Those of us in the sales & marketing departments at Poseidon Expeditions sometimes take for granted that our prospective travelers know what to expect on an expedition cruise. Yup, we assume too much. Our brochures and website feature great photos and itineraries, focus on our talented team of expedition staff – marine biologists, ornithologists, polar historians and geologists – our comfortable 114-passenger Sea Spirit, and the wildlife that you can expect to see.
This season we have been incredibly lucky with whale encounters! Sarah from the Expedition Team introduced guests to a citizen science project called "Happy Whale" and how to take appropriate photographs for whale photo identification.
While penguins are considered the signature birds of Antarctica, choosing one representative for the Arctic is not an easy task. The great variety of endemic species are annually joined by thousands of migratory birds, all unique and beautiful in their own way.
There are few wildlife experiences as exhilarating as an encounter with a whale. Now add the beauty of the pristine polar environment and you have something truly amazing. In an expedition cruise to the Arctic or Antarctica, you can observe whales from the ship or small Zodiac boats, or even from a kayak. Seeing these gigantic yet gentle and playful creatures in action will be the highlight of any polar trip.
Penguins are the animals most famously associated with Antarctica. They are also one of the most distinctive and beloved of all bird families. They endear themselves to us with their stylish black-and-white coloration, adorable waddling gait, and comical gesticulations of their flightless wings. Visitors to Antarctica will surely find many reasons to love these amazing seabirds during countless penguin encounters. Most commonly seen around the Antarctic Peninsula are the three closely related penguins of the genus Pygoscelis, collectively known as the "brush-tailed penguins".
Albatrosses and Petrels: Southern Ocean Specialists
The immensely productive Southern Ocean supports an extraordinary diversity and abundance of marine life, particularly seabirds. The most numerous and conspicuous of the seabirds flying above these southernmost seas are the albatrosses and petrels, collectively known as “tube-nosed” seabirds. From the deck of a ship bound for Antarctica, one could spend all day watching these graceful birds wheeling just above the waves on outstretched wings. Tube-nosed seabirds are perfectly adapted to a life wandering on the wind across vast open seas, except they have not figured out how to make a nest on the water. For this, they must return to land. Once you catch a glimpse of these beautiful and majestic birds, you will want to follow them over the horizon to the place where they congregate in their millions to raise their young. Your desire will be fulfilled on a polar expedition cruise to South Georgia. Read on to learn more about the albatrosses and petrels breeding on this remote subantarctic island.
The icy waters of Antarctica are home to millions of seals representing several species. Most of them belong to the streamlined and blubber-rich Phocidae family, also known as true or earless seals. Though they are hunted by killer whales in the water, Antarctic seals do not have any natural predators above water. They can be seen hauled out on beaches and sometimes even in the snow far from water. They are often observed reposing placidly on land-fast ice and drifting ice floes. Seals found in Antarctica today are tame and trusting of people and boats. Witnessing this great abundance of docile seals is one of the highlights of an Antarctic expedition cruise. Here are a few seal species frequently encountered on a cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula.
True Seal Species Commonly Seen on an Arctic Cruise Svalbard is home to a huge number of seals. With their thick layers of insulating blubber, true seals (otherwise known as earless seals) are better adapted to these icy waters than are sea lions or fur seals, which are not found in the High Arctic. Unlike their Antarctic relatives, Arctic seals are hunted relentlessly by a fearsome land-based predator—the polar bear. Because of this, you will rarely see Arctic seals hauled out on land. Arctic seals prefer to rest on sea ice or icebergs, though they are not safe from polar bears here either. Witnessing a polar bear stalk a seal on the ice is one of the world’s great wildlife experiences. In Svalbard, seals can be found in all waters from the innermost fjords to the polar ice edge. The best way to see a variety of Arctic seals is to join an expedition cruise. Here are some of the seal species you can see on an Arctic cruise to Svalbard and beyond.
Kayakers have many reasons for putting the Polar Regions at the top of their must-do list of paddling destinations. Foremost among them is the chance to paddle with iconic and charismatic polar wildlife. In this first of our “Notes from the Poseidon expedition team” series, we share with you our experiences guiding paddlers around polar wildlife on cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica.
As part of our interview series, “Best of the Polar Regions”, we asked members of our experienced expedition team what they think are the best polar destinations for birding and photography, as well as their all-time favorite polar expedition cruise.