Top Reasons to Explore Antarctica
By ~ Eric-Sheets
Known as Earth’s white continent, Antarctica provides travelers with a far more enriching experience than would be expected from a land covered by 90% ice. Not to mention that, as the source of 70% of our planet’s freshwater, Antarctica plays a significant role in terms of our planet’s survival and global well-being. Nonetheless, many globetrotters have blocked themselves from exploring the otherworldly beauty of Antarctica, be it for the frigid temperatures or the seemingly unfathomable distance.
An isolated playground for thrill-seekers and Zen-chasers alike, an unforgettable journey awaits in our planet’s southernmost continent. Read on to discover the top reasons to explore Antarctica with family and friends.
Remote and Only ‘Recently’ Discovered
Historically, only the truly intrepid explorers and travelers who appreciate the unique and yearn for the unknown have conquered the human psyche and ventured to Antarctica, a seemingly mythical land.
The Greeks, in fact, speculated that a massive landmass in the Southern Hemisphere existed to balance out the land in the north. Philosopher Aristotle (4th century BC) would term the fabled land ‘Antarktos,’ meaning ‘opposite bear’: a reference to the Great and Little Bear constellations that can only be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.
Speculation continued into the 15th century, with many referring to the southernmost continent as ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ (Unknown Southern Land). James Cook came within less than 130 kilometers of Antarctica’s coastline in 1773. Having not seen the land with his own eyes, he brazenly declared “that no man will ever venture farther than I have done and that the lands which may lie to the South will never be explored.”
Finally, after a millennium and then some hypotheses, doubt, and failed attempts, Antarctica was seen at the beginning of 1820 by members of a Russian expedition. One year later, American explorer and sealer John Davis became the first person to set foot on the icy terrain. The seventh continent was no longer a thing of myths.
As we traverse the globe in the early 21st century, when seemingly every corner of the world has been discovered, Antarctica continues to be the last great untouched wilderness, a beacon for scientific research and adventure opportunities.
Where Wildlife Thrives and No Cities Exist
Unlike every other continent in the world, no great human population lives permanently in Antarctica. In fact, there are no cities or urban centers in Antarctica, only stations where researchers and scientists have set up camp. As a result, a range of wildlife has been able to adapt to the harsh climate, both on land and at sea.
Though penguins spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, seven of the 17 total penguin species can be spotted waddling across Antarctica’s ice and snow. These include the Chinstrap, Adélie, Emperor, and King penguins––the latter two being synonymous with many travelers’ imaginings of Antarctica.
Emperor and King penguins are both marked by a magnificent ring of golden feathers on their heads; however, the Emperor reaches an average weight twice that of the King (30 kg and 15 kg, respectively). Recognized as the world’s largest penguin, Emperors can be found on a voyage to the Weddell Sea while the King penguins can easily be spotted from the comfort of an Antarctic cruise when nearing South Georgia, Macquarie Island, Prince Edward Island, and Heard Island.
Another common sight while aboard a boat or vessel are whales. Orcas can be found in every ocean on Earth; however, most are based in the frigid waters surrounding Antarctica. Researchers have identified four subtypes of orcas, all of which can be found in Antarctica. Traverse the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ross Sea during summer for a high probability of catching these majestic black and white creatures.
The quiet beauty of Antarctica is broken by the welcome appearance of a Blue Whale––the largest and loudest creature found on our planet. An average of 30 meters long and weighing up to 200 tonnes (200,000 kilograms), these large mammals are drawn to the nutrient-dense waters of the Antarctic from February-March, the peak of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months. Unfortunately, blue whales are considered critically endangered in the Antarctic, as less than 3,000 are believed to inhabit the area.
Adventure Opportunities for All Levels
The varying landscapes and climates of Antarctica have garnered the seventh continent a range of exhilarating titles, including the coldest place on Earth (average of -76 degrees Fahrenheit at the most elevated parts, 14 degrees along the coast) and the highest wind speeds (reaching over 200 MPH) which possibly have resulted in McMurdo Dry Valleys becoming the driest place in the world.
Throw into the mix of two active volcanoes, a blood-red waterfall, Midnight Suns and Polar Nights, lakes under thick ice sheets, and buried mountains. It is easy to understand why so many visitors have described Antarctica as otherworldly.
Thanks to the myriad of landscapes, the excursions and experiences to be enjoyed in Antarctica are just as diverse and adaptable to each traveler’s threshold for adventure.
Cruise around massive icebergs on a zodiac or get that much closer to the water’s surface by kayaking across ice-studded waters. Discover the Antarctic as pioneering polar explorers did centuries ago by mountaineering towards lofty summits or snowshoeing across icy spans. Venture below the frozen Arctic surface with a scuba diving plunge.
And when the body is tired or a new perspective is craved, a helicopter ride over Antarctica is an unmissable opportunity to witness wildlife and landscapes that can not otherwise be accessed.
Beacon of Hope During Global Warming
As our planet continues to grow warmer, scientists have begun to look towards the coldest continent as an impetus in safeguarding our future. No doubt, it is a curious turn of events as Antarctica has been portrayed as the victim of global warming. And yet, that is precisely why the continent will play a key role in our future.
The two ice sheets––containing 70% of Earth’s freshwater––of Antarctica are melting before our eyes. Should they melt completely, global sea levels would rise by 56 meters, slowing down the global ocean circulation and shifting the Southern Hemisphere’s climate.
The world over has experienced the consequences of rising sea levels, with significant storms in Florida and New York and the increasing threat faced by low-lying Pacific islands. And as temperatures begin to increase, the fate of our planet nears an irreversible status.
By exploring and experiencing Antarctica firsthand on an unforgettable journey, travelers will have more than just a vacation to remember: it will become incredibly clear just how precious this destination is and why it is worth protecting for future generations.
Most Efficient Way to Travel to Antarctica
One of our favorite ways to take travelers to Antarctica is the Fly-Cruise option.
Depart from Punta Arenas (Chile) and take a two-hour flight to King George station in the Shetland Islands. From here, you will board your expedition ship, eliminating a possible rough passage and the accompanying seasickness that might occur while traveling the approximate 36 hours through the Drake passage.
This method is not only faster in getting you to where you really want to be (Antarctica) but also follows a more efficient process. Your expedition ship has no more than 75 travelers, which makes embarking and disembarking fast and smooth. Your connection to the places we visit is qualitatively different: less noise, less distraction, and a more intimate experience.
With a minimum of 12 polar expert guides, you are ensured an unforgettable adventure.
Itineraries last from 5 nights to 16 nights, ensuring options for all traveler types and their respective time limitations.
All meals and excursions (with the exception of kayaking) are included. Beer, wine, and juice are served with lunch and dinner. Complimentary hot beverages are available all day.
If considering exploring Antarctica, planning ahead is essential. Contact the Latin Excursions team to start planning today.
If Time is Not an Issue: Boat Options
An adventurous option that harks back to the days of early explorers, Antarctica cruises typically depart from Ushuaia (located on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago). From South America’s southernmost tip, travelers can pass through the Drake Passage on an unforgettable two-day journey before spending a day exploring the glorious South Shetland Islands. It all leads up to the eventual and much-anticipated arrival to Antarctica.
If opting for the scenic cruise option, discerning travelers must choose the vessel that best suits the needs of their travel group. To help narrow it down, we’ve selected two of our favorite boats for the upcoming season: Island Sky and the MS Seaventure.
Exuding Old World charm, Island Sky has garnered a reputation since its 2017 debut as a superb platform for exploring Antarctica in comfort and style. Including three decks of private suites with sliding glass doors that open into the crisp Antarctic air, this ship brings passengers exclusive access to the White Continent in more ways than one.
Just over 100 passengers will be on board to enjoy world-class cuisine in between spotting whales, penguins, and jaw-dropping icebergs. From this small expedition ship, all guests can hop on Zodiacs to explore Antarctica by sea or to head ashore for an intrepid camping experience.
Awarded the 1-A Super ice class rating—the highest ice class awarded to passenger vessels—the MS Seaventure is designed to navigate difficult ice conditions, meaning those on board will have the opportunity to venture to places that would simply be impossible on other vessels. Indulgent amenities such as a sauna and heated saltwater pool will enhance your Antarctica cruise experience. For the truly inquisitive, be sure to check out the custom-built citizen science lab, which allows passengers to participate in ongoing research (more info below).
When not lounging in the lush and open common areas, seek refuge in your MS Seaventure private suite, each fitted with large bay windows to admire the passing scenery. Note that the storage space has been upgraded in order to accommodate more outdoor gear, meaning more guests will be able to add snowshoeing, kayaking, or camping to their itineraries.
To this day, Antarctica remains very much a mystery, drawing experts and researchers from around the globe. Both the Island Sky and MS Seaventure boats encourage passengers to get on board to observe and study the natural phenomena that is Antarctica by including a Citizen Science Program. Focusing on the ecology and climate change aspects apparent in our seventh continent, travelers have a unique opportunity to gather data (via birdwatching, marine mammal identification, and more) that will contribute to answering some of our biggest questions.
For more information regarding exploring the Antarctic and travel safety, contact us: email@example.com