Antarctica – the white continent. While the inland is covered by
the largest ice desert in the world, life pulsates on the coasts.
White wilderness, abundant wildlife and exciting dives await you.
While Antarctica itself, according to an agreement of 1959, does not belong to a populated state, the surrounding islands are largely under the administration of European nations, such as Australia. Only the Falkland Islands are inhabited.
Today, Antarctica is the only land mass on which no people live permanently, even if a few hundred to a thousand scientists work here and an increased number of tourists visit the region in the southern summer months (November to March).
The easiest to visit is the Antarctic Peninsula, which can be reached by ship from Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago at the southern tip of South America, within two to four days. But crossing the infamous Drake Passage often takes a toll on those prone to motion sickness.
But when the first ice fields and icebergs come into view, all of this is forgotten. The vast landscape and a variety of marine mammals and sea birds make the heart of every nature lover beat faster. At the very top of the “wish list” of most visitors are the various penguin species, leopard seals, as well as orcas (which, by the way, form different subspecies here, which differ in appearance) and other whales.
The abundance of food in Antarctica comes entirely from the sea, so it is hardly surprising that there is no permanent resident wildlife on land.
It’s tiny algae that feed krill, and that’s how it all begins. Even seals have specialized in filtering these shrimps out of the water and baleen whales such as humpback whales and fin whales are drawn to the cold south polar waters by the thousands to eat krill.
Those who do not eat krill directly hunt fish, seals, whales or penguins. The food chains in the arctic regions are very short and consist of only a few highly specialized animal species, which, however, often can be seen in large numbers.
Under water, Antarctica in some places is unexpectedly colorful. Many species of anemones, corals, sea squirts, jellyfish, starfish and fish are reminiscent of related species in the (north) polar region. However, the fauna in the north and south polar regions had to adapt to the extreme conditions independently of each other.
South Georgia in particular is famous for its rich wildlife and scenic beauty. Beaches are inhabited by huge colonies of king penguins and crested penguins, but they have to share space with mighty elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals. Albatrosses raise their young between the barren vegetation.
Humans brought problems for the native flora and fauna to South Georgia. This took the form of the introduction of rats and reindeers, as well as extensive whaling. Remnants of the whaling stations can be visited today and testify to a particularly dark chapter of ruthless exploitation, which brought what was once the greatest blue whale population, to the brink of extinction.
Fortunately, today visitors only come armed with a camera and Antarctica, fortunately, is largely protected from human exploitation. It is one of the last paradises in which wild animal life can be observed in its natural environment and mostly without any fear of humans – an expedition to the white continent is an unforgettable experience.