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Lemaire Channel is one of Antarctica's most popular cruise destinations, which is why many tour operators include a visit to this picturesque waterway on their itineraries. Found between rocky Booth Island and the mountainous western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, this scenic strait is relatively easy to get to, and you definitely won't want to miss it if you are up for some sightseeing. Leaving the camera behind is not recommended, as those who enjoy Lemaire Channel cruises will be treated to some of the planet's most photographic vistas. The usually calm waters of Lemaire Channel reflect the cliffs and glaciers that rise up on both sides, making it virtually impossible to take a bad picture. In fact, so picturesque is this channel that it is commonly referred to as Kodak Gap.
The narrow, glacier-lined Lemaire Channel is considered one of Antarctica's most beautiful passages. This strait runs between Booth Island and the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most scenic locations on the western coast. The channel is one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful passages in the world where sheer rock walls rise straight out of the water to snow-peaked summits high above.
The Lemaire Channel runs for approximately seven miles, and its width tops out at 5,250 feet. The 11 km (6.8 miles) may become impassable when ice fills the narrow passageway. Often, humpback or killer whales follow in the wake of the ship, allowing for close-up photography. While it is not particularly long, the memories of your trip through it will endure for a lifetime. It's hard to imagine the reaction that the channel's first visitors had. While Lemaire Channel was first spotted by a German expedition in the 1870s, no one traversed it until 1898. That was the year that a Belgian expedition passed through Kodak Gap. Interestingly enough, the expedition's leader chose to name the channel after Charles Lemaire, who was a Belgian explorer that made a name for himself traveling through the Congo. The Lemaire Channel provides a safe passage along part of the Antarctic Peninsula coast, which has a lot to do with its discovery, and the wonderful views are just icing on the cake.
In the southern end of Lemaire, find an archipelago of icy islands, each more breathtaking than the last. Penguin rookeries abound and elephant seals are often seen basking on the rocky beaches. Try to visit Hovgaard Island or Petermann Island - the habitat of the southernmost colony of Gentoo penguins, as well as Adelies. Famous French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot wintered here aboard his vessel Pourquoi-Pas? in 1909. If conditions allow, you can visit the Ukrainian scientific base at Vernadsky (originally British built and named Faraday). The Channel is a spectacular site with sheer cliffs and still water. The principal difficulty is that icebergs may fill the channel, especially in early season.
Things to see and do
Penguin Colonies
Whale watching
Lemaire Channel cruises are among the easiest Antarctica cruises to arrange, and you can often add some very interesting side trips to the agenda when booking yours. Since most of the organized tours of Antarctica feature side tours of the Lemaire Channel, you might not have to do much planning at all if you want to cruise through this breathtaking stretch. Many people who book Lemaire Channel cruises look to include visits to the Palmer Research Station and Petermann Island on their itineraries. The Palmer Research Station is one of the most recognized research stations in Antarctica, and it offers excellent insight into the lives of those who choose to work on the planet's coldest continent. As for Petermann Island, it is a great place to view both gentoo penguins and adelie penguins. As a side note, many Lemaire Channel cruises also include a trip through Neumayer Channel, which is one of the other most highly photographed waterways in Antarctica.
Many Lemaire Channel cruises start early in the morning, and the actual trip through the steep-sided waterway generally lasts about an hour. Some of the tours of the Lemaire Channel last longer than an hour, as they will include some stops along the way. Your trip might also get delayed if you take some extra time out to view some wildlife.Seals and whales can often be seen frolicking in the calm waters of Lemaire Channel, so you'll want to keep an eye out for them. Icebergs can also often be spotted while cruising through Kodak Gap, and unfortunately, they might result in your cruise having to backtrack. When too many icebergs clog the Lemaire Channel corridor, ships not only have to backtrack, but they also have to go around Booth Island. The views are still rewarding, but not as much as they are in the channel itself.
Known as "Kodak Gap" because of its popularity with tourists and spectacular scenery, the Lemaire Channel is a narrow waterway formed between the cliffs of the Antarctic Peninsula and Booth Island. Lined with glaciers, this passage gives passengers a chance to commonly see killer whales, various penguins and elephant seals. The channel also is considered one of Antarctica's most beautiful passages. Get your cameras ready!
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