Sometimes the best way to cheer yourself up when you’re in a funk is to listen to terribly depressing music, just so you know that someone out there has felt worse than you. I feel like the same general rule applies when complaining about the onset of winter, which I have been doing over the past few days now that it has finally started to get frigid in New York. All I need is to imagine being somewhere even colder to make me realize that I don’t have it that bad here — and in my mind, Antarctica is like the Adele of cold weather catharsis.

One of the best places to experience the inhospitable continent is Deception Island, a C-shaped volcanic crater in the South Shetland Island chain accessible by boat from the southern tip of South America. The island got its name when explorers passed through Neptune’s Bellows (the narrow channel leading into the central harbor) and discovered that the inland region was completely hollow and filled with water. Later on, the island became a base camp for Norwegian whalers and scientists — that is, until an eruption in 1969 forced the few folks residing there to pack up and flee from the destruction. Their settlements, coated in volcanic debris and in various states of disrepair, can still be seen by adventurous visitors today.

Now that you’ve been sufficiently reminded how much better your life is than the people who once lived on Deception Island, perhaps it’s time to sing some of the island’s praises. Nature freaks will be pleased to know that the entire area is a conservation zone, acting as a refuge to rare flora and fauna who can stand the cold weather. One of the stops accessible to visitors is Bailey Head, a rocky outcropping that is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of chinstrap penguins.

It should be noted that there are a lot of rules regarding conduct on the island due to its status as a nature preserve, so be careful not to disturb the birds or leave any trash behind. And don’t even think about stepping on any moss.

The coolest and most hands-on thing you can do on the island is at Pendulum Cove, where it is possible to swim in Antarctic waters. Heat from the volcano mixes with the subzero water of the harbor to create an area along the beach where guests can strip down, dip in, and go home with a cool story to tell strangers at cocktail parties.

So next time you start crying from frustration as you scrape the frost off your windshield, take a look at these pictures and remember that it could be worse — you could be losing your fingers to frostbite and running away from a lava flow at the same time. Perspective, people.

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Photos courtesy of Liam Q via Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Steven tried out for The Amazing Race one time and was denied. We're not saying this is why he started this site, but it may have been a contributing factor in his decision to explore the world online and share his travel inspiration with others.


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