by Chris Leadbeater, The Telegraph, January 14, 2019
Ever fancied following in the frozen footsteps of great explorers? Here we pick out a few of the best polar expeditions.
Combine it with a beach holiday
Not all Antarctic cruises cast off from Ushuaia. G Adventures (gadventures.co.uk) has a 22-day “Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica” cruise, slated to leave the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on Oct 22 – which could mean a day on the urban sands of Playa Ramirez before you set sail. From £8,580pp, including flights.
Explore from afar
If you like the idea of Antarctica, and the derring-do of the chaps with beards who first explored it, you can always cut to the chase – without having to don so much as a scarf – at the National Maritime Museum (rmg.co.uk) in Greenwich, where the Polar Worlds gallery covers the bravery of Robert Scott, and is free to visit.
Christmas in Antarctica
Yes, OK – it seems obscene to mention Christmas when we are all still picking pine needles out of the carpet and the cat. But if the thought of playing charades with your in-laws ever again makes you feel murderous, ponder the alternative of the 13-day “Christmas in Antarctica” cruise that Aurora Expeditions will dispatch from Ushuaia on Dec 17. From US$11,900pp – flights extra (auroraexpeditions.com.au).
Explore the (other) Shetland Islands
At any given point, you have a choice of two sets of Shetland Islands. One is just above (ish) the Scottish mainland. It stages the Up Helly Aa fire festival in January. The other is the South Shetland Islands, just off (ish) the Antarctic Peninsula. Less fire, more penguins. Explore.co.uk’s 13-day “Antarctica in Depth” expedition (sailing out of Ushuaia on Nov 11) will get you there. From £5,099pp; flights extra.
Delve into the history
Scott, of course, didn’t survive his final trip to Antarctica. Nor did Lawrence Oates, whose death has become a symbol of self-sacrifice. You can find him at Gilbert White’s House (gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk; £10), at Selborne, Hampshire. The museum in the 18th-century naturalist’s old home has a section on Oates’s endeavours.
Witness the 24-hour sun
The advantage of planning a trip to the far south at this early stage of the year is that 2019 still has two Antarctic summers in its diary. One that starts in November, and the one that is now dousing the icebox continent in 24-hour light. If you’re quick, you can be p-p-picking up a penguin next month. Try the 12-day “Base Camp Antarctic Peninsula” cruise (worldexpeditions.com) due to leave Ushuaia, Argentina, on Feb 17. It even lets passengers kayak between icebergs. From US$7,950pp (£6,243); flights extra.
Wish the Antarctic Treaty a happy birthday
How best to celebrate a 60th birthday – dinner at a top restaurant? Evening at the theatre? Disco revival night? All fine suggestions, though not much good for the Antarctic Treaty, which hits its big 6-0 this year (on Dec 1) – but which, on account of being an intangible international agreement that protects the southernmost continent as a place of research and scientific study, has no use for gourmet cuisine, and has never been a fan of Chic. Better to honour its values by booking a careful getaway to the frostiest of all land masses – like, say, the 10-day “Antarctic Explorer” trip due to start in Ushuaia, Argentina, on Feb 24, with exodus.co.uk. From £6,700pp – flights extra.
Explore South Georgia
Antarctica is the main course and frozen pudding of any trip to the planet's base, but appetisers await on the way. One is South Georgia, the remote isle at 54 degrees south which Shackleton crossed in 1916 at the end of his Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Intrepid Travel will pop by via its 'Crossing the Antarctic Circle' 23-day jaunt, leaving Buenos Aires on Feb 18. From £10,830pp; flights extra.
Go camping at the South Pole
Pity the great explorers of yesteryear. All that effort to get to 90 degrees south when they could have just waited a century and flown in for a few days. If money is no object, Steppes Travel sells a week-long jaunt, in and out of Punta Arenas in Chila, with one night camping (full board, obviously) at the South Pole. From £44,775pp including all flights.
Take a longer trip
It's a fair journey to Antarctica, so make the most of it. Responsible Travel's 33-day "Semi-Circumnavigation cruise" charts almost the whole edge of the land mass. From €21,890pp (£19,645) flights extra. Next trip is Jan 13 2020.