Eclipse-watching is on the minds of many given June 10’s “ring of fire” annual solar eclipse. The most spectacular eclipses are total solar eclipses, and the entire decade of the 2020s will have only six. The next is December 4, 2021, and there’s only one place in the world where you want to be on the whole road: Antarctica, across the world’s newly recognized Southern Ocean.
The New Southern Ocean
On 2021’s World Day 8 June at National Geographic announced that the earth now has five oceans. The Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans are now officially connected to the South Seas.
The new name is due to the fact that the waters of the South Seas differ geographically and ecologically from the southern parts of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Southern Ocean includes the waters around Antarctica to a latitude of 60 degrees south. While the other four oceans are defined by the land that surrounds them, the Southern Ocean is defined by a current – the Antarctic circumpolar current.
Seth Sykora-Bodie, a National Geographic Explorer and Marine Scientist at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, explained it this way to national geography: “Everyone who has been there will struggle to explain what’s so fascinating about it, but they all agree that glaciers are bluer, the air colder, the mountains more frightening and the landscape more captivating than anywhere else you can go. ”
The most fascinating time to see the southern ocean will be during the next total solar eclipse.
December 4, 2021 Antarctic total solar eclipse
Total solar eclipses are rare—there are only six in the entire decade in the 2020s—And less often still at the bottom of the planet. The first time people are known to witness one in Antarctica was on November 23, 2003.
The next total solar eclipse in Antarctica is December 4, 2021. The world’s next after that will be in East Timor, Indonesia on April 20, 2023.
Unless you are flying over it or in Antarctica and doing scientific research, the only way to see the eclipse over the South Seas aboard an Antarctic cruise. The eclipse can best be seen between the southern Orkney Islands and South Georgia, northeast of the Antarctic continent and southeast of the Falkland / Malvina Islands.
There will be less than two minutes in total during this eclipse. It will be unusual not only because of the spectacular location in the Southern Ocean, but because the eclipse is moving in the opposite direction – from east to west – than a normal eclipse. Eclipses outside the Earth’s polar regions move from west to east. The eclipse will also be low on the horizon and therefore possibly framed by dramatic icebergs, provided there is not much cloud cover blocking the view.
See the Antarctic eclipse aboard the PONANT
Several cruise ships offer eclipse cruises, including Abercrombie & Kent, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Hurtigruten, Intrepid Travel, Lindblad, Pura Aventura, PONANT and Quark Expeditions. The Covid pandemic means they are not all sold out yet.
PONANT is a good choice; their eclipse cruise will be aboard the new hybrid electric vessel Commander-Charcot. PONANT is known for its luxurious small ships and unique land excursions, and conducts environmental and social impact assessments when making new travel plans. The goal is to involve communities and indigenous peoples and protect the natural environment and cultural heritage of the destinations it visits. Cruise Industry News reported that PONANT was named 2020’s most environmentally friendly cruise line.
PONANT eclipse cruise is 15 days and leaves from Ushuaia, the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. Weather permitting, the cruise plans to allow passengers to see the eclipse on top of the thick Weddell Sea ice pack.
Another option is to charter a ship. Naia is a 12-passenger yacht passing by EYOS Expeditions, the world leader in private yacht charters. The yacht will be in the Southern Ocean for the 2021-22 season.