Choosing between polar opposites
The Arctic or Antarctica?
[NORWALK, CT] Novice polar travelers often believe that a trip to Antarctica is interchangeable with a trip to the Arctic. Perhaps that is due to holiday cards and soft drink commercials that erroneously depict polar bears and penguins living together in harmony. The differences between the regions are more significant than their differing locations on the globe.
The Arctic is an ice-covered ocean surrounded by land. In contrast, Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an ocean. Humans have inhabited the Arctic for 4,000 years. Antarctica has never had an indigenous population and the first record of humans reaching it is only about 200 years old.
The biology of the regions is different. The natural habitat of polar bears, walrus and musk oxen is the Arctic. Walrus and musk oxen can be found in herds. Polar bears are essentially solitary creatures. Penguins are found in the wild south of the Equator. Surprisingly, only five of the 17 species of penguins are associated with Antarctica. Penguins breed in colonies that can have as few as a thousand inhabitants and as many as half a million. The abundance of wildlife in the Antarctic contrasts to the Arctic's greater diversity of species, but smaller numbers of animals.
When shown a photograph of ice, experienced ice masters, (mariners with special training in navigating through polar waters), can identify the polar region in which the photograph was taken. Although it is harder for laypeople, one difference that is readily noticed is that Arctic ice is often 'dirtier' than Antarctica ice. Icebergs are present in both regions, but if a traveler wants to see 'big' ice – the Antarctic is the place to go.
To decide which polar region to visit first set a budget, make list of the icon elements that define a polar adventure for you, and check available travel dates. Travel to the Arctic is possible between June and September. Travel to the Antarctic occurs between October and March. However, adventurers must have visited the Arctic and Antarctica to truly claim the title – polar adventurer.