Antarctica Holidays

Expeditions to Antarctica

Antarctica has always been the target of explorations and expeditions, both for pleasure and for scientific research.


Expeditions to Antarctica didn’t start until the late 1890’s/early 1900’s, and didn’t become popular until much later. The harsh weather and ice-covered environment make it hard for people to explore the land without loads of expensive equipment and funding. Also, people simply didn’t have the technology to adequately survive in Antarctica until the 1960’s at least, which is also the time of the signing of the Antarctica Treaty. The treaty promoted scientific research and ensured that Antarctica would remain a military and mining-free continent, and be a neutral ground for countries to conduct research. The treaty is still in effect today, and support for it has only grown. It’s an excellent agreement that leaves Antarctica open for research to the entire world, while keeping it safe and relatively untouched.

Commercial Expeditions to Antarctica

In the 1980’s, when scientific expeditions to Antarctica had been going on for quite some time,  a few companies started running commercial trips. It started with small fly-ins (using float planes) and a few small boat trips, both for fishing and general exploration. After a few years, larger commercial companies began running commercial cruises to Antarctica. It started slow, and cruises to Antarctica were not nearly as sought-after as cruises to tropical destinations such as the Caribbean. But as people began to get curious about just what Antarctica had to offer, demand for Antarctic cruises began to rise. Today, several cruise lines run ships to Antarctica, mainly in the summer. There is still not a huge tourism market in Antarctica, but according to a travel survey roughly 40,000 people visited Antarctica in the 2006-2007 season, and that’s mainly just in the summer.

Scientific Expeditions to Antarctica

Scientific trips to Antarctica are more common than commercial trips. Though fewer scientists visit the area each year, many of them live there year-round, or at least for the 4-6 month summer research season. Countries from all over the world conduct expeditions to Antarctica. 47 countries have signed the Antarctica treaty, and most of those countries have at least 1 research station on the continent. The US has several, as do many other powerful nations. There are around 67 semi-permanent and permanent research stations in Antarctica, and trips are made to and from each of them often. The supply lines to these stations are running almost constantly. You can imagine how many resources and how much food and energy it takes to power a year-round research center in one of the harshest environments on earth. Now think about running 67 of them, and having to support the needs of roughly 4,000 scientists. 4,000 is the average number of researchers that are stationed in Antarctica during the summer. That number gets down to around 1,000 in the winter, but is rarely under that. The commercial expeditions to Antarctica travel ONLY in the summer, while scientists travel year-round, as long as the weather is safe enough.


Expeditions to Antarctica