Fortuna Bay, South Georgia. ©AHT/Lily Green.
Lily Green was one of 22 young New Zealanders who travelled with the Trust to South Georgia in October 2023 for our ninth Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ to honour the centenary year of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final expedition, the ‘Quest’.
The Inspiring Explorers™ climbing team of Millie Mannering, Sam West, Lily Green, and Sasha Cheng undertook a guided ascent of Mount Hodges led by world-renowned mountain guides Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples and Antarctic Heritage Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson.
South Georgia is a sub-Antarctic island that can only be accessed by a three (or more) day boat journey. It is a place I never knew existed until February 2023, when I saw an advertisement in the Alpine Club emails about this cool expedition to a sub-Antarctic island. I applied without thinking too much about it.
I then received the news that I had gotten through to the interview short list, which I was also quite blase about. I figured heaps of people had made it through and there was still a very slim chance I’d get chosen. I was given a date to expect a phone call from Mike Barber from the Antarctic Heritage Trust and knew it would either be an extremely exciting or a disappointing phone call. I had rock climbing instruction on the day, and during my lunch break I noticed a missed phone call. Mike had left a message. His voice sounded like he was about to deliver disappointing news. I called him back preparing myself for the news and his first question was “How do you think you did in the interview Lily?”, I replied saying something along the lines of “I think I did alright”, he continued to say “Yep, we’d like to offer you a spot on the trip!” He also told me that I was going to be a part of the mountaineering team. I honestly couldn’t believe it; I thought I had misheard him.
The next few months consisted of disbelief, gratitude and training. After the Auckland team building weekend where we got to meet everyone in person, do some fun team building exercises, and listen to lots of talks about where we are actually going, it started to all feel real. I tried to do 100 days of training leading up to the departure date. I stuck to it mostly but had to take some rest days due to sickness.
Stromness Harbour, South Georgia. ©AHT/Lily Green.
Lily Green, South Georgia. ©AHT/Lily Green
Five days before departure I decided to go to the Routeburn Falls Hut with my partner to get some last-minute New Zealand nature time. It was just what I needed even though it meant two days of getting all the final things together. And finally, the day came. After six days of travel, which included lots of jetlag and growing friendships, we made it to the Magellan Explorer, our home on the sea.
The first step onto the island was a feeling I can’t give justice through words, but I’ll try to sum it up. As soon as you step onto the Zodiac a fresh wind freezes your face and the sight of the island is so beautiful you get butterflies.
Stepping onto the island and just a mere five metres away there were a group of king penguins waddling around, not fazed by us in the slightest. There were also massive groups of elephant seals, including some pups and many incredible birds. It is such an untouched environment, with no human impact anywhere you can see. The island is so disconnected from the rest of the world, so pure. Each time we stepped onto the island it never got old, and that feeling of huge privilege never wavered.
The whole journey was full of experiences I will remember for a lifetime. The Mt Worsley expedition was unfortunately called off due to terrible weather and a few other factors. This was an incredibly tough decision mainly because of how much preparation we had all contributed leading up to the expedition. But we still managed to get on our skis and between the eight of us we climbed two peaks, Mount Hodges and Orca Peak just behind Grytviken. This small four-hour mission lifted our spirits more than you could imagine. I felt like I was able to really start to take in where we were and what we were doing. This place is so much bigger than just climbing a mountain to me now. It’s a place I want people to know about, care about and fight for.
Here are some of the beautiful photos I managed to catch. They speak for themselves.
View from the top of Orca Peak. ©AHT/Lily Green.
Fortuna Bay, South Georgia. ©AHT/Lily Green.
Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia (my highlight). ©AHT/Lily Green.
Right Whale Bay penguin rookery, South Georgia. ©AHT/Lily Green.