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Incredible Antarctica: The Wilderness At Earth's End (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/02/2012 7:00 am

Antarctica is a landscape of superlatives: Stunningly beautiful in a very big way, it harbors the largest amount of freshwater ice in the world and it sits on top of a salty sea. These icebergs are huge beyond description, regularly the size of large buildings and occasionally the size of small states.

Think Rhode Island, but crystalline.

The seas are also teeming with life -- humpback and killer whales, five different kinds of seals -- and shorelines studded with thousands of penguins. And the air is so clear you can see seemingly forever.

Head south in November or December and you'll arrive to witness an explosion of life as the long polar night and the harshness of winter retreat. The snow is virgin and the animals are multitudinous. It may be the summer in the southern hemisphere, but these cold-weather types never seem to mind.

More exciting than Rhode Island.

All photos were shot during expeditions aboard the National Geographic Explorer..

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  • Zodiac alongside penguins

    Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests pass a colony of penguins aboard a Zodiac. ©Ralph Lee Hopkins <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Leopard seal

    Leopard seal on the Antarctic ice. ©Ralph Lee Hopkins <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Iceberg arch

    Zodiac landing crafts offer guests up-close, water-level explorations. ©Stewart Cohen <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Kayaking past penguins

    The water roils with gentoo penguins alongside Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests kayaking a calm cove in Antarctica. The kayaks aboard <em>National Geographic Explorer</em> are designed especially for polar use. ©Michael S Nolan <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Adélie penguin pair

    An adult Adélie penguin pair leaping into the sea from an ice floe in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. ©Michael S Nolan <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • The golden hour in Lindblad Cove

    Long days of light extend the golden hours for photography. Every Antarctica expedition aboard National Geographic Explorer offers unprecedented access to a National Geographic Photographer on hand to offer shooting tips in the field. Photo ©Brooks de Wetter-Smith <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • A walk on the ice

    It’s in the early season (Oct.-Nov.) when the Captain can adroitly “park” <em>National Geographic Explorer</em>, allowing guests to disembark directly on the ice. ©Michael S Nolan <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Hiking on the continent

    Hikers at Neko Harbor. Being among the first in the early season gives new meaning to the term "virgin snow." The landscapes are utterly pristine and perfect for photos. ©Ralph Lee Hopkins <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Iceberg, Lindblad Cove

    An iceberg in Lindblad Cove. Named for Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered “citizen” expeditions to Antarctica. In 1996, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names recognized Lindblad’s contribution to Antarctica by officially designating a section of Charcot Bay as “Lindblad Cove.” Their letter stated that, “A noted conservationist, Mr. Lindblad operated the first cruise to Antarctica in 1966 and was a leader in the concept of expedition tourism as a means of environmental awareness.” Today, <em>National Geographic Explorer</em> occasionally calls at Lindblad Cove. A toast is invariably made to the memory of Lars-Eric by the ship’s staff, many of whom first traveled to Antarctica with him onboard the Lindblad Explorer. ©Sven-Olof Lindblad <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Cutting through the ice

    National Geographic Explorer leaves a crushed-ice channel in her wake as she heads into her “parking” position on November and December Antarctica expeditions. ©Sven-Olof Lindblad <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Kayaking past a leopard seal

    Guests enjoy an up-close encounter with a Weddell seal. ©Sven-Olof Lindblad <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Chinstrap penguin

    Chinstrap penguin colony in a snowstorm on Half Moon Island near Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. There are an estimated 2 million plus breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula region alone, perhaps as many as 7.5 million breeding pairs in all of Antarctica. ©Michael S Nolan <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Exploring by Zodiac

    Guests exploring by Zodiac. ©Sven-Olof Lindblad <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • Adélie penguins

    Adélie penguins take the plunge. ©Sven-Olof Lindblad <a href="http://www.expeditions.com/antarctica/index.aspx?" target="_hplink">Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic</a>

  • National Geographic Explorer

    Guests on the open bow of <em>National Geographic Explorer</em>. Deck time is riveting as we watch the Captain maneuver through the leads, listening to the crunch as our ice-strengthened bow drives through the retreating sea ice. ©Stewart Cohen Explore Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

 

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