Travel to Antarctica –
A unique cruise experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Where else on this planet can ice and snow form such natural, pure yet volatile beauty? The sheer mass of the continent’s land formations, the richness of its waters and the mystery of its wildlife is sure to add intrigue to any adventurous family vacation or getaway. Less than 50,000 travelers visit Antarctica each year – enjoying excursions that include hiking, kayaking and zodiac rafting that gets you up close and personal with all this continent has to offer.
The first passenger ship (the Lindblad Explorer from National Geographic Expeditions) visited Antarctica in 1969. Ever since, visitors have come to appreciate the beauty, rarity and desolation of this amazing wonder.
Antarctica Tours & Activities
Sightseeing in Antarctica – Because US citizens must arrive into Antarctica by a licensed tourism vessel, some of the sightseeing adventure starts well before you reach the continent. Whales and other marine life can be seen while crossing the spectacular Drake Passage. While in Antarctica, much of the sights revolve around the amazing ice formations, penguins, whales and other ‘local residents.’
Wildlife in Antarctica – While this isn’t the destination to find antelope, mountain sheep or hummingbirds, it is the place to find thousands of penguins (including Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap), varying species of whales and a multitude of other marine life.
Zodiac Cruising in Antarctica – One of the best ways to get up close and personal with the marine life and landscape of Antarctica is by Zodiac raft. It’s one of the most anticipated activities for travelers visiting the continent and is often part of every day’s itinerary.
Hiking in Antarctica – Clearly some of the most unique hiking in the world, Antarctica offers many opportunities to hike to various summits for breathtaking views or walk onto ice fields for panoramic vistas. Hikers must always be in a guided group.
Kayaking in Antarctica – There aren’t many place you could kayak in protected waters, paddle around icebergs and watch penguins swim and play nearby. Many stops at the various harbors, bays and islands allow you to kayak along towering cliff-sides.
Bird Watching in Antarctica – If you’re a birder, witnessing some of the 45+ species of birds in Antarctica can be a real treat. The penguin is of course the most common bird found throughout the continent, but this unique landscape and its surrounding waters are also home to Albatrosses, Shearwaters and Petrels, Storm-Petrels, Diving Petrels, Cormorants, Bitterns and many others.
Shopping in Antarctica – It’s probably no surprise that there is little, if any, shopping in Antarctica. Your cruise ship may have fun souvenirs on board and some of the scientific stations sell t-shirts, coffee mugs and other small gift items. A unique thing to take home? A replica of the official geographic marker can be found at the South Pole gift shop. One tip: Take cash. This might be one of the only places on earth that surely doesn’t accept credit cards.
Antarctica Fast Facts
Population of Antarctica – 4,400
Languages in Antarctica – Varies widely due to the nationalities of the research stations. Tours are generally in English.
Time Zone in Antarctica – There is no official time zone. All 24 of the world’s time zones converge at the bottom of the world, so most inhabitants set their clocks to the time in their home country. Cruise ships usually keep their clocks on the same time as their port of departure.
Weather in Antarctica – Simply the coldest on the entire earth. . Spectacular weather events are often seen – halos around the sun are just one example.
Antarctica Geography – The entire continent is covered by an ice sheet that averages at least a mile thick. Antarctica is divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains, splitting it to roughly correspond to the eastern and western hemispheres. The typical landscape view of the continent features high coastal mountains, fjords and various islands and icebergs. Nearly 44% of the Antarctic coastline has ice shelves attached (thick floating platforms of ice that form where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to the coastline and onto the ocean surface).
Antarctica Fun Facts
- Antarctica (the South Pole) is colder than the North Pole by about 35°F.
- The coldest temperature ever recorded was -129°F at Vostok, Antarctica on July 21, 1983.
- Antarctica is technically considered a desert and receives less than seven inches of precipitation each year.
- Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice and more than 70% of its fresh water.
- If all the land-ice covering Antarctica were to melt, the seas would rise by more than 197 feet.
- Only 2% of the continent is not covered by ice.
- The growing hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole was discovered in 1981 by British scientists working at the UK’s Halley Station.
- Fire is a hazard in Antarctica and the dry air and high winds make it difficult to control one once it starts. Chemicals must be used to put out fires due to the frigid temperatures.
- Fossilized tree stumps, dinosaur bones and coal have been discovered in Antarctica, indicating it was once a much warmer place.
- 99% of all trips to Antarctica are for the purpose of scientific research.
- Fishing is not allowed in Antarctica.
- Sighting an albatross (the bird with the huge wingspan) is said to be a good omen.
- The waters around Antarctica are said to be some of the richest feeding grounds in the world for whales and other sea life (thanks to the currents).
- Keep your distance from any wildlife (at least 16 feet away unless they approach you). According to the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, violators could be subject to a $5-10,000 fine.
- Sled dogs and snowmobiles are not allowed on the continent.
- More meteorites have been found in Antarctica than any where else in the world (primarily because the dark rock is easy to see on the white surface).
- Needless to say, cell phone service is not available.
Antarctica – Insider Tip
Drink plenty of water and carry a water bottle whenever possible because it’s easy to become dehydrated in the dry, cold climate. It also helps prevent frostbite and hypothermia.