Antarctica: Follow in the tracks of Captain Scott

By Chris Leadbeater

One hundred years on from Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated journey to the South Pole, there are a number of polar exploration options open to modern-day adventurers. Photo / Mark Mitchell
One hundred years on from Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated journey to the South Pole, there are a number of polar exploration options open to modern-day adventurers. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Today marks the 100th anniversary of an event that has become a symbol of human endeavour, bravery in the face of impossible circumstances and cold, bleak tragedy: the arrival of the team of British adventurers, led by Captain Robert Scott, at the South Pole.

Yet, a century on, his epic journey and awful demise has hardly been forgotten. If you have a trip to London planned this year, you can learn more via Scott's Last Expedition, an exhibition at the Natural History Museum (admission £9). Running from this Friday until September 2, the exhibition will shed light on the ill-fated Terra Nova project via artefacts including skis, clothing and food - and a recreation of the base-camp hut that still stands on Ross Island.

For those who want to delve deeper, there's always the scene of the story.

While they remain thrillingly remote, the polar regions are more accessible these days and can be sampled via one of the following end-of-the-world holidays.

The Antarctic by land

While trekking to the South Pole is still an advanced pursuit, you can set foot on the frozen continent without undergoing months of training. Exodus runs a 12-day Antarctic Explorer cruise that sets sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, (the world's most southerly city), and features five days on the Antarctic Peninsula. Possible sightings include penguins, minke and humpback whales, and leopard seals. Departures throughout January and February start at £3720 (NZ$7175) per person full board, excluding flights.

The Antarctic by sea

Explore operates a 14-day Quest for the Antarctic Circle cruise from Ushuaia that calls at the frosted fragments of the South Shetland Islands. Here, the silent bulk of Deception Island conceals its true identity as the flooded caldera of an active volcano. The trip continues to the Antarctic Peninsula, with potential landings amid research stations and old whaling posts, before inching on in search of the Antarctic Circle. The next sailing is on March 8; prices start at Exodus £3539 per person, full board, excluding flights.

The Antarctic for families

You can take your children to the far south. Journey Latin America has a 10-day "Antarctic Cruise for Families" from Ushuaia to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, with an emphasis on wildlife-spotting and activities for kids. The ship's open-bridge policy means children can stand by the captain as he pilots between icebergs. Eight cruises are scheduled between January 19 and March 25. A full-board package for two adults and a child under 16 costs from £8844, excluding flights.

The top of the globe

Scott's wanderlust never took him to the opposite polar region, but it was a place of real fascination for his rival Amundsen, who made the first verified crossing of the North Pole (by airship) on 12 May 1926. Discover the World has two 14-day Voyage to the North Pole trips slated for this northern hemisphere summer (June 25 and July 6) which use a Russian ice-breaker to chart a course. Prices start at £15,310 per person, full board, excluding flights to the rendezvous, the Finnish capital of Helsinki.

The Arctic for the intrepid

Responsible Travel has cruises departing July 25 and August 8 that will venture into Arctic Russia. These 15-day tours take advantage of the summer's receding ice to tick off Cape Dezhnev (the most north-easterly corner of Eurasia) and Wrangel Island (known as a "polar bear maternity ward"). Prices start at US$8900 (NZ$11,194) per person, full board, excluding flights. Alaska Airlines flies to the holiday start-point, Nome, from Seattle in the United States.

Greenland for the real deal

For those who wish to experience the lot of a Polar explorer in all its energy-sapping glory, April will offer up the chance. Iceland-based specialists Icelandic Mountain Guides is staging The Greenland Crossing, a four- to five-week expedition that will attempt to trace an icy 335-mile trail across the world's biggest island, from Kulusuk on the east coast to Sondre Stromfjord on the west. On the way, participants will take in DYE-2, a defunct US Cold War radar station. The trip costs 1,150,000 Icelandic Kroner (NZ$11,511) per person, including flights to Kulusuk from Iceland.

- INDEPENDENT

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