Antarctica. The most inhospitable continent on the planet. The most lonely, desolate, godforsaken land, it is also one of the most difficult places on earth to get to.  Notwithstanding this isolation, it has inspired and attracted generations of adventurers willing to endure extraordinary deprivation in order to unlock the innermost secrets of this snow and ice covered land.  Even nowadays, the vast majority of  tourists to Antarctica, ourselves included, spend no more than a couple of days at a time visiting the continent’s northernmost extremities, mainly around the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Even that requires travel to the very south of South America and then taking on the vagaries of the Southern Ocean, the wildest, roughest sea in the world.   In the known history of mankind, no more than about 300,000 people have set foot on Antarctica.

And yet by all accounts, Antarctica with its snow capped peaks, ice filled waters and extraordinary array of wildlife found nowhere else on earth, is one of the most beautiful places imaginable.  The most common question we are asked is “Why? Why are you bothering to go there?”  The temptation is to answer with the age old  retort “Because it’s there”.  But perhaps a better answer is to draw on the writings of  some of the earliest explorers who, as they crossed the Antarctic Circle and approached this unknown land for the first time,  were inspired by the overwhelming beauty of the place to pen the most eloquent discriptions of what they were experiencing.

“The sunlight at midnight in the pack is perfectly wonderful. One looks out upon endless fields of broken ice, all violet and purple, in the low shadows, and all gold and orange and rose-red on the broken edges which catch the light”

– Edward Wilson, Diary of the Terra Nova Expedition.

“Glancing down from the crow’s nest the ship throws deep shadows over the ice and, while the sun is just below the southern horizon, the still pools of water show delicate blues and greens that no artist can ever do justice to.  It is a scene from fairyland.”

– Edward (Teddy) Evans, South With Scott.

“We have had a marvellous day.  The morning watch was cloudy but it gradually cleared until the sky was a brilliant blue, fading on the horizon into green and pink.  The floes were pink floating in a deep blue sea and all the shadows were mauve.”

– Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World.

“The scene was incomparable.  The northern sky was gloriously rosy and refelcted in the calm sea between the ice, which varied from burnished copper to salmon pink; bergs and packs to the north had a pale greenish hue with deep purple shadows, and the sky shaded to saffron and pale green.  We gazed long at these beautiful effects.”

– Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Scott’s Last Expedition (Scott Journals).

“These days are with one for all time – they are never to be forgotten – and they are to be found nowhere else in the world but at the poles.  One only wishes one could bring a glimpse of it away with one with all its unimaginable beauty.”

– Edward (Teddy) Evans, South With Scott.




Leave a Reply