What makes springtime such a special time of the year for you? Is it the blossoming of flowers, the bouncing enthusiasm of new lambs or just the warmer weather? Whatever it is for you, spring represents the start of new growth and potential. While the outlook isn’t quite as green, spring in Antarctica (October to December) is still the time when everything starts to change. The sun emerges from its winter hibernation, the animals start their breeding cycles and the landscape is at its purest.
At Aurora Expeditions, spring in Antarctica is our favourite time of the year because it heralds the beginning of our Antarctic season!
Spring in Antarctica – waking a sleepy, icy continent
It’s fair to say that Antarctica during winter is not a pleasant place to be. The days consist of almost 24 hours of darkness a day, temperatures well below -50 degrees Celsius, unrelenting winds and heavy blizzards. Needless to say, only the heartiest of scientists and adventurers explore the frozen continent in winter.
Of course, even the darkest and coldest of winters eventually come to an end. Spring in Antarctica brings the potential for new beginnings, life and growth. This makes it a very special time to visit.
Crossing the Drake Passage aboard the Greg Mortimer or our new ship, the Sylvia Earle, you’ll witness the seasons changing in real time as you the ship smashes through pack ice. By November, pack ice is more slushy than solid, but it is still fascinating to watch.
Once you reach the Subantarctic Islands, the clean spring landscape will take your breath away. The pristine ice and wind-swept beaches are preserved by the poor weather conditions, making it the best time for photography.
As the sun begins to rise again, these landscapes are brought back to life, giving you the opportunity to take spectacular photographs. To take advantage of early season Antarctic light, you can join our free on board photography workshops, hosted by professional photographers.
New life, new bonds, new homes
After months of being subjected to strong winds and blizzards, the wildlife is finally able to get out into the world when spring in Antarctica arrives. For most species, spring represents the start of the most important period – courting and breeding.
For the eight penguin species found in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, the process starts with courting. The males will first establish a nest site out of the snow and then begin both visual and auditory displays to attract a mate. Depending on the species, there are three usual display techniques:
This is where penguins aggressively take possession of the nest site, warding off other males. This can include head swinging, flapping their flippers and squawking.
This is where both male and female penguins attempt to strengthen their bond using similar techniques as above. These displays coordinate nesting behaviour and can be seen across egg incubation and chick feeding.
As a less aggressive form of courtship, penguin partners will dip their heads towards each other. This is both a mark of respect and recognition between partners.
Once courting is successful, penguins will continue to build their nests and breed. However, they aren’t the only species using the spring conditions for romance!
Up on the high cliffs of South Georgia, the wandering albatross courtship dance will also be in full force. Male albatross use their impressive wingspan to impress females. They combine this with groans, rattles, and ‘puck’ sounds. Wandering albatross mate for life so the bond established during this time is vital for both males and females.
With the pack and fast ice beginning to melt, the oceans are also teeming with new life. Warmer waters mean more plentiful feeding for orca and minke whales, while fur and elephant seals come ashore to give birth.
Spring into Adventure
Spring is the only time of year you can participate in certain activities in our comprehensive activity program. This makes it the best time of year for adventure lovers.
Have you ever imagined yourself rolling out your sleeping mat and wriggling into your thermal sleeping bag for a night of camping in Antarctica? If so, the window for this is very small and places are highly sought after, so we encourage people to get in early.
If you want to retrace attempt to repeat the epic 1916 crossing of Sir Ernest Shackleton on foot or skis, you must attempt Shackleton’s Crossing at the very start of the season.
There is also only a short window for people who want to earn the ultimate bragging rights by snowboarding or skiing in Antarctica.