The Arctic vs Antarctica


Antarctica and the Arctic offer very different cruise experiences

It can be difficult to choose between Antarctica and Arctic Expedition Cruises because they offer such diverse experiences. Each polar region features unique wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else. Antarctica has never been settled, with the exception of scientific bases, while the Arctic has been inhabited by various cultures over the millennia. The good news for travellers is each polar region has its own cruise season in different times of the year, so it’s possible to find Expedition Cruises with departure dates to suit your holiday plans.

GeographyContinent surrounded by oceans.Ocean surrounded by continents.
IceIcebergs are calved from glaciers all year round, measured in cubic kilometres or miles.Sea ice accumulates annually and doubles the size of the continent. More than 97% of the Antarctic landmass is covered by the South Polar ice sheet.
IcebergsIcebergs are calved from seasonal glaciers, measured in cubic metres or feet.Sea ice accumulates over years. The largest land ice area is found in Greenland, the rest is in limited pockets.
FaunaPenguins, whales, sea birds, no land mammals. Porpoises, dolphins and seals are also found here.Land mammals include polar bears, walrus, fox, hare, caribou, lemming, bears, birds and more. Marine animals include whales, porpoises, seals, dolphins.
FloraNo tundra or tree line.Tundra and tree line.
Human CultureNo permanent human habitation, no indigenous population. About 4000 scientists on various bases in summer, 1,000 in winter.Human settlement for thousands of years, population north of 60°N is in excess of 2 million with modern settlements.
Natural ResourcesNo exploitation of land-based natural resources.Widespread exploitation of natural resources including coal, oil and gas.
PoliticsAntarctica Treaty – Owned by ‘everyone and no one’.No one owns the Arctic Ocean. 8 countries share ‘Arctic’ territory.
ClimateThe annual mean temperature at the South Pole is -50°C (-58 °F). Coastal areas reach up to 9 °C (48 °F) in summer.The annual mean temperature at the North Pole is -18 °C (0 °F). Coastal areas reach up to 27 °C (80 °F).
Cruise SeasonNovember to March.May to September.

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