Lindblad Expeditions Offers Free Airfare On Antarctic And Falklands Itinerary

Lindblad Expeditions ship MV National Geographic ExplorerLindblad Expeditions is kicking off 2013 with an excellent deal for travelers planning a visit to Antarctica and the surrounding region later this year. The adventure travel company, which specializes in adventure cruises to some of the most spectacular destinations on the planet, is offering free airfare for anyone who signs up for their November cruise to the frozen continent. That 24-day trip includes stops not only in the Antarctic, but also the Falkland Islands and South Georgia as well.

Travelers will depart the U.S. for Ushuaia, Argentina, on November 7 before setting sail aboard the National Geographic Explorer, a ship specifically outfitted for safe travel in the Southern Ocean. Over the course of the following three weeks, they’ll spend four days visiting the Antarctic continent itself as well as two days in the Falklands and five days on South Georgia. The remainder of the itinerary is spent at sea traveling between those destinations.

While aboard the ship, passengers will be able to attend lectures given by a variety of specialists, including legendary oceanographer and Honorary President of the Explorers Club Don Walsh. A National Geographic photographer will also be aboard, capturing stunning images from the journey and travelers will even be able to take advantage of a special documentary film workshop. Given by Nat Geo photographer and filmmaker Cotton Coulson and David Wright, that workshop will provide instruction on how to make their own personal documentary of the voyage.

Anyone who registers for the November 7 departure between now and March 31 will receive complimentary airfare for the trip. Additionally, travelers who sign up for either the November 27 or December 7 departure of Lindblad’s shorter 14-day White Continent itinerary will also get free airfare for either of those voyages as well.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica, 2013 could be the year that you make that dream come true.

[Photo Credit: Lindblad Expeditions]

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.

Video of the Day: Antarctic baby seals


Antarctica has been the subject of several Photo and Video of the Day posts in the last few months, but it’s hard to resist adorable penguins and jaw-dropping icebergs. So sharing a video of baby fur seals frolicking in the sub-Antarctic was a no-brainer. National Geographic nomad and past Gadling contributor Andrew Evans is currently crossing oceans on a Cape (Horn) to Cape (Good Hope) trip and caught up with these cuties on the island of South Georgia, home to 95% of the world’s population of fur seals. Andrew explains in the video how the female seals will spend much of their lives breeding and the little ones will have to quickly demonstrate how “fierce” they are to survive. You can even catch a glimpse of a rare “blondie” fur seal as your jealousy of Andrew’s fabulous travels mounts.

Tell us about your fiercest travel videos and leave us a link in the comments, or add your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool.

Bowermaster’s Antarctica — Grytviken, South Georgia


In the whaling museum here the most fascinating thing to me – after the touch-me-feel-me penguin skin – are the trophies and sports uniforms worn by the different South Georgia whaling station teams which competed against each other in rugby, track and field, ski jumping and more during the heyday of whale killing here.

Grytviken was South Georgia’s first whaling station/factory, set up by Norwegian explorer C.A. Larsen in 1904. Initially only blubber was taken and the carcass discarded resulting in beaches of bones along the coastline which I can still see lying in the shallows off what remains of its main dock. By 1912, seven whaling stations had been established and South Georgia became known as the southern capital of whaling.

That heyday was during the early 1900s, when a variety of whales (blue, fin, sei, humpback and southern right whales) were abundant in South Georgia’s waters during the austral summers, feeding on the massive quantities of krill found on the edge of the island’s continental shelf.

By the late 1920s such shore-based whaling factories on the island declined due the scarcity of whales around the island, followed by a boom in whaling on the high seas. The stations on South Georgia then became home base for repair, maintenance and storage. It was the uncontrolled whaling on the high seas followed – up to two hundred miles off shore – and led to significant reductions in populations of exploited whale species.
Whales were harpooned with an explosive grenade, inflated with air and marked with a flag, radar reflectors, and latterly radios. A catcher would then tow them to a factory ship or shore station. The whale was hauled to the flensing plan. The blubber was removed and boiled under pressure to extract the oil. Meat and bone were separated and boiled. The results were dried and ground down for stock food and fertilizer. Baleen whale oil was the basis of edible, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and chemical products. It was also an important source of glycerol to manufacture explosives.

Between 1904 and 1965 some 175,250 whales were processed at South Georgia shore stations. In the whole of the Antarctica region a low estimate suggests one and a half million animals were taken between 1904 and 1978. Probably the largest whale ever recorded was processed here at Grytviken in 1912, more than one hundred feet long, weighing in at nearly two hundred tons. This intensive hunting reduced the Southern Ocean stock, once the largest in the world, to less than ten percent of their original numbers and some species to less than one percent.

It wasn’t until 1974 that the International Whaling Convention agreed to protect the few remaining species in the Southern Ocean, and whaling here was mostly stopped in 1978. Paul Watson and his Sea Shepard – now Animal Planet heroes apparently, though that has happened this season while I’ve been in Antarctica – are still attempting to dissuade the Japanese from their annual hunt. Today. On occasion, you can spy whales close to shore at South Georgia, as they make a slow recovery, in particular southern right whales and humpbacks.

THE BOSS IS BURIED HERE

On top of the sense of history left at this beach by its whaling history, Grytviken is famous in Southern Ocean lore too for being the burial site of Ernest Henry Shackleton.

In 1921 – six years after successfully rescuing his men off Elephant Island, thanks to the help of the Chilean naval vessel “Yelcho” – he sailed south for what was to be his third Antarctic expedition. Its vague intention was to survey the coastline and carry out somewhat ill-defined science. You get the sense he was just itching to get back down south.

This time out his sailing ship, “The Quest” barely made it to Grytviken and in the early hours of January 5, 1922, he suffered a fatal heart attack here. His body was on its way back to England when the ship carrying him home stopped off in Uruguay and learned that his widow wished her husband be buried on South Georgia. His grave is still the focus of the Whaler’s Cemetery at the end of the beach.

It is tradition to toast “the Boss” – no, not the bard of New Jersey! – with a shot of rum poured onto his grave, which I happily did. Unlike the rest of those buried in the small, white picket-lined cemetery, Shackelton is interned with his head pointing south, towards Antarctica.

Bowermaster’s Antarctica — In the Footsteps of Shackleton

Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

Ernest Shackleton had an intimate relationship with South Georgia. He stopped here for a month in 1914 before sailing the “Endurance” to its crushing fate in Antarctica; a year and a half later with five others he sailed the gerry-rigged lifeboat “James Caird” 800 miles across the Scotia Sea to King Haarkon Bay, arriving on May 9, 1916; and in 1922 he returned, died and is buried here.

On a warm and sun-filled morning we land at Fortuna Bay, to repeat the last chunk of Shackleton’s legendary and unprecedented climb across South Georgia. A steep and muddy tussock hill leads to fields of broken slate, which climb gradually to 3,000 feet. The higher we get, the more stunning the landscape grows: tall, spiky, far off peaks covered in snow, clear mountain ponds, tufts of soft moss scattered among the shattered scree, waterfalls tumbling off nearby walls.

It was the whalers of South Georgia who first warned Shackleton that his route to the northern edge of the Antarctic continent was likely to be barred by unusually heavy concentrations of ice that had arrived the year he sailed for the Weddell Sea in December. He went anyway; we don’t know what he was thinking when he left South Georgia then nor what exactly when he thought when returned via the “James Caird.” In retrospect would he think it had been a mistake to take the “Endurance” down that season?
Exhausted by the 16 days it took from Elephant Island in the tiny boat, they narrowly negotiated a landing and crawled ashore on the southwestern side of the island, at Cape Rosa. But ultimate safety lay on the north side of the island, at the whaling station called Stromness. Leaving three of his crew under the upturned “James Caird,” Shackleton along with Tom Crean and Frank Worsley set off with minimal equipment (stove, binoculars, compass, an ice ax and ninety feet of rope).

Shackleton wrote of the beginning of the climb: “The snow-surface was disappointing. Two days before we had been able to move rapidly on hard packed snow; now we sank over our ankles at each step. High peaks, impassable cliffs, steep snow-slopes and sharply descending glaciers were prominent features in all directions, with stretches of snow-plain overlaying the ice-sheet of the interior …. The moon, which proved a good friend during this journey, threw a long shadow at one point and told us that the surface was broken in our path. Warned in time, we avoided a huge hole capable of swallowing a small army.”

At one point they had detoured badly and had to drop down to Fortuna Bay, which is where we picked up their trail.

Standing at the crest of the hill, the point at which Shackleton would have seen the sea on the eastern side of the island and possibly evidence of the whaling station at Stromness, it is hard to imagine what must have gone through his mind, after a year and a half being lost. One big difference is their journey in May was through deep snow; we see barely a snow patch on this mid-summer day. What told them they were in the right place after thirty-six hours of climbing, across twenty-two miles of previously unexplored and inhospitable terrain, was the very civilized whistle of the whaling factory’s wake-up call.

“Men lived in houses lit by electric light on the east coast. News of the outside world waited us there, and, above all, the east coast meant for us the means of rescuing the twenty-two men we had left on Elephant Island.”

Clambering downhill, past the tall waterfall Shackleton allegedly rappelled down, we cross a wide, wet plain of saw grass and glacial melt. Rusted remnants of the whaling station still stand, though today it’s tumbling down and off-limits due to being filled with asbestos and flying sheet metal. Thousands of fur seals wait on the beach to greet us; they have taken over the place, aggressively chasing us down the beach as soon as we step onto the sand.