Tag Archives: Antarctic

A brief look at Antarctic History

Antarctica was once the most treacherous continent on the world for humans. Just getting there was a feat in itself, let alone the 320km/h winds and freezing temperatures once you reached land!

Today, it is a lot easier to visit but let’s take a look back at the history of hardship in exploring the great southern continent.

As far back as the Ancient Greeks, there was speculation of a great southern land mass to balance out the northern continents. The Greeks called the north arktos, the word for bear after a constellation in the north. And so they presumed that there must be an anti-arktos in existence too.

In 2 CE, Terra Australis (as it was referred to) was named Antarctica by Marinus of Tyre – like the Greek name, meaning the opposite of the Arctic. However, the continent was not sighted until 1820 by a Russian expedition led by Fabian von Bellingshausen.

On his way to Australia in 1774 it is believed that English explorer Captain James Cook did not quite come within sighting distance, although he crossed into the polar waters. Recordings in his journal show his reluctance to go closer, concluding “the world will derive no benefit from it”.

“The risk one runs in exploring the coast in these unknown and Icy Seas, is so very great, that I can be bold to say, that no man will ever venture farther than I have done and that the lands which may lie to the South will never be explored.”

It’s just as well for us adventurous souls that Cook was wrong – only a year after the first sighting, it is believed that sealer Captain John Davis was the first person to set foot on the continent in 1821. The continent was little explored for the next fifty years, with ships struggling to handle the fast freezing ice.

The Heroic Age

The era between 1898 to 1916 marked the Heroic Age of Exploration of the Antarctic, with expeditions setting forth from Europe, the USA and Japan. Perhaps the most famous of these was the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen (Norwegian) and Captain Robert F Scott (English). Scott discovered the Polar Plateau on which the Pole was situated in the early 1900s however was beaten to the Pole in 1912 by Roald Amundsen by a month.

Originally Amundsen planned to be the first to reach the North Pole but he was beaten before he had even gotten passed his planning stage. Hearing of Frost’s plans to reach the South Pole, Amundsen set forth a month earlier than scheduled to the South and his hastiness paid off. Upon discovering that Amundsen had pipped them at the post, Frost and his crew turned back and during their return journey tragically perished in the extreme cold.

Another famed Antarctic story of exploration is that of Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the “Endurance” in 1915. The pack ice was too thick for the “Endurance” to reach the continent and they became trapped. Gradually over 10 months, the pressure of the ice built up so incredibly as to tear through the ship. Astonishingly, Shackleton and his crew proceeded to camp on the ice for a further 5 months before they managed to reach civilisation on a lifeboat on a 17 day journey.

Modern day exploration

Today exploring Antarctica is no where near as dangerous and can be done in comfort with state of the art safety features aboard all Expedition ships. For example, the MS Midnatsol  has a specifically designed hull to break through ice and onboard scientific testing facilities for samples collected during field trips.

On the Spirit of Shackleton tour aboard the MS Expedition, over 21 days explore the Falkland Islands, the remote South Georgia where Shackleton’s grave lies and the Antarctic Peninsula, retracing Shackleton’s route in reverse. And we have many other ready-made adventures for you to experience the thrill of a polar expedition. And, as relatively few people visit the continent today, you can still feel like a true explorer as you discover this incredible land of ice.

Contact Bentours today to follow in the footsteps of the pioneering explorers  and discover Antarctica for yourself!

Antarctic vs. Arctic: where should you go?

Both the Antarctic and the Arctic offer incredible adventures & once in a lifetime experiences that you won’t find any where else in the world. Despite often being categorised alongside each other, the Arctic and Antarctica are very different places to visit – so which is right for you?

The polar regions of the world have drawn the most daring among us for years and today they are more accessible than ever. Bentours runs Expedition Cruises to both of these destinations offering many incredible and varied excursions so guests can truly discover these sparsely populated lands. But what are the key differences?

Culture and History

Antarctica was entirely uninhabited by humans until the establishment of research stations in recent years.

SamiThe Arctic on the other hand has been inhabited for many years and interesting history has played its way across Arctic lands. The Sami indigenous people of the Arctic region, still occupy the area and in spite of hardships faced at the hands of various governments, continue to live in a semi-traditional way. Sami culture is rich with nuances and individuality thanks to the Arctic environment, such as the long practice of reindeer husbandry and the construction of lavvos, Sami huts. Hurtigruten offer shore excursions to learn about this unique culture.

The Arctic region is also famous as the land of the first polar exploration. The Vikings of Scandinavia colonised Iceland and Greenland in the Middle Ages while Russian monks set out an outpost monastery on the Kola Peninsula in the same period. Then of course the Golden Age of exploration in the 19th century saw many pioneering expeditions through the area. You can take a  guided walk in Tromsø to the Polar Museum to discover more about this history of exploration.

In contrast, Antarctica was not explored in ernest until the early 20th century, with many of the expeditions leading to death and injuries. Norway’s own Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole, ending a dramatic race with the British Robert Falcon Scott. His ship, the Fram, was inspiration for Hurtigruten’s modern expedition ship, MS Fram.

Landscape and Wildlife

Another key difference between the two polar regions of the world is the landscape. The Arctic is made up of many islands, including land of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland.

Technically the Arctic is a large frozen sea surrounded by continents, while the Antarctic is a massive ice covered continent surrounded by oceans. Not as cold as Antarctica, there is a great variety in the environment of the Arctic, with fjords, mountains, glaciers and green areas in the tundra replete with trees and plant life. Due to the more temperate climate, there are many land animals that can be seen including reindeers, arctic foxes, elks and, the Kings of the Arctic, polar bears.

Penguins AntarcticIn comparison, the Antarctic land mass appears quite barren but there is something undeniably beautiful in this barrenness. The continent is the most remote in the world and is covered in ice, punctuated by towering ice mountains and rock. The wildlife here is all water based, with penguins, whales, seals and many other marine animals to see. Given the isolation of Antarctica, the excursions available tend to be more limited but no less exhilarating – just imagine yourself kayaking surrounded by incredibly shaped ice formations!

Where ever you decide is right for you, you are guaranteed to create life-long memories on an incredible trip in one of the polar regions of the world. And who knows… you might like the Arctic so much that you feel you have to visit the Antarctic to compare (or vice versa)!


Hurtigruten’s new explorer vessels

Hurtigruten to take adventure travel to new frontiers with the announcement of new explorer vessels

Norwegian exploration travel company Hurtigruten has announced an order of up to four new explorer ships for 2018/19 sailings in a move to meet growing demand for adventure travel from holidaymakers across the globe.

The signing, which marks the largest investment Hurtigruten has made in its more than 120-years of exploring the Arctic and Antarctic waters, will open-up the polar waters and exciting new adventure opportunities.

Set to offer a host of activities for adventure seekers, from climbing and kayaking to rib-tours, whale and sea eagle safaris, the new vessels will embark on exploring some of the world’s most exceptionally beautiful and unspoilt natural surroundings. Adventure tourism is one of the fastest growing global tourist trends valued at $263 billion*, and has witnessed an increase of 195% over just two years.

The order includes the construction of two new state-of-the-art vessels, which will be designed and customised specifically for adventure-rich expedition voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as along the Norwegian coastline. Hurtigruten prioritises sustainability, and the new ships will be equipped with advanced environmentally-friendly technology to reduce emissions, underlining its vision of playing a lead role when it comes to green shipping.

Hurtigruten’s new ships will also offer lectures on topics relevant to the destinations they sail to from experts in areas such as history, zoology, botany, and environmental science. In addition, experienced expedition teams will accompany passengers on educational excursions to isolated places only accessible by ships or zodiac boats.

HRG New Ships

Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten’s CEO says, “This is a milestone for us and an expression of our confidence in the growth of the global market for adventure tourism. We are to build the most formidable expedition ships the world has seen.”

“People no longer want to spend their holiday time being passive spectators. The new adventure traveller is looking for authentic experiences, which is why sedentary, standardized travel packages are becoming less popular and active adventure travel is booming” Skjeldam adds. “Our experience is that explorers travelling with Hurtigruten crave adventurous activities and mindfulness in combination, therefore Hurtigruten offers active voyages. We offer real experiences in local environments, just steps away from the wildlife.”

Magnus Zetterberg UK Managing Director of Hurtigruten explains further, “We offer our guests a truly unique experience on-board all of our ships. Every season we’ve seen an increase in demand from guests to travel with Hurtigruten for the unrivalled range of adventure activities we offer. It has been more than ten years since Hurtigruten last placed an order for the construction of a new ship so the prospect of being able to expand this with the arrival of new vessels is very exciting.”

The agreement is testament to Norway’s strong international position as a shipbuilding nation. It will also ensure Hurtigruten’s position as world leading within adventure tourism in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Daniel Skjeldam adds, “We are proud to be a more than 120-year old pioneer company. Along parts of the Norwegian coast, Hurtigruten drew the charts – literally. We will bring this knowledge and know-how with us when we put the new ships into operation.”

The vessels will be designed and developed by Rolls-Royce, with the assistance of renowned Norwegian ship designer Espen Øino, and built by Kleven, a longstanding partner.

From 2017, Hurtigruten will offer explorer travel to additional new destinations such as the Amazon Rainforest and Arctic Canada. And with the new explorer ships, guests will be able to land close to new completely new adventurous destinations.