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Antarctica Overview

 

The Facts

  • Official Name: Antarctica
  • Government: No country owns Antarctica
  • Population: The Antarctica is only sparsely populated with research scientists – about 4,000 in summer and 1,000 in winter. No permanent residents, no indigenous population.
  • Total Area: About 14 million sq km is ice-covered,  45,000 sq km is ice-free land.
  • Time Difference: GMT +12 hours (NZ standard time)
  • Cruise Season: November to March

What is Antarctica?

Antarctica is described time and again as one of the last great wildernesses. It’s the coldest, windiest, harshest continent on Earth and with so little precipitation (roughly 5 cm or 2in per year) it also the driest place on earth, practically a desert. The terrain is about 98% ice and 2% barren rock but beneath its thick ice sheets, Antarctica is a dynamic and diverse continent with mountains, volcanoes, deserts, meteorites, dinosaur fossils, and some of the Earth’s most ancient crust.

Why visit Antarctica?

An eternal magnet for explorers and researchers alike, Antarctica’s environmental and physical challenges have never been enough to stop expedition after expedition from attempting polar crossings, and it certainly hasn’t stopped scientists queuing up to spend a year or more at a remote research station.

But modern Antarctica is no longer just the territory of the brave and the bold: this is now a continent within reach of any adventure traveller. Although Antarctica is still one of the most uncharted places on earth, you can join a Tucan Travel Antarctic voyage and be one of the lucky few to set foot on this breathtakingly beautiful continent.

From the fascinating archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula, Shetland Islands and beyond, you'll be totally mesmerized by unique wildlife, majestic icebergs and superb scenery. Landing in zodiac style boats, sightings of large penguin colonies, magnificent whales, and breathtaking icebergs and glaciers will make each day more incredible than the last.

When to visit Antarctica

The austral summer, from November to March, bathes Antarctica with almost 24 hour daylight. An Expedition Cruise to Antarctica will take you to remote locations with landscapes unlike anything you have ever seen before. Exciting landings in zodiac boats as well as sightings of large penguin colonies, magnificent whales, breathtaking icebergs and stunning glaciers will make each day more incredible than the last. The changing climate and the mobility of icebergs prevent the possibility that two voyages, or even two days, could be alike.

View all Antarctica cruises

 

Antarctica weather and climate

Antarctica is the coldest and windiest continent on earth. The average temperature is -49 °C (-56°F). East Antarctica is at a higher elevation than West Antarctica, so is generally colder. The Antarctic Peninsula has a more moderate climate, though the highest temperatures average only slightly above freezing in January in coastal areas. The difference in temperature between the inland ice and sea creates strong winds that can blow up to 320 kilometres per hour (about 200 miles per hour).

A great deal of research is being undertaken in Antarctica to measure climate change. Because Antarctica contains about 90% of Earth's ice and 70% of its freshwater, any changes in temperature could cause the ice to melt and raise sea levels worldwide. Scientists studying ice cores taken from Antarctica have been able to look back 740,000 years in time to analyse the chemistry of the earth’s atmosphere and estimate average temperatures, which has helped to assess the impact of human activity on the Earth's climate.

 

Customer Reviews

Elizabeth

"One of the best ways to do South America! Stunning sights, unbelievably knowledge tour and local guides and time well spent with lifelong friends. An experience like no other."

Received March 2014

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