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On the edge: Extreme sports to experience by superyacht

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Polar Diving

Cierva Cove, Antarctica (December - February)

Words by Kate Lardy

For those brave enough to go diving in Antarctica, the rewards are huge: magnificent sculptural ice formations, graceful penguins and mighty leopard seals. “It’s not for the occasional, recreational diver,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS Expeditions. “You have to be proficient and have 25 dry-suit dives.” Diving these frigid waters is a speciality of EYOS’s director of expedition operations, Kelvin Murray, who lived and worked in Antarctica as a dive officer for the British Antarctic Survey.

One of his more memorable experiences is an encounter with an aggressive 500kg female leopard seal, which loomed over his left shoulder baring her huge teeth while he adopted a submissive pose on the sea floor. When he returned later in the day, the same seal caught and delicately dismembered a penguin just a metre from snorkelers, who were spattered with flecks of gore. “There are few places in the world where you can get so close to an apex carnivore while it stalks, hunts, kills and eats,” says Murray. “There is an ugly beauty to leopard seals; I love them.”

Other draws are penguins, which appear jet propelled underwater and show no fear of divers, and the ice, which Murray describes as “staggeringly beautiful in its simplicity and scale”.

Accessible only by boat, Cierva Cove, on the western edge of the Antarctic Peninsula, is a particularly good place to spot leopard seals. To get there Lyons says most of his clients skip the erratic Drake Passage and fly directly from Ushuaia, Argentina (known as “the end of the world”), to King George Island, where they meet their yacht.

Picture courtesy of Jody MacDonald.

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