Antarctica is located on the southern tip of the planet, surrounded by the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the fifth largest continent in the world made up of a frozen desert with mountains and volcanoes, some of which are still active. This is the coldest, driest and windiest location in the world. Native flora and wildlife of the region includes algae, mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and sparse tundra vegetation.
The human inhabitants that live here are research scientists whose numbers vary throughout the year, but may be as high as a few thousand at any given time. Scientists from around the world come to study the marine life, wildlife, and changing planet conditions. These individuals reside in research stations around the continent. Tourist expeditions are not uncommon and tourism is growing annually.
Arriving to Antarctica means traveling by special ships designed to withstand crushing ice flows, icebreaking boats or ski equipped planes. Those on the snow and ice covered terrain use sleds and dogs, snowmobiles and snowcats to get from one destination to another.
Most of the research teams and tourists arrive during the summer months, which may last from November to March, but winter has been known to last 10 months out of the year. Some reside here all year long. In the summer, the sun shines for 24 hours a day and the temperature reaches a balmy 15 degrees C (59 degrees F). In the winter, darkness lasts for 24 hours a day and the temperatures dip to -80 degrees C (-112 degrees F) with 100 mile an hour winds.
Individuals traveling to this vast uninhabitable climate for research are required to undergo a type of survival training. Persons must be physically fit and healthy as there may be a physician at some of the research centers, but the closest hospital is in the Falkland Islands. Training includes proper clothing and nutrition to withstand the elements, safety and first aid. Rock climbing and rope handling are taught in the event a team member should fall into a crevasse.
Clothing is worn in light multiple layers to allow perspiration to escape, but also trap air for insulation. Insulated waterproof gear protects delicate skin from frostbite. Sunglasses and sunscreen are necessary as the sun reflecting off the ice can cause burns in spite of the temperature. Food is mostly canned, dried or frozen and fresh foods are a treat. Daily caloric intake is high, but is necessary for the body to remain healthy.