antarticaAntarctica is the last continent. Almost totally covered with ice and with temperatures far below zero, it hardly seems like an inviting tourist destinations.

Indeed, you are unlikely to find anything like sun, sea and sandy beaches on Antarctica. But you’ll find a unique and exciting environment, and traveling like you will not find it anywhere else.

The Southern Lands consist of two archipelagos, Iles Crozet and Iles Kerguelen, and two volcanic islands, Ile Amsterdam and Ile Saint-Paul. They contain no permanent inhabitants and are visited only by researchers studying the native fauna. The Antarctic portion consists of “Adelie Land,” a thin slice of the Antarctic continent discovered and claimed by the French in 1840.

There’s no indigenous populations, although the islands are often inhabitated by teams of researchers which study the local fauna.

Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. Weather fronts rarely penetrate far into the continent, leaving the center cold and dry. There is little precipitation over the continent, but ice there can last for extended time periods. Nearly all of Antarctica is covered by an ice sheet that is, on average, 2.5 kilometers thick.

At the edge of the continent, strong katabatic winds off the polar plateau often blow at storm force. In the interior, however, windspeeds are often moderate.

Depending on the latitude, long periods of constant darkness, or constant sunlight, mean that climates familiar to humans are not generally available on the continent.

The continent of Antarctica is located mostly south of the Antarctic Circle, surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Physically Antarctica is divided in two by mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion of the continent west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called Western Antarctica and the remainder Eastern Antarctica, since they correspond roughly to the eastern and western hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian. Western Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

It is usually estimated that at a given time there are at least 1,000 people living in Antarctica. This varies considerably with season. Generally, stations use their home country’s time zone, but not always; where known, a base’s UTC offset is listed. Although Antarctica has no permanent residents, a number of governments maintain permanent research stations throughout the continent. Many of the stations are staffed around the year.