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The "Akademik Shokalskiy" is an ex Russian ice-breaker which was chartered for several years by the Christchurch based company Heritage Expeditions. They specialise in eco-tourism to the various sub-Antarctic islands as well as trips to the Antarctic continent itself.

The vessel was built in 1983 and refurbished in Lyttelton in 1998 to bring it up to western accomodation standards. It is fitted with stabilisers and is fully ice-strengthened. It continued to operate for Heritage Expeditions until the 2004-05 season when it was replaced by its slightly newer sister ship "Professor Kromov" which was renamed "Spirit of Enderby" for its tourist work.

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AKADEMIC 1  1998 Official Expedition Postcard from Cape Denison in Antarctica.  US$8

Note: This cover is postmarked with the special Cape Denison Pictorial postmark for the Conservation of Mawson's Huts.

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AKADEMIC 2  1998 Ornithological Expedition to Chatham Islands on Official ship postcard  US$8

Note: Postcard is postmarked at Waitangi which is the main settlement on the Chatham Islands.

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The above view shows the Gangway advertising signage on the "Akademic Shokalskiy" at Lyttelton in 1998

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AKADEMIC 3  1998 Expedition to MacQuarie Island on Official ship postcard  US$5

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AKADEMIC 4  1998 Expedition to MacQuarie Island on Air Polarogramme  US$5

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AKADEMIC 5  1999 Expedition to the Ross Dependency on Scott Base envelope   US$5

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AKADEMIC 6  1999 Expedition to the Ross Dependency on Official ship postcard  US$5

2000 - 2001 Season

For the 2000-2001 season Heritage Expeditions second expedition (Heritage Voyage 1791) saw the "Akademik Shokalskiy leaving Bluff at the Southern tip of New Zealand on the 23rd of November, 2000 and returning to Dunedin on the 11th of December, 2000. A map of the voyage is shown at right. The theme of this expedition was bird watching.

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AKADEMIC 7  2000 (December 11th) Expedition to Sub-Antarctic Islands cover.    US$5

Note:  Because the postage stamp  used is an Australian Antarctic Territory stamp the mail should have been postmarked with the paquebot cancellation but evidentally the Dunedin mail room could not at first find their Paquebot cancellation and thus some mail was incorrectly postmarked with the ordinary Dunedin cancellation. After the paquebot postmarker was located this was also added to the previously incorrectly postmarked items as shown above. The AAT stamp was allowable because the vessel had visited MacQuarie Island which is part of AAT.

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AKADEMIC 8  2000 (December 11th) Expedition to Sub-Antarctic Islands cover.    US$5

Note: this cover has been correctly postmarked with the Dunedin Paquebot postmark only.

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AKADEMIC 9  2000 (December 11th) Expedition to Sub-Antarctic Islands cover.    US$5

This cover differs in that it has an Australian stamp affixed rather than an AAT stamp. For the past few years it has been acceptable to use AAT or Australian stamps indiscriminately but this is due to finish early in 2001 following the imposition of GST in Australia but not in the AAT.

AKShokDnpic1.jpg (38588 bytes) The view at left shows the "Akademik Shokalaskiy" approaching the Dunedin wharf early in the morning of December 11th, 2000
AKShokDnpic5.jpg (40239 bytes) At left we can see the vessel tied up at the wharf.

Below is a view of the Expedition leader Rodney Russ.

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AKADEMIC 10  2000 (December 11th) Cover signed by Expedition Leader Rodney Russ.    US$8

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AKADEMIC 11  2000 (December 11th) Heritage Expedition Official Postcard    US$6

Note: The above postcard has an attractive montage design on the reverse as shown below.

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AKADEMIC 12  2000 (December 11th) Heritage Expedition Official Postcard    US$6

Note: The above postcard has been franked with a Russian Antarctic miniature sheet. This was able to be used because the vessel is registered in Russia.

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AKADEMIC 13  2000 (December 11th) Heritage Expedition Official Postcard    US$5

Note: this item is the same official Heritage Expeditions postcard but it has been franked with an ordinary New Zealand postage stamp.

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AKADEMIC 14  2001 (February 5th) signed cover from January Ross Sea voyage    US$6

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Note: the above cover has a sticker on its reverse as shown at left.  The "Akademik Shokalskiy" returned to Bluff on the 2nd of February, 2001 from a voyage to the Ross Sea.

The cover above has been autographed by the Expedition Leader and Heritage Expeditions owner Rodney Russ.

The "Akademik Shokalskiy" departed on its second trip of the season to the Ross Sea a day after returning from its first trip. This voyage (designated 1795) was to prove eventfull with the first use of the company's over-ice tracked vehicles and also because the vessel used these vehicles to pick up two Norwegian Trans-Antarctic Expedition members at Hutt Point opn the 13th February, 2001 after they had walked unaided from Troll Station on the other side of the Antarctic continent.

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Tourists from the "Akademik Shokalskiy" using the  ATV multi-tracked vehicle towing a raft on skis to go ashore at Cape Hallett.

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The view at right  shows the vessel off Cape Hallett in February, 2001 with a iceberg nearby.

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AKADEMIC 15  2001 (February 24th) Cover posted at Bluff on return from Ross Sea.   US$6

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AKADEMIC 16  2001 (February 24th) Expedition Postcard posted Paquebot on return from Ross Sea.   US$6

Note: This postcard bears postage paid with Russian stamps as the vessel is registered in Russia. The postcard is the Official Heritage Expeditions postcard and also bears the company's sticker at lower left.

   -----------------     2001 - 2002 Season   -----------------

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AKADEMIC 17  2001 (December 10th) Chatham Islands Postal envelope.   US$5

Note: The vessel had called into Waitangi, the main settlement on the Chatham Islands a few days prior to the postmarking. The Post Office at Waitangi however is only open 4 days a week and is operated by the local ANZ Bank agency. The Red Postal cancellation was in use for about 2 years before being replaced in early 2003.

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AKADEMIC 18  2001 (December 10th) Envelope posted at Dunedin at voyage completion.   US$4

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The photo at left shows "Akademik Shokalskiy" arriving at Dunedin on the 10th of December 2001.

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AKADEMIC 19  2002 (February 5th) Postcard posted Scott Base on Scott Memorial Expedition.   US$6

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Note: The above postcard is signed by the expedition leader Rodney Russ.

The view at left shows The "Akademik Shokalskiy" in the ice channel at McMurdo Sound in January, 2002 during her Scott Memorial Expedition.

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AKADEMIC 20  2002 (March Ist) Aerogramme posted Macquarie Island.   US$5

Note: This was the last expedition to the Antarctic for the season. The aerogramme has a new "Akademik Shokalskiy" cachet which reflects the changed English spelling of the vessel's name.

The picture at right shows King Penguins at MacQuarie Island.

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-----------------     2002 - 2003 Season   -----------------

The 2002-2003 season started for the first time with a South Indian Ocean expedition leaving Mauritius and visiting all the main island groups in the southe Indian Ocean before arriving in Albany in Western Australia.

The route and expected dates are shown on the map at right.

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AKADEMIC 21  2002 (November 20th) Polarogramme posted Crozet Island.   US$6

Note: The above Polarogramme is signed by the expedition leader Rodney Russ. It appears that the vessel was a day ahead of schedule. Backstamped at Christchurch on January 13th, 2003.

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AKADEMIC 22  2002 (November 29th) Polarogramme posted Kerguelen Island.   US$5

Note: from the postmarking it seems that the vessel was still one day ahead of schedule. The Polarogramme also has the base cachet of "Port Aux Francais" on its reverse.

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AKADEMIC 23  2002 (December 16th) Polarogramme posted Albany, Western Australia.   US$5

Note: Postmarked with the pictorial Albany postmark which features a sailing vessel.

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AKADEMIC 24  2002 (December 16th) Polarogramme posted Albany, Western Australia.   US$6

This polarogramme is the same as the previous item except that it is signed. Backstamped in Christchurch 30 December, 2002.

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AKADEMIC 25  2002 (December 21st) Polarogramme posted paquebot at Hobart.   US$6

Note: An amount of mail carried on board "Akademik Shokalskiy" which should have been posted paquebot at Albany in Western Australia was by error on carried to Hobart where it was eventually posted prior to the vessel departing on its next expedition.


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This Expedition departed Bluff on the 1st of February, 2003. Very heavy ice conditions in the south -western Ross Sea threatened the expedition but a sudden realignment of the giant C19 iceberg C19 in late January meant that "Akademik Shokalskiy" was able to reach Ross Island.

She visited Cape Royds on 12th February and used her all-terrain vehicles to transport passengers to Cape Evans some 12 km away. This over ice trip is depicted on the two photos below showing the naiads on skis towed by all terrain vehicles crossing a ice crevasse.


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AKADEMIC 26  2003 (February 25th) Envelope from Ross Dependency.   US$6

The above envelope has been autographed by passenger Russell Mckee as shown at right on board the vessel as well by Rodney Russ, the expedition leader.

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At right is Russell McKee who has signed the above envelope.

He is shown in his cabin on board while at left we can see passengers reboarding the ship from a naiad craft which are used to go ashore at remote locations.

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AKADEMIC 27  2003 (February 25th) Polarogramme from Ross Dependency.   US$6

Note: the above polarogramme has been signed by Captain Igor Kiseley.

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The two  photos above show the "Akademik Shokalskiy" in the Auckland Islands on February 22nd 2003 shortly before the vessel returned to Bluff.

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AKADEMIC 28  2003 (March 2nd) Polarogramme posted at Macquarie Island.   US$6

Note: This polarogramme is from the last expedition for the season by the vessel. Called "The Galapagos's of Antarctica - the subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia" the vessel departed Bluff on February 24th and visited a number of Sub Antarctic islands including Macquarie Island on March 1st and 2nd, before returning to Bluff on the 7th of March.

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AKADEMIC 29  2004 (February 2nd) Cover from Macquarie Island posted at Bluff.   US$6

The "Akademik Shokalskiy" had arrived at Bluff on Sunday February 1st from MacQuarie Island at the end of a tour to the Ross Sea and sub-Antarctic islands.

The vessel is shown at right at Bluff in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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AKADEMIC 30  2004 (February 2nd) Polarogramme posted at Bluff.   US$6

Note: The polarogramme above has a Ross Dependency stamp affixed.

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AKADEMIC 31  2004 (February 2nd) Polarogramme posted at Bluff.   US$6

Note: The above polarogramme bears Russian stamps. As the vessel is registered in Vladivostok it is allowed to use Russian stamps for paquebot postage.

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AKADEMIC 32  2004 (February 2nd) Polarogramme posted at Bluff.   US$5

The postage stamp used on the above Polarogramme is a New Zealand "Posties Choice" alternative mail provider stamp which has an agreement with NZ Post for their stamps to be accepted by NZ Post. The design shows an albatross, a blue whale and a map of Antarctica.

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AKADEMIC 33  2004 (February 2nd) signed Polarogramme posted at Bluff.   US$8

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Note; The picture above shows Captain Igor Kiseley autographing one of the above Polarogrammes.

AKShokBlufffKisselipic.jpg (32203 bytes)This picture shows Captain Igor Kiseley in his day room on board "Akademik Shokalskiy"

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AKADEMIC 34  2004 (February 2nd) Envelope posted at Bluff.   US$5

The photo at right shows "Akademik Shokalskiy" on Monday February 4th 2004 before it departed Bluff for the last time bound for MacQuarie Island at the start of a privately chartered bird watching trip.

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AKADEMIC 35  2004 (March 5th) Polarogramme posted MacQuarie Island.   US$5

Note: The "Akademik Shokalskiy" arrived at MacQuarie Island on the 8th of February 2004 but mail deposited there by the vessel was not postmarked until the arrival of the "Aurora Australis" with a new datestamp and new stamp supplies on the 5th of March 2004.

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AKADEMIC 36  2004 (March 5th) Envelope posted MacQuarie Island.   US$5

Note: Heritage Expeditions announced their intention to replace the "Akademik Shokalskiy" with a newer vessel for the 2004-05 season. This new vessel to be known as "Spirit of Enderby" will be refitted in Lyttelton in late 2004. This refit will include the addition of a Helicopter deck for use in the Antarctic. Click here to see our page for "Spirit of Enderby"

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