Antarctica boasts some of the world’s most exquisite and captivating landscapes that remain largely unexplored. Its reputation for being the coldest, windiest and wildest continent means that only the most intrepid travellers have seen its awe-inspiring ice waves and astonishing wildlife basking in the 24-hour sun.
Cruising on luxury expedition yachts offers the best vantage point to view this extraordinary environment. The multitude of tenders and toys on board allow for full interaction on land and sea. An Antarctic adventure with us balances the thrill of racing zodiacs through the icy waters with gentle walks and lunches overlooking glaciers and icebergs.
Due to the tilt of the Earth and its orbit around the sun, Antarctica receives less energy and heat from the sun resulting in only two seasons – summer and winter. In summer the sun does not set and in the winter the sun doesn’t rise. These dramatic seasonal variations control the ecosystem resulting in extremely challenging conditions for wildlife in the Southern Ocean.
In the winter, ice forms over much of the sea, doubling it in size and retreats rapidly in the spring when the ice begins to melt. During the summer the days are long and temperatures warmer which allows plankton to flourish that in turn supports the rest of the area’s limited but remarkable ecosystem.
The Antarctic Peninsula, the location of our visit, is the most northerly point of Antarctica, therefore boasting the mildest climates – in January temperatures reach up to 2 degrees Celsius.
Due to the continent’s location, the Peninsula, adjacent parts of the Weddell Sea and the Peninsula’s Pacific continental shelf have all been the subject of intensive geologic, paleontological and paleoclimatic research. Experts from all over the world gather here to research the Earth’s rapid warming due to a phenomenon we know as global warming.
Between the Greenwich and Snow Islands, you will find Livingston island, a land mass with ice domes and plateaus.
Ice cliffs containing coves, beaches and points form the majority of the coastline. Barring isolated patches, the land surface is covered by an ice cap, highly crevassed in segments.
Alongside its distinct geological features, Livingston island boasts historical importance as well. The Lame Dog Hut at St. Kliment Ohridski base is the oldest preserved building on Livingston Island, considered as part of the cultural and historic heritage of the island and Antarctica.
Elephant Island is named after one of the earliest sightings of elephant seals on the island by Captain George Powell in 1821.
On this island also lies Point Wild- a spit off the northern coast. The point was named after Frank Wild, the leader of the party from Shackleton’s shipwrecked expedition who camped on the point for four months until rescued in August 1916.
A bust of Captain Luis Alberto Pardo, the captain of the Chilean steam tug Yelcho which rescued the 22 stranded crewmen, has been placed at the point to commemorate the valiant act.
Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano which was first sighted in 1820 by British sailors William Smith and Edward Bransfield.
The circular islet has grown in popularity due to several resident colonies of chinstrap penguins. Baily Head, a prominent headland forming the easternmost extremity of the island, has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports a very large breeding colony of chinstrap penguins (100,000 pairs) and has since been occupied as a scientific outpost.
The 78 hectares of IBA comprises the ice-free headland and 800 m of beach either side of it. Other birds known to nest at the site include brown skuas, Cape petrels and snowy sheathbills.
Home to the world’s southernmost Gentoo penguin colony, Petermann island boasts Adélies, Gentoo’s and blue-eyed shags as well as an abundance of snow algae.
The island was discovered by Chacot, the third captain of the French Antarctic Expedition, on New Year’s Day in 1909. Key sites include a cairn atop Megalestris Hill, an Argentine refuge hut from 1955 and a commemorative cross at the site where 3 British explorers lost their lives in 1982 in an attempt to reach Faraday station.
These islands lie in the northern part of the entrance to Holtedahl Bay. The islands were discovered and named by the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-37.
On the islets is a resident colony of 4,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins and a smaller Antarctic shag colony. Kayaking through the network of islets is a beautiful way to gain an insight into the penguins’ habitat and behaviours.
In the southernmost region of the Palmer Archipelago lies Wiencke Island. The rocky island is predominantly covered in glaciers, snow and ice; however, the area is hospitable to lichens and mosses, which inhabit the sheltered crevasses scattered across the island.
Here you will be guided around Port Lockroy, a historical monument to global scientific achievement where the first measurements of the ionosphere were recorded.
Winter island was the home of the British Graham Land Expedition. The site of the British base saw the foundation of the Faraday Station, a pioneering meteorological station in the 1950s and ’60s.
In 1996, the Station was handed over to Ukraine for £1 in a transaction leading to its name change to Akademik Vernadsky, after the Soviet founder of Geochemistry and Radiogeology, Vladimir Vernadsky.
This circular island is situated 4.5km south-east of Dundee Island. It is primarily composed of lava flows, capped by a cinder cone with a small summit crater.
The island is partially ice-free due to the strength of the geothermal energy emitted by the sub-terrain volcanic activity. As a result, the area attracts a very large breeding colony of Adélie penguins, imperial shags, snow petrels and kelp gulls.
Named after JMA Cavalier de Cuverville, a vice admiral in the French navy, this island’s large Gentoo rookeries comprise one of the largest gatherings of Gentoo penguins in Antarctica.
As a result, the location has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA), for the 6,500 pairs as well as southern giant petrels and imperial shags.
This group of islands are located near the centre of Dallmann Bay in the Palmer Archipelago. They were first discovered by a German Expedition under Eduard Dallmann in 1873-74.
The islands are typically low lying, ice-covered and quaint, home to the first Argentine lighthouse built in the Antarctic Peninsula, named Primero de Mayo.
Paradise Harbour is a wide embayment indenting the west coast of Graham Land between Duthiers and Leniz Points.
The name was given by whalers operating in the vicinity and was in use by 1920. Glaciated mountains and ice cliffs surround and protect the harbour,
and together with the icebergs, they make for a breathtaking vista.
Argentina’s Almirante Brown Antarctic Base used to be situated in the harbour and was used for biological research until it was destroyed in 1964. Since then it has been renovated and is open to the public.
This 24 km stretch of natural bay was discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897-99 by Adrien de Gerlache. The bay is colloquially known as “Whale-mina Bay” for its vast quantities of humpback whales.
In addition to this, Wilhelmina Bay harbours the Guvernoren wreck and spectacular scenery of steep cliffs of snow and near-perfect pyramid-shaped peaks towering over the waters.
An expedition by Belgian Explorers saw the discovery of Charlotte Bay in 1898. Named after the fiancée of Georges Lecointe, the executive officer, hydrographer and second in command of the expedition.
The Falklands Islands Dependency Survey hut is located in the bay. This hut served as a place of refuge for six men and their dogs while they waited for a scheduled pick up by the Shackleton, which due to its collision with an iceberg, never made it to them, resulting in their deaths.
Antarctica’s geography and topography has intrigued scientists since 1773 when Captain James Cook and his crew first crossed the Antarctic circle. Modern advances in technology have allowed for deep study into the global importance of all bodies of water, ice formations and volcanoes that lie on the continent.
Volcanoes are a vital component of the Antarctic area. They form in different ways compared to others due to the stationary Antarctic Plate which allows a larger build-up of pressure before eruptions and greater calderas, such as Deception Island.
Many extinct volcanoes are very well preserved and others are still active (e.g. Mount Erebus and the South Sandwich Islands) while others are extinct (Brown Bluff) leaving behind stunning topography carved onto the landscape.
The region is amongst the world’s best examples of a long-lived continental margin arc (Antarctic Peninsula), a very young marginal basin (Bransfield Strait) and an oceanic island arc (South Sandwich Islands).
Surrounding the continent’s immense coastline, you can find most of the world’s icebergs. Icebergs are usually confined by winds and currents and move close to the coast. The largest icebergs are found carved out of or broken off from the Ross Ice Shelf.
Ice Shelves cover the majority of Antarctica’s coastline with the Ross Ice Shelf and Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf each having an area larger than the British Isles. Recently, ice shelves have been used as a sensitive indicator of climate change and several major ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula region have collapsed in recent decades due to its detrimental effects.
Intermittent along the coastline lies vast bodies of water in bays, neighbouring peninsulas along the continent’s natural border and segregating channels. Amongst these are the Neumayer and Lemaire Channels and the Gerlache Straight which run along the western coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula between its offshore islands. Other bodies include a large sea or ocean inlet called a ‘sound’ such as Crystal Sound and Antarctic Sound.
There are 45 different species of birds that inhabit Antarctica. Among them are blue-eyed shags, petrels, terns, cormorants and albatrosses.
Many of these species make long migratory journeys throughout the year to neighbouring continents such as South America and Africa with others travelling as far as Alaska.
The Arctic tern, for example, makes a round trip of up to 90,000 km a year and sees more continuous daylight than any other animal on earth.
Penguins, being the most ubiquitous of all Antarctic birds, can be found in large numbers during their breeding season between November and December.
There are seven different species of penguin that are considered ‘Antarctic penguins’. Recognisable by their black coat with white and sometimes yellow markings, Antarctic penguins have similar body forms but can differ hugely in height and weight, ranging from 40-115 cm and 1-40 kg respectively.
The seven species of penguin that can be found in Antarctica are Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni, King and Rockhopper. The most abundant species, with over nine million breeding pairs, is the macaroni penguin which is distributed throughout the Sub-Antarctic islands but has recently started to decline in numbers.
The eight different whale species most commonly found in Antarctic waters include the right, blue, sei, humpback, minke, fin, sperm and killer whales.
All Antarctic whale species migrate long distances, feeding in the cold, nutrient-rich southern oceans during the summer then heading to warmer northern waters to breed and give birth to their young during the winter months.
Apart from orcas, these are all baleen species which feed on the rich krill concentrations prevalent in the summer. In contrast, the orca is a toothed whale and ruthless hunter, feeding on fish, seals and even other juvenile or small whales. Orcas often travel in packs or pods and are known to chase and herd their prey in a process called carolling.
Six different species of seal live in Antarctic waters: Ross, Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard, Fur and Elephant. Fur seals are the smallest, with adult females weighing only 150 kg, while male elephant seals can weigh 4,000 kg.
Four of these species are ice-habitat specialists, breeding on the sea ice in spring. Leopard and Ross seals tend to be solitary, whereas Weddell and Crabeater seals form breeding groups or colonies.
The other two species, Antarctic fur seals and elephant seals, are both found north of the pack-ice zone and breed in dense colonies on beaches where dominant males (bulls) can be seen maintaining harems of females (cows). During the breeding period, competition for the harems is so intense the bulls will not leave their territory to find food and instead rely on their blubber reserves.
The best way to grasp the magnitude of the sheer ice cliffs which line the Antarctic coastline is to try and climb them.
With the assistance of experienced ice climbers, you can edge your way to the stunning viewing point at the top and look down over the vast ocean’s edge.
Skiing in Antarctica is an incredible experience unlike anywhere in the world. The topography caters for
all experience levels, ranging from gentle slopes to steep faces.
Most slopes can only be accessed via skinning, making the descent all the more rewarding. For those who wish to experience only the descent, helicopters can drop you off at the top of a slope.
A landmass comparable to Russia, at 14 million km2, Antarctica can only be viewed adequately from an aerial perspective.
Taking a helicopter over the icy terrain will enable sights across the pristine landscape of all the natural Antarctic features including islets, glaciers, volcanoes, and various ice formations.
We have a wealth of experience setting up luxury tented camps in some of the most obscure locations across the world.
From the comfort of your spacious tent, you’ll be able to enjoy a warm meal amongst friends or wrap up for a comfortable and cosy nights’ sleep before another day of exploration.
In 2013, we operated the first commercial submersible to enter Antarctic waters.
Explore the bodies of water which are ubiquitous with this inhospitable environment viewing the ominous semi-submerged icebergs and aquatic wildlife from the safety of a submarine.
SCUBA DIVING/ SNORKELLING
With new developments in scuba gear, diving solo into waters of 1-degree centigrade is now possible. Surrounded by penguins and native wildlife you can explore the crevasses of nearby icebergs.
Be immersed in the humbling power of the extremities of nature with some of the most advanced thermodynamic wearable technology in the world.
Sea kayaking in Antarctica gives you the opportunity to experience the floating icebergs and wildlife up close. If you are lucky you could find yourself gliding above Antarctica’s gentle giants, the various species of whale that inhabit these waters.
The only way to explore the many channels, bays and islands clustered around the Antarctic peninsula is via a vessel.
Charters range in size, price and capability, depending on the length of the trip and level of luxury required. Depending on the yacht, we can arrange for it to be out with accompanying tenders, submersibles and toys for all of the water and land-based activities.