What We Love About Antarctica
Antarctica is like no other place on earth. To visit here is like being on one of life’s great adventures.
As soon as you spot your first iceberg they start appearing everywhere. Icebergs the size of buildings float past, changing colour with the light. The snow on the mountain ranges is lit by the afternoon sun. Humans are dwarfed by mother nature…
Longitude & latitude: 90oS, 0oE
Official Name: Antarctica
Capital City: There isn’t really one just the South Pole
Population: Approx 1000-5000
Official language: NA
Major Religion: NA
Life expectancy: NA
Did you know: Antarctica is the only continent with no indigenous species of ants.
It is believed the windiest, coldest, driest continent of all, known as Antarctica, was discovered by the Russians in 1820. Although many countries have claimed Antarctica as their own, this icy land mass is governed by the 1958 Antarctic Treaty, which declares it a combined research zone for all countries. A consistent population has never existed due to the harsh climate and surroundings, but it’s home to many scientific research stations, where the scientists follow the laws of the particular nation they’re working for at each station. Its biggest industry is tourism and the temperature here has been known to drop to −89°C.
Winter is a no go zone when it comes to Antarctica, with extreme freezing conditions and complete darkness almost 24/7. November to March is the tourist season. Visit in November to see the birds and penguins courting and mating and the ice breaking up. December and January is when you’ll see penguins hatching and feeding their chicks or for the best whale watching, go between February and March.
For an extreme holiday like no other on the planet this is the place to go. Antarctica is a desert of ice with heaps of unique things to see. Visit the South Pole, Antarctic Peninsula, the Ross Sea area, Mount Erebus which is an active volcano near Mount Terror, Anver Island/Anvord Bay is the most touristy part and the cruise ships stop to tour the museum. There’s the South Shetland Islands penguins and the hot springs at Deception Island, McMurdo Sound with McMurdo station, Mawson’s Huts with Cape Denison and Commonwealth Bay.
The only food choices are those available on board the cruise ships or tour boats. On some expeditions you may have to take your own food.
Get ready to come face to face with some amazing wildlife that share Antarctica with the scientists from around the globe who come and go throughout the year at the research stations (most are on one year assignments). If you’re visiting the Trinity Church you’ll meet the priest there. Other than that there’s not much chance of bumping into anyone else.
Pack clothing for extreme cold weather and harsh climates, although many cruises supply the cold weather gear. Take sunblock, sunglasses to help with the glare from the ice and of course don’t forget your camera and video camera for all those once in a lifetime moments.
There are no hotels or accommodation facilities apart from the research stations, which are limited to scientists. So you’ll be sleeping in the cruise ships or maybe in tents that some of the expeditions use. While you’re there try to keep track of time as the 24 hour sunlight will mess with your body clock.
The most common way to get to this icy wonderland is to cruise in by icebreaker ship, most leaving from either Ushuaia in Argentina, Bluff in New Zealand or Hobart in Tasmania. You can do a scenic flight over Antarctica from Sydney, Melbourne and Puerto Arenas but it’s definitely a more memorable experience by boat. If you want to fly in, most of the stations have landing facilities that are open in summer. You can fly into Williams Field, Pegasus Blue-Ice Runway or Annual Sea-Ice Runway for McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
Just like you see in the movies, public transport here means jumping on a zodiac, a sledge pulled by dogs, tractors, snow cats and ski planes or a helicopter. The tour boats will ferry you from place to place.
The cruise ships and larger tour boats usually have their own on-board entertainment but watching the spectacular landscape pass you by and the local wildlife play is some of the best entertainment you’ll ever see.
The only shopping opportunities you’re going to get are on the ships and it can be pretty pricey.
There are a range of expeditions and tours that head to Antarctica and cover a variety of different routes. Once you’re there you can visit the museum, check out the research stations, watch the wildlife at play or take a dip in the hot springs.
Between March and September, Antarctica displays nature’s most incredible light show, the Aurora Borealis. It’s better than any fireworks display you’ll ever see, and unless you live there it’s a once in a lifetime show that lasts anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes and can reoccur every 2-3 hours.
For one of the most unique and somewhat extreme volunteer opportunities visit www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/station-life-and-activities/working/station-duties-and-volunteer-positions. You’ll definitely step out of your comfort zone here.