The Colors of Antarctica

When you think of Antarctica, you probably think of lots of white and blue. I was surprised to find that it's a lot more colorful than that.
Humpback Whale in Antarctica at Sunset
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When you think of Antarctica, you probably think of lots of white and blue. And then some more white. I did. So I was surprised to find that it’s a lot more colorful than that.

I didn’t expect to find so many other colors, some subtle, some striking. For an unforgiving, harsh environment most defined by cold, ice, and snow, it’s surprising how many color shades there are. And they’re really quite beautiful.

Icebergs, it turns out, aren’t just slabs of white ice. Some are pale blue. Some can have parts that are a rich, bright blue. Others have green tints, especially underwater. And a white iceberg might be right next to a blue one, which might be right next to one with green tints.

Most of the animals and the few plants have muted colors. But even there, there are splashes of color. There are bright red and orange thick bands of seaweed–a bit like supersized fettucine–and some occasional patches of green and brown. Even the famously black and white penguins can have splashes of color, from their orange, pink, or red feet to the bright red/orange beaks of the Gentoo penguins and splashes of yellow and orange on the necks of King and Emperor penguins. And because penguins eat krill, their white feathers can often be stained orange. Seals are typically some kind of grey, sometimes with spots, but elephant seals, especially in their winter coats, can be different shades of brown. And when they open their mouths wide to roar, there’s a big splash of red.

The rocks are usually grey or black, but a few scattered patches might be covered in dark green mosses. The volcanic sands of Deception Island are mainly black or grey, but mixed in is a lot of orange ochre volcanic pumice.

And then there’s the skies. In the non-summer months, the Aurora Australis (southern lights, or southern hemisphere equivalent of the Aurora borealis) shimmer in the night sky. And even grey, overcast skies by day can bring out the subtle shades of things below–a blue iceberg is all the more striking against a dark grey backdrop. A clear day brings a beautiful deep blue sky–there’s no pollution or smog to speak of, after all. And while in summer there’s close to or actually 24 hours of daylight, the sun still gets low on the horizon and casts a rich orange glow on mountains, clouds, and the cliffs of large icebergs.

So if you like white and blue, you’ll be in luck. But it’s a lot more colorful and beautiful than that.

Antarctic Iceberg Shapes
Ridges of ice on an iceberg. The lines you see here were originally horizontal as layers of snow on the glacier, but as glacier calves, the icebergs float in all sorts of interesting angles and will roll and flip as their shape changes with melting (which is why it’s not safe to get too close to them). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Mountains in Golden Light
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Icicles on an Iceberg in Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Sunset
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Icebergs in Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Setting Sun and the Mountains of Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Iceberg at Sunset
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Blue Ice in Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Sunset with Sun on Icebergs
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Icebergs
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Moonrise at Paradise Habor Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Paradise Habor Antarctica Landscape
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Landscape at Paradise Habor Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Scenic Antarctic Sunset with Icebergs and Cruise Ship
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Gentoo Penguins Waddle on the Ice in Antarctica
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Antarctic Iceberg
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

Where These Photos Were Taken

These were taken along the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Map

Where to Next?

Guidebooks for Antarctica

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Antarctica. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Lonely Planet Antarctica 6 (Country Guide)
62 Reviews
Lonely Planet Antarctica 6 (Country Guide)
  • Averbuck, Alexis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Antarctica: A Guide to the Wildlife (Bradt Travel Guide)
43 Reviews
Antarctica: A Guide to the Wildlife (Bradt Travel Guide)
  • Soper, Tony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Antarctica

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Antarctica :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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