Intrepid Travel Offers Epic Journey In Footsteps Of Ernest Shackleton

Intrepid Travel's Shackleton Epic is adventure travel at its finestThe term “once in a lifetime adventure” is tossed around a bit too lightly in the travel industry these days and seldom is it used accurately. But when Intrepid Travel uses the term to describe their latest offering, it just might be an understatement. Their recently announced Shackleton Epic truly is a journey like no other, following in the footsteps of one of the greatest explorers of the 20th century to some of most remote places on the planet.

Back in 1914, as the world stood poised on the edge of war, Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 set out aboard the HMS Endurance for Antarctica. They planned to attempt the first traverse of the continent on foot but before they could even take their first step, the ship became trapped in the pack ice off the Antarctic coast. It remained there for eight long, cold months before the ship’s hull cracked under the pressure, sending the Endurance to the bottom of the ocean.

After another two months adrift on ice flows, Shackleton and his crew managed to use the remaining lifeboats to reach the desolate and inhospitable Elephant Island. It was their first steps on solid ground in 497 days, but they were far from safe. Desperate and running out of supplies, the explorer decided to attempt an open water crossing of more than 800 miles to reach South Georgia Island. It took him, and a few hand picked men, 15 days to complete the harrowing crossing, but upon arriving on South Georgia, Shackleton and his men had to spend the following 36 hours crossing 32 miles of mountainous territory just to reach help. After nearly 16 months, the crew of the Endurance was rescued in May of 1916 without the loss of a single life. Shackleton and the tale of his crew is considered by many to be the greatest story of survival in human history.Intrepid Travel’s Shackleton Epic will trace the route of the crew of the Endurance without all of the suffering. The 56-day expedition gets underway on January 3, 2013, from Punta Arenas, Chile. Aboard the TS Pelican, the crew will sail across the Southern Ocean making stops at Deception Island, King George Island and of course both Elephant and South Georgia Islands as well. Those taking part on the journey will recreate Shackleton’s desperate ocean crossing, aboard a replica boat no less, and they’ll have the opportunity to trek the explorer’s route across South Georgia as well. The entire journey will then wrap up with a return sail to South America that finishes in Rio de Janeiro sometime in late February.

This truly is adventure travel that squarely puts the emphasis on the adventure. It will be an experience unlike any other and certainly not for the faint of heart. It is also not for the empty of wallet. There are just ten berths available aboard the Pelican and they cost $30,000 each. That makes this an exclusive adventure to say the least. But for the deep-pocketed adventurer, this will be one of the greatest travel experiences he or she could ever hope to take part in – truly the very definition of a once in a lifetime adventure.

Inside The Urban Underground: Exploration Gets Personal

New Yorker Steve Duncan was so desperate to pass his college math class, he crawled through a tunnel to finish it. A computer assignment was due the next day and the software to finish was inside a building closed for the night. In a moment of desperation, Steve came up with a crazy plan: he could sneak inside. Having heard from a classmate about a collection of well-known tunnels connecting the university’s buildings, he resolved to convince the friend to guide him. After escorting Steve to the tunnel entrance, the friend offered vague directions, wished him luck and promptly left. As Steve recalls:

“He took off in the other direction and … here I was absolutely alone – it was terrifying and eye-opening, because every building on campus was connected by these tunnels. I passed the math class, but what always stuck with me was that first moment of being alone in the dark and being absolutely terrified but realizing that if I could face that, I had access to every part of the campus.”

Duncan had educational goals in mind when he entered the underground tunnels that night, but his experience kick-started an interest in an activity he continues to practice to this day: urban exploration.

Urban explorers seek to investigate the centuries of infrastructure created (and sometimes abandoned) by modern civilization: disused factories, historic bridges and unknown tunnels entered using legal, and sometimes illegal, means. The reason they do it is not as easily defined. Urban explorers come from a range of backgrounds, ranging from urban planners to historians to preservationists to architecture lovers, photographers and just plain old thrill-seekers all of whom are often lumped together under the banner of this general term. Just in New York alone, there’s the founders of the website Atlas Obscura, Nick Carr from Scouting New York and Kevin Walsh from Forgotten New York, along with countless others living around the world. These individuals, taken together, are less a community than a loose network of individuals united by a common love: re-discovering and investigating the forgotten and sometimes misunderstood detritus of modern day urban civilization

Yet the popularity of urban exploration confronts an interesting dilemma facing many 21st Century travelers: now that so much of what we seek to “discover” has been Google mapped, investigated and written about ad nauseum, how is our relationship with the concept of exploration evolving? And what does it tell us about the future of travel?

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Steve Duncan – Urban Historian, Explorer and Geographer
It’s been over a decade since that math class first brought Steve Duncan underground, but he’s continued to evolve his approach to urban exploration from his home base of New York City. Styling himself as an “urban geographer” and historian, Duncan continues to direct his energies towards understanding the unseen layers of infrastructure that constitute our urban environment – namely the sewers, bridges and subway tunnels of the Big Apple.

In more recent years, Duncan has gained increasing attention for his adventures, including a week-long expedition through the sewers under NYC with Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge and a short documentary made by filmmaker Andrew Wonder that follows him as he visits New York’s off-limits subway stations and climbs to the top of the Queensboro Bridge.

But Duncan’s urban adventures aren’t undertaken merely for thrills – they’re a means to an intriguing end. In fact, Duncan cares less about being the first to rediscover forgotten places than taking a fresh look at the urban environments we inhabit. Despite the fact more than 50% of our world’s population now lives in cities, Duncan notes, much of today’s travel media continues to focus on outward-looking explorations of far-flung places perceived to be “exotic” – for instance, the wild jungles of Borneo or the ancient temples of Jordan. Steve believes his own adventures constitute an equally exotic form of adventure – a new inward-focused method of exploration.

As he notes, “I’m not interested in going to places nobody’s been before, [but rather] I’m interested in how we shape places.” This life-long history lover views exploration not as a means for public recognition but rather as a way to better understand his personal passion for the ever-changing nature of cities. Whether or not he can “claim the place” as his is irrelevant – he’s more interested in understanding. As he tells it, “All exploration to some extent is personal. It doesn’t matter if someone’s been there before. If it’s new to you, it’s still exploration.”

Taken together, Duncan’s adventures constitutes a kind of inward-driven “time travel” – a concept in which the worlds of history, the growth and decay of cities and adventure travel merge together to define a new opportunity all of us as travelers can take to re-examine the everyday world around us as a source of curiosity.

Dylan Thuras – Cartographer of Curiosities

Not all stories of urban exploration involve spending weeks in tunnels under New York City. For Dylan Thuras, co-founder of website Atlas Obscura, a mind-altering childhood trip to House on the Rock in Wisconsin defined his early travel memories. The strange house is part museum and part hall of curiosities, filled with bizarre collections of artwork, carousel rides and giant biological specimens. As Dylan recalls, “the fact that this could be tucked away in the woods in sleepy Wisconsin made me feel like there were these magical worlds all over the place … if I just knew how to look, I would start to find these fantastical places everywhere”

Ever since that moment, Thuras and his co-founder Joshua Foer of Atlas Obscura have dedicated their website to altering travelers’ perspectives of the places worth visiting on their itineraries. To date they’ve built a worldwide, user-driven database highlighting more sites on all seven continents. As an example of the sites Atlas uncovers, Thuras mentions two sites in Florence, Italy – whereas the Uffizi Gallery is probably on most travelers’ radar, Dylan and Joshua also want to help you discover La Specola, the museum of wax anatomical models that contains a specimen of astronomer Galileo’s middle finger.

As Dylan points out, if an attraction isn’t listed on the top ten list in a guidebook “… it is easy to slip into anonymity, obscurity and disappear. I want to give people a sense that there is so much more than those ten things and that they might find that they have a better time if they venture into new territory.”

The style of exploration advocated by Thuras seeks to shift the context of the worlds we already know. That’s a far cry from the conception many travelers have in their heads of an idealized explorer discovering uncharted lands. Says Thuras: “This isn’t [exploration] in the Victorian sense of climbing the tallest mountain, or finding the source of a river … but in the sense that every one of us can find new and astonishing things if we look for them … it doesn’t always have to be about far-flung adventures.”

Urban Exploration – What’s Next?

Duncan and Thuras may appear to occupy different ends of the urban exploration spectrum, but their motivation stems from a distinct similarity. After years of endless exploring, categorizing and searching, both have arrived at the realization that our mundane daily worlds can be unknown places of curiosity and wonder. The challenge of getting there then, isn’t in the physical act of getting there. Explorers like Duncan do face large risks of injury in their wanderings, but it’s not on the scale of Ernest Shackleton, Captain James Cook or Edmund Hilary.

The difference in these explorers’ adventures thus seems to be a mental reframing of what we conceive of as exploration. Their perception of what is worthy of our consideration and interest as travelers is gradually shifting from the physical towards the mental. In the relentless search for finding the most far-flung undiscovered locations on earth, all of us as travelers have neglected to look right in front of our faces at the places we inhabit everyday as worthy of discovery. Unlike Steve Duncan the journey might not require a crawl through a sewer to appreciate, but ultimately it can be just as rewarding.

Chile plans to build museum in Antarctica

Chile plans to open a museum in AntarcticaRegional authorities in Chile have announced plans to build a museum in Antarctica in an effort to bring more tourism and scientific attention to the area. The museum, which would be built in the country’s Arturo Prat Antarctic base, would be designed to highlight Chile’s part in exploring the frozen continent.

The new museum would house some important relics from Chile’s Antarctic history, including a backpack, pickaxe, and snowshoes that were used by the founders of the 280-acre base, which was established back in 1947. Navel vessels from the country also played an important role in rescuing Sir Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance, when their ship was crushed by the pack-ice, stranding them for months in the inhospitable Antarctic climate.

The plans for the project include expanding the current welcome area to the Chilean base, adding some 1076 square-feet to house the historical displays. While that probably doesn’t seem like a very large museum, the expectations of attendance are also quite modest. A spokesperson for the plan says they expect that the museum will attract “more than 500 people per year.”

While Antarctica continues to be a popular tourist destination amongst the adventure travel crowd, it is far from mainstream. When I mention the fact that I want to visit the place, I’m usually met with a strange expression, usually followed with the one-word question: “why?” Now I can simply tell them that I have to visit the museum there. I’m sure they’ll completely understand.

Visit the South Pole with Abercrombie & Kent

In January of 1909, the famous British explorer Ernest Shackleton made an attempt to become the first man to reach the South Pole. He, and his three companions struggled mightily against the elements, but eventually were turned back just 97 miles short of their goal. That expedition established a new record for the furthest distance traveled south, and upon his safe return home to England, Shackleton was knighted for his efforts.

Those explorers reached 88º23′S, which just so happens to be roughly the same spot that Abercrombie & Kent’s Conquering the Final Degree expedition begins. On that trip, adventure travelers won’t walk in the footsteps of Shackleton, they’ll actually finish what he started. They’ll travel on skis to the Geographic South Pole, pulling 120-pound sleds, carrying all of their gear and supplies behind them while they go, crossing through the last great wilderness on the planet –the frozen continent of Antarctica.

The 18 day journey begins and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile, one of the southernmost cities in the world. From there, the team will catch a flight across the Southern Ocean to Patriot Hills, a campsite located on the Antarctic continent itself. When a suitable weather window opens, they’ll move on, via ski plane, to the Thiel Mountains, a remote and rugged chain of peaks that few people ever see. The journey really gets underway once they reach 89ºS, and the group transitions to their skis for the final leg of the trip. The following 7-8 days will be spent completing the “final degree” before arriving at the very bottom of the world, the South Pole, itself.

For adventure travelers, this may be the ultimate adventure travel experience. A true once in a life time opportunity. While the adventure travel market continues to explode, with new destinations and activities being offered all the time, a last degree journey to the South Pole is as authentic of an adventure experience as you’ll ever get.

Whiskey buried beneath the Antarctic ice for 100 year to be recovered

Ever wanted to try a 100 year old Scotch chilled to perfection? Than listen up, this story is for you!

According to this article from the BBC, the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust has announced plans to retrieve a pair of crates buried in the Antarctic ice following a failed attempted to reach the South Pole more than a century ago. The crates contain bottles of McKinlay and Co whiskey, and were first discovered back in 2006 beneath the remains of a hut built to shelter explorers from the harsh polar climate. That expedition, led by Ernest Shackleton, came within 97 miles of reaching the Pole before turning back, leaving equipment and supplies, including the whiskey, behind to lighten their load and speed their progress.

The Trust hopes to recover the whiskey, and restore the bottles, before placing them in another one of Shackleton’s huts located on Cape Royd. The organization is slowly rebuilding that hut so that it exactly resembles the condition it was in when the famed explorer and his team set off on their epic journey.

Of course, the Trust isn’t the only one interested in recovering the crates from the ice. Whyte and Mackay, the distiller that now owns the McKinlay whiskey brand, hopes to get their hands on a bottle as well. This particular blend has been out of circulation for decades, and they would like the opportunity to recreate it and beginning selling it again too.

Shackleton was one of the foremost polar explores of his day, and at the time of the expedition, he was locked in a desperate race to become the first man to reach the South Pole. He would eventually lose that race to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, but his exploits in the Antarctic would continue for years to come. In 1914 his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the pack ice, and Shackleton and his crew spent 10 months at the mercy of the shifting ice. Eventually, the ship was crushed, and all hands were forced to abandon ship. It would be another five months before they were rescued, but not a single life was lost on the expedition, making it one of the greatest survival stories of all times, and cementing Shackleton’s place in exploration history.