T his month sees the launch of a new ice-class exploration ship, the Greg Mortimer. The ship is owned by Australian-based Aurora Expeditions and is due to be christened quayside on October 31, 2019, in Ushuaia, prior to setting sail for Antarctica. So, what makes it special?

1. It has a curiously shaped bow

Designed and constructed for expedition cruising in the Polar areas, the 80- cabin Greg Mortimer is the very first exploration ship to incorporate the trademarked Ulstein X-Bow. Instead of the conventional bulbous bow this one slopes the opposite way– in reality it looks a bit like the Concorde nose. The inverted bow implies gentler sea crossings, faster transit speeds and reduced emissions due to a big reduction in fuel intake.

2. How does that aid travelers?

The X-Bow divides wave energy and gets rid of slamming and bow effect so travelers feel less vibrations and less movement at sea, which need to be music to the ears of those crossing the well-known Drake Passage to Antarctica.

3. Who is Greg Mortimer?

In 1998 Australian explorer Greg Mortimer hatched an audacious plan to cruise to Antarctica and attempt to climb Mt Minto, the highest unclimbed peak in the Admiralty Range. He had already end up being the first Australian to reach the tops of Mt Everest, K2 and Annapurna without the help of additional oxygen. Mortimer released Aurora Expeditions in 1991 with his better half, Margaret, following that inspirational trip to the White Continent. His contribution to mountaineering has been identified through an Order of Australia and 3 Australian Geographic Society Medals.

4. Will Greg be on board?

Undoubtedly. Travelers travelling on the ship’s first trip at the beginning of November will be lucky sufficient to have Mortimer as their exploration leader. Joining him is multi-award-winning nature and wildlife photographer Scott Portelli. Margaret Mortimer will christen the ship in Ushuaia, in her role as godmother.

5. Who is captaining the ship?

T he ship will be captained by Oleg Kaptenko, who in 2011 successfully steered the 90- guest M/V Akademik Shokalskiy through the North-East Passage without the support of an icebreaker, and Ulf-Peter Magnus Lindström, who operated in the Finnish Navy in the Unique Diving Forces. In between them the set has clocked up nautical miles in the Antarctic, Canadian Arctic, Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, the Red and Black Seas, Greenland, Spitsbergen, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin (nope, us neither …)

6. Travelers remain in good hands, then?

Would like to know how long a narwhal’s tusk can grow, or for how long a polar bear can hold its breath for? You remain in excellent company. An outstanding line up of expedition experts includes historians, geologists, naturalists, scientists, kayak guides, ski tour and snowshoe guides and naturally, head photographer and Australian Geographic Nature professional photographer of the year, Scott Portelli.

7. So activities are a big offer for Aurora Expeditions?

This is not a cruise for knitters. Rather, there is diving and snorkelling (believe icebergs and super-sized marine life), ski touring, climbing up, snowshoeing on virgin peaks and, for the more adventurous, an opportunity to retrace Shackleton’s steps on a legendary alpine crossing from King Haakon Bay to Stromness in South Georgia. One of the most popular activities involves wriggling into a thermal sleeping bag for a night out on the ice– no camping tent pegs needed. At least you’ll be heading out on zodiacs to explore a few of the planet’s most amazing scenery.

8. Any other developments worth understanding about?

W ith safer and speedier boarding of smaller sized craft in mind, the ship has four sea-level launch platforms for the 15 zodiacs to make it possible for quick transfers (ordinarily travelers board group by group from a pontoon at the back) and a brand-new kayak chute. Rather of being decreased to the sea over the side of the ship they hit the water via the chute and are then connected to a pontoon made from Lego-style blocks that keep the boats steady. This sure beats shuffling into it from a zodiac. Two hydraulic viewing platforms built into the wings of the ship swing out to provide unblocked views of penguins, albatross, polar bears, whales and ice — tonnes and tonnes of it.

9. What about ecological stewardship?

V irtual anchoring technology suggests no more anchor and chains dropping to the sea flooring. Water purification is done on board, cleaning items are biodegradable and phosphate-free and seafood is sustainably sourced and meets Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries requirements. In other places, the line’s sustainability record is good. In Svalbard, for instance, involvement in annual clean-ups has actually helped eliminate 20 lots of waste from beaches. Aurora Expeditions is a founding member of the Association of Arctic Tour Operators.

10 Where can we sail to and how much will it set me back?

Spitsbergen, Greenland, Franz Josef Land, the Svalbard archipelago, Patagonia, the Chilean Fjords, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica … not your average vacation. A 12- day Antarctic Explorer fly/sail itinerary in January 2020 costs from ₤ 8,100 pp ( auroraexpeditions.com.au).

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