Simply breathtaking. Marvel in a whole new way. Discover the unique emotions and most fascinating aspects of the sixth continent on expeditions with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Majestic, lofty glaciers spread out between steep, jagged mountain chains all the way to the sea. The magnificent spectacle of enormous tabular icebergs. A diverse animal kingdom that will leave nature lovers astounded. Wherever possible, the Zodiacs will take you to the heart of this glittering wonderland - perhaps several times a day. This is much more than an exploration of the Antarctic: this is fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Your exploration of the sixth continent will be shaped by moving life stories and heroic ventures. In 1772, as he sailed towards the South Pole, James Cook still had no idea that he would become the very first forerunner of expeditions to the Antarctic. The search for a southern continent and the concept of a warm climate came to an icy end in 1820 when the Russian officer Thaddeus von Bellingshausen spotted terra incognita for the first time. Around 100 years later, a race took place between the Norwegian polar researcher Roald Amundsen and the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. After the Norwegian became the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, Scott's compatriot Ernest Shackleton wanted to restore the honour of the British by crossing the Antarctic. His ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice. The trapped explorers only escaped thanks to his legendary escape plan. The many attempts at exploration and research have since filled libraries with history books and expert literature. And in spite of this - or perhaps because of it - the continent of superlatives remains so appealing to would-be adventurers and researchers. Roughly 89 % of the total ice mass of our planet is to be found there. At an average of 2,250 m (7,381 ft) above sea level, it is the highest continent, not to mention the driest and coldest. But if you take on these extremes, you will be rewarded with unique experiences - and our expedition ships will get you there safely.
The ice will be the defining element of your expedition. As they have the highest ice class for passenger ships, our expedition ships can even navigate through thick ice fields. The ship easily shifts broken pack ice to the side and, if necessary, can sail through a solid ice cover of around 50 cm/20 in (HANSEATIC and BREMEN) resp. 90 cm/35 in (HANSEATIC nature and HANSEATIC inspiration) thick. The otherwise infinite silence is broken by the crunching and cracking of the ice - an explorer's symphony composed by nature. The enormous tabular icebergs which float close enough to touch also seem carved by a master sculptor. The further south you travel, the more bizarre the ice formations become. Light and shadows play with the strange ice architecture, bathing it in deep blue, transparent turquoise and infinite nuances of white. Rugged bays, intricate channels and narrow waterways with imposing rock faces on both sides also hold the promise of spectacular passages. For example, the ship might sail slowly up to within safe distance of a calving glacier. A house-sized chunk of the gleaming blue ice edge breaks off impressively and causes a wave of excitement to travel through all the spectators. These are all impressions for eternity.
Where no ports are available, these robust motorised inflatable rubber boats are the only way to reach the shore. With their 36 h.p. engines, they are not just a means of transport but also floating observation decks. The specially trained Zodiac drivers are familiar with variable ice conditions and will allow you to thoroughly explore the secrets of this isolated natural paradise. Circumnavigating gigantic icebergs, you will enjoy unique perspectives of rugged glacial cliffs with deep-blue crevices. At other times, the engine will be switched off so that you can watch seals and whales appear right before your eyes.
Illuminated by knowledge, the Antarctic seems even more impressive. Each expedition will therefore be accompanied by up to five experts with different specialisations. Skilled lecturers and discussion partners on board, they are also informative guides when ashore. Biologists and geologists, glaciologists and historians, they will inspire you with their fascinating talks and background knowledge - be it the story of the Antarctic's origins, the physical wonder of the ice, the breeding behaviour of the penguins or how whales breathe. Our experts' inexhaustible wealth of knowledge will allow you to delve even deeper into the wildlife and the various regions you will encounter on your expedition.
In this spectacular icy frontier, all itineraries for the expedition ships focus on spontaneity. Each day, the course is reset depending on the local conditions. The captains and their team have a wealth of experience in the Antarctic. Together with their feel for great expedition moments, they will provide you with unforgettable impressions. If, for example, whales should suddenly appear and begin to circle in the stunning polar light, the ship will follow them for a while. After all, natural spectacles cannot be postponed until the next day - and yet they become almost a daily feature when on board.
Over the course of their evolution, millions of seabirds, thousands of penguins and seals have adapted perfectly to the Antarctic - thanks to an immense supply of krill in this region. Your expeditions with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will bring you particularly close to these fascinating creatures.
You will have many close encounters with polar birds on every expedition - from the Falkland Islands and South Georgia to the Antarctic Peninsula. Almost all of the species are true seabirds which spend most of the year at sea, where the water almost always serves as a source of food. Standing on the deck, you will always have the best chance of spotting these animals. In the short Antarctic summer - the time of your expedition - the birds head for land to breed on the few ice-free areas. You can reach these otherwise inaccessible breeding areas on a Zodiac. For example, Petrels nest on hills or cliff faces. With a wingspan in excess of over 2 m (6.5 ft), many resemble the Albatross, which has undoubtedly appointed itself the king of the polar skies: with a wingspan of up to 3.5 m (11.4 ft), they are one of the largest birds that are able to fly. Cormorants have developed a perfect method of hunting underwater: they propel themselves with their feet and steer with their tails. The experts on board will soon enlighten you as to which of the almost 20 species of birds that breed in the Antarctic is currently circling above the ships or escorting them for a stretch.
With their wings remodelled as fins, penguins are ideally suited to life in water. Their "underwater flight", the streamlined form of their body and their manoeuvrability when swimming and diving make it possible for them to hunt their main prey - krill, fish and octopus. This manoeuvrability also allows them to quickly escape their main predators, leopard seals and killer whales. They only come ashore or onto the ice to reproduce, raise their chicks and moult. An impressive spectacle awaits you when you land on one of the shore areas of South Georgia on a Zodiac: several hundred thousand king penguins standing there, packed closely together. A closely knit tapestry of colourful heads with the typical orange stripes. Many have an egg nestled under the feathery bulge of their stomach folds, which is incubated for 54 days until the chick emerges. Stray chicks which have already hatched pester their parents for food. By contrast, Adelie penguins, which can be identified by the white ring around their eyes, can be seen holding a feeding race for their young: at the end of the 100 m (328 ft) race, one chick will be fed whilst the chick in second place and any others will be turned away. Their "neighbours" also make life difficult for them: other penguins tirelessly steal stones from neighbouring pebble nests in order to make their own homes more comfortable. There are estimated to be around 7.5 million chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands off the coast. They breed on cliffs and hillsides as well as on the coast. The breeding sites of gentoo penguins, whose cries will make their presence known from afar, are no less animated. Their cries sound like those of donkeys. Their chicks emerge after just five weeks, leave their parents after almost three months and disappear into the sea.
These diverse marine mammals will practically escort the expedition. These animals can be seen swimming in the open water and resting on ice floes and beaches: fur seals, Weddell seals, leopard seals and crabeater seals, to name but a few. Elephant seals, in particular, will play a significant role in your sightings. Closely packed, they lie next to each other on the beaches. Ashore, their size - up to 5 m (16.4 ft) long and 4 metric tonnes (4.4 short tons) in weight - makes it difficult for them to move. But in the sea, these colossal creatures are true record holders: they can dive to a depth of up to 1,400 m (4,593 ft) in search of food and remain underwater for almost two hours.
During your expedition, whales will often make their presence felt with spouts of water. Some species can even be identified by the direction of the water clouds they spout: for example, the sperm whale blows to the front and left, while the blue whale blows particularly high into the air. A dorsal or tail fin breaking the surface is often the precursor to an encounter with a whale. The humpack whale makes an impressive entrance when it leaps out of the water. At up to 15 m (49 ft) in length and 45 metric tonnes (49.6 short tons) in weight, spectators can expect a true wave of excitement. These "marine acrobats" are surpassed in weight by the fin whale: these hermits of the ocean can reach 100 years of age, 25 metres in length and over 70 metric tonnes (77 short tons) in weight. They consume up to 2 metric tonnes (2.2 short tons) of krill per day. In addition to baleen whales, you will also witness toothed whales such as the orca, also known as the killer whale, in the waters of the Antarctic. Be it in the water, on the ice or in the air, in this ecosystem you can marvel at the poignant circle of life from a respectful distance. Can there be any more fascinating chances of unforgettable animal observations than on an Antarctic expedition? See for yourself - on board, ashore or in a Zodiac on any of our cruises.