Poles Apart: Comparing the Arctic and the Antarctic Polar regions

The world’s two polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica are equally captivating – both are home to large pristine landscapes, icebergs, glaciers and abundant wildlife. Each polar destination offers some of the most breathtaking scenery and moments of wonder for the few who travel there, however, there are some notable differences that distinguishes each of these regions.   
Guests on board Scenic Eclipse can visit both of these extraordinary destinations, on an expedition voyage in truly all-inclusive ultra-luxury.  Scenic Eclipse has a Polar Class 6 ice class rating and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology for ships operating in these waters. The World’s First Discovery Yacht can safely navigate the icy seas, as well as access locations other ships cannot visit. Its unique GPS Dynamic Positioning System holds the ship in place, without the need to drop anchor on ecologically sensitive seabeds.
Two on board, state-of-the art helicopters^ will enable you to soar above the horizon. You’ll gain unparalleled access to the icy wonderlands as you fly out across the pristine Lofoten Islands and Norwegian Fjords, traversing further than most on the Antarctic continent and experiencing the thrill of hovering above the volcanic peaks of Iceland. For an immersive experience below the sea, venture on board the 6-seater custom-designed submarine, Scenic Neptune^, will reveal the secrets of the deep – from mysterious sea creatures to hidden reefs, including the waters of South Georgia.
On board Scenic Eclipse, guests have access to a group of up to 21 highly trained experts that make up the Discovery Team. This experienced team will provide invaluable insights on the diversity of both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Jason Flesher, Expedition Operations Manager on board Scenic Eclipse, is responsible for managing the Discovery Operations and Discovery Team, that is comprised of naturalist, geologists, glaciologists, historians, marine mammal experts and more. Jason has personally educated broad groups of guests of all ages and backgrounds, in more than 20 countries, all seven continents. He has been the Lead Expedition Guide on hundreds of expeditions around the world and over 50 in Antarctica.  

Here, Jason answers some of the most commonly-asked questions about the special characteristics of each region and what to expect on your unforgettable Scenic Eclipse voyage to either region.  

What wildlife can I expect to see in the Arctic? 

The wildlife focus and fascination for many in the Arctic region is the polar bears. Along with narwhals, polar bears are only found in the Arctic Circle (and not in Antarctica), where they are well adapted to cold climates. The Arctic is also home to approximately 48 species of terrestrial mammals including wolves, walrus, seabirds, tufted puffins, lemmings, Arctic hares, muskox and reindeer. 

What wildlife can I expect to see in Antarctica? 

In Antarctica, prepare to meet many species of penguins, which are only found in the southern hemisphere and not in the Arctic. The penguin did not evolve to fly, since there are few terrestrial predators in Antarctica. They lay their eggs in nests made of rocks on the cold hard ground. 
Many guests have seen one of the largest King penguin colonies in South Georgia, but they are not the only species in this area. Macaroni penguins are also very prevalent with three million breeding pairs living in the area, making up the largest population in the world. 

The main Antarctica region is completely devoid of land mammals, with its largest land creature less than 1.3 cm long insect – the wingless midge. Instead, the thrill of Antarctica is in its abundant marine animals living in the water, including seals, krill, orca whales and the rare Antarctic blue whale. 
“One of my most unforgettable moments would be in Mikkelsen Harbor, Antarctica. There are usually a few Weddell seals hauled out on the snow. On this particular day, one decided to worm his way right next to our flagged route, which leads to the penguin colony. As the seal was laying down unbothered by the traffic nearby, it started to sing for us! Usually their noises are made mostly underwater, we were extremely lucky to be standing nearby when we heard the most fantastic noise made by any sea creature on the planet. Very rare and by far my most memorable Antarctic experience.” – Adriaan Olivier, Discovery Team Naturalist Guide

How will the Scenic Eclipse crew help us get us close to all the highlights? 

A Scenic Eclipse Expedition Voyage provides unique ways to get closer to the native flora and fauna than ever before.  The up to 20-member expert Discovery Team will lead Scenic Discovery excursions on kayaks and Zodiacs, that will take you past sunbathing fur seals, noisy penguin rookeries and calving glaciers. 
Flexibility is key in all our operations, so that we can take advantage of wildlife sightings or other spontaneous opportunities that arise. The design and manoeuvrability of Scenic Eclipse is such that we can navigate narrow waterways and small harbours that larger vessels cannot reach and can react quickly to the magic that nature offers.
Wrapped up and cozy warm in your complimentary expedition parka and special polar boots, you will surely love the experience of disembarking and walking on actual sea ice to closely examine the inquisitive native wildlife.
“On a conventional expedition ship, you feel like you’ve done a great job if you’ve got Zodiac operations and maybe some kayaking going within half an hour. But on the Scenic Eclipse we have the helicopters flying, we’ve got the submarine going down to up to 300 metres, we’ve got the Zodiac fleets, the shore landings. There so many discovery opportunities for our guests and the ship is just an incredible platform for that.” – Captain James Griffiths, Director Marine Operations Scenic Eclipse 

Will we meet people who inhabit the region? 

The only people that currently inhabit Antarctica are small groups of research scientists, living there temporarily. Many travellers then wrongly assume that the Arctic region is also devoid of human populations, but that is not the case.
People have inhabited the Arctic region for thousands of years and today more than two million individuals live north of the Arctic Circle. The native groups found across the Arctic include the Inuit (Canada), Inupiat (Alaska), Yupik (Russia and Alaska), Chukchi (Russia), Kalaallit (Greenland), Sami (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). 
During your Scenic Eclipse Expedition Voyage through the Arctic Polar regions, the on board specialist Discovery Team Leaders will enlighten you with unique insights and personal highlights about the environment, history and culture of each region you visit. From learning about the ancient Viking Arctic outposts and their historic significance, to tracing the steps of Ernest Shackleton’s epic Antarctic exploration, you will be presented with anecdotes both onshore and on board in the  state-of-the-art Theatre in order to deepen your understanding of the destination. 

Which region should I visit then for my first Expedition Voyage? 

While traditionally many passengers have visited Antarctica first, before then going on to discover the Arctic, that is not necessarily the rule and it all comes down to a personal preference. We do see that regardless of which Polar region you visit first, guests inevitably then want to explore the other Polar area to draw their own comparisons.
Whichever Polar region you choose, Scenic Eclipse makes it possible to step into the heart of both these incredible vast frontiers and intimately understand their unique differences first-hand, in the most luxurious way possible.
The Captain and Scenic Eclipse crew’s role on board is to help you create your own stories, to help you discover and challenge yourself with new experiences and discoveries, relaxed in the knowledge that you have some of the best guides in the world there to assist at all times.
Book your Scenic Eclipse Antarctica or Arctic Expedition Voyages now and let 2022 and 2023 be the time you immerse in the earth’s unforgettable Polar regions.

If you are interested in reading more about the Arctic and Antarctic Polar regions please see our
previous blog.


 ^Helicopter and submarine at additional cost, subject to regulatory approval, availability, weight restrictions, medical approval and weather and ice conditions. Helicopter is unable to operate in South Georgia.

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