Independent Schools Cultural Alliance - ISCA – Summer Programs in the UK

Antarctica

Antarctica is the coldest continent in the world, with it’s lowest temperature recorded at -89.2C (-128.6F) – be prepared to wrap up warm with multiple layers! The White Continent is a truly unique place. From its phenomenal landscapes to its abundance of wildlife, nowhere else on the planet comes close to its beauty.

The Antarctic Peninsula isn’t the slab of snow you may picture; instead, it’s nonstop mountains springing up from the sea. There are fjords, gargantuan glaciers and rivulets of blue waters running through the ice. It is truly magical.

Having no native human populations, Antarctica is governed by the Antarctic Treaty. This was signed in 1959 by 12 countries who got together and agreed that Antarctica should be set aside for science and research. Today there are 52 countries as members.

The vast majority of expedition ships journey to the Antarctic Peninsula – home to some of the most dramatic scenery and wildlife in all of Antarctica. One of the few animals on the continent that is pretty much a guarantee to see no matter when you go is the penguin. There are 6 types of penguins living in Antarctica. You have to keep your distance, at least 2 metres away, but if they approach you that’s no problem. These friendly birds are very unfamiliar with humans, so chances are they will come right up to you if you just hang out and wait. Look out for the Penguin Highways – these loveable birds carve channels in the snow that lead up and down from the sea to the penguin colonies.

One of the best adventure activities on the continent is sea kayaking. Surrounded by icebergs, calm waters and huge glaciers, you can spend hours paddling around, being constantly amazed at the scenery. It is also the best way to get closer to Antarctica’s rich marine life, and if you’re lucky, you might even have a close encounter with a humpback whale!

You can take the Polar Plunge and swim in the coldest place on Earth – if you’re brave enough! Whether you’re jumping from a boat or sprinting into the icy waters at the beach on Deception Islands, it’s going to be frigidly cold. We’re positive “it will be alright once you’re in.” Promise!

At some point you will be taken through the Lemaire Channel. The Lemaire Channel is a narrow passage on the Antarctic Peninsula that is stunningly beautiful to navigate. On all sides you’ll be surrounded by towering peaks, tumbling glaciers and glistening icebergs.

One peak you can climb is Mount Vinson – the tallest mountain in Antarctica. The mountain is 4,897m high (16,067 feet) and is one of the world’s seven highest summits. Be prepared, it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Your next stop is South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. While South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands don’t actually belong to Antarctica (they are part of the UK), it is still one of the top places to visit. It has been called the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean due to the abundance of wildlife that congregates there. You can see hundreds of thousands of king penguins hanging out on beaches, 4-tonne elephant seals battling each other for mates and the largest bird in the world, the Wandering Albatross.

The most unforgettable way to conclude your epic adventure of the land of penguins and ice is to camp under the stars. Sleep in winter-grade bivvy sacks with high-quality sleeping bags and make the most of no light pollution at all. Enjoy gazing at the hundreds of thousands of stars above you as you contemplate your trip to one of the most incredible places on the planet.