Five reasons to visit the Antarctic Interior
- Join a select few who have travelled to this remote and pristine region
- Reach the South Pole, either by plane, on skis or by foot
- Look out on Antarctica's vast and beautiful polar plateau
- Follow in the footsteps of polar explorers and adventurers
- Spend extended time with Emperor penguins, the only place on earth to do so
Things to do
Antarctica offer some extraordinary opportunity to climb of the most remote peeks on earth, from the continent's highest summit, Vinson Massif, to the tallest volcano, Mount Siddley. Besides the well known summits, there are wealth of opportunities to explore, guided by expert expedition leaders.
Walk with emperor penguins
The emperor penguin is perhaps one the most recognised species on earth. One of only two true Antarctic penguins (along with adelies), their extraordinary breeding cycle has been immortalised by many Attenborough documentaries and, most famously, the March of the Penguins film.
There only a handful of ways to see these creatures in the wild, making the Antarctic interior a must for anyone wishing to find them. There are two breeding colonies permissible for visitors, Gould Bay and Akta Bay, both around 70 miles from the coast line, only accessible by using specially adapted aircraft.
Reach the South Pole
The holy grail of terrestrial exploration, reaching the South Pole is the ultimate prize for explorers and adventurers alike. Cross international data and timelines in a matter of moments by strolling across the points where all lines longitude converge.
For those for whom these things are important, there are really two South Poles, the ceremonial and the geographical. You can visit both by foot, car or plane, and can also visit the US Scientific research base, and the Amundsen - Scott South Pole Station.
Trips in the Antarctic Interior
Forget the cliches, this is a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: freefall into the majesty of the seventh continent. The ultimate destination for experienced skydivers, Antarctica’s pristine wilderness – with the outstanding support of a team of specialists and experts – is…
- 7 Days
In a world where adventures abound, reaching the south pole will always stand out as a cut above the rest. Time and again, it's this expedition which tops the bucket list of anyone fascinated by the end of the world.
Exploring the Antarctic Interior: FAQs
The logistical complexity of organising these trips -enormous distances, lack of services and extreme weather - is baffling. From the tip of South America to Union Glacier Camp is further than London to St. Petersburg or Los Angeles to Chicago. A large transport plane, the size of a Boeing 767, capable of covering this distance and suited to off-strip landings, is chartered for the duration of the Antarctic summer. Even within Antarctica distances are enormous, requiring air travel and fuel caching. Two or more twin engine ski aircraft are chartered for the season, for flights beyond Union Glacier Camp.
Being Antarctica, there are no inherent facilities here, so the operation is entirely self-supporting, flying in all of the equipment, fuel, and food needed from South America. Read Swoop's guide to Antarctic costs
All accommodation is double-occupancy, so you will be paired with another Antarctic traveller of the same gender - no single supplement is charged.
The Antarctic travel season runs through the Austral summer (November through January) when the weather is at its best. The Antarctic interior is a cold desert climate - dry and windy. Average mid-season temperatures at Union Glacier Camp (the basecamp) can range from -12C to -4C (10F to 25F). On a sunny, windless day it can feel quite warm, but when hit with a true Polar gust you'll be glad to have as many warm layers on as possible. Temperatures in early November can fall as low as -30C (-22F).
Emperor Penguins Camp: Being close to the Weddell Sea, the weather here is highly variable. Temperatures can range from a chilly -30C to a comparatively mild 0C (-22F to 32F).
Mount Vinson: Climbers should prepare for and expect extreme temperatures of around -40C (-40F) and severe storms.
The South Pole: Temperatures here rarely climb above -25C (-13F). With windchill, it can feel like -40C (-40F).
The snow around Union Glacier camp is generally firm and fine for walking. This is also true of the South Pole and the Emperor penguin camp. The snow on Mt Vinson is generally quite firm and good for climbing with crampons. Skis are primarily for recreational use, and visitors do not have to ski as a pre-requisite to the interior. However, if you are keen on a ski ascent and are an experienced ski-mountaineer, then this can be arranged.
Poor weather days at Union Glacier Camp provide opportunities for talks and skills sessions on Antarctic themes such as navigation, crevasse rescue, cold weather injury, communications and meteorology. Ad-hoc talks by visiting scientists, expedition teams and other guest-experts are always popular. Games, jigsaw puzzles and DVD's provide diversion. Or you can delve into the library of Antarctic books and light novels.
Unless you're going on the Camp with Emperor Penguins trip (in which case you'll see lots of penguins, seals and seabirds), then you're not likely to see much in the way of wildlife. The Antarctic interior is an icy desert. Whilst majestic in its proportions, it is devoid of the vegetation necessary to support wildlife.
No. Penguins, seals and other Antarctic wildlife need to conserve energy in order to survive and raise their young. It is essential that you keep your distance and avoid causing them stress. All Antarctic wildlife are protected under the Antarctic Treaty and visitors may not touch, feed or disturb them in any way. Please see IAATO's Emperor Penguin Viewing Guidelines. Your guide will also explain the wildlife watching procedures and will help you to follow them in the field.
Swoop Antarctica & The Economist
We're proud to have helped The Economist experience the Antarctic Interior. Their short video captures life in a polar landscape, and their Antarctic wilderness article explains what it's really like to visit the Antarctic Interior.
"If before I had been looking for a more profound connection with the landscape - and had been frustrated - I was now humbled by its immensity: the air caught in the ice was 800,000 years old, as old as the first hominid footprints outside Africa."
Sophy Roberts, The Economist
Antarctic Adventure Activities
Simply getting to Antarctica is a big enough adventure for many, but for those who really want to maximise their Antarctic experience there are some outstanding adventure activities to consider. Many of the Antarctic voyages we offer provide these as optional adventure add-ons.