While approaching the island, remember that no two polar expeditions are alike, particularly this voyage through the icy Weddell Sea, since landings and wildlife sightings are determined by weather and ice conditions, as well as the natural cycles of the wildlife. But it’s exactly this element of the unknown that makes expedition-style travel so exhilarating and adventurous.
That said, our expeditions will have some elements in common, such as landings, wildlife sightings, helicopter sightseeing and ice—truly massive amounts of ice! Having broken away from the ice shelf, large tabular icebergs, so named for their plateau-like flat top and steep sides, will signal your arrival to Antarctica.
Located on sea ice, the Emperor rookery is situated some distance from Snow Hill Island, so your captain will navigate your ship to a position in the ice that’s within helicopter range of the rookery. As we draw near, keep your eyes peeled for curious penguins that may be attracted to the open water by the ship. Deployed in a rotation of flights, our onboard helicopters will land as close to the penguins as possible, yet still at a safe distance (at least 0.75 nautical miles/1.4km), to protect the birds. Since you must carry your own gear to the rookery and back across sea ice several feet thick, you’ll want to keep items in your backpack to a minimum. A must-bring, however, should be your camera.
We encourage everyone—photographers and nature lovers alike—to carry a camera during our rookery visits, because any visit could reward with that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Your Expedition Team will include a professional photographer, who will conduct on-board workshops and assist you on-site to help you get the most out of your camera, whether you’re a newbie or a pro!
Though we can’t predict how many excursions will occur during your stay in the vicinity of the rookery, rest assured that your Expedition Leader will take every possible advantage of good weather and flying conditions, and our intention is to spend as much time as possible in the area, to give you plenty of chances to observe the Emperors in their natural environment.
Since we are visiting earlier in the rearing season than any other expedition, the Emperor chicks are still young, so you may see a few brooding on their parents’ feet or even several huddling together in large communal groups. It’s possible you may catch the impressive sight of a constant trail of adults walking or tobogganing in single file from the sea to the rookery to feed the chicks, and then heading back out again to hunt for more food. Listen closely for a parent trumpeting upon its return to the rookery—the call is instantly recognized by the chick, who whistles in response.
To protect the penguins, we’ll remain at least 15 feet (five meters) away, but you may have the opportunity to encounter them up close. Curious creatures, Emperors are unafraid of humans, and if you stand still and remain quiet, the birds may actually approach you. If you are crouching on the ice, eyes focused down through your camera lens, pause for a moment and slowly look around you—you may find yourself surrounded by the very birds you’ve been trying to photograph!