Our Earth's polar underside -- a crystallized otherworld -- overpowers you with colossal, sculpted baby-blue icebergs drifting past stadium-height glacial citadels. Whales breach, seals snooze, and penguins return your stare. Once the playful penguins' kazoo/quack soundtrack melds with whimpering seals, yapping gulls, pleading terns, thundering glaciers, and the geyser-sighs from whale blowholes, you've arrived.
The UN-sponsored 1959 Antarctic Treaty is a global law declaring that this continent can only be explored with peace for all in mind: no to hunting, fishing, industry, exporting, oil drilling, or weapons testing. The only time you can visit Antarctica is during its short summer (the coldest part of our winter). Unless you're part of a sanctioned scientific group on a research base, the only way to get there is by an ice-piercing ship, which means braving the two-day (each way) roller-coaster journey across the typically raging Drake Passage. This might be the most expensive vacation of your life, but you'll never look back with anything but pride. One way to cut costs in half is sailing last-minute standby (old, rich people get sick or miss connecting flights) from Ushuaia, Argentina, the tail-tip of South America and the launch point for most Antarctic cruises.
If going standby fails, Ushuaia, part of Argentine Patagonia, is a worthy destination in itself. As a veteran travel writer who roams for a living (140 countries, blah blah), Antarctica (been twice) is, hands down, the most amazing place I've ever seen. -- Bruce Northam, American Detour
For those, who travel to live and live to travel.
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