Only a privileged few get to experience the untamed and desolate beauty of this vast, untouched area of icy plains, jagged mountains and pristine wilderness.
Once part of Gondwana, the super-continent that separated millions of years ago to form the five continents on earth today, Antarctica is the world’s driest continent with an annual snowfall equivalent to 200 millimetres of water. The coolest temperature ever recorded on earth occurred there in July 1983 at a teeth-chattering -89.6°c. It’s no surprise then, that less than 2% of Antarctica is ice-free. The total volume of the Antarctic ice sheet is approximately 36 million square kilometres – this represents about 70% of the world’s freshwater. The average thickness of an ice sheet is a staggering 2.4 kilometres.
The closest landmass to Antarctica is South America which is nearly 1,000 kilometres away. Only a privileged few get to experience the untamed and desolate beauty of this vast and untouched wilderness with a few ways to be able explore it – on expedition with a tour company; by cruise ship which sails near the coastline or by taking a scenic day trip above the continent on a flight.
The ships that travel through Antarctic waters can vary great in size and standard from casual, soft adventure style cruising to luxury. The cruise season is limited, running from December to February when visitors can enjoy up to 20 hours of daylight. The temperature in summer ranges between -5 and 5°c. Expedition ships enable you to stay in comfort on board the ship and enjoy zodiac rides for shore landings and exploration of the icebergs and wilderness. Some even permit camping overnight on the ice, kayaking through the icy waters, scuba diving and snorkelling.
A few major cruise lines now incorporate Antarctica into their South American itineraries. The ships venture across Drake Passage and along the coastline of the Antarctic Sound, offering passengers a stunning, scenic cruise experience. It’s a wonderful way to get a glimpse of icy plains, jagged mountains and if you’re really lucky whales, dolphins and a multitude of seabirds.
Experience the world’s most unique day tour on a scenic flight which operates during the summer months with one flight a season out of most Australian major cities. Using satellite and weather imaging for weeks prior to the flights, the pilots map out numerous routes to ensure they are providing their passengers with the clearest views possible. With four hours flying time over the ice, there’s ample opportunity to gain a true appreciation for the vastness of this magnificent area. Look down on the frozen beauty as the plane drops to 10,000 feet and slows down so you can really take it all in.
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