Whale Science Voyage

with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

An incredibly unique opportunity

Join Polar Latitudes and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution*, the world’s leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research, for an exploration of Antarctica and a study on the feeding habits of humpback whales. While polar voyages sometimes have a single scientist on board, having an entire team of scientists, engaged in a major study, is truly exceptional.

Humpbacks migrate thousands of miles to their feeding ground in the Southern Ocean, yet nothing is known about how these whales find the krill that they consume. The more we can learn, the better we can understand how global warming, which is impacting the distribution and volume of krill in our oceans, will affect large whale populations.

All guests on this voyage will have the opportunity to participate as the scientists on board track whales and collect data. In addition to ongoing briefings on the study’s progress, we will hold a panel discussion on The Future of the Antarctic. Our panel will feature the WHOI Team, our own whale expert, Annette Bombosch, PhD, and special guest, Peter Neill, the founding Director of the World Ocean Observatory, a platform for education and information exchange on the health of the ocean.

A film crew from the BBC will join the voyage, gathering footage of the whale study for inclusion in the forthcoming production of Blue Planet Live.

The platform for this trip would typically be a science vessel with very few amenities, but you’ll be traveling in comfort and style aboard the Island Sky, and this itinerary will include all of the normal activities of our regular Antarctic Peninsula voyages.


Team Leader

WHOI Whale Study Team

Dan will be leading this study. He is a specialist in the use of motion in biological systems and uses artificial intelligence to unravel behavioral traits. He will be responsible for the study’s design, protocols and experiment execution.


Whale Behavioral Specialist

WHOI Whale Study Team

Kylie is the team’s whale foraging specialist. She will take the lead in finding the whales, following them and assessing their behavior.


Krill Specialist

WHOI Whale Study Team

Joe is an expert in finding what whales eat. He will operate the sonar we use to map krill distribution during our study.


Whale Tracking Technician

WHOI Whale Study Team

Alex has been involved with whale studies for more than 30 years and will be responsible for all of the technology used in this study.


Special Guest


Peter is the Founder and Director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange about the ocean and its relationship to climate, fresh water, food, energy, health, security, economic development, policy, governance, and cultural traditions.


Polar Latitudes Marine Mammal Specialist

WHOI Guest Investigator

Annette studied humpback habitats in the Southern Ocean for her PhD, and has been part of the Polar Latitudes Expedition Team since 2014. She is one of Polar Latitudes’ Citizen Science Coordinators and leads the communication of the team’s scientific methods and results to the guests.


Mar 02 – Mar 15, 2019   ISK
Sold out

Complimentary Pre-Arrival Day

Don’t sweat flight delays or missed connections when you begin your adventure a day early by taking advantage of our optional free pre-arrival night at the beautiful Arakur Hotel & Resort, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Enjoy the spa, wander the trails, or unwind and soak in the surroundings.


Day 1, Ushuaia

Today is all yours: explore some of the sights that Ushuaia has to offer, from museums to Argentinean leather markets, or continue relaxing at the lovely Arakur. Our optional evening briefing is a great opportunity for you to ask questions and to meet some of your fellow travelers.

antarctica WHOI research expedition map
 Polar Latitudes expedition team members

Hayley Shephard (right) Director of Expedition Operations, will be your Expedition Leader for this trip.

Day 2, Embarkation

After a complimentary buffet breakfast, you’re free to explore Ushuaia or unwind at the resort until our mid-afternoon transfer to the ship. Once on board, you’ll be greeted by our Expedition Team and the ship’s officers. A concise safety and orientation briefing will be followed by the Captain’s welcome dinner. After dinner, relax and take in the scenery on our early evening sail through the Beagle Channel, past porpoising Magellanic penguins, Rock Cormorant, and Black-browed Albatross.

Day 3-4, Drake Passage

As we make our way ever closer to the white continent, our Expedition Team will be out on deck and on the bridge, looking for the whales and dolphins that may be seen as we travel south. They will prepare us with presentations on everything Antarctic, from wildlife to history, including helpful briefings on environmental regulations and expedition safety.

The WHOI Team will present us with an overview of their study’s goals and methods. Eventually, we’ll cross the Antarctic Convergence where we’ll notice a distinct drop in temperature as we enter the waters of the Southern Ocean.

Those eager to participate in citizen science can take part in seabird sighting surveys, or help collect salinity samples and weather data along the way. The length of our journey depends on sea conditions, but we should approach the South Shetland Islands in the evening of Day 4. We will keep especially keen watch for pelagic whales as we approach the nutrient rich upwelling areas of the Continental Shelf.

expedition ship cruising through Drake Passage
Antarctic kayakers celebrating their journey

Day 5-8, Antarctica

Exploring the South Shetland Islands, we may visit Half Moon Island with its stunning backdrop of mountainous and glaciated Livingston Island. Or perhaps we will sail the ship into an active volcano with an opportunity to take a dip in the relatively balmy waters that surround Deception Island. Bransfield Strait, once the site of an abandoned whaling station, gives us an excellent chance to see whales, which often return to its rich waters.

In the waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula, our Expedition Leader and Captain will create a flexible itinerary based on weather, ice, and previous sightings to maximize our whale watching opportunities, while also exploring some of the lesser-traveled areas of the Peninsula. We will aim for the most scenic bays and channels, with stops at penguin rookeries, seal wallows, bird colonies and whale feeding areas, as well as sites of historic and scientific interest. The WHOI Team will begin their research, and will give us periodic updates on the study’s progress.

Day 9-11, Antarctica

Heading further South, we will be sure to explore the Gerlache Strait and its surrounding channels and islands. This may include trips to picturesque Neko Harbor, sheltered Paradise Harbor, the humpback favored Wilhelmina Bay, the striking Lemaire Channel, the wildlife-filled Penola Strait, or the majestic Neumayer Channel. We may stop at an active scientific base such as Poland’s Arctowksi or Ukraine’s Vernadsky as well as a historic base such as U.K.’s Port Lockroy or Wordie House.

At this time of year, most areas have amazing marine mammal viewing opportunities with weddell and crabeater seals often found hauled out to rest along with predatory leopard seals and the assertive Antarctic fur seal. Minke and humpback whales are frequent visitors during this season and orca sightings are also common.

All of our on-board experts will take part in a panel discussion on The Future of the Antarctic Ecosystem.

Spotting whales on a zodiac tour
humpback whale in Antarctica

Day 12-13, Drake Passage

As we leave this magical place and make our way north, heading again across the Antarctic Convergence and the Drake Passage, we will continue our presentation series and wildlife spotting. The WHOI Team will give us a final briefing on their field results. Sailing back to Ushuaia through the Beagle Channel, we celebrate the conclusion of our expedition with a special slideshow.

Day 14, Ushuaia disembarkation

Morning disembarkation lets you catch a flight to Buenos Aires or stay in Ushuaia for more sights and adventure.

Interested in this exceptional voyage?

* WHOI is a trademark and service mark of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, all rights reserved.