Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, December 4, 2015



This week's blog comes to us from the bottom of the world: Antarctica! Earlier this week, a Boeing 757 jet became the first commercial airliner EVER to land on the seventh continent. It was no easy task. See, you can't build an asphalt runway on permafrost. So a special 'Blue Ice' strip was carved out of the frozen surface. Then a special Loftleidir Icelandic Airways plane was specially altered. Finally, the experienced crew pulled off the landing. Truly a travel milestone! However...you're probably asking yourself...Why would anyone want to go to the South Pole in the first place? Well, here are Five Reasons:

 #1. Bragging Rights. Most globe-trekkers like to boast about the places they have been. First, they list the continents. Usually Africa and Australia are the tough ones. But Antarctica? Aside from crazy cruise ships...who occasionally have good enough weather to reach the coastline...the only way to set foot on the distant land is through the ALE (Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions) Company. This adventure tour agency takes about 2,000 people annually for trips waaay down under. As a 50% partner in the 757 aircraft landing, ALE is hoping for a wave of 'Bucket Listers' to sign up soon.

#2. Penguins. You've seen them in your favorite documentary and in the lovable DreamsWorks cartoon...but penguins are even better in the wild. Apparently, the shorelines of the entire continent are teaming with the enormous birds. In fact, the Audubon Society estimates there are 3.79 million of them living in Antarctica. Try to spot all 17 species. The easiest are to find are the Emperor, Adelie and Royal penguins. But maybe you'll spot a Rock-hopper or a Chin-strapper! When you do, be sure to talk in a deep, Morgan Freeman voice.

#3. Icebergs. Globetrotters also like to brag about the various types of terrain they have traversed. But let's face it: Deserts, tropics, savanna...even glaciers...are easy to reach. They don't move! But icebergs are different. They float around the South Seas, clocking in at 10 knots per hour. They come in unexpected colors (green!) and in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

#4. Museums.  Believe it or not, there are not one...but two...museums in Antarctica. The first one is on the Russian base. It's not easily accessible, as ALE doesn't have access to the Novolazarevskaya Base. However, the Fort Lockroy Museum is located on the Peninsula and can be reached by sea. In addition to interesting exhibits about the successful...and failed...Antarctic expeditions, it also houses the only Post Office on the continent. Unfortunately, we cannot find the proper address.

#5. Bars. If humans are going to colonize, they are going to bring booze and build taverns. Numerous makeshift pubs have been constructed on the research bases...but these are a little too much like 'The Swamp' on M*A*S*H. Nope, a savvy traveler like you will head directly to Vernadsky's. Back in 1996, some prime timber was shipped the the remote base to build a pier. Instead, the Ukrainians constructed a beautiful bar. Sip some homemade vodka and peruse the many old photos on the wall. Best yet: Since Antarctica is under no one's governmental jurisdiction, no laws apply!

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