Seeing the Light in Antarctica’s Neumayer Channel

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We hadn’t head of Neumayer Channel until the day we cruised through it on an Antarctica cruise. What a beautiful surprise this travel experience turned out to be.

When Alan and I cruised in Antarctica on Seabourn Quest, we expected to see mammoth icebergs, stunning scenery, and cute penguins waddling around. But the other worldliness of Antarctica’s light came as a complete surprise to us.

The scenery is stunning in Neumayer Channel. It's a beautiful Antarctica travel experience.
The light becomes a soft, golden glow in Neumayer Channel. Photo credit: Donna Hull

After a sunny day of penguin watching on Cuverville Island, we didn’t think our cruise could get any better. But then the Quest entered Neumayer Channel.

The soft, golden rays shining low in the sky added a dimension beyond scenery and wildlife that’s hard to explain. And cruising the Neumayer Channel at the end of a sunny, Antarctica day was worthy of an addition to our travel bucket list.

Cruising Neumayer Channel is a beautiful Antarctica travel experience.
A new scene is revealed in every curve of Neumayer Channel. Photo credit: Alan Hull

The Neumyaer Channel winds like a maze for 16 miles in the Palmer Archipelago of Antarctica. The narrow channel, about 1.5 miles wide, separates Anvers Island from Wiencke Island and Doumer Island. Because of Neumayer’s inverted S shape, no exits are visible giving the journey an up close and personal feel.

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You'll see bergy bits and hints of blue gleaming through the ice in Neumayer Channel. It's worth the travel to Antarctica to see it.
Hints of blue peak through the edges of the ice. Photo credit: Alan Hull

Seabourn Quest enters Neumayer Channel through a sharp bend. From Deck 11, where the photographers hang out at the bow of the ship, steep cliffs of the channel seem close enough to touch. A wind blows snow across the mountaintops while down below in the water, glints of blue hide in the crevices of icebergs.

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You'll see stunning mountain scenery on a cruise in Neumayer Channel. It's a beautiful part of an Antarctica cruise.
Clouds drift across a mountain to the roars of an avalanche. Photo credit: Alan Hull

A distant roar wafts over the sound of Quest’s engine. Everyone quickly looks for signs of a calving glacier. But this time, it‘s an avalanche of snow plowing across a steep slope.

Photographing in Neumayer Channel is part of an Antarctica cruise experience.
Capturing reflections in the water is part of the fun. Photo credit: Alan Hull

The crystal-clear atmosphere combines with late afternoon sunlight to make a photographer’s paradise. Guests, including Alan and myself, line up against the rail to practice techniques that we’ve been learning in photo workshops led by Pat and Rosemaire Keough.

On a cruise through Neumayer Channel in Antarctica, remember to put the camera down. Soaking in the scene creates a travel memory that you'll never forget.
It’s worth putting the camera down to soak in scenes like this. Photo credit: Donna Hull

Late afternoon turns into early evening and still Alan and I are up on deck photographing. But we also put the cameras down to watch, listen and bathe in Antarctica’s beautiful light.

Photos don’t always turn out—memory cards are lost or cameras malfunction. But stopping to focus on the moment burns a memory onto our brains that will always be there.

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Sunlight reflects on the waters of Neumayer Channel. It's a beautiful Antarctica travel experience.
It’s hard to leave this view but we’re getting hungry. Photo credit: Donna Hull

It’s getting late. The main dining room stops serving at 9 p.m., but there’s always another bend in the channel to see. This journey is becoming addicting.

As the sunlight turns to dusk, our fingers grow numb from snapping photos; so, at 8:30 p.m., Alan and I finally head down to dinner. But even in the dining room, Antarctica’s light calls to us. We sit at a table by the window paying more attention to the scenery than to our meal.

The ice glows blue in Neumayer Channel on an Antarctica cruise.
Alan says that aliens live inside that blue glow. What do you think? Photo credit: Donna Hull

After dinner, Alan says, “Would you like to go back out to watch the light?”

I nod yes as we hurry back to the cabin to change into warmer clothing.

Back on Deck 11, we aren’t the only ones addicted to the light. A group of hardy photographers, appreciative travelers and expedition staff lean against the rail in the 11 o’clock hour.

And so we stay, waiting for a late evening sunset that will literally end the day and begin a new one.

Penguins scurry across an iceberg in Neumayer Channel. It's part of the travel fun on an Antarctica cruise.
Penguins scurry across an iceberg. Photo credit: Donna Hull

Looking over the edge of the ship to the water below, I see two penguins standing on top of the top of an iceberg. They seem to hesitate before running across the icy, flat surface to dive into the water.

A golden sun reflects onto the water of Neumayer Channel. It's part of the beauty of an Antarctica cruise.
Can it get any better than this. As a matter of fact, it does. Photo credit: Alan Hull

Antarctica’s silence is as mesmerizing as the light. It’s as if Seabourn Quest is cruising the Neumayer Channel in silent mode.

As the light becomes rosy, then golden, the guests on deck talk in whispers, if at all. Is it cold? We haven’t noticed.

Sunset in Neumayer Channel is an amazing travel experience in Antarctica. Of course you'll need to be on a cruise to see it.
Sunset in Neumayer Channel. What more can we say? Photo credit: Donna Hull

Just as the ship reaches the last curve in Neymayer Channel, it happens. A brilliant sun sends golden-orange rays between two distant mountains, casting a reflection into the water.

Two large icebergs decorate each side of the golden glow. If ever a ship has positioned itself for the perfect sunset shot, this is it.

Alan and I linger for the rosy afterglow. It’s well past midnight. Tomorrow’s early wake-up call won’t be fun.

But we don’t care. We’ve fallen under the spell of Antarctica’s light.

The photos here are a combination of our work. Alan was photographing with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 (no longer available but the latest version is DMC-FZ1000 II).

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