Global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it — news about the polar ice caps melting is ever present. Just this February, NASA showed a piece of the Pine Island Glacier breaking off into Antarctic waters. Earlier in the year, major news outlets reported that an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware is about to break off from Antarctica.
But we don’t want to bore you with the complicated science behind such sad news. Speaking of which, we don’t want to sadden you either. We’ll take on a brighter approach instead, beginning with some key facts to understand what’s happening.
Cez and Agness of eTramping have offered to help us with this. With their experience, you can be sure to have a grand time exploring the icy plains of our planet. And plan your trips accordingly, as well. We also recommend those interested in working in the Arctic or the Antarctic, in particular, read all the way to the bottom, where there’s a link to getting a job as expedition staff.
Key Facts about Polar Ice Caps Melting
Global temperatures have risen almost 0.9°C (1.6° F) over the past hundred years, according to NASA. The same study concluded that greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane have increased (38% and 148%, respectively) since the Industrial Revolution.
Another NASA study gives out some mixed signals. They say the sea levels aren’t rising due to polar ice caps melting in Antarctica. They have no idea about the true source of the rising waters.
Still, that doesn’t mean that places such as the Arctic aren’t in trouble. According to the same study, the Arctic has been losing an average of 13,500 mi² (or about 35000 km²) of sea ice yearly. You should probably start thinking of speeding up your journey to these places.
Where to Visit
Arctic polar ice caps melting at an accelerated rate means you should visit the North first. You have several options, in multiple different countries. There’s Alaska, Greenland, Lapland, Svalbard, and the northernmost regions of Canada and Russia.
We’ll touch upon some sights to see in the first four of these regions. The others would take another article or so to get the full picture. In the end, we’ll take a look at what the Antarctic continent has to offer. Let’s see what wonders we can explore in the Alaska first, and continue from there.
The polar ice caps melting hasn’t yet affected the natural beauty of this northernmost US state. The snow-capped Brooks Range is a breathtaking flyover from Fairbanks. The Alatna River, which stems from it, has also been named among the most beautiful rivers in the entire country. And for good reason, too.
You can spot many animals in the area, including caribou, Dall sheep, as well as the fearsome grizzly bear. Sometimes they’ll be joined by their cute little cubs – if you’re lucky. Otherwise, the “Gates of the Arctic” National Park is a bit larger than Belgium – so there’s no shortage of sights to see.
Home to the Greenland Inuit people, this expansive landmass is a godsend to hikers. You’re probably used to following a lot of rules when it comes to hiking (written or otherwise). Here, it’s no holds barred. You can travel the region to your heart’s content.
Though be sure to bring someone experienced along for the ride – you wouldn’t want to get lost this far from nowhere. Dog-sledding and snowmobiles will be your primary methods of transportation as well. Have a soak in the hot springs of Uunartoq, as they’re perfect for it all year round.
And, of course, don’t forget to visit the bright blue icebergs of Greenland while they’re still around. Believe it or not, you can also go diving in the area. If you’re not afraid of the cold, or the mystical creatures from the depths, you’re up for quite a spectacle under the ice.
The whole polar ice caps melting bit hasn’t taken away from the magic of Svalbard. At least yet. Enjoy the spectacular Magdalenefjord at “the end of the world” especially in the summer, surrounded by clear skies. Or, lose yourself (not literally, of course) in the Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park.
It is home to many walrus colonies, the famous Troll and Jotun hot springs, and the launch site of a sadly failed hot air balloon expedition to the North Pole, among others.
As with most of the regions on this list, the Finnish Lapland is a great place to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). In fact, you can even see them from Iceland. They’re quite a sight to behold, though you shouldn’t limit yourself to that.
You can go hiking, skiing, deer-sledding, and fishing in the plentiful national parks, each with a more tongue-twisting name than the other. Pallas-Yllästunturi and Urho Kekkonen National Parks are two such examples.
But there are two other reasons people visit this area in particular. One is the Snow Village in Kittilä, where people even get married in a church made entirely out of ice! The other is Santa Claus’ Village in Rovaniemi. It can be a truly magnificent experience for the children, though Santa welcomes adults for photographs as well.
We’ve seen that the polar ice caps melting process doesn’t affect this southern continent as much as the Arctic. As such, we’ve left it for last (but not least!) In any case, you’re most likely going to travel the area on an Antarctica cruise. Or at least that’s how over 37,500 people are doing it year-round.
The place might seem like a white desert to the uninformed. But below that mask lies a land that is very much teeming with life. Seals and penguins aren’t used to the sight of humans, so they won’t flee from visitors as one might expect. Otherwise, feel free to marvel at blue or humpback whales as they pass the cruise ship to the audible gasps of everyone (including the captain). Don’t forget that many people working the Arctic & Antarctica Expedition Jobs do that so that they can get closer to nature.
What cool trip will you embark on first?