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Pole to Pole - Arctic or Antarctica?

September 16, 2019 at 3:36 PM

Separated by a distance of the entire planet Antarctica and the Arctic are literal ‘polar opposites’. Many people assume the two polar regions are similar, just at different ends of the earth. However big differences in the environment, wildlife, climate and geography ensure that each is a stunningly individual destination, and each is worth travelling to at least once! Luckily both regions are accessible on small ship cruise and tours, so you can visit in comfort and safety, without sacrificing your hankering for adventure. Because at the furthest points of the globe lie some of our planet’s most breathtaking sights.


The Arctic region is an ocean surrounded by continents, while the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by oceans. The Arctic tundra is home to incredible fauna and flora and the area is covered by a three-meter-thick drifting polar ice pack that grows and diminishes according to the seasons. This fragile ecosystem is both slow to change and slow to recover, and the impacts of global warming, over-fishing, and pollution have the world holding its breath. In summer, the ice pack that covers the North Pole recedes, making it easier for ships to come near. By wintertime the ice pack can spread to touch the solid land masses of northern countries. Depending on the season, you can experience the north’s Midnight Sun, where summers have no sunset and winters have no dawn.


Antarctica holds the honour of coldest, driest and windiest location on earth. 90% of the world's ice, which represents 70% of the world's fresh water is locked into this white continent, so one of the major factors limiting life here is, ironically, lack of water. Because only a tiny portion of landmass is ever free of snow or ice, there is little soil for plants to survive, so it appears as a frozen desert of snow. If you’re chasing the light in Antarctica, December and January are the months with the most sunlight (up to 20 hours a day), and daily temperatures are at their warmest. Both poles are cold, but the South Pole holds the record with temperatures recorded at -129 degrees F and icy winds frequently blasting the coastline.


Both poles have fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. You’ll know that each has its animal icon – the Arctic has polar bears, which may prove elusive, depending on where you go. This region is also home to exotic species such as the long-horned narwhal, beluga whales, tiny puffins, majestic caribou and reindeer (which may have escaped from Santa’s workshop), tusked walruses and wolves on the prowl.

Antarctica has the cute factor in spades, with penguins in the thousands, which you’ll be sure to see on your cruise to the Great White Continent. Other wildlife does not disappoint as whales, seabirds, seals and other animals make dramatic appearances against the majestic backdrop of snow, ice, mountains and waterways. And of course, in Antarctica, very few plants or animals live on the land, so cruising is the perfect way to experience nature up close.


Both regions are well serviced by expedition cruises. Antarctica is accessed primarily from the southern tip of South America, while Norway, Iceland, Canada and Russian ports are starting points for your Arctic cruise. In general, the time commitment and cost of an Arctic cruise is less than an Antarctic cruise, but life is short, so we think you should definitely choose both!
Get in touch with your Quay Cruise specialist and let us plan your perfect small ship or bespoke expedition cruise to Antarctica or the Arctic.



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