Discover Antarctica up close

For many Antarctic travellers, the experience morphs into a series of memory snapshots – a certain iceberg; a penguin diving; a whale surfacing – no matter how many photographs they captured. In a world of ever-fewer mysteries, Antarctica remains fabled, feted and desired. It’s the place almost everyone says they’d like to see. 

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) reports that just over 70,000 visitors set foot on the southern continent during the 2022–23 Antarctic visitor  season – 70,000 among 8.1 billion on Earth.

Now, a partnership between the Royal Institution of Australia and Australian cruising company Scenic is giving Cosmos readers a chance to experience Antarctica for themselves.

In December 2024, a special expedition cruise hosted by RiAus editor-in-chief Ian Connellan and Cosmos editor Gail MacCallum will cast off from Ushuaia, Argentina, for an unforgettable 11-day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Scenic are also offering a $500 per person exclusive saving to Cosmos readers. Visit to read more about the trip and secure the offer. 

Thousands of penguins sit a top a large iceberg.
Penguins thrive in the frigid conditions of the Antarctic. Credit: Supplied.

Antarctica is Earth’s coldest, driest and southernmost continent, so it’s little surprise it’s also one of the most remote and pristine places on the planet. Visiting this icy wilderness is a  rare and extraordinary experience that combines adventure, awe-inspiring landscapes, and a profound connection to the history of exploration and scientific study (plus, possibly, a little seasickness – something modern cruise vessels and their staff are well equipped to manage).

With its unique environment and the international commitment to preserving its delicate ecosystems, Antarctica stands as a testament to the significance of scientific research in understanding our planet.

Today, Antarctica is primarily dedicated to scientific study, and visitors have the unique opportunity to witness – and even participate in – ongoing research in one of Earth’s most remote environments. Scientific research in Antarctica is collaborative and international; as of 2023 there are 56 signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, which was first signed in 1959 and states that all Antarctic science must be shared. Many of those 56 signatories conduct research on the continent or its surrounding seas. Fewer than 20 – including Australia and New Zealand – maintain permanent research stations there.

Antarctica’s importance as a place set aside for scientific study can’t be overstated. The continent plays a crucial role in understanding global climate patterns, sea level rise, and the intricate interplay between the atmosphere and the oceans. Antarctic researchers collect data that’s vital for modelling and predicting the impacts of climate change on a global scale. The ice cores extracted from Antarctic glaciers provide a historical record of Earth’s climate, offering insights into past environmental conditions and helping scientists anticipate future trends.

Two people kayak in the waters of antarctica.
The Antarctic landscape is one of beauty and contrast. Credit: Supplied.

Visiting Antarctica is a journey into the heart of scientific exploration and environmental stewardship. But the continent’s importance as a place set aside for scientific study isn’t just about understanding the past and present; it’s also about shaping the future. Antarctica visitors have the privilege of connecting with this heritage, and of gaining a profound appreciation of the need to protect this extraordinary and fragile place. 

The Cosmos-Scenic partnership cruise will be on Scenic Eclipse, a sleek, purpose-built vessel with Polar Class 6 rating. There’ll be a special emphasis on science for the voyage, and you’ll have the opportunity to participate in wildlife and other surveys, which Scenic Eclipse’s on-board 20-strong Discovery Team and Ian and Gail will co-ordinate. In coming weeks we’ll tell you more about these projects.

The Discovery Team will also lead guests to continental landing sites and in the footsteps of renowned explorers. You’ll travel by Zodiac, kayak and stand-up paddleboard to experience the icy landscape and enjoy up-close encounters with Antarctic wildlife. If you’re game and want to take your Antarctic visit to the next level, Scenic Eclipse is equipped with two helicopters and a custom-built submersible , the Scenic Neptune.

As part of the scientific exploration, all passengers will be invited to attend a Citizen Science talk, a highlight for all on board. This engaging session, led by the Discovery Team and featuring special guest presenters Ian and Gail, will provide insights into the unique projects and surveys taking place during the journey. 

A cruise ship is dwarfed by snow covered mountains.
The scale of the landscape evokes a sense of awe Credit: Supplied.

Visitors arriving in Antarctica are met with a landscape of breathtaking beauty and stark contrast. Vast icebergs, towering glaciers, and expansive ice shelves create a surreal, otherworldly atmosphere. The scope and scale of the scenery is humbling, evoking a sense of awe one rarely feels – perhaps only the highest points of Earth’s great ranges have the same effect.

Antarctic visitors become immersed in a world that seems untouched by time. Penguins, seals, and seabirds thrive in the frigid conditions, offering a glimpse into the unique ecosystems that have adapted to life in this extreme environment. In addition to this ecological bounty, Antarctica offers visitors a profound sense of isolation and serenity. The vast, untouched landscapes create a space for contemplation and reflection. The absence of human infrastructure and the minimal impact of human activity contribute to a feeling of wilderness that’s increasingly rare in the modern world. Visitors often describe a sense of humility and interconnectedness with nature that’s transformative and enduring.

Ultimately, Antarctic visitors become part of a narrative that transcends individual experience. The footprints they leave and images they take become part of a continuum, connecting them both to heroic age explorers and present-day researchers. For most, the tangible link between history, exploration, and scientific inquiry drives a sense of responsibility to preserve and protect this great frozen land.

Join Ian and Gail on board Scenic Eclipse’s Antarctica in Depth 11 day all-inclusive voyage departing 17 December and through your participation, help keep the Royal Institution of Australia fighting for the importance of fact-based science reporting and publishing.

This content has been created and published in partnership with Scenic.

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