Travel to Antarctica
Out here, we've been beset by nearly two weeks of exceptionally hot weather, so I thought I'd love somewhere really cool ... and what could be cooler than Antarctica!
You can travel to Antarctica with us by cruise ship from Argentina or Chile, or by icebreaker from Australia or New Zealand. Travelers with less time can fly by jet over Antarctica from Australia for a full day of aerial sightseeing.
If you're on of those adventurous types, you can try Antarctic scuba diving, kayaking, mountain climbing, or South Pole trekking adventure. If you tour Antarctica and its neighboring chains of islands by ship, the whale, seal, and sea bird watching opportunities -- especially the observation of Emperor and King Penguin rookeries -- are first rate. You can even take a special cruise just for birdwatchers.
Note the size of the tourist boat in relation to the icebergs!
You can fly over Antarctica with Qantas - details here. There are only ten flights (aboard a Qantas 747) that depart Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide between October and February.
While you're at this site, click on the Photo gallery link for some spectacular scenery.
Lots of information on what to take, what you'll see etc here.
Did you know that the average thickness of the Antarctic ice is 2,000 m (6,500 feet), and the greatest measured thickness is more than 4,770 m (15,650 feet)? (Bramwell, Martyn. Glaciers and Icecaps. Belgium: Franklin Watts, 1986)
That's a lot of ice... then add the katabatic winds that rage on the coastal regions and the whole place is just mind-blowing (pardon the pun!)
These winds, "are caused by a combination of the cold of the interior, the domed shape of the continent and intense low pressure systems around the coast. For long periods - often many days - large amounts of dense, cold air slide at an accelerating rate down the coastal slopes of Antarctica's ice sheet, reaching hurricane force (around 120 km/h) by the time they reach the sea. Maximum gusts can be more than 250 km/h."
If you ever complain about it being windy where you are, spare a thought for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911 to 1914. "At the Cape Denison headquarters, the average year-round wind speed was nearly 80 km/h, and in June and July the average speed was 120 km/h."
As well as being the windiest, Antarctica is also the coldest place on Earth; "the lowest temperatures recorded in nature have been at the Russian Vostok base, when on 21 July 1983, the temperature dropped to minus 89.2 degrees C (-128.6 F). In 1998 the Vostok temperature was reported to have dropped below minus 90 degrees C (this is yet to be confirmed)."
So take your woolly vest!
If you want to see what it's like before you go, here's the webcam at Casey Base. When I just visited, the temperature was a balmy -1.1 degrees C, and wind speed was 5 knots or 9 km/hr. Hey - it's summer!
Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2008