Antarctica Superstars Above and Under the Ice
For the pioneering spirit that in is in you…
I am inviting you to join me on an exclusive and epic BigAnimals expedition: snorkeling in Antarctica with the Emperor penguin and the Leopard seal.
Curious? Read on…
I am proud to say that I have succeeded in putting together an adventure for mere mortals like you and me, emulating the unique style and the heroic productions of BBC and National Geographic teams.
We have all been intrigued by the March of the Penguins and the noted BBC production Frozen Planet. I have also, and ever since I have been searching for in-water activities to experience the “Superstar” wildlife of Antarctica.
I have found what I was looking for around Snow Hill Island. That is where we find Emperor penguins, Leopard seals and possibly Orcas involved in spectacular predation activity. Snow Hill Island is a remote island located at the heart of the Weddell Sea.
During the spring months, (September – December in the Southern Hemisphere) this area is still covered by thick ice, making it impossible to reach. This rare Emperor penguin rookery was found only five years ago. Emperor chicks hatch out of their eggs by October, and by late November/early December, they are ready to go out to sea.
To prepare for this adventure, I have extensively interviewed other expedition leaders who have been on the island (though no one among them has been snorkeling, only cruising with Zodiacs or exploring on the island). I learned that the Leopard seal arrives just when the Emperor chicks start to go to the water and possibly at the same time the Orcas make their appearance. This was valuable information! Therefore I have selected the trip date for snorkeling and in-water activity for Dec. 4 – 14, 2012.
To execute this ambitious operation, I have reached out to Oceanwide Expeditions, a company that pioneered in diving in Antarctica. I’ve been working with them for 14 seasons. Oceanwide Expeditions has just introduced a new itinerary for the 300 ft. long Ortelius – the vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A), and is therefore very suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice and is able to loosen multiyear pack ice. Oceanwide brought in two helicopters from New Zealand, and now we have an operation that can do almost anything, anywhere, and safely.
Due to permanent ice conditions in the Weddell Sea and in the early part of the season, for safety reasons the vessel has to stay about 40 miles off Snow Hill Island. We will use the helicopters to shuttle most of the 100 passengers to the island. The landing is about 2 miles away from the rookery. Divers escorted by the dive master and myself will be shuttled to the Emperor penguins point of entry to the sea.
To illustrate my close cooperation with Oceanwide Expeditions and my commitment to making the unique snorkeling activity a success, I will be joining the early departure on November 24, working aboard the ship with the captain, helicopter pilots and the expedition leader.
I have also managed to bring aboard my favorite guide in Antarctica, Jamie Watts, one of the world’s most experienced guides in the Antarctic. As you can see, I’m inspired and driven to make this Antarctica experience another “first” and a BigAnimals adventure like no other.