February 3, 2023

Cruise to Antarctica: How to plan and pay for the rare adventure

7 min read

King George Island, Antarctica (CNN) – Travelers to Antarctica always remember where they set foot on the frozen continent. To me, it was Portal Point, a narrow ridge of land just west of the peninsula just north of the Antarctic Circle.

The roaring sea ice made a thin white cap over the water, the color of steel, as a Zodiac boat carried me ashore. Then I kicked high on its swollen bank and took some celebratory steps in the mud below my knees, a few hundred more on the way to the view of a hilltop.

All around me, blindfolded, white mountains covered with ancient snow blankets. Downstairs, a dove-eyed waddle cell perched on sea ice as penguins emerged from the South Seas through their bellies.

This is the scene that travelers dream of traveling to the complex – and the most precious – the mission of planning a lifelong voyage to Antarctica.

There is much to consider, and the Odyssey actually starts long before you leave South America.

Portal Point in Antarctica.  Adventure for the continent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Portal Point in Antarctica. Adventure for the continent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Mark Johansson

Factors involved in planning.

The size of the ship should be taken into consideration first when arranging the voyage.

Smaller ships (with a higher guest-to-guide ratio) offer faster departures from the midroom at landing sites, more options for where the boat can go and plenty of time to get answers to your Antarctic questions. ۔

Cost, of course, is a key factor. Travel to Antarctica is not cheap and most ships range from $ 500 (at the bottom) to $ 1,500 (at the top) per person per day, including all food, some drinks and most beach trips. Sites like Antarctica Cruise Guide and Cruise Critic can help you compare options.

Larger ships offer a wider range of price alternatives. However, less expensive tickets often include essential items such as essentials (including waterproof, knee-high shoes), pre- and post-departure stays and flights to central departure destinations in Joshua, Argentina, or Punta Arenas, Chile. Are omitted. So make sure that these things are taken into account in comparison to the prices.

Sustainability is another key factor. Leading companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, which aims to “advocate and promote a safe and environmentally responsible private sector travel process in the Antarctic.”

Many companies are now also carbon neutral and will display the certification on their website.

Finally, you want to make sure that you look at the type of programming on offer. Most trips include a strong educational component with daily lectures that help you tailor the locations and sounds of the Seventh Continent.

A difficult start

All of these standards eventually led me to the Magellan Explorer of Antarctica 21, which has 73 guests and was educationally focused.

As a bonus, it operates under the Fly Cruise model, where you board the plane (instead of spending two wild days at sea) on the infamous cut Drake Passage, the airport of Chile’s President Eduardo Free. Let’s start and end our journey closer. Montalva on King George Island.

Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person. Those first moments at Portal Point last December were the culmination of a long-held dream. But in that moment, they were feeling like a dream.

Last night’s voyage under the Bransfeld Strait, which separates the peninsula from the southern Shetland Islands, was filled with thunderstorms, wild waves and sea sickness that no bullet could extinguish.

It was a trip that was no different from a pirate ship ride at a carnival. Yet it turned out to be the only night on my seven-day trip to Antarctica, where the only thing you can predict about the weather is that it will be completely unpredictable.

The traditional Antarctic tourism season lasts from November to March, and as a rule, the temperature is usually about 28 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about -2 to 4 degrees Celsius), although strong winds make it very cold. Can make sense You will want to know more about what kind of special clothing and gear is provided, and pack according to the “Onion Laying System”, choose the items you need. Can be worn or peeled accordingly.

On my trip, the temperature hovered around freezing, but it was not as cold as I had imagined. After all, it was the beginning of the Australian summer, where the sun could pass almost the entire day without setting below the horizon.

Money boats take passengers on cruises in search of frozen landscapes.

Money boats take passengers on cruises in search of frozen landscapes.

Mark Johansson

Close to science

After two days of action-packed travel on the Magellan Explorer, wandering around and enjoying lectures on wildlife and geology, I signed up for a special tour with Seattle native Alison Kissick. Who was in charge of Citizen Science.

One cool morning we headed to Nico Harbor, a snowy entrance on the Fjord of Andrew Bay.

Here, in 2017, Cusick founded FjordPhyto, a project that allows everyday tourists to collect concentrated samples of phytoplankton (aquatic food chain), based on his research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Will inform

“Science used to happen behind closed doors,” said the PhD student as she walked through a maze of blue ice cubes looking for a clearer part of the ocean from which we could snatch some samples. “It’s a way to open that door, especially here in Antarctica where the Antarctic Treaty 62 years ago protected it as a place for peace and science.”

We were in a money cycle near a colony with 250 breeding pairs of gento penguins, wandering in the snow in front of a roaring glacier. Like many others along the Antarctic Peninsula, Cusick said it is in a state of dramatic retreat.

The polar scientist takes tourists to collect samples of phytoplankton – and records seawater temperatures and salinity – at similar locations above and below the Antarctic Peninsula. This is because it is not only one of the hottest places on earth. It is also one of the most difficult for scientists to reach.

By participating in her research – and helping budget-conscious scientists – she hoped that visitors like me would go on to become ambassadors to the Antarctic.

“It happens when you come to a place and learn about it and go home and tell its stories,” he said.

FjordPhyto now operates on half a dozen ships of different operators as such experiments become the center of Antarctic tourism. Some companies include guests in seabird surveys, while others invite guests to participate in Internet-based projects such as Happy Whale and Polar Tag, where you can upload pictures of animals so that researchers can copy them. Help track location patterns.

Happiness is a vadal seal place.

Happiness is a vadal seal place.

Mark Johansson

What to expect along the way.

Most, though, are filled with morning and afternoon coastal cruises on the day of an expedition along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula (where the majority of ships are), which are arranged before evening depending on the weather conditions. ۔

Some companies allow you to safer fjords, ski tour remote bases or even scuba dive in Zero Zero waters, but I was content to spend my days hiking and photographing wildlife.

One of the best places to do that was Pillow Point on Two Hamak Island, where I had climbed two miles to the top of Pearl White Hill after the red flags that a lead team had laid out for me. The views were of a Craigie Bay and a small colony of chinstrap penguins, who make their name with small black bands beneath their white faces.

I also saw a zodiac when humpback whales emerge from the waters of Fournier Bay, on the northeast side of Inverness Island, performing an acrobatics show that felt choreographed.

Upon returning to the ship, I could comfortably walk on my balcony as there was no interior without a window (all cabins faced the sea). I visited the gym and library every night before changing stories with travelers who had come from as far away as New York, London and Manila.

Towards the end of the trip, we were all eating dinner together for three courses in the evening, taking pictures and dropping emails on wine glasses from Chile and Argentina. We shared the kind of experience that even experienced travelers felt changed – and because of that we had a special relationship.

“It’s powerful to be down here,” campaign leader Headley Mesham explained about the drinks at my bar last night. “A lot of people come to their seventh continent just to tick a box, but they leave with a greater concern for the natural world and our place in it.”

Last stop

The final stop of our adventure was a classic that appeared on almost every Antarctic travelogue: Deception Island. One of the only two active volcanoes in Antarctica, it is one of the only places in the world where you can walk among the flooded Caldera.

That doubles as Caldera – Port Foster – as a safe haven. Its steamy black sandy coast bears witness to the 200-year history of the Antarctic, which includes explorers, sailors, wheelers and scientists.

We stopped at Wheelers Bay in the morning, with the rusty remains of a Norwegian wheeling station and the ruins of a British scientific base that had been destroyed by mudslides since the 1969 eruption.

In the afternoon, we walk around Baileyhead, a promoter outside the volcano, home to up to 100,000 breeding chinstrap penguins (making it the largest penguin colony on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula).

Hundreds of small birds with painted black helmets ran along the “penguin highways” from the gray sand beaches to the algae to the green rock peaks. Fraud Island was like a vision of the past and present of Antarctica – a storybook that concludes my week-long journey through the history, science and nature of the last frontier of the earth.

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