Est

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat -

tions’ 189-pas­sen­ger Ocean Di­a­mond, there’s al­most too much choice in terms of daily ac­tiv­i­ties once you’re safely in Antarc­tica. Kayak­ing is one of the most popular, al­low­ing you to get up close to a seem­ingly end­less pa­rade of ice­bergs (there are more than 300,000 in Antarc­tic wa­ters at any one time) and fre­quent, friendly pods of minke and hump­back whales.

For those wish­ing to fol­low in the boot steps of Scott and Shack­le­ton more closely, climb­ing and ski­ing are both ex­cel­lent op­tions once you’ve mas­tered the art of cram­pons, ice axes and cross-coun­try ski bind­ings.

Add to those choices po­ten­tial ex­cur­sions to his­toric huts, vis­its to cur­rent sci­en­tific bases (tip: they sell “blowyour-head-off” home­made vodka at the Ukrainian re­search sta­tion, Ver­nad­sky) and the no­to­ri­ous “po­lar plunge” off the penin­sula that has be­come an Antarc­tic rite of pas­sage, and your stan­dard 11-day trip is com­pletely ac­counted for.

But per­haps the most re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of all is sim­ply tak­ing a few quiet mo­ments to your­self, to stand back and look prop­erly at this des­o­late, still and in­trigu­ing place, in all of its chill­ing beauty; to gaze on sheer ice cliffs and lis­ten to the po­lar si­lence, punc­tu­ated only by an­cient glaciers crack­ing their enor­mous knuck­les.

One of Shack­le­ton’s friends, Roald Amund­sen, the first man to reach the South Pole, said, “In the sun, the land looks like a fairy­tale.”

It cer­tainly cast a po­tent spell over Shack­le­ton. Even af­ter his close scrape with an icy grave in 1915, the ex­plorer was un­able to re­sist re­turn­ing again six years later, with many of the same men.

In 2015, Antarc­tica re­mains just as be­witch­ing as it was then. Shack­le­ton’s last visit, his Quest Mission of 1921, is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be the fi­nal ex­pe­di­tion of the Heroic Age of Ex­plo­ration. But in terms of travel to Antarc­tica, it was merely the be­gin­ning.

TELE­GRAPH ME­DIA GROUP

Jonathan Thomp­son vis­ited Antarc­tica as part of Jaeger’s En­durance project, cel­e­brat­ing the cen­te­nary of Shack­le­ton’s ex­pe­di­tion, which the cloth­ing com­pany orig­i­nally spon­sored. More: jaeger.co.uk/en­durance.html.

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