Forget Five Star Travel
There are no luxury hotels, no chauffeured limousines, no pampering.
No guided tours, no taxis, no trains.
Ice and weather, not clocks or calendars, determine the itinerary and the timetable of all travel.
Your reward? Vast and breathtaking scenery in a rugged remote continent at the bottom of the world.
Come and see this wonderful white land, the last untouched place on the planet.
Penguins and Volcanoes
A Volcano in Antarctica!
Yes! There's an active volcano in Antarctica.
You can see this incredible combination of ice and fire (if you can get there) on Ross Island. Mount Erebus is the highest point on Ross Island and the largest, most active volcano on the Antarctic continent.
Erebus is active alright, it's almost always observed with a cloud of vapour rising from the summit crater and it frequently ejects volcanic bombs.
Right at the summit there's a l00-meter-deep outer crater about 650 metres across with a similarly deep inner crater about 250 meters across, in which lies a lake of red, molten lava.
The craters of Mount Erebus were first visited in March 1908 by members of Shackleton's expedition, who initially noted the "vast abyss" filled with great masses of steam that rose in a column 150 to 300 meters high.
Ice and Fire. What a stunning combination!
Frozen Sculptures from Fumaroles
Fumeroles are openings on the sides of volcanoes. These vents emit steam and hot gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen sulfide. The steam and hot liquid maintain moist hot soils and provide nutrients, which allows for microbial growth. Yes, there's life on Antarctica.
When the steam escapes from vents, it hits the cold air and immediately freezes.
The result is really strange formations of ice rising above these fumerole areas and extraordinary structures rise here and there on the surface of the snowfield.
Mount Erebus also supports a broad glacier system, with ice sheets that extend to the edges of the island.
Superbly designed birds
Early Antarctic explorers thought penguins were fish! But penguins are superbly designed birds.
They fly skillfully underwater,their compact bodies have a breastbone that makes an excellent keel and they have massive paddle muscles to propel them at speeds up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) per hour.
In May, a female lays a single egg and passes it over to her mate while she goes off to sea to feed.
A male Emperor can't eat during the ensuing 9 week incubation period. Almost motionless, he keeps the egg warm by balancing it on his feet, where it's insulated by a thick roll of skin and feathers called the 'brood pouch.'
For added warmth and protection against the bitter winds and sub-zero temperatures, the males huddle together in tight bunches. Even when the eggs have hatched, young chicks will remain in the brood pouch until they can regulate their own body temperatures.
By the time the female returns to take over feeding the chick, the male will have lost up to a third of his body weight. He must now make another long trek over the ice --up to 60 miles--to find food.
By January, as the sea-ice begins to break out, the chicks have lost most of their soft silvery-gray down, and are now able to head out independently for the open sea.
When's the best time to go to Antarctica?
You can only visit during summer, from November to March.
Photographers wanting to capture classic images of pristine Antarctic ice will get their best shots in November, and at this time, penguins start to come ashore for courtship rituals.
From mid to late December penguin chicks start to hatch and in January you can watch the feeding frenzy.
February to early March is the best time to see whales, and a good number of fur seals.
Scenic Flight over Antarctica
How do I get to Antarctica?
It's not easy.
it could take lots of work on your part, it could take lots of money, it depends a lot on what country you're from. It's slightly easier to reach Antarctica from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, or Argentina. If you live elsewhere, you need to get to these places first!
You can sail there yourself, hire a yacht or join a special cruise ship. You can be air-dropped and picked up by ship some weeks later. Too hard? Certainly too had for me. I prefer a scenic flight without having to leave the plane.
Some Guides to Antarctica
How to get to Antarctica
- Flights to Antarctica from Australia
A unique one day experience sightseeing over Antarctica aboard a Qantas 747 departing Australia.
- Antarctica Cruise & Tour with National Geographic Expeditions
Travel on a small ship cruise to Antarctica with National Geographic Expeditions.
- Antarctica with Polar Cruises
Polar Cruises even have 'luxury' ships with Five-Star accommodations and amenities
What do you think about Antarctica?
Would you go to Antarctica?
© 2010 Susanna Duffy