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Why a Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Antarctica cruise is so much more than a ‘cruise’

With Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Citizen Science projects, passengers don’t just travel the world, they study it.

A Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Antarctica cruise is so much more than a ‘cruise’. It is a scientific expedition. A rare chance to truly understand Antarctica, rather than just see it. 

Hurtigruten Expeditions understands that its passengers are not your typical charter tourist. They are modern-day explorers. Yes, they want to discover places of extraordinary beauty. Yet they also want to learn as much as possible about the destination’s biodiversity and the challenges it faces.

That is why all Hurtigruten Expeditions’ voyages invites guests to participate in the collection of scientific data through its Citizen Science programs. These programs foster a deeper understanding of the regions in which you travel and provide insights and invaluable data to help protect some of the planet’s most fragile ecosystems.

“Our ships are really the best platform and opportunity for researchers not only to get to these areas, but also to do research from the vessels.” — Dr Verena Meraldi, Chief Scientist at Hurtigruten Expeditions

Sustainable tourism is more front of mind than ever. Making this – and the fact that Hurtigruten Expeditions has the lowest CO2 footprint of all expedition voyages to Antarctica – an important aspect for the eco-conscious traveller deciding on which Antarctica cruise is the right fit for them. 

Read: Hurtigruten Antarctica all-inclusive cruise with flights in 2022/23

Science center, Hurtigruten, Antarctica cruising
Family and expedition staff at the science center © Agurtxane Concellon

Become a scientist during your Antarctica cruise

Every Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Antarctica cruise features Citizen Science projects that guests can join, no matter their experience or background. Meaning you don’t have to be an accredited scientist to delve deeper into Antarctica’s mysteries.

The expedition team will guide you along the way and is made up of experts on the destination you are travelling to.

Whether it be a specialist in their field (lecturers, conservationists, journalists, researchers and CEOs), Arctic Nature Guides, rangers or ecologists who have worked on remote research and conservation projects. The guides may even be marine and wildlife biologists, social anthropologists, oceanographers, archaeologists, ornithologists, palaeontologists or glaciologists.

These are the top Citizen Science projects available on Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Antarctica cruise.

Locating gentle giants with Happywhale

With the Happywhale program, Antarctic travellers can submit high-quality images of wildlife to a shared database. These pictures can be of humpback whale tail flukes, the dorsal fins of other species of whales and the scars of other marine creatures.

Once uploaded, an image processing algorithm sees if there’s a match in the existing 330,917 images.

What exactly does this do to help in the larger scheme of things? So far, more than 51,260 whales have been identified. By tracking them across their migratory routes, scientists gain a better understanding of their health, migration and environmental circumstances

Also, don’t forget about the whale you snapped a picture of. If it is seen again in a week, a month or years later, you’ll receive an email updating you about its current location.

Read: How the Hurtigruten Foundation is helping protect polar bears and fight pollution

Antarctica cruise, Hurtigruten
Whale at Neko Harbour © Genna Roland

Cloud Observations with the Globe Program

With the NASA-sponsored GLOBE Cloud Observations program guests can observe and record cloud cover timed to satellite fly-overs.

What does this do? By recording data at the precise moment satellites are overhead, guests can study the impact cloud cover has on surface and air temperatures in fragile polar regions.

This helps scientists get a clearer picture of how these masses of water drops influence global climate change.

Seabird distribution with the Antarctic Site Inventory

The Antarctic Site Inventory is the only non-government seabird science project in the world. It focuses on monitoring changes to penguin and seabird populations across Antarctica and is one of Antarctica’s oldest Citizen Science programs.

Guests can take part in onboard surveys by learning to identify bird species and monitoring their conditions at various landing sites during a voyage.

Running for more than 25 summer seasons, this data collection helps scientists understand seabird distribution at more than 235 sites across the Antarctic Peninsula.

Read: Chasing the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten

Antarctica cruise, Hurtigruten
Adélie penguins in Antarctica © Andrea Klaussner

Studying phytoplankton with Fjord Phyto

Phytoplankton are microscopic, drifting plants that make up the foundation of the food system. The microscopic organisms support whales, seals and penguins.

Phytoplankton plays a critical role in drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They contribute to more than half the Earth’s oxygen – more than the trees and plants on land combined.

Fjord Phyto is one of the most hands-on of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Citizen Science projects. Guests take seawater samples and use nets and a CTD to collect data from the fjords of the west Antarctic Peninsula. A CTD is a device oceanographers use to measure conductivity, temperature and depth.

Back onboard, guests place the filtered seawater samples under a microscope at the Science Center. This way, they can observe the tiny organisms up close and record findings.

Using data collected by passengers, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are trying to determine the impact of fresh glacial meltwater on the phytoplankton of this fjord community.

Read: Chasing the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten

Watching the predator seal with the Sea Leopard Project

The Sea Leopard Project is a non-profit study aimed at better understanding the behaviour, ecology and population dynamics of leopard seals on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The project hopes to promote leopard seal conservation and safe human-seal interactions.

While some research has already been conducted on these animals, so much more information is yet to be learned.

The goal of this project is to gather as many photographs of the left side of the leopard seals’ heads for identification. As well as a written description of any interesting human/seal or seal/seal interactions with the location. For example, leopard seals biting boats.

Read: Ignite your Nordic senses with Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten, science citizen programs
Science center on MS Roald Amundsen © Andrea Klaussner

The science base of your Antarctica cruise

The Science Center is the heart of Hurtigruten Expeditions’ explorer ships.

Designed as a multi-purpose area for interaction between the guests and the expedition team, head here between shore excursions, Zodiac adventures and mealtimes.

Each day, there will be a range of workshops and lectures focused on areas such as geology, biology, history, geography, glaciology, photography, oceanography and more.

There is also the opportunity for some extra wildlife spotting. The Science Center has great views of the skies (for birds) and the seas (for whales).

The area also features scientific and educational equipment for the use of guests, such as microscopes and interactive maps.

Of course, each ship also has its own lecture hall. Here, you can attend in-depth talks on history, climate change, sustainability, wildlife, culture and other topics specific to the destination you are visiting.

This article was produced with content supplied by Hurtigruten Expeditions and is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the newsletter.

Lead image © Agurtxane Concellon

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