Follow in the footsteps of the great explorers James Cook, Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott with a cruise into one of the most incredible places on earth – The Antarctic. On your Antarctic Cruise things will be very different to the first expedition into the Antarctic Circle in 1773 and unlike the North Pole it’s still not possible for ‘ordinary’ people to get to the bottom of the world where these great men once stood.
There are however some great experiences to be had and the cliché once in a lifetime is really not even sufficient. There are two areas from which cruises to the region begin from, the first is the port of Ushuaia in Argentina, what you will see will depend on how far down you are able to go and for how long you can stay (see our article Antarctic Cruises – When and What for more details).
The first challenge heading south will be ‘Drakes Passage’. It is known by a couple of names if you’re lucky you will experience ‘Drake Lake’ when the waters are calm, if not it will be ‘Drake Shake’ when there’s a possibility that you may not eat too much for a couple of days. This will be the time when you will get to know your fellow passengers and listen to lectures given by the guides preparing you for the next part of your journey.
Your first stop is usually one of the South Shetland Islands for penguin viewing. Chinstraps share the beaches with leopard, crabeater and weddell seals and one or two scientists from the scientific research bases here; they may also be the opportunity to visit the volcanic Deception Island.
South Georgia, The resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton and some of the now disused whaling stations. There are so many wildlife highlights here including a colony of 100,000 king penguins and 5,000,000 marcaroni penguins , 300,000 elephant seals, 3,000,000 fur seals and over 25 species of birds. Heaven for wildlife photographers and a place you will be sad to leave.
The Falkland Islands are great places to get up close to seals, penguins, sea lions and a host of birdlife such as cormorants and albatross but they also have some very colorful houses which help cheer the locals through the long dark winters. The 700 islands are mostly uninhabited but the inhabitants of Port Stanley are always happy to see visitors.
The Antarctic Peninsula has many varying ports of call but a cruise in the area will typically visit Port Lockroy, Paradise Bay, Neko Harbor and Melchior Islands. Port Lockroy with its post office has 10,000 visitors per year, the most visitors to any site in Antarctica, the other landing sites are often only visited by one or two ships in a season. The definite non natural highlight of this part of the cruise is the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, replacing the older ‘Dome’, a technical feat of engineering which can be raised two storey’s to avoid snow drifts and home to scientists all the year round.
There are many more highlights from glaciers to mountains perhaps one day we will be lucky enough to experience it for ourselves.
The second area which visitors can cruise in the Antarctic Peninsula is Australia and New Zealand, covered in our next article Antarctic Cruises from Australia and New Zealand.