Douglas Fox is a freelance writer based in northern California whose stories have appeared in Discover, Scientific American, Esquire, National Geographic, High Country News, and other publications. He writes extensively about the polar regions; this marks his fifth trip to Antarctica in recent years.

Who’s That Whale? Your Photo Could Help I.D. a Humpback

The tail of a humpback whale flares out of the water as the animal begins to dive. Ted Cheeseman rattles off half a dozen quick frames with his camera before it slips under the water. “I don’t think we’ve seen that whale on this trip yet,” he says. “You think you can identify a whale…

This Is What Whale Breath Smells Like

He kneels at the front of the Zodiac, aiming his crossbow at a humpback whale lazing at the water surface’s 20 feet away. He squeezes the trigger and the dart flies—just over the whale’s back. “Sh**,” Ari Friedlaender says, “I shouldn’t have tried to do a skip shot.” He had hoped to bounce the dart…

Calving Ice Sets Off Mini-Tsunamis Daily in Antarctica

The placid demeanor of an Antarctic fjord often conceals a more dangerous reality that lurks just below the surface. Even as Ari Friedlaender led us on a quiet search for minke whales in Andvord Bay on March 15, the fjord was showing a very different face several miles away at Neko Harbor, a low, ice-free…

Hunting ‘Gators’ in Antarctica

3 p.m. local time, March 15, 2016, Post #4 Our Zodiac glides past chunks of floating ice, through water as smooth and still as glass. Ari Friedlaender stands in back, steering the boat with one hand, his crossbow stowed conveniently at his feet. We’re cruising through Andvord Bay, a fjord on the west side of…

Penguins’ Not-So-Adorable Contribution to Life in Antarctica

9 a.m. local time, March 14, 2016, Post #3 A flurry of snowflakes swirls past in the cold morning air—at least they look like snow—but I soon realize they’re actually penguin feathers, lofted by wind from the colony of stinky birds nesting a few yards away. It is late summer on Danco Island, a small…

How I Crossed One of the World’s Roughest Seas

4 p.m. local time, March 11, 2016, Post #2  I woke this morning to the dizzy feeling of rocking—as if my bed were swinging from a hammock. The walls, ceiling, and floor creaked with each swing. The room was dark. I stumbled out of bed in search of the light switch. Our ship, the Ortelius,…

What Will Climate Change Mean for Whales? These Scientists Hope to Find Out.

2 p.m. local time, March 10, 2016, Post #1 On a blustery autumn day in Ushuaia, Argentina, 54 degrees south of the equator near the shredded, mountainous tip of South America, final preparations are under way on the M.V. Ortelius, a vessel strengthened for navigation in polar sea ice. This evening, tugboats will nudge her into…