Camping in Antarctica

Camping in Antarctica? Who would want to do that?

Camping in Antarctica? Wow, that sounds incredible! camping4We get varied reactions to the option of camping on the Antarctica Peninsula during ‘Classic’ voyages. The reality is, camping on the Antarctic continent appeals to a certain sort of traveler and is not for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at what’s really involved with camping on the Last Continent. As you are finishing a delicious dinner in the dining room and dessert is being served, the Expedition Leader comes on the PA system: “Campers, please meet staff in the lounge in 15 minutes. Be dressed and ready to spend the night on the Antarctica.” The small group, usually 20 or so (depends on the ship), scarfs down the last of their food jumps up from dinner to prepare. No food is allowed on Antarctica, per IAATO regulations, so make sure you’ve eaten your fill!  You layer long underwear, then ski pants, two pairs of socks and countless thermal shirts and then you begin to sweat in your cabin. Grab your outer layers – parka, warm hat and gloves and head to the meeting point. Everyone has cameras charged and extra layers on hand, ready for a night on Antarctica.

Passenger Matthew Fraser digging his "grave" (Ioffe)
Passenger Matthew Fraser digging his spot ( Ioffe)

At almost any time during the Austral summer, expect little to no complete darkness. As you land on a snow-covered beach in twilight, you grab you assigned sleeping bag and thermal pad. Depending on which ship you’re on, you might be sleeping out under or the starts in a bivouac bag, or you might be sharing a two-person tent with a fellow shipmate. If you’ve got a bivouac bag, start to dig “your grave,” a person-sized indent in the snow to place your bag and protect you from the wind during the night. If you’re in a tent, team together with your tentmate to get your tent pitched on level ground. As soon as it’s secure and checked by staff, jump in and get your sleeping bag ready. 1490723_10152076877048555_214689708_o Now the night is yours. Get warm in your sleeping bag and let your senses take over. Listen to the night sounds of Antarctica,:  ice crunching and vast silence. Watch determined penguins waddle by, inches from your feet. Smell the ice and the sea. Feel the dry cold that is the coldest, driest place on earth. Maybe you are lulled to sleep by this incredible atmosphere. Maybe you stay awake all night, watching the stars come out and soaking up every moment. Either way, morning comes quickly. Expedition staff awake you early, in time to break camp and be back onboard for breakfast.  You say goodbye to your sleeping spot and feel a special connection with this small piece of the Antarctic continent where you spent one night.. Passengers who have camped on Antarctica usually return to our office in Ushuaia and gush about the experience. These adventurous travelers  feel they have “really been on Antarctica” by spending an entire night on land.

Freestyle passengers carry the “Bunker” sign on land to camp

If camping on Antarctica sounds like your cup of tea, then here are the nuts and bolts: Not all ships offer camping, so make sure you choose one of the below ships that does. Prices and equipment vary by ship, and it’s important to know that camping is based on weather suitability. As Antarctica weather changes quickly, expedition staff track the weather closely before deciding whether or not to spend the night. Camping should be booked in advance, as spaces are limited and usually fill up quickly. Here are the ships that offer camping with their equipment options & pricing:

Photo credits: Thanks to Matthew Fraser and Mike Ssykor for their camping photos

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