As a continent almost completely covered by an ice sheet and surrounded by the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, Antarctica is the coldest area on Earth. Antarctica is by far the coldest, windiest and driest continent in the world. The lowest temperature ever recorded on a plateau was a horrific -93,2°C. Since most people are already shivering at a Dutch winter, we fully understand that this continent may not be the first thing that comes to mind when brainstorming for your next holiday destination.
We are now going to change that! Antarctica is like climbing it roof of the world in Tibet and Nepal, really a bucket list thing. Despite the extreme circumstances, it is brimming with life. Watch the video at the top of the page to experience 5 minutes of what it's like to travel the world's most remote continent.
Still not convinced? Then we have 5 more reasons for you below, why you absolutely want to go to Antarctica!
Table of contents
1. Petting Penguins
Despite the low temperatures, there is a lot of life along the coasts. The continent is home to 8 penguin species, which are well equipped to survive in the harsh conditions. Their feather pitch does not let water through, and a layer of down provides the necessary warmth. Under the skin they have a substantial layer of fat, which, in addition to heating, also serves as reserve food.
There are also about 6 species of seals, which were nearly extinct a few years ago by poachers. Today, the animals are protected by the "Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals", which means that only a certain number can be captured for scientific research. The sea is dominated by whales in size, although many species are on the brink of extinction. Countries such as Japan make a lot of abuse of the fact that the largest mammals on earth can still be captured for science.
The last large group is also home to 40 species of birds, which are forced to survive in groups on land due to the amount of water. It is often too cold for insects, so that the only critters are only about 2 mm in size and nestle in the fur of other animals to survive. What do you have to do to see one of these animals? Hop in a boat or go camping! A nice area for this is Paradise Bay / Harbor.
2. Marathon? Piece of cake!
Whether it's a good resolution or because you've always been a sporty type: in Antarctica you don't have to worry about your exercise. Polar Running Expeditions offers no fewer than 3 options: the Antarctic Ice Marathon, Half Marathon (both in November) and the Antarctic 100k (January). The latter is, of course, a walking tour. Where the first editions took place in 2005, last year's marathon record is in the name of Belgian Marc de Keyser. He ran the 42,2 km in 4:12:21. 56 people from 18 countries took part. To participate in one of the marathons you have to dig deep into your pockets: fully organized participation will cost you around €11.500. Tissues and socks included.
The Polar Running Adventures organization likes to take running to the next level; besides Antarctica they also have the North Pole Marathon and Volcano Marathon (Atacama desert, Chile† In addition, they challenge the die-hards with the World Marathon Challenge, where you run 7 marathons on 7 continents over a period of 7 days.
3. Bathing in nature
The volcanic island of Deception Island is a safe haven for boaters due to the flooded crater. This place used to be popular with seal poachers. The last eruption was in 1970, yet no human life can be found in this area. Despite this, the island is a tourist attraction during the Antarctic summer due to the hot springs caused by the volcanic heat.
4. Few other tourists
The weather conditions on this continent (temperatures drop to -50 to -60 in winter) don't exactly make life easy. Because the area has only two seasons, the sun is on the horizon almost all day during one half year (summer), where it is dark almost all day in winter. The 'population' is estimated at about 1000 people, although these are not permanent residents.
A number of governments have research stations, such as the American McMurdo Station. The station is located at the southernmost tip of Ross Island, some 3500 km south of New Zealand† The research area has a port, 3 airports, a heliport and more than 100 buildings.
As a result, scientists and local residents (helping with cargo, etc.) are the only human presence claiming Antarctica. The continent is a popular area for cruises, which means that small hordes of people come ashore in certain months. If you do want to let people know that you've been to Antarctica, you can easily send a postcard, which they will gladly stamp for you in a small office in Port Lockroy.
5. Unparalleled Photos
The biggest reason why you would think of going to Antarctica is of course nature. The most popular attraction is the Lemaire Channel; an 11 km long passage flanked by steep ice floes and glaciers. This is the ideal place to take out your camera and enjoy the view. Due to the movements in the water, boats sailing here often attract the attention of humpback whales and orcas, who then decide to accompany the boat for a while.
Besides the Lemaire Channel, the Ross Ice Shelf is also no stranger. With its area of 482,000 km², this ice shelf is the largest in the world. To make a comparison: that is about the size of France† The plateau consists of 7 glaciers and is named after the naval officer James Clark Ross, who discovered the colossus in 1841.
If you still have enough energy despite the cold, a climb to Observation Hill is well worth it. This 230-meter hill is adjacent to the aforementioned McMurdo Station and is climbed for the beautiful view. Around 1912, the bodies of the last remaining investigators of the team of naval officer Robert Falcon Scott, who left from were found here Engeland led two expeditions to Antarctica. It later emerged that the bodies and tents were found under a 23-meter thick layer of ice. To honor the men, a nearly 3 meters high wooden cross was erected, in which their names were written.
Put on your hat, gloves and go!