The Iceberg Graveyard

Right now, near the end of the Earth, an Iceberg graveyard slowly melts. Thousands of intricately carved spires, arches, and blocks drift silently through a never-ending sunset in Antarctica’s narrow Lemaire Channel. Humpbacks rhythmically blow and dive in a graceful ballet among this dream of nearly unimaginable scale. This was the setting for one of the most unbelievable moments of my life—a six-hour-long sunset. I had the opportunity to travel with Harvard University aboard the Corinthian II down to the Antarctic Peninsula. With climate change accelerating, glaciers are calving at an unprecedented rate, delivering massive pieces of Antarctic ice into the Southern Ocean. —Christopher Michel (Christopher Michel)

Right now, near the end of the Earth, an Iceberg graveyard slowly melts. Thousands of intricately carved spires, arches, and blocks drift silently through a never-ending sunset in Antarctica’s narrow Lemaire Channel. Humpbacks rhythmically blow and dive in a graceful ballet among this dream of nearly unimaginable scale. This was the setting for one of the most unbelievable moments of my life—a six-hour-long sunset. I had the opportunity to travel with Harvard University aboard the Corinthian II down to the Antarctic Peninsula. With climate change accelerating, glaciers are calving at an unprecedented rate, delivering massive pieces of Antarctic ice into the Southern Ocean. —Christopher Michel

Cape Renard Tower (2,451 feet) looms over the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel. They are better known as "Una's Tits," named after a woman working for the British Antarctic Survey.

(Christopher Michel)


With this much ice (and 90 percent of the mass below the surface), navigating the channel can be a real challenge.

(Christopher Michel)


"And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast-high, came floating by, As green as emerald." —"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(Christopher Michel)


Adelie penguins hitch a ride on a north-bound Iceberg.

(Christopher Michel)


Two Adelie penguins brave the Antarctic winds.

(Christopher Michel)


Exploring the Icebergs around Pleneau Island (65°6′S 64°4′W) in the Wilhelm Archipelago. The best way to photograph Icebergs is by zodiac.

(Christopher Michel)


Many of these icebergs are forever trapped in the waters around the island.

(Christopher Michel)


A particularly lovely iceberg reflection caught my attention. There is an almost spiritual beauty here.

(Christopher Michel)


It was hard to resist not driving the zodiac through the arch. As they have a tendency to flip, it's wise to keep your distance.

(Christopher Michel)


Icebergs are just as beautiful up close.

(Christopher Michel)


We were definitely not alone during our iceberg shoot. Crabeater, Weddell, and leopard seals made good use of the ice as a place to rest. Interestingly, you could often spot more than one species on the same berg.

(Christopher Michel)


The ominous-looking leopard seal.

(Christopher Michel)


Andvord Bay, along the west coast of Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula. Large tabular icebergs can be seen all along the edge of the glacier.

(Christopher Michel)


Humpback whales thrive in the krill-rich waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. They brought joy to the crew every time they were spotted. It's hard to believe that they are still hunted in the Southern Ocean.

(Christopher Michel)


Icebergs come in countless shapes, but I was particularly taken by the arches.

(Christopher Michel)


"Laurel and Hardy." One iceberg, two spires.

(Christopher Michel)


As the sun dropped lower on the horizon, the channel took on a more ominous feel.

(Christopher Michel)


The sky turned blue and yellow, a perfect opportunity for a backlit iceberg shot with the Nikon D800.

(Christopher Michel)


The colors of the sea, ice, and sky became more and more pronounced as sunset approached.

(Christopher Michel)


As we journeyed further into the Lemaire channel, the sky took on an eerie glow—the perfect backdrop for this fantastic collection of ice.

(Christopher Michel)


Iceberg blue—one of my favorite colors.

(Christopher Michel)


The iceberg graveyard illuminated by the setting sun.

(Christopher Michel)


The last moments of the Antarctic sun.

(Christopher Michel)


"Antarctica left a restless longing in my heart beckoning towards an incomprehensible perfection forever beyond the reach of mortal man. Its overwhelming beauty touches one so deeply that it is like a wound." —Edwin Mickleburgh

Christopher Michel is a photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. He has photographed some of the world’s most unusual places and people, from the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the edge of space aboard a U-2 Spy Plane.

(Christopher Michel)

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