Due to its remote location, difficulty of access and ice-dominated nature, Antarctica has always been a place that only a few people have had the opportunity to visit. Recently, however, modern comfortable ships equipped with small landing craft have made it easy for almost anyone to step onto the southernmost continent. Most tours depart from Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile on the Strait of Magellan. With a population of about 125,000, this southern Patagonian city features a main square lined with trees and beautiful European-style buildings.
The best time to visit Antarctica is during our winter. If the weather is fair, you will have an opportunity to go ashore at Cape Horn. From there, the two day journey across the Drake Passage begins. We couldn’t help but think of the small wooden vessels that made the initial voyage. Whales and albatross can be sighted along the way. Our first glimpse of land was King George Island, home to five research stations. Moving deeper into the Antarctic we made our way through the Gerlache Straight for a landing at Damoy Point. The seas here are normally very calm and temperatures relatively warm – ranging from -1 to +4 degrees C. High mountain peaks towered above the enormous glaciers as we passed icebergs the size of small apartment buildings.
Whales, seals and birds are abundant in these waters, and of course, a variety of penguins. At each of our daily landings, we had an opportunity to go ashore and walk close to nesting penguins while others took to the zodiacs in search of wildlife amongst the icebergs. At certain places we could choose to try kayaking or to walk up part of a glacier on snowshoes. There was even a chance to visit one or more research stations where we could talk to members of that country's team.
The scenery became more dramatic as we headed into the Lemaire Channel. This narrow passage is known for the contrast between soaring cliffs and glacier tongues that spill into the clear blue sea. Deception Island is the place where some hearty individuals may choose to take a dip in Antarctic waters. Along the beach of this former volcano we could see puffs of steam rising from the sands.
If you yearn for a real adventure, consider making Antarctica your next destination! Join Craig Travel's next exploration of this land virtually untouched by society - Antarctic Cruise on ms Ocean Endeavour January 23, 2022.