Fun things to do in Antarctica

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Antarctica

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...)

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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.

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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.

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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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    Scott Base

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 23, 2013

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    Scott base is the New-Zealand station located 3 km (2 miles) away from McMurdo. The two are linked by a dirt road and we once just walked from McMurdo to it and back. Scott base lays on a small peninsula on the Ross sea and the first buildings were erected in 1957. All the buildings are green, appropriately kiwi-color, and it is much smaller than McMurdo with about 85 people all year round. New Zealand actually claims this part of Antarctica as their own so they call it "Ross dependency", even if Antarctica officially does not belong to any country. The only building I went in is the souvenir shop. Once every other week, there is an "American night" when McMurdo residents can come eat and drink at Scott base. Other interesting things I saw at Scott base are the pressure ridges (see photo 4) and the Weddell seals on the Ross sea ice right in front of the base.

    Here is Scott base website: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base.

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    McMurdo: Scott's Hut

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 23, 2013

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    Right next to McMurdo, about a 10 minute walk along the pier is the one historical building to visit absolutely! Scott's Hut was built in 1905 when the first expedition to ever set foot on Ross Island built it at this location. The expedition was British and led by Falcon Scott. As there are no trees (no plants actually) at McMurdo, they had to bring in all the wood from New Zealand. The building at the time was mostly used for storage. However, in later years, it was used again. Scott came back in 1911 (they mainly stayed at Cape Evans not at Hut Point, and him and 2 other companions died on their way back from the South Pole). Members of the Shackelton expedition wintered in the building in 1916.

    To go inside the hut you need to ask for a guide in McMurdo (in the main blue building). Inside are left over goods from the 1910' left as if they left in a hurry. There are still stinking seal carcasses (yes, still stinking), dog biscuits, blubber lamps, clothes hanging, shoes. It is really amazing!

    Finally you have a really nice view of McMurdo from Hut Point. And there are at times Weddell seals lounging on the ice below. Please see my video of the seals and the view from hut Point.

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    The polar plateau

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 23, 2013

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    Picture: Antarctic Polar Plateau. Towards the way I am pointing lies thousand of miles of ice until you reach the other side of Antarctica.

    Antarctica is covered by a thick sheet of ice (more than 2 kilometer thick at places) called the Polar Plateau. Experiencing the plateau is just seeing flat ice as far as the eye can see. The elevation is more than 2000 m high (6560 feet). So combined with the thin atmosphere of the poles, elevation tiredness can be felt during any physical activity. It is swept by high winds (katabatic winds) and characterized by low temperatures (-20 to -30ºC typical in the summer, plus the wind factor). It is a desert with hardly any precipitation. It has its own beauty with snow dunes sculpted in ridges called sastrugi, patches of blue ice, and an immense sky.

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    Erebus volcano

    by XenoHumph Written Jan 13, 2013

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    Erebus volcano towers over Ross island where McMurdo and Scott bases are located. It is the only active volcano in Antarctica and one of the few with a lava lake in its crater. It generally has a puff of smoke from its summit (3794 m, 12448 ft) and has produced large (several cm) anorthite minerals called Erebus crystals. I did not get to go to the summit (you would need to take a helicopter trip although people have walked up the mountain). But on a clear day you have a splendid view on this majestic mountain from Ob Hill at McMurdo (2nd picture). Another great point of view is from Castle Rock, which is a few miles hike from McMurdo (1st picture).

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    Miller Range, Transantarctic Mountains

    by XenoHumph Updated Jan 13, 2013

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    Picture: Miller Range, Transantarctic Mountains

    Miller Range is part of the Transantarctic Mountains located around 83º South 156º East. It comprises beautiful mountains, the bottom part of which are buried under thousands of meters of ice, cross-cut by majestic glaciers. Some of the most famous ones would be the Marsch or Nimrod glaciers. It is all rock, ice and snow, and shear raw beauty.

    We camped 6 weeks in the area and searched for meteorites using skidoos to drive around. Typical temperatures were around -15-20ºC (5 to -5ºF) but would dip lower when the katabatic winds would blow (this was December-January). I feel very privileged to have been to such a remote and barely accessible place.

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