What makes springtime such a special time of the year for you? Whether it's the blossoming of flowers, the bouncing enthusiasm of new lambs or just the warmer weather, spring represents the start of new growth and potential.
While the outlook isn't as green down in Antarctica, spring (November to early 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 as pure as its ever going to be.
At Aurora Expeditions, spring is the beginning of our Antarctic season – full of activity and excitement.
Spring – waking a sleepy, icy continent
It's fair to say that Antarctica during winter is not a pleasant place to be. With close to 24 hours of darkness a day, temperatures well below -50 degrees Celsius, unrelenting winds and heavy blizzards, only the heartiest of scientists and adventurers explore the frozen continent in winter.
Read more: When is the best time to visit Antarctica?
Of course, even the darkest and coldest of winters eventually come to an end. In Antarctica, spring brings the potential for new beginnings, life and growth – making it a very special time to visit.
As the Polar Pioneer treks towards Antarctica through the Drake Passage, you'll see the changing seasons in real life as the ship smashes its way through pack ice. By November, pack ice is more slushy than solid, but it can still be a mesmerising experience!
Once we're through the pack ice on the In-Depth South Georgia & Antarctica voyage, you'll notice the clean spring landscape. The pristine ice and wind-swept beaches have been preserved by the poor weather conditions, making for top photography experiences. It's the only time of the year where so much of the environment is unspoilt and untouched, a world where life has almost disappeared for months on end.
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As the sun begins to rise again, these landscapes are brought back to life, giving you the opportunity to take spectacular photographs. If you want to take advantage of early season Antarctic light, there is the option to join our free on board photography workshops, which in 2018 will be hosted by acclaimed photographer, Peter Eastway.
New life, new bonds, new homes
After months of being subjected to strong winds and blizzards, the wildlife of Antarctica is finally able to get out into the world when spring arrives. For most species, spring represents the start of the most important period – courting and breeding.
Read more: All about Antarctic penguins
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. There are three usual display techniques (depending on the species) including:
- Ecstatic – Where penguins aggressively take possession of the nest site, warding off other males. This can include head swinging, flapping their flippers and squawking.
- Mutual ecstatic – 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 well.
- Bowing – 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. With the longest wings in nature, it makes sense that male albatross use their impressive wingspan to impress females – combined with groans, rattles, and 'puck' sounds.
Read more: Wildlife Fact File - Wandering Albatross
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.
In-Depth South Georgia & Antarctica voyage
If you're looking for a different perspective on Antarctica, spring is the perfect season to plan your visit. Our In-Depth South Georgia & Antarctica trip departs late November/early December, bound for a spring adventure.
Sound like fun? If you're keen, we have a range of special offers for you to take advantage of. Don't wait to see the beautiful spring Antarctic environment, get in touch with our expert travel team to book today!