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.
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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.