I first became interested in Antarctica as a result of reading Alfred Lansing’s 1960’s account of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic Endurance expedition about which you can read more on other pages of this Blog. From that time on I was hooked. I read everything I could lay my hands on on the subject of Antarctica and all the great explorers of the heroic age, including Scott, Crean, Mawson, Amundsen and others.
Visiting Antarctica, however, was something I only began to consider seriously about 5 years or so ago. The practicalities of visiting such a remote location are considerable and and a good deal of advance planning is required. Along with other members of the Fearless Four, I missed out as a result of failed efforts to book a voyage for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. Finally, in May 2011, we managed to put a deposit on an expedition due to depart in Febuary 2013, almost 2 years distant. And we only just made it. The voyage was fully booked by the end of May 2011!
For something that was for so long on the horizon, it is strange now to be looking back over my shoulder as the memory recedes into the past. It is the inevitable march of time, I suppose. However, while the trip just concluded may be a memory, Antarctica is an experience that will live with each of us for the rest of our lives. I am most often asked what the highlight was and I find that a difficult question to answer. Certainly, the extraordinary landscape, the indescribable natural beauty of the place and the amazing wildlife were highlights. But so do were the people we met, the journey itself there and back and the very act of standing on a portion of the remotest and most inhospitable landmass on the planet; these were all highlights. Every day of the 19 was a highlight. It was a joy to wake every morning, look excitedly through the cabin porthole and wonder what the day had in store for us.
We may have achieved our ambition but, for some of us at least, that ambition remains as strong as ever. The desire to return is possibly stronger than was the desire to go in the first place. I feel like a thristy man who has taken no more than a sip from a glass of ice-cold water. I want more.
The experience lives on.