Retrace Shackleton's steps in the Antarctic

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 13, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: activity, adventure travel, Antarctica, Costa Rica, Crete Island, destination, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Iceland, island, Kodiak, Molly Feltner, Sabah, vacation package, Vanuatu.

Retrace Shackleton's steps in the Antarctic

Outfitter: Aurora Expeditions
Price: from $8,690 per person

Ninety years ago when Sir Ernest Shackleton and his expeditionary crew made their perilous journey from Antarctica to a whaling station on South Georgia Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by sea ice, it took them a year-and-a-half and nearly cost them their lives to reach safety. Today, on Aurora Expeditions' "Shackleton Odyssey" trip, you can retrace this path in relative safety in just 20 days.

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The Australia-based Aurora Expeditions, a polar travel company that pioneered this trip seven years ago, offers the Shackleton Odyssey once a year in February. On this voyage, you'll depart Ushuaia, Argentina, aboard the Polar Pioneer, an ice-strengthened research ship with comfortable onboard accommodations, and sail across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Before picking up Shackleton's path near Paulet Island, you'll spend a few days cruising among icebergs and taking excursions by Zodiac to view the region's abundant wildlife.

From the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula you'll travel to the black, ice-covered Elephant Island, where Shackleton's men survived for 105 days, and attempt to make a landing. Then, it's on to South Georgia Island, where the adventure really begins. "[South Georgia Island] has magnificent mountains draped in tortured glaciers which spear from the sea to a height of 9,600 feet," says Greg Mortimer, Aurora's cofounder and an accomplished mountaineer. "I personally think that the island is one of the most beautiful places in the world."

If you choose, you can participate in a difficult two- to three-day traverse across the island, retracing the journey Shackleton made from King Haakon Bay to the whaling station at Stromness where the expedition found its salvation. "The crossing requires a very high level of fitness," says Mortimer. "It is only about 50 kilometers long, but it is physically demanding and requires solid experience in crevassed alpine terrain." When you finally reach the whaling station, says Mortimer, you'll have a deep admiration for what Shackleton and his men accomplished.

Zodiac trips and wildlife-viewing excursions are offered for those not doing the trek. Before heading back to Ushuaia, everyone will rejoin the ship to visit the Falkland islands.

The details

The next scheduled departure of this trip that has availability is February 28, 2008. Rates start at $8,690 per person for accommodations in a triple occupancy suite. Fares include an onboard cabin, use of the ship's public facilities, all meals, shore excursions, onboard lectures and presentations, guide services, and taxes and port charges. Add $650 to the price for the South Georgia Island traverse. You are responsible your own transportation to and from the departure port in Ushuaia. Round-trip flights from Miami in February start at $1,338, including taxes, on LAN.

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