Roundup of 2021 Antarctica Expeditions

South Pole. Photo: Shutterstock

Last year, Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) hung on as late as they were able, hoping that limited Antarctic travel might be possible. In the end, COVID squelched the season.

This year, ALE is confident that expeditions will be able to come to Antarctica. Chile, ALE’s gateway to the White Continent, generates 10 percent of its GDP from tourism and is keen to reopen for the southern hemisphere’s summer. But even if the positive chatter results in a green light, this season could be much quieter than usual.

A manhauler crosses the polar plateau. Photo: Carl Alvey/ALE

Six yeses, six maybes

ALE told ExplorersWeb that six expeditions have confirmed for this season. Six more are still on the fence, debating whether to postpone a year. The high number of maybes is a result of COVID. Typically, polar newbies prepare by training in Greenland, Norway, or Svalbard. Since COVID, these training trips have been either very difficult or impossible. Some have managed to make do close to home. Others have simply delayed till next season when they hope to have a full year’s training under their belts.

Sponsorship is another issue limiting the number of expeditions. Antarctic expeditions are very expensive and corporate sponsors have been harder to find after nearly two years of business disruption.

Only a few of this year’s expeditions have been officially announced. Recently, we spoke to Masatatsu Abe, who will take on an unusual route from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole. There will be two guided ALE South Pole expeditions, one on the usual Hercules Inlet route and another leaving from the Axel Heiberg Glacier.

Abe has had to make do training in Japan. Photo: Masatatsu Abe

Solo woman to the Pole

Two further expeditions are leaving from Hercules Inlet. British army officer Preet Chandi will attempt to ski solo and unsupported to the Pole. She has been training and planning for two years. “I was told on many occasions that I should probably delay but I didn’t want to,” she wrote recently on social media.

Preet Chandi on a training expedition. Photo: Preet Chandi

The final confirmed Hercules Inlet expedition is also connected to the British army. Veteran Martin Hewitt is the founder of the Adaptive Grand Slam, a project that helps wounded veterans and members of the disabled community to take on adventure expeditions such as the Seven Summits and trips to the North and South Poles.

For his unsupported ski expedition to the Pole, Hewitt will be joined by a familiar name. It seems that Lou Rudd hasn’t tired of Antarctica just yet. Rudd “raced” Colin O’Brady on a truncated traverse of Antarctica in 2018.

The 10 most popular routes to the South Pole. 1. Hercules Inlet 2. Messner Start 3. Ross Island 4. Berkner Island 5. Patriot Hills 6. Novo 7. Axel Heiberg Glacier 8. Bay of Whales 9. Leverett Glacier 10. Larsen Ice Shelf. Map: Eric Philips/Icetrek

The sixth expedition will take the Berkner Island route, but ALE can’t release a name until the expedition goes public. As yet, there are no confirmed expeditions from the Messner Start.


About the Author

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam.

A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon.

He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon.

His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Preet Chandi
1 month ago

Great to see a round up of everyone going and very excited to see my name on here too!