Our Ride to Antarctica: Learn More About the Akademik Ioffe

Akademik Ioffe

So if you saw our premiere episode you got a glimpse of the very cool expedition ship that will carry us across the infamous Drake Passage and on to the Antarctic Peninsula, including a video tour of some of the main areas of the Russian research vessel Akademik Ioffe (also known as the One Ocean Navigator), but to add to that we thought we’d share with you a few more groovy facts about the Ioffe as we set sail:

The Ioffe was built in 1989 in Rauma, Finland, and was designed as a scientific research vessel to study the earth’s polar regions. It’s still very much an active research ship, but in recent years the ship has been upgraded and outfitted for adventure passenger travel as well.

Akademik IoffeThe ship was named after Abram Fyodorovich Ioffe, a prominent Russian scientist who among other things, was an expert in electromagnetism, radiology and high-impact physics, and was instrumental in developing the technology we now call radar. He’s also got a crater on the moon named after him. So, yeah. He was kind of a big deal.

The Ioffe can carry a maximum of 96 passengers and 63 crew and staff, many of whom are Russian. In fact, we learned more Russian aboard this ship than we’ve ever known in our lives, the most important word of which is pronounced: spa-SEE-bah, which means thank you. Good to know.

Because it is an active, functioning scientific research vessel, it’s not what you’d consider a luxury boat by any stretch (which you’ll see more of in our post tomorrow). But in recent years they’ve made lots of nice upgrades to make it more modern and comfortable for passengers. There’s a bar/lounge area, a wellness room, a multimedia room that includes several computers (great for storing and organizing photos), and the ship is designed to run quiet and stable. We absolutely love it! And think it’s the perfect kind of ship for one of the world’s greatest adventures.

The ship has an ice-strengthened hull, but is not technically classified as an ice breaker.

Akademik Ioffe BridgeThe bridge is absolutely one of our favorite places on the ship. What’s really cool is that the bridge is completely open to passengers almost 24 hours a day, and is only off limits during certain times when the captain and crew need the bridge to themselves. So it’s super nice being able to hang out on the bridge, take in an awesome view of the ship’s surroundings, get the latest updates on the expedition, and just watch the captain and crew do their thing. Fascinating.

Just this past year, the Ioffe was one of the ships that was instrumental in finding one of the legendary and long lost ships of the Franklin expedition, the HMS Erebus, which along with another ship the HMS Terror was lost on an ill-fated journey through the waters of Victoria Strait in northern Canada way back in 1846. The discovery was a monumental achievement in both maritime and Canadian history, and earned high honors for the One Ocean Expeditions team that was part of the discovery expedition. Read more about it all here. Very cool stuff!

Akademik Ioffe in Port in UshuaiaThe Ioffe may (or *ahem* may not) have had an active role spying on US submarines during the cold war. As mentioned, the ship was built back in 1989, a few years before the cold war began to fade into history, and “officially” back then the Ioffe was equipped with sophisticated listening equipment in order to locate and study whales and things of that sort. But if the walls on the ship could talk, there’s little doubt they could tell stories about the Ioffe’s days spent listening to and tracking American submarines. In fact when you visit the mud room on the ship there’s still a MASSIVE piece of equipment installed there that is said to have been an antenna (or something of the like) used for those kinds of missions. Again, very cool stuff!

Today the ship is obviously equipped with sophisticated radar, weather and communications devices… as it should be, considering that it spends the bulk of its time on the water in some o the most remote, inhospitable and unpredictable places on the planet. And there is even some internet/phone access for the passengers available, but we’d guess it’s typically only used in case of emergencies.

Lastly, when it’s not being used elsewhere for actual scientific research, the Ioffe splits its seasons between summers carrying adventurers in Antarctica (typically November-March) and summers in the Arctic (July-August). Notice we said “summers” twice, because keep in mind summer in the southern hemisphere is during our winter months, and vice versa. You can check out all the places it goes on the One Ocean website here.

Cheers y’all!

our signature small





  1. This sounds so exciting! Can’t wait to read and see more. 🙂

Leave a Reply