ANTARTICA CRUISING FROM USHUAIA
Antarctica is so vast that only a small portion of it can be explored during a two week period. The Antarctic Peninsula, that part of the continent that points toward the tip of South America, is so long that it spans 12 degrees of latitude, approximately 1200 km or 800 miles.
Antarctica contains over 70% of the world’s water and 90% of the world’s ice, within itself. In some places the ice is over 4000 metres deep. The ice flows continuously from the high elevations to the sea, breaking off to form massive icebergs. The amount of precipitation in Antarctica is so small that it is classed as a desert region (polar desert). The landmass of Antarctica beneath the ice has a relatively high elevation, on average about twice as high as that of Europe. Antarctica contains many buried, or sub-glacial, freshwater lakes that are connected by a network of rivers which move water far beneath the surface of the continent. These lakes have been sealed for millions of years.
Antarctica is surrounded by a number of islands called the sub-Antarctic islands, which are grouped, along with Antarctica, into the sub-Antarctic circle. These include the South Orkney Islands, the South Georgia Islands, Elephant Island, Campbell Island, Macquarie Island, and many others.
Antarctica has six months of daylight and six months of darkness. In mid-summer, near the South Pole, there is 24 hours of sunlight every day. In winter, six months of darkness ensue, and the continent triples in size by converting the surrounding sea into ice.
Humans never inhabited Antarctica and exploration of the continent is relatively recent. New discoveries continue to be made. In 2007 for example, many vessels sailed uncharted waters while exploring the Antarctic Peninsula!
Most visitors to Antarctica arrive by ship, from the closest port, Ushuaia, in the province of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Talking about the end of the world is talking about Ushuaia. This is the southernmost city on the planet. Due to its location near the South Pole, it has approximately eighteen hours of sunlight in the summer, whereas in the winter, it only has seven or eight. But this does not prevent tourists from visiting it once and again.
In the Yamana tongue, “Ushuaia” means “bay looking onto the West”. Situated on the shores of the vast Beagle Channel, this beautiful city offers sceneries second to none. The forests, the mountains, the sea, the glaciers and the wind dominate the landscape. The city is surrounded by Mount Martial to the West and by Mounts Olivia and Cinco Hermanos to the East.
The inventiveness of its dwellers has helped them become adapted to its whimsical geography. The modern buildings and typical constructions of these latitudes give shape to an extremely picturesque and colourful city in the eye of all visitors.
It’s gastronomic and accommodation infrastructure meets all expectations. It welcomes thousands of international visitors that reach Ushuaia lured by the slogan “reach the end of the world”.
Getting to Antarctica is as much a part of the experience as exploring it. The body of water that separates Antarctica from South America is the Drake Passage. The Drake acts like a funnel, concentrating the energy produced by the winds and currents of the Southern Ocean.
The result can be rough water, some of the roughest in the world. Yet some crossings are relatively quiet, providing extraordinary opportunities for birding and whale watching. The unpredictability of the Drake Passage is intoxicating. A crossing is the perfect introduction to expedition-style travel; where unpredictability is the only thing you can truly count on.
International flights arrive into Argentina and travel to the town of Ushuaia.
Niju Joseph Ambakkadan / www.toursopedia.com