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Visiting the Himalayas or the Great Barrier Reef could be at the top of your vacation wish list, but we’ve discovered something that will top them both. You will be amazed by the beauty of our world after seeing Snow Hill Island in Antarctica on a polar cruise.
Snow Hill Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula’s eastern coast, is a remote destination, with few people having made the adventurous trek through the Drake Passage and the freezing Weddell Sea to set foot on the island.
Those who make the journey, however, are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the natural habitat of the emperor penguin, the world’s largest penguin species, as well as a slew of other rare and wonderful birds, such as albatrosses, leopard and crabeater seals, humpback and minke whales, orcas, leopard and crabeater seals, and a variety of other Antarctic marine mammals.
If you’re the lucky one to hop on this trip, here are some things you must see and do at Snow Hill Island.
Ship-to-Shore Helicopter Ride
Small boat transfers, common on Antarctic tours, are not an option to reach the Snow Hill Island rookery. Rather, navigational maneuvers take place in the region between Antarctic Sound and James Clark Ross Island.
A reconnaissance aircraft will take off to pinpoint the precise position of the breeding colony on the ice shelf if and when weather and sea conditions allow. Finding appropriate clothing for such harsh conditions might be challenging for first-time visitors.
This is why it is essential to inquire as to the best equipment to get. If you’re looking for advice on what to wear in the Arctic region, an online polar gear shop is a great alternative to traditional shopping. Four or five lucky passengers will be whisked away in a helicopter from the ship’s stern and taken on a picturesque journey that will bring them to within a mile of the rookery without disturbing the penguins.
A safety tent has been built in the area that will serve as the expedition’s base camp. To get to the colony, which is about 130 to 160 feet from the shore, workers put luggage onto sleds, and tourists trek the remaining distance (up to 45 minutes).
A rope is set up at the rookery to indicate a secure viewing area. The emperor penguins are just as interested in the people in orange jackets and cameras as the people are in the emperor penguins.
Pass via the Iceberg Alley
Ushuaia, located on the southernmost point of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, is where ships set sail. This port town, located at the earth’s southernmost point, is often referred to as “the End of the World.
The Drake Passage, a 600-mile area of open ocean known for its high waves, may be traversed in two days after you leave the safety of the Beagle Channel. Following in the footsteps of polar pioneers like Earnest Shackleton, passing through is a necessary part of every trip to Antarctica.
Guests attend presentations in the ship’s theater at this time. Keep a close eye on the maps as you make your way through the Drake Passage to record your passage through the Antarctic Convergence at 60 degrees south latitude.
When cold waters from the north meet warmer waters from the sub-Antarctic, an upwelling of nutrients nourishes and attracts a new group of marine and bird species. You will eventually reach the Antarctic Sound after passing through the storied Elephant Island. The Weddell Sea is home to enormous tabular icebergs that serve as a welcoming committee.
See Magnificent Emperor Penguins
It is well known that every trip will enrich you with new sights and information. The same goes here – there’s nothing more interesting than an emperor penguin which you’ll get to see here.
Emperor Penguins, the biggest of the 17 penguin species (1.15 m or 45 inches tall), often dive to depths of 565 m (1,850 feet) in search of food, krill, and squid. Up to 22 minutes is no problem for them.
Temperatures of -60°C (-76°F) and blizzard speeds of 200 km/h (124 mph) are no match for an emperor’s sturdy frame. Their feathers, which are shaped like scales, are four layers thick and protect them from rain and wind.
Emperor Penguins are the only penguin species that reproduce on sea ice rather than on land. After depositing an egg, the female departs the colony to go on a feeding expedition, but not before handing it to her male counterpart, who carefully places it in a special pouch on his foot and covers it with a coating of feathery skin.
In order to keep their eggs warm and safe from the harsh Antarctic climate, males would sometimes cuddle together with other adult males. To their delight, visitors to the Snow Hill Island colony in the month of November will see chicks that are just around three months old and still under their parents’ watchful care.
Enjoy the Sight of Tabular Icebergs
Icebergs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including tabular, dome-shaped, sloping, pinnacle, dry-docked, blocky, worn, and glacier bergs. An iceberg’s tabular shape makes it stand out from the rest.
The flat top and steep sides of an iceberg make it easy to see after it has broken away from an ice shelf and is drifting freely in the open sea. The Antarctic Peninsula’s eastern edge is a popular spot for seeing these enormous tabular icebergs.
Approximately 650 feet thick and around the size of the state of Delaware, the massive tabular iceberg A-86 broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in July 2017. After making its way north into “Iceberg Alley,” it broke up into smaller pieces.
When to Go?
Without more context, the statement that “November is the best time to visit Snow Hill Island” is misleading. In reality, November is the only month of the year the colony is visited by any of the restricted operators, and even then they only provide one or two departures.
Remember that in Antarctica, spring begins in the month of November. The Weddell Sea will be too frozen for travel before that time. Any further delay might result in adult penguins abandoning the rookery and making their way to the open sea.
Planning a vacation to Snow Hill Island may be in order if you’re the kind of person who thrives on adventure and is looking for a challenge that might provide you with lasting satisfaction. The majestic emperor penguins of Snow Hill Island are the real reason to visit the island, aside from the polar cruises or helicopter tours.
It’s like being on the set of a nature documentary to see these majestic birds go about their daily rituals in the rookery, from caring for their babies to sliding on the ice on their bellies to going on hunts. Those fortunate enough to experience this remote corner of Antarctica will never forget their time there.