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Antarctica is the last vast wilderness on the planet. Its gigantic icebergs, mountain ranges and the emptiness of the polar plateau boggle the mind, while its temperatures, winds and weather send shivers down the spine. It's a place of extremes - beautiful and serene, savage and violent - and its scale is almost unfathomable whether you're on the ground or viewing it from an aircraft.

Antarctica is the most isolated continent on the planet and a trip to the polar south must still be earned, either through a long uncomfortable voyage by ship or an expensive airplane flight. But be warned, weather and ice - not clocks and calendars - set the schedule for a journey here. No matter what the reason for your visit, you'll be at the mercy of the continent's changing moods and weather patterns.

The last decade has shown, much to the relief of many, that tourism, not mining or oil drilling, is Antarctica's growth industry, and there's a good chance that the continent will remain a free and unsullied place of international cooperation.

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