Antarctica was once a destination only for ambitious researchers and the most daring of explorers. The windiest, driest, and coldest place on Earth, it is a land of extremes. Most of it is covered in mile-thick ice and each year the sun disappears for months. There are no true “Antarcticans” nor can you even get there in the winter. The land and climate bare such resemblance to that of Mars that NASA tested the Mars Viking Project in the treacherous McMurdo Dry Valleys (which haven’t received rain for two million years!). For all the intimidating and seemingly extraterrestrial environmental obstacles, this land is begging to be explored.
The Antarctic Peninsula is the banana belt of the continent and is teeming with wildlife from penguins and seals, to exotic birds and whales. The peninsula is the closest point to “mainland” on the continent, just 621 miles away from Argentina, and is the most popular destination in the Western Hemisphere due to its proximity to South America, relatively mild weather, and abundance of wildlife. The ice bergs are massive and awe-inspiring, giving you that “we’re not in Kansas anymore” feeling. The biggest iceberg ever recorded calved from an Antarctic ice sheet in 2000 and had 6,800 square miles of surface area (about the size of Kuwait).
At Austin Adventures, we thought we couldn’t call ourselves true adventurers unless we went to the end of the Earth. Turns out, the Earth is a sphere and there is no actual end so we figured this was the next best thing. In partnership with Oceanwide Expeditions, we are braving the seas of the Drake Passage and making our way to one of the most remote and unique places on Earth to create an incredible experience of a lifetime.
While Antarctica is known for having extremely low temperatures, including the coldest temperature ever recorded of -128.4° F, the tip of the peninsula rests outside of the Antarctic Circle and the average temperature in the middle of its summer (January) is warmer than many winter wonderland destinations in the U.S.
With 24 hours of sun all summer long, there is lots to see and do. Strap on some snowshoes and explore this spectacular environment by foot, or you can discover the amazing animals that swim the icy waters of the Southern Ocean by zodiac and kayak. If you are a mountaineer, you can tie into your guide and trek up Jabet Peak – almost 2,000 vertical feet or you can opt-in to an open-air camping excursion to claim official bragging rights. Twenty-four hours of sun makes for a long day so kick your feet up and enjoy a warm drink while sailing through the Lemaire Channel and gazing at Booth Island’s towering peaks. And don’t worry, the researchers are still there. At Port Lockroy you can check out a British research center where you can get a glimpse of Antarctican life, a museum with relics from bases built sixty years ago, and the post office where residents come to get their mail every two weeks.
No longer the forgotten continent or deemed just too cold and extreme to enjoy with your family, Antarctica is our new playground. You don’t need to hitch a ride on a naval ship to check the last continent off your list. With more infrastructure and technology, in Antarctica, you can venture to the bottom of the Earth and explore something different, having the time of your life.