Weddell Sea voyage
Little can compare to the experience of flying low over the Weddell Sea, where the deep blue sea is chocked with blindingly white icebergs. As you approach the ice edge you might see the occasional Emperor Penguin traversing the distance between the sea and their colony. The helicopter aims to land roughly a mile from the Emperor penguin colony, with us traveling that last distance on foot. With likely just a single boat visiting the colony each year we are as much a novelty for the chicks, as they are to us…
The ice-choked Weddell Sea is located east of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here Emperor Penguins breed on the fast sea ice, with their most accessible colony being near Snow Hill Island. This is where you find fluffy Emperor Penguin chicks being tended by adults, who must continually march back and forth miles across the sea ice to open water to feed. Visiting the colony is a challenge, requiring both an ice-strengthened ship able to navigate the Weddell Sea, as well as helicopters to get participants between the ship and within walking distance of the colony across the ice. Occasional programs are offered, always early in the season (October or November when the sea ice is still fast). Even with the right vessel and equipment there are no guarantees of success as the weather is the real master of any voyage here. If you don’t make it to the actual colony your chances of still seeing Emperor Penguins on the ice near Snow Hill are fairly good.
An early season expedition to the Weddell Sea will typically include additional landings on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands, with abundant wildlife sightings for sure!
At this time the Ortelius is the only Antarctic vessel suited for this voyage, with an adequately ice-strengthened hull plus deck and garage space to carry 2 helicopters. They attempt the voyage annually, in November.
For more information on this remote and extraordinary destination drop us a line! Typical programs schedule roughly 4 days in the Weddell Sea / Antarctic Sound area, with a possible two days if conditions are perfect trying for the Snow Hill Emperor Penguin colony.
The likelihood of finding individual Emperor Penguins, or small groups, is very high on these voyages. The likelihood however of reaching the Snow Hill colony is only roughly 50% owing to possible sea ice and/or wind conditions (we’ve made the voyage twice ourselves - both of which were absolutely magical - and only reached the colony with chicks once).
Truly, nothing compares to flying low over the Weddell Sea, dotted with gleaming while icebergs - large and small - set against the cold blue ocean. Our goal is a landing site on the fast ice, roughly a mile from the Emperor penguin colony