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Antarctica

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The ‘White Continent’ of Antarctica is nature at its most extreme, most inhospitable yet most beguiling.  Taking an expedition ship through the inky abyss of the Antarctic is unlike any other experience. The excitement of discovering a land where few have been and few will have the opportunity to visit, largely untouched by humans and ruled by wildlife and the elements.  You will see colonies of penguins, majestic glaciers calving into the ocean, pods of whales, sea ice on an unbelievable scale and majestic fjords.

It often surprises people to learn that Antarctica is the world’s largest desert. The amount of precipitation is a key qualifying characteristic of a desert, and some parts of the continent haven’t seen rain or snow for over two million years!  For the record, the second largest desert is the Arctic, with the Sahara a poor third).  It has no reptiles and no indigenous peoples, but it does have the world’s southernmost active volcano, Mount Erebus, that sends out ice crystals during periods of activity.

Follow in the footsteps (icy wake?) of one of the greatest explorers of all time, Sir Ernest Shackleton.  His expedition to cross Antarctica, which incidentally left London just a few days after the outbreak of WW1, had to be abandoned when his ship, Endurance, was lost to the unforgiving ice.  That was when his adventures really started.  Shackleton showed leadership and courage on an epic scale as he took on Mother Nature – and won, along with all members of his expedition.  Pack ice that crushed all in its path, severe cold, debilitating hunger, terrifying katabatic winds, high seas, icy mountains and glaciers that no man had set foot on before – Shackleton emerged victorious after battling all these fearsome adversaries.

Shackleton is buried on South Georgia, a port of call for many voyages to Antarctica, where he died en route to his third Antarctic expedition.  He was only 47.  This lonely outpost is also the scene of the most southerly battle, in 1982 when British troops were sent to liberate the island from Argentinian invaders.

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