With no full-time residents, extreme weather conditions and huge skyscraper-like icebergs, Antarctica is probably the most fascinating continent on earth – and that’s before you even see all the outstanding marine life that calls the icy ocean there home.
A visit to this sweeping frozen desert is guaranteed to be an unforgettable adventure, allowing you to follow in the footsteps of great explorers like Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen.
It’s becoming more popular and accessible, too. More than 56,000 tourists visited Antarctica in the 2018 to 19 season – a 53% increase on 2014.
So, if you’ve been dreaming of an exciting adventure after lockdown, a voyage to Antarctica will certainly deliver. And that’s why we’ve teamed up with polar exploration specialists Hurtigruten to bring you a once-in-a-lifetime, eco-conscious holiday to Antarctica from Country Living in February 2022.
You’ll start your journey with a night in buzzing Buenos Aires, before travelling to Ushuaia, nicknamed 'the End of the World', to travel on state-of-the-art custom-built expedition ship MS Fridtjof Nansen, and glide through the icy waters of Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula - home to whales, pods of orcas and seals.
To inspire your travel plans, we thought we'd take a look at 18 of the most fascinating Antarctica facts.
1. Antarctica is home to more than 90% of the world's ice, as well as more than 90% of earth’s fresh water.
2. Antarctica is bigger than the whole of Europe – ranking as the fifth largest continent on earth. It’s nearly twice the size of Australia!
3. There’s a lot of ice above the land – the layer is up to four kilometres thick in some places inland.
4. The Southern Ocean is where you’ll find whales, seals and of course… the iconic emperor penguins!
5. There’s plenty of them too. Estimates put the penguin population in Antarctica at around five million.
6. It almost never rains in Antarctica. In fact it’s so dry that it’s officially classed as a desert, and is the driest of the seven continents.
7. There’s a lot of wind though! Antarctica is the windiest place on the earth, with wind speeds sometimes topping 200 miles per hour.
8. Unsurprisingly, with such extreme weather conditions, it’s not a popular place to live. Apart from scientists working at research stations – who usually stay for a year – there aren’t any permanent residents.
9. In 1961, countries from around the world came together to sign the Antarctic Treaty and commit to working together on scientific research. It’s now been signed by 53 countries.
10. 18 different countries regularly send scientists to Antarctica. The main ones are the USA, Russia, Chile, Argentina and Australia.
11. Antarctica’s highest mountain is Mount Vinson at 4,900 metres. That’s just over half the size of Everest.
12. You might get to see one of the world’s great light shows – the Southern Lights or aurora australis. It’s the same phenomenon as the Northern Lights, and appear during the Antarctic winter between March and September.
13. The coldest air temperature ever measured in Antarctica was -89.2C at Vostok Station in 1983. It’s a bit warmer along the coastline (the warmest place on Antarctica), where the average temperature is -10C.
14. Around 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice. Areas which aren’t are called an Antarctic oasis - and small scrubs, grasses and mosses can grow in the tundra there.
15. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911.
16. To get there he had to trek 767 miles inland to the plateau where the South Pole is located - 2,800 metres above sea level. There’s now a research centre there named after him.
17. British explorer Ernest Shackleton went to the continent three times on epic journeys – the most famous was in 1916 when he attempted to cross Antarctica from coast to coast via the South Pole. He had to abandon the mission after a catastrophic shipwreck, but the tale of his crew’s survival against the odds has become legendary in itself.
18. There is a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer that forms above Antarctica during its late winter (September/October). After its discovery in 1985 world governments came together to ban the dangerous gases used in many household appliances - including fridges – that caused it. It’s shrinking, but it’s not closed yet…
Want to see Antarctica for yourself? Country Living has an exclusive holiday to the White Continent in February 2022, with incredible activities, escorted landings in small expedition boats and sustainable-luxury sailing.
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