- Antarctica Tours
- Antarctica Tourism
- Antarctica Map
- Antarctica Jobs
- Antarctica Flights
- Antarctica Facts
- Antarctica Weather
- Antarctica Cruises
Antarctica tours are designed to show visitors the extraordinary scenic beauty that the coldest continent offers. There are no shops or restaurants to distract your attention, as you should solely be focused of the natural sights while there, as well as learning more about this icy desert and how it is maintained, protected, and enjoyed.
Aurora Expeditions is one of the approximate 15 Australian-based companies which offer Antarctica tours. Some of the activities that you can look forward to include:
- Kayaking: here you can paddle through the unspoiled waters and icebergs to observe the various marine wildlife
- Mountain climbing: with the aid of guides you can reach the top of the highest mountains in Antarctica, depending on your level of skill
- Scuba diving: experienced divers can scuba dive to the depths of the deep blue waters to see some fascinating marine life amongst the glaciers, icebergs, and ice walls
- Sleeping on the ice: you can spend an evening onshore with guides to look after you to make sure that you are safe while soaking up the magical beauty and sights
- Guided shore landings and lectures: a team of naturalists, historians, geologists, and expeditions crew members will school you on the history and maintenance of Antarctica so that you leave with a deep understanding and appreciation
- Scientific Research Stations: you can tour these stations to meet the people who have undertaken this as their jobs, and to learn what their day to day routine is like
Tours to Antarctica encompass much more than simply looking at snow and ice, as there is a lot to do, see, and learn about this lesser-visited continent.
Commercial tourism in Antarctica started with sea tourism in the late 1960s. Later in the 1970s, sightseeing flights were offered by Australian and New Zealand airliners, although the majority of tourists make their way via ship. This has paved the way for Antarctica tourism so that people can have the opportunity to experience the wonders of this magnificently beautiful continent, and therefore gain a greater understanding of, and appreciation for this continent.
The best time in which to choose the Antarctic Peninsula (the largest and most prominent peninsula) as your tourist destination is during the summer season between mid-November and early in March. The conditions are much more favourable during these times as the temperatures will rise slightly, and with less ice you will be more likely to see the animals. East Antarctica is tougher to access, and trips will start from December to March.
The Antarctic Treaty has established that the continent is one of scientific research and peace. So when visitors partake in tourism in Antarctica they must adhere to the rules of the Treaty and treat the region with respect and adhere to the national regulations. This means that you must comply and understand that while there you will:
- protect the Antarctic wildlife
- respect the protected areas
- respect the scientific research
- be safe
- keep Antarctica pristine
There is much to explore through tourism in Antarctica as there is some fascinating wildlife to observe, amazing sights of the snow, ice, and icebergs, and of course, the illumination of the sky thanks to the aurora australis (or southern lights).
The map of Antarctica is divided into five regions, these are:
- Antarctic Peninsula: This is the most visited region although it can only be reached by boat or ship. Most of the scattered islands along the west side house scientific research bases.
- East Antarctica: This region accounts for the majority of the icy desert wasteland; the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. It is on the side of the Indian Ocean and is the least visited by tourists.
- Ross Sea: This region is the main destination point for cruise ships that depart Australia and New Zealand. This area has a lot of sights to see, including Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on our planet, which is situated on Ross Island.
- South Pole: Although this region is open to tourism, it is rarely visited due to its inaccessibility via sea. It is home to the historical location of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
- West Antarctica: This region falls within the Western Hemisphere and it is a relatively desolate area with very few research stations. It is, however, the location of both Antarctica’s highest and lowest points. The highest is Vinson Massif (or Mount Vinson) at 4892 metres; and the Bentley Subglacial Trench is actually the lowest point in the world which is not covered by an ocean, at -2540 metres.
The continent is huge at 14 million square kilometres, and since there is no governing body, it has been divided into territorial claims by various countries which can also be seen when looking at a territorial Antarctica map.
Most available jobs in Antarctica take place on National Research Stations. Due to the temperatures, it is obviously best to apply for a job in the summer months where there will be roughly 40 to 50 people stationed at each Research Station; a total of about 5000 people will visit during this time. The winter months see far more isolation with only about 10 to 20 crew members per station, and a total of about 1000 visitors.
The Australian Antarctic Division is responsible for science programs and research projects in order to promote the conservation and understanding of Antarctica. In order to apply for Antarctica jobs within this division you will need to pass a series of assessments to test your technical skills and abilities, personal qualities, medical fitness, and psychological evaluation. If these are passed, you will be fully supported and trained for the trip and position you may hold. Furthermore, you will also be provided with the necessary attire to combat the cold, accommodation, and food.
The jobs can basically be divided into two categories; scientific or support. Scientific Antarctica jobs will require that you have at least a minimum education of postgraduate level, and these will include:
Those who have not studied science but still want to try their hand at living and working in this breathtaking continent can apply for the following support positions:
- Boat handles
- Fire fighters
- Radio operators
These are not comprehensive lists, but do offer some insight as to what exactly is needed when contemplating jobs in Antarctica. It certainly is a once in a lifetime experience, one which you will never find elsewhere.
Commercial flights to Antarctica are fairly limited, and they will mostly take place during the summer months (October to March) when daylight allows for good visibility. The planes will generally be small and carry around 10 to 20 passengers; and since there are no paved runways in Antarctica you can prepare yourself for an exciting landing on gravel, snow or ice.
The Antarctica flights, dates, durations, and prices will vary according to the airline. What is very important to remember that all flights are weather-dependant as the pilots will not risk flying in unfavourable conditions. You must therefore be prepared for cancellations or postponements of your trip, as unfortunately, Mother Nature is uncontrollable.
Some of your options include:
- A two hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Frei Base, King George Island, from here you can meet your expedition vessel and explore the Antarctic Peninsula. The flight from Punta Arenas, Chile is in a 10-passenger twin-engine Beechcraft King Air turboprop, or in an 80-passenger four-engine BAE-146 aircraft.
- A four and a half hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Patriot Hills camp in Antarctica. From there you can choose a smaller aircraft flight to various destinations within the continent.
- A five and a half hour flight from Cape Town, South Africa to Novo Airbase in a 12-passenger Gulfstream G-IV private jet.
Bear in mind that this will be a relatively expensive trip with flights to Antarctica starting at about $1250, and that price will depend on your seat in the plane and what your visibility is. Although if you are lucky and on a smaller aircraft, chances are that passengers will be courteous and allow some seat swapping throughout the journey so that everyone gets a chance to look out the window.
Antarctica certainly is a magical place to visit as the sights to be seen are breathtaking. But apart from the freezing cold and abundance of ice and snow, there are many other interesting facts about Antarctica that may surprise you.
Where is Antarctica exactly? Well, it is the earth’s southernmost continent, and at 14 million squared kilometres it is the fifth largest continent; almost double the size of Australia.
Antarctica has no government, no permanent residents, and no indigenous species of ants. An Arctic Treaty was created in 1959, and 48 countries have signed this treaty designating the continent as a natural reserve. Some of these countries have claimed sovereignty in some parts, and although this is mutually respected, it is not recognised on a global scale. Throughout the year you will find 1000 to 5000 people stationed at research stations, although none of them are actually permanent dwellers.
If meteorites are your thing then this continent is the best location from which to observe; this is because those that crash on the ice are very easy to spot against the pure whiteness. They are also very well preserved as the ice will cover and protect the meteorites rapidly.
Other facts about Antarctica that you may not be aware of touch on the continent’s history. Although there were theories about an icy continent by the South Pole, it was only actually seen in 1820, and the first human made physical contact a year later.
Lastly, just to put all the ice into perspective, if all the Antarctic ice sheets were to melt, all oceans of the world would rise by about 60 to 65 metres.
First, Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth. The mean average temperature in the interior throughout the year is about -57°C, with the minimum temperature being -90°C during the winter season. Although the coast is warmer and temperatures can reach a maximum of between 5°C and 15°C during the summer. It is, on average, the coldest, windiest, and driest of all the continents on Earth.
Technically, Antarctica is a desert because is it so dry there; one can not expect much moisture with an average annual precipitation of just 166 millimetres along the coastal regions, and even less when moving further inland. With such cold conditions the snow hardly ever melts; instead it will mostly become compressed over time to form part of the ice sheet. This is known as an ice cap climate (classified as a continent where the average monthly temperature never exceeds 0°C); because there is not enough heat to melt the ice, it forms ice caps.
This ice sheet is, on average, 1.6 km thick and covers about 98% of the entire continent; this is nearly 90% of the entire world’s ice, so it is no wonder that the Antarctic climate is as cold as it is.
Strangely enough, one can suffer serious sunburn whilst there as the surface of the snow acts as a reflector which reflects nearly all the ultraviolet rays, so although you may be shivering, you still need to make sure to keep your skin safe from the rays.
Cruises to Antarctica will generally depart from Hobart, Australia or from Ushuaia, Argentina in an ice-strengthened expedition ship and will last for about eight to 12 days. Generally these will be done in the Antarctic or Austral summertime to ensure that you get the most memorable experience and witness all the awesome beauty.
November/December is a great time to go for bird lovers as this is when you are most likely to see birds building their nests and starting off their breeding cycles. In the meantime, the other wildlife may be in their mating stage where you can observe the courtship.
December/January is the middle of the summer season and a fantastic time for a cruise to Antarctica where you can spot whales feeding and penguin chicks emerging from their nests for the first time.
During February/march you will see larger penguin chicks attempting their first swims, and you may even be lucky enough to witness the food chain in action with leopard seals feeding on these chicks. And simply by looking overboard, you should come face to face with some of the Orca whales of the area.
These Antarctica cruises offer daily itineraries which, of course, will be dependent on the weather and conditions, but you can expect to stop off at various sites where you will have a few hours to enjoy and explore your surroundings. Various types of ships are available each with different amenities and advantages, such as the Polar Pioneer which can sleep 54 passengers, and all of them will keep you warm when inside.