Southern Ocean Cruises

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Southern Ocean cruises transport travelers to unique, dramatic territories on elegant tall ships and powerful, polar icebreakers. Ferrying passengers to spots that cruise liners cannot enter, these rugged sailing vessels let travelers experience the wintry wonders of Antarctica and the Arctic, aboard Southern Ocean cruises. For travelers who seek adventure in out-of-the-way regions of the planet, Arctic and Antarctic voyages are spectacular.

The Arctic has been explored for centuries by Europeans trying to find the all-important Northwest Passage, which is still a highly-prized shipping goal today. Global warming may make it possible for ice-free shipping lanes to appear among the archipelago islands of northern Canada, which will create a modern Northwest Passage. European explorers also sought to find an ocean route around the southern coast of South America, instead of around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, which for years was the only sea course from Europe to the East Indies and the South Pacific.

Southern Ocean Cruises Are Unforgettable Adventures

Trips on Southern Ocean cruises are memorable on whatever type of ship. The floating cities that are ocean liners provide lavish entertainment and comfortable accommodations, while travelling through the outer reaches of the Arctic Circle and the ice-free zones around Antarctica. For close-up encounters with crackling glaciers, stunning fjords, and busy penguins, however, Arctic and Antarctic expeditions require maneuverable boats, which can provide travelers with unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime journeys.

How exhilarating to be on a Russian icebreaker as it grinds its way to within skiing distance of the North Pole! Imagine being on the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov as it transverses the historic Amundsen Passage, route of the first successful Northwest Passage. On Southern Ocean cruises, sail a tall ship through the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, named the Land of Fire by Magellan.

Round the Horn on Southern Ocean Cruises

One of the ultimate tests of seamanship and courage is "rounding the Horn" in a sailing vessel. Cape Horn, or Cabo de Hornos in Spanish, lies at the southernmost tip of South America. This promontory is not spectacular in appearance--it's the seas, winds, and currents surrounding this point that have made it notorious in seafaring lore.

Over 800 shipwrecks and 10,000 sailors' lives lost have created a worldwide apprehension among ship crews about sailing around the Horn. Despite better knowledge, equipment, and sailing ships, Cape Horn is still a threat today. Nevertheless, it is successfully navigated by tall ships whose summer itineraries carry passengers "round the Horn."

Of Penguins, Condors and Albatrosses

Passengers on Southern Ocean cruises on sailboats can get close-up views of the abundant wildlife around Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. Birds--flightless, soaring, and pelagic--are among the most awesome creatures in the territory. Magellanic penguins nest at the southern edge of South America in grassy hummocks; busy little Gentoo penguins preen, yawn, feed chicks, chase each other, and squabble.

Condors are the largest land birds, and albatrosses are the largest sea birds. Both these awesome creatures are common in southern South America and will probably be spotted on Southern Ocean cruises. Their enormous wingspans give them the power needed to cope with the fierce winds in this turbulent region. Eco tours are geared toward viewing and investigating--without disturbing--the many delightful, exotic, and extraordinary creatures that inhabit the southernmost reaches of the earth.


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