S E E U S O N T H E W E B AT wildlifeworldwide.com 167 Wildlife Cruising / Antarctica Where do the Antarctic trips depart from? The port of departure for most Antarctic voyages is Ushuaia, a small town on the southern tip of Argentina. Originally a pioneer town, it has increased dramatically in size over the last 20 years and now has a number of hotels, restaurants and shops - mainly catering for the increase in visitors to Antarctica. Ushuaia has one of the most stunning settings imaginable. On the edge of the Beagle Channel the view across to Chile is spectacular and the backdrop of the Andes as they reach the sea is equally breathtaking. Excursions can be made from Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park as well as nearby glaciers and islands in the Beagle Channel. You might want to think about leaving for your wildlife cruise a few days early and adding on an extension. For wildlife cruises to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, Hobart in Tasmania and Lyttelton or Invercargill in New Zealand are generally the starting points. What are the weather and sea conditions going to be like in the Antarctic Peninsula? This is probably our most often asked question in respect of these trips – and of course there is no easy answer! The weather and sea conditions are highly variable and good weather can never be guaranteed, even in the height of the Antarctic summer. Crossing the Drake Passage from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula is infamous for bad weather and indeed this applies to most of the Southern Ocean. Rough weather can safely be expected 50 percent of the time. The waves can reach staggering heights but for those of you with good sea legs there is still great wildlife to be seen – including the sea’s aerial masters, the albatrosses and petrels. I have heard a lot about the scientific bases – will we get a chance to visit them? During the trip the ship will stop at least once at a scientific base. Base Esperanza is an Argentinean base on the Antarctic Peninsula and notable because it has a school with twenty pupils! Tours of the base are fascinating. As the scientists take visitors around they will show you how they cope with the weather, and explain their work. There has been a long history of scientific work in Antarctica so many of the bases have interesting museums dedicated to science or exploration. Can you swim in Antarctica? Well amazingly you can… but it’s not for the feinthearted! Where exactly will depend on the ship’s itinerary, but most cruises take in Deception Island where the expedition staff will dig out a small pool in the sand and after a short dip in the bay (1°C) you can warm up in the pool (40°C!). So, if you think you might want to try it, then don’t forget your swimmers! In the past many of you have chosen to sail with us to Antarctica, and over the next few pages we’ve included yet another great selection of Antarctic trips. So, bearing this in mind, here are answers to a few specific questions on cruising in Antarctica. Cruising in Antarctica What wildlife can I see on one of the cruises? The list below may well whet your appetite! Whales Minke are found in the ice floes around the Antarctic Peninsula, while Humpback, Beaked, Fin, Sei, Southern Right, and Blue Whales may be found in the Southern Ocean. Orcas are regular sightings amongst the ice floes right up to the Falkland Islands. Birds Sooty Shearwaters and numerous gulls around continental South America. Albatrosses, petrels and prions in the Southern Ocean. South Georgia Pipit among the tussock grasses on South Georgia and a selection of endemic birds on the Falkland Islands. Seals Weddell Seals are the most southerly of all the Antarctic seals and are generally near ice. Leopard Seals are common around the Antarctic Peninsula, especially near the penguin colonies. Crab-eater Seals are around pack ice throughout the region. Antarctic Fur Seal are found mainly near the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia, while Elephant Seals occur over much of the Southern Ocean. Other mammals Reindeer! These are found on South Georgia having been introduced by the sealers and whalers many years ago. Penguins If you want to see Emperor Penguins you must select a voyage that either takes you to the Ross Sea, or visit the only known Emperor Penguin rookery on the Antarctic Peninsula at Snow Hill. King Penguins are seen in massive numbers on South Georgia (some also occur on the Falklands). They breed over a two year cycle so whenever you go to Antarctica you are likely to see all stages of maturation – from eggs being incubated by adults, to scrawny brown newly hatched chicks and bedraggled, moulting sub-adults. Macaroni Penguins have a significant concentration on South Georgia too. Rockhopper, and Magallenic Penguins are Falklands ‘specials’. For Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins the Peninsula is the place, while Adelie Penguins breed further south than any other penguin and are found all around the continent.
Antarctica 168 F O R R E S E R V A T I O N S C A L L U S O N 0845 130 6982