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The most isolated continent on earth, this rugged landscape is some 1,200 miles long and reaches beyond the Arctic Circle. Its shores are comprised of unusually sculpted icebergs, blue-tinged glaciers, majestic mountain peaks and a steep ice shelf that continues to shrink at an alarming rate.
 
Though the peninsula is covered in icy tundra, it actually features the mildest climate in Antarctica, the perfect environment for hosting the only flowering plants on the entire continent, Antarctic Hair Grass and Antarctic Pearlwort. In addition, the icy waters surrounding the peninsula cater to various species of seals, penguins and seabirds, including the Cape Pigeon, the American Sheathbill and the Antarctic Tern.
 
Cruises to the peninsula embark from Ushuaia, Argentina, known as the "Southernmost City in the World." The 2-day sea crossing is a time for learning about Antarctica's natural and human history in onboard presentations, watching for whales from the ship's bridge, and enjoying the squadrons of albatrosses, petrels and gulls that follow the wake of the ship.
 
As huge tabular icebergs loom on the horizon, you'll know you are nearing the White Continent. When land is first sighted and the ship enters the protected waters along the peninsula, you can sense the excitement throughout the vessel as the prospect of setting foot on Antarctica is close at hand.
 
A highlight of any Antarctica cruise is exploring icebergs in Zodiac inflatable boatsThese Antarctic cruises will keep you busy with days spent making shore landings to view wildlife and, when possible, visiting research facilities, historic sites, and abandoned whaling and sealing stations. Wildlife viewing in Antarctica varies considerably by month, with the early part of the cruise season featuring abundant birdlife with penguins courting, mating, and the commencement of egg laying and incubation. By midseason the hustle and bustle of chick-rearing is well underway, as is the drama of predatory skuas marauding the colonies for eggs and chicks. By February, most chicks are near fledging size. Adult gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins come to shore with food for their young and comical "Keystone Cops" chases normally ensue. Adélie penguins may have completely returned to sea by mid-month. February is normally the best time to see the most marine mammals, with hundreds of crabeater seals hauled out on the ice floes. Whales are also at peak numbers with humpback whales normally the stars of the show.
 
Zodiac cruising among icebergs, whales and seals is always a possibility on your peninsula trip. Many of our cruises offer activities such as hiking, overnight camping onshore, kayaking and skiing. The peninsula's endless shorelines, its jagged, snow-covered mountains and its dramatic, ice-strewn waterways are reason enough to make the journey south. Terms like awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and eye-popping are not mere hyperbole when describing the beauty of this rugged, remote destination. The spectacular landscapes are surreal and unlike anything you will see anywhere else on Earth!
 
As huge tabular icebergs loom on the horizon, you'll know you are nearing the White Continent. When land is first sighted and the ship enters the protected waters along the peninsula, you can sense the excitement throughout the vessel as the prospect of setting foot on Antarctica is close at hand.
 
Why cruise ships visit the Antarctic Peninsula?
The Antarctic Peninsula is mainland Antarctica, so until you have been here and set foot upon the ground, you have not truly been to Antarctica. It also offers the possibility to cross the Antarctic Circle. Most ships will steam down past the line of 66° 33' 44? ( or 66.562° ) degrees of latitude so that passengers can say they have done it.
 
The Antarctic Peninsula is truly a serenely beautiful place that makes you feel like you are (quite rightly) in the cage of your ship an intruder into another world. It is here that your dreams of visiting Antarctica will become reality in a way that you can't really appreciate if you have never been there. The Peninsula along with the attendant islands are the best places to view wildlife in Antarctica.
 
A highlight of any Antarctica cruise is exploring icebergs in Zodiac inflatable boats These Antarctic cruises will keep you busy with days spent making shore landings to view wildlife and, when possible, visiting research facilities, historic sites, and abandoned whaling and sealing stations. Wildlife viewing in Antarctica varies considerably by month, with the early part of the cruise season featuring abundant birdlife with penguins courting, mating, and the commencement of egg laying and incubation.
 
By midseason the hustle and bustle of chick-rearing is well underway, as is the drama of predatory skuas marauding the colonies for eggs and chicks. By February, most chicks are near fledging size. Adult gentoo penguins and chinstrap penguins come to shore with food for their young and comical "Keystone Cops" chases normally ensue. Adélie penguins may have completely returned to sea by mid-month. February is normally the best time to see the most marine mammals, with hundreds of crabeater seals hauled out on the ice floes. Whales are also at peak numbers with humpback whales normally the stars of the show.
 
Things to See Antarctic Peninsula
Jagged mountain peaks clad in glaciers flowing sometimes down to the sea and sometimes spilling into mid air from an altitude of hundreds of feet or more. Huge open skies, enormous icebergs, low clouds, sudden weather changes and constant surprises from the hugely abundant wildlife you see will keep you in a constant state of awe.
 
Dramatic Scenery
As you glide by the Antarctic Peninsula, you'll likely spot unusually sculpted icebergs, blue-tinged glaciers, steep ice shelves and the towering peaks widely accepted as the continuation of the Andes Mountains. It's a breathtaking wonderland nestled in nature's frosty embrace.
 
Wildlife
The icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula cater to various species of seals, penguins and seabirds, including the Cape Pigeon, the American Sheathbill and the Antarctic Tern.
 
Flora Flora
Though the peninsula is covered in icy tundra, it actually features the mildest climate in Antarctica, the perfect environment for hosting the only flowering plants on the entire continent, Antarctic Hair Grass and Antarctic Pearlwort.
 
Cuverville island
Cuverville Island off the Antarctic Peninsula
 
Hope Bay
Hope Bay lies in the Antarctic Sound sometimes known as "Iceberg Alley" providing excellent opportunities to see the fascinating shapes and myriad blues of some extraordinary icebergs.
 
There lie here the remains of a stone expedition hut from a Swedish expedition that wintered in 1903 and the more up to date facilities of the Argentinean Esperanza base. It was at this base that the first child born in Antarctica was delivered, it also boasts its own mayor, post office and school.
 
The Lemaire Channel
Possibly the most famous and visually beautiful place along the peninsula.
 
Enormous sheer cliffs drop straight into the sea. A narrow channel flanked by the Antarctic Peninsula on one side and Booth Island on the other. The mundane nickname of 'Kodak Gap' hints at the nature of the location (it brings out the cameras in force) without doing it justice.
 
The channel is actually a fully navigable passage between Booth Island and the Peninsula, but this is  only apparent once you're well into it. Ice can sometimes block the path through causing ships to retreat and sail around Booth Island.
 
At the southern end of the Lemaire Channel lie an archipelago of picturesque ice-covered islands. One or more of these is often the site of another landing from tourist ships.
 
Paradise Harbour (also known as Paradise Bay)
Paradise Harbor is another of Antarctica's most visited areas, "zodiac cruising" on the ubiquitous small inflatable craft (zodiacs) that ferry everyone around in Antarctica is very popular. There are many icebergs that calve off the glacier at the harbor's head, these provide an fascinating infinite variety of shapes and shades of blue.
 
Leopard seal resting on an ice floeIce, floes also provide a floating resting spot for various seals and penguins that you may be able to view at close quarters if they aren't scared off by the boat coming up close. If you're lucky, you may see some whales swimming around too.
 
Landings are not always made, but the glaciers and mountains reflect beautifully in the water and the serenity of the area is a highlight for many visitors - not for nothing did it earn its name.
 
Home to terns, petrels, cormorants, seals, penguins, and whales.
 
Neumayer Channel and Port Lockroy (British Base)
 
Port Lockroy is a beautiful natural harbour on Goudier Island on the Palmer archipelago, reached by passing through the towering grandiose cliffs of the Neumayer Channel.
 
Like many sites currently occupied in Antarctica, it was used by the whaling industry after its discovery in 1903.
 
A British base was established in 1944 (British base "A") and it is now designated a "historic site" under the Antarctic Treaty. Since 1996, the base has been opened during the summer months by British Antarctic Survey under the guidance of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). It is possible to look around the renovated buildings and museum and get a flavour of what life used to be like in Antarctica on a base in the 1950's.
 
There is even a gift shop and Post Office where cards and letters can be franked before being placed on the next available ship for transport to their destination via Britain. Port Lockroy is currently the most visited site in Antarctica with about 6000 tourists each summer. Post office diary
 
An environmental monitoring programme was established when the base began being manned in 1996 to to investigate potential visitor disturbance to the rookery of gentoo penguins nearby. It appears that so far, the large numbers of visitors have had no discernable impact on penguin breeding success, which is more closely linked to local environmental conditions, such as snow cover or the availability of krill.
 
There are also relics from the whaling days at Port Lockroy such as a massive fin whale skeleton. The fin whale is the second largest whale (after the blue whale). Each year the skeleton is reassembled after the weather blows it apart all winter. This particular whale has even been shown to have had arthritis because some of its bones show deterioration in the same way that arthritic human bones do.
 
Visiting Antarctic bases or stations
Signy Island Base in the South Orkney Islands
Chilean Antarctic Research Base
Gonzalez Videla, Paradise Bay
At some point on your Antarctic trip you may well visit a research base or station. These are manned (and womanned) typically by staff from one particular country as they are  run on a national basis. Some bases are more accommodating than others depending on the level of tourist traffic that comes their way, how long the people have been on the base and how keen they are for distractions. Some are keener on tourist visits than others and some base personnel are more amenable to visits than others.
 
This is often an excellent opportunity to see an aspect of Antarctica not often seen at close quarters (Antarctic personnel are sometimes the most timid and bizarre of the endemic wildlife of the region). There are usually two categories of people on a base, those who arrived the same summer for whom you may be an annoyance or at best nothing much unusual. Then there are those who have just completed a whole winter (or more) for whom the arrival of a ship full of new faces is a rare, exciting  and exotic luxury of the highest order (I know this, I was one of those people!). This second group typically see the first annoyed group as coming considerably below the tourists in the pecking order for being annoyed in the first place.
 
If you can befriend these winterers, they may take you places the average tourist doesn't go, they will also know that they are not exactly supposed to do this, but may also not care very much that they're not. Don't push it though, they are a delicate species and getting on the wrong side will mean an opportunity missed. Please respect the base, it is their home even if it doesn't look very private or much like your home.
 
You may get an extra slide-show (tourist ships would supply lunch and entertainment while I gave a slide-show in return - a traditional role passed on through the generations of winterers) guided tours of the local environs and the opportunity to buy or trade t-shirts, sweat-shirts etc.
 
Zodiac cruising among icebergs, whales and seals is always a possibility on your peninsula trip. Many of our cruises offer activities such as hiking, overnight camping onshore, kayaking and skiing. The peninsula's endless shorelines, its jagged, snow-covered mountains and its dramatic, ice-strewn waterways are reason enough to make the journey south. Terms like awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and eye-popping are not mere hyperbole when describing the beauty of this rugged, remote destination. The spectacular landscapes are surreal and unlike anything you will see anywhere else on Earth!


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