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Difference between revisions of "Antarctica"

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'''Antarctica''' is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation of any continent. The landscape remains mostly untouched by humans, with only a handful of scientific bases and a "permanent" population of scientists numbering only a few thousand.  Visitors to Antarctica generally must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, but those who do are rewarded with amazing scenery and tremendous wildlife.  Visitors to Antarctica often speak of its pristine beauty and serenity. Animal lovers, birdwatchers and photographers are also in for a treat in Antarctica with its various species of penguins, seals and birds that are native to the frozen continent.
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'''Antarctica''' is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation.  As the fifth largest continent in the world, Antartica is also the most Southern, overlying the "South Pole". Scarcely touched by humans, the frozen land boasts breathtaking scenery, broken by only handful of scientific bases and a "permanent" population of scientists numbering only a few thousand.  Visitors to Antarctica generally must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, but those who do are rewarded with amazing scenery and tremendous and unique wildlife.   
  
 
==Understand==
 
==Understand==
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Private travel to Antarctica generally takes one of three forms: 1) commercial sea voyages with shore visits (by far the most popular), 2) specially mounted land expeditions, or 3) sightseeing by air.  Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators [http://www.iaato.org], a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region.  In the 2005-2006 summer season, an estimated 26,250 people visited Antarctica or the surrounding waters.
 
Private travel to Antarctica generally takes one of three forms: 1) commercial sea voyages with shore visits (by far the most popular), 2) specially mounted land expeditions, or 3) sightseeing by air.  Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators [http://www.iaato.org], a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region.  In the 2005-2006 summer season, an estimated 26,250 people visited Antarctica or the surrounding waters.
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===History===
  
 
===Flora and fauna===
 
===Flora and fauna===
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Don't be fooled by all the ice: Antarctica is a desert.  The region's moisture is all tied up in frigid seawater and the huge sheets, shelves, and packs of ice which cover nearly all of the continent plus surrounding waters.  There is little snowfall here, and even less rain.
 
Don't be fooled by all the ice: Antarctica is a desert.  The region's moisture is all tied up in frigid seawater and the huge sheets, shelves, and packs of ice which cover nearly all of the continent plus surrounding waters.  There is little snowfall here, and even less rain.
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===Climate===
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For tourists, Antarctica is accessible only during the austral summer season from '''November to March''', during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 14ºC (57ºF) and there is sunlight during the day.  During the winter, the sea is impassable, temperatures can fall to -40ºC and it's pitch dark.
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The above temperatures apply to the islands and coastal regions that tourists ordinarily visit.  Temperatures in the interior, such as the [[South Pole]], are far harsher, with summer highs of around -15ºC (5ºF) and winter lows plummeting to -80ºC (-112ºF).
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===Read===
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For most people, reading about Antarctica is the only affordable means of experiencing the continent. Books range from wild works of fiction to non-fiction accounts of the extraordinary early missions of adventurers looking to conquer Earth's last land frontier.
 +
 +
*At the Mountains of Madness — the earliest science fiction/horror story to take place on the continent, written by H.P. Lovecraft, detailing the adventures of a geological expedition to Antarctic Mountains, where the researchers discover something so insane that they lose their minds
 +
* Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
 +
* Endurance, by Caroline Alexander
 +
* A First-Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott & the Race to the South Pole, by Diana Preston
 +
* Mawson's Will, by Lennard Bickel
 +
* North Pole, South Pole: Journeys to the Ends of the Earth, by Bertrand Imbert
 +
* Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals, by Robert F. Scott and Beryl Bainbridge
 +
* Shackleton, by Roland Huntford
 +
* South Pole: 900 Miles on Foot, by Gareth Wood and Eric Jamieson
 +
* The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  
 
==Regions==
 
==Regions==
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==Destinations==
 
==Destinations==
 
[[Image:Transantarctic mountain hg.jpg|thumb|280px|The remote, breathtaking Transantarctic mountains]]
 
[[Image:Transantarctic mountain hg.jpg|thumb|280px|The remote, breathtaking Transantarctic mountains]]
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The primary destinations for those visiting Antarctica will either be a research base (for those working on the frozen continent) or the [[Antarctic Peninsula]] or [[Ross Sea]] area (for those visiting by ship).  Other destinations are reachable only by those blessed with extreme motivation and (most importantly) funding.
  
 
*[[South Pole]] — needs no introduction
 
*[[South Pole]] — needs no introduction
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*Mount Erebus — world's southernmost active volcano, on [[Ross Sea|Ross Island]] right next to ''~Mount Terror!~''  
 
*Mount Erebus — world's southernmost active volcano, on [[Ross Sea|Ross Island]] right next to ''~Mount Terror!~''  
 
*[[Antarctic Peninsula|Anver Island / Anvord Bay]] — if any part of Antarctica is "touristy," this is it, home to Palmer Station ([[United States of America|U.S.]]), the museum at Port Lockroy, Cuverville Island, and the only two cruise ship stops on the continent: Paradise Bay and Neko Harbor
 
*[[Antarctic Peninsula|Anver Island / Anvord Bay]] — if any part of Antarctica is "touristy," this is it, home to Palmer Station ([[United States of America|U.S.]]), the museum at Port Lockroy, Cuverville Island, and the only two cruise ship stops on the continent: Paradise Bay and Neko Harbor
*[[South Shetland Islands]] — another set of major attractions on the [[Antarctic Peninsula]] cruise ship circuit, including: penguins and hot springs at Deception Island, Hannah Point, Half Moon Island, Aitcho Islands, Artigas Base (''[[Uruguay''), and the ever friendly [[Poland|Polish]] researchers at Arctowski Station
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*[[South Shetland Islands]] — another set of major attractions on the [[Antarctic Peninsula]] cruise ship circuit, including: penguins and hot springs at Deception Island, Hannah Point, Half Moon Island, Aitcho Islands, Artigas Base (''[[Uruguay]]''), and the ever friendly [[Poland|Polish]] researchers at Arctowski Station
 
*[[Ross Sea|McMurdo Sound]] — McMurdo Station (''[[USA]]'') and Scott Base (''[[New Zealand]]'') on the mainland near Ross Island
 
*[[Ross Sea|McMurdo Sound]] — McMurdo Station (''[[USA]]'') and Scott Base (''[[New Zealand]]'') on the mainland near Ross Island
 
*Mawson's Huts — the small encampment of Sir Douglas Mawson's ill-fated Australian Antarctic Expedition, of which he was the sole survivor, at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay
 
*Mawson's Huts — the small encampment of Sir Douglas Mawson's ill-fated Australian Antarctic Expedition, of which he was the sole survivor, at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay
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===By boat===
 
===By boat===
  
In the Antarctic summer, several companies offer excursions on ice strengthened vessels to Antarctica.  Ice strengthened (not quite as tough as icebreakers) boats are preferred since icebreakers are round on the bottom -- a configuration that amplifies the already massive wave action in the Drake passage.  The ships typically offer a couple of excursions to the continent (usually the Antarctic peninsula) or Antarctic islands (e.g., Deception Island, Aitcho Island) each day over the course of a week.  The views are phenomenal, the penguins are friendly (well, some of them are), and the experience is one that is unparalleled!
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[[Image:8857-grandidier-channel-polar-star.jpg|thumb|280px|The icebreaker M/V Polar Star (capacity 100 passengers) in the Grandidier Channel]]
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Boat is the most common method of visiting the Antarctic.  In the Antarctic summer, several companies offer excursions on ice strengthened vessels to Antarctica.  Ice strengthened (not quite as tough as icebreakers) boats are preferred since icebreakers are round on the bottom -- a configuration that amplifies the already massive wave action in the Drake passage.  The ships typically offer a couple of excursions to the continent (usually the Antarctic peninsula) or Antarctic islands (e.g., Deception Island, Aitcho Island) each day over the course of a week.  The views are phenomenal, the penguins are friendly (well, some of them are), and the experience is one that is unparalleled!
  
 
When traveling by boat, be aware that smaller ships (typically carrying 50-100 passengers) can go where the big ships can't, getting you up closer to Antarctica's nature and wildlife.  Larger vessels (carrying as many as 1200 people) are less prone to rough seas but have more limited landing options.  Many vessels include naturalist guided hikes, zodiac excursions and sea kayaking right from the ship, perfect for active, casual travelers.
 
When traveling by boat, be aware that smaller ships (typically carrying 50-100 passengers) can go where the big ships can't, getting you up closer to Antarctica's nature and wildlife.  Larger vessels (carrying as many as 1200 people) are less prone to rough seas but have more limited landing options.  Many vessels include naturalist guided hikes, zodiac excursions and sea kayaking right from the ship, perfect for active, casual travelers.
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You'll need warm clothing: boots, hoods, glove, water repellent pants, parka and warm underwear. Most of these items can be bought or hired in Ushaia, but sometimes - in the high season - it is not always easy to get the right sizes. So bring whatever you can from your own stock.  
 
You'll need warm clothing: boots, hoods, glove, water repellent pants, parka and warm underwear. Most of these items can be bought or hired in Ushaia, but sometimes - in the high season - it is not always easy to get the right sizes. So bring whatever you can from your own stock.  
  
It must also be remembered that cruise operators typically only allow 100 people on land at any one time.  Consequently if you are in a boat with more than 200 people the chances are you will only spend a couple of hours at most per day off ship.  Generally the smaller ships will try to ensure 2 different locations per day around Antarctica, although this is of course dependent on the weather and you may expect a 60% success rate on landing people for any given visit.
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It must also be remembered that cruise operators typically only allow 100 people on land at any one time in order to comply with IAATO agreements.  Consequently if you are in a boat with more than 200 people the chances are you will only spend a couple of hours at most per day off ship.  Generally the smaller ships will try to ensure 2 different locations per day around Antarctica, although this is of course dependent on the weather and you may expect a 60% success rate on landing people for any given visit.
  
 
Companies offering cruises to Antarctica include:
 
Companies offering cruises to Antarctica include:
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* '''AdventureSmith Antarctica Cruises''', [http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/].   
 
* '''AdventureSmith Antarctica Cruises''', [http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/].   
 
* '''Aurora Expeditions''', [http://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/].
 
* '''Aurora Expeditions''', [http://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/].
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* '''Bark Europa''', [http://www.barkeuropa.com/].  A square rigged sailing ship offering 22 day trips to Antarctica and other Sub Antarctic destinations like [[South Georgia]] and [[Tristan da Cunha]].
 
* '''Cheesemans Ecology Safaris''', [http://cheesemans.com/].  Offers a trip nearly every year that includes three days in the Falklands, a week on South Georgia, and eight days on the Antarctic Peninsula.  Their trips are expensive but are some of the best for maximizing onshore time.  They have also done Ross Sea trips in past years.
 
* '''Cheesemans Ecology Safaris''', [http://cheesemans.com/].  Offers a trip nearly every year that includes three days in the Falklands, a week on South Georgia, and eight days on the Antarctic Peninsula.  Their trips are expensive but are some of the best for maximizing onshore time.  They have also done Ross Sea trips in past years.
* '''Gap Adventures''', [http://www.gapadventures.com]. Operates trips on their ship: the 'Explorer' also known as The Little Red Ship. The maximum number of passenger is 106 and the trip is enriched by lectures by staff and naturalists.
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* '''Gap Adventures''', [http://www.gapadventures.com/expedition-cruises/]. Operates trips on their ship: the 'M/S Expedition' she will be taking travellers to the destinations that have inspired bold explorers for centuries. The maximum number of passengers is 120 and the trip is enriched by lectures by staff and naturalists.
 
* '''Journeys International''', [http://www.journeys.travel/destinations/polar/antarctica/]. Provides small ship exploration cruises to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle and the Weddell and Ross Seas.
 
* '''Journeys International''', [http://www.journeys.travel/destinations/polar/antarctica/]. Provides small ship exploration cruises to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle and the Weddell and Ross Seas.
 
* '''Lindblad Expeditions''', [http://www.expeditions.com/]. Offers multiple trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and longer trips which include the Falklands, South Georgia, and the South Orkneys aboard the National Geographic Endeavour.
 
* '''Lindblad Expeditions''', [http://www.expeditions.com/]. Offers multiple trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and longer trips which include the Falklands, South Georgia, and the South Orkneys aboard the National Geographic Endeavour.
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* '''Quark Expeditions''', [http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/]. Offers everything from month-long semi-circumnavigation trips to week-long explorations of the Antarctic peninsula, on former Russian ice-breakers and expedition ships.
 
* '''Quark Expeditions''', [http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/]. Offers everything from month-long semi-circumnavigation trips to week-long explorations of the Antarctic peninsula, on former Russian ice-breakers and expedition ships.
 
* '''Ocean Expeditions''' , [http://www.ocean-expeditions.com/] Sailing yacht ‘Australis’ offers an intimate experience of Antarctica.
 
* '''Ocean Expeditions''' , [http://www.ocean-expeditions.com/] Sailing yacht ‘Australis’ offers an intimate experience of Antarctica.
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* '''Rockjumper Birding tours''', [http://www.rockjumper.co.za/default.asp?id=1118] operates out of [[South Africa]] and is aimed at those interested in [[birding]].
 
* '''Geographic Expeditions''', [http://www.geoex.com/]. GeoEx specializes in small group adventure travel. Tours offer a variety of destinations such as Ross Sea, South Georgia Islands an penguin rookeries.
 
* '''Geographic Expeditions''', [http://www.geoex.com/]. GeoEx specializes in small group adventure travel. Tours offer a variety of destinations such as Ross Sea, South Georgia Islands an penguin rookeries.
  
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==Sleep==
 
==Sleep==
  
Antarctica has 24-hour sunshine during the southern hemisphere summer.  Visitors should ensure that they take steps to keep regular sleeping hours as continuous daylight disturbs the body clock.
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Antarctica has 24-hour sunshine during the southern hemisphere summer.  Visitors should ensure that they take steps to keep regular sleeping hours as continuous daylight disturbs the body clock.  There are no hotels or lodges on the continent, and research bases will not generally house guests.  Most visitors sleep on board their boat, although land expeditions will use tents for shelter.
  
 
==Work==
 
==Work==
  
 
It is possible to obtain employment with scientific expeditions in Antarctica. Induction and training need to be undertaken prior to departure for Antarctica.
 
It is possible to obtain employment with scientific expeditions in Antarctica. Induction and training need to be undertaken prior to departure for Antarctica.
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The following agencies are responsible for staffing bases in Antarctica:
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* <listing name="Raytheon Polar Services" alt="" directions="" address="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="http://rpsc.raytheon.com/" hours="" price="">Agency responsible for staffing all United States Antarctic bases.  Applicants can apply through the web site or at one of the Antarctic job fairs held around the country.</listing>
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* <listing name="British Antarctic Survey" alt="" directions="" address="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/employment/index.php" hours="" price="">The British Antarctic Survey staffs bases in the Antarctic and surround region including the [[Falklands]] and [[South Georgia]].</listing>
  
 
==Stay safe==
 
==Stay safe==
  
As most visitors to Antarctica will arrive by boat, the greatest dangers occur due to storms at sea.  The weather in the Southern Ocean is nature at its most extreme, with the potential for hurricane force winds and waves as high as 60-70 feet (18-23 meters).  With modern safety and ship design the odds of sinking are low, but the odds of being thrown about by a wave are high.  Every year numerous people die or are seriously injured during the crossing to and from the continent.  When on a boat in rough weather always make sure that you have at least one secure handhold, and avoid opening doors during storms as a sudden shift in the waves can easily bring a heavy door crashing back onto a body part.  In severe weather stay in your cabin and wait for the storm to subside.
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As most visitors to Antarctica will arrive by boat, the greatest dangers occur due to storms at sea.  The weather in the Southern Ocean is nature at its most extreme, with the potential for hurricane force winds and waves as high as 60-70 feet (18-23 meters).  With modern safety and ship design the odds of sinking are low, but the odds of being thrown about by a wave are high.  Every year '''numerous people die or are seriously injured''' during the crossing to and from the continent.  When on a boat in rough weather always make sure that you have at least one secure handhold, and avoid opening doors during storms as a sudden shift in the waves can easily bring a heavy door crashing back onto a body part.  In severe weather stay in your cabin and wait for the storm to subside.
  
 
Weather on the continent is equally extreme, although most visitors pack appropriate gear.  For expeditions there are limited search-and-rescue options, so expeditions must plan for all contingencies.  There is no formal government or legal system in Antarctica, but the laws of the country of origin or departure as well as those of a claimant government may apply.  Rules regarding protection of the environment and of historical sites will be strictly enforced, and fines can be extreme.
 
Weather on the continent is equally extreme, although most visitors pack appropriate gear.  For expeditions there are limited search-and-rescue options, so expeditions must plan for all contingencies.  There is no formal government or legal system in Antarctica, but the laws of the country of origin or departure as well as those of a claimant government may apply.  Rules regarding protection of the environment and of historical sites will be strictly enforced, and fines can be extreme.
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Also note that when visiting Antarctica that a hospital is usually '''days''' away.  Most ships and research stations have a doctor, but facilities are limited.  In cases where evacuation is required (if even possible), costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  Those with pre-existing conditions should strongly consider the risks of venturing into a land where medical help may not be available prior to embarking on an Antarctic journey.
  
 
==Stay healthy==
 
==Stay healthy==
Antarctica has an extreme environment. The cold is a major health hazard. Visitors should be properly prepared and equipped for any visit.
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Antarctica has an extreme environment. The cold is a major health hazard. Visitors should be properly prepared and equipped for any visit.  Waterproof and windproof gloves, coat, pants, and boots are an absolute necessity.  Other necessities that are often overlooked include sunscreen and sunglasses - summertime visitors will be exposed to the sun's rays from above and from reflections off of snow, ice, and water.  Additionally, for those arriving by boat seasickness medicine is strongly encouraged - even the most seaworthy individual will feel queasy in a severe storm; check with your doctor before visiting to determine what medicine is appropriate.
  
 
==Respect==
 
==Respect==
  
Antarctica has a very fragile environment. Pollution should be avoided if at all possible. Expeditions should anticipate the need to remove ''all'' waste from the continent when they leave. Waste disposal and sewage facilities on the continent are severely limited and restricted to permanent installations.
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Antarctica has a very fragile environment. Pollution should be avoided if at all possible. Expeditions should anticipate the need to remove ''all'' waste from the continent when they leave. Waste disposal and sewage facilities on the continent are severely limited and restricted to permanent installations.  Of particular concern to tourists is the danger of introducing foreign organisms into the fragile Antarctic environment.  Many tour operators will require visitors to do a boot wash after every landing to avoid carrying seeds or other items from one location to another.  In addition, visitors should examine all clothing prior to embarking to avoid bringing any plant or animal material to the Antarctic; invasive species have devastated many regions of the planet, so it is particularly important to protect Antarctica from this danger.
  
 
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is a voluntary organization of tour operators which promotes safe and environmentally responsible tourism in Antarctica. It publishes standards for member tour operators on responsible practices for private visitors to Antarctica. [http://www.iaato.org/]
 
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is a voluntary organization of tour operators which promotes safe and environmentally responsible tourism in Antarctica. It publishes standards for member tour operators on responsible practices for private visitors to Antarctica. [http://www.iaato.org/]
  
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{{guideregion}}
  
 
[[de:Antarktis]]
 
[[de:Antarktis]]

Revision as of 07:00, 30 October 2008

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[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Antarctica]]
Flag
108px
Quick Facts
Capital N/A
Government Antarctic Treaty
Currency varies by station
Area 14 million sq km (280,000 sq km ice-free) (est.)
Population no permanent inhabitants, seasonally staffed research stations vary from 1000-4000
Language varies by station
Electricity varies by station
Internet TLD .aq
Time Zone varies by station

Antarctica is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation. As the fifth largest continent in the world, Antartica is also the most Southern, overlying the "South Pole". Scarcely touched by humans, the frozen land boasts breathtaking scenery, broken by only handful of scientific bases and a "permanent" population of scientists numbering only a few thousand. Visitors to Antarctica generally must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, but those who do are rewarded with amazing scenery and tremendous and unique wildlife.

Contents

Understand

Although several countries have laid claim to various portions of Antarctica, it is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty [1],which establishes the continent as a peaceful and cooperative international research zone. There are no cities per se, just some two dozen research stations with a total population ranging from 1000-4000 depending on the time of year. These are maintained for scientific purposes only, and do not provide any official support for tourism. The laws of the nation operating each research station apply there.

Private travel to Antarctica generally takes one of three forms: 1) commercial sea voyages with shore visits (by far the most popular), 2) specially mounted land expeditions, or 3) sightseeing by air. Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators [2], a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region. In the 2005-2006 summer season, an estimated 26,250 people visited Antarctica or the surrounding waters.

History

Flora and fauna

Antarctica is notable for being the only continent with no significant land plant life and no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. (There are no polar bears; they are only at the North Pole.) However its shoreline serves as nesting ground for many species of migratory birds and penguins, and the Southern Ocean surrounding it is home to many fish and marine mammals, including whales.

Landscape

Don't be fooled by all the ice: Antarctica is a desert. The region's moisture is all tied up in frigid seawater and the huge sheets, shelves, and packs of ice which cover nearly all of the continent plus surrounding waters. There is little snowfall here, and even less rain.

Climate

For tourists, Antarctica is accessible only during the austral summer season from November to March, during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 14ºC (57ºF) and there is sunlight during the day. During the winter, the sea is impassable, temperatures can fall to -40ºC and it's pitch dark.

The above temperatures apply to the islands and coastal regions that tourists ordinarily visit. Temperatures in the interior, such as the South Pole, are far harsher, with summer highs of around -15ºC (5ºF) and winter lows plummeting to -80ºC (-112ºF).

Read

For most people, reading about Antarctica is the only affordable means of experiencing the continent. Books range from wild works of fiction to non-fiction accounts of the extraordinary early missions of adventurers looking to conquer Earth's last land frontier.

  • At the Mountains of Madness — the earliest science fiction/horror story to take place on the continent, written by H.P. Lovecraft, detailing the adventures of a geological expedition to Antarctic Mountains, where the researchers discover something so insane that they lose their minds
  • Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
  • Endurance, by Caroline Alexander
  • A First-Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott & the Race to the South Pole, by Diana Preston
  • Mawson's Will, by Lennard Bickel
  • North Pole, South Pole: Journeys to the Ends of the Earth, by Bertrand Imbert
  • Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals, by Robert F. Scott and Beryl Bainbridge
  • Shackleton, by Roland Huntford
  • South Pole: 900 Miles on Foot, by Gareth Wood and Eric Jamieson
  • The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Regions

Antarctica regions
Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctica's principal destination, nearest to Tierra del Fuego, with the impressive topography of the Antarctic Andes, island hot springs, the continent's densest concentration of research stations
East Antarctica
the Eastern Hemisphere's vast icy desert wasteland that makes up most of the continent is probably the least well known to tourists, but there are a few interesting destinations, including Mawson's Huts, and the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility
Ross Sea
the principal destination for cruise ships leaving Australia and New Zealand has some of Antarctica's most impressive sights around volcanic Ross Island and the huge Transantarctic Mountain Chain
South Pole
Unlike its northern cousin, the South Pole sits upon stationary ground, and therefore supports a permanent research station and a ceremonial "pole"
West Antarctica
With the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula, West Antarctica is barren and empty, even of research stations (except for the Brunt Ice Shelf), but it does contain the continent's highest & lowest points, the former of which you can climb on a guided expedition

Note: All dots on map represent inhabited research stations.

Also see Islands of the Southern Ocean

Destinations

The remote, breathtaking Transantarctic mountains

The primary destinations for those visiting Antarctica will either be a research base (for those working on the frozen continent) or the Antarctic Peninsula or Ross Sea area (for those visiting by ship). Other destinations are reachable only by those blessed with extreme motivation and (most importantly) funding.

  • South Pole — needs no introduction
  • Southern pole of inaccessibility — the furthest place in Antarctica from the Southern Sea (in other words the hardest place to get to in the world), home to an abandoned Soviet station, which although covered by snow, still bears a visible gold Lenin bust sprouting from the snow and facing Moscow (if you can find a way inside the building, there's a golden visitor book to sign)
  • Mount Erebus — world's southernmost active volcano, on Ross Island right next to ~Mount Terror!~
  • Anver Island / Anvord Bay — if any part of Antarctica is "touristy," this is it, home to Palmer Station (U.S.), the museum at Port Lockroy, Cuverville Island, and the only two cruise ship stops on the continent: Paradise Bay and Neko Harbor
  • South Shetland Islands — another set of major attractions on the Antarctic Peninsula cruise ship circuit, including: penguins and hot springs at Deception Island, Hannah Point, Half Moon Island, Aitcho Islands, Artigas Base (Uruguay), and the ever friendly Polish researchers at Arctowski Station
  • McMurdo Sound — McMurdo Station (USA) and Scott Base (New Zealand) on the mainland near Ross Island
  • Mawson's Huts — the small encampment of Sir Douglas Mawson's ill-fated Australian Antarctic Expedition, of which he was the sole survivor, at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay

Talk

The native languages of the nations operating bases are used. English is commonly used for communicating between bases where different languages are spoken.

Get in

By plane

Aircraft and pilots need to be capable of landing on ice, snow, or gravel runways, as there are no paved runways. Landings are generally restricted to the daylight season (Summer months from October to March). Winter landings have been performed at Williams Field but low temperatures mean that aircraft cannot stay on the ice longer than an hour or so as their skis may freeze to the ice runway. Travel is normally by military aircraft, as part of the cargo. Passengers should anticipate carrying all their own luggage and may need to assist with freight as well.

Major landing fields include:

  • Williams Field - Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
  • Pegasus Blue-Ice Runway - Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
  • Annual Sea-Ice Runway - Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

Adventure Network [3] offers flights several times a year (in December/January only) from Punta Arenas, Chile to the South Pole for a chilly US$35,000 per person.

Commercial overflights to Antarctica are limited. Croydon Travel [4] offers a few flights each year out of Sydney and Melbourne, Australia on a Qantas Airline 747. They take about 4 hours to reach East Antarctica, spend 4 hours flying as close as 2000 feet over the ice, then take 4 hours to return. Passengers in most seating classes rotate their position in the row halfway into the flight, to give everyone a window or one-over-from-window seat for half of the time. Rates range from $5199 for first class, to $1399 for partially-obstructed-view economy class, or $899 for non-rotating center-section seats with window access depending on the courtesy of better-seated travelers. Keep in mind that these flights involve substantial risk: a successful search-and-rescue mission would be all but impossible in the event of a crash, which is what happened to one Air New Zealand flight in 1979. Due to a combination of low flying altitude and a navigational error, they hit Mount Erebus on Ross Island and all 257 people aboard were killed.

By boat

The icebreaker M/V Polar Star (capacity 100 passengers) in the Grandidier Channel

Boat is the most common method of visiting the Antarctic. In the Antarctic summer, several companies offer excursions on ice strengthened vessels to Antarctica. Ice strengthened (not quite as tough as icebreakers) boats are preferred since icebreakers are round on the bottom -- a configuration that amplifies the already massive wave action in the Drake passage. The ships typically offer a couple of excursions to the continent (usually the Antarctic peninsula) or Antarctic islands (e.g., Deception Island, Aitcho Island) each day over the course of a week. The views are phenomenal, the penguins are friendly (well, some of them are), and the experience is one that is unparalleled!

When traveling by boat, be aware that smaller ships (typically carrying 50-100 passengers) can go where the big ships can't, getting you up closer to Antarctica's nature and wildlife. Larger vessels (carrying as many as 1200 people) are less prone to rough seas but have more limited landing options. Many vessels include naturalist guided hikes, zodiac excursions and sea kayaking right from the ship, perfect for active, casual travelers.

You'll need warm clothing: boots, hoods, glove, water repellent pants, parka and warm underwear. Most of these items can be bought or hired in Ushaia, but sometimes - in the high season - it is not always easy to get the right sizes. So bring whatever you can from your own stock.

It must also be remembered that cruise operators typically only allow 100 people on land at any one time in order to comply with IAATO agreements. Consequently if you are in a boat with more than 200 people the chances are you will only spend a couple of hours at most per day off ship. Generally the smaller ships will try to ensure 2 different locations per day around Antarctica, although this is of course dependent on the weather and you may expect a 60% success rate on landing people for any given visit.

Companies offering cruises to Antarctica include:

  • Adventure Associates, [5].
  • AdventureSmith Antarctica Cruises, [6].
  • Aurora Expeditions, [7].
  • Bark Europa, [8]. A square rigged sailing ship offering 22 day trips to Antarctica and other Sub Antarctic destinations like South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha.
  • Cheesemans Ecology Safaris, [9]. Offers a trip nearly every year that includes three days in the Falklands, a week on South Georgia, and eight days on the Antarctic Peninsula. Their trips are expensive but are some of the best for maximizing onshore time. They have also done Ross Sea trips in past years.
  • Gap Adventures, [10]. Operates trips on their ship: the 'M/S Expedition' she will be taking travellers to the destinations that have inspired bold explorers for centuries. The maximum number of passengers is 120 and the trip is enriched by lectures by staff and naturalists.
  • Journeys International, [11]. Provides small ship exploration cruises to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circle and the Weddell and Ross Seas.
  • Lindblad Expeditions, [12]. Offers multiple trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and longer trips which include the Falklands, South Georgia, and the South Orkneys aboard the National Geographic Endeavour.
  • Mountain Travel Sobek.
  • Polar Cruises, [13]. A small company offering trips on most of the ships cruising Antarctica. They have been on all the ships and traveled to Antarctica many times. Great insights into Antarctica cruises and travel.
  • Quark Expeditions, [14]. Offers everything from month-long semi-circumnavigation trips to week-long explorations of the Antarctic peninsula, on former Russian ice-breakers and expedition ships.
  • Ocean Expeditions , [15] Sailing yacht ‘Australis’ offers an intimate experience of Antarctica.
  • Rockjumper Birding tours, [16] operates out of South Africa and is aimed at those interested in birding.
  • Geographic Expeditions, [17]. GeoEx specializes in small group adventure travel. Tours offer a variety of destinations such as Ross Sea, South Georgia Islands an penguin rookeries.

Most cruise ships depart from the following ports:

Antarctic Stations

Coastal stations include

  • McMurdo (77 51 S, 166 40 E) (USA)
  • Palmer (64 42 S, 64 00 W) (USA)
  • Arctowski (Poland)
  • St. Kliment Ohridski, [18] (Livingston Island) (62 38 29 S, 60 21 53 W) (Bulgaria)
  • Port Lockroy (UK)
  • Baia Terranova (I)
  • Mawson (67 36 S, 62 52 E) (Australia)
  • Davis (68 35 S, 77 58 E) (Australia)
  • Casey (66 17 S, 110 32 E) (Australia)
  • Aboa (73°03'S, 13°25'W) (Finland)

Get around

Zodiac cruising in Paradise Harbour

Ponies, sledges and dogs, skis, tractors, snow cats (and similar tracked vehicles) and aircraft including helicopters and ski planes have all been used to get around Antarctica. Cruise ships use zodiac boats to ferry tourists from ship to shore in small groups. Bring your own fuel and food, or arrange supplies in advance. You cannot purchase fuel or food on the continent. Cruise ships come fully prepared with landing transport, food, etc. Some (but not all) even provide cold-weather clothing.

Sleep

Antarctica has 24-hour sunshine during the southern hemisphere summer. Visitors should ensure that they take steps to keep regular sleeping hours as continuous daylight disturbs the body clock. There are no hotels or lodges on the continent, and research bases will not generally house guests. Most visitors sleep on board their boat, although land expeditions will use tents for shelter.

Work

It is possible to obtain employment with scientific expeditions in Antarctica. Induction and training need to be undertaken prior to departure for Antarctica.

The following agencies are responsible for staffing bases in Antarctica:

  • Raytheon Polar Services, [19]. Agency responsible for staffing all United States Antarctic bases. Applicants can apply through the web site or at one of the Antarctic job fairs held around the country.
  • British Antarctic Survey, [20]. The British Antarctic Survey staffs bases in the Antarctic and surround region including the Falklands and South Georgia.

Stay safe

As most visitors to Antarctica will arrive by boat, the greatest dangers occur due to storms at sea. The weather in the Southern Ocean is nature at its most extreme, with the potential for hurricane force winds and waves as high as 60-70 feet (18-23 meters). With modern safety and ship design the odds of sinking are low, but the odds of being thrown about by a wave are high. Every year numerous people die or are seriously injured during the crossing to and from the continent. When on a boat in rough weather always make sure that you have at least one secure handhold, and avoid opening doors during storms as a sudden shift in the waves can easily bring a heavy door crashing back onto a body part. In severe weather stay in your cabin and wait for the storm to subside.

Weather on the continent is equally extreme, although most visitors pack appropriate gear. For expeditions there are limited search-and-rescue options, so expeditions must plan for all contingencies. There is no formal government or legal system in Antarctica, but the laws of the country of origin or departure as well as those of a claimant government may apply. Rules regarding protection of the environment and of historical sites will be strictly enforced, and fines can be extreme.

Also note that when visiting Antarctica that a hospital is usually days away. Most ships and research stations have a doctor, but facilities are limited. In cases where evacuation is required (if even possible), costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Those with pre-existing conditions should strongly consider the risks of venturing into a land where medical help may not be available prior to embarking on an Antarctic journey.

Stay healthy

Antarctica has an extreme environment. The cold is a major health hazard. Visitors should be properly prepared and equipped for any visit. Waterproof and windproof gloves, coat, pants, and boots are an absolute necessity. Other necessities that are often overlooked include sunscreen and sunglasses - summertime visitors will be exposed to the sun's rays from above and from reflections off of snow, ice, and water. Additionally, for those arriving by boat seasickness medicine is strongly encouraged - even the most seaworthy individual will feel queasy in a severe storm; check with your doctor before visiting to determine what medicine is appropriate.

Respect

Antarctica has a very fragile environment. Pollution should be avoided if at all possible. Expeditions should anticipate the need to remove all waste from the continent when they leave. Waste disposal and sewage facilities on the continent are severely limited and restricted to permanent installations. Of particular concern to tourists is the danger of introducing foreign organisms into the fragile Antarctic environment. Many tour operators will require visitors to do a boot wash after every landing to avoid carrying seeds or other items from one location to another. In addition, visitors should examine all clothing prior to embarking to avoid bringing any plant or animal material to the Antarctic; invasive species have devastated many regions of the planet, so it is particularly important to protect Antarctica from this danger.

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is a voluntary organization of tour operators which promotes safe and environmentally responsible tourism in Antarctica. It publishes standards for member tour operators on responsible practices for private visitors to Antarctica. [21]

This is a guide article. It has well developed information throughout the entire article, and throughout all of the articles on destinations within the region. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!


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