Day 4 - 7: South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula
Thurs-Sun March 9-12, 2017
Depending on ice and weather conditions, the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is ours to explore. Our experienced leaders will use their local knowledge to design our voyage from day to day, capitalizing on the best weather and ice conditions. Once we arrive in the calmer waters of the Peninsula, we will make numerous shore landings in inflatable rubber boats called zodiacs. Cruising along spectacular ice shelves or following whales that are feeding near the surface, we will soon appreciate the distinct advantage of being on a small vessel, giving everyone the opportunity to experience these very special close encounters with the environment.
There are many exciting places that we may visit, if time and weather permit. Shore excursion decisions will be made on board daily. Below are some places we may explore:
Cuverville Island: Cuverville Island is a dome-shaped, 250m tall, island hosting several large Gentoo rookeries, making it one of the largest gatherings of this penguin in Antarctica, with more than 40,000 penguins. Giant petrels and kelp gulls breed on the island. We take this opportunity to closely observe them and their habits as we stand beneath the giant peaks that rise around the island.
Neko Harbor: Named after the Norwegian whaling ship working in these waters in the beginning of the 20th century, Neko Harbor gives us an opportunity to enjoy a true continental landing. Our time among its carving glaciers and statuesque icebergs is a clear reminder of our goal of respecting and protecting this beautiful continent for future generations.
Danco Island: This small island, one mile (1.6 km) in length, is easy to explore and home to gentoo penguins. You can visit the marker of a former British Antarctic Survey hut and watch for a variety of seabirds such as snowy sheathbills, kelp gulls and blue-eyed shags.
Melchior Islands: A group of low islands in Dallmann Bay, on which you may see male fur seals haul-out at the end of the breeding season to recuperate from their battles for supremacy.
Petermann Island: Here, near the Lemaire Channel, you can stand ashore and see the southernmost breeding colony of gentoo penguins. The dome of the island rises 650 feet (200 meters) above the sea, offering a challenging hike for panoramic views. Adélie penguins, shags and south polar skuas also inhabit the island.
The Lemaire Channel: Surrounded by near-vertical peaks on either side, this extremely steep-sided channel is only visible once you are almost inside, providing one of the most dramatic landscapes to sail through. This strait runs between Booth Island and the Antarctic Peninsula; you’ll see that this is one of the most scenic locations on the western coast, especially during sunrise and sunset. The 6.8 mile-long (11 km) Channel may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway, so we’ll hope for clear waters.
Waterboat Point: Of historic interest, you may venture to this unique point, which at low tide is connected to the Antarctic mainland. Zodiacs are used to explore the area when the tide is in. Two scientists studying penguin behavior lived in a water boat on the Point from 1921-22. The remains of their camp have been designated an Antarctic historic site.
Port Lockroy: A ‘fun’ destination of sorts, we always strive to journey to Port Lockroy if weather permits. The harbor is on the west side of Wiencke Island. A secret base was built on the harbor during the Second World War as part of Operation Tabarin. It is now designated as a historic site, where Port Lockroy is a museum and post office. Proceeds from your purchases here support the preservation of historic sites from the Heroic Age of Exploration.