Travel Guide to Polar Region
It is impossible to comprehend the frigidness and remoteness of the Polar Regions until you actually visit. Sure, we've all experienced cold weather (minus 10, maybe even minus 20), but the average annual temperature of Antarctica is an unimaginable -37°. That's not the record low, or even the average low; that's the mean temperature over a year.
Map of Polar Regions
But there's more to the Polar Regions than just cold weather. Visitors are lured by the thought of travelling many moons away. In fact, it only took the crew of Apollo 11 three days to get to the Moon. Whereas, it can take weeks to conduct a rescue in the Polar Regions during winter.
A Region Divided
The two Polar Regions lie within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Both are approximately 66° from the equator and covered in ice. Antarctica (within the Antarctic Circle) is a single land mass that expands and contracts with the seasons. On the other hand, the Arctic is not a land mass at all; it consists of the Arctic Ocean and the upper regions of North America and Eurasia.
Antarctica is home to a few thousand people scattered amongst its research bases. Whereas the Arctic is home to more than 3 million North Americans and Eurasians. It's said that the Arctic's inhabitants have much more in common with each other, than their fellow countrymen further south.
Studies show that the Polar Regions are melting as global temperatures rise. The results of the melt are rising sea waters and threatened ecosystems. Polar bears especially are in grave danger as they are habituated to the seasonal ice pack. These developments mean that it's worth visiting the Polar Regions before they change forever.
Polar Regions | Must See
There's always so much to see, but so little time. Here are a few must-see cities to add to your next itinerary.
The South Pole & The North Pole
The two Poles represent a level of remoteness found nowhere else on this planet. It's common to think this remoteness is purely lateral, but in fact the continent of Antarctica has the highest average elevation of any continent.
The allure of the Poles is partly a result of their isolation, but more likely linked to their frigidness. We've all heard the horrendously low record temperatures, but what surprises most people is that the average temp. in Antarctica is a frosty -37°. And if that's not otherworldly, it sure comes close.
Ushuaia isn't technically located in a Polar Region, but it's the designated hub at the southern tip of South America where most Antarctica expeditions depart. As you can imagine, this alone gives the town a jittery mix of nervousness and excitement.
But Ushuaia is more than just a departure lounge for polar explorers. It has long been a bustling port town and an adventure destination in itself. A quick glance at the mountainous backdrop hints at the city's adventurous roots.
Longyearbyen sits almost 10° north of the Arctic circle. That means it's the closest capital to the North Pole and frighteningly cold in winter, with lows regularly dipping below -25°.
The name of the city seems to hint at long summer days, but in fact it reflects the name of John Munro Longyear; the man who founded Svalbard's first coal company. Like Ushuaia, Longyearbyen is a designated hub for polar expeditions. But it's also visited for its dense population of polar bears.
Polar Regions | Must Do
The road less travelled is rarely in plain sight. But these must-do activities are sure to get you on the right track.
Have you ever wondered what being struck by lightening feels like? Well, taking a dip in polar waters is a pretty realistic simulation. And where else in the world would you earn an official "Polar Bear" certificate just for jumping in?
It's comforting to know the water must be over zero degrees, otherwise it would be frozen. Until you find out salt water is actually still liquid below zero, then just the thought of it gives you the chills. But it's worth it nonetheless, even if just for the story, the glory, and the certificate of achievement.
With 24 hours of sunlight, your days never end. Sleep may seem impossible, but with such exertion over harsh terrain, it's unnervingly instantaneous. Just to stop, to sleep, and to eat, are luxuries requiring hours of preparation.
But with pain comes pleasure, and conquering the final degree of latitude is an amazing achievement. You'll be one of only few people to ever visit a Pole, and one of even fewer whom arrived on their own steam.
Watching an icebreaker crush through pack-ice is like watching paint dry. Unless you're standing aboard, in which case the immediacy and importance of the task are much more apparent.
One wrong move and the ice will slowly but surely constrict the life out of your vessel. But that's to be expected when you venture into a place that has no intention of letting you out. So it's no wonder why the Russians power their icebreakers with nuclear reactors. Because when the ice thickens around you, you'll want all the power you can muster.
Polar Regions | Must Try
If you want more than sights, sounds and smells, give the place a good taste test. Check out these must-try local favourites.
Can you imagine what the children would think if they found out you ate Rudolph? Or heaven forbid, Bambi. Well, that's what you'd be doing if you ate "caribou", because cunningly, it's just another name for wild reindeer.
You'll soon forget the injustice of it all, because caribou steaks taste great. They're high in protein, have good marbling, and are great on the grill. Just try not to overcook them because they can get very tough very quickly.
What do you get if you cross a salmon with a trout. Why, a char fish of course. And as the world's most northerly fresh water fish, it may be your only option for sustenance if you're trekking deep into the Arctic with limited supplies.
Like its salmon brethren, the char is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. So it's not only a survival food, but a great addition to regular diets. It's also low in methyl-mercury, which means it's safe to eat on a frequent basis.
The Arctic and Antarctic are simply too remote and too baron to rely on as a food source. That means your survival is highly dependent on what you pack. But because you must carry what you pack, weight becomes the key focus.
Specially prepared "space" foods are designed to pack as many calories as possible into as few grams as possible. They may taste synthetic and look like laboratory products, but in survival situations, they'll be your saving grace. Most adventurers quickly develop a fondness for the manufactured flavours.