Fun things to do in Antarctica

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Antarctica

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    Detaille Island

    by DSwede Written Mar 22, 2014

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    On day six, our third excursion was to be at Detaille Island (@ 66°53'6.83"S ; 66°39'8.55"W). From our current position, we would have to round Adelaide Island (the inner channel was filled with ice), pass the Antarctic Circle northbound and then turn back into the bay passing the circle for the third time. We feared we may have had to cancel and skip Detaille, but the ship was able to make slow progress, pushing through bands of sea ice and bergs. The ship after all is ice strengthened (up to 1m/3ft of ice), but is not an icebreaker. Kayaking around the island, we could see the historic hut, we did see wildlife and interesting views from the water but unfortunately we never made it ashore. Those not on the kayaking did eventually make it to shore.

    Pushing in to Detaille Island Paddling aroung lazy seals
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    Stonington Island

    by DSwede Updated Mar 22, 2014

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    Sailing to our second excursion, Stonington Island (@ 68°11'2.61"S ; 66°59'57.11"W) we pushed down further south than the captain and crew had ever been, down to 68° 12.815′ S! Kayaking south of 68° must be a rare opportunity, particularly in calm seas and under a blue sky. For about an hour we paddled through the brash ice and small bergs, sighting random seals and penguins, hearing nothing but the sound of the ice passing under us. As weather started to move in, we raced to the landing site. There was a British Hut from the 60’s as well as three smaller American huts, call East Base from the 1940’s. This is the site where the first woman wintered in Antarctica – Edith “Jackie” Ronne (Mrs. Finn Ronne). These encampments are on a small island with a massive glacier coming in channel behind it. The huts were eventually abandoned due to ice access.

    Rare greenery by the British Huts Abandoned Tanks by the US East Base The Back Bay in Fading Light
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    CRABEATER SEALS

    by DAO Updated Aug 18, 2013

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    Crabeater Seals eat Krill, not crabs. It kind of helps that there really aren’t any crabs down here. Different theories around a mistranslation of the Norwegian word ‘Krill’ account for the name of this amazingly interesting mammal. They live almost exclusively here in Antarctica, have massive numbers, can swim up to 25 kmh and are the largest consumers of Krill. You are probably wondering what Krill is at this point.

    Crabeaters Males (Bulls) and Females (Cows) are almost identical in size and produce Pups are born between October and December (Spring!). They take about 3 weeks to nurse with mum and are protected by a male during this period – typically NOT the father.

    Crabeaters are big eaters. They feed up to 16 hours at a time, diving up to 40 meters deep and eat everything from other seals to penguins and any fish available. They used to be hunted themselves by the almost non-existent Baleen Wale and are still actively hunted by Leopard Seals.

    Crabeaters live primarily on ice flows and females even give birth out here after 11 months. Despite this they have been found 35 miles inland and above 3,000 feet on the Ferrar Glacier. Some lost seals even travelled hundreds of kilometres inland to their deaths.

    Close-up photos show a lot of scars on them around their face and on their flippers. This is actually caused during breeding rather than from predators.

    Although they might occasionally wash farther away – if you want to see Crabeater Seals – you need to come to Antarctica!

    CRABEATER SEALS CRABEATER SEALS CRABEATER SEALS CRABEATER SEALS CRABEATER SEALS
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    Keep the Camera Out Even When Leaving

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    The photo opportunities continue even as you leave Antarctica. You take so many pictures that you feel "done". However, eat early and head forward on the cruise ship to enjoy the sunset opportunites. Remember that the ship will be at 20 knots, so dress warmly and be prepared for a stiff breeze. This is a great opportunity to use the zoom lens. It is also a chance to "stitch" photos, a capability taught in the onboard computer classes. My apologies, but I can't include a stitched photo since they are large files.

    Sunset Approaching a fog bank Fog bank Photographer at Sea Bridge and Sunset
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    Penguins Abound

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    When we boarded the Veendam for the Antarctic cruise, question number one was will we see penguins. We had no idea. The scientists told us that six of the world's 18 species of penguins can be found in Antarctica, with an estimated population approaching 20 million breeding pairs. Get close to floating ice and yiu'll probably see a penguin or two or more. Photographers, this is where that long telephoto or long zoom could be really useful. I found my 105 mm a tad too short in reach. If you want to bring a second lens, go long.

    Going in the Water Lonely Penguin Pengins on a berg Gentoo Penguin Colony Gentoo Penuin Colony
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    Man 's Presence on the Continent

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    Palmer Station is one of several national research stations on the Peninsula. The benefit of being on a cruise ship is that we were visited by scientists from Palmer. The downside is that we could not go ashore in zodiacs to walk on the continent. Included in this tip are photos of some of the stations that we cruised by. Photographers, I could have used a bigger telephoto than 105mm.

    Chilean Station Chilean Station Small Ship Venezuelan Station Venezuelan Station
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    Ice and More Ice

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    The cruiser will have the chance to see ice, and a lot of it, when sailing in the Antarctic. Eighty percent of the Southern Hemisphere is water, and weather systems proceed around the earth unimpeded. And it is cold. No small wonder that the continent has so much ice. The ice sheet covers 99% of the continent, is 90% of the world's ice, and 70% of earth's fresh water. Large ice bergs calve from glaciers, melting to bergy bits and growlers with time. Photographers, I found the zoom lens ideal in this situation. Wide-angle for the big picture. Telephoto for the berg far away.

    Bergy Bit near Andrews Island Glacier in Paradise Bay Ice Berg in Andvold Bay Ice berg in Andvold Bay Sailing Away from Andvold Bay
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    The Small Boat That Could

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    We were not alone in our big cruise ship. Into the silent world came a single-masted sailing ship. Where did it come from? It trailed us for a while, and, after a hundred or so images, it drifted away. Photographers, it was proof that the old saw about F/8 and Be There was never more true. It was early in the morning and it would have been so easy to miss. We had selected a cabin with a veranda. Who uses a veranda in the cold, snowy Antarctic? We did, a lot. It was one of our best decisions on the trip. All of my sailing boat shots would have been missed if not for the freedom to "just pop outside and grab a few shots".

    Small Boat and Mountain Small Boat and Glacier Snout Sail Boat and Mountain Sail Boat and Mountain Growlers, Sail Boat and Mountains
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    Glaciers and Bergs on a Foggy Day

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    We woke in the morning and found we were in a black and white world. The landscape of mountains, ice and water was muted by clouds and fog. Much of the morning it snowed, a fine particle snow. Our ship glided silently through the ghostly waters. We ignored the conditions, took photographs...and then took more. Photographers, bring extra memory cards, or a hard drive. You will need it. Every time you turn, there will be another shot not to be missed.

    Glacier Snout and Ice Berg Mountain and Ice Berg Growlers Bergy Bit Growlers
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    Outer Islands of Antarctica

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    Our Captain decided to skip Ushuaia because a major storm was heading to the Drake Passage, and so we sailed across a day early, giving us an extra day to cruise the lee sides of the Peninsula islands. Even so, we had weather. Rain and clouds were with us. This is not a reason to set aside the camera. Photographers, put on your weather gear and go on deck to look for wildlife and ice. This is a hard place for the average traveler to reach. Take a lot of pictures. I used a zoom lens for two reasons: variety and I did not want to change lens outside, opening my camera's insides to the elements.

    Passengers on the Foredeck Bow and Deception Island Ship's Lamp and Livingston Island Bridge and Livingston Island Sunset over Half Moon Island
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    Cruising the Chilean Fjords

    by fred98115 Written Aug 2, 2013

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    Cruises to the Antarctic, such as ours originating in Santiago, will sail through the channels and observe the Southern fjords. Scandinavia is not the only locale with these geological formations. Weather can be intimidating. Photographers, if you sail here, bring your foul weather gear and be prepared. The Lower Promenade deck is generally a haven, covered enough that your camera is protected. You, on the other hand, may be windblown and sprayed. I opted to not change lens when outside because I did not want sea spray getting into the innards. For that reason, I shot with a zoom lens.

    Darwin Channel Mountains and Clouds Mountain Clouds and Mountains Channel Entrance
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    Paradise Bay 1

    by leigh767 Updated Mar 8, 2013

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    Paradise Bay is actually officially known as Paradise Harbour but this little point of confusion often gets overshadowed by the fact that this, like Neko Harbour, is an actual landing on the Antarctica continent proper!

    There's a little hike up at Paradise Harbour that will reap great rewards: sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding bay and stunning mountains. After the hike, you can slide back down to the bottom of the hill on your butt. Very fun, though a little scary because there's not that much space between the "slide" and the edge of a steep slope. As you can see in the photo here, the climb is steep at times (the black dots on the left are people! We are so far away...)

    PLEASE do not stray at this landing. There are lots of crevasses that you wouldn't know about until you step into them. Stay safe by following the path marked by your expedition leader leading the walk.

    Interesting anecdote: a fellow passenger actually chose to propose to his girlfriend here! (She accepted, of course, otherwise things will get a little awkward in their cabin for the next 8 days...)

    View from the top at Paradise Bay

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    McMurdo: Weddell seals

    by XenoHumph Updated Feb 7, 2013

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    Another attraction around McMurdo and Scott bases are the Weddell seals. There are huge beasts (up to 500 kg or 1100 lb) that look like slugs on the Ross sea ice from afar. They seem to just mainly lie there and sleep. They are known for their habit of gnawing holes in the ice to make breathing holes. This shortens their life span compared to other seals because once their teeth are worn out, they die. Weddell seals can be found all around Antarctica.

    Please see Weddell seals "in action" on my video.

    Weddell seal on Ross sea ice near McMurdo Weddell seals on Ross sea ice, McMurdo
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    CTAM

    by XenoHumph Updated Feb 6, 2013

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    CTAM stands for Central Trans-Antarctic Mountain. It is a camping area that the Americans maintain during the summer in the middle of the Transantarctic mountains on the Bowden névé. A névé, which is a flat expanse of snow, allows for the planes LC130 to land. CTAM is a transit camp for field parties. Their gear is brought in by the LC130s. Then they are brought to their specific field area by the much smaller Twin-Otter planes. Actually, the twin-otter pilots stay in tents during the week at CTAM. There used to be a much more permanent camp here, a research station, but it got shut down about 10 years ago. There is still an underground facility, more exactly an under-ice compound that you can sneak in if you are really bored waiting for your next plane.

    More importantly, the area around CTAM is absolutely stunning with the majestic Queen Alexandra Range dominating over you. Also, CTAM benefits from a rather mild climate for its latitude as it is somehow mostly protected from the fierce katabatic winds.

    CTAM, Twin-Otter & campground, Transantarctic Mts LC130 plane and cargo at CTAM Antarctica Egyptian pyramid! Mount Falla, Queen Alexandra R. Bowden n��v��, rock = Ferrar dolerite shaped by wind My party waiting to be picked up, CTAM Antarctica
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    McMurdo

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 24, 2013

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    Picture: McMurdo viewed from Ob Hill. Top right: Erebus volcano

    McMurdo is the biggest base in Antarctica and is managed by the United States. Its purpose is to support scientific expeditions in Antarctica. It is inhabited year round with about 1000 people in the summer (October-March) and a few hundred in the winter. It was founded in 1956-57. The weather is relatively mild for Antarctica, with a mean yearly temperature around 0ºC (32ºF) and typical winds about 12 knots. Extreme recorded temperatures are 8ºC (46ºF) and -50ºC (-52ºF). There are 2 other American bases in Antarctica, one in the Antarctic Peninsula (Palmer) and one at the South Pole (Scott-Amundsen). Finally, Scott base, managed by New-Zealand is located a few kilometers from McMurdo.

    McMurdo has a large building full of scientific labs (the "Crary lab"), several buildings supporting scientific expeditions in polar environment (food, tent, skidoo maintenance, various vehicle maintenance, safety equipment, emergency), living facilities (dormitories, cafeteria, clinic, post-office) and base maintenance buildings (trash recycling, water cleaning facility, desalinisation plant, power plant with generator and wind turbines, greenhouse, gas tanks, linen cleaning...). There is also a tanker dock, a helipad (helicopter trips to close-by field work) and the airport is on the Ross sea ice. Finally McMurdo has a souvenir shop, a chapel and 3 bars!

    If you participate in an Antarctic scientific expedition run by the US, you will spend about 10 days in McMurdo getting ready before flying to the field, and again at least a few days after coming back.
    Reaching McMurdo is done by plane from Christchurch in New Zealand, generally in a C17 military plane that will land on the sea ice near McMurdo.

    You may enjoy checking the live webcams of McMurdo here.

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    • Hiking and Walking
    • Historical Travel
    • Skiing and Boarding

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