Antarctica - Destination Focus
Remote and otherworldly, Antarctica is irresistible for its spectacular iceberg and calving glaciers, and for the possibility of up-close encounters with marine mammals and the iconic penguins. The Antarctic Peninsula – the main peninsula closest to South America – has a human history of almost 200 years, with explorers, sealers, whalers, and scientists who have come to work, and eventually intrepid visitors coming to enjoy this pristine and remote wilderness. It is a region of protected bays, unscaled snow-capped mountains, vast glaciers and a few places where whalers or scientists have worked. Just as irresistible are the many Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguin colonies, the seals basking on ice floes, and the opportunity to witness whales and orcas.
The Antarctic Sound is a stretch of water named after the first ship to have passed through this body of water from the Bransfield Strait to the Weddell Sea in 1902. At Paulet, Hope Bay and Brown Bluff, Adélie and Gentoo Penguins breed, as do Kelp Gulls and Cape Petrels, Snow Petrels and Skuas. The Sound’s main attractions are the spectacular tabular icebergs that come from the Larsen Ice Shelf further south, a featured that has earned this stretch of water the name Iceberg Alley.
Named after 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake, this 800-kilometre (500 mile) wide body of water separates the southern tip of South America from the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. The Antarctic Convergence, a natural boundary where cold polar water flows northward and warmer equatorial water moves southward, is within the Drake Passage. When these two currents meet, nutrients are pushed to the surface, often attracting a multitude of seabirds and whales. Black-browed Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels glide in the air currents alongside and in the wake of the ship.
This spectacularly picturesque island is a breathtaking destination of towering snow-covered mountains, mighty glaciers, and low-lying grasslands that attract an astounding concentration of wildlife. It is possible to find Southern fur seals, Southern elephant seals and a variety of albatross species including Black browed, Light-mantled Sooty, Grey-headed and the spectacular Wandering Albatross.
South Georgia is also linked to the early Antarctic explorers. Captain James Cook first stepped ashore in 1775, but perhaps more famous is Ernest Shackleton’s arrival in 1916. Shackleton’s grave and the whaling museum at Grytviken are highlights, as would be a visit to one of the King Penguin colonies at Salisbury Plain or Gold Harbour.
South Shetland Islands
The closest Antarctic islands to South America, the South Shetland Islands are usually the first islands to be visited and are home to 16 research stations. Chinstrap, Adélie, Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins all breed here. In addition, because it is the warmest part of Antarctica, large moss beds as well as orange, black, grey and green lichens grow – even hair grass and pearlwort manage to survive. Leopard seals, Weddell seals, crabeater seals, Southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals can be seen in the water and on the beaches.
Argentina’s, and indeed, the world’s, southernmost city is much more than a gateway to Antarctica. At roughly 55 degrees south, this 71,000-resident town at the heart of Tierra del Fuego is closer to the South Pole than to Argentina’s northern border with Bolivia. Nature is the principal attraction here, with trekking, fishing, horseback riding and wildlife spotting among the most rewarding activities, especially in Tierra del Fuego National Park.
This windswept and sparsely-populated British overseas territory is made up of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, as well as hundreds of smaller islands and islets. Also known by their Spanish name of Islas Malvinas, the islands are home to arguably more tuxedo-clad inhabitants of the penguin variety than human residents. Various species, such as Gentoo, Magellanic and the more elusive King Penguins, either live here permanently or use the Falklands as a stopover on their migration route.
New Island, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, is a wildlife and nature reserve featuring rookeries where Rockhopper Penguins and Blueeyed Shags share the same nesting area. Peale’s dolphins and the distinctive black and white markings of the Commerson’s dolphin can usually be seen in the waters around West Point Island. Tiny Stanley, capital of the Falklands, seems in many ways like a British village fallen out of the sky. Many homes are painted in bright colours, adding visual appeal to this distant outpost.
Fiordland, New Zealand, Sub-Antarctic
Silversea guests can visit Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Site that includes Milford and Doubtful Sounds. The breath-taking views, the majestic carved peaks and the dramatic waterfalls of Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori) are awe-inspiring. Using Zodiacs and the ship to explore, the Captain and Expedition Leader collaborate to create the perfect schedule for the visit in Fiordland National Park and to see the resident pods of dolphins, penguins and seals.
More than Snow and Ice
Did you know... during the summer months (November - March) there are approximately 4,000 people living in the Antarctic. There are 235 Marine Fauna Species, 950 plant species and 17 bird species. The Antarctic is so much more than just snow and ice.
Antarctica offers wildlife spotting opportunities like no other place on Earth.
Penguins - Rockhopper, Gentoo, Macaroni, King, Adelie, Magellanic and Chinstrap.
Seals – elephant, Antarctic fur, Weddell, leopard and crabeater.
Whales – humpback, Minke, orca, pilot, and beaked.
Seabirds – Snowy Sheathbill, Antarctic Cormorant, Kelp Gull, Antarctic Tern, Cape Petrels, Wandering Albatrosses, Southern Fulmars, Blue-eyed Shags, Southern Giant Petrels, skuas, Black-browed Albatrosses, Wilson’s Storm-petrels, Sooty Shearwaters.
When to Travel to the Antarctic
With exceptionally cold winters, no sunlight, and treacherous winds from April to September, the only comfortable time to explore Antarctica is during the warmer months from late October to March. During the late spring and summer months, the sea ice starts to melt, allowing ships to cruise through the pristine waters. Each month has its own unique highlights with different experiences for guests embarking on an expedition cruise.
Guests can cruise to Antarctica at the start of the season to see snowy landscapes along with colossal icebergs and dazzling ice formations. For wildlife lovers, Antarctica offers plenty of excitement and activity at this time of the year. Elephant seals are breeding, different whales are returning to the coastline, and Adélie, gentoo and chinstrap penguins are coming ashore to start nesting. Female king penguins also start to lay their eggs in November while males depart to hunt for fish for their unborn chicks. Antarctic sea birds, including petrels, skuas and albatrosses, soar through the Antarctic sky in this season as well. Across the Falkland Islands, spring wildflowers bloom such as the Pale Maiden, the Falklands’ national flower.
December to January
December marks the beginning of peak season to visit Antarctica, with temperatures reaching highs of 8-10 degrees Celsius throughout the day. Around mid-December, penguin chicks hatch on the peninsula, seal pups crowd the beaches of South Georgia and whales are seen more frequently.
February to March
Moving into March in Antarctica, temperatures start to cool again as the days begin to get shorter and darker. Whale watching is best in the late summer months when the migrating whale pods converge to get their final fill of krill before beginning their journey north. Whales such as humpbacks, southern right, minke, sperm, orca and blue whales can all be spotted at this time. On land, penguin chicks start to fledge and adult penguins leave the Antarctic shores. Fur seals flood the beaches of both the peninsula and islands with their playful seal pups.
Silversea Antarctic Itineraries
Silversea is one of the first luxury expedition companies to explore the south polar region. Over the years they have developed some incredible itineraries that have resonated well with their clients.
For those that are nervous of crossing the notorious Drake Passage known for her rough seas, then the Antarctica Bridge is perfect for you. Silversea guests can skip the Drake Passage and fly on a BAE146 aircraft in Business Class from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island. Guests receive a complimentary expedition jacket prior to their flight to enjoy six days of cruising through the Antarctic Peninsula in luxury, on Silver Explorer.
6-Day - King George Island to King George Island
Sail date: 29 December 2021
Ship: Silver Explorer
10-Day Ushuaia Antarctic and South Shetland Islands
Voyages take part during the summer months, from November to February, when this region is teeming with wildlife.
10-Day - Ushuaia to Ushuaia
Sail date: 28 November 2021
Ship: Silver Explorer
15-Day South Ushuaia Antarctica and the Shetland Islands
15-Day - Ushuaia to Ushuaia
Sail date: 21 December 2021
Ship: Silver Cloud
20-Day Deep Antarctica Expedition
Silversea’s longest-ever voyage to Antarctica, travellers will embark on the cruise line’s first-ever voyage dedicated to attempting to cross the Antarctic Polar Circle on a 20-day exploration of the White Continent, departing January 27th, 2022.
Adventures in the Antarctic
There are many ways to experience the Antarctic from the luxury expeditions like Silversea, to moderate expedition vessels like G-Adventures. When you are ready to explore this magical destination we will be ready to help make it happen. Here are some images from my adventures to the Antarctic. It truly was one of the most memorable and impactful journeys I have ever been on.
Where do you want to go? Click here to contact me.