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The Antarctic Peninsula

Sweeping over 800 miles north-west from the great continental divide, the Antarctic Peninsula is a bony finger of jagged mountains and islands draped in perpetual ice. Enormous ice-shelves and glaciers calve vast icebergs into the surrounding channels which open and close with the change of the seasons. Seen as an extension to the Andes, the mountains disappear into the ocean along the Scotia Ridge before reappearing some 600 miles later in Tierra del Fuego at the tip of Argentina. Much of the peninsula lies just outside the polar circle at 66° 33’ and its milder climate and relative proximity to South America has provided the perfect base for polar exploration. Foreign research stations arose in the 1950’s, originally conceived to bolster territorial claims, many of them now a tourist attraction. Today, cruises visit the former British base of Port Lockroy, the world’s southernmost museum and navigate past Argentina’s Esperanza base, home to the first Antarctic baby born in 1978. Above all, the Antarctic Peninsula is breathtakingly beautiful. The narrow waterways of the Gerlache, Neumayer and Lemaire Channel glisten with vast icebergs under towering, jagged peaks. The dramatic beaches and cliffs teem with seabirds including 3 species of penguins – Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adelie – while the frozen waters abound with orca, Minke and Humpback whales.