Nurturing my wanderlust for many years, I have traveled to many exotic and beautiful destinations around the world. Since I have never traveled to the Arctic Circle, I decided to explore this region of the world and share it with you.
One of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the earth, the Arctic Circle is an imaginary line that goes around the northernmost parts of the world. It passes through Northern America, Greenland, North Asia, the Scandinavian Peninsula and the Arctic Ocean. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland (Grimsey) are the eight countries containing land in the Arctic Circle. Everything north of this circle is known as the Arctic.
When I think of the Arctic, I think of the North Pole — the land of Santa Claus, reindeer, polar bears, glaciers and snow. Although it gets very cold there, the area is known as one of the most extreme regions of the world in terms of climate, due to its diversity of terrain and weather. As the earth orbits the sun, its position is not fixed; therefore, the earth is slightly tilted on its axis. This tilt is responsible for creating our seasons of the year — spring, summer, fall and winter.
In the Arctic, you will find short, cool summers that are defined by excessive amounts of sunlight and long, cold winters, where the sun rises briefly or not at all. Some locations experience all-day sunlight due to the sun either not setting at all or twilight being visible due to the sun being just past the horizon. In the winter, a lack of sunlight results in extremely cold weather, with considerable amounts of snow — though there is generally less snow in coastal regions. Winter temperatures can drop below 58°F and summer temperatures can occasionally exceed 86°F.
The North Pole is the northernmost point on the earth, lying diametrically opposite the South Pole. At the North Pole, the sun does not set for 180 days. It is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the earth’s axis of rotation meets its surface.
Currently, no country owns the North Pole. It sits in international waters. The closest land is Canadian territory Nunavut, followed by Greenland (part of the Kingdom of Denmark). However, Russia, Denmark and Canada have staked claims to the mountainous Lomonosov Ridge that runs under the pole.
The Arctic Ocean acts as a moderating influence across much of the Arctic, preventing temperatures from dropping as low as they might. The coldest location in the northern hemisphere is not located within the Arctic Circle but in northeastern Siberia (Russia), due to the region’s continental climate and isolation from moderating ocean winds. The outer reaches of the Arctic Circle are a great place to see polar bears in the wild as well as other Arctic dwellers like orca, humpback and beluga whales; the Arctic fox; and the Svalbard reindeer.
The native people who inhabit the Arctic vary throughout the countries included in the Arctic Circle. These people still rely upon and use the land and sea for food and clothing.
Due to the position of the Arctic Circle on the planet, summer is a time of abundant light, and on the night of the northern summer solstice, part of the sun may be seen above the horizon at midnight. Darkness is a treat in the Arctic, as well. As the sun starts setting again and the nights grow dark, depending on the solar activity, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, may light up the sky with breathtaking movement of color.
Ice is a common feature of waters around the Arctic, causing sea travel outside of the summer months to be dangerous and impossible in some cases, The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was constructed in the 1970s. In recent years, the invention of icebreaker vessels has allowed year-round sea travels in the Arctic.
Many cruise lines have introduced expedition cruises — small ships designed for the earth’s most challenging regions. These ships are small with shallow drafts and will take travelers to off-the-beaten-path places on an adventure like no other.
On an Arctic adventure, once you cross the Arctic Circle line, you’ll be in a land where days and nights are completely skewed. It is said that this is an incredible natural phenomenon, an awe-inspiring experience — a journey of a lifetime!
Now that your appetite has been whetted with knowledge of the Arctic Circle and you, too, are a wanderlust, interested in a travel adventure, call your local travel advisor and learn more about expedition cruises.