Antarctica General Information
Area (sq. km):
14,000,000 square meters
When To Travel
Embarkation for most trips occurs in Ushuaia, the world’s most southern city. You can expect temperatures in summer (between December and February) to be around 5* to 15* degrees Celsius by day. You should have warm clothing available on arrival; the terminal is heated, but if there is a wind blowing you may need this clothing immediately as you step outside. (If you are arriving on the day of embarkation, your luggage will be taken directly from the airport to the ship even if you are not due to embark for some hours. We suggest you take out and carry warm/waterproof clothing in your day pack; fine conditions one moment can quickly become much colder the next.) At night temperatures can reach 0*C. Patagonia and the Falkland Islands are on almost the same latitude, so expect similar temperatures. As you head south into the Antarctic Convergence and around the Antarctic Peninsula the temperatures may be a little cooler. Most days are around 0*C to 5*C. A warm day can rise as high as 12*C whilst a cold misty night may get down to –5*C. Rain is rare during these months, but it may snow or sleet a little, and it will often be foggy at night. Be aware that windy conditions - ashore, out on deck, or going ashore on zodiacs - will greatly increase the wind-chill factor. A feature of the weather in the Antarctic can be the remarkably quick changes that occur. Even when it is still and sunny, you must be prepared for the possibility of much colder conditions. Buenos Aires is quite hot (and often humid) during these months, with temperatures ranging from 18*C to 35*C. Iguassu Falls will be even warmer and more humid. During summer, the amount of sunlight and therefore solar radiation Antarctica receives is more than anywhere else on the earth. However, the huge expanse of white ice acts like a mirror and reflects 80% of the radiation back, thus preventing the warm rays from penetrating. The high average elevation of the continent also contributes to the extremely low temperatures. Antarctica is the coldest place on earth, with a temperature of -89.6°C being recorded at Vostok in the Australian Antarctic Territory in 1983. Winter temperatures in the interior average from -40º to -70°C, and -15º to -30°C along the coast. During summer the average temperature along the coastal regions is 0ºC, varying from -15º to -35°C in inland areas. As a result of the extremely cold temperatures, the absolute atmospheric pressure is very low, making the air very dry. This causes two things: further prevention of energy being absorbed in the atmosphere and minimal precipitation. Rain does not occur on the main landmass, only occasionally on the peninsula, and snowfall is low, with an average snowfall per year over the continent of 125mm. This low snow and rainfall makes Antarctica the driest continent on earth. In the interior, the coldness of the ice sheet results in the cooling of the lowest layer of air in contact with the surface. These masses of extremely cold air rush down off the polar plateau to the coast, which decreases in height sharply along the continental edge. This forms the strong east and southeast katabatic surface winds which blow with extreme violence over the coast and can reach speeds of 200 kilometres per hour. In the inland areas, snow lifted from the ground is mixed in with these winds, causing extremely dangerous blizzards where visibility is less than 10 centimetres! These sudden, unpredictable but frequent winds cause Antarctica to be the windiest continent on earth.
November to March.
Useful Travel Facts
Antarctica voyages start from Ushuaia in Argentina. Flights to Ushuaia leave from Buenos Aires. Please note that there are two airports in Buenos Aires - Ezeiza (the main international airport) is some distance from the city (45 minutes’ to an hour’s transfer), whilst Aeroparque Jorge Newbury (the domestic airport) is close to the middle of town. Please note that flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia usually depart from the city airport - Aeroparque Jorge Newbury, and not from Ezeiza International Airport. (There are, however, some exceptions, and you should check carefully with us or your agent to determine which airport is involved. The airport code for the International Airport is EZE, whilst that for the city airport is AEP). A metered taxi from the Lafayette Hotel to the Aeoroparque Jorge Newbury should cost up to US$10, and could be probably less with the depreciation of the peso against the US dollar (and a little more if arranged by the hotel!). With prior arrangement, transfers can be booked through our ground operators from the hotel to domestic or international airport. For those returning at the end of the tour from Ushuaia to the Aeoroparque Jorge Newbury and flying out from Ezeiza on the same day, there is usually a bus transfer available between the two airports for about US$15. A taxi from central Buenos Aires to Ezeiza will cost about US$40 to US$45, whilst a shuttle bus from the city about US$12. It is important to note when booking connecting flights that a transfer between the two airports will take up to an hour.
The radio room on the ship is equipped with a satellite telephone, fax and e-mail for urgent communication use only. Details on how to contact the ship in case of an emergency will be sent with your final documents. The cost of outgoing communications will be in the vicinity of US$10 per minute.
The ship operates on an electrical current of 220 volts, 50 Hz. Electrical outlets are standard European sockets with two thick round split pins.
No visas are required to visit the Antarctic continent or its offshore islands. However, you will need to have your passport with you on the ship, as port authorities will wish to inspect passports on departure from Ushuaia or Port Stanley (as the case may be) and also again at the end of your voyage. (To facilitate matters, our ground operators in Ushuaia or Port Stanley will usually collect your passport prior to departure in order that all passengers’ passports may be kept together for the duration of the voyage. After completion of port formalities on the return to Ushuaia or Stanley on the final morning, they will be handed back to you prior to your disembarkation from the ship.)
For most departures, your ship departs for the Antarctic continent from the port of Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, at the southern tip of Argentina. At the time of printing, no visas for Argentina are required by holders of Australian, New Zealand, British, Canadian, U.S.A. or European passports. Passengers holding passports issued by other countries should carefully check the situation with their travel agent or Argentinean consular authorities.
If your flight to Ushuaia travels via Santiago, tourist visas are required for Chile for some nationalities. Please check with your travel agent.
For a side trip to Iguassu Falls, Australian, USA and British passport holders also require a Brazilian visa if visiting the Brazilian side of the falls. However, New Zealanders and Canadians do not require a visa for this. This visa must be obtained prior to entering the country and, at the time of printing, costs $US60. Please check carefully with your travel agent or your nearest appropriate consulate for up-to-date information before you leave your home country. (There have been suggestions that passengers entering Brazil from Argentina for just a few hours at Iguassu may be able to do so without holding a visa, but we cannot give any guarantees. The only certain way is to hold a visa issued as above.)
For the trip scheduled to depart from Port Stanley (and those departures scheduled to visit the Falkland Islands), visitors from Britain, the Commonwealth, North America, Chile and the European Community do not need visas as at the time of printing.
Visitors should check their particular situation with us, their travel agent, the nearest British Consulate, or contact the Travel Co-ordinator at the Falkland Island Government Office in London (tel: 020 7222 2375).