Antarctica, Day 10: Snow Island and Sailing to Elephant Island

December 29, 2019

Paul Kay

We’re traveling Antarctica on Silversea Cruises. Today, we visited Snow Island, and then set sail to Elephant Island. Here’s how our day went.

Snow Island

Elephant Seals, Snow Island, Antarctica

 Our first sighting of the elephants

I suppose the first thing I expected on Snow Island was snow. The island in the South Shetland Islands got its name because snow or ice regularly covers it. British and American sailors knew of Snow Island as early as 1820. During our visit, we hoped to see elephant seals. Sure enough, a large group of them greeted us where we landed.

Two Elephant Seals Playing, Snow Island, Antarctica

 Male elephant seals will be male elephant seals

Today was very windy; the sea rolled six-foot waves. The Silver Cloud protected us while we boarded the Zodiacs, even when the waves were bouncing up and down three feet. Silversea said it could be a wet ride to the landing spot. That held true! Sitting near the bow, I was soaked. But our expert pilot guided us to the island safely. On land we saw some elephant seals playing around.

Elephant Seal with Open Mouth, Snow Island, Antarctica

 If you're going to roughhouse, do it outside!

Males regularly play or roughhouse—even drawing blood from their friends. Watching the roughhousing we didn’t see any blood or injuries. Other elephant seals seemed annoyed at the play and voiced their displeasure with open mouths and bared teeth.

Elephant Seals Pup and Parent, Snow Island, Antarctica

 A pup and a parent keeping a watchful eye

Other seals were resting. One pair looked like a pup with its mother. She was keeping an eye on the pup even though they were in a large group.

Elephant Seal Sleeping, Snow Island, Antarctica

 A hard night means a hard nap

Some were into nap time. Many probably spent most of the night hunting and feeding. Swimming all night takes a lot of a seal, so it was time to rest and digest.

When we arrived, we saw a small group of chinstrap penguins along the beach. But when they saw the large grouping of elephant seals, they swam back into the sea. Elephant seals routinely hunt for penguins. The chinstraps made a a good decision to keep their distance, especially when an elephant seal admires you with a hungry look.

Madeline and Large Elephant Seal, Snow Island, Antarctica


We stood in awe of a huge elephant seal but kept our distance. Silversea says to keep 50 feet between you and the seals. The big guy must have weighed a couple of tons. He obliged us by posing with Madeline.

Large Elephant Seal, Snow Island, Antarctica

 It must take a lot of hunting to keep up that physique

Even in a closeup shot, it’s hard to tell how massive he was.

Elephant Seal Posing, Snow Island, Antarctica

 Hey, whatcha doin?

As we were heading back to the Zodiac, a pup gave us a curious look. They sure look a lot cuter when they are younger, when they haven’t yet developed their elephant nose.

The seas were getting rougher; it was time for us to head to the Zodiac. Safely back on board the Silver Cloud, we cleaned up in the mud room and returned to our room. We noticed the seas were even rougher now.

Our expedition leader announced that no more groups were going to Snow Island. And passengers on the island were returning soon. It was disappointing for those that hadn’t yet gone. But our Zodiac ride back to the Silver Cloud convinced us it was getting tougher. Silversea errs on the side of safety, for its guests and its brave pilots and expedition leaders. We felt safe with Silversea knowing that photo opportunities didn’t take precedent over the livelihood of passengers and crew.

Sailing to Elephant Island

Map, Snow Island To Elephant Island, Antarctica

With 250 nautical miles from Snow Island to Elephant Island, our captain got underway earlier than planned because of rough seas. We were still navigating the outer edges of the Drake Passage and many people were starting to feel the motion of the ocean and were uncomfortable.

The Silver Cloud has stabilizers to minimize the rocking. And the captain and his team are experts at finding the best routes for passenger safety and comfort. We just had to ride it out. We’ll arrive at Elephant Island tomorrow, which is the landing spot for Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team after escaping the ice and his ship, the Endurance.

That's it for Day 10 of our trip to Antarctica. More tomorrow!

Tips: You can learn how we planned our trip by reading Planning Our Antarctica Trip. Learn what we read to prepare at Reading Antarctica. And you can find out what we packed at Packing for Cruising Antarctica on Silversea.

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Read More

Searching for Shackleton in the Undiscovered Continent of Antarctica
Planning Our Antarctica Trip
Cruising Antarctica 101
Reading: Antarctica
Packing for Cruising Antarctica on Silversea
Antarctica, Day 0: Dallas to Santiago

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