Bespoke Adventures: Expedition Vessels Redefine Superyachting

Damen Yachting’s SeaXplorer Pink Shadow leads the charge of new expedition vessels.

Hear the word “yacht” and you are likely to envision a large pleasure boat anchored somewhere in paradise. Your favorite movie star is sipping champagne, surrounded by bikini-clad women and shirtless dudes snapping selfies. Guests returning from the Cannes Film Festival step off the ship’s helicopter and onto the helipad, ready to join the party.

But for VIPs eager to escape the long lens of the paparazzi, yachting has become a source of thrill-seeking and exploration. From scattered tropical islands, to the depths of the ocean, and even to faraway continents, adventurers can live out their dreams in an explorer-class superyacht like the SeaXplorer Pink Shadow, or the forthcoming Admiral Momentum Explorer 50 and Ocean Independence Aluna 127.

“To sit there in absolute silence among an Antarctic landscape, and to have a whale surface right beside your tender, is a deeply moving experience,” Rob McCallum, a seasoned ocean explorer and professional guide, told Jetset. McCallum has led hundreds of expeditions to Antarctica, and in one memorable trip as a submersible coordinator, he helped James Cameron reach Challenger Deep inside the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

The native New Zealander is the co-founder of EYOS, a company that plans and oversees expeditions to remote and unforgiving environments throughout the globe. He said realizing a client’s dream adventure depends on intensive planning that begins with the right ship for the mission. McCallum and EYOS have lent their expertise to the Dutch shipbuilders Damen Yachting, resulting in the SeaXplorer class of expedition vessels—a breed of explorer superyachts designed to thrive in the most challenging seas.

Pink Shadow

Damen Yachting’s SeaXplorer Pink Shadow is more navy destroyer than pleasure boat. Coming in at 58.00 meters in length (190 ft) and capable of 14.5 knots with a range of 5,000 nautical miles, the Pink Shadow is the yacht a Bond villain might charter on holiday. The ship’s exterior features midnight blacks and brooding grays combined with touches of metallic green and silver. A helipad is supported by an aluminum superstructure, and a steel hull makes the ship ideal in all maritime environments.

The Pink Shadow is a Polar Code B compliant vessel—meaning it is excellent at navigating the icy waters of Antarctica and able to withstand flooding that could potentially result from ice penetrating the hull of the ship. The Pink Shadow is also designed to operate far away from port resupply for weeks at a time.

With all its capabilities, the Pink Shadow is still prime luxury—comfortably accommodating 12 guests in six suites and housing a crew of 17 plus the captain. A jacuzzi overlooking the helipad ensures guests can warm up after a day of adventure that might include inland heli-skiing, surveying wildlife or exploring the depths of the Antarctic Ocean floor in a submersible. And like all explorer yachts, the Pink Shadow promises a wide range of toys, including two multi-role tenders, motorcycles, vehicles for both road and off-road use and a custom 11.4-meter performance sailboat.

Explorer Versatility

An explorer yacht must provide a thrilling experience in three kinds of settings: tropical (think the Caribbean or South Pacific), Arctic and Antarctic, and VIP destinations like the Cannes Film festival or an F1 Race in Monaco. The idea is to experience the best of the open seas on your own terms. Explorer vessels are designed by shipbuilders to fit the specific desire and needs of owners, making for a variety of explorer-class superyachts.

Take the Admiral Momentum Explorer 50, expected to reach 164 feet (50 meters) and under construction by Fraser Yachting, USA. It has a white exterior with windows wrapping around the hull, providing panoramic views throughout the ship. Planned to comfortably accommodate five guests in ten cabins, the ship is designed for tendering, with watercraft stored on its aft deck. The Admiral Momentum 50 also features large amounts of deck space and an observation lounge and sky bar.

Explorer yachts also come in the support variety, like the Project Aluna 127. Scheduled for completion by 2025, this vessel can supplement the largest superyachts or function independently as a stand-alone explorer yacht accommodating 10 passengers in five cabins. The owner’s suite has an attached terrace. Moreover, at 128 feet (39 meters) long and 30 feet (9.1 meters) wide, this superyacht, built by FDC Yachts of Turkey, features an expansive deck for entertaining and has a large load capacity for essential toys like jet skis and sailboats. This will make the Aluna 127 an ideal adventure platform to assist an owner’s primary superyacht that lacks the capabilities and design priorities of an explorer yacht.

Deep Sea Exploration

In 2019, McCallum was involved in another Challenger Deep dive as part of the Five Deeps Expedition team of ocean experts. The expedition, led by EYOS, helped billionaire equity investor Victor Vescovo fulfill his dream to explore the deepest location in all five of the world’s oceans, including the Mariana Trench. Five Deeps accomplished all its objectives with everyone leaving as good friends, McCallum recalled.

In total, EYOS has run over 1,200 expeditions worldwide, including operating up to ten ships at a time in Antarctic waters during the summer months when there’s less ice, more light, and plenty of wildlife to experience. These trips to Antarctica—which run for approximately two weeks—include cross country skiing in the Zodiacs, heli-skiing and even the occasional polar plunge into the frigid waters.

McCallum said interest in expedition tourism has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global lockdown. He says clients, now more than ever, are hungry for generating memories through adventure.

“They see that this is not stage managed, not scripted. You can almost see it being seared into the memory,” McCallum said. “These are busy and successful people. When they’re out with us, they have the chance to disconnect and focus directly on the experience before them.”

About The Author

Jesse Winter is a writer from New Jersey with a passion for covering aviation, superyachts and tech-driven consumer news. He is a graduate of Rutgers University and got his start writing as a local reporter in the Garden State. For editorial consideration please contact editor@jetsetmag(dot)com.

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