No place on this planet could be more ethereal and elusive, more otherworldly than Antarctica. The entire continent, twice the size of Australia, forever evaded mankind, its icy winds never echoing the sound of a human voice until its discovery in 1820. Even now, its population can only ever amount to several thousand scientists, confined to their lonely stations as they try to discover more about the sparkling, sparse landscapes they research. However, since the late 1950’s, it has become possible to embark on guided tours to the eternal sunshine of this spotless land, and see some incredible examples of its resilient polar wildlife, towering icebergs and horizons as alien as those of a film set, or another universe. If you’re still unconvinced, here are some amazing reasons to embark on a voyage of discovery to the ice encircling the South Pole.
Wildlife: Many of us have been on safari. Even more have been to the zoo. How many can say they’ve strolled through a colony of chattering penguins on the Antarctic tundra? These eccentric birds characterize our impression of the white continent. Species to be encountered include mini Rockhoppers with dainty fronds of feathers surrounding their eyes, Macaroni penguins, named for their straggly yellow heads and majestic Emperor penguins. There are also killer whales, a once in a lifetime sight on any whale-spotting expedition, as well as Southern Ocean whales, orcas, dolphins, dense colonies of fur seals and elephant seals, and the odd giant squid.
Sunsets: In many regions of the Antarctic, the sun doesn’t set for months on end. Generally speaking, the sky is as much a part of this unique panorama, and sunsets reflected off the mirror-like surface of the ice and glassy seas are like watching the splitting of a dimension. Then, as the horizon burns pink, and stars gradually pierce the firmament, revel in the purest gaze at the heavens you’ll ever be fortunate enough to see.
Activities: There are some amazing experiences to be taken from the Antarctic, and no guided journey need be passive. Any visit should include a hike up Observation Hill, which looks out to Mount Erebus. A million year old volcano, it forms a tower containing bubbling, smoking lava deep below the earth’s crust. Recover your circulation with a sea kayak through the ice to feel a shared exhilaration with early pioneers to the frozen shores, or immerse your body in the warmth of a volcanic bath on Deception Island. There are also a host of other things to do, unique to each tour company, and often subject to individual specification, which can include cross country skiing, glacier walks, camping and rock climbing.
History – yes, history. Gladly, whaling is a thing of times long past, but for a small slice of bygone days in Antarctica, you can spot the remnants of equipment which was used in the process. It’s also possible to visit a museum! The post office at Port Lockroy is the only one in the Antarctic, and is dedicated to early exploration of the continent. You can even send a postcard from here, although presumably takings at the gift shop are low…
Photo credit: 23em.com via flickr, and flickr user bazzat2003.
Thanks to Iain for today’s post. If you’re an adventurous traveler interested in writing for IShouldLogOff, contact us at info [at] ishouldlogoff.com or check our submission guidelines.