Videla research station
The research station, named after the former Chilean President Gabriel González Videla, is located on Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula and is manned in the arctic summer. It serves to represent Chile in the event of later territorial and sovereign claims alongside Argentina and Great Britain.
South Shettland Islands
The first stop in Antarctica is usually the South Shetland Islands. The subarctic archipelago consists of 11 larger and many smaller islands. The Antarctic continent is about 150 km away. Even if the journey began not by ship but by plane, travelers will find themselves in the Shetland archipelago afterwards, because on one of the islands, King George Island, there is the runway of a Chilean research station. The archipelago’s climate is relatively mild by Antarctic standards. For this reason and because of its proximity to the South American continent, King George Island is a popular location for research stations. Especially the Chilean “Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva” station and the Russian “Bellingshausen” station are great destinations for tourists, who would like to gain an insight into the work of scientists. Deception Island is a particularly popular destination in the archipelago. Here you can bathe in hot thermal springs when the outside temperature is icy. The brave can then cool off in the cold polar sea. Abandoned whaling stations, one of the largest colonies of throat penguins and some beautiful hiking tours await the explorers on the island. The mostly calm sea of the Shetland Archipelago impresses with huge icebergs, dreamy fjords full of ice and a diverse fauna that ranges from sea birds to penguins to sea lions and whales.
Beagle Channel and Drake Strait
The Beagle Channel and the Drake Passage are sea routes and do not yet belong to Antarctica. To get to the seclusion of the eternal ice, however, you first have to take a small path that leads travelers from Ushuaia through the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage. The former is located south of Tierra del Fuego and connects the Atlantic with the Pacific. The journey on the sea road to Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America, takes about a day. You can see the first sea lions and cormorants while passing Isla dos Lobos. Further highlights are the Estancia Haberton, the oldest farm in Tierra del Fuego, or Puerto Toro, the southernmost town in the world with around 50 residents. This is followed by the Drake Passage. Depending on the ship, the crossing of the sea road takes 2 to 4 days. Birds such as Cape petrels can be observed again and again. Slowly the ship reaches the polar waters and the sea changes its color from black-blue to green. For travelers who are not entirely comfortable with the often stormy Drake Passage, a 90-minute flight to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile, is a pleasant alternative.
Neumayer and Lemaire Canal
When traveling to the Antarctic, the Neumayer Channel is very often approached before the Lemaire Channel. It is known for its majestic cliffs and is reminiscent of a labyrinth, because the exits are often not immediately apparent. A popular destination is Port Lockery, a natural harbor. The research station and museum there are run by scientists who study the influence of tourism on gentoo penguins. By the way: here you can buy souvenirs as a souvenir and even send mail home. However, it takes four to six weeks to arrive. It usually continues in the direction of the 65th southern parallel. There follows the crossing of the famous Lemaire Canal, a strait that cruises to Antarctica like to visit and which is one of the highlights. The spectacular passage is lined on both sides by impressive ice giants, some 1,000 meters high. You can always spot seals and penguins on ice floes. Sometimes the passage to the south is blocked by icebergs, then the ship has to turn around and take a different route. Such incidents cannot be predicted and make the true adventure of an expedition.
The Bay of Paradise bears the name for a reason, because it is really fantastic. It is one of the two ports in Antarctica where cruise ships are allowed to dock. On a tour with the Zodiac, a kind of motorized inflatable boat that is used for many trips to the Antarctic, you can explore the bay in all its beauty and also observe various animals such as crabeater seals and cormorants. With a little luck, the boatmen can spot their first leopard seal here. The next highlight is often Cuverville Island, which is known for its large gentoo penguin colony. On the coast you can discover many old whale bones that come from past whale hunts. At the end of many cruises is the Melchior Archipelago, which includes several uninhabited islands. It is very popular with tourism, because on extended rubber dinghy tours you can wonderfully explore the icebergs and the rugged coastline. In addition, humpback whales are particularly common here.
Weather and Climate in Antarctica
The polar summer extends from mid-November to March. Within the short polar summer, however, there is no best travel time, but rather very different highlights that you should take into account and adapt your own interests to it.
For example, those interested in ornithology should choose an earlier travel date. Depending on whether you want to experience courtship, breeding, rearing young birds or migrating, a further specification of the travel period is necessary.
The November (early summer) is the most adventurous, and in some ways the most impressive time. The sea is still covered with ice, the beaches with snow; the penguins are now coming back to the colonies and starting to build their nests. The first ships are slowly starting to bring tourists to Antarctica. Fur seals mate in South Georgia.
December to January (midsummer) are the warmest and, given the weather conditions, certainly the best months for a trip to Antarctica. Daylight can be expected for almost 24 hours. The first penguin chicks hatch, and fur seals give birth to babies in South Georgia.
February to March (late summer) is the best time for whale watching. The chances of being able to observe whales en route are given on every trip, but the probability of seeing the migrating whales that find themselves in these waters to feed in addition to the endemic species increases in the ice-poor time of late summer. In Antarctica, this is also the time when fur seals are seen in large numbers. The ice has now largely retreated and allows landings further south. Penguin chicks are fledging, the colonies are now slowly emptying. Many fur seals are now also appearing on the Antarctic Peninsula. The travel time to Antarctica is over by mid-March and winter is here.