Author: Visa-Adviser

Arrival of the RRS Ernest Shackleton near Halley Research Station in Antarctica, January, 2013. Original from NASA. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Antarctica is the last uninhabited continent on our blue planet. But, should you want to plan a visit, there are a few different ways that you can go! You can join a National Geographic cruise ship, other branded cruising vessels, private tours on smaller private yachts or sailboats, or fly in with a private charter plane. In this blog we will cover the larger expedition vessels that handle the majority of the tourist travel to Antarctica. These are the three essential tips you need to prepare for your trip.

Airlift insurance. Most, if not all, expedition companies will require you to have specific airlift insurance in the event something drastic happens to you during the trip. As a general practice, each expedition vessel has a doctor on board to tend people for illnesses and injuries. Even so, at any point in the vessel’s weeks-to-month long journey, it is unlikely for the vessel to return to shore for the treatment of medical conditions or injuries that require immediate/emergency attention. So, airlift insurance is crucial for your health. It gives you the peace of mind of knowing your health and life will be attended to separate from any assistance you may receive on board your expedition vessel.                              

SPF 70 (minimum) sunblock. As you may have heard, the largest ozone hole lies over Antarctica.  Furthermore, most tourists pay their visit to Antarctica over its summer and late spring season, which means that the period of daylight over Antarctica is longest.  The sun simply doesn’t set during certain periods of summer. This means that your exposure to sun, and to UV rays, are extraordinarily high.  Having seen fellow expeditioners’ skin cracked and bloodied by the sun, this is one item not to be dispensed with for your own trip.

Nausea medication, to cross the Drake Passage. There is seasickness and there is Drake Passage sea sickness.  If you cross the southern Atlantic by vessel, you can expect to face the passage also known as a sailor’s grave yard, due to the downing of many vessels in the area.  It is a well-deserved reputation. This large parch of ocean between South America and Antarctica produces one of the fiercest, persistent winds, and massive storm surges. These endless storms go on for hundreds of miles, the equivalent of two days and nights for a passenger vessel. So be prepared for gloom, doom, and to see everything you have eaten in the past twenty-four hours resurfacing from your internal organs.  Counter its effect with patches, pills, and whatever else you may need to maintain your physical and mental well-being.

Bonus: For the adrenaline junkie, a bathing suit. This trip should not be, and is not about nature conquering man.  The ozone layer, the Drake Passage, the immediate threat to life in a frozen landscape make humans seem small and insignificant. As one polar expedition lecturer has said: “Shackleton recalls a time when the vessels were made of wood and men were made of steel.  Now the vessels are made of steel, and men are made of Gore-Tex.” So, if you are in the mood to recall human’s steely nerves, you may want to bring a bathing suit.  The expedition vessel you are on may permit a landing in which you can take the “polar plunge.”  It is just as it sounds. Plunging in the frigid Antarctic waters in your most stylish swim wear and steely nerves, and coming right out before your body realizes it.  This is also where your airlift insurance may also come in handy.

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