Amidst the solitude of Antarctica, adventurous travellers can discover an ethereal landscape that lingers in the memory. Very few have ventured onto this appealingly inaccessible continent, but those who have rave about the privilege of gazing upon towering mountains, bulky glaciers and luminous, dreamlike icebergs. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Antarctica reminds those who visit it of the awesome (and savage) power of nature.
Antarctica is welcoming more tourist-orientated cruises and ferries to the region every year, and facilities are continually developing, with more accommodation, culinary and travel options available. There is now ample opportunity to ascend Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on Earth; to fly via helicopter or venture by boat to penguin colonies; and to really make the most of a terrain that teems with wildlife, with a multitude of birds, seals, albatrosses and enormous whales.
Some argue that Antarctica is changing, and by man-made causes rather than natural ones. Many regard the increasing focus on tourism as disconcerting and wish to preserve Antarctica in its elemental state to avoid any potential environmental damage. Antarctica is still a magical experience that most, given the chance, would find hard to resist. Those who do visit should be aware of their impact upon the landscape and do their utmost to limit the effect of their stay.
Perhaps the reason behind the fascination with Antarctica is its function as a symbol of endurance and survival. Before Antarctica was first spotted (in 1819), the continent was the subject of constant speculation, spoken of in almost mythical terms as Terra Australia Incognita (The Unknown Southern Land). Humans first occupied the continent in 1899, but Antarctica seemed inhospitable and incomprehensible and, in many ways, it still is.