Antarctica Discounts
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Antarctica travel and cruises to South Georgia, Falkland Islands, and Antarctica Peninsula.


Antarctica - a land of superlatives and extremes, Antarctica is without a doubt one of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth. The fifth-largest continent, it is the highest, most arid, and most isolated. More than 99 percent of it is covered in ice. It is the least explored and least inhabited; yet people are drawn to this place again and again.

Travel to Antarctica is not easy; in fact it has to be earned: its isolation requires a lengthy flight�unless you happen to live in one of the gateway towns, like Stanley, Hobart, or Ushuaia�just to board the ship. Then there�s the matter of the sea itself. Even in the sturdy confidence and relative comfort of an expedition ship or icebreaker, crossing the Drake Passage south of Argentina�s Cape Horn can be a seafaring adventure in itself.

However, nothing can compare with the rewards of traveling to Antarctica! Antarctica�s glaciers, massive rivers of ice, crunch, grind and calve their way into the sea. Gargantuan towers of ice the size of city blocks glow in shades of pink, violet, and baby blue. Humpback whales gracefully loop through the frigid water in search of a meal of krill.

Navigate around an iceberg on a Zodiac expedition and gaze in awe as 18-foot, 4.5-ton elephant seals haul themselves out of the water and gather on icy banks as southern albatrosses soar overhead. Ready your camera for a king or royal penguin encounter in a colony of thousands upon thousands of nesting birds and their fluffy, bewildered chicks.

Antarctica cruises are truly one of the last great adventures. Leave tourist crowds�and indeed, the whole world�behind. Come see more than the tip of the iceberg: venture to terra incognita australis, the unknown southern land.

Natural History
Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, and much of its land mass lies beneath more than a mile of ice and snow. Mountains punch through this ice cap along the coast and across the wind-whipped interior. The ice cap holds 70% of the Earth�s fresh water, locked up in huge chunks of snow and ice sheets.

Much of Antarctica�s inland areas remain largely unexplored. The diverse sea life in the Antarctic Ocean (the southernmost waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans) and along the continent�s edges, however, draws researchers, explorers, and nature lovers from the world over.

Although there are no vertebrate animals on Antarctica�s interior (in fact, the land fauna consists of only a few invertebrate species, of which the largest is the dime-sized wingless midge), several kinds of birds populate the shorelines.

Penguins, the lovable, flightless mascots of the Far South, include many species. Lines of these penguins belly-flop off icebergs into the ocean. On the Antarctic Peninsula, the chinstrap, Ad�lie, and gentoo gather in great groups. The emperor is the largest of all the penguins, standing over three feet tall and weighing 40 to 100 pounds. The smaller, 15-pound Ad�lies are the most common penguins in Antarctica, with up to 250,000 of them gathering in one breeding area. King and royal penguins inhabit New Zealand�s subantarctic islands. Magellanic penguins, found in Argentina, breed north of the Antarctic Convergence.

At least ten species of whales have been spotted in the Antarctic Ocean. These whales include humpback (the most common), minke, right, blue, sei, finback, orca, pilot, sperm, and southern bottle-nosed. The blue whale, the largest animal on Earth, exceeds 100 feet in length and weighs over 150 tons. Just as exciting to watch are the three species of dolphins�Commerson�s, dusky, and southern right-whale�that swim and dive in graceful arcs throughout the southern seas.

Six seal species thrive in the Antarctic Ocean. Watch crabeater and Weddell seals slide off ice platforms in search of crabs and fish. Catch a glimpse of the more vicious, 10-to-12-foot-long leopard seals which feed on fish, penguins, and other seals. Sharp teeth line their powerful jaws. Ross seals, more difficult to spot and less well known, eat fish, as do the smallest seals in the region, the fur seals. Seal hunters once coveted fur seals for their thick, high-quality coats. The huge elephant seals feed on squid around the Scotia Arc Islands and the Antarctica Peninsula. Males weigh nearly 4.5 tons and grow to lengths of 15 to almost 20 feet long.

Forty-four species of seabirds, including two big albatrosses, the wandering and the royal, circle the sky around the Antarctic and subantarctic. Fulmars, medium-to-large-sized petrels, scavenge dead birds and seals along the coast. Other petrels feed only at sea. Long, hook-tipped bills provide shearwater petrels with the means to pull squid from the water. Some species also pursue their prey beneath the water�s surface. Sheathbills, skuas, Arctic terns, cape pigeons, and petrels all live near the coasts and over the seas of Antarctica.

For more information on the natural history of Antarctica, see book selections below.

The name Antarctica derives from the Greek antarktos, or �opposite Arktos,� a constellation in the northern sky. The early Greeks arrived at the idea of a southern continent not by observation of any phenomena, but by virtue of their ideals of symmetry: land to the north must be balanced by land to the south, otherwise the Earth would lose its equilibrium.

Some other early thinkers postulated in a similar fashion. It is said that a Phoenician fleet and a Polynesian vessel reached the Far South, but the real story of Antarctica begins with the Age of Exploration.

During his 1519�1522 voyage from Spain, Ferdinand Magellan ventured all the way to the southern tip of South America, which he called Tierra del Fuego, or �Land of Fire,� after the sightings of native campfires on shore. A half-century later, Francis Drake set sail from England to attempt the second circumnavigation of the globe. He made it south of Cape Horn and into a passage between the Horn and the South Shetlands.

Nonetheless, Antarctica remained �undiscovered� and, for that matter, unsought, until 1772. That year, Captain James Cook departed England on a three-year expedition to search for the fabled southern continent. Rumors of such a place had long existed, but after Drake�s journey, many Europeans believed that no land existed south of the South Shetlands. Little did Captain Cook realize that when his ship, Resolution, reached the �end of the world� latitude of 71 degrees 10 minutes south, he was only 150 miles from the Antarctic shore. The wooden Resolution, however, lacked the icebreaker construction needed to smash through the pack ice and gain the shoreline.

From the early 1800s through the 1820s seal hunters from Great Britain and America caught sight of islands, icebergs, and parts of the Antarctic land mass. No one set foot on the Last Continent until Captain John Davis, an American seal hunter, sent members of his crew ashore near Hughes Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. Unfortunately, they did not know whether they had landed on the continent or one of its islands.

Between 1838 and 1840, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes led an ill-fated expedition for the U.S. Navy to the Far South and into the Indian Ocean. He and his crew battled fierce winds, crushing seas, and tremendous adversity, but ultimately managed to navigate over 1,500 miles of Antactica�s coast, enough to call it a continent. James Clark Ross, a British explorer, sailed to Antarctica in 1841 and added to Wilkes� documentation. He noted the Ross Ice Shelf, the Ross Sea, and, at the edge of the coast, the Transantarctic Mountains.

For more than fifty years after Ross, only seal hunters and whaling ships explored the South Seas. Then, in 1898, an expedition from Belgium commanded by Adrien de Gerlache remained through the winter in the pack ice of the Bellingshausen Sea. Following this first �winter over� on the continent, a group from England and Norway spent the winter of 1899 at Cape Adare.

The twentieth century brought on a race for the South Pole. Robert Scott led a first, unsuccessful expedition to reach the Pole in 1903, landing 575 miles short of the goal. In 1910 he returned to New Zealand from Great Britain to prepare for a second attempt. In New Zealand he received a note from Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen that read, �HEADING SOUTH. AMUNDSEN.� The race was on.

Amundsen and his party loaded dog sleds and headed for the South Pole on October 20, 1911. Scott and his crew set out on November 1. They took off with ponies to pull their sleds but after the cold killed the ponies, they were forced to haul their supplies by hand. Amundsen reached the Pole on December 14. Scott�s party arrived on January 18, 1912, to find a note from Amundsen. Exhausted and bitterly disappointed, Scott and all four of his men died of hunger on the way back.

The year 1914 closed the �Heroic Age� with the epic adventure of British captain Ernest H. Shackleton. A veteran of two previous Antarctic expeditions, Shackleton sailed the Endurance into the Weddell Sea with the intention of penetrating as far as he could; then, the ship frozen in ice, he planned to lead an overland expedition to the Ross Shelf. Unfortunately, ice trapped the Endurance earlier than anticipated. Ice crushed the ship, which sank. The crew survived by climbing onto drifting ice and salvaging what supplies they could. They floated to Elephant Island at the northern tip of the peninsula. With no hope of rescue from there, Shackleton took five of his best men in an open rowboat 800 miles northeast across some the world�s fiercest ocean to South Georgia with a minimum of navigational aids. Once at South Georgia, they made the treacherous trek over the island�s snow-covered mountains to reach a whaling station on the other side. Shackleton boarded a Chilean ship and returned to Elephant Island for the rest of his crew. Miraculously, Shackleton and every man on his crew survived the ordeal.

The two World Wars diverted the world�s attention and national resources from the exploration of Antarctica, and so the continent lay little explored in the intervening years. The British set up the first permanent camp in 1943. Following the war, the United States launched two major expeditions for the purposes of military training in arctic conditions and of exploration.

July, 1957, marked the beginning of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), an enormous, cooperative undertaking by 12 countries initiating the modern research efforts in Antarctica. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Great Britain, Japan, Norway, Russia, the Union of South Africa, and the United States joined forces and established some forty stations throughout the polar ice cap. Thousands of investigators were sent to accumulate data about weather, gravity, magnetism, oceanography, earthquakes, radiation, and sunspots. After the IGY ended on December 31, 1958, most of the nations involved continued research in Antarctica. Today, scientific studies include geology, biology, mapping, and ice core analysis. Investigators work from field stations and aboard state-of-the-art research icebreakers.

For more information on the history of Antarctica, see book selections below.

Having an indigenous human population of zero, Antarctica is understandably sparse in its cultural offerings. �Local� languages, foods, religions, and codes of conduct are as varied as the countries whose forty-some-odd research stations dot the continent. Nevertheless, the harsh environment, tight living quarters, and intense research schedules engender a kind of culture all their own. Visitors to a research station should ask their expedition leader about the station�s rules and etiquette so as to minimize their impact on the facility.

People live in research stations all year round. In the austral summer, the total population jumps from 1,400 to about 10,000. Some stations house only four people at a time; others have several hundred inhabitants and function like small towns. Most people elect or are required to return to their home countries for a few months between �shifts�; otherwise, the demanding living conditions can take a high psychological toll on an individual.

Rapid travel and fast communication coupled with improvements in housing, medicine, food, and fuel make life at polar outposts somewhat more bearable than the 1911 polar expeditions of Scott and Amundsen. Nevertheless, modern Antarctica residents face the daily challenges of water, shelter, fire prevention and control, waste disposal, and safety away from the station. The severe cold can take a human life. The use of gloves and mittens and constant alertness for the whitening of the skin, the first sign of frostbite, especially around the cheeks and nose, are absolutely essential. Excursions outside the station require dark glasses to safeguard against snow blindness, caused by intense sunlight reflecting off the snow and ice.

Scientists use snow tractors, snowmobiles, and aircraft to explore and study the inland reaches of Antarctica. Helicopters prove almost essential for short-range fieldwork in the mountains. In addition to research equipment, each trip must be carefully provisioned with specialized weather gear and food. Skis and snowshoes are everyday items for those who venture beyond the stations. Research work goes on despite stinging blizzards and extreme temperatures, which means proper clothing and equipment is crucial.

For more information on the culture of Antarctica, see book selections belwow.

Dos and Don'ts
Antarctica Travel Tips:

Don�t expect to go ashore alone. Your Antarctica cruise leaders will take passengers ashore in Zodiac groups.

Antarctica travel means preparing for severe and changeable weather. Bring foul weather gear to cover you from head to toe and plenty of clothes to layer on when the wind blows and peel back when the sun shines.

Do not walk alone on ice fields; there are crevasses which may be dangerous.

Antarctic�s varied terrain has some of the Far South�s best scenery. To enjoy wildlife, tote powerful binoculars.

Don�t interfere with scientific equipment.

Follow the instructions of your tour leaders and maintain a safe distance from all wildlife on land and at sea.

Important to remember:

1. Always maintain at least a Zodiac length away from wildlife.
2. Watch your step�lumbering elephant seals can look like rocks.
3. Listen to your Zodiac driver. Do not stand while he or she is driving.
4. Remember the �Zodiac grip� when on-loading and off-loading the Zodiac.
5. Wear sunblock (sunburns are intense). Ozone hole!
6. Remember your sunglasses. Snow blindness can easily occur.
7. Bring your swimsuit�a swim in the thermal waters at Deception Cove is not to be forgotten.
8. Do not climb on or get too close to icebergs. They can explode and calve in the sunshine.


Antarctica is the world�s coldest, windiest and driest continent. The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was �89.6�F, at the Antarctica�s Russian Vostok station on the inland ice cap. All this said, during the summer months, the temperatures are surprisingly comfortable, averaging between 20� and 50�F. Expect wind, and perhaps precipitation, but also be ready for brilliant sunshine.

Best Time to Go

Temperature Range
December � February
20� to 50�F


Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge, by Kim Heacox
The story of Ernest Shackleton�s legendary journey.

The Endurance: Shackleton�s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander
The story of Ernest Shackleton�s legendary journey with stunning black-and-white photographs.

Antarctic Oasis: Under the Spell of South Georgia, by Pauline Carr and Tim Carr
A photographic portrait of South Georgia by yachtsmen Tim and Pauline Carr, the island�s only permanent residents.

The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Robert F. Scott�s doomed last expedition. A fantastic adventure tale.

Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide, by Peter Harrison
Field Guide
A portable version of Harrison�s definitive guide to seabirds. The best.

South: The Story of Shackleton�s Last Expedition, by Ernest Shackleton and Peter King
A handsome edition, much enriched by expedition photographs and explanatory notes.

South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage
, by Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton�s own account of his great adventure�a classic of polar exploration.

Sir Ernest Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916 has been considered one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. William Bakewell's travel experiences and skills brought him to the expedition and made him an indispensable crew member.
Page 98 of this book has a photo by Victory Adventures (Grace Garrett)

Lonely Planet Antarctica, by Jeff Rubin
Guide Book
A good overview on the wildlife and history, plus special sections on Antarctic science and environmental issues. Excellent chapters on preparing for a voyage.

Penguin, by Frans Lanting
Natural History
A magnificent collection of penguin photographs, including gorgeous portraits of emperor penguins and their young.

The Crystal Desert, by by David Campbell
Natural History
A splendid portrait of Antarctica, the land, history, and its marine life.

Waiting to Fly: My Escapades with the Penguins of Antarctica, by Ron Naveen
Natural History
The life and story of penguins�and those who study them.


Antarctic Calender