The Antarctic Continent, and the surrounding Southern Ocean is a vast wilderness. The land mass alone is twice the size of Australia and in the winter the sea ice doubles this area. Browsing the internet it is easy to get the impression that this ultimate travel dream is brimming with expedition ships and tourists. I (Debbie) first sailed there in 2007 on Bark Europa and I only saw 3 ships South of the Antarctic Convergence Zone on a 7 week trip.
You may worry about impacting on the wildlife, but there is a whole load of ocean where humpacks can roam free, crevasse strewn plateau when no human has ever trod, and camera drone free skies where the skuas and giant petrels still rule. Human beings have a very tenuous hold here and the summer scientific base crew start to look nervously at the encroaching sea ice as it gets time to leave.
If you are trying to chose between Antarctic Expeditions with Classic Sailing, you can read about the different regions below, but here is a quick summary of the main sailing areas:
South Shetland Isles
If you sail across the Drakes Passage then the first land you spot will be the black volcanic spires and snow domes of the South Shetland Isles. For many it will be a welcome chance to set foot on land that doesn’t move, and return to a ship at anchor for a meal where your glass of wine might just stay upright. If you were daunted by the idea of climbing the rigging i the rollers of the Southern Ocean, then now is your chance. Several favourite landing spots reveal chinstrap penguins, elephant seals and giant whale bones.
West Antarctic Peninsula and Islands
Across the Bransfield Strait you reach the Antarctic Peninsula and many mountainous islands offering sheltered water. See stranded icebergs at Trinity Island, watch out for humpback whales or orca feeding and enjoy squadrons of penguins swimming like small porpoises. Astrolabe Islands have awesome rock formations and you can sail the ship into a drowned caldera at Deception Island. Narrow sounds between steep mountains, tumbling glaciers and overhanging ice cliffs all add to the drama.
The Wilder Side of the Peninsula – Weddell Sea
South Georgia – Sub Antarctic Island
South Orkney & Scotia Sea