Antarctica: Polar Adventure

Are you a person who likes adventure? Do you enjoy taking the path less traveled? If so an Antarctic adventure might be just the ticket, the trip of a lifetime. Most tours embark from southern Argentina or Chile during the Antarctic summer months (winter in the northern hemisphere) and there are a variety of options available from the rustic to luxurious depending on your taste and the specific regions you want to visit. You will have the opportunity to share with friends and family upon your return and with memories to last you for the rest of your life.

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Antarctica is a land like no other, the southernmost continent on earth is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, as well as the continent with the highest average elevation. The coldest temperature on earth was measured in Antarctica at the Vostok research station, a bone chilling -128 F. During an “average” winter in Antarctica the temperature hovers around -80 F. Anywhere between one and five thousand people inhabit the continent at any time, mostly research scientists conducting field work.

Initially known as the Terra Australis (southern land) Antarctica was first discovered by a Russian expedition in 1820, but because of the harsh and inhospitable climate, the first landings did not take place until 1895. Antarctica and the waters around it are rich in biodiversity and the continent is protected from exploitation by the international Antarctic Treaty, which preserves it as an international research and ecological park. There is no evidence that Antarctica was ever seen or visited by humans prior to the 19th Century. The first expedition to ever reach the South Pole was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who accomplished this goal in 1911.

Antarctica is vast – about 50% larger than the United States, and is divided in half by the rugged chain of the Transantarctic Mountains. Some 98% of the continental surface area is covered by ice, averaging more than a mile in depth. However, it is also a land of harsh, austere beauty, and during the Antarctic summer, the sun never sets. Underneath the layer of ice, there are known to be a number of vast, subglacial lakes, some of which have been sealed away from the surface for millions of years. Who knows what secrets might lie in these stygian depths?

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Did you know that Antarctica is also home to the southernmost church in the world? The tiny Trinity Church at the Russian Bellingshausen station is staffed year round by one or two Russian Orthodox priests. To date, some eleven children have been born on the Antarctic landmass; all of them to parents at either the Argentines Esperanza Base or the Chilean Frei Montalva Station. Antarctica has little in the way of larger wildlife but fur seals and various species of penguins, including the famed Emperor Penguin, which can commonly be spotted along the coast and on offshore islands. Remarkably, a census of polar life conducted in 2010 revealed that there are 235 species of marine life found in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, having somehow bridged the 12,000 mile distance in between. Blue whales, orcas, and giant squids can also be found in the rich fisheries near the Antarctic coast.

If you are enticed by visions of this beautiful but remote land, you may want to consider one of the many expedition type tours that visit each year during the Antarctic summer. It is important to recognize that these tend to be smaller vessels, and, even in summer, the water around Antarctica can be rough, so you will want to keep that in mind. Most vessels visit specific scenic locations with significant concentrations of wildlife. Some trips also include visits to nearby islands such as the South Georgia islands and the Falklands. You can also consider an extended trip that allows you to explore for a few days in the southern regions of Argentina or Chile prior to your departure. Please note that even during the “warm” part of the year, the climate in these waters is cold, so you will want to dress and pack accordingly. The most important item to pack is a parka! Contact Condor Tours & Travel today or via email at info@condortoursandtravel.com to show your mettle, and set sail on your Antarctic adventure!

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