Polar Holidays: Follow in the tracks of Captain Scott
Chris Leadbeater looks at some ice-cool trips to mark the centenary of the explorer's epic journey
Chris Leadbeater is a full-time travel journalist who has written for The Independent since 2009. He specialises in the USA, South America and Europe, but has covered destinations as varied as Mozambique, New Zealand, Indonesia and Lebanon. Prior to becoming a travel journalist, he worked as a music writer and for men's magazines.
Sunday 15 January 2012
This Tuesday 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. And those who want to learn more can now do so via Scott's Last Expedition, an exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London (020-7942 5000; nhm.ac.uk, admission £9). Running from this Friday to 2 September, 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 (0845 805 5452; exodus.co.uk) 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 £3,720 per person full board, excluding flights. LAN (0800 977 6100; lan.com) flies to Ushuaia from Heathrow in conjunction with other airlines, including BA and Iberia.
The Antarctic by sea
Explore (0845 867 9459; explore.co.uk) 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 8 March; prices start at £3,539 per person, full board, excluding flights.
The Antarctic for families
You can take your children to the far south. Journey Latin America (020-3603 8763; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) 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 19 January and 25 March. A full-board package for two adults and a child under 16 costs from £8,844, 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 (01737 214 250; discover-the-world.co.uk) has two 14-day Voyage to the North Pole trips slated for this summer (25 June and 6 July) which use a Russian ice-breaker to chart a course. Prices start at £15,310 per person, full board, excluding flights to the rendezvous, Helsinki. The Finnish capital is served by airlines including Finnair (0870 241 4411; finnair.com) from Manchester and Heathrow, BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Heathrow and Norwegian (020-8099 7254; norwegian.com) from Gatwick.
The Arctic for the intrepid
Responsible Travel (01273 600 030; responsibletravel.com) has cruises departing 25 July and 8 August 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$8,900 (£5,933) per person, full board, excluding flights. Alaska Airlines (001 800 252 7522; alaskaair.com) flies to the holiday start-point, Nome, from Seattle. BA flies to Seattle from Heathrow.
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 (00 354 5879999; www.greenland.is) 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 (£6,010) per person, including flights to Kulusuk from Iceland; easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) begins flights to Reykjavik from Luton on 27 March.
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