Cold Climate Sailing

In the Wake of the Polar Explorers

Antarctica Voyages

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In the Wake of the Polar Explorers – Authentic Experience

If reading the exploits of Shackleton’s or Captain Scott have lured you to the highest, coldest and driest continent in the world, then sailing around Antarctica on a tall ship will give you a much more authentic and romantic experience than being cocooned on a modern expedition cruise ship.  The whole voyage is a team effort of professional and guest crew and much more like a polar expedition voyage that Scott or Shackleton might have run than being a passive passenger.  Everybody helps haul the ships boats on deck and your crew mates are relying on you to keep a good look out for icebergs on watch.

Spending more time outside on deck, helping sail the ship, you can begin to appreciate what they had to endure on similar sailing ships in an extreme environment, the dangers that they faced.  Sailing at 3-11 knots with the wind in your face and silence and vast icy landscapes all around you will also begin to understand why they were so magically drawn to the place.

Gijs skipper of Tecla
Gijs skipper of Tecla

Modern Day Polar Scientists & Historic Bases

You will meet modern day scientists if you visit any of the bases. The Ukrainian research station Vernadsky is a regular stop and the oldest surviving British Station at Port Lockroy looks forward to the ships visit. It is run by a historic trust to preserve the buildings as they were in 1940’s. Three volunteers maintain the site over the summer with no heating and primitive living conditions. You can post letters home from Antarctica here with special stamps. Having sailed the ship and become used to working out on deck in the elements sets you apart from the duvet jacket cocooned tourists that arrive by cruise ship.

Elephant seal at BAS Signy base on South Orkney
Elephant seal at BAS Signy base on South Orkney. Photo by Debbie Purser

South Georgia – Shackleton’s Journey

One of the highlights of a sail to South Georgia is to walk part of the route Shackleton took to find assistance in the whaling station at Stromness. 

Shackleton’s sea route from Elephant Island to South Georgia is treacherous even in modern times, with plenty of icebergs and rough seas but Shackleton, Tom Crean, Worsley, Vincent, McNeish and McCarthy did it in an open boat that was modified with a canvas cover and raised bulwarks. The James Caird landed on the exposed side of South Georgia and they had to climb over the mountains to the whaling station in Stromness. It took him 4 months to get a rescue ship from the mainland but all 28 men that sailed with him on Endurance survived. 

In Grytviken you can toast Shackleton’s grave.

Tall Ship Crew walking Shackleton's route to rescue across South Georgia
Tall Ship Crew walking Shackleton route to rescue across South Georgia

Stranded on Paulet Island – The Swedish Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904

Another great survival tale was the Swedish Expedition of 1901 under the command of Otto Nordenskjöld and Carl Larsen. After a successful winter of mapping new lands in the Weddell Sea the relief ship that was to collect them sank the ice and the ships crew were forced to overwinter on Paulet Island.  The Scientists waiting a trip home were forced to endure another winter.

You can still see the hut that the ships crew built on Paulet Island and they survived by eating penguins. Don’t worry there are plenty left. This is one of the main breeding sites for Adelie Penguins and blue eyed shags.

sailing in canada and greenland

Penguins by the Hundred Thousand

Some of the King Penguin colonies on South Georgia have over 250,000 birds at the height of the breeding season.


Chin strap penguins
Antarctica Voyages

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