Possibly the most famous and visually beautiful place along the Antartic Peninsula, Lemaire Channel is a destination that needs to be seen to be believed.
This steep-sided channel is just 1,600 metres wide and stretches for 11 km between the mountains of Booth Island and the Peninsula. Enormous sheer cliffs drop straight into the sea. It is so photogenic that it is called the ‘Kodak Gap’ with the passageway only visible after you are nearly inside it.
Discovered by a German expedition in the 1870s, the channel wasn’t traversed until 1898. Belgian explorer Adrian de Gerlache was the first to sail the Lemaire Channel, and unusually (as most explorers named new destinations after themselves) he chose to name it after another Belgian explorer, Charles Lemaire, who was famous for his exploration of the Congo.
Since Gerlache’s expedition, the channel has become a standard part of the itinerary for cruising in Antarctica as it is scenic and the protected waters are usually as still as a lake which is a rare occurrence in the storm-wracked southern seas.
The channel is actually a fully navigable passage between Booth Island and the Peninsula, but this is apparent once you’re well into it. Unfortunately, ice sometimes blocks the way, so ships may be forced to retreat and sail outside Booth Island.
At the northern end of the Lemaire are two tall rounded and often snowcapped peaks at Cape Renard. At the southern end of Lemaire Channel lies an archipelago of picturesque ice-covered islands. One or more of these is often the site of another landing from tourist ships.
Many people who book Lemaire Channel cruises look to include visits to the Palmer Research Station and Petermann Island on their itineraries. The Palmer Research Station is one of the most recognized research stations in Antarctica, offering an insight into the lives of those who choose to work on the planet’s coldest continent. Petermann Island is an ideal place to view both gentoo and adelie penguins.