Antarctic tours – from classic ten-day experiences to the 18-day Spirit of Shackleton adventure and the 12-day Polar Circle trip.

G.A.P. chief executive Bruce Poon Tip says that very few people who take one of the classic tours don’t come back again for the Spirit of Shackleton voyage.

“People think of Antarctica as a once-in-a-lifetime experience but they soon find it’s really twice-in-a-lifetime,” he told travelbite.co.uk in an interview yesterday.

G.A.P. is confident of a sold-out inaugural voyage and high demand over the Antarctic tourism season in January and February.

The Spirit of Shackleton expedition departs from Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city and capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego.

As the MS Expedition journeys to the Antarctic Peninsula, passengers will have opportunities to watch wildlife in the South Shetland Islands, Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

The tour will visit the grave of Ernest Shackleton on remote South Georgia island and see the former whaling station and the king penguin colony there.

The ship then retraces Shackleton’s route to Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Once in Antarctic waters, the tour makes daily landings at sites such as Paradise Harbour and Wilhelmina Bay when the weather permits.

There will also be the opportunity to visit scientific research stations before returning to Ushuaia via the Drake Passage.
After finishing in Antarctica the MS Expedition will head to the northern hemisphere for tours around the Britain Isles in April and May, followed by Arctic voyages from June to September.

It will then spend time in the Las Palmas dry dock for its annual service before heading for Antarctic waters once again.

Commenting on last year’s sinking, Bruce Poon Tip said: “It was obviously a very tragic and emotional loss for us, which I think we handled as best we could.”

G.A.P. has invested a lot in polar operations and Mr Poon Tip described the incident as a “stroke of bad luck from which we have to move on”.

Mr Poon Tip said he was particularly thankful for the attitude of the British passengers on the ill-fated voyage, who commented in the press about how much they had enjoyed the trip.

The MS Explorer was on a Spirit of Shackleton cruise through the Drake Passage when it ran into trouble near King George Island – around 75 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula. More than 150 people had to be rescued after the ship hit ice.

However a number of these passengers are now re-booking for next year’s Antarctic tours, according to Mr Poon Tip.

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