Antarctica: A continent yet unexplored.
Spread across an area of 5,400,000 square miles of thick ice and rough terrains, this wonderland of sorts has managed to attract 20,000 tourists in 2014-15. A sizable number considering tourism was only allowed a little over 50 years ago. So what makes this cold desert so fascinating to generate such curiosity among people in the mainland to account for a trip down south.
Situated in the southern hemisphere, this windy, dry and cold continent has fascinated people across the globe in view of its discovery in the early 19th century. It was often called Terra Australis, an extension to the territory of Australia. The wilderness was unknown to the world until it was made famous by Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen in 1911, when he became the first person to reach the South Pole.This led to a realm of explorations by scientists from different countries to the fifth largest continent of the world.
A world within a world
One of the few areas on earth yet to be completely conquered by man, this picturesque natural habitat boasts of its most famous inhabitants, the fauna. The natural reserve consists of a variety of animals which bring life to this deserted landscape.
From the beautiful penguins, which have been made popular through its adaptations in different streams of media from movies, animations and documentaries to the giant killer whales, largest mammals to exist on earth, the ecosystem has it all to bring joy to the visitors of this amazing world within a world.
Apart from four varieties of penguins and five varieties of whales, which migrate to the Antarctic Ocean every year, it also consists of different varieties of birds and seals, the most famous among them being the Antarctic fur seal. It interesting to note that these seals bore the brunt of most aquatic hunting expeditions in history.
Things to see and do
This is among the few places on earth, which would give you the chill. Technically known as the largest desert in the world, its enchanting aura makes it worth a visit. Here are a few things which are surely going to make it a dream trip to narrate to your grandchildren.
- Lose yourself in the wilderness:- A place where nature takes it upon herself to provide you the most scenic views which leave you spellbound. The melting ice on Paradise Bay make it a treat for your eyes, passing through the drake passage with the thick ice as the background leaves the photographers wanting for more. Carry your camping gear if you are among the ones who consider nature as the most comfortable bed.
- Selfie with Penguins:- Trip to the southern hemisphere is incomplete without spending time with the its most beautiful attractions, the emperor penguins and their likes. Though the penguins are harmless, do take care of your belongings as they might just vanish the next moment.
- Trip to the South Pole:- Not everyone can boast of being to the south pole. While in Antarctica, be thankful for the opportunity to be somewhere where very few in the world have been. A helicopter ride is an ideal way to discover 90* S and 0* W.
- Whale Spotting:- The Antarctic Ocean is the best place to see whales in its natural habitat. Five varieties of the largest mammal on earth can be spotted in these nutrients rich waters. The sight of the blue whale provides an experience like no other.
- Bathe in the Hot Springs:- The volcanic soil on Deception Island presents itself with a unique experience to take a natural warm dip on the coldest continent. Discover the feeling of standing on top of an active volcano.
How to get to Antarctica
Now that you are quite informed about the place, lets work on getting you there.
- Ushuaia, the southern tip of Argentine is where most of the tourist expeditions to Antarctica depart.
- As per the Antarctic Treaty, individuals traveling to Antarctica need to obtain a permit to visit and require to adhere to the guidelines.
- The tour operators obtain the permits as a part of the overall tour package.
- The tour costs anywhere between $ 3000 - $ 15000 for a 7-10 day tour based on your choice of cabin and your ability to negotiate a last minute deal.
- It is advisable to plan your trip and book in advance for a trip which might well be for once in a lifetime.
- A travel insurance is a must considering the harsh conditions and an emergency helicopter ride back to Ushuaia may very well be a possibility.
Amazing Facts about Antarctica
- Antarctica is not governed by any nation, but rather by the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 by twelve countries which declared the continent as a natural bioreserve.
- On the 21st of July'1983, Antarctica's Vostok station recorded the coldest temperature on Earth of -89.2* C and 128.5* F.
- No Polar Bears are found in Antarctica, they reside mainly in the northern hemisphere.
- Antarctica is the windiest continent with wind speeds reaching up to 330 Km/h(200 mph).
- Antarctica is not entirely formed of ice, 70% of the area is land covered with ice whose thickness can be as high as 16 m(53 feet).
- It consists of an active volcano, Mt Erebus, which incidentally formed large lakes of lava. Located on Deception Island, it is famous for its warm water springs.
- The continent is home to more than 80 research stations from 30 different countries.Scientists study on different subjects ranging from global warming to the effects of volcanic eruption on rising oceanic water levels.
- Antarctica does not follow a specific time zone.
- Emile Marco Palma earned the unique distinction of being the first person to be born on the continent of Antarctica in 1979.
- Antarctica is the most popular place in the world to find meteorites. It can be spotted quite easily due to its dark color covered by white ice.
A challenge to the strong willed
Visiting this vast cold,windy and dry continent presents itself with a rare challenge to discover a world beyond the white sandy beaches and the glittering nightlife. The sub zero temperatures test your resolve to continue the journey from the comfort of your ship to the extreme rough terrains. But again, they do not call it a journey of a lifetime for nothing.This is one trip on your bucket list that you would not like to miss.
Do you Accept the Challenge?