Antarctica: A Must Experience for Adventurers



Antarctica was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana. One hundred eighty million years ago, Gondwana started to separate into the continents we know today. Antarctica and Australia were connected and were the last to divide among the landmasses. Australia drifted northward while Antarctica moved south. Antarctica then started to freeze over as the Earth's climate cooled. The distance and extreme icy weather isolated Antarctica from the rest of the world, only to be discovered in the 1920s when human technology and navigation became sophisticated enough.  

Residents of Antarctica

Penguins and the Arctic wildlife may be considered as the only true native Anatrcticans. No one can live on this continent as people typically do in cities or towns. Although some scientific bases or settlements can provide for long term residents, who intend to stay for several months up to two years. A scientific base could typically accommodate 50 people in summer and around 20 during the winter.  

Research stations in Antarctica

  • Artigas Base - The General Artigas Station is an Uruguay research station committed to studying how humans are affecting the environment. They also study atmospheric sciences and atmospheric corrosion.

  • Bernardo O’Higgins - Has the formal name of Base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, but also known as Puerto Covadonga. It is operated by the Chilean military and houses the German Antarctic Receiving Station that gathers data from satellite-based sensors. 

  • Casey Station - An Australian-operated research base used as a staging ground by geologists and marine biologists. This station studies climate change and its effect on the moss beds in the area.

  • Great Wall Station - A Chinese station that was constructed only within 40 days in 1985. 

  • McMurdo - US-owned research center located at the southern end of Ross Island. It can sustain over 1,000 people being the single largest community in the area. 

Civilian settlements

  • Villas Las Estrellas - Located on King George Island, South Shetland Islands, off the western tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This Chilean town and research station has a population of over 100 during summer and 80 during winter. It is part of the President Eduardo Frei Montalva Base military base. Facilities in the area consist of a hospital, primary school, and radio station. A hostel that can accommodate 20 guests is also available.

  • Esperanza Base - An all-year-round and permanent Argentine research station in Hope Bay, Trinity Peninsula. It has 43 buildings dedicated to research in the fields of oceanology, glaciology, biology and seismology among others. 

Visiting Antarctica

One may think that a trip to Antarctica may only be for scientists and researchers. But thanks to Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered travel to the white continent some 50 years ago, more tourists are enthusiastic about exploring this place. In fact, tourism in Antarctica rose to over 20,000 at the beginning of the new millennium as compared to the couple of hundred tourists recorded in1969. Getting to Antarctica had been more manageable, with several available travel options. Tourists can experience Antarctica by cruise boats, plane or private yacht charter. The cost of Antarctica cruises varies depending on the port of departure, duration and inclusions. The ones that depart from Australia or South America are said to be the most convenient and satisfying tours as per reviews. One can also opt for sightseeing flights or expeditions to remote areas of Antarctica. 

 

Places of interest

Various destinations in the Antarctic region cater to travelers' need for adventure, culture, history, wildlife, and scenery. 

 

  • Weddell Sea - The Weddell Sea is located in the remote regions of the Antarctic and rarely visited due to heavy ice. Huge tabular icebergs float in the area. This area is the best location to spot Emperor Penguins as well as Adélies and Gentoo penguins. This sea marked history as it defeated 'Endurance,' Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition ship over a century ago.   

  • Ross Sea - Nicknamed as "The Last Ocean" as it proved to contain the most pristine marine ecosystem on Earth. View the Ross ice shelf and Mount Erebus volcano as you sail through the "gateway to Antarctica." It is also noted for its historical journeys during the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration. The beauty of this ecosystem relies upon the fantastic wildlife of penguins, whales, seals, fish and krill, among others.

  • South Georgia - Antarctic wildlife oasis for penguins, albatrosses, and elephant seals. It is home to king penguin colonies and fur seals. South Georgia's landscape is magnificent with glaciers, ice caps and snowfields even during summer. You can visit the South Georgia Museum and Shackleton’s grave in the whaler’s cemetery.

  • Falkland Islands - Home to colonies of a variety of penguins such as Gentoo, Magellanic, Rockhopper and King. Tourists can explore the wetlands that shelter all kinds of endemic waterbirds, watch whales and dolphins or observe elephant seals. 

Adventure and activities

The Antarctica cruise ship experience will not be spent on a ship peering through binoculars. Tourists can engage and select from a wide range of activities. 

  • Shore and zodiac excursions - Explore the beautiful sights of Antarctica’s icy shore and pristine waters. Watch and capture photos of the thriving wildlife and be mesmerized with the iceberg formations.

  • Mountaineering and hiking - Trek the Arctic landscape and visit the peak of its mountains. Discover vantage points that will provide magnificent scenery and closer interaction with wildlife. 

  • Camping - Stepping on the Antarctic’s ice shelf is an adventure on its own, spending the night is a different and unique experience! Sleep under the stars and wake up to the sunrise in this frosty wonderland.

  • Skiing and learning - Ski the mountains of Antarctica and reach remote regions or scientific research stations. Some research facilities are active, and visitors may be allowed to tour and learn about the extraordinary things they're working on the station. Nevertheless, the information shared by scientists, biologists and historians will have an impact on your perspective to the white continent and the world. 

  • Kayaking - Navigate and paddle your way through floating icebergs and in between ice shelves. Travel through the serene arctic waters and set off into remote cove for a closer encounter with Antarctica’s marine life. If you’re lucky enough, you may even kayak with the whales. 

  • Scuba diving - Explore the underwater life in this part of the world and marvel how these creatures survive the freezing waters. Observe whales, seals and penguins in their natural habitat. Aside for wildlife, polar diving allows divers to view a unique spectacle of colors as a result of sunlight bouncing off the various ice formations.

  • Polar plunge - Your adventure will not be complete without a dive into the icy waters of Antarctica. Brave adventurers strip to their bikinis or trunks and plunge into the water. This activity may be the most anticipated ventures for most adrenaline junkies.

 

A visit to Antarctica is fantastic, but exploring and experiencing it through these adventurous feats is truly rewarding! Just note that there are activities with specific fitness requirements, certifications or equipment. Come prepared to enjoy this ice-covered paradise fully.