The landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula
Mountainous is the best way to describe the Antarctic Peninsula, with numerous peaks towering more than 2,800 m above sea level. These snow-covered summits provide a dramatic backdrop to the islands just offshore and you’ll have amazing views of the landscape appearing before you as you sail towards the landmass.
It can be difficult to know where the land ends and the ice sheet begins, with many of the isles that make up the peninsula connected to the mainland by vast expanses of frozen water. In among the pack ice are amazing icebergs that are a truly breathtaking sight.
The history of the Antarctic Peninsula
The majority of the Antarctic’s research stations are located in the peninsula and there are also numerous abandoned scientific and military bases in the region. It’s believed that the land here was first spotted in 1820 by a Russian naval vessel, with the first landings on the continent taking place sometime later in the 19th century by sealers.
During the early 20th century the first expeditions headed to this part of the world, with surveys and charting carried out. The legacy of these explorations can be seen in the various names attributed to areas of the peninsula, such as Davis Coast, Loubet Land and Nordenskjold Coast.
One of the most famous explorers to set foot in this part of the Antarctic was Ernest Shackleton - you can even book an Antarctic adventure that visits the island his crew were stranded on for four months while he went for help.
Wildlife in the Antarctic Peninsula
Of course, one of the biggest attractions of coming to this untouched part of the world is to observe its unique and wonderful wildlife, with plenty to look out for on land, on the ice and in the ocean.
There are several seal species that live here, including the ferocious leopard seal, which is a voracious predator - Cierva Cove is a particularly good spot to visit if you want to see these amazing hunters, although you can’t land here because they pose a danger to humans.
Crabeater, Weddell and Southern Elephant seals are among the other kinds of sea-dwelling mammals you can see lounging on the beaches or the pack ice. In the water, keep your eyes peeled for sei, humpback and minke whales, as well as orcas, all of which are often spotted this far south.
Another attraction in the Antarctic peninsula is the penguin colonies, with several types of the flightless birds breeding here. Among them are the chinstrap, gentoo and adelie varieties, with huge groups of them found in places like Paulet Island (home to the biggest adelie penguin colony in the world) and Hannah Point, where you can see chinstrap and gentoo penguins.
There are many species of bird that breed in the Antarctic during the summer due to the nutrient-rich waters, with southern falmars, kelp gulls, blue-eyed shags, southern giant and cape petrels, and south polar skuas among the species to look out for on the cliffs and in the skies.
(Photos via [ThinkStock - iStockphoto])