From Cook Island, to Patagonia, to the remote white wildness of Antarctica, Cookson adventures has delivered an incredible journey of scientific discovery 

Kickstarting this adventure was the urge to explore the Antarctica Peninsula, a love of wildlife, and a desire to link up with the superyacht Planet Nine. One of a new breed of explorer superyachts, Planet Nine’s ice class specification allows her to go further than most superyachts will dare, and all manner of ‘toys’, including a fully operational helipad and custom-built RIBs, means exploration is possible in the most remote corners of the earth. Inside, she is the height of luxury, clients benefitting from a 3000sq ft main deck, an observation lounge that affords panoramic 180-degree views and a steam room and sauna. 

Cookson Adventures’ guests joined up with Planet Nine in the South Shetland Islands and cruised around the Antarctic Peninsula – an arc of stunning islands, mountains and glaciers which extend from the continent towards South America. The peninsula is home to a huge diversity of sea life in the summer months and every day there were opportunities to see humpback whales, various species of penguins and seals as well as take in the breath-taking views.

On the first day guests visited Deception Island, the only place in the world that you can sail into the caldera of an active volcano. The Island sits in a recognisable horseshoe-shape and is named after the very narrow, easy-to-miss opening into the caldera, known as Neptune’s Bellow. Guests spent their day with specialists visiting historic sites, watching fur seals play on the beach and walking up the side of the crater to a dramatic viewpoint, followed by a scenic helicopter flight around the caldera – and this was just day one 

Over the next few days, they explored the region around the Gerlache Strait – visiting coves, islands, penguin colonies and historic sites – and spent time at an Argentinian research station on a day out with a team of orca researchers. Further south, Neko Harbour is a beautiful spot for seeing Weddell seals, and Cookson’s guests took to the waters by kayak, accompanied by expert guides, to be further surprised by orca and humpback whales. 

Paradise Bay, known for its heavily-crevassed glaciers and cliffside cormorant colonies, is a playground for whales. Clients dived beneath the waves in a submersible, searching for the water’s diverse and spectacular underwater life, alongside an ex-British Antarctic Survey marine biologist, before returning to land for an up-hill hike with a mountain guide that revealed the bay in all its glory. The nearby Port Lockroy boasts the world’s most southerly post office – affectionately known as the ‘Penguin Post Office’ – and a museum of Antarctic life in the 1940’s and 50’s.  

Few can appreciate the magnitude of such an experience for allowing its participants to reconnect with nature at its most pristine and vivid. Antarctica remains a haven of natural beauty, which few are afforded the privilege of visiting with access to a submersible and helicopter. Indeed, the invasion of too many foreign species, human or otherwise, risks impacting the fragile flora and fauna, but, under the watchful eye and guidance of Cookson Adventures, which has a huge passion for and understanding of the region, explorers can enjoy this spectacular wilderness without intrusion and leave it in the harmony in which it deserves to remain.

The backdrop to this stunning experience was one of ground-breaking scientific research as the guests rounded off the trip by meeting with a team of marine biologists. The guests had made a generous donation to a project, 15 years in the making, that was seeking to confirm the existence of a new species of killer whale. 

This incredible research of elusive ‘type D’ killer whale was made possible thanks to the donation funding charter of a vessel that could withstand the notoriously treacherous waters off the southern tip of Argentina. The team collected skin samples (tiny, pencil eraser-sized bits of skin harmlessly taken with a crossbow dart), the study of which will confirm the whales’ genetic distinction from other species, while tagging of individual whales will also provide the team with data on movement patterns and diving capabilities. 

Aboard the research vessel, clients were able to spend time with the orca researchers and view first-hand the rare footage of the type D orcas. Unravelling the secrets of Type D killer whales, one of the least known large animals left on the planet, now moves from the blustery Southern Ocean to the lab. 

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