More tourists now visit Antarctica each year than scientists on government-funded research programmes. Between November 2002 and March 2003, 13,000 visitors landed on the Antarctic Peninsula and 321 explored sites in other areas. Most visitors arrive by boat and stay for between two and four weeks. Specially-strengthened ice-breaking ships, like this one, are central to pack-ice research.
Some ships are large luxury cruise liners which sail to the relatively ice-free northwest tip of Antarctica as part of round-the-world itineraries. These, like Discovery World Cruises' ship MV Discovery can carry several hundred people. They often have ice-strengthened hulls, but cannot journey through solid ice. Other boats, such as Quark Expeditions'
Kapitan Khlebnikov are small, specially constructed ice-breakers able to explore more remote areas.
The most modern ships carry helicopters to fly over the area and spot the easiest route through the ice. In December, the outdoor educational team of West Nottinghamshire College became the first educational establishment to complete an expedition with a group of students to the South Pole.