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The Classic Polar Cruise: Antarctic Peninsula Facts, Pics, and More

by Oceanwide Expeditions Blog

You can specialize your Antarctic voyage with trips to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Weddell Sea. But when it comes to getting the broadest survey of Antarctica’s prime experiences, there’s no better place than the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Classic Polar Cruise: Antarctic Peninsula Facts, Pics, and More

Wildlife, locations, and other travel-friendly facts about Antarctica’s classic cruise region: the Antarctic Peninsula

You can specialize your Antarctic voyage with trips to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Weddell Sea. But when it comes to getting the broadest survey of Antarctica’s prime experiences, there’s no better place than the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Antarctic Peninsula is a 1,300-km-long (810 miles) ice show of penguins, whales, seals, seabirds, rugged coastline, rocky mountains, glaciers, bays, bergs, and every polar activity you can possibly partake in. In short, the Antarctic Peninsula just about has it all.

No wonder, then, that we offer multiple Antarctic Peninsula cruises. Because the attractions on these cruises sometimes overlap, we won’t further divide this article into specific Antarctica trips. Rather, this entry will cover the animals, areas, and activities you can enjoy on the Antarctic Peninsula. All of our expedition cruises there offer at least some of the features you’ll read about below – which, by the way, is not a complete list.

Image by Roland Geringer

Antarctic Peninsula animals

Not only will you have a great chance of seeing two of the core penguin species on the Antarctic Peninsula, you may also spot several seal, whale, and other seabird species. What follows are some of the more well-known animals you’ll see.

Gentoo penguin

Gentoos are the only penguin species currently increasing both in size and distribution, and are a relatively common sight along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Image by Morten Skovgaard

Adélie penguin

These googly-eyed penguins are not only spotted on the Antarctic Peninsula but also the Antarctic Continent, along with emperor penguins.

Image by Morten Skovgaard 

Antarctic shag

Also known as blue-eyed shags, these are the only Antarctic seabirds to keep year-round nests when ice conditions are right. We frequently see them on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Image by Wim van Passel 

Snow petrel

These snow-white petrels are one of only three seabird species that breed exclusively in Antarctica, and are a frequent Antarctic Peninsula visitor.

Giant petrel

Called “long swimmers” in Greek, giant petrels are the only members of the Procellariidae family (which includes petrels, prions, and shearwaters) that have legs strong enough to support walking.

Image by Martin van Lokven

Weddell seal

These sizable Antarctic Peninsula seals live farther south than any other mammal.

Leopard seal

They’re the only seal species to eat other seals, and are known for their aggressive behavior. (Though you wouldn’t know it from this picture.)

Antarctic fur seal

Gentler than leopard seals and smaller than Weddell seals, Antarctic fur seals now have healthy populations after nearly being hunted into extinction.

Image by Reinhard Schiemer

Crabeater seal

The Antarctic Peninsula features ample crabeater seals, the most abundant large mammal in the world. Hence, crabeaters sleep pretty easy.

Image by Troels Jacobsen

Humpback whale

A favorite among whale lovers are humpback whales, named for how they bend their backs before diving. Their lunges make for some decent photos, too.

Image by Nicolo de Cata

Minke whale

These whales are actually a kind of fin whale, capable of loosing a cry as loud as an airplane taking off. You have a good chance of seeing them along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Fin whale

Also called “razorbacks,” fin whales have a particular facial coloration that helps them hunt.

Image by Pedro Rego

Antarctic Peninsula areas

Though we do our best to see these locations, not all of them are landing sites. Some we simply view from the ship or cruise around in our Zodiacs. If local conditions prevent us from visiting any of our planned areas, alternates will be chosen.

Danco Island

Gentoo penguins, Weddell seals, and crabeater seals can be seen at this landing site, which is part of our main Antarctic Peninsula route.

Neumayer Channel

This glacier-bordered waterway is a fine place to spot whales, and separates Wiencke Island from Anvers Island.

Image by Margaret Welby

Neko Harbour

A favorite among Antarctic Peninsula landing sites, Neko is a mountainous landscape of mammoth glaciers and endless wind-carved snow.

Anvers Island (rarely a landing here)

This mountainous island will afford you some spectacular views and panoramic photos.

Paradise Bay

Another Antarctic Peninsula favorite, Paradise Bay is a pure gem of gentoo penguins, crabeater seals, colossal glaciers, dazzling icebergs, and spans of unbroken snow.

Image by Rolf Stange

Pléneau & Petermann Islands

Adélies, gentoos, blue-eyed shags, leopard seals, and humpback whales can be seen here.

Image by Linda Forey 

Port Lockroy

Located on Goudier Island, Port Lockroy is a former research station and currently the planet’s southernmost post office. The penguins are fond of it, too.

Brabant Island (not a landing site)

This Antarctic island is known for its interior mountains, especially the Stribog Mountain’s Mount Parry at 2,520 meters (8,268 feet).

Wilhelmina Bay & Guvernøren

Among the best places to spot whales along the Antarctic Peninsula, this bay is also praised for its scuba diving site around the wreck of the Guvernøren.

Image by Mal Haskins

Antarctic Peninsula activities

Our wide variety of invigorating outdoor activities give you a chance to experience the Antarctic Peninsula in action. Whether by sea, shore, or mountain, the below excursions will only put you more in touch with this awe-inspiring region.

Snowshoeing

This is an activity everyone can enjoy, requiring no prior experience or great athletic ability.

Image by Troels Jacobsen

Camping

What better way to feel like a true polar explorer than sleeping under the Antarctic sky in a snow dugout? (We promise, our sleeping gear is warm and comfy.)

Image by Elke Lindner 

Kayaking

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most ideal places to kayak in the polar regions, the area’s magical silence scarcely interrupted by this low-impact activity.

Photo workshops

You can also practice your picture-taking skills in the Antarctic Peninsula. Just beware, your friends may be made even more jealous by such stellar photography.

Image by Dietmar Denger 

Scuba diving

If you’ve got sufficient cold-water dive experience, you can explore the underbelly of the icebergs and Antarctica’s sea life on its own turf. So to speak.

Image by Carlos Villoch

Mountaineering

But if heights are more your jam, you can check out the Antarctic Peninsula from some of its loftier viewpoints during a mountaineering excursion.

Image by Mal Haskins

Hondius special activities

On our new Polar Class 6 vessel, Hondius, we offer a number of special interactive workshops that explore various scientific topics, the goal of which is to entertain, inform, and fully immerse you in the surreal Antarctic environment.

Some of the topics we cover are Antarctic weather, geology, wildlife accoustics, plastic pollution, and videography. All workshops are led by leaders in their field.

Special note: For adventure seekers looking for a truly activity-oriented Antarctic Peninsula voyage, our Basecamp trips are exactly what you’re after.

Time zone, weather, and other Antarctic Peninsula facts

  • The Antarctic Peninsula follows Coordinated Universal Time -3 (UTC -3). This means that if it is 18:00 UTC-3 (6 pm) during your expedition cruise trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, it would be 17:00 (5 pm) in New York City.
  • Antarctic Peninsula climate is milder than most people expect, because it’s located near the most northerly part of Antarctica. If you travel to the Antarctic Peninsula in January, which is summertime in the Southern Hemisphere, you can expect an average temperature of 1 to 2°C (33.8 to 35.6°F). June is the coldest part of the year, with a temperature range of typically -20 to -15°C (-4 to 5°F).
  • The Antarctic Peninsula is the only part of Antarctica that extends beyond the border of the Antarctic Circle.
  • The only flowering plants on the continent of Antarctica (the Antarctic pearlwart and the Antarctic hair grass) are found on the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • The Antarctic Peninsula is about 2,000 km (1,242 miles) long.
  • The peninsula was originally named Palmer Peninsula, after an American explorer who journeyed there in November, 1820. Other countries later gave it different names: Graham Land and Trinity Peninsula (Britain, 1832), San Martin Land (Argentina, 1940), and O’Higgins Land (Chile, 1942). It wasn’t called the Antarctic Peninsula until 1964, when an international agreement was reached.
  • The Antarctic Peninsula is regulated under the international Antarctic Treaty System, which promotes use of the area for scientific study.
  • The peninsula is a continuation of the Andes Mountains, which run down almost the entire west coast of South America.
  • There are 28 countries (and research bases) currently contributing to the scientific research conducted on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Image by Hanneke Dallmeijer

Title image by Dietmar Denger

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