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Why Should You Cross the Antarctic Circle?

I’ve sent over a thousand travelers to Antarctica and I always know I’m working with a special kind of person when they ask to cross the Antarctic Circle. Circle trips are some of the most adventurous trips to Antarctica. Your ship is heading into much less traveled waters and the animals and ice you’ll see as you dip down into the Weddell Sea or into the farther reaches of the Bellingshausen Sea are going to offer extremely rare experiences handed out to only a select few: you, your shipmates,

and the others who have crossed the Circle before you.

What’s so special about crossing the Antarctic Circle? The Circle at 66.5 degrees south of the Equator is special in one way because it marks the southernmost point on Earth at which the sun is visible above the horizon on the summer solstice, and at which the sun is visible below the horizon on the winter solstice. It’s also special because it’s very hard to get to and hardly anyone has. Every year, trip operators offer just a handful of voyages heading down below the Circle and if you choose to be onboard, here are some of the extraordinary moments waiting for you:

Weddell Seals: Below the Antarctic Circle, particularly in the Weddell Sea region, you’ll get to encounter the largest population of Weddell Seals on the planet. Scientists estimate that there are over 800,000 Weddell Seals in the world and most of them live here. Weddell Seals are important indicators of the Antarctic marine system’s overall health both because they are sensitive to changes in sea ice and temperature and also because they are top predators and changes to their diet and well being suggest changes in their food sources such as krill, squid, and fish populations plus the effects of added pollutants.

Tabular Icebergs: Tabular icebergs are large, flat, table-top shaped bergs which can be several kilometers in length. They often break free of large ice shelves and float out to sea. Below the Antarctic Circle, tabular icebergs are very common here, and they often inspire awe due to their massive size and striking appearance. The Weddell Sea-side of the Antarctic Peninsula is known as a home to many great tabular icebergs and once you’ve seen one of these beauties, you’ll know you’ve been somewhere very special.

Circle Ceremonies: Almost all expedition ships that carry travelers across the Antarctic Circle engage in ceremonial activities to mark this momentous occasion. These activities can include:

  • A Polar Plunge or a quick, bitterly cold swim in some of the iciest waters on earth.

  • A reading of the Polar Charter, a document created by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) which is dedicated to the preservation of this spectacular place.

  • A Champagne Toast to commemorate the boldness of explorers who came before and the group crossing the Circle now.

  • A Visit from Father Neptune or King Neptune often in the guise of a costumed crew member carrying a trident. An old maritime tradition, crew members or passengers who have never crossed the Circle are referred to by an arrogant King Neptune as “Pollywogs” and are initiated into the circle of “Shellbacks” or seasoned sailors who have crossed the Circle before.

There are many variations of the ceremony offered for actually crossing the Circle, yet all of these are reminders of the dangers and challenges of seafaring and the importance of honoring the great, unknowable force that is The Sea.

Why else should you cross the Antarctic Circle? One reason is to experience the spectacularly pristine and beautiful habitat of these untouched lands. Antarctica offers a glimpse of what the world would look like if it didn’t have any humans on it, and the Circle region in particular is so very remote that it truly is like visiting another planet.

Are you ready to surrender your Pollywog status and cross the Circle? If yes, Wild Nectar’s ships such as Le Lyrial, the Expedition, and the Ultramarine among others are standing by to ferry you to this wonderful icy paradise. My travelers have cherished their Circle trips, and my extensive knowledge of what you can expect is here to guide you too if you’re ready to go. Contact us!

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