While the Earth's polar regions are similar in many ways, the Arctic Circle at the northern pole and Antarctica to south, also display stark differences. Comparing their environments, geographical properties, climates, wildlife, and amenities produces some rather profound realizations about expectations and real-world discovery. Individuals looking for adventure traverse the globe in opposite directions looking for the ultimate experience. At the furthest points of the globe lie some of the most breathtaking sights to behold.
Both the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic region boast a vast expanse of shivering ice. However, the way in which this layer of ice presents itself varies greatly. In Antarctica, the ice forms a near perfect circle around the pole, at a fairly uniform depth. In contrast, the Arctic ice is quite asymmetric providing wide variation. This difference can be attributed to the strong ocean currents winds, which flow nearly uninterrupted around the continent of Antarctica. Meanwhile the currents surrounding the Arctic vary, with warmer waters flowing from the south often preventing the formation of ice in the north Atlantic regions.
On an Antarctica cruise, one finds a wide ice-covered plateau interrupted by soaring mountain peaks, icebergs and glaciers. This area, which surrounds the South Pole, covers a range of 5,400,000 square miles. It is itself surrounded by ocean from every side. In contrast, the arctic is an ocean, surrounded by continents. The icebergs here are smaller and seasonal; land ice is especially limited in the arctic, the largest piece settling in Greenland. In geographical sense, Antarctica is the yin to the Arctic yang.
The northern Arctic latitude boasts one of the most unique seasonal climates. Throughout the cold winter months, continuous periods of night flow regardless of the time of the day. The same can be observed during the summer when daytime goes on uninterrupted. Both Antarctica and the Arctic stay fairly cool throughout the year. The average temperature at the South Pole is -58 degrees Fahrenheit. The North Pole is much warmer, yet still chilly, with an average annual temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
A generalization about Antarctica may label it an uninhabited continent. Though void of land based mammals, it does provide shelter for a variety of marine mammals including whales, porpoises, and seals. In contrast, the Arctic’s forests and tundra’s provide a much more favorable environment for terrestrial habitation. During an Arctic cruise, visitors can find a variety of land mammals including musk oxen, lemmings, caribou, bears, foxes, hares, wolves, and reindeer. You will also discover similar aquatic mammals to what are found in Antarctica in addition to a few more unique amphibious creatures.
Antarctica has no record of primitive or native people. The first recorded was made by James Cook in 1773. Following through to current day the population remains extremely limited, mainly including bare handfuls of individuals scattered around sparse scientific exploration stations. In a way, the treacherous southern climate protects the continents frozen resources against exploitation.
The Arctic is an entirely different tale. Its native people have left behind a rich tale of a deeply cultural heritage on all the surrounding continents. Beginning at the original prehistoric crossing the populations of the Arctic Circle have solidly expanded towards today’s current rate of over two million people. As with any advanced society, there is widespread exploitation of economic resources as well as technological development.
Separated by a distance of the entire planet Antarctica and the Arctic represent complementary opposites. Together, though smothered in extremes they make an entire range of universal variation existing on the edge of our world and promising none but the most humbling experience.