Sailing to the Land of the Penguins aboard the FRAM
There exists a place on this earth that has, for centuries, been reachable only by ship. It is the only continent on the planet that lacks a permanent population, with a land mass twice the size of Australia. It is at once desolate and beautiful; a place of quiet tranquility. But it is also a place of spiteful fails, where lives were made and lost, together and alone, among the cold and endless nights of winter, or punished by the blinding light of the polar summer. The men who achieved success here have largely been forgotten by history; those who failed have found themselves immortalized forever in ignominy.
I’m talking, of course, about Antarctica – and we’re headed there in early January aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM for a truly one-of-a-kind Live Voyage Report.
Built in 2007 specifically to sail the polar regions of the world, Hurtigruten’s 318-passenger FRAM is appropriately named: Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen used a purpose-built ship called the Fram on his South Pole Expedition of 1910, and Hurtigruten named their ship in honour of this historic vessel that can still be seen to this day in Oslo, Norway.
If you’re a polar history buff like I am, you’ll know that Roald Amundsen beat British explorer Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole by mere weeks in December of 1911, planting the Norwegian flag and successfully returning to Oslo to a heroes’ welcome. If you’re not familiar with Amundsen, that’s because he was successful. He discovered the Northwest Passage, conquered Antarctica and the South Pole, and even became the first man to undisputedly reach the magnetic North Pole in 1926.
The names you’ve probably heard joined with Antarctic exploration weren’t so lucky. Scott famously eviscerated himself on the ice after also trying to reach the South Pole on his own expedition, known as the Terra Nova Expedition. He arrived there on January 17, 1912, to find that Amundsen had beat him by a month. History doesn’t record what choice phrases Scott used upon discovering the Norwegian flag and Amundsen’s tent, but chances are good that it wasn’t “fiddlesticks.” Scott, along with companions Robert “Birdy” Bowers, Lawrence “Titus” Oates, Dr. Edward Wilson and Edgar “Taff” Evans would spend the next three months attempting to make it back to their permanent camp before all finally succumbed to the elements in March of 1912.
Ernest Shackleton fared slightly better. When his ship, Endurance, became trapped in the pack ice during his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914 to 1917, he successfully led a perilous rescue journey across the open polar sea to South Georgia Island – some 720 nautical miles away. The expedition was a failure; the rescue was a success.
Even some of the men involved in the search for the Northwest Passage were in Antarctica – most notably Captain Francis Crozier, who would join Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated quest for the Northwest Passage in 1845, and James Clark Ross explored here in 1841. Numerous land masses and oceans are named after him, as well as his ships HMS Erebus and Terror – both of which would be lost in the Arctic as part of Franklin’s Northwest Passage expedition.
Hurtigruten focuses as much on the rich history of exploration and adventure in Antarctica as they do on things like penguins and ice floes. After all, the venerable Norwegian line has been sailing the polar waters of Arctic Norway for over a century, and during that time, they’ve learned a thing or two about exploration. Fram herself has sailed to Antarctica each winter since she first set sail in 2007, and her crew and Expedition Team have amassed an enormous wealth of polar experience during that time.
Antarctica has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Everything about it has entranced and fascinated me – including the two-day crossing of the stormy sea known as the Drake Passage.
Our full itinerary, both here and onboard: