- Antarctic Circle
- Antarctic Peninsula
- Falkland Islands
- Ross Sea
- South Georgia
- South Orkney Islands
- South Shetland Islands
- Sub Antarctic/New Zealand
- Weddell Sea
The Antarctic Circle is the parallel that marks the border between the Antarctic Zone and the Southern Temperate Zone. Everything below this circle experiences a period of 24 hour sunlight and 24 hour daylight at least one time per year. Because of very gradual fluctuations in the earth’s tilt, the Antarctic Circle is constantly but slowly changing.
The Antarctic Peninsula is a 1,300 kilometer stretch of land that reaches toward the distant point of South America. The manifold and frosted regions are considered some of the world’s most beautiful alpine landscapes. This portion of Antarctica is covered with mountains topped with ice and snow at 2,800 meters above sea level that are geologically a continuation of the Andes Mountain Range. There are also various waterways commonly inhabited by whales that divide the surrounding islands from the Antarctic mainland. Two well known straits are the Bransfield and the Gerlache and are a great spot to find many of the area’s seals and penguin colonies such as the Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo. Also located here are various research laboratories.
Far more unknown than the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula is the eastern end, the Weddell Sea. Only small portions of the Weddell Sea are able to be passed by ships as much of it is covered by an ice shelf and a great amount of sea ice. The Weddell Sea is home to the characteristic table mountain ice bergs and also the very cold and deep ocean waters that have such an important influence on the world’s climate patterns.
The Falkland Islands are made up of two main islands, East and West Falkland, as well as nearly 800 other small islands. Cruises to the islands have increased gradually in past years as the islands are popular for their rich biodiversity. The Falklands are home to penguins, seabirds, seals, sea lions, and many species of fish. The fishing industry in the area is one of the archipelago’s main economies. The inhabitants of the islands are of mostly English descent though the area has recently become quite diverse. Because of its proximity to South America, the Falkland Islands are also popular for Latinos looking to study English.
The Ross Sea is located in a large indent of the southern portion of the Antarctic continent bordering the massive 500,000 square kilometer Ross Ice Shelf from which large ice table mountains commonly break away. This is an important region in Antarctica’s history as it is the location of so many landmarks such as Franheim in the Bay of Whales, where Roald Amundsen set out from in 1911 to become the first person to reach the South Pole. Another important location is Cape Evans, the starting point for Robert Falcon Scott in 1911 again to reach the South Pole. Scott arrived one month after Amundsen and died of overexertion during his trek back across the Ross Ice Shelf.
Shaped like the back bone of a whale, this island is home to a peak stretching 2,934 meters into the sky. Three quarters of the island is covered with glaciers, ice caps, and snow fields. South Georgia Island was once home to age-old whaling stations and is now considered a true natural paradise.
Discovered in 1821, the South Orkney Islands of Coronation, Signy, Powell, and Laurie are 90% covered with ice. Even during the Antarctic summer, ice bergs and drift ice may prevent landings with the zodiacs. Since 1904, a research station has been located on Laurie Island. The 11 buildings of the Orcadas station belong to Argentina and are now considered to be the oldest research station in Antarctica.
Resting 900 kilometers from the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego are the South Shetland Islands, a multi-faceted group of islands which is generally the first stop for visitors as they cross the Drake Passage. The South Shetland Islands are known for their high snow covered peaks, stunning penguin colonies, and the various research stations located there. The 540 kilometer stretch of islands was fist sighted in 1819 and is today the most visited region on the Antarctic Peninsula thanks to the spectacular landscape and a volcano with a “steaming beach” on Deception Island. Another historical and interesting island to visit is Elephant Island, where 22 members of the Shackleton Endurance Expedition in 1915 and 1916 waited for their rescue for 135 days. Others include King George Island, Aitcho Island, and Livingston Island.
Sub Antarctic/New Zealand
The Sub Antarctic consists of the zone just north of the Antarctic Zone including New Zealand, which has become a very popular destination for cruises to the Antarctic regions. The culture in New Zealand has British roots but has become very diverse hosting ideals and traditions from all over the world. Because of the area’s isolation, New Zealand is home a rich biodiversity including dozens of endemic species of both flora and fauna. Human activity in New Zealand has lead to an above average rate of extinction which has spiked conservation efforts in the area. Some restoration and conservation efforts have included clearing some of the surrounding islands of introduced species and reintroducing endangered species
The Weddell Sea is the sea bordering the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. This area includes various scenic islands with rich wildlife and incredible photo opportunities. The Weddell Sea has become a very popular destination for Antarctic cruises and is one of the closer hotspots to South America, where most of the cruises originate.