Philippa Ross will not be the only person flying the flag for her esteemed ancestor Sir James Clark Ross during a voyage leaving next week for the Antarctic region named after him.

However, the Waipu woman and her uncle, James, from England, might be the only people literally sticking a flag directly in the ice of the frozen continent her great-great-great-grandfather explored in his quest to find the South Magnetic Pole 175 years ago.

Ms Ross leaves Invercargill next Wednesday on a 35-day Heritage Expeditions voyage called In the Wake of Ross, Scott and Amundsen. On board will also be descendants of the other two explorers, eco-tourists and conservationists, who will be taking a rare opportunity to combine a visit to the most pristine marine ecology site in the world with the historic 175th anniversary of Sir James' voyage of discovery.

"We've got a flag to plant on the ice. I've had one made showing the family crest and recognising Sir James' achievement in discovering the North Magnetic Pole," Ms Ross said. He did that as a young British Navy officer in 1831, several years before leading Antarctic expeditions to chart much of the continent's coastline between 1839 and 1843.


The flag also bears the Ross family motto, "Hope Lightens Difficulties".

Provided the weather permits a landing, if Ms Ross and her uncle are permitted to plant the banner in the ice it is likely to be a short-lived symbolic gesture, in keeping with the "leave only footprints" ethos of eco-tourism and scientific pursuit.

"I'm happy about that. I understand we can't go leaving stuff there but I'd like the flag eventually kept somewhere meaningful, perhaps at Scott Base. I respect that it's up to the authorities to make that decision, though."

Ms Ross was always aware of her ancestor's contribution to navigation, earth sciences and polar exploration but her interest in his achievements deepened as her passion for the area's environmental conservation grew.

When she heard about Heritage Expeditions' voyage she contacted the company's founder and boss, Rodney Russ, and offered "to clean toilets, do anything, if they let me come".

She was invited to join in a pre-voyage promotional capacity and to write an on-board narrative of the event in blog form.

"It's a dream come true. I'm just so excited," she said of the chance to follow in her ancestor's wake.

Another dream would be to meet Leonardo DiCaprio, a campaigner for protection of Antarctica and the Ross Sea, Sir Richard Branson, who founded the Ocean Elders and Ocean Unite campaign, and ocean eco-warrior Sylvia Earle, fondly referred to as "Her Deepness".

Meanwhile, she's packing up the polar clothing, ready to leave a hot Northland summer for the Antarctic 175 years after her great-great-great-grandfather was there.