Antarctica – Why Not?

Antarctica is the Earth’s most southern continent, and is home to the South Pole. It is the 5th largest continent in area. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1 mile (1.6 km) in thickness. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent. Interestingly, Antarctica is considered a desert, and its average rainfall is only 8 inches per year.  The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89 °C (−129 °F). There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. It is not the final frontier, but it is certainly close.

So, rug up for this one, and experience something just a little out there. You will find that there are now quite a few companies offering this opportunity so you will need to choose carefully what you want.

Antarctica is indeed eerie with its unusual landscape. There are huge mountain ranges, massive blue icebergs, and waterways of ice. There is a lot if krill here, which feeds the incumbent residents the orcas, leopard seals, fur, seals, penguins and snow petrels.

The icebergs are to be seen and definitely photographed. It is worth remembering that one can only see 1/8th of the iceberg, the rest is below the water. When you see the size of these, you will be in awe of what occurs underneath the surface. This is a totally surreal setting.

You can choose between a cruise to Antarctica or a flight over Antarctica, but a cruise will see you up close and personal with the geography, the wildlife, and the climate! Most cruises depart from Chile in South America. Undoubtedly, there will be scientists and specialists on your cruise to explain about the wildlife and the history and the unique geography.

The history of Antarctica is fascinating. The first attempt to find a route from the Antarctic coastline to the South Pole was made by British explorer Robert Scott on the Discovery Expedition of 1901–04. Scott, accompanied by Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, set out with the aim of travelling as far south as possible, and on 31 December 1902 got close, but it was Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his party who made it on December 14, 1911. When you see the area and experience the vagaries of the weather you will understand more so, what a feat this was.

Most cruises give you options to kayak in the freezing water and if the weather allows walking on the snow. Different cruises take in different places and have a different function. These may be a very scientific approach to a more leisurely photographer’s paradise. Whatever you choose it  is up to your interest and needs.

For most travellers, visiting Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How can you describe Antarctica?  Blue, crisp, pristine, quiet, stunningly beautiful…. and just a little cold.

Photo by horacio on Flickr