10 Unexpected Experiences in Antarctica

Put your mittens up if you’ve been watching BBC’s Frozen Planet? Me too. Everywhere I turn, I hear people exclaiming how much they want to tour Antarctica or p-p-pick up a p-p-pet p-p-penguin.

There’s something about the polar regions that instantly attracts my attention.

Perhaps it’s the impression of being the ultimate blank canvas? Or the beauty of a seemingly minimalist landscape, when compared with other continents’ fragmented urban landscapes.

So I went on the hunt for someone who could quench my thirst for more knowledge of the frozen continent. And I found him in Birmingham.

Discover more about travel in Antarctica

Andrew Kerr visited the Antarctic a few years ago, and kindly agreed to splice together some of his spellbinding imagery with a run down of ten of the most unexpected experiences from his time down there.

Odd light in Antarctica.
 The shimmering the skies of Antarctica echo the ship's spotlights | © Andrew Kerr All Rights Reserved
  1. It’s not that cold all the time. On board the ship a thermal layer and a t-shirt was often enough.
  2. Seals can be huge. A torpedo like leopard seal can reach over 3 metres long, while a 5 metre long elephant seal can stand as tall as a man.
  3. Antarctica is incredibly colourful; the whites, blues and greens of the ice, and the bright pink of the abundant penguin excrement create a surreal wilderness that’s shades away from pure white.
Penguins in Antarctica
 Penguin poo stains the Antarctic carpet! | © Andrew Kerr All Rights Reserved
  1. The Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are not the only amazing effects you can witness in Antarctica. From 24-hour daylight, to blocks of cloud like skyscrapers, there are several phenomena you’ll never see outside the polar regions.
  2. The two day ocean crossing from Argentina to the Antarctic peninsula crosses Drake Passage, one of the roughest bodies of water in the world. Tip: Remember your sea sickness tablets.
  3. Even the cheapest trips to Antarctica are relatively luxurious compared to travel elsewhere. The ships serve three meals a day and come complete with bars, gyms, libraries, and even saunas!
Iceberg in Antarctica
 The various shades of the Antarctic ice | © Andrew Kerr All Rights Reserved
  1. Antarctica can be pretty noisy. Listen out for the creaking of glaciers; the squawking of skuas; and the crashing waves of the mighty Southern Ocean.
  2. An Antarctic swim is an excellent way to clear your head. Just don’t stay in too long!
  3. It does rain in Antarctica — at least it does now on the Antarctic peninsula. Climate change is affecting the poles faster than anywhere else.
  4. Penguins are active, and will always provide an element of the unexpected. Look out for them surfing into land off an ocean wave, or their speciality of synchronised downhill belly slides!
Seals in Antarctica
 These resident Weddell seals can dive up to 2000 feet under water | © Andrew Kerr All Rights Reserved

I certainly didn’t expect some of Andrew’s revelations about Antarctica! In my mind’s eye, it was a land of pure and innocence; cast in brilliant, unending white and unimaginably cold.

But learning the above, it’s a veritable hotpot of surprises.

What surprised you? Share your knowledge in the comment thread below, and let’s see how much we can learn about Antarctica this week.

This blog post was created with the help of Andrew Kerr, a Round the World expert at our STA Travel Birmingham University branch. A big thanks to Andrew, and please let us know if you would like to see more of these style of posts.

Interested in following in Andrew’s footsteps? Take a look at our incredible tours of Antarctica.