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Tips on how to Plan Your Polar Cruise – Wild Junket Journey Journey Weblog

Final Up to date on December 8, 2022 by Nellie Huang

“And I inform you, you probably have the will for data and the facility to present it bodily expression, exit and discover.” So mentioned Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who accompanied Captain Scott on his doomed expedition to Antarctica and famously documented their experiences in his memoir The Worst Journey within the World.

Fortunately, discovering the polar areas now not has to ivolve such a feat of endurance. As we speak, they are often explored in secure, small-scale expedition vessels with specialist guiding.

Even when expedition circumstances at the moment are significantly extra snug than these skilled by the primary hardy polar explorers, visiting the poles nonetheless deserves the title of ‘journey of a lifetime’.

To expertise the Arctic or Antarctic is to expertise utter remoteness. It’s about witnessing a few of the final undisturbed areas of pure magnificence on earth – earlier than they disappear. It’s about being awed by a way of scale, drawing alongside nice icy mountainous peaks and glaciers and being dwarfed by their shadow. It’s about watching completely different species, similar to whales and walruses, of their pure habitats and marvelling that these apparently stark locations are such biodiverse environments. 

how to plan your polar cruise

The place Do You Go on a Polar Cruise?

Begin to plan your polar cruise by deciding which itinerary you’d like. There are often a couple of choices to select from by way of itinerary.

Most Arctic cruises depart from Spitsbergen within the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The basic route is to circumnavigate the archipelago, cruising into its fjords and crusing throughout ice fields. You’ll additionally get to go on land and hike on its tundra fields and even climb up glaciers.

Antarctica cruises often depart from the southern a part of Argentina. Most cruises go to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, cruising previous icebergs which might be greater than buildings, zipping by pods of whales and seals, visiting whaling stations and watching hundreds of penguins on land. Some cruises additionally go to the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and South Georgia, house to a few of the largest Emperor Penguin populations on the earth.

how to plan your polar cruise

What to Anticipate: Each day Life on a Polar Cruise

Whether or not you might be on an expedition cruise within the Arctic or Antarctica, day-to-day life takes an analogous sample.

Climate and ice circumstances allowing, the crew will intention to get you off the ship and out on zodiacs (motorised dinghies) not less than twice a day. This might contain wildlife-spotting, visiting a putting viewpoint or ice formation, exploring a historic website (similar to analysis stations or previous whaling huts), and even venturing ashore.

There are alternatives for extra adventurous actions, similar to kayaking, and in Antarctica, diving or tenting on the ice. (The polar bear inhabitants within the Arctic makes it unsafe to camp on land.)

how to plan your polar cruise

However the polar areas are additionally about stillness, and time spent considering these otherworldly landscapes. Ice, you’ll come to grasp, is never white: it will possibly typically be many hues of blue – turquoise, cerulean – and even greenish.

Throughout sea days and a few evenings there are lectures by expedition guides, who’re all specialists of their area – whether or not it’s glaciology, geology, marine biology or polar historical past: polar cruising is an actual studying expertise.

On some expeditions, there’s even the chance to participate in real-life science experiments, similar to gathering water samples for monitoring ranges of plankton, or photographically documenting completely different whale flukes.

When to Go to the Polar Areas

Antarctic cruises depart within the northern hemisphere’s winter to discover the Antarctic Peninsula through the southern hemisphere’s summertime. Chilly-weather clothes with a number of layers is clearly essential for each environments, though it’s not fairly as chilly as you could anticipate – except you participate in a polar plunge, after all…

how to plan your polar cruise

Wildlife within the Polar Areas

Wildlife viewing is a spotlight of all polar cruises. Certainly one of our favourite Antarctic moments was stumbling throughout a lazing Weddell seal simply because the clouds parted. The seal appeared to understand the sudden break within the clouds as a lot as we did, and he basked within the solar as we crept previous, whispering our shock at seeing him so unfazed by our proximity.

Weddell Seal - how to plan a polar cruise

In addition to recognizing quite a lot of seals at both pole, there’s a good likelihood of seeing whales as they feed or come to research the moored ships, supplying you with an opportunity to watch habits similar to breaching and spyhopping (when whales elevate up vertically and pop their heads out of the water). 

The species of whales you’ll see fluctuate relying on vacation spot. The Arctic is house to the shy beluga whale with its distinctive white colouration, whereas humpback and minke whales could be seen at both pole. It’s wondrous to see whales surfacing close to your zodiac, however that is additionally nature pink in tooth and claw: you could glimpse large petrels or glaucous gulls swooping down to choose off unguarded penguin or guillemot chicks.

how to plan your polar cruise

Your each day schedule could change simply and unpredictability, though this will add to the joy. It’s common for dinner to be interrupted as a result of a pod of whales have made a sudden look portside, or for deliberate actions to be disrupted by unpredictable climate.

Within the Arctic, any sighting of a bear shall be referred to as out over the tannoy, so preserve your coat and digital camera with you always. In Antarctica, you might be allowed to roam independently for brief distances, however once more, you will want to move shortly again to the zodiac ought to unhealthy climate are available.

The fluke of a whale

Penguins vs Polar Bears 

Selecting your polar cruise is a query of priorities. Journey time could also be one (see under). However that apart, it comes all the way down to wildlife. Which creatures are you most desirous to see?

Large colonies of penguins are present in Antarctica, with scientists apparently having the ability to find colonies from area, whereas the Arctic has bigger mammals – you may see herds of reindeer, and tusked walruses lurching throughout the ice floes. After which there’s the polar bear. All are fascinating in their very own methods.

Gentoo penguin

In Antarctica, you’re more likely to see Gentoo, Adélie and Chinstrap penguins, and whereas they’ll appear ungainly and comical as they waddle overland (look out for his or her energy-efficient slides downhill on their stomachs), they’re modern within the water as they shoot by means of shoals of krill, producing a waterproofing and friction-reducing oil that spreads over their feathers. Their fundamental predator is the fearsome leopard seal and also you may spot one snoozing on an ice floe in between looking (however preserve your distance – their warning growls defend their private area).

The sheer remoteness of Antarctica implies that penguins haven’t any land predators, and they also really feel unthreatened by human presence. Interplay with wildlife is forbidden underneath Antarctic treaty, however don’t be shocked if a couple of penguins flout that rule and are available and examine you.

Leopard seal attacking a penguin

Polar bears are extra elusive, and going through extinction. As world warming causes sea ice to soften earlier and reform later, polar bears’ looking time is lowered. They’re solitary animals, who hunt and stay alone as soon as they’ve been weaned from their moms, with the males being notably aggressive. Sightings are by no means 100% assured and are fully unpredictable – however this solely makes the prospect extra thrilling.

Svalbard is house to three,000 polar bears and the sight of a white bear is memorable. You may even see one foraging on a shoreline, coming to smell a moored boat, swimming amid ice floes or crashing by means of pack ice with its entrance legs.

Polar bear in Svalbard

Getting There

For Antarctica, getting there’s all a part of the enjoyable – a flight to Buenos Aires after which on to Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly metropolis, and the departure level for crossing Drake’s Passage to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Crossings are notoriously tough, and you could end up gaping at 15 to twenty metre-high waves crashing across the ship, so it’s a check of your sea legs. Nonetheless, there’s the choice to fly to affix your cruise ship on the South Shetland Islands if you happen to want to keep away from this explicit ceremony of passage.

Against this, journeying to the Arctic is way faster and may usually be achieved in the identical day, flying to Longyearbyen, one of many world’s most northerly settlements positioned within the northern reaches of Norway. Surroundings-wise, you’ll be able to anticipate extra free drifting icebergs in Antarctica, whereas cruising within the Arctic usually includes progressing by means of pack ice to get to the day’s locations and extra spectacular surroundings, such because the sculpted ice of the Sparreneset headland. 

Antarctic landscapes

Ships that lead expeditions to Antarctica through the northern hemisphere’s winter usually sail as much as Spitsbergen for the Arctic summer time. Certainly one of our present favorite vessels is the MS Expedition. Carrying 132 passengers, the ship has an open-air panoramic commentary deck and cozy interiors.

We suggest vessels that carry fewer than 200 passengers, as they’re able to provide a larger variety of journeys on the zodiacs. However cruising within the polar areas is absolutely concerning the high quality of the guiding and now we have been impressed by the expedition leaders on MS Expedition. All are polar journey veterans and stay and breathe their specialisms.

A walrus in the Arctic

Polar Packing Suggestions

Some cruises present expedition jackets, however you must also pack thermals, waterproof trousers, and not less than two pairs of gloves (swap them over whereas one pair is drying out). 

Lastly – and surprisingly – don’t underestimate the necessity for polarised sun shades and solar cream: the ozone layer is thinnest on the poles, and the solar’s glare throughout miles and miles of sensible whiteness could be blinding. The slightest motion, whether or not a tickle of wind or the sluggish rumble of the boat’s engine, blurs the picture, just like the light wash of a brush over a fragile watercolour portray.

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