What to Watch for When Going Ashore in Antarctica?
In Antarctica, access to most of the shoreline is obstructed by tidewater glaciers. Ice-free landing sites are highly prized by tourists and animals alike. While guidelines are in place to prevent you from encountering people from other ships while ashore, it's likely you will be sharing your landing sites with an abundance of animals! It's also likely that explorers from the Age of Discovery had previously set foot where you will be standing. When enjoying a landing in the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands or South Georgia, watch for these special features of the unique Southern Ocean environment.
During the breeding season in
The waters of the Southern Ocean are home to millions of marine mammals, including huge numbers of seals. Unlike in the Arctic and other parts of the world, the seals of Antarctica feel free to come ashore at just about any landing site because there are no large terrestrial predators roaming the shorelines. Sometimes, seals can be found a considerable distance from the sea. On the
You may be surprised to see plants when you come ashore anywhere south of the Antarctic Convergence. South Georgia supports an abundance of plant life, including large stands of tussock grass, especially near penguin colonies. Also on the South Shetland Islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula itself, there are some very hardy plants to be found. The Plant Kingdom is represented here mostly by mosses, but there are also a few species of vascular plants. Great care should be taken not to trample the rare and fragile greenery on the White Continent. While not technically plants, lichens are also important members of the ecological community and can be found on exposed rock surfaces. Be careful not to crush them underfoot, as they grow extremely slowly and specimens might be hundreds of years old. You’ll also be asked by your guides to thoroughly clean the pockets and cuffs of your outdoor clothing, particularly those items using Velcro, to ensure you are not transporting any seeds from back home. These are considered invasive species, and are definitely to be avoided when traveling to Antarctica.
Antarctica never had an indigenous population, but explorers and entrepreneurs have left evidence of their visits. Though the weather can be severe in Antarctica, the cold temperature actually helps to preserve historical remains. Explorers’ huts, wooden rowboats, shipwrecks, whaling equipment and other evidence of early exploration can be found in places throughout the Antarctic Peninsula and on South Georgia. You can also keep an eye out for inscriptions in rock faces – but under no circumstances leave one of your own!