Ex­plor­ing Deep­est Antarc­tica

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THE SEV­ENTH CON­TI­NENT, ON THE EARTH’S SOUTH­ERN TIP, WAS FIRST DE­SCRIBED IN HU­MAN IMAG­I­NA­TION BE­FORE BE­ING IN­SCRIBED INTO KNOWL­EDGE. Long be­fore Cap­tain Cook’s ship made first con­tact with the fi­nal fron­tier in 1773, hu­mans be­lieved in the ex­is­tence of a con­ti­nent far south to coun­ter­bal­ance the land masses of north­ern Europe.

Today, the Far South con­tin­ues to cap­ti­vate our imag­i­na­tion. Un­par­al­leled in its ex­oti­cism, its ex­treme cli­mate makes it the cold­est, dri­est and windi­est con­ti­nent. This harsh triad de­ters wildlife and civil­i­sa­tion, but has also sculpted one of the most breath-tak­ing land­scapes on our Earth. The cruel weather con­di­tions have kept the av­er­age tourist at bay, and for a long time, those who wished to be­hold the win­ter desert could only do so through the lens of an ad­ven­tur­ous pho­tog­ra­pher.

Now, there are op­tions for those who seek a lit­tle lux­ury and com­fort in the midst of the un­for­giv­ing land­scape. White Desert, a team of sea­soned Arc­tic ex­plor­ers and travel con­nois­seurs, flies up to 12 trav­ellers on its own pri­vate air fleet from Cape Town to Antarc­tica. The team hosts four or five trips each year in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. Its base camp con­sists of six sleep­ing pods that are es­sen­tially heated fi­bre­glass domes, fur­nished with pelt rugs atop light­wood. The in­te­ri­ors are heated and well lit, pow­ered by en­ergy har­nessed from the re­gion’s strong winds and abun­dant sun­shine.



With brass fit­tings, leather chairs and pic­nic ham­pers, the din­ing room and lodge ex­ude the charm of the Age of Ex­plo­ration. Here, trav­ellers can share a meal — pre­pared by an in-house chef with fresh in­gre­di­ents flown in from Cape Town — af­ter wit­ness­ing a colony of Em­peror pen­guins, one of the few in­hab­i­tants of the bar­ren ter­rain. One can nav­i­gate the wilder­ness as much or as lit­tle as wanted. Guests choose their own ad­ven­ture, de­cid­ing whether to ex­plore a blue ice cave, trek to a mas­sive ice wave, tread a 200-feet cliff, or go kite ski­ing through the chalky-white vast­ness. The op­tions are wide enough to ac­com­mo­date vary­ing lev­els of fit­ness.

The guides are gen­uine ex­plor­ers — one of them once led a bare­foot ex­pe­di­tion to the sum­mit of Kil­i­man­jaro, while another holds records for first and sec­ond as­cents of tough peaks. CEO Pa­trick Wood­head him­self was part of the youngest and fastest team to ever reach the South Pole in 2002. In­evitably, some of the land­scape needs to be tra­versed via air, es­pe­cially if you want to reach the ge­o­graph­i­cal South Pole, the south­ern­most point of the en­tire globe. But fly­ing here is never te­dious as the land­scape of the sev­enth con­ti­nent un­furls be­neath. Af­ter all, in Antarc­tica, na­ture can do so much magic with so lit­tle.

The 2,650-me­tre-high Holtanna Peak with a cirque glacier on its east­ern por­tion

Trav­ellers stay at a camp perched on the edge of a frozen lake The camp is de­signed to fol­low strict eco­log­i­cal guide­lines while pro­vid­ing dwellers ut­most com­fort

An ice tun­nel cre­ated by the cy­cle of melt­ing waves in the sum­mer and freez­ing in the win­ter

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