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There is a vivid rawness to Antarctica that, for many travelers, is beyond any comparison. An empty land of profound extremes, there is an inherent splendor and majesty to the continent.
When thinking about the Antarctica, many people recall the heroics and hardships of early explorers who faced immense challenges and difficulties just to set foot on the unknown place. However, expeditions have evolved significantly since the days of Scott and Shackleton, and Antarctic tourism is now more accessible than ever before.
We’ve highlighted six reasons why aspirant Antarctic explorers will fall in love with the incredible region.
At 5,400,000 square miles, Antarctica is the world's fifth-largest continent, nearly twice the size of Australia. Yet this vast and mighty place has no permanent inhabitants – only around 1,000 people spend the winter there, on a scattering of scientific bases. This means that setting foot on Antarctica is a feat only few people have done before.
The sensation of being completely away from the world is incredibly freeing for the Antarctic traveler. It also affords opportunities like seeing starry night skies untouched by at least 600 miles of emptiness.
One of the highlights of any journey into the grand Antarctic region is to see firsthand the Ross Ice Shelf – the largest ice shelf on the continent. At 500 miles across, it's roughly the size of France.
Gazing at that immense mass of frozen water up close from a Zodiac boat bobbing along the ocean's waves is an experience unlike any other. Towering above you – up to 160-feet high – are cliffs of white ice, while ocean icebergs sail past alongside you.
It's a unique landscape to be a part of, made even more special by the knowledge that there's still another 90% of the shelf you haven't seen, hidden out of sight under the water.
Antarctica is one of those rare places where every photograph you take looks like it's been lifted out of a natural history documentary. Antarctica is one of the planet’s best photography locations for everyone, from the casual snapper to the seasoned pro. Whether it’s the incredible landscape vistas or the totally fearless animal life, the pictures taken by travelers here will almost always be some of the best they've ever taken.
The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was −128.6 °F in July 1983 at the Soviet Vostok Station in the middle of the Antarctic continent. That’s too cold for human beings to mentally comprehend, let alone physically endure, but luckily visits to the coast are milder, especially during the summer — though the Antarctic "mild" is still pretty cold by most people's standards.
Nevertheless, there is something incredibly special and unique about stepping outside and feeling the Antarctic air catch at the back of your throat. It’s an awakening sensation, much like a bracing cold shower — an experience that many visitors come to recall vividly as being one of the best bits of their trip when they get home.
With no commercial or governmental development, no new cities or roads being built or people living there, venturing onto the shores of Antarctica is like stepping directly into the snow prints of legends like Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.
These two heroes of polar exploration have shaped the image of what Antarctica is for many people who have read about and dreamed of visiting the continent. Being present in the same, largely untouched landscape as they were, and looking at the exact terrain they may have passed by more than 100 years previously is a unique experience, and one that brings about a special connection for the traveler with the past.
Finally, one of the best reasons to fall in love with Antarctica is for its penguin colonies. Documentaries do not do justice to the experience of actually being on a beach with 100,000 pairs of king penguins as your companions. The birds have no innate fear of people and, as a result, penguin watching on Antarctica is always a very up close and personal affair.
Ready to make your way to Antarctica? Check out our Antarctica itineraries.