Antarctica, long the focus of adventure travelers, scientists as well as writers and artists, continues to capture the imagination of many.
As the earth’s southernmost point, located further south than the South Pole, Antarctica is the fifth largest continent after Asia, Africa, North America as well as South America. About 97% of the region is covered in ice that is up to 4 kilometers thick in some parts. It is an extreme environment that is also home to a delicate and beautiful ecosystem not found anywhere else on the planet. Only plants, mosses, lichen and algae adapted to the cold and animals such as seals, birds and penguins that can tolerate extreme temperatures, can survive in Antarctica. After all, it has the coldest, driest and windiest climate and also has the highest average elevation of all continents. Though its volume of ice leads many people to assume that Antarctica receives considerable precipitation, it is technically a desert, only about 200 millimeters of snow falls in the region each year and usually only along the coast rather than inland.
Fascination with the region has endured for centuries. Historians believe that in the 1820s Russian explorers were among the first humans to travel to Antarctica. Many explorers had come within a relatively short distance of it, after crossing the Arctic Circle, but had turned back amid hostile conditions for which they were not equipped. Very few people, if any, are believed to have returned to Antarctica until the 1890s when a Scottish explorer’s trip there renewed curiosity about the region.
The fragility of Antarctica is easily apparent to those who have visited. Governments have agreed to prohibit military activity and mining in the area. In addition, many countries have been united in their support of scientific research in the area.
Technology has made every sort of travel considerably more safe, comfortable and affordable and has opened up opportunities for travelers to access the region via an Antarctica Tour. Specialty cruise ships bring up to 10,000 visitors to the region every year. An Antarctica Cruise Itinerary is carefully crafted to ensure that guests can enjoy the beauty of the region as well see some of the animals that thrive there. Activities both on board the ship as well as on select parts of the ice sheet are designed for the maximum safety, enjoyment and education of travelers.
Antarctica, long the focus of adventure travelers, scientist as well as writers and artists, continues to capture the imagination of many.