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Antarctica Cruise and Travel Guide - Page 2 - Details

Tourism in Antarctica - What will I do and what will I see?

First of all you will cross some of the most excitable seas that there are, The Drake Passage. This may happen in the night and you may be blissfully unaware of it. It may happen during the day time when you are very aware of it. Make the most of the experience, it's like a rite of passage, earning you your place in the South. Alternatively there is now an opportunity to fly across the Drake's passage in one or both directions if you want to save time or can't face the potential sea state, which incidentally may be contrary enough to be like a mill pond the time you go across it.

You will cross the Antarctic convergence, an area of upwelling sea water where deep water flowing north from the edge of the Antarctic continent meets deep south-flowing water, the two then flow upwards bringing dissolved nutrients to the surface to power the huge seasonal biological abundance during the long dark-free summer days. The circumpolar convergence is a barrier that moves backwards and forwards, but is very real and stable in the long term. So much so that virtually no fish species have managed to travel in either direction in the 25 million years since it arose. The convergence has also acted as a barrier to Decapod Crustaceans - crabs, crayfish, lobsters etc. These abound elsewhere in the world's seas, but are very rare in the Antarctic.

South of this you are in the "Southern" or "Antarctic" ocean, this is where Antarctica starts. You will see ice-bergs in quantity, and other types of ice too with a multitude of names, pack-ice, brash-ice, bergy bits and growlers to name but a few.

Albatrosses, seals, penguins, myriad other birds and if you're lucky - whales, will follow the ship for a while or just come for a look.

You will see some of the most beautiful scenery that the planet has to offer, seascapes, icescapes and landscapes that you only dream about. Except there you are - part of it all.

You will go on visits ashore generally of short duration (around 3 hours), of moderate intensity (less than 100 people), and of a frequency that depends on your tour operator. Typically there are 1-2 landings per day. Landings are made using Zodiacs (rubber inflatable boats) or if the ship is so equipped also by helicopter. Other activities by visitors to Antarctica include mountain climbing, camping, kayaking and scuba diving, there is even the occasional Antarctic marathon (yes honestly!).

Tour operators usually co-ordinate their itineraries so that ships do not see each other or allow shore parties from different ships overlap, this helps to maintain the "wilderness experience".

On your trips ashore you will see Antarctic wildlife up close and personal.

You can expect to see

  • Colonies of Adelie, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins - that vary between large and huge, in the summer months, they will be anywhere from courting and nesting building to nearly fledged chicks depending on the time you go. You will probably also see King, and Macaroni penguins if you visit sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia. If you go far enough south you may see Emperor penguins.
  • Seals - Crabeater, Southern Elephant, Leopard, Fur and Weddell seals are to be found here, chilling out in the ocean, floating around on ice-floes or relaxing on rocky Antarctic shores.
  • Whales - humpback whales and killer whales are present and may pose for visitors, if you are lucky you may see other whale species, even the blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived.
  • Albatrosses - the "bird which made the wind to blow" with the largest wingspan in the world. Antarctic skuas, snow petrels, blue eyed shags, American sheathbills, cape pigeons, giant petrels, and tiny dancing Wilson's storm petrels amongst others may pass by.
Just remember that unlike in a zoo, you're in the cage and in an environment where you don't belong. This was the animals home long before we realised that it even existed.
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