Intrepid Travel Offers Epic Journey In Footsteps Of Ernest Shackleton

The 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.

100 year-old whiskey frozen in Antarctic being thawed out

Earlier this year we reported how the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust retrieved some whiskey left behind by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team after on unsuccessful attempt to make it to the South Pole in 1907-1909. Now curators at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, are thawing out one of the crates.

The Nimrod Expedition ran low on supplies only 97 miles from the South Pole and had to beat a hasty retreat. They ditched much of their equipment, including several cases of whiskey that they left under a hut they had built. The subzero temperatures and ice preserved the whiskey.

At least that’s what the museum folks hope. They’re slowly raising the temperature of the crate day by day. The crate bears the label Mackinlay’s, a defunct brand owned by Whyte & Mackay, who are hoping to analyze the whiskey, reconstruct the recipe, and reissue it.

The museum has started a blog called The Great Whiskey Crate Thaw so you can follow their progress.

While the Nimrod Expedition didn’t make it to the South Pole, it did have some successes–mapping large stretches of previously unknown land, making it to the south magnetic pole, and being the first to test a car in the Antarctic. They were even the first to publish a book in the Antarctic, using a printing press they brought along and using candles to keep the ink from freezing! Check out the Trust’s excellent account of the Nimrod Expedition.

Photo courtesy New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.

100 year-old whiskey dug up from Antarctic ice

Back in November we reported a plan by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust to retrieve crates of whiskey left by Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team after on unsuccessful attempt to make it to the South Pole in 1907-1909. The Nimrod Expedition made it to within 100 miles of the Pole before harsh weather forced the explorers to retreat. They ditched much of their gear along the way, including the whiskey.

In a remarkable feat of icy archaeology, these crates, which have been sitting under a cabin built by Shackleton’s team, have been pried free of the surrounding ice. Whiskey company Whyte and Mackay is elated. The company gave the Sir Shackleton the booze but hasn’t made this particular blend in decades. They’re hoping to sample the blend and replicate it.

The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust originally thought there were only two crates, so the other three came as a bonus. Three are labeled as whiskey and two as brandy. A few bottles might have broken, however, because the archaeologists smelled alcohol as they dug them up. They still need to scrape off the ice encasing the crates and gently remove ice that has formed inside before they know how many of the bottles are intact.

More ice cold news we’ve covered in the past – Brrrrr!

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.

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.