Possibly the most spectacular discoveries in Antarctica have been those regarding the global effects of pollution, and the dramatic and disastrous effects that may follow. The issues of ozone depletion and global climate change are relevant to everyone.
When to go
Tourists do not visit Antarctica during winter, when the pack ice extends its frozen mantle for 1000km around most of the continent. In any case, few people would pay thousands of dollars to experience the Antarctic winter’s near round-the-clock darkness and extreme cold – the thermometer can plummet to -50°C.
The Antarctic tour season is short – about five months, with each offering its own highlights. November is early summer: the spring pack ice is breaking up, and birds – especially penguins – are courting and mating. December and January, when penguins are hatching eggs and feeding chicks, are the height of the austral summer, bringing warmer temperatures and up to 20 hours of sunlight every day. In the late summer months of February and March, whale-watching is at its best, penguin chicks are beginning to fledge and adult penguins are ashore molting.
Cruises later in the season may be less crowded. However, the longer you wait to go, the more wildlife will already have headed out to sea.