Man’s history with Antarctica is one of exploration and hardship in the pursuit of fame and fortune, with peaks conquered, virgin territory mapped and new lands discovered as its historical timeline. The ill-fated attempt by British explorer, Ernest Shackleton, to cross Antarctica in 1914 ended in one of the more daring of the region’s exploits. After his ship, the Endurance, sank in the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his crew set sail in lifeboats, reaching uninhabited Elephant Island just beyond the South Shetlands. Leaving twenty-two of his crew behind, he and five men continued another 800 miles to South Georgia, arriving in King Haakon Bay on the west side of the island. To go for help at the whaling station in Stromness Harbor, he left two men behind and traversed the island on foot over glaciers and the Tridents Mountains. In good weather, Shackleton was able to walk it in thirty-six hours without stopping.
During their Antarctica expeditions, some intrepid travelers take the opportunity to trace the historic steps of the region’s early explorers, adding some extraordinary memories to their Antarctica travel, including occasional glissades that have for centuries temporarily turned hearty explorers into kids again. The exciting South Georgia Traverse excursion option traces the South Georgia route made famous by Shackleton. The distance is twenty-one to thirty-one miles, depending on the route, and involves traversing large, heavily-crevassed glaciers and alpine passes. While the ascents and most of the descents are gradual, recent warming temperatures have turned some snowfields to ice, making the trek a more difficult jaunt than what early explorers experienced. Because of these conditions, travelers must be experienced in crevassed alpine terrain. Depending on the weather, the South Georgia Traverse Antarctica tour usually takes three days with two nights of camping along the way.
Some itineraries offer a cross-country skiing optional tour, an experience as contemplative as it is intense. No matter how many extraordinary vistas a cross-country skier has known, in pristine Antarctica, it is impossible to not keep repeating, “I can’t believe I’m skiing in Antarctica!” Skis and poles are provided for these excursions, though passengers are welcome to bring their own gear.
If hiking, mountaineering or cross-country skiing are activities you would like to experience during your travel to Antarctica, gives us a call to discuss your options.