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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Lemaire Channel

The Lemaire Channel runs from False Cape Renard to the north through to Cape Cloos down in the south. It is one of Antarctica’s top attractions. The most spectacular stretch is located between the mainland Antarctic Peninsular and Booth Island. The strait is 11 km long and 1,600 metres wide at its narrowest point. It was first discovered by a German expedition in 1873-74, but it was a Belgian expedition in 1898 that first traversed it. It is named after the Belgian Congo explorer Charles Lemaire.  

Its steep cliffs and iceberg-filled passage give it a beauty that has earned it the nickname of Kodak Gap. Its protected waters are as still as a lake, making it ideal for cruising. Visitors should be warned that the passage can become blocked by icebergs in the early part of the season. At the northern end of Lemaire Channel are two snow-capped twin peaks known as Una’s Tits which are also a popular photo opportunity for tourists.

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Why visit Lemaire Channel ?


Lemaire Channel location iamge - CruiseDirection

One of Antarctica’s top attractions

Named after the Belgian Congo explorer Charles Lemaire

In addition to the beautiful scenery, visitors may be able to observe Orcas and humpback whales. South of the Lemaire Channel are a group of islands that include the Pleneau and Peterman Islands. Unfortunately, sea ice makes these islands virtually inaccessible to cruise ships. However, there are plenty of penguin rookeries and Elephant Seals can often be seen lying on the beaches. Visitors may also witness glacial calving, which is when a large block of ice detaches itself from a glacier and plunges spectacularly into the sea. Tours usually include trips in a Zodiac so that the impressive, sheer cliffs can be viewed from a low-lying perspective. There may also be landings on the shore.  

Antarctica is not a place to visit in the winter. The ice prevents access by ships; it is extremely cold and dark almost 24 hours a day. The tourist season covers only the four months from November to February. November is early summer in Antarctica and at this time the ice is breaking up and the penguins are mating. In December and January the penguin chicks are hatching. This is the height of the austral summer and the temperatures are warmer with up to 20 hours of sunlight each day. February is late summer and this is the ideal time for whale watching. The penguin chicks are beginning to fledge and the moulting adult penguins are also on shore.  

Other factors to consider when you are booking your cruise is that cruises later in the season tend to be less crowded, therefore you will spend less time waiting around for Zodiacs and station tours. However, you need to time it carefully if you are interested in the wildlife. If you leave it too late, most of the animals will have headed out to sea. If you are interested in seeing something on shore such as Ross Island’s historic huts, then the later you leave the better. The ice that that tends to form early in the season, would make it impossible to visit the island.

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