Image credit: Christopher Michel
Antarctica – The Greatest Wilderness on Earth
“Antarctica is the highest, coldest, windiest & driest place on earth – plus it is a place of great inspiration.”
Are you looking for a unique tourist destination? Maybe something different than the usual options that everybody talks about? Ask your friends or family about their favorite vacation spots and you will likely hear more common choices like the Caribbean, Paris, London, Las Vegas, or perhaps Disney World – if they have children. What if you’re just not a fan of the same tropical locales frequented by countless other tourists?
Well, the answer is Antarctica
Now, if you’re looking for a non-typical tourist destination, Antarctica is a hidden gem. Often the continent that most people forget about, especially when it comes to popular tourist destinations. Antarctica has plenty of things to see and do for people of all ages. Even better, when you return home with tales of your journey, it’s a virtual certainty that your stories will be ones that haven’t been heard before.
Antarctica is one of the few remaining destinations where you can observe polar animals (such as penguins and polar bears) in their natural environment. Some of the best wildlife viewing exists in Antarctica, with birds, seals, and whales being the most popular creatures.
Perhaps you’re interested in camping under the stars? If you happen to be a particularly daring individual, you might choose to kayak up to the icebergs for better views and even camp on the ice, depending on the weather, ofcourse. When it comes to viewing the cosmos, you can indulge yourself in a magnificent sky full of stars on the many clear nights you will experience.
Just like you probably receive postcards from the same destinations that others visit every year, you can’t forget to brag to your friends about your visit! Port Lockroy, formerly a British station, is now a museum and the only post office in Antarctica, so it’s a near guarantee that a postcard received from the “forgotten continent” will be treasured by those who receive it.
But wait a second, do you know where is Antarctica located?
If you were suddenly woke up in an ice station in Antarctica, maybe you’d think you were in another world. Antarctica is an isolated continent, where massive ice shelves and mountains never touched by humans. During the enormity of time, it is a home to some of the most exotic wildlife on the planet earth.
Its extreme cold makes it inaccessible by boat, except during its three-month long summer: between December and March. During the summer months, the sun never sets, it just rotates around the sky. Then during the winter months the opposite occurs, there is no sun, it just never ending darkness.
During the winter, the ice is very thick yet it is the best time to approach Antarctica. And if you choose to travel under, rather than through, the thick sheets of ice that surround the continent will likely makes it hard for surfacing.
Image credit: TUBS
So where is Antarctica?
That is a complicated question that requires two separate answers. Strictly speaking, Antarctica is a continent with fewer than a 1.000 people living there year round, and is about one half times the size of the United States. It is 5.4 million square miles in size with 11.2k miles of coastline. Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean on all sides. Both the magnetic and geographic south poles are located on the continent.
Now, how do you get to Antarctica?
The other meaning to the “where is Antarctica” question is, “how do I get there?”
This is a different question, because this one inquires about transportation to Antarctica, rather than the specific longitude and latitude of the Mysterious Continent.
This question is often asked because going to Antarctica is on someone’s bucket list (usually as part of, “I want to visit all seven continents before I kick the bucket”). So if you ask, “Where is Antarctica,” what you really mean is, “How do I Get to Antarctica.” The answer is almost always by ship, plane or submarine.
Tickets are not cheap, from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the ship and its accouterments. However, outside of being part of a great expedition, this is the cheapest way to go. The ship will take you to the edge of the continent, but you cannot get to the middle because there are no roads, rails or even toboggan runs that can take you there. Ships almost always depart from Ushuaia in Southern Argentina.
Image credit: Christopher Michel
The other option, is to fly in by a specially designed, high powered, Russian private jet called the Ilyushin 76. This four-engine aircraft was designed to deliver heavy machinery to poorly serviced areas of the USSR back in the day. Because of its unique design it is one of the few jets that can land on Union Glacier’s ice runway.
This method will get you to the center of the continent (Union Glacier) to ski the South Pole, climb Vinson Massif (the highest peak in Antarctica) or traverse the continent’s vast interior. The starting price of that ticket is $20,000.
Now you just need to find the time and money to make the trip! One thing is for sure, if you can find your way down to Antarctica, it will truly be a once in a lifetime trip that fewer than 40,000 people a year experience. And once you get there you can see the wild life of Antarctica, which not many people can do that.