Antarctica

The frozen continent – nearly twice the size of Australia and with most of its land over 2 km high – is a polar desert. Plunged into darkness for six months of the year, yet with almost constant daylight throughout the austral summer, Antarctica is the most unexplored, hostile and out-of-this-world place on the planet. You don’t come on holiday to Antarctica – you come on an expedition; rolling across an endless ocean, braving chill winds and blinding ice to set foot where few dares.

But harsh and bitter as this landscape may be, it is fringed with softness and warmth. Baby seals flop across the ice, while comical penguins waddle and dive. Giant albatross launches themselves off cliffs, while the sight of the long-anticipated Antarctic sunrise, reflected in still waters – will melt your heart. The anticipated empty landscape reveals itself to be crammed with shifting sights – of penguins, seals, and the fluctuations of light and freshly carved ice.

Currency

Antarctica has no official currency. Fun fact: the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office produced what they call the ‘Antarctician dollar’ - a collector’s item, it can be sold at certain face value but it’s not legal tender.

Credit Card

It’s a good idea to have a credit card on hand to use in the country you set sail for Antarctica from - just like you would with any other international trip. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards; double check with your bank before you travel about accessing your various accounts while overseas. Most ships accept credit cards and US dollars and often there is a currency exchange facility on board where it is also possible to exchange travelers’ cheques. In Antarctica itself, each base generally uses the currency of their home country. Travelers should check which currency to bring with their tour/cruise operator.

ATM

Tourists won’t be able to access any ATMs or banks while in Antarctica, so have cash or credit cards ready for any purchases.

Tourism in Antarctica
Tourism in Antarctica - The Continent in Brief.
There are no indigenous people on Antarctica. The population varies from fewer than 1,000 in winter to over 50,000 in summer: 5,000 scientists from 27 of the countries party to the Antarctic Treaty, plus tourists. In the 2016/2017 season there were 44,202 tourists, the peak was the 2007/2008 season with over 46,000 visitors. There are no cities, no towns, no hotels, no railroads, no roads, no resorts, and none of many other things that are usually associated with tourism. Antarctica surrounds the South Pole. The nearest landmass is South America, which is over 620 miles from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Surface area: 14 million square miles (36 million square kilometers). There is no indigenous government, management of the Antarctic is organized through the legal framework of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. Forty-three nations are now party to this agreement, and seven of those - UK, Norway, Chile, France, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand - have historic claims on parts of the continent as national territory.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty preserves the status quo of the continent by neither recognizing nor rejecting the claims of these countries and by not allowing expansion in any way on the continent. Antarctica currently has no economic activity apart from offshore fishing and tourism, and these are carried out by other nations (i.e. not the continent of Antarctica). Tourism in the Antarctic is mainly by ship, around 20 vessels carrying 45 to 280 passengers each. The ships are ice strengthened and sail primarily to the Antarctic Peninsula region sometimes also including South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. Antarctica map There have been occasional voyages to Antarctica by larger passenger vessels (up to 960 tourists), some of which conducted sightseeing cruises only without landings. These stopped when regulations came into force in 2009 preventing such large vessels operating in Antarctic waters.

Yacht travel is also popular, and gives a smaller scale more intimate contact, though without the luxuries and facilities of larger Antarctica cruise ships. Several expeditions take place outside the Peninsula region each season. Voyages are made to the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea region and, on occasion, East Antarctica including islands of the Indian Ocean sector. These expeditions may include visits to emperor penguin colonies, historical huts, the Dry Valleys and other remote areas. Weather and ice, not so much clocks and calendars, set the schedule for a journey here. No matter what the reason for your visit, you'll be reliant on the continent's changing moods and weather patterns. You may be able to make a landing as expected at the appropriate time, but don't depend on it if the weather and sea state have other ideas.

When to go
Visit to Antarctica

Nov-Mar is the short expedition season – this is not only the best time to visit Antarctica, it is the only time it’s possible – as the ice breaks up allowing ships to pass. Icebergs are hugest in November, sculptural and surreal. The continent is colder but at its most untouched, with pristine ice and snow, and wildflowers blooming on the islands. The 20-hour sunshine in Dec-Jan brings welcome warmth; temperatures hover above freezing, creating perfect conditions for seal pups and penguin chicks – as well as whales. Later in the season, the rookeries are a rabble of noise and activity, as chicks fledge and sea ice drifts away.

Visiting Antarctica in January is a pretty good idea especially if you’re intending to see penguin chicks and seal pups in relatively warm temperatures. We’re talking just above freezing here. February is also one of the warmest months in Antarctica with every chance of spotting whales and also offering a small window of opportunity to cross the Antarctic Circle. Whales are still plentiful in March; however, temperatures will be returning to their normal below freezing levels, with treacherous winds and endless nights culminating in the ‘no go’ months of April, May, June, July, August and September. Late October and November are still exceedingly cold although they do present the best chance of getting up close to some of Antarctica’s largest icebergs as well as breeding elephant seals. As December dawns, Antarctica starts to see an upturn in temperatures, with an untouched quality promising some stunning scenes bathed in permanent sunlight. December is considered the best time of year to visit Antarctica and is therefore the most popular - so book early to plant your pick in the ice.

Language

The original language of Antarctica, bus (rhymes with "goose"), is still spoken by most of the populace, but generally only used when the speaker wishes to drop down to an intimate level of conversation, "intimate" here in the sense of a feeling of closeness or camaraderie with another, without necessarily having a sexual association. For this reason, when bus is spoken, it is usually between two people only, or at most three. Because of the difficulty of transcribing bus, the language one most often encounters in the cities, jungles and snowy mountain villages of Antarctica is English. Although no official language of Antarctica exists (there is virtually nothing about Antarctica that is official), nearly everyone speaks English, and it is the dominant written language. Other than English, the language a visitor is most likely to hear or read in Antarctica is German, which is used primarily for philosophical discussions (but with a much greater compounding of words, to where a German may have difficulty following the sense of a word through its ocean liner length of syllables). Other languages occasionally heard in Antarctica are French, Yiddish, Spanish and Russian.

Beliefs

There are no churches, synagogues, temples, or other "houses of worship" in Antarctica. Such buildings are not forbidden- there is nothing in Antarctica that is forbidden- however, the people themselves have no interest in what is generally referred to as "organized religion". Although Antarcticans are not religious, they are a spiritual people. Not surprisingly, Antarcticans, because of their long, uninterupted history, have created a vast store of folklore. Unlike most races, however, Antarcticans appear to place some credence in these stories, as if they were historical events, rather than imaginative fairy tales. Presumably, this suspension of disbelief is meant as a gesture of good will or respect towards the creators of the tales. The most prominent figures in Antarctican folklore are the notisas, a race who supposedly inhabit the "Great Hollow" region of the continent, and who are portrayed as the still-extant ancestor race of the wohui (the bus word for "Antarctican". The bus word for "Antarctica" is wohum).

Antarctica Food and drink

Antarctica doesn't have a cuisine as such, it isn't populated except by visitors who stay for a few months or not usually more than a year, there are no farms, nothing vegetable that you can eat grows there and the wildlife is protected so you can't eat that. Unlike anywhere else in the rest of the world, there aren't any recipes that are passed down from one generation to the next, there are no celebrity chefs, no restaurants you can turn up to eat at and no sources of foodstuff to buy. Based on its arctic location, Antarctica is a destination without much native food. Tour operators in this part of the world import much of their provisions. The best Antarctica food options will keep you warm while providing energy.

    Shellfish
  • By far the most popular food in Antarctica is seafood, and in particular shellfish. Because nearly all the population lives near the shores, and the interior itself is saturated with lakes, rivers and streams, most seafood and fresh water fish is simply caught an hour or so before dinner, and kept in a tin bucket of cold, emerald water until it is time for it to be cooked (other than clams, oysters and caviar, Antarcticans do not eat their seafood raw). The only fish known to be unique to Antarctica is the salt water Wem, which grows up to a foot and a half in length, has no scales, and is boneless (its head is encased in cartilage). Wem, when cooked, changes from a pearly grey to pure white, and becomes slightly springy. It's extremely popular because of its ease of preparation, and its ability to absorb the flavors of the foods with which it is cooked.
  • Among land animals, the most popular meat is pork. Antarcticians generally eat it in one form or another at least once a day, either as chops, roasts, sausages, stuffing’s, marinated slices or in stews (there are hundreds of different pork stew recipes). It is also, of course, frequently smoked for hams and bacon. Also very popular is beef, although only certain cuts: Antarcticians eat rib eye and porterhouse steaks, filet mignon, rib roasts and are fond of sliced roast beef, served in hot and cold sandwiches, as well as a chuck pot roast, chula, which is covered with grated horseradish briefly marinated in vinegar, then cooked with beef stock and root vegetables, but the rest of the cow is generally used for ground beef (ground beef, often mixed with ground veal and pork, is popular in a variety of wrapped dishes, as well as used to fashion meat balls and a type of meatloaf made with carrots; in the late 1940's, the hamburger was first introduced to Antarctica by explorers returning home, and has since become one of the nation's most popular foods, along with hot dogs, which were introduced a decade earlier).
  • Veal and lamb are also popular, as are a variety of game. Among fowl, the most popular is duck. A favorite lunchtime meal, sold in the plazas of most Antarctician cities, is a "flat and bent", meaning a duck breast seared in a skillet until it is just done, then thinly sliced and placed on a bed of crisp greens in a wide, chewy hard roll, moistened with several sauces, and served with a roasted duck leg on the side. After duck, most Antarcticians prefer goose, then chicken, then turkey (turkey has not been domesticated in Antarctica. It is still wild).
  • Veal and lamb
  • The most popular drink in Antarctica is plain ice water. Whenever an Antarctician sits, there seems always to be a glass at his or her side. Sparkling water can be obtained from Antarctica's many mineral wells, and some people drink it, but it is not as popular as it is elsewhere in the world. Fruit juices are popular, particularly citrus and melon varieties. After dinner, an Antarctician will often have a "dessert drink", which in Antarctica refers to an ice cream soda, a milkshake, or a particularly flavorful local drink made with chilled cream, coffee and sugar known as a 'starter', although it's unclear what it starts, since it comes at the end of the meal. Other than in these forms, and added to coffee, milk is generally used in Antarctica only for marinating and cooking-- it is not served as a drink. There are no carbonated sodas, such as colas or ginger ales, in Antarctica. They apparently never caught on.
  • Among alcoholic drinks, beer (known as spatendunk), is the most popular. Antarcticians prefer their beers to be dark and strong-flavored, with slightly more bitterness than most Westerners are accustomed to, and served ice cold. There are a number of commercial breweries throughout the nation, but many Antarcticians prepare their own. A variety of alcoholic flavorings made from fermented roots are frequently used with hot coffee and cream, and vodka mixed with different fruit juices is also popular. Wine, when it is served, is almost always red. White wine is made, but is used primarily for cooking, and even then, not very often. There are no dessert wines in Antarctica. Whiskey is popular with about ten percent of Antarcticians. It is usually served very cold, often with a small amount of fermented root flavorings added, and a pinch of sugar. As a part of their unusual metabolism, Antarcticians feel the cheerful effects of alcohol, but are apparently not subject to the sometimes-negative effects (anger, conversation monopolization) which can occur.
  • The most popular condiment in Antarctica is mustard (there is said to be over 400 varieties available), followed by mayonnaise and ketchup. Relishes tend to be strong-flavored, and not sweet: the most common are a garlicky blend of chopped-up olives; a cooked mixture of julienned red and green bell peppers and chilies; and a cooked, cooled, minced mushroom spread. It has been said that it is impossible to get a bad meal in an Antarctician restaurant. Most Antarcticians cook at home using an oyster (not to be confused with the seafood-- the name appears to be a coincidence).
  • Less Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Due to geography, expect to eat less fresh fruit and vegetables in Antarctica than you would at home. Due to the importing of produce from other parts of the world, supplies are often limited.



Cities

The concept of cities in Antarctica is different than the concept elsewhere in the world. For one thing, each Antarctician city has its own unique design. It is hard to imagine someone strolling through a city in Antarctica and not immediately knowing which of the cities they are in, based solely on the architecture. Antarctician cities also contain an unusually large amount of space set aside for parks and natural habitats. No matter where you are in an Antarctician city, you are never more than a five-minute walk from a small forest, or a ten-minute walk from a waterfall.

  • All visitors to Antarctica arrive first in the oceanside city of Delphia, located on Antarctica's southern shore. The city is famous for its magnificent blue and green bays, which stretch all the way within the city itself. Nearly all structures in Delphia are built of gray granite, so that after a fresh rain the city glistens like a seal. Hot air ballooning is a popular pastime, and in fact there are some families and individuals whose homes are kept aloft by balloons year-round. In addition to its extensive collection of libraries, Delphia is also known for its restaurants, such as the Irunijef, which stretches across seven city blocks, serving hundreds of different seafood dishes. Dell, on the eastern shore of the continent, is built around its miles of white beaches. Because many of the beaches extend into the city itself, it is not unusual, strolling the boulevards to get from one building to the next, to spot whales surfacing, and dolphins leaping, in the adjacent coves. In addition to its reputation for some of the finest museums in Antarctica, Dell is also known for its extensive space exploration complex, which has been in operation since the mid-eighteen hundreds. Delphia is built along a series of beautiful blue and emerald bays, crystal clear to a depth of 1,000 feet, its tree-lined blocks filled with parks, rivers and pastel and granite buildings, the tallest of which is twenty stories. Brightly colored hot air balloons float silently above the city, often late into the evening; walking home along the canals from a midnight meal with friends, you may be able to hear, in the sky, the occasional murmur of conversation and laughter.
  • One of the most unusual cities in Antarctica is Faz, a massive underground city in northern Antarctica. Faz consists entirely of underground caverns, some eighty stories high, carved by water over millions of years. The caverns themselves are comprised of a highly reflective form of rose quartz, so that the entire city can be illuminated by a single candle placed near the entrance (but away from drafts). At seven o'clock each evening, the candle's light is puffed out. Faz is best known for its research facilities, and the awe-inspiring Heart of Waterfalls located in the center of the underground city, where one hundred and thirty-six different waterfalls of various heights (some as tall as a skyscraper) tumble ceaselessly down into a blue pool fifty miles in diameter. Visitors also usually take time to explore the extensive moss forest tucked into the eastern corner of the city.
  • The oldest city in Antarctica, and also the seat of the "government" of Antarctica, such as it is, is the city of Urdz, located on the northern shore. Urdz is home to the Great Hall, the most ancient man-built structure in Antarctica, dating back 40,000 years. The buildings in the city are comprised entirely of red quartz and blue glaciers. Urdz is the largest producer of roses in the nation, with over 10,000 varieties, including 100 different species of pure blues.
  • At least once in each Antarctician’s lifetime, a pilgrimage is made to Mimosa, on the western shore of Antarctica, site of the continent's only battle, in 1403 B.C., to repel foreign invaders. Mimosa is home to the world's largest sculpture, consisting of 620,000 intricately-carved life-sized statues which fill the bay, shoreline and hills. The city also offers an excellent example of a Fes, the circular area of common buildings often found in early Antarctician towns.
  • Suh, located halfway up the western peninsula of the continent, is composed entirely of huge statues in which its citizens live and work. The tallest of these, a tribute to Hal Felix, who conceived the notion of the Five Concepts, is eighteen stories high. The city is famous for its noodles, its huge population of elf’s, a cat-like creature native to Antarctica, and its botanical research.
  • Squirbranchrel, in the northern forest, is the oldest and largest example of the original Antarctician communities, when the natives lived in trees (Antarcticians did not go through a cave-dwelling phase). Fifty miles wide, and thirty miles deep, the city is built entirely in the treetops of the region, its buildings connected to one another through an elaborate series of multi-level wooden bridges. Squirbranchrel boasts the continent's tallest skyscraper, measured from base to wooden observation deck, as well as the world's largest aquarium (twelve miles wide, eight miles deep, three miles high).
Accommodation

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Getting around in Antarctica

The white wilderness of Antarctica stretches out in infinity with no sign of roads and railways anywhere. Yet, there are manifold ways to transfer from one place to another.

  • Sledges, skis and tractors are the lifeline of the continent’s transit network. Used largely by inhabitants who are generally researchers and scientists, sledges are employed to serve tourists as well. Snow cats and other tracked locomotives can carry small groups of people and ferry them to the nearest settlements.
  • Aerial tourism has garnered significant attention in the last few years. Therefore, you can also look forward to a ride in helicopters and ski planes for a spectacular survey of the topography.
  • Zodiac boats are viable and in fact the only way to get around if you’re on a cruise ship. These inflatable boats are made to endure the freezing temperatures of polar waters and are capacitated to carry quite a few people. Skis, skidoos, tractors, snowcats, helicopters and ski planes are all used to get around Antarctica, and McMurdo on Ross Island even has a bus service. Cruise ships use RIBs / zodiacs (sturdy inflatable powerboats) to ferry tourists between ship and shore; bases close to open water also use these. Bring your own fuel!
  • The last of the pony- and dog-sled teams retired in the 1980s. It would be neat to bring a few teams over for a "heritage" run, but given the logistics and paperwork necessary, it would probably be simpler to run an old steam locomotive here.
Things to do in Antarctica

The Antarctic Peninsula is the most frequently visited part of the continent with boats departing from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego in Argentina to here. From Ushuaia, it takes roughly 2 days to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. Voyages do leave from Hobart in Australia and from New Zealand, however there are a lot less trips departing from this region than from South America meaning it costs more and there is less choice of dates. Most boats set sail to Antarctica from November to March during the Antarctic summer.

  • Viewing the penguins in Port Lockroy is hands down the most popular tourist attraction in Antarctica. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can be at arm’s length from thousands of penguins. Here, you can walk among the massive colonies and if it’s the right time of year, you’re likely to come across little penguin chicks - from mid- to late December penguin chicks start to hatch on the Antarctic Peninsula, and in January you can watch the feeding frenzy.
  • A total solar eclipse on Saturday 4 Dec 2021. It starts at 07:00 UT east of the Falkland Islands, tracking south over the South Orkneys and the Weddell Sea to reach its maximum duration on the Antarctic coast at 07:30. It crosses Antarctica via Byrd Land, becoming an unusual example of an eastbound eclipse thanks to the earth's tilt, to end in the Amundsen Sea at 08:00. Most of the shipping companies listed above have a cruise that takes in the eclipse, and these are likely to sell out early.
  • Deception Island: With slightly warmer waters than other locations in Antarctica, Deception Island is the spot to do a spot of skinny dipping or at least a polar plunge – if you dare!
  • South Pole: Getting to one of the most remote and challenging places in the world is a major accomplishment. Luckily, trekking to South Pole is no longer as arduous as it was for the explorers, but it is expensive.
  • Climb an active volcano, Mount Erebus at 3794 m on Ross Island. It's a Stromboli-type volcano so it erupts continuously but without great violence, so you can reach the summit crater with its lava lake.
Places to Visit

When deciding where to go in Antarctica, the biggest issue is accessibility. The Antarctic Peninsula – an extension of the Andes – is the most popular landing spot as it is closest point to South America, but still separated by the notoriously rough, 1,000km-wide.

  • The Antarctic Peninsula – the best springboard for Antarctic explorations: Almost all visitors to Antarctica visit the Antarctic Peninsula, that stunning finger-like protrusion that points north, towards the southern tip of South America. This is the closest landfall on the Antarctic continent for expedition cruises from Ushuaia (Argentina) and the most coveted spot of all. The frigid sea canals of the Antarctic Peninsula are framed by icebergs and dotted with ice flows and bergy bits. The shores and waters brim with exceptional wildlife and, in protected coves, secure landing sites are plentiful. Whales swim the calm waters, penguins choose cosy corners to give birth and you have the unrivalled chance of seeing it all, up close. The climatic conditions make Zodiac outings safe and rewarding. Among the most mesmerizing pros of visiting the Antarctic Peninsula is that you’ll soak up that postcard-perfect scenery you’ve been dreaming for years.
  • South Georgia Island: The island to rival every single wildlife-watching destination on earth, the one dubbed ‘The Galapagos of the South’, South Georgia is a splendor that’ll delight animal lovers. Almost 80% of this island is covered in ice even during the warmest month so the biggest challenge you’ll have here is dividing your attention – and photographic exploits – between the majestic Antarctic landscapes and the island’s prolific wildlife. A wonderful story of rags to riches, South Georgia was once a major fur seal and whale slaughterhouse yet has enjoyed a heart-warming regeneration in the last 70 years. Home to over 3 million fur seals, 3 million pairs of Macaroni penguins, 1 million King Penguins, 200,000 Gentoo penguins and over 10,000 Chinstrap, as well as an astonishing flurry of unique birds, South Georgia is – quite rightly – considered Antarctica’s most rewarding wildlife crèche. The best part of a visit to South Georgia is that this speck of an island is actually quite tiny, further emphasizing the mind-boggling concentration of wildlife.
  • Antarctic Archipelago: Many small islands are found off the Antarctic Peninsula – some more accessible than others. Cuverville Island is a breeding ground for gentoo penguins and brown skuas. Popular with Adelie and gentoo penguins, Petermann Island is the southernmost point of most cruises. On Danco Island, Weddell and crabeater seals can be seen. Zodiac trips take you out to these remote harbours and surrounding fjords.
  • Drake Passage: The stretch of water between South America and Antarctica inspires a sense of both adventure and dread. During the two-day crossing, stomachs will be churned by the waves, gales and the sense of mounting excitement. Watch giant albatross from the deck and join in the fascinating wildlife and geography lectures. And as you reach the frozen continent – you’ll never forget your first sighting of a colossal iceberg.
  • The Falkland Islands: A bit of Britain at the end of the world, the windswept, wave-bashed Falklands have surprising biodiversity. Commerson’s dolphins may follow your boat, while enormous albatross glide above and four species of penguin’s nest on the shoreline. Meet the people they share the island with in Port Stanley, home to a fish and chip shop and red phone boxes, plus shipwrecks and an unsettling whalebone arch.
  • Macquarie Island: Australian Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson famously said that Macquarie Island is ‘one of the wonders of the world’ and we could not help but agree. Remote as can be, this little spot of wonder seems to float in the middle of absolute nowhere in the Southern Ocean. And that’s precisely what it does. Formed by the collision of two tectonic plates, Macquarie is indeed a unique geological gem, one that attracts wildlife from miles around. This is the most remote and spellbinding animal paradise you could visit. Home to over 100,000 seals and 2 million pairs of penguins (at least four different species have been observed – over 200,000 King Penguins alone) this immensely fertile island really is the most blissful hideout in the Sub Antarctic region.
  • South Shetland Islands: A stunning mountainous archipelago stretching for more than 500km of immensely nutrient-rich waters, the South Shetland Islands attract Antarctic marine wildlife in droves, with whales, penguins and seals converging to feast in summer. The islands are also of great historic value and home to international research stations, some of which you can visit. Some of the best spots to visit on the Shetlands are King George (home to most of the research stations), Livingstone (the prime nesting site for penguins and seals), Deception (with its picturesque volcanoes and warm thermal baths), and Elephant islands, where Shackleton bunkered down for an entire winter during his 1914-1916 expedition. Remnants of his ship, the rather aptly named ‘Endurance’, can still be seen today.
  • King George: Seeing all of these amazing Antarctic creatures setting up their seasons home in the abandoned shells of whaling stations on King George Island is a poetic justice not lost to any visitor. Once a thriving base of the whaling industry, the wildlife of King George (much like in South Georgia) has claimed back its rightful nesting hub. The most populated island in the South Shetlands, King George hosts the Antarctic Marathon every year (yes, it’s a thing), is the place to send a postcard home (from the Port Lockery Museum) and also where you can waddle with penguins in scenic Paradise Bay. King George may not feel like the most isolated place in Antarctica, yet the human presence means you can actually do quite a bit. Take a scenic helicopter ride to get a bird’s eye view of this astonishing archipelago (you can also choose to fly over the South Pole!) and learn more about life in a research station. King George is the major flying destination in the Antarctic region and main aviation hub for those who wish to skip a crossing of the Drake Passage but still wish to cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Getting Around Can be Hard

There is no vegetation to soften the landscape across most of Antarctica. Vegetation builds up soils over time and this smooths rocks and boulders which become buried, this doesn't happen in Antarctica, rocks are bare and more often than not (over 98% of the land area) the ground surface is snow and ice which can sometimes make travel easier or sometimes make it more difficult. Helicopters are great (but expensive) for short journeys in calm weather, they are very useful for relatively short trips near to scientific stations across difficult terrain, but the weather can turn dangerous for flying very quickly.

Different Speeds on Different Days

In most of the world, we travel at pretty much the same speed at all times of the year at all times of day and in all kinds of weather. This is not the case in Antarctica. There are two main factors that affect how easily and quickly you can travel, if you can travel at all:

  • The snow or ice surface. This can change over a short time, overnight and from one day to the next. If it snows or blows and sastrugi forms, if the temperature rises and makes the surface softer or even start to melt, if ice flowers form on a hard surface or if a soft part-melted surface freezes hard again it can drastically change how quickly and easily you can move over the surface, both for good and bad.
  • The weather. Temperatures can fall or rise and even though they are often all below freezing point, there is a big difference between -10C, -20C and -30C and what you can comfortably and safely do at each temperature. The appearance of a blizzard is an ever-present possibility and results in having to stop and wait until it passes and you can continue again, this might take a day or two, or even a week, or two. Even on a calm and not especially cold day, low cloud can result in white-out conditions where it is like being inside a ping-pong ball making dangers such as crevasses much harder to see and slowing progress significantly.
Crevasses

One of the biggest and commonest hazards when travelling overland in Antarctica. These are cracks in the ice up to hundreds of feet deep that can be covered at the top by snow that blows over to form a weak bridge. Anyone passing through such terrain has to be vigilant, trained to spot and avoid crevasses and should know how to perform a crevasse rescue should someone fall in one. Many lives have been lost by people and vehicles falling into crevasses. They can often be large enough to easliy swallow the largest vehicles with lots of room left over.

  • Pisten bully and crevasse probe: This vehicle is fitted with a crevasse probe held on the end of a long arm in front of the machine. A sensor device is mounted on a plywood disc above an inner tube, it triggers an alarm in the cab when a crevasse is detected, time to jump on the brake!
  • Crevasse Rescue Training: Before heading out to cross glaciers or icecaps where crevasses may be found, training takes place to ensure that all members of the party are able to rescue the others in the case of anyone falling into a crevasse.
  • Abseiling into a Crevasse: Abseiling as part of crevasse rescue training, note how large it is inside, with a relatively small hole exposed at the surface, and even that was bridged with snow when we arrived. Sea ice can be an excellent surface for travelling over if it is hard and strong, it can also be quite treacherous if it isn't and you're not sure. The ice can be broken by a storm or waves resulting in countless separate ice floes which can be taken by wind and tides many miles from where it was. A rare though not unknown event is when a large iceberg trapped in the ice turns over and breaks up the ice for miles around. On the positive side, sea ice can speed travel up, because there are no hills and it can allow you to go the most direct route avoiding glaciers, cliffs and rocks, it can turn hundreds of square miles into a flat, hard and excellent surface to travel on, though it usually doesn't last long like that before other factors change the surface. Most of all, don't spend the night camped on sea-ice, and don't travel across it in strong winds.
Travelling over sea ice

Walking on sea-ice, this is pack ice, very rough and uneven, a slow and difficult surface. The dark area in front of the figures is a pool of sea water a frequent hazard. The long pole the man on the left (my mate Paul) is carrying is used to probe suspect ice to see if it is safe to walk on.

Respect

Antarctica has a very fragile environment. Penguins live at the very limit of what is survivable and are especially vulnerable in the brooding / hatching season. Some habitats have extra protection and you may not enter these. Leave no trash. Waste disposal and sewage facilities ashore are severely limited and restricted to permanent bases. Practice good hygiene and follow any bio-security advice given, eg on boot washing. There's scant risk of introducing a blight upon the Antarctic apple harvest, but you don't want to be trailing penguin poop back to the ship's buffet, or catching norovirus in the washrooms.

What vaccinations do I need for Antarctica?
You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Antarctica and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. No specific vaccinations are required for travel to Antarctica though it is advised that you are up-to-date with the standard vaccinations prescribed in your home country. If you are arriving into Antarctica from an area where Yellow Fever is present, you will be required to present a certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever.The main health concerns visitors have to contend with are related to the nature of Antarctica - the rough seas require preventative seasickness medication and the extreme cold temperatures require proper planning when it comes to what to take in order to avoid hypothermia and stay warm and dry.

How much spending money do I need? Currency aboard the Ushuaia ship, and many other expedition boats, is US Dollar, and Euro is also accepted. It is also possible to pay using MasterCard and American Express, however, a minimum charge of US$100 applies. We suggest that you bring at least US$300 to US$400 per person to cover all possible spending money while on voyage around Antarctica. This sum will be more than sufficient as the isolated areas mean spending opportunities are rare. For services rendered aboard the ship, guests are provided with a personal account using a “chit” system. Your purchases will be kept on record and totaled at the end of your voyage. Your account must be settled prior to disembarkation in cash (U.S. Dollar or Euro). If you prefer to pay using credit card then you need to advise the ship manager when you first embark.

Is it standard to tip on an Antarctica voyage? The customary gratuity to the ship’s service personnel is made as a blanket contribution at the end of the voyage and is divided among the crew. Tipping is a personal matter and the amount you wish to give is at your discretion. As a generally accepted guideline, we suggest US$15 per person per day paid in cash as credit cards are not accepted for gratuities.

Is Wi-Fi available on board? Wi-Fi is generally not available on expedition cruise ships though passengers may use dedicated computers to access the internet and to check their personal emails. You can purchase an internet code at the rate of $10 for 30 minutes internet access (rates applicable for the Ushuaia boat used on our voyages).

Are there any local customs I need to be aware of in Antarctica? Many voyages to Antarctica include a visit to a research base where travellers may be invited in so it's important to be thoughtful about your visit. Only ever enter a room or building when invited to do so and do not disturb any scientific work taking place. Also, ensure you use the toilet on board your boat before arriving at the research base as adding to the amount of waste that researchers have to dispose of at a later date is considered very bad form. Antarctica's environment is very fragile and so it's very important that no rubbish is left behind when visiting islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Before landing travellers will be asked to wash their boots to minimise the chance of cross-contamination of seeds and organisms from places previously visited.