Antarctica Travel Guide

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Penguins Swimming in Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Penguins Swimming in Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Joseph Hollick

Antarctica is the smallest continent. Almost totally covered with ice and with temperatures far below zero, it hardly seems like an inviting tourist destination. Indeed, you are unlikely to find anything like sun, sea and sandy beaches on Antarctica. But you'll find a unique and exciting environment, full of unique wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

Antarctica is populated mostly by scientists who live and on the frozen continent.  Although there is no official support for tourism, those adventurous enough to brave the  weather may also find opportunities to work on one of the various research facilities for short periods of time.  These opportunities, of course, may only be undertaken after relevant training has been satisfactorily completed prior to departure.  Aside from this, the other ways to experience Antarctica include shore visits from commercial sea voyages (by far the most popular) or sightseeing by.

While the continent has rightfully earned the reputation for being cold, there is, contrary to what many may believe, very little snowfall or rain.  The landscape is dry and barren, and most of the region's moisture has been tied up in frigid seawater and the massive packs of ice that.

Antarctica is also the only continent to have no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians.  Penguins, migratory birds, fish, and marine mammals abound, but there is little on land to.

It is a unique experience to visit Antarctica, not only because of what you will witness, but also because so few people even think to visit.  It can, however, be a rewarding trip, provided you pack a whole lot of warm clothes.


THINGS TO DO


Look for a "Chocolate Iceberg"

"Chocolate Icebergs" are maybe a little less rare than jade icebergs, but still are relatively uncommon. And, like jade icebergs, they are well worth seeking out with a camera. They result from glaciers picking up mud and pulverised rock from the underlying ground, and entraining it into what becomes chocolate coloured ice. One day, the glacier reaches the ocean and pieces break away to form icebergs. Sometimes when they form, icebergs turn over - exposing the previous underside, possibly carrying the now chocolate coloured ice. Then it's camera time!


Cruise around icebergs in a zodiac

Icebergs are fascinating, especially up close. Closer proximity seems to help bring out the incredible range of colours, from the palest of blue to deep greens, indigo and even mauve. It's hard to believe that they consist of only frozen water, with maybe a little entrained air and occasional glacial detritus. It's even more difficult to believe that the bulk of them is hidden beneath the ocean. Zodiacs are the ideal way to see icebergs, because of their manouevrabilty, and their resistance to damage should they bump into the ice. What's more, zipping among the icebergs is a complete adrenaline buzz.

Meet an Emperor

Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the largest of the penguin family (though millions of years ago, a now-extinct giant species was as large as humans). They live south of the Antarctic Circle and have a particularly tough life cycle, being the only animals on the surface around the coasts of Antarctica during the bitter winters. Should you have the opportunity, see the new (end 2005) film "March of the Penguins" for a good documentary on them. Briefly, early in winter the females lay the eggs on fast sea ice, then leave them in charge of the males. The males balance the eggs on their feet and a fold of skin covers them and keeps them warm. Incubation takes about two months. The females go to sea to feed and return after the eggs hatch. At that stage, the males go to sea to continue the feeding process. In summer, when the chicks approach adolescence and begin to moult, the parents desert them - they then must learn about going to sea for themselves. (photo 1) The chicks are several years old before they breed. What this means is that, in the summer months, adult emperor penguins are found only among the pack ice. (photo 2) But, if you are fortunate, you will see young ones moulting and preparing to go to sea. Even as immature chicks, they already are noticeably larger than Adelie penguins. The third photo shows an emperor who came wandering into the frozen harbour at Mawson during 1966.
Directions: Sea ice, but almost exclusively south of the Antarctic Circle.

The South Pole

Well because it is there. The Holy Grail of Polar Explorers now anyone can go. Eight dates available each Antarctic Summer for only $26,000. This comes with -- you guessed it dinner at the pole. Dates start in mid November and end in Mid January. One of the greatest stories in Antarctic Exploration is that of the race to the Geographic South Pole. Still the names of explorers like Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton fascinate us as we learn of their heroic journeys in search of the Pole. More than 80 years have past since the first explorers reached the South Pole. In 1987, ANI flew the first tourists to the South Pole and to date remains the only company in the world offering airborne travel to the interior of Antarctica and the southernmost point on earth. A journey as significant today as it was for those early explorers so many years ago. Embark in city of Punta Arenas, Chile Fly via private aircraft over tabular icebergs and ice shelves into the heart of Antarctica Fly across the polar plateau reroute to the South Pole Become one of the few to stand at the southernmost point on earth – the Geographical South Pole Explore Patriot Hills, ANI’s base in the foothills of the Ellsworth Mountains.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://wikitravel.org/en/Antarctica

Contributors

February 06, 2007 change by rfujitani (1 point)

July 08, 2007 change by crlauer

Destinations in Antarctica