Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, it is the fifth largest continent in area after Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. The continent has 0 permenant residents, but around 1,000-1,500 people stay for a year or so conducting research. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1 mile (1.6 km) in thickness.
Animals such as the Weddell Seal, Orcas, Blue whales, Leopord seals, Albatross and Rockhopper, Adelie, and Emporer Penguins inhabit this land, and are a few of the only animals that could actually survive such conditions. Antarctica is seperated into 8 territorial claims owned by 7 different countries: Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, France, Chile, Argentina and Norway (2). Then lies Mary Bird Land, the unclaimed territory of Antarctica.
It is home to some of the most scenic mountains and remote getaways on the Earth. Sight seeing, sea kayaking, ice hiking, and whale watching are just some of the activities Antarctica holds. It is known to have some of the most historic and incredible ice climbing, mountain trekking expeditions ever completed by man.
Must See & Do
- Museo Maritimo – www.museomaritimo.com
Housed in the old prison this museum has an excellent collection of model ships…Get a sense of the rich maritime history of the area including Cape Horn and The Beagle Channel. They also have loads of Antarctic history and a great display about the original Tierra Del Fuegons – the Yamana Indians.
- Tierra Del Fuego National Park – Amazing scenery!
- Tren Del Fin Del Mundo http://www.trendelfindelmundo.com.ar/
A good introduction to the park…2 hours train trip. The track was built by prisoners back in the day when Ushaia was a penal colony.
- Centro de Excombatientes de Malvinas en Ushuaia (Centre for Malvinas war veterans)
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
Visit this historic house lovingly restored to its 1950’s state. Inside check out the ‘Beastie’ one of the old apparatus used for monitoring the ionosphere. It is a great contraption like out of old science fiction.
They also have what is arguably the best gift shop in Antarctica. Here you can purchase a tie or a blanket from their own Antarctic tartan and even send a postcard back home.
Most bases will provide a tour, and access to their bar or gift shop. As the scientists are hard at work on short contracts it is unlikely you will get to spend time with them in the field. Anything more than a standard visit will need to be permitted from head office in the owner countries.
US National Science Foundation
Latitude: -64.77417° (south)
Longitude: -64.05450° (west)
Visit US base Palmer and you will doubtless receive a tour of the impressive facility. It is like visiting Boulder Colorado so many outdoorsy funky scientists, very cool. You may even get to try one of their famous chocolate brownies.
Akademik Vernadsky, Argentine Islands
Latitude: –65.15° (south)
Longitude: -64.16° (west)
Visit Vernadsky and you will undoubtedly end up sampling some vodka in the bar. They also will show you the original apparatus that was used for detecting the hole in the earth’s Ozone layer.
Gonzalez Videla, Paradise Bay
Latitude: –64. 49° (south)
Longitude: -62 52° (west)
This is not a scientific base, the Chilean’s staff a permanent marine search and rescue operation for the peninsula. The military guys here are desperate for visitors and base commander Christian Toledo provides the entertainment on guitar. He is Chile’s answer to Elvis Presley.
- Climate: Antarctica is the coldest of Earth’s continents. The coldest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth was −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) at the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica on 21 July 1983. Antarctica is a frozen desert with little precipitation, the South Pole itself receives less than 10 cm per year, on average. Temperatures reach a minimum of between −80 °C (−112 °F) and −90 °C (−130 °F) in the winter and reach a maximum of between 5 °C (41 °F) and 15 °C (59 °F) near the coast during the summer.
- Dress: Stay warm! Bring wind and waterproof outer layers. Avoid overdressing to reduce perspiration. Make sure to keep your hands warm and dry at all times. For hands, mittens are better than gloves. Heavy-duty ski and snow gear is recommended.
- Health: For travel to Antarctica, severe low temperatures and high winds are the greatest health hazard. The effects of the sun in Antarctica (because of the sun reflecting off the snow) can be damaging to the eyes and skin, and protective measures should be taken. Also, be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Visas: You must hold a valid passport to enter Antarctica. Please contact the Antarctica tourist board for information on Visa’s for entering the country.
Nearly all visitors arrive by sea, most of them by ship from Ushuaia. Smaller ships (few than 100 passengers) offer more time ashore, and guests are usuallyt free to wander around landing sites. Larger ships – which would cause much greater environmental problems and pose enormous rescue challenges in case of an accident – offer greater comfort and less movement in heavy seas.
Below are some ship cruise companies that travel to Antarctica.
- Abercrombie & Kent – www.abercrombiekent.com
- Aurora Expeditions – www.auroraexpeditions.com.au
- Heritage Expeditions – www.heritage-expeditions.com
- For more ship cruises, visit: http://www.polarcruises.com/antarctica/
Most people visit by cruise ship. There is no independent transport from South Georgia to the Falkland Islands or to South America, which are at least three or five days sail away respectively.
If you are boarding an expedition vessel or cruise you should check before booking what your ship’s South Georgia itinerary will be as this will vary. Vessels which are members of IAATO have greater access to landing sites.
The Antarctic Company was founded in 2004 and provides support for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private expeditions and adventure travelers to the interior of Antarctica (mostly East Antarctica). www.antarctic-company.com
Day-long flightseeing travel over the continent on a Boeing 747-400 are offered twice a year between the months of December and February by Australia’s Qantas airlines.
Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions – www.antarctic-logistics.com
White Desert – www.white-desert.com
Population: There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at research stations across the continent.
Currency: There is no one specific type of currency for Antarctica. The continent is divided into regions owned by the following countries: Great Britain, Norway, France, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and Argentina. Due to this division, each terrority uses its own nation’s currency.
Language: The most-spoken language of Antarctica is Russia, which is an official language of Bellinsquazenia, the United Republic and Ognia. English is the most widespread language throughout each territory. The continent’s other major languages include German in New Swabia, French in Kerguelen, Norwegianin, and Maudland, and Spanish in Santiago.
We stayed in some fantastic places during our shoot in Antarctica. Each one of the below was a truly wonderful experience and comes highly recommended by the crew.
- Los Acebos Ushuaia Hotel
Modern hotel nice staff, great views over Ushuaia from half way up the Glacier Martial
- Los Cauquenes Resort & Spa
We bunked down with 4 of us in a cabin. Great pool and spa to warm our Antarctic chilled bones!
- Bodegon Fueguino
On the main strip of Ushuaia. Sergio the manager is a great guy. Get him going about Antarctica, he travelled there on the Argentinian ship that sank. He is still looking for his luggage!
Eat & Drink
Where to eat:
Globe Tavern, Crozier Place, 22703.
Located one block up the hill from the public jetty, offering beers as well as pub food such as fish and chips. On a Sunday night they apparently have Karaoke!
Instituto Fueguino de Turismo (IFT)
T: +54 (2901) 423340 – 421423
F: +54 (2901) 430694
W : http://www.tierradelfuego.org.ar/v4/_eng/index.php
On the main strip of Ushaia. Sergio the manager is a great guy. Get him going about Antarctica, he travelled there on the Argentinian ship that sank. He is still looking for his luggage!
One Ocean Expeditions
- Website: www.oneoceanexpeditions.com
- Spirit of Sydney Expeditions
- Instituto Fueguino de Turismo (IFT)
- Falkland Islands Tourist Board
- Reading List:
If you are lucky enough to be travelling to South Georgia (and even if you are not), pick up a copy of Ernest Shackleton’s South: The story of Shackleton’s 1914-17 expedition.
It is one of the all time great travel and survival stories. Shackleton tells first hand about how he and his crew escape from his sinking ship ‘The Endurance’, stranded in the Antarctic pack ice, and cross the Southern Ocean – by lifeboat – to reach South Georgia Island. Then there’s his trek over the South Georgia mountains. Inspiring stuff. Persevere through the first two chapters as they read like a ship’s log, it gets a lot better!
When in South Georgia it is tradition to drink a toast to Ernest Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken whaling station so don’t miss out on that. If you are brave then try and find someone who will take you on part of his mountain trek.
Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition
Features Captain Scott’s account of his tragic race with Roald Amundsen for the South Pole thrilled the world in 1913. Captain Scott’s account of his expedition to the South Pole in 1910-12 was first published in 1913.
My Life as an Explorer, by Roald Amundsen.
Amundsen first bashed through the Northwest Passage and then slipped by the British to be first to the South Pole on December 11, 1911.
South: The story of Shackleton’s 1914–17 expedition. Shackleton, Ernest (1982). London: Century Publishing.
The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Arguably the best of all Antarctic books, a haunting, humane account of a side expedition to Scott’s final, tragic march to the South Pole. Cherry made a trip to Cape Crozier in July 1911 during the austral winter in order to secure an unhatched Emporer Penguin egg. In 1922, encouraged by his friend and neighbour G. Bernard Shaw, Cherry-Garrard wrote this book.
Ron Naveen Waiting to Fly: My Escapades With the Penguins of Antarctica(HarperCollins Canada / Non-Fiction Feb 3 1999)
Of Dogs and Menby Kevin Walton and Rick Atkinson
Dogs have not been used in Antarctica since 1993 because the Antarctic treaty bans them. Author Rick Atkinson (who works in restoration at UKAHT) has first-hand knowledge of this bygone era and the bonds that form between man and dog.