Shackleton Night (adventuretravelfilm.club)
Article Words : Wanderlust team | 20 May

The Wanderlust guide to the best of Shackleton’s Antarctica

An upcoming screening of Shackleton’s iconic film ‘South’ has inspired us to celebrate his great achievements – and reveal how you can follow in his footsteps

Looking for inspiration?

Whether you’re mounting your own polar adventure or heading to the great southern continent on an organised expedition cruise, they don’t come any more inspirational than Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Shackleton is a legend of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, leading three British expeditions to the continent. 

In Shackleton's lifetime, it was his great polar rivals, Scott and Amundsen, who got all the accolades. But recently there has been a reassessment of Shackleton’s achievements and he has become a role model for leadership in extreme conditions. On his 1914-1916 expedition, his ship Endurance got trapped in ice, and slowly crushed. He and the crew went by lifeboat to Elephant Island, and his 720-nautical-mile journey from there to South Georgia for help is the stuff of legends.

Solitude in Antarctica (Shutterstock.com)

Solitude in Antarctica (Shutterstock.com)

Then there is Frank Wild, Shackleton’s right hand man and an extraordinary polar adventurer in his own right. He stayed behind on Elephant Island while Shackleton went for help and many believe that keeping all 21 men alive until they were rescued was just as great a feat. Polar historian and author, Angie Butler spent two years researching his life and reveals all in a fascinating interview about a man who made more Antarctic expeditions than anyone else but died peacefully in his bed without any of the acclaim.

For more current inspiration, read Lyn Hughes’ account of her journey in Shackleton’s footsteps to South Georgia where she gets gets up close and personal with the king penguins and elephant seals of the south Atlantic. Or Geoffrey Roy’s poetic observations on his visit to the world’s coldest continent.

At one point I stopped paddling and quietly sat alone in the middle of the vast expanse of water, taking in the scenery,’ he writes. “The temperature was only just above freezing and I was surrounded by glaciers and thousand-metre-high mountains. The sea was dead calm and my only company was a lone, yet curious, crabeater seal popping up on one side of me for a look, then diving and resurfacing on the other.’

More information

Frank Wild: the Antarctic’s unsung hero – Angie Butler

South Georgia: Following in Shackleton’s footsteps – Lyn Hughes

The coldest continent on earth: Antarctica – Geoffrey Roy

Release your inner Shackleton

At a time when it’s possible for 30 people to stand on the top of Everest in one day, Antarctica still remains a remote, lonely and desolate continent. A place where it’s possible to see the splendours and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic, and what’s more witness them almost exactly as they were long, long before human beings ever arrived on the surface of this planet. Long may it remain so.”

So said Sir David Attenborough in Antarctica – Life In The Freezer, back in 1993. It is still true today and why you should plan your visit to this vast wilderness carefully and responsibly. 

 Zodiac in front of enormous iceberg (Shutterstock.com)

Zodiac in front of enormous iceberg (Shutterstock.com)

Leading wildlife expert, Mark Carwardine recommends one of three itineraries: a classic Antarctica peninsula trip from Ushaia that takes in the Drake Passage and South Shetland Islands, a longer Southern Ocean Islands and Antarctic Peninsula journey that takes in South Georgia and Falklands islands as well, or an expedition on an icebreaker out of Australia or New Zealand through the Ross Sea, a wilder area with abundant wildlife and a chance to visit Scott’s hut.

Of course, there are other options too. It is possible to simply fly to Antarctica and stay in a privately run camp. Or semi-circumnavigate the continent between Argentina and New Zealand by ship. Claire Wilson has corralled these more unusual options in her article, 7 Ways to Antarctica.

More information

Antarctica Travel Blueprint: 3 unmissable trips – Mark Carwardine

7 ways to Antarctica – Claire Wilson

Life on board the wild southern seas

Antarctica, the White Continent, is the most pristine place left in the planet, a land of sculptural icebergs, breaching whales and a lot of penguins Stunning icebergs of myriad sizes, shapes and colours. Pristine snowscapes. Leopard seals chasing penguins. Antarctica is everything you expect but much more too. This is a destination that certainly lives up to the hype. And Antarctica’s haunting beauty will stick with you forever.

Expedition cruise ship (Shutterstock.com)

Expedition cruise ship (Shutterstock.com)

Chances are you’ll join the growing number of visitors making the trip to Antarctica on an expedition cruise. Wanderlust magazine editor Phoebe Smith recently returned from one such cruise and outlines what to expect – from sea-sickness to more life-affirming experiences on both land and sea – in her article, An adventure cruise to Antarctica. She also reveals the 5 things she wishes she’d known before heading off – it’s not always that cold, apparently – and lists the things you must pack for your cruise.

For a distinctly over-the-top but equally enthusiastic review of life on board and Antacrtic expedition cruise, look no further than Paul Goldstein’s account of his time aboard the Akademik Ioffe.

The expedition superseded even the wildest expectations. Everyone will have their own particular memories, their own personal vignettes that barely need images for endorsement. For some it could be the first Humpback, for others the morning approaching Stonington, surely some will vote for the haunting morning at Pleneau or the afternoon at Danko, but whatever crowns the tree is a subjective table topper, this has been more a sum of its parts: every landing made, every Zodiac excursion maximised and then the honeyed weather that transforms a good expedition into a great one.

More information

An adventure cruise to Antarctica – Phoebe Smith

5 things I wish I’d known before my adventure cruise to Antarctica ­– Phoebe Smith

What to pack for an Antarctica cruise – Phoebe Smith

Nautical views: dispatches from Antarctica – Paul Goldstein

Capturing it all on film

Stunning icebergs of myriad sizes, shapes and colours. Pristine snowscapes. Leopard seals chasing penguins. Penguins catching their breath. There’s no shortage of things to photograph in Antarctica. Just be aware that camera batteries run down faster in the cold, so take spares, and allow for much more memory than you would normally expect to use.

Snow and ice look fantastic in photos, but taking great snow and ice pictures can be a challenge to even the most accomplished photographer. Steve Davey has put together a list of great tips for taking fantastic photos on the frozen continent. Oh, and one more tip from Phoebe Smith: make sure you snag the red jumpsuits. They look the best in photos.

Group of penguins on an ice shelf (Shutterstock.com)

Group of penguins on an ice shelf (Shutterstock.com)

If it’s inspiration you’re after, check out our Shackleton-themed photo gallery. Or read the story behind Alastair Lee’s stunning photo of the mammoth peak of Ulvetanna. Our reader’s photos from Antarctica and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are worth checking out too.

More information

Cold snaps: How to take great snow photographs – Steve Davey

Ulvetanna, Antarctica: Story behind the photo

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Antarctica and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands travel guides are the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Antarctica and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands essential information pages as well. We've rounded up the latest travel news about Antarctica and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands too.

Amongst the icebergs (Shutterstock.com)

Amongst the icebergs (Shutterstock.com)

If you have a particular question about visiting Antarctica, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about visiting Antarctica. The answer to yours might already be there. 

More information

Antarctica travel guide – Wanderlust Team

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands travel guide – Wanderlust Team

Essential information Antarctica

Essential information South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

Latest travel news from Antarctica and South Georgia

Forum posts about Antarctica

Community content about Antarctica

Winking seal on Livingston Island (Shuttertock.com)

Winking seal on Livingston Island (Shuttertock.com)

Ready to go?

Here's a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From wildlife watching cruises around South Georgia to expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula there’s something to suit every taste and budget. 

Our Trip Finder can help you plan your next polar adventure


On Wednesday 25 May, the Adventure Travel Film Club is celebrating 100 years since Shackleton’s return to civilisation with a screening in central London of South, the original film of the 1914-1916 Endurance Expedition. The film will be followed by a live Q&A with Tim Jarvis, who recreated Shackleton’s adventure in 2013. Wanderlust readers receive a special 25% discount on tickers by entering the code “Wanderlust25”. You’ll find tickets and more information at www.adventuretravelfilm.club.