(ENGLISH) An expedition cruise to Antarctica is an active and dynamic type of trip, and the best option to explore this remote part of the planet, since the continent doesn’t have any infrastructure for tourism. The ship will be your home during the duration of the trip. The educational program is leaded by a team of polar experts that perform conferences and guide you during the visits.
There are many options of ships and trips to choose from. The duration of the trips may vary from 6 to 30 days. There are different destinations in the Southern Ocean and different ships, from cruise ships and luxury yachts to more adventurous expedition boats and small sailboats. There’s even the option to fly across the Drake Passage and join the cruise already on Antarctica! There are often additional activities that you can do, like kayaking, camping and snow rackets.
The choice of clothing for cold climates is a very personal matter. It depends on your individual experience with cold conditions.
Are you more susceptible to cold temperatures than other people?
A common complaint is not the cold, it’s the wind, but an equally common polar maxim is there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! The secret to keeping warm is to dress in layers. It is better to have several light layers of clothing than one heavy layer. This also gives you flexibility in your clothing so you can take off a layer if you are too warm or put another layer on if you are cold. The most important layer is the outer waterproof and windproof shell because even a light wind of 6 kph (about 4 mph) can carry away eight times more body heat than still air! The so-called wind chill factor measures the increase in cooling power of moving air, whether it is wind that is blowing or it is you who is moving rapidly and, in effect, creating a wind against yourself.
We recommend dressing in layers so you can put on or take off clothing anytime you need it. Long thermal underwear, a thermal shirt and pants, and thermal socks are important. Bring a fleece or two (this is very personal) to put over the thermal layer. As per the outer layer, it is very important to bring waterproof clothing.
Pull-on, unlined, knee-high boots are required for wet landings. Boots must be 14″-16″ high with strong, rubber-ridge, non-skid soles. These specifications are very important. You may be stepping into water up to 10″ deep on wet landings. Moon or leather boots are NOT appropriate.
Tips to stay warm:
October to the beginning of December
This is the time when the landscape looks more pristine as the continent is covered in snow from the top of the mountains to the coast. The Penguins arrive to the rookeries and start building their nests. It’s also the time with more chances to find sea ice when we are down south. This will give you the amazing opportunity to take in the sea ice environment: the pack ice and ice floes; with high chances to see seals resting on the ice; in the other hand it can also block many areas like channels, bays, and landing sites. During this period, penguins, shags and seabirds court and lay their eggs. Although there are always some opportunities to see whales, this is probably the time when we have less chances to see the giants of the sea, as they are still travelling from more temperate water where they breed to the Southern Ocean to feed.
December through February
At this time the snow starts to retreat, exposing rocky headlands and shorelines. The days are longer and there are 24hs of daylight. Early in December the penguins will still be busy laying eggs and tidying up the nests, by late December (depending on how much snow there was at the beginning of the season) or early January, penguin chicks hatch and start growing rapidly as their parents take turns feeding their young. Most whales are arriving and there are more chances to see them than at the beginning of the season. Sea ice starts to melt away and some channels will open up for navigation. However, due to the dynamics of the sea ice and the ocean currents, ice can block many places at any time of the year.
Mid-February to March
In the last part of the season, days will start getting shorter and shorter, but whales will come to feed. Seals haul out on the beach, adult penguins begin to moult, and chicks will start fledging. Adelie penguins will be the first ones to leave, followed by chinstrap penguins and the last ones to leave will be the Gentoo penguins. Antarctica is saying goodbye to the Southern summer. The highlights for travelers at the end of the season will be whales, red snow (snow algae) and fledging Gentoo Penguins.
Sebastian has over 15 years of experience traveling to Polar Regions. He has led more than one hundred expeditions to Antarctica onboard different vessels, lecturing on Geography, Ice, and Antarctic History. Since 2008, he extended his polar experience to the Arctic, sailing in the Canadian Arctic, part of the Northwest Passage, Greenland and Svalbard.
As a lecturer on Antarctic topics, he has been invited to the annual meeting of the International Superyacht Society, in Fort Lauderdale, Unites States, and to the Antarctic week organized annually in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. He has written several articles related to Antarctica in different magazines and publications, like The Great Southern Route, Superyacht Times, and Boat International among others.
He is co-author of the complete book about Antarctica “ANTARCTICA, DISCOVERING THE LAST CONTINENT”.
Sebastian is also co-founder of FUNDACIÓN PARA LA CONSERVACIÓN DEL PATRIMONIO ANTÁRTICO, an NGO devoted to the conservation of the Antarctic Heritage.