Diving in Antarctica

14.07.2019 by Editor Team

Reading Time: 10min. / Max. Diving Depth: 40m 😉

Not of this world. This is how the Antarctic continent affects visitors. Those who do not shy away from the long journey to the inhospitable ice wilderness will be rewarded with extraordinary impressions.

A place for sleeping caps? On the contrary! For decades researchers have been trying to fathom the icy Sixth Continent. And many a guest also goes diving…

Like on another planet 

Where are two thirds of our planet’s total freshwater stored? Where do minus 70 degrees Celsius prevail in the interior of the continent? And where is the coldest, driest and windiest place on earth? The US Admiral Richard E. Byrd already made acquaintance with this inhospitable place in the 1930s, for five months. “I felt like I was on another planet.

Seven decades later, Swiss underwater photographer Franco Banfi set off for Antarctica diving. “My journey began in Argentina. From here it is only a “stone’s throw” to the hostile continent. To be more precise, I travelled a thousand kilometres on board a Russian research vessel. Through the Beagle Canal I went out into the Atlantic. Down to the notorious Drake Passage. It greeted us with a storm and waves up to ten metres high. No wonder that here off Cape Horn many a ship has become the plaything of the oceans.

Arrival for diving in Antarctica

But we’re lucky. After two days at sea we see the peaks of Brabant and Anvers on the horizon. Forerunners of the Antarctic Peninsula. Humpback whales in sight, signals our expedition leader. The captain changes course and we can already see several specimens in the clear water.

Next stop is Planeau Island. Time for first Antarctic dives. The marine flora and fauna is amazingly colourful here. Altogether about 200 fish species are known here. Many of them are perfectly adapted to life. They have glycoproteins that prevent freezing. The species does not have red blood cells. They get oxygen directly from the water. The penguins are also perfectly adapted. On their excursions through the underwater world they reach depths of up to one hundred metres. They are armed against the icy temperatures with down feathers and a layer of fat.

Diving in the Antarctic Circle

Further dives will follow at the Antarctic Circle. Starfish, anemones and sea cucumbers await us off Detaille Island. In the Lemaire Channel you can find crabs, crabs and sea spiders. A British research station on Gaudier Island is next on our program. Here we get an insight into how people used to do research on the Antarctic continent. While snorkelling we discover a sea leopard.

The way back to Ushuaia leads us again through the Drake Passage. This time she shows herself from her friendly side. The 425 meter high Cape Horn now looks really peaceful. So everything has two sides. Also down here at the other end of the world.

Happy Ice Age 

Antarctic waters are home to about 200 species of fish. So-called glycoproteins serve the fish as a natural “antifreeze”. This is the only way they can withstand minus temperatures.

Gigantic elemental force 

How small is a human being in view of massive icebergs that rise out of the ocean like a huge bow of a ship? How courageous is the diver who faces this ice-cold elemental force!

Hunters and hunted 

The menu of the sea leopard includes fish, birds and mammals. The Antarctic predators are particularly fond of penguins.

Sweet props

The small seal doesn’t mind the frosty temperatures in the eternal ice. For us humans, however, visiting the coldest, windiest and driest place on earth is an enormous challenge.

Diving in Antarctica at a glance 

Arrival: to Ushuaia/Argentina via Buenos Aires. A passport valid for another six months is required.

The ship: A Russian research ship that has been converted for charter operation (46 two-berth cabins). Only tanks and weights are offered on board for the descents into the Antarctic ice. The remaining equipment for dry diving must be brought along. Payment on board is in US dollars. Or with Visa-/Mastercard.

Climate conditions: Cold, dry, windy. These three attributes characterise the harsh climate. Therefore, waterproof, windproof clothing is a must in your luggage.