Shackleton Crossing

Shackleton Crossing, South Georgia Island

Shackleton Crossing isn’t the toughest of wintry slogs. If you have the proper equipment and fitness level, and your guides are competent, it’s just a question of putting in the kilometres through the snow drifts. What makes this trek so memorable are the terrifying historical incidents that occurred here almost exactly 100 years ago.

In 1915, Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance were plying Weddell Sea when their ship became trapped in ice. The boat eventually sank, stranding the men on the frozen sea for 18 long months (and you thought waiting at the bus stop in a winter storm was an excruciating chore!).

Shackleton and five crew members then left to find assistance. They crossed 1300km of perilous frigid waters in a 7m open boat, a journey that took 16 days. They were extremely fortunate to reach South Georgia Island, a 30km long string of glacier peaks. However, they were on the wrong side of the island, and thus had to embark on one more trek, without maps, to find help. They eventually located a Norwegian whaling station on the other side, in Stromness.

This 45km trek across South Georgia has become something of a magnet for adventure seekers and history buffs – one of the last places on Earth to offer such an isolated, end-of-the-world experience. Along the way, you may be able to view whales, seals, albatrosses, as well as icebergs.

In order to cross South Georgia Island in Shackelton’s shoes, you’ll need to find a tour company with excellent credentials. You can fly into Ushuaia, via Buenos Aires. You then cross to South Georgia in a boat, likely an ex-Soviet research boat, usually manned by Russians and Europeans.

A typical trip to South Georgia will gobble up three weeks of your time. It takes around four or six days to make the ocean crossing, which can be a shock with big storm waves. After you’ve been dropped off, the boat will stick around and maintain contact with your party, in the event that an emergency arises.

You will begin your overland trek at Peggoty Camp. From there you proceed to Shackleton Gap. The route to Stromness is fairly straightforward from there, though the weather and snow can be a hindrance.

Date posted: 27th June, 2016

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