Brave cold weather, harsh seas and expensive preparations for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to this vast ice-covered continent.
Travel to this Southern Hemisphere region for modern exploration of this enigmatic land and its interesting wildlife.
Depart from Ushuaia, “the end of the world,” in Argentina or charter a boat from the Falklands, also called Islas Malvinas. Make the longer extreme cruise from Port of Bluff, New Zealand to Macquarie Island and on to Antarctica’s Ross Sea region.
Many tours from South America start at South Georgia, an island due east of Terre del Fuego, Argentina. Grytviken is the British settlement. Its primary attraction is the South Georgia Museum, once a whaling center and now a museum housing artifacts from whaling, exploration and natural history. See rusting remnants of the one-time significant whaling industry on grounds near the museum.
Nearby find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave. Shackleton participated in three expeditions in Antarctica, including the ill-fated trip on the Endurance, which was caught in pack ice and beset for a year, eventually sinking in frigid waters. Shackleton suffered a heart attack on his last voyage and died in South Georgia.
Stop in the Grytviken Church, also known as the Norwegian Lutheran Church, a compact white structure with a tall spire and mountain backdrop. Established in 1913, the church has withstood the harshly cold conditions for over 100 years. Pay respects to the whalers, sailors and explorers who have lost their lives in the region’s seas and snow. Fur seals abound on South Georgia and may be aggressive; observe them from a good distance.
As you travel south to the continent itself, the weather can become harsher and more variable. View the rugged coastline of cliffs and moraines. Here you’ll see Antarctica’s plentiful wildlife, much of it unique to the region. Look for albatross, cormorant and petrels flying past your boat.
Hope for calm seas to make a Zodiac landing. On land, your guide may lead you to a rookery with tens of thousands of penguins: rockhopper, Gentoo, macaroni, emperor, chinstrap and adelie penguins. Notice adult-size chicks with fluffy brown down amid their more recognizable white-chested king penguin elders.
Most tourist excursions to the continent occur during the warmer temperatures of December to March when sunlight may last through the evening. Traveling to Antarctica requires good planning well in advance of the trip. Be prepared for cold and wet conditions, changeable weather, rough sailing and seasickness. Pack lightly, but bring layers of waterproof clothing and protective camera covers. A trip to Antarctica is expensive, but your memories will last a lifetime.