Half Moon Island
At only around 2 kilometres long, Half Moon Island is one of the smaller landmasses in the South Shetland Islands. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for by being perfectly picturesque. The fittingly named island is shaped somewhat like a crescent moon and presents visitors with stunning scenery in every direction.
The island’s relatively uneventful history does include being a whaling and seal hunting base in the past, but the wildlife here is plentiful today. You might spot the wreckage of an old whaling boat if you venture to Half Moon Island’s south end.
Heading in this direction will also take you to a walking track, along which you can bump into a variety of animals. Chinstrap penguins make up most of the island’s population, while other species you might spot here include seals, south polar skuas, Antarctic terns, and kelp gulls, as well as whales in the nearby waters. BirdLife International considers Half Moon Island to be an Important Bird Area.
The views of surrounding mountains, glaciers and icecaps from Half Moon Island are spectacular – you won’t want to forget your camera. The Argentine Cámara Base is located near the centre of the island, but this is usually closed and unmanned.
Half Moon Island is a popular spot for Antarctic cruise guests, particularly as it is sometimes the first landing point after the notoriously rough and unpredictable voyage through Drake Passage. The spectacular panoramas visible from the island also provide a glimpse of the wonders to come, while the island itself gives visitors their first up-close experience with the wildlife of the region.
With itineraries that leave this stop until the later stages of the voyage (or stop here again on the return trip), travellers will be granted a final chance to take some fantastic landscape photos and have a couple of last encounters with the local creatures.
All these factors contribute to Half Moon Island featuring as a stop for many cruise lines that explore this wonderful part of the world, including Silversea Cruises and Quark Expeditions. Other islands you’re likely to enjoy shortly before or after Half Moon Island include Deception Island, King George Island, and Livingston.
As Half Moon Island is uninhabited and has no facilities, you will be tendered aboard via Zodiacs (inflatable rubber boats). Much of the island’s east shore (the inside of the moon shape) is suitable for coming ashore.
There are no facilities on Half Moon Island. Use your ship’s facilities before and after your short visit to the island.
How To Get Around
A Zodiac (rubber boat) will take you from the ship to the island. Once on land, you will be able to explore fairly easily on foot.
Currency – There is no currency on Half Moon Island as there are no shops and nothing to buy. The currency used on board your cruise ship will remain the same throughout your voyage, or all your expenses may be included in your ticket price anyway.
Time Zone – Since the island is unpopulated, local time is basically irrelevant. The time zone your ship is aligned to is unlikely to change while anchored at the island.
Weather – The climate on Half Moon Island is generally consistent with that of the other South Shetland Islands: cold and humid with icy winds and frequent cloud coverage. Below-freezing temperatures make this and the surrounding islands inaccessible for about two thirds of the year due to frozen waterways. Even during summer months, the average temperature is about 1.5 degrees Celsius, so dress very warmly.
Walking Track – The walking track on Half Moon Island’s southern section gives you the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs after a day or more on your cruise ship. Plus, the on-foot journey will reveal stunning views of the neighbouring islands and surrounding mountains (particularly those on Livingston and Greenwich Island). Photo opportunities are plentiful and, if you venture far enough, you should come across a whaling boat’s shipwreck – a sombre testament to the island’s not-so-animal-friendly past.
Wildlife – There has never been a time when the number of people on the island even came close to matching the native fauna’s population. A large colony of chinstrap penguins call Half Moon Island home and you’ll find no shortage of other Antarctic birds nesting here too. Whales can often be spotted moving about just away from the shore; you might even ride alongside one on your way in. If one of the large rocks on the island appears to be a little furrier than the others, don’t be fooled – it could well be a fur seal!