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Guided Tours – Expedition Antarctica

As a kid I was always going on missions of exploration: propping up blankets and sailing through the waters of the Antarctic in a cardboard box; trekking to the South Pole in my dad’s deer-stalker with a ration of cheese sandwiches and my guinea pig acting as a fearsome husky. There was something deliciously appealing about a desolate world of ice and water which felt as far removed from life in North Yorkshire as I could imagine (apart, perhaps, from the temperature). So, in my adult years when I discovered it’s actually possible to go on this kind of adventure without risking life and limb I was determined to take it. Guided tours embark to Antarctica throughout the austral summer season. After a year of saving funds I booked myself on a post-Christmas sea bound voyage.

Without being sent into space or taking a submarine down the Mariana Trench, a visit to Antarctica is about the furthest away you can get from civilization. The tour took us first to Argentina, where the colour and vibrancy of Buenos Aires provided the perfect setting to contrast with the wilderness of the White Continent to come.

We then flew down to the most southern city in the world to wave goodbye to all things familiar and board our trusty vessel. We were all buzzing with excitement as the ship began its crossing of the Drake Passage, named after the intrepid Sir Francis who was pushed there by a storm in the 1500’s. With no land mass around and only the wild ocean in all directions this is a chance to see the world exactly as it would have been from Drake’s perspective all that time ago. Shrouded in seafaring fable and myth, the passage leads down to the epic scenery which fired up my childhood imagination. The sun makes diamonds of the ice sheets, water and white dazzling across the horizon. The onboard experts gave us deeper insight into the environment as we took in our first view of Antarctica.

These kinds of tours have only been possible in the last thirty years or so, meaning you share the continent solely with groups of intrepid explorers, scientists, and a host of amazing wildlife. The terrain feels like a different planet, gleaming ice and wilderness mirroring the pale sky. An abandoned whaling station loomed ghostly beyond the ice: our first landing site. Such places feel lost to time, and have a strange quality as though removed from the hours and years which define the rest of the world.

The next few days were the most memorable of my life. The ship took us to the dream-like shores of Marguerite Bay, and we saw penguin chicks hatching on Half Moon Island. Ice and rocks make up the landscape, fur seals lazing in secluded coves beyond sublime stretches of peninsula. We were even lucky enough to spot a family of whales slicing through the dazzling waters. All in all, the trip was more magical than I could ever have imagined.

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