Baleen Whales on Tour in Antarctica


To travel to Antarctica from South America by ship, one goes via the 400-mile Drake Passage. An unforgettable experience during this sea crossing is the opportunity to observe the wildlife, including whales that come to feed at the Antarctic Convergence, an area rich with the mainstay baleen diet. The Drake Passage will be most peoples’ introduction to whale watching in Antarctica.

Southern minkes are the most common and smallest of the baleens that visitors may see during their travel to Antarctica. The larger of the species are often found at the edge of the ice pack as far south as the Antarctic Peninsula in the area of the Palmer Archipelago. Common spots where they may be found are Petermann Island, in the Gerlache Strait between Anvers Island and the peninsula, Neko Harbor at Andvord Bay and Paradise Harbor. Visitors on Antarctica tours may also see smaller minkes in waters as far north as the Falkland Islands.

Three of Southern Explorations visit areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. These include the ten to twelve-day Classic Antarctica tour, the twelve to fourteen-day Crossing the Atlantic Circle trip and the sixteen to eighteen-day Antarctic Explorer tour that also visits sub-Antarctic islands and the Falklands.

Perhaps the most extraordinary whale watching experience in Antarctica is to see the largest whale of all, the blue, in part because of its gigantic proportions and also because so few are left. Blue whales are found on edge of ice shelves during the summer as well as traveling through the Drake Passage during their fall and winter migration.

Seis may be found in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands or in the more northerly areas of the Drake Passage.

The fin whale inhabits the Drake Passage and waters as far north as the Falkland Islands. It may also be seen in the seas around Elephant Island on the far edge of the South Shetlands. All three of Southern Explorations tours that visit the Antarctic Peninsula also visit the Shetlands.

Separate populations of humpback whales inhabit six areas in Antarctic waters including the Drake Passage, the South Shetlands and various locations on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Southern right whales return to the waters of Antarctica in January and February. Near extinction, so few of this species remain that most people travel to Argentina to observe them during their winter migration. If visitors see southern right whales during their travel to Antarctica, it will most likely be in the waters around South Georgia Island or the South Shetlands, making the Antarctic Explorer tour an excellent Southern Explorations trip option to select.