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What are conditions in October?

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  • What are conditions in October?

    My wife and I are booked on an icebreaker (the Kapitan Khlebnikov) with Quark Expeditions for a cruise to the Weddell Sea in late October 2006. I have read many things about the conditions in Antarctica, but most everything I find describes the conditions during the prime Antarctic summer travel months of November to March. I have never seen a tourist cruise advertised as leaving as early as October, and wondered if anyone had any thoughts. Specifically, I am most concerned about the weather ? will it be very much colder than the normal temps I see described for the normal travel periods, how much sunlight can we expect (much better for photography) or is it more likely to be overcast, and will there be more storms? On an icebreaker, should I have any concern about early season ice altering our itinerary, or do those guys go anywhere at any time?

  • #2
    Re: What are conditions in October?

    Hi VJ - October will be a great month to see Antarctica from an icebreaker, it will be about mid-spring. Temperatures will be colder than later on of course, but not greatly so. You will probably experience say minus 10C, maybe colder, but it's unlikely to be like that for long. October is the month when the temperatures are changing most rapidly (with February) so there could be quite a range of temperature highs and lows.

    Take clothing that you can layer, as it's also likely that many days, the temperature will be up to and above freezing point, so versatility is the key word.

    There'll be plenty of daylight, you should be getting about 14-15 hours by then, maybe more and with all the snow and ice around it stays brighter longer with the reflections. Overcast weather is as likely as almost any time of year. You don't need brilliant sunshine all the time to get great pictures in Antarctica.

    Storms? no more risk then usual.

    As for your itinerary, yes the sea-ice could well alter where you can go, but icebreakers have experienced captains and ice-pilots, so the overall trip itself start and end dates are as unlikely to change as any other cruise. Icebreakers can go far more places at far more times than ordinary ships, so expect the spectacular. It's not early season ice that may cause problems as late season ice. By October the winter sea ice is starting to break up and move around.

    If you can't get one place though, you'll be able to get somewhere else. Antarctic cruise companies know that for most people on board, this is a once in a life-time spectacular, and they will go out of their way to make sure that's what you set.

    I hope you have a great time.


    • #3
      Re: What are conditions in October?


      The Kapitan Khlebnikov visited Halley base in December 2004 as part of one of their Weddell Sea cruises - the first time a cruise ship ever visited our base. See here for details:

      We didn't get a chance to visit the ship but they seemed like a very professional operation and all the tourists that came to visit seemed to be having a great time.

      I've had a look back at the weather records for October 2005 at our base (75S, 26W, as far south as you are likely to get) - the temperature varied between -3C and -35C with an average of -20C. In terms of wind, we had a few gales in the first third of the month (up to 50 knots) then calmer weather after that. You might get some bad weather but it is unlikely to spoil the whole trip.

      As for sea ice, the Khlebnikov shouldn't have any trouble I wouldn't have thought - after leaving here they cut a path straight across the weddell sea to the tip of the pennisula, something our resupply vessel would never manage.

      I'd agree with Paul about the sunlight - a good fraction of the time will be light and you'll probably get more spectacular skies than in the summer as the sun will still be setting and rising rather than just going round in circles.

      Have a great trip!



      • #4
        Re: What are conditions in October?

        Thanks so much Simon. I looked on the website of your station -- very interesting.

        Luckily we will not be coming nearly as far south as you. Our furthest stop south will be at Snow Hill Island, which is at 64S, 56W -- way up on the tip of the peninsula. Good thing, because that -35C temperature you mentioned sounds pretty darned cold. I'm game for just about any adventure, but my wife would probably stay inside a lot if it was getting that cold, even at your average of -20C. My guess is it will be a good deal warmer where we will be, probably in the range of -10C like Paul said.

        Anyway, thanks again for the info, and if we get blown off course I will stop in and say hello!