5 Differences Between The Arctic And Antarctic

On the surface, you may think the Arctic and Antarctic are mirror images of each other, just at opposite ends of the Earth. However, whilst both are cold and snow-covered, there are actually a lot of differences between the two Polar Regions.

By learning about the intricate differences you may be able to decide which direction you would prefer to travel in; north or south. So they may both be frozen landscapes, but here’s why the Antarctic and Arctic and more than literally poles apart from each other.

Land And Sea

Pack Ice

Whilst Antarctica is almost entirely made up of land that is covered in snow and ice shelves, the Arctic region is mainly frozen sea. There is no land mass underneath the North Pole and so its position actually fluctuates from year to year as the ice pack moves subtly. The land that can be found in the Arctic Circle is part of countries such as Canada, Norway and Russia. Antarctica, on the other hand, is a continent all on its own.

There’s Cold And Then There’s Antarctica


The large majority of our Antarctic or Arctic cruises take place in the summer months of each hemisphere so temperatures won’t be too bitter during your trip. However, when it comes to below zero conditions, Antarctica wins hands down.

The coldest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world (-89.2°C) was done so on Antarctica and the average winter can easily reach figures of -30°C. In contrast, the Arctic region has only ever hit lows of -67.7°C (I say only…) and some land areas can exceed 30°C in the summer thanks to warm ocean currents.

Wildlife In The Wilderness

Adelie Penguins

Far from being an uninhabitable wilderness, the Arctic is full of life in the form of flora and fauna. Animals of all kinds make their homes in this region throughout the whole year, including mammals, seabirds and fish.

On the other hand, life is a bit sparser on Antarctica. Of the few creatures that do live here, the vast majority can be found at the warmest land point, the Antarctic Peninsula, and none use the land as a year-round habitat. Though plant life is limited to species of fungus and moss (there are only two types of flowering plant on Antarctica), eight species of penguin, numerous seabirds, seals and whales can all be spotted in the waters surrounding this harsh terrain.

Treaty Troubles

Antarctic Treaty Stamp

As there is no land at the North Pole and the land which falls inside the Arctic Circle is clearly defined by the country it belongs to, there is little confusion over who owns what. In Antarctica though, things are not so straightforward. The icy continent is the only landmass on Earth that doesn’t belong to a specific country and so many have tried to lay claim to certain areas in the past.

The Antarctic Treaty states that no military action can take place on the continent, no sovereignty will be discussed, scientific research will be a priority and has 50 signatories as of today. However, this hasn’t stopped Argentina, Chile, the UK and even France from trying to establish ownership of certain sections.

Livin’ La Vida Polar

Tromso Bridge

Whilst no one actually lives at the North Pole, the Arctic region, on the whole, is home to thousands of thriving communities. This includes those that are part of indigenous groups such as Inuit or Kalaallit as well as Russians, Norwegians and Icelanders. It will come as no surprise though that no humans live on Antarctica except a small number of scientists who only stay for certain parts of the year.

Whether you choose an Arctic or Antarctic cruise, you are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Whilst they clearly have their differences, both are regions full of outstanding natural beauty and will stir the senses like you never thought possible. If you would like to plan your polar expedition with Fred.\ please call us today or submit an online enquiry.

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