Wonders of the White Continent
Global Traveler|November 2021
Make lasting memories on an expedition voyage in Antarctica.
KATHERINE RODEGHIER

As a travel journalist who has tallied visits to dozens of countries, I am often asked to name my favorite destination. I don’t think twice: Antarctica.Experiences cruising along the bottom of the world stick in my memory. A penguin crawling into my lap. A ferocious-looking leopard seal preparing to torpedo our Zodiac raft. Sculpted icebergs bobbing in blue-green Crystal Sound below the Antarctic Circle.

As with most cruises to the White Continent, my voyage with Quark Expeditions navigated to the Antarctic Peninsula, an arm of rock and ice reaching north toward Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina. A provider of polar cruises for 30 years, Quark Expeditions currently operates four ships in this part of the world, all expedition vessels carrying fewer than 200 passengers. Its newest, Ultramarine, acquired in April 2021, includes two helicopters for flightseeing and 20 Zodiacs for excursions and shore landings.

Cruise lines in Antarctica adhere to the strictures of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, which promotes safe and environmentally responsible travel to this frozen land. Only expedition vessels and mid-size ships carrying fewer than 500 passengers may land on shore. Larger ships cruise along the coastline.

When my Chicago friends heard I was headed to the bottom of the world in the dead of winter, they questioned my sanity. Indeed, the February day I departed, the temperature had dropped to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 28 with the wind chill). But because the seasons reverse in the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica proved much warmer, ranging 34–52 degrees Fahrenheit during my 11-day trip. On several occasions, I strolled the deck without a coat. The sun set at 9:30 p.m., and twilight lasted long after.

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