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Antarctica remains the last vast wilderness on earth. A continent encircled by pack ice, huge tabular icebergs and covered with an ice sheet miles deep. A beautiful mysterious place, enticing explorers, adventurers and dreamers over the decades. Remote, inhospitable and without permanent inhabitants. It is the windiest and highest continent, which is capped by an ice sheet over 4 km thick in places. Antarctica is 58 times larger than the United Kingdom, and surrounded in winter by a vast girdle of sea ice larger in area than the continent itself.
For many, perhaps, the most appealing aspect of Antarctica is its wildlife. Although there are only a few native species, those that have adapted to the harsh environment thrive in large numbers. Seals, whales and Penguin populations are counted in the tens of thousands in some rookeries. One of the characteristics of the south polar region is that its birds and mammals (such as seals and whales) depend on the sea. In the end, the penguins evolved to a swimming way of living and because they had no land-predators to fear, they lost their ability to fly.
Antarctica is so vast that only a small portion of it can be explored during a two week period. The Antarctic Peninsula, that part of the continent that points toward the tip of South America, is so long that it spans 12 degrees of latitude, approximately 1200 km or 800 miles.
Humans never inhabited Antarctica and exploration of the continent is relatively recent. New discoveries continue to be made. In 2007, for example, our vessels, while exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, sailed uncharted waters.
Antarctica is devoid of power lines, billboards, and highways. There are no designer coffee shops or cellular networks. When the engines are turned off, the only sounds you hear are natural - wildlife, water and the occasional boom of icebergs calving. If you listen closely, you can hear your heart beating with excitement!
Antarctica's key role in global processes is now recognised. The ice sheet holds 90% of the world's fresh water, which, if melted, would raise sea level by 65 m. The ice sheet drives the Southern Hemisphere weather patterns and modulates world climate.
The 'Polar Pioneer' is modern and comfortable oceanographic research vessels. Built in 1985 in Finland, designed as ice-strengthened vessels, and now converted for passenger use is ideally suited for expedition cruising.
'Polar Pioneer' departs from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Ushuaia is the Southern-most city in the world and is located in the shadow of the Andes, right on the shore of Beagle Channel, one of world’s most stunning locations. Flights to Ushuaia commonly depart from Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Arriving at least 1 day prior to departure will help you acclimatise to the time difference and relax after your long flight from either Buenos Aires or Santiago. Expect wonderful views of the Beagle Channel, and the peaks of the "Five Brothers" from the airplane on its descent.
Antarctic wildlife is at its most active during the southern summer, November - March. The beauty and solitude of Antarctic seas and mountains conceals the frantic activity of the shoreline colonies of birds and mammals.
Summer arrives first in the South Shetland Islands and spreads south along the Antarctic Peninsula. As the Antarctic year progresses, from spring to autumn, the Antarctic Peninsula and Islands change in appearance and character, each season offering a different range of spectacular sights and possibilities to the visitor.
In Antarctica’s warmest months wildlife activities are in full swing. Most penguin chicks hatch in January, earliest in the South Shetland Islands and later more to the south at the Peninsula. The frantic activity continues in the colonies in February as the young get older and bolder and are gathering in crèches.
Nightly Darkness returns as the sun sinks farther below the southern horizon, but temperatures are still above zero, though we may experience a touch of Antarctic winter with night frosts, creating beautiful patterns of thin sea ice on the surface. The snow cover is at its minimum allowing for easy and extensive walks in the South Shetland Islands.
Requirements for Divers
These voyages are not for beginners, you’ll have to be an experienced diver (Open Water Advanced) and must be familiar with cold water diving and dry suit diving (at least 20 dives). Before departure you will have to show an internationally accepted diving certificate, diver’s log book and your Personal Information Form a health statement stating that you are physically healthy to practice scuba diving.
The voyage will start with a checkout-dive so all divers can get used to the cold water and adjust their weights and equipment. Before each dive, there will be a briefing about the location of the site, the weather and ice conditions and the procedure of the dive.
Participants must demonstrate capability in the primary skills required by cold water diving:
Cleaning the mask out of water; Changing the main regulator to the reserve one and vice versa; Tapping into the buddy reserve regulator; Conducting an emergency rising to the surface breathing by means of the buddy reserve regulator; Controlling one's buoyancy;
Communicating with the buddy and with the tender; Only for Ice Diving: Overturning upside down under ice and getting back to the standard position.
It will be necessary to demonstrate these abilities to the Dive Staff in the course of the check dive. Divers without the necessary experience are kindly asked to abort diving and join the land programme for non-divers.
We plan at least two dives per day (except for days at sea), but an exact number of dives cannot be given. It all depends on ice and weather conditions.
You must be in good physical and mental health. Any physical condition requiring special attention, diet, or treatment must be reported in writing when the reservation is made. Waterproof Expeditions reserves the right to decline acceptance of any person as a member of a program.
Ice diving requires an extensive amount of additional equipment because of the cold weather and water, and the remote location involved. Diving is no fun if you are cold.
Divers in cold water may have a higher air consumption rate, expend more energy, and can become more fatigued. Cold water also decreases a diver’s ability to perform complex tasks that require manual dexterity.
Staying warm is an important element in your polar diving adventure.
The dive operation on board provides tanks, a compressor and weights. Each diver needs to bring his own equipment. Before you come on board you must have tested your equipment to make sure you are comfortable with it and it is not damaged.
Normal regulators will not function in sub-freezing water as both the first and second stage will freeze. You are required to bring two sets of regulators (1st & 2nd stage), suitable for cold-water/ice diving. Some regulators can be fitted with an environmental seal kit, others come environmentally sealed from the manufacturer.
To avoid regulator malfunction, regulators must be cared for properly before, during and after diving. Regulators should be kept dry and warm before the dive; store them in your cabin. Avoid breathing from the regulator before submersion, except to briefly ensure it is functioning, but when doing so, exhale after removing the regulator from your mouth so as to avoid freezing the second stage with moisture from the exhaled breath.
If during the dive your primary regulator freezes up and causes a free flow, you should switch to you back-up regulator, and turn off the valve to the primary regulator to stop the free flow. The dive must be aborted in any case.
You need two sets of regulators;
1st set includes:
Freeze protected First stage, Second stage (incl. hose), Hose for BC, Pressure gage / computer
2nd set includes: Freeze protected First stage , Second stage (incl. hose), Hose for Dry suit
Diving is an equipment intensive activity. Ice diving requires an extensive amount of additional equipment because of the cold weather and water, and the remote location involved. Diving is no fun if you are cold. Divers in cold water may have a higher air consumption rate, expend more energy, and can become more fatigued. Cold water also decreases a diver’s ability to perform complex tasks that require manual dexterity. Staying warm is an important element in your polar diving adventure.