My father is keen to go to Antarctica for his 80th birthday in October. He is fit for his age but a bit wobbly on his feet at times. Our family has connections to the Mawson expedition, so he would particularly like to see anything to do with that. I'm wondering what our options are and when it's a good time to go.
- B. Sidaway, Chatswood.
Your father should be fine to undertake a cruise to Antarctica. A friend of mine recently went on the MV Minerva, through the tour company Abercrombie & Kent, and one of the passengers was an 80-year-old man confined to a wheelchair. The man wanted to go ashore and the crew was able to get him into a Zodiac and on to land.
Cruise specialist Cruiseabout (cruiseabout.com.au) recommends Orion Expedition Cruises, which has cruises departing from Christchurch or Dunedin.
Departing from New Zealand lessens the amount of flying time, compared with cruises that depart from Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina.
Antarctica specialist Chimu Adventures (chimuadventures.com.au) says it has two cruises that focus on Mawson, although they're both quite long and expensive.
For shorter and cheaper cruises, you need to fly to Argentina. A Chimu spokesman says Antarctic cruises are generally fine for elderly passengers, as long as they can handle "a bit of a bumpy ride" for one or two days through the Drake Passage.
The calmest weather is from December to February (many single out January) and the penguin chicks start hatching in December.
- JANE E. FRASER
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