Kathryn Beadle, is the former Managing Director of Hurtigruten, the specialist cruise line that has been sailing the Norwegian coast for over 100 years, accessing small and little known ports along the stunning fjords.
Hurtigruten also voyages to Antarctica, which Kathryn describes as the last untouched continent that is truly awe-inspiring and very peaceful, with no noise pollution, merely the sounds of the wind and creaking of icebergs. Nearer the coast, there are interesting animal noises, with penguins, seals and albatrosses all contributing their individual calls to create a hefty din. The quality of the light is very intense, Kathryn reports, as are all sensations, nothing in the Antarctic is moderate or half-hearted. This is a photographer’s paradise, with the whitest white and richest, jewel-like colours, tinged with blue and green traces. And at night, even during the short summer darkness, the astral atmosphere is spectacular, creating light displays from the stars that make the most fabulous rainbow seem a little boring.
And what of the wildlife? Well, the penguins are certainly much in evidence, and despite Hurtigruten’s 5 metre rule (keep that distance between you and the animals), the birds are totally unafraid of people, as they’ve never been hunted, so getting up close and personal with a penguin is a genuine possibility. The whole food chain is obvious in Antarctica, penguins eat krill, seals eat penguins and fish, whales eat everything! Nothing warm and fluffy about this. The albatross, in all its glory, is present too, a protected species which Hurtigruten raises funds for.
The MS Fram, a small, 300 berth ship, allows passengers to land on the ice, via RIBs, frequently. There are strict rules with regard to the pristine environment and Kathryn’s favourite mantra ‘take nothing away except memories’ is closely adhered to. Visiting Antarctica requires proper respect for the weather and all its vagaries, so safety on the Fram is of paramount importance, with flexible itineraries responding to local, real time conditions. Here wind and ice can dictate what happens next.
Voyages to the Antarctic begin in Argentina, crossing Drake’s Passage, which takes 24 hours and can, at times, be very rough. During this time, passengers are prepared for the experiences ahead with talks and lectures from regional experts. Next your journey might travel to the Falkland Islands, Elephant Island or South Georgia. This last is, of course, famous to many for being the burial place of Sir Ernest Shackleton, hero of the voyage of the Endurance in 1914/16. It’s an inspirational story, with the lessons learnt often used today in motivational training. South Georgia is also home to several abandoned whaling stations which tell, by their very existence, the story of a hard, dangerous life in an unpredictable, harsh environment.
Hutigruten’s Antarctic voyages are unique, with camaraderie on board growing through every shared, remarkable adventure. Life on board is very comfortable, though informal, your best fleece is what’s required at dinner rather than a tiara! Kathryn reflects that human existence is put into a very different perspective once you’ve travelled to the white wilderness, even the most sceptical appear transformed.
Read more about Hurtigruten or call 0844 272 8961
Read Steve Newman’s review on his trip to Antarctica