Following the successful launch of the revolutionary Greg Mortimer for the 2019/20 Antarctic season, Aurora Expeditions has a second Ulstein X-BOW vessel on the way: Sylvia Earle. It is named after Dr Sylvia Earle, the acclaimed marine biologist, oceanographer and conservationist who was the first woman to become Chief Scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The unusual bow design of the vessel provides high fuel efficiency and smoother ocean crossings; it also allows an enhanced forward viewing experience for passengers. Sylvia Earle takes this one step further than the Greg Mortimer with a two-level glass atrium lounge in the bow below the bridge.
The 79-cabin ship will have a capacity of 126 passengers which includes 20 kayakers and six divers so that, under Antarctic regulations, everyone can be off the ship at one time. The ship has an A1 Ice Class rating, it's 104 metres long and 18.4 metres wide for a gross tonnage of 8500 and an average speed of 10-12 knots.
Sylvia Earle claims to have the lowest polluting marine engines in the world, due to a combination of low energy consumption, high fuel efficiency and a streamlined design. Its Tier 3 engine will deliver an 80 per cent reduction in emissions and can use “virtual anchoring” rather than physically dropping an anchor on the sea floor. Desalination plants onboard reduce the need to carry as much fresh water, further reducing fuel consumption.
The ship will have a main dining room on Deck 5 and a Top Deck Restaurant on Deck 8. The stylish dining room is designed in pastels with good ocean views through panoramic windows. Open seating will ensure lots of camaraderie amongst passengers and staff. The emphasis is on hearty dishes suitable for active expeditions, with different options at every meal. House wines, beers and soft drinks are included at dinner; tea, coffee and snacks are available 24 hours a day.
While some details may change during construction, there are nine classes of cabins to choose from and each has its own washroom. Some 60 per cent of cabins can accommodate a third person upon request.
There’s one Captain’s suite (44.5 square metres) midships on Deck 4. There are four Junior Suites (42-43.5 square metres including balcony). There are four categories of balcony cabins. The Balcony Stateroom Superior (28-37.7 square metres) are located on Decks 4 and 6 and some have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. The other three Balcony Staterooms (21-24.8 square metres) are listed as A, B or C depending on the cabin size. The 23 A Staterooms are in preferred positions on Decks 4 and 6, The 17 B Staterooms are located fore and aft on Decks 4 and 6 and many are interconnecting for families and groups. The 11 C Staterooms are scattered throughout Deck 6 and are suitable for to people. The Aurora Stateroom Superior are located on Deck 7 and have French balconies and floor to ceiling windows. There are three Aurora Stateroom Twin Share with portholes, located on Deck 3 to be close to off-ship action. The four Aurora Stateroom Triple Share cabins are also on Deck 3, have portholes and are only available on some departures.
The unique Atrium Lounge is a highlight of the ship, as is the ship’s apparent ability to smooth the seas.
A spacious mudroom means you don’t have to take wet expedition gear back to your cabin. There’s an outdoor saltwater swimming pool with a jacuzzi either side as well as a gym plus a spa where you can take a sauna or book a massage. Zodiacs will form the basis for most excursions but there are several optional activities that will appeal to adventurers, from sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, ski touring, snowboarding, camping and stand-up paddle boarding.
There will be several bars and lounges throughout the ship where people can meet and catch up on the day and the plans for tomorrow.
Sylvia Earle is set to have state-of-the-art lecture facilities where naturalists and other specialists will offer presentations to deepen your understanding of the cruise's destinations. There’s also a library on Deck 6 with floor to ceiling windows where passengers can read. Wildlife guidebooks and binoculars can be found in the observation lounge on Deck 7.
Sylvia Earle is scheduled to operate regular voyages in both Antarctica and the Arctic but also has some interesting specialist voyages. These include a 25-day voyage that includes not only South Georgia and Antarctica but the rarely-visited South Sandwich Islands. An absolute one-off is the December 2021 16-day voyage into the Weddell Sea to witness a full solar eclipse in Antarctica.