As we paddle through the bay in our kayaks, we marvel at the stunning ice sculptures carved by Mother Nature. Vibrant turquoise water rings their bases, vivid hues of azure in an otherwise monochrome landscape. Nature puts on a show in Antarctica – everything is big, vast, and inconceivable, the Super Bowl of the natural world. Yet, glaciers and icebergs are only one of the many reasons you should consider a trip to the Antarctic peninsula. Spectacular mountain scenery, ice covered shores and active volcanoes deliver mind-blowing scenery. Squawking colonies of penguins, hordes of lounging seals, schools of playful whales and dolphins and Antarctica is a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts. The continent also has a fascinating history, crammed full of heroic tales and daring ambition. In short, Antarctica renders visitors spellbound daily.
So come join us on a journey of discovery as we reveal 3 reasons to plan a breath-taking visit to Antarctica. In this two-part post, we highlight some of the unforgettable moments we experienced on our recent Antarctica In Depth tour with Scenic Eclipse. We will reveal the first 3 reasons this week with another 2 amazing reasons next week. Antarctica should not be a rush job!
By the end of the mini-series, you will hopefully understand why this continent needs to be on your bucket list.
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3 reasons to visit the Antarctic Peninsula
1. Superlative scenery
The roar of the helicopter rotors is the only sound as we rise jerkily into the air from the aft helideck of the Scenic Eclipse. As we head skyward, the Antarctic ice cap reveals itself in all its glory. Ice specks dazzle in the bay, their glittering shards a brilliant contrast to vivid azure waters. The jagged peaks of the Seven Sisters peep from beneath swathes of snow that resemble thick icing frost. Crevasse strewn plains disgorge into the still bay leaving a speckling of white fairy dust on the water and walls of snow cling perilously to rocky crests. Just one gust of wind and they will tumble to the ocean with a thunderous rumble.
When the clouds in Antarctica clear to reveal blue skies, visitors can truly appreciate the magnitude of the continent from up high. Snowsport lovers can revel in the prospect of virgin blankets of snow and the possibility of laying fresh tracks.
However, a helicopter is just one way to experience this magnificent continent. If you want to get closer to the ice, expedition cruise ships such as the Scenic Eclipse, offer zodiac cruises that provide a more intimate perspective.
On one such zodiac cruise, I felt like an extra in a James Bond movie as we careened through dramatic canyons at breakneck speed. Hurtling past rocky headlands as waves crashed onshore was an exciting way to experience the extraordinary landscape of Antarctica. Like a jetboat excursion but with an extra adrenaline shot of wildlife and icebergs.
Volcanic Spert Island in the Palmer Archipelago is home to towering cliffs, canyons, and vibrant blue icebergs. Your zodiac excursion feels like a natural roller coaster ride as you navigate huge swells and dip under arches eroded from dark volcanic rock. Aquamarine waters swirl and froth like a washing machine drum giving you the ride of a lifetime as you skim over crunching ice floes. Penguins and seals calmly hang out on icebergs as waves threaten to sweep them into foaming waters.
You can also delight in dramatic landscapes, such as the barren lunar landscape of Deception Island, from the comfort of your ship. As you squeeze through the small gap of Neptune’s Bellows, you enter a horseshoe shaped harbour. Regarded as one of the few safe havens in Antarctica, free of ice and winds, it has a violent and explosive past. It is not called Deception Island for nothing!
Hidden deep beneath the placid waters of Port Foster, is the bubbling, molten core of an active volcano. Imagine that!! Your ship is perched above a time bomb ready to spew hot, dangerous gases, ash, lava, and rocks in a captivating pyrotechnic display. But not today. We sail into the unmoving waters of the bay, past steaming black beaches, marvelling at this other-worldly landscape.
One of just two active volcanoes in Antarctica, it is a surreal experience, an alien landscape, devoid of colour. The crater rim is entirely black but for a smattering of snow and ice on top. The only signs of life are a few colourful huts, home to resident scientists and the occasional penguin porpoising through the warm waters of the bay.
Join a zodiac excursion to hike inside the caldera and glimpse muddy glacial melt water as it flows into dirty streams weaving their way to the ocean. Climb the ridge for even better panoramic views of the 10km wide caldera and its small bays.
2. Glaciers and icebergs
Antarctica accounts for a whopping 90% of the world’s ice mass so if you find natural ice sculptures mesmerising then Antarctica is the place for you. Less than 1% of Antarctica is free of ice in summer and in some places, the ice cap is up to 4.8km thick. This makes for some spectacular icy views during your visit to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Glaciers creak and groan as they inch towards the sea. In transit, new crevasses continually open, the magnificent swirls of bright blue ice like splashes of paint dotting a canvas. Huge chunks of ice hover perilously, clinging precariously to overhanging cliffs but eventually gravity take its toll. With a huge crash, gigantic sheets of ice tumble into the water. Some newly formed icebergs are incredibly as big as football pitches or even small countries.
Once in the water, capricious winds and currents shape them into stunning sculptures of vivid blues. Just check out some of these beauties we spotted.
3. Fascinating history
A trip to Antarctica allows you to follow in the footsteps of polar explorers and marvel at their heroic achievements. Throughout your cruise, you can attend enrichment lectures which regale guests with stories of explorers unfazed by Antarctica’s harsh conditions.
You may also be fortunate enough to visit a research station and learn more of Antarctica’s history.
Become a polar explorer
Most of us have neither the inclination nor the resources to attempt Shackleton’s trip to the South Pole. However, a trip to Antarctica allows you to dream, for just a moment, that you are an intrepid explorer. Less than 80,000 people a year make the trip to Antarctica, making you one of a select number. As you don your polar boots, squeeze into your thermals, and take to the zodiacs for exhilarating sightseeing excursions, you can pretend that you are a true pioneer.
Antarctica research stations
At one of the 70 research stations, (representing 29 countries in Antarctica) you can learn more about research into the harsh and desolate conditions of the Antarctica (or post a postcard!)
We were fortunate enough to visit Port Lockroy which operated as a British research station until 1962. It is now operated by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and is home to the most Southerly gift shop and post office in the world. The small on-site museum gives visitors a glimpse into life as it was at the research station and the friendly all female team onsite are happy to answer questions and share details of daily life in this remote location. They live without WIFI, flushing toilets or showers and take advantage of facilities onboard the ships which visit the island. They even hitch a lift back to the mainland on a cruise ship when the season ends in March.
On neighbouring Damoy Point there is another site managed by the British Antarctica Heritage Trust. Damoy Hut, affectionately known as the ‘world’s most southerly waiting room’ used to serve as an airstrip for twin otter planes. Planes would drop off research scientists destined for Rothera Station and wait until the weather allowed for onward travel. It was sometimes a long wait!
When we visit, conservationists are living in bright orange tents on the ice sheet while the hut undergoes restoration to its original shade of orange. Considering Antarctica’s pedigree as the ‘highest, coldest, windiest, driest and most unforgiving place on earth’ (Antarctica by Mike Lucas) I do not envy them.
This UK British Antarctic Heritage Trust video gives you insight into the incredible role this hut played in polar exploration and is well worth a watch.
Visit old whaling stations
D’Hainaut island is a small, rocky island in Mikkelson harbor, a wide bay lined with ice cliffs. It is one of the few Antarctic islands on which you can roam freely. On the shore are rotting remnants of old whaling boats and skeletons of whales.
It is a saddening sight and a resounding reminder of the need to protect many endangered whale species.
Discover 2 more extraordinary reasons to visit Antarctica
If the incredible scenery, glaciers and icebergs are not enough to convince you, pop back next week to discover some of the incredible wildlife encounters you may experience in Antarctica. Even better, sign up for our newsletter and you will receive a notification when the next post goes live. This is the continent for once in a lifetime moments.
As someone who loves to travel, I couldn’t help but feel excited after reading this article on the extraordinary reasons to visit Antarctica. The stunning and unique landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula with its towering glaciers, icebergs, and pristine waters make it a must-visit destination for any adventurer.
The article mentions the Superlative scenery of places like Spert Island and Deception Island, which offer a surreal and awe-inspiring experience that is hard to replicate anywhere else in the world. The photos in the article are breathtaking and make me want to book a trip to Antarctica right away.
Another aspect that caught my attention is the fascinating history of the continent, with old whaling stations and research stations like Port Lockroy and Damoy Point offering visitors a glimpse into the past and present of human activity in the region.
Overall, this article has convinced me that visiting Antarctica should be at the top of my travel bucket list. With so much natural beauty, history, and adventure waiting to be explored, I can’t wait to become a polar explorer and experience all that this incredible destination has to offer.
Aw that is wonderful thanks