Antarctica is a land of extremes: it is the coldest and driest continent on Earth and has the highest average elevation. As the fifth largest continent in the world, Antarctica is also the most Southern, overlying the South Pole.
Scarcely touched by humans, the frozen land boasts breathtaking scenery, broken by only a handful of scientific bases and a "permanent" population of scientists numbering only a few thousand. Visitors to Antarctica generally must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, but those who do are rewarded with amazing scenery and tremendous and unique wildlife.
Note: All dots on the map represent inhabited research stations.
Also see Islands of the Southern Ocean
The primary destinations for those visiting Antarctica will either be a research base (for those working on the frozen continent) or the Antarctic Peninsula or Ross Sea area (for those visiting by ship). Other destinations are reachable only by those blessed with extreme motivation and (most importantly) funding.
Although several countries have laid claim to various portions of Antarctica, it is governed by the 1958 Antarctic Treaty, which establishes the continent as a peaceful and cooperative international research zone. As the Antarctic treaty prohibits its signatories from making any new claims to territory and claims to antarctic territory already made have little to no effect as long as the treaty stands, there are overlapping claims and a rather large swath that is technically not claimed by anybody, no matter how you slice it. The only other piece of dry land with that characteristic is Bir Tawil between Sudan and Egypt. There are no cities per se, just some two dozen research stations with a total population ranging from 1,000–4,000 depending on the time of year (more in the November to March "summer" than in the June-September "winter"). These are maintained for scientific purposes only, and do not provide any official support for tourism. The laws of the nation operating each research station apply there.
Private travel to Antarctica generally takes one of three forms:
Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region. According to the organization 34,316 visitors traveled to Antarctica in the season of 2012-'13, while in the record season of 2007-'08 the number of visitors was 45,213.
Antarctica was the last continent to be discovered by man. While explorers earlier reported sightings of the "unknown land in the south", the earliest certain sightings of land south of the 60° latitude are by either Russian, British or American ship crews in January 1820 (there's no reliable information of which sighting was first). The first person to have set foot on the Antarctic mainland was an American sealer named John Davis in 1821.
The rough waters and the coast was explored throughout the 19th century. In 1897 a Belgian expedition overwintered on Antarctica and this was the start of the "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration", culminating in the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his crew setting foot on the South Pole 14 years later. The scientific research station at the pole, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, is jointly named after him and the British explorer Robert Scott who arrived at the pole about a month later, but never made it back to the coast.
Eventually countries started setting up stations and claiming parts of the continent, with some claims overlapping. This was ended by the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959. The treaty makes the continent a scientific preserve, "doesn't recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims" and prohibits any military activity there. Today most of the few thousand "inhabitants" are indeed transient researchers, given the remoteness and inhospitable environment it's no surprise. They are joined by some 40,000 tourists visiting each year, however most of them do only make cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula and adjacient islands.
Antarctica is notable for being the only continent with no significant land plant life and no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. (There are no polar bears; they are only at the North Pole.) However, its shoreline serves as nesting grounds for many species of migratory birds and penguins (several species of which stay in Antarctica regardless of the season), and the Southern Ocean surrounding it is home to many fish and marine mammals, including whales.
Don't be fooled by all the ice: Antarctica is a desert. The region's moisture is all tied up in frigid seawater and the huge sheets, shelves, and packs of ice which cover nearly all of the continent plus surrounding waters. There is little snowfall here, and even less rain.
For tourists, Antarctica is accessible only during the austral summer season from November to March, during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 14°C (57°F) and there are twenty-four hours of daylight. During the winter the sea is impassable. Temperatures can fall to -40°C/F and there are twenty-four hours of darkness.
The above temperatures apply to the islands and coastal regions that tourists ordinarily visit. Temperatures in the interior, such as the South Pole, are far harsher, with summer highs of around -15°C (5°F) and winter lows plummeting to -80°C (-112°F).
Within the Antarctic Circle, the midnight sun can be seen during part of the summer.
For most people, reading about Antarctica is the only affordable means of experiencing the continent. Books range from wild works of fiction to non-fiction accounts of the extraordinary early missions of adventurers looking to conquer Earth's last land frontier.
The native languages of the nations' operating bases are used. English is the lingua franca used between different stations. As there is no indigenous antarctic population and only a handful of people were ever born here, there is no official or indigenous native language for the continent whatsoever.
Aircraft and pilots need to be capable of landing on ice, snow, or gravel runways, as there are no paved runways; see general aviation. There are 28 airport landing facilities in Antarctica and all 37 Antarctic stations have helipads. Landings are generally restricted to the daylight season (Summer months from October to March). Winter landings have been performed at Williams Field but low temperatures mean that aircraft cannot stay on the ice longer than an hour or so as their skis may freeze to the ice runway. Travel is often by military aircraft, as part of the cargo. In this situation passengers should anticipate carrying all their own luggage and may need to assist with freight as well. Commercial flights to Antarctica are rare, but available. Aerovías DAP and Adventure Network International offer commercial flights to Frei Station on King George Island and the ANI Union Glacier Camp, respectively. If taking the Aerovías DAP flight as part of a tour with Antarctica XXI, the tour company transfers all checked luggage to your lodging.
Major landing fields include:
Commercial overflights to Antarctica are limited - a handful of operators offer flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Punta Arenas. These flights typically visit Antarctica and spend several hours flying over the ice. Passengers in most seating classes rotate their position in the row halfway into the flight, to give everyone a window or one-over-from-window seat for half of the time. Rates range from USD5200 for first class, to USD1400 for partially-obstructed-view economy class, or USD900 for non-rotating centre-section seats with window access depending on the courtesy of better-seated travellers.
Boat is the most common method of visiting the Antarctic. In the Antarctic summer, several companies offer excursions on ice strengthened vessels to Antarctica. Ice-strengthened (not quite as tough as icebreakers) boats are preferred since icebreakers are round on the bottom — a configuration that amplifies the already massive wave action in the Drake passage. The ships typically offer a couple of excursions to the continent (usually the Antarctic peninsula) or Antarctic islands (e.g., Deception Island, Aitcho Island) each day over the course of a week. The views are phenomenal, the penguins are friendly (well, some of them are), and the experience is one that is unparalleled!
When traveling by boat, be aware that smaller ships (typically carrying 50–100 passengers) can go where the big ships can't, getting you up closer to Antarctica's nature and wildlife. Larger vessels (carrying as many as 1,200 people) are less prone to rough seas but have more limited landing options. Many vessels include naturalist guided hikes, zodiac excursions and sea kayaking right from the ship, perfect for active, casual travelers.
You'll need warm clothing: boots, hoods, glove, water repellent pants, parka and warm underwear. Most of these items can be bought or hired in Ushuaia, but sometimes — in the high season — it is not always easy to get the right sizes. So bring whatever you can from your own stock.
It must also be remembered that cruise operators typically only allow 100 people on land at any one time to comply with IAATO agreements. Consequently if you are in a boat with more than 200 people the chances are you will only spend a couple of hours at most per day off ship. Generally the smaller ships will try to ensure 2 different locations per day around Antarctica, although this is of course dependent on the weather and you may expect a 60% success rate on landing people for any given visit.
Many shipping companies are now offering fly/cruise options, which entails a one-way or round-trip flight from either Santiago or Punta Arenas to King George Island. These are often pricier than typically cruises that cross the Drake Passage both ways, but cut 1–3 days off the total travel time.
Companies offering cruises to Antarctica include:
Most cruise ships depart from the following ports:
About a dozen charter sailboats, many of them members of IAATO, offer three to six week voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula from South America. Most offer "expedition style" trips where guests are invited to help out, although usually no prior sailing experience is required. Yachts take individuals on a "by the bunk" basis and also support private expeditions such as scientific research, mountaineering, kayaking, and film-making. Compared to the more popular cruise ships, a small yacht can be more work and significantly less comfortable, but typically allows more freedom and flexibility. For the right people this can be a far more rewarding experience.
Ponies, sledges and dogs, skis, tractors, snow cats (and similar tracked vehicles) and aircraft including helicopters and ski planes have all been used to get around Antarctica. Cruise ships use zodiac boats to ferry tourists from ship to shore in small groups. Bring your own fuel and food, or arrange supplies in advance. You cannot purchase fuel or food on the continent. Cruise ships come fully prepared with landing transport, food, etc. Some (but not all) even provide cold-weather clothing.
Antarctica has 24-hour sunshine during the southern hemisphere summer, and 24-hours of nighttime during the winter. Visitors should ensure that they take steps to keep regular sleeping hours as continuous daylight disturbs the body clock. There are no hotels or lodges on the continent, and research bases will not generally house guests. Most visitors sleep aboard their boat, although land expeditions will use tents for shelter.
It is possible to obtain employment with scientific expeditions in Antarctica. Induction and training need to be undertaken before departure for Antarctica.
The following agencies are responsible for staffing bases in Antarctica:
Antarctica is an extreme environment, and accidents are unavoidable. Every year numerous people are injured or even killed visiting the Antarctic, and while this should not dissuade people from visiting, it should encourage visitors to exercise caution and make a realistic evaluation of their own abilities when choosing a trip.
As most visitors to Antarctica will arrive by boat, the greatest dangers occur due to storms at sea. The weather in the Southern Ocean is nature at its most extreme, with the potential for hurricane force winds and waves as high as 60–70 feet (18–23 m). With modern safety and ship design the odds of sinking are low, but the odds of being thrown about by a wave are high. When on a boat in rough weather always make sure that you have at least one secure handhold, and avoid opening doors during storms as a sudden shift in the waves can easily bring a heavy door crashing back onto a body part. In severe weather stay in your cabin and wait for the storm to subside. Similarly, be extremely cautious when returning to ship via a zodiac and follow crew instructions — a landing platform in rough weather can be deadly should you slip and fall.
Weather on the continent is equally extreme, although most visitors pack appropriate gear. For expeditions there are limited search-and-rescue options, so expeditions must plan for all contingencies. There is no formal government or legal system in Antarctica, but the laws of the country of origin or departure as well as those of a claimant government may apply. Rules regarding protection of the environment and of historical sites will be strictly enforced, and fines can be extreme.
Also note that when visiting Antarctica that a hospital is usually days away. Most ships and research stations have a doctor, but facilities are limited. In cases where evacuation is required (if even possible), costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Many Antarctic cruise operators require passengers to obtain evacuation insurance. Before embarking on an Antarctic journey, those with pre-existing conditions should strongly consider the risks of venturing into a land where medical help may not be available.
Antarctica has an extreme environment. Cold weather is a major health hazard. Visitors should be properly prepared and equipped for any visit. Waterproof and windproof gloves, coat, pants, and boots are an absolute necessity. Other necessities that are often overlooked include sunscreen and sunglasses — summertime visitors will be exposed to the sun's rays from above and from reflections off of snow, ice, and water. Additionally, those arriving by boat are strongly encouraged to take some seasickness medicine on their journey, as even the most seaworthy individual will feel queasy in a severe storm; check with your doctor to determine what medicine is appropriate for you to bring.
Antarctica has a very fragile environment. Pollution should be avoided if at all possible. Expeditions should anticipate the need to remove all waste from the continent when they leave. Waste disposal and sewage facilities on the continent are severely limited and restricted to permanent installations. Of particular concern to tourists is the danger of introducing foreign organisms into the fragile Antarctic environment. Many tour operators will require visitors to do a boot wash after every landing to avoid carrying seeds or other items from one location to another. In addition, visitors should examine all clothing before embarking to avoid bringing any plant or animal material to the Antarctic; invasive species have devastated many regions of the planet, so it is particularly important to protect Antarctica from this danger.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is a voluntary organization of tour operators which promotes safe and environmentally responsible tourism in Antarctica. It publishes standards for member tour operators on responsible practices for private visitors to the continent.
The top-level Internet domain for Antarctic sites, .aq, is assigned to organizations that conduct work in Antarctica or signatory governments to the Antarctic Treaty. Generally, its servers are hosted elsewhere; a satellite connection may be possible from some Antarctic locations but connectivity is limited at best.
Antarctica is the most alien place on the planet, the only part of the earth where humans could never survive unaided. Out of our fascination with it have come many books, most of which focus on only one aspect of its unique strangeness. None has managed to capture the whole story—until now.Drawing on her broad travels across the continent, in Antarctica Gabrielle Walker weaves all the significant threads of life on the vast ice sheet into an intricate tapestry, illuminating what it really feels like to be there and why it draws so many different kinds of people. With her we witness cutting-edge science experiments, visit the South Pole, lodge with American, Italian, and French researchers, drive snowdozers, drill ice cores, and listen for the message Antarctica is sending us about our future in an age of global warming.This is a thrilling trip to the farthest reaches of earth by one of the best science writers working today.
In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization. Their survival, and the survival of the men they left behind, depended on their small lifeboat successfully finding the island of South Georgia—a tiny dot of land in a vast and hostile ocean. In Endurance, the definitive account of Ernest Shackleton's fateful trip, Alfred Lansing brilliantly narrates the harrowing and miraculous voyage that has defined heroism for the modern age.
“An important missing story from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.”―Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep SurvivalOn January 17, 1913, alone and near starvation, Douglas Mawson, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, was hauling a sledge to get back to base camp. The dogs were gone. Now Mawson himself plunged through a snow bridge, dangling over an abyss by the sledge harness. A line of poetry gave him the will to haul himself back to the surface. Mawson was sometimes reduced to crawling, and one night he discovered that the soles of his feet had completely detached from the flesh beneath. On February 8, when he staggered back to base, his features unrecognizably skeletal, the first teammate to reach him blurted out, “Which one are you?” This thrilling and almost unbelievable account establishes Mawson in his rightful place as one of the greatest polar explorers and expedition leaders. It is illustrated by a trove of Frank Hurley’s famous Antarctic photographs, many never before published in the United States. 24 pages of illustrations
Now packed with even more breathtaking color photographs, wildlife descriptions, and detailed area maps, this updated edition to a bestselling Antarctica travel guide includes fascinating, full accounts of interesting places, spectacular landscapes, and local plants and wildlife—from penguins and other birds to whales, seals, and myriad mammals. A definitive field guide to Antarctica, this book caters to South Pole visitors traveling by luxury liner, adventure cruise, or private boat. Written by experienced Antarctic travelers who are recognized experts in the continent's wildlife, conservation, and political history, every page offers gorgeous color photographs of the great white south. This third edition pays special attention to explaining the threats to Antarctic conservation, including global warming, and includes tips on how visitors can minimize their own impact and help preserve this unique continent.
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet Antarctica is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Spot penguins tobogganing along the ice, venture to the geographic South Pole, or cruise between the towering cliffs and looming icebergs of Lemaire Channel; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Antarctica and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet Antarctica Travel Guide:Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including history, expeditions, aviators, environment, politics, geology, ecosystems, and wildlife Over 18 maps Useful features - including Top Experiences, Planning Your Antarctic Adventure, and Icebergs & Glaciers Coverage of the South Pole, the Antarctic Peninsula, Ross Ice Shelf, Lemaire Channel, Deception Island, Cuverville Island, Cape Royds, Cape Denison, Cape Evans, Port Lockroy, Paradise Harbor, and more
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet and Alexis Averbuck.
About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category
'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times
'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)
Johnson’s savagely funny [book] is a grunt’s-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It’s like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy.”—The Times of London
Since the first sailing ships spied the Antarctic coastline in 1820, the frozen continent has captured the world's imagination. David Day's brilliant biography of Antarctica describes in fascinating detail every aspect of this vast land's history--two centuries of exploration, scientific investigation, and contentious geopolitics. Drawing from archives from around the world, Day provides a sweeping, large-scale history of Antarctica. Focusing on the dynamic personalities drawn to this unconquered land, the book offers an engaging collective biography of explorers and scientists battling the elements in the most hostile place on earth. We see intrepid sea captains picking their way past icebergs and pushing to the edge of the shifting pack ice, sanguinary sealers and whalers drawn south to exploit "the Penguin El Dorado," famed nineteenth-century explorers like Scott and Amundson in their highly publicized race to the South Pole, and aviators like Clarence Ellsworth and Richard Byrd, flying over great stretches of undiscovered land. Yet Antarctica is also the story of nations seeking to incorporate the Antarctic into their national narratives and to claim its frozen wastes as their own. As Day shows, in a place as remote as Antarctica, claiming land was not just about seeing a place for the first time, or raising a flag over it; it was about mapping and naming and, more generally, knowing its geographic and natural features. And ultimately, after a little-known decision by FDR to colonize Antarctica, claiming territory meant establishing full-time bases on the White Continent. The end of the Second World War would see one last scramble for polar territory, but the onset of the International Geophysical Year in 1957 would launch a cooperative effort to establish scientific bases across the continent. And with the Antarctic Treaty, science was in the ascendant, and cooperation rather than competition was the new watchword on the ice. Tracing history from the first sighting of land up to the present day, Antarctica is a fascinating exploration of this deeply alluring land and man's struggle to claim it.
A striking view of Antarctica's terrain, compiled from 4,500 satellite scans. Additional inset maps show surface elevation, ice sheet thickness, velocity of ice flow, and sea ice movement and windflow.
The map is packaged in a two inch diamater clear plastic tube. The tube has a decorative label showing a thumbnail of the map with dimensions and other pertinent information.Map Scale = 1:9,200,000Sheet Size = 31.25" x 20.25"
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
There are no telephone or other communication services in Antarctica. Satellite telephone and postal facilities exist only at established research stations. It would be very difficult to obtain outside assistance in the event of an emergency.
Research stations and scientific expeditions are fully dedicated to scientific research and, with rare exceptions, have no capacity to provide support of any kind to tourists or casual travellers. Independent travellers must be fully self-sufficient from the time that they leave the departure country until their return.
Other than a privately run base on the interior ice that caters to mountaineering-type expeditions, there are no tourist facilities on land. Various tourism companies can arrange excursions to the continent. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) publishes a list of its members, which is available at:
Any travel that is not part of an international scientific expedition or organized through a recognized tour operator is strongly discouraged because of its potential harmful impact on the environment and the lack of emergency facilities.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.
Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Antarctica. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
In some areas in Antarctica, certain insects may carry and spread diseases.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with all animals as certain infections can be shared between humans and animals.
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.
The Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection (Madrid Protocol), adopted in 1991 by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties, designates Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. Several areas have ecological, scientific, historical or other value and are afforded special protection. It is forbidden to bring any non-native species into Antarctica. This includes poultry, pet dogs, pet cats and household plants. It is also prohibited to take or harmfully interfere with Antarctic wildlife except in accordance with a permit issued by a national authority.
The Madrid Protocol came into force in 1998 and was ratified by 30 countries. Under the Madrid Protocol, parties are required to regulate the activities of expeditions organized in or proceeding from their territory to the Antarctic, as well as the activities of their vessels, aircraft and Antarctic stations.
Canada ratified the Madrid Protocol in December 2003, and developed the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act and its supporting regulation to implement the Protocol in Canada. In so doing, the Canadian government oversees the activities of its citizens in the Antarctic, and provides the means to address potential future environmental risks in the Antarctic.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest, highest (on average) and windiest continent, with 99 percent of its area covered by a permanent ice sheet. Weather conditions are severe and can vary.