Shackleton Centenary Year Expedition


credit: © ISTOCK.COM
King penguins gather on the shores of South Georgia. © ISTOCK.COM

South Georgia is the most stunning island on the planet and inextricably linked to Sir Ernest Shackleton, New Zealand Endurance captain Frank Worsley’s epic seamanship, and the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

The island’s scenery, wildlife and isolation are unrivalled.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust is planning to honour the centenary year of Shackleton’s final expedition (the Quest) which journeyed to South Georgia and marked the end of the heroic-era of Antarctic exploration. We are providing an opportunity for supporters to join us on this dedicated expedition, which forms part of our Inspiring Explorers™ programme, and experience the wonder of South Georgia as part of a never-to-be repeated voyage.

You can join us on a bespoke expedition presented by respected operator Antarctica21 and booking agent Wild Earth Travel.

The expedition is timed to visit South Georgia in early Spring, at the beginning of the wildlife migration and breeding cycle for so many of the island’s species. With estimates of 30 million breeding birds including 7 million penguins, 2 million fur seals, and 50 percent of the world’s southern elephant seals, it has the reputation for the greatest density of wildlife on earth.

The voyage will also feature the Trust’s wider Inspiring Explorers™ programme, which provides incredible opportunities for young inspiring New Zealanders to grow and experience the spirit of exploration.

This expedition is dedicated solely to visiting South Georgia. Experiences include cruising in the inflatable Zodiac boats, visits to vast king penguin rookeries, seal covered beaches, and the many important historic sites, several of which are forever connected to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

A highlight will be King Haakon Bay, located on the wild southern coastline, and landing place of the James Caird — Shackleton’s famous 23-foot boat, navigated by Captain Frank Worsley, after having made the epic 800-mile voyage from Elephant Island in Antarctica in 1916 following the loss of Endurance. We will also visit the Museum and the site of Shackleton’s final resting place, the small cemetery in Grytviken following his death on the Quest expedition. On-shore excursions will range from more to less strenuous based on your preference, with the possibility of using snowshoes at some locations (limited numbers).

Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia. © ISTOCK.COM

Join our Special Guests

Like Shackleton’s Quest expedition, we have a great New Zealand connection. We are delighted that James Blake and Nigel Watson will join the expedition as special guests.


James, the son of the late great New Zealand adventurer Sir Peter Blake, is an accomplished explorer in his own right.

James was most recently the Director of Photography on the Endurance22 Expedition, the search vessel that located Shackleton’s Endurance wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. It was James’ images of Endurance that circulated around the globe in the international media.

Besides being a professional cameraman, James knows South Georgia Island having travelled there with the Trust on our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ centenary crossing in 2015 where he shot the beautiful footage for our short film The Last 36. Prior to that, in 2007 James worked with us for a summer at Shackleton’s hut on Ross Island, Antarctica to launch the Trust’s Antarctic Youth Ambassador programme. While there he helped to excavate Shackleton’s whisky from under the historic building. And finally, for good measure James rowed the Tasman Sea in his twenties.

Nigel Watson NZAM

Nigel has dedicated his career to the polar regions. He is the former Executive Director of Antarctic Heritage Trust which he led for 23 years. He conceived the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, the world’s largest cold-climate heritage conservation project, raised millions for Antarctic Heritage Trust’s mission and led expeditions to Antarctica over two decades.

An authority on Antarctic history, he has authored two acclaimed books: Hillary’s Antarctica: Adventure, Exploration & Establishing Scott Base and Still Life: Inside the Historic Huts of Scott and Shackleton.

Nigel initiated and has led the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers™ programme, skiing Shackleton’s route across South Georgia Island to mark the centenary of the original crossing, traversing the Greenland Ice Cap to honour Fridtjof Nansen’s legacy and climbing Mount Scott in Antarctica. On his final expedition as Trust Executive Director, he led our most recent Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ to the South Pole, with the group reaching the South Pole in January 2023.

In recognition of his services to Antarctica and heritage preservation, Nigel was awarded the New Zealand Antarctic Medal in the 2023 New Year Honours list.


What makes this voyage unique is the amount of time we spend in South Georgia. Virtually all ship visits spend just three or perhaps four days at most around the island. This expedition is dedicated solely to visiting South Georgia and we plan to spend double that amount of time, providing the most comprehensive exploration of the island possible. We also eliminate numerous sea days by flying to and from the Falkland Islands.

In the true spirit of the early explorers, Antarctica21 have agreed to keep a completely flexible 15 day/14 night itinerary focused on maximising our time and landing opportunities at South Georgia.

King penguins and elephant seals, South Georgia. © ISTOCK.COM
An albatross soars in South Georgia. © ISTOCK.COM
Magellan Explorer. © ANTARCTICA21

Introducing the Magellan Explorer

Antarctic Heritage Trust has chosen to travel to South Georgia Island with Antarctica21. The Magellan Explorer is Antarctica21’s purpose-built, ‘new generation’ expedition ship and made her maiden voyage to Antarctica in November 2019. She is designed to carry no more than 96 guests meaning we are able to maximise time onshore for every single guest, on every single excursion.

The modern, well-appointed cabins range in size from 22 to 44 square metres and feature private balconies, a wardrobe with ample storage, individually controlled heating system, a sitting area, and a private bathroom with shower.

A highlight of the ship is the observation lounge providing superb 270-degree views. This space doubles as a comfortable presentation zone, with state-of-the art audio-visual equipment to bring the educational elements of the voyage to life. A spacious and well appointed dining room serves an exceptional menu of international meals created by a team of experienced chefs. There is a well stocked bar, a library full of polar reference material, a meeting room, a gym, a Finnish ‘dry-heat’ sauna, a small gift-shop, and a medical clinic. There are also numerous outdoor observation areas on the ship providing expansive views of your surroundings.

The ship has a fleet of 10 zodiac boats that will take us from ship to shore, exploring along the shoreline or ice floes. She is the perfect vessel and was carefully selected as the ideal platform for this South Georgia expedition. Antarctica21 design and deliver adventurous yet comfortable small-scale expeditions to Antarctica and Sub-Antarctic Islands. The aim is to offer guests the perfect balance between active exploration and high quality hospitality.

Shackleton Centenary Year Expedition – Deferral to 2023

We are delighted with the response from supporters to join the Trust on our planned Shackleton Centenary Year Expedition to South Georgia Island.

After much consideration of the ongoing risks associated with international border closures, lockdowns, mandatory quarantines, the challenge of securing travel insurance, the slow rollout of vaccines, the delta variant of COVID and other factors the Trust made a decision to defer the expedition from the original date of October 2022.

The dates for the expedition are now scheduled for 30 September – 14 October 2023 (embarkation and disembarkation in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands). Everything else remains the same for now; the ship, the itinerary, special guests and up to 22 sponsored young New Zealanders joining us as part of our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ programme.