Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ South Georgia 2023

Expedition Updates

New Zealand

Inspiring Explorers™ arrive home

People posing for a group photo at an airport. Keywords: Antarctic Heritage Trust Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Santiago Airport
Inspiring Explorers™ and Trust staff departing Santiago, Chile. © AHT

“In memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had ‘suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.’ We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man’

– Shackleton describing the end of the crossing of South Georgia

Our remarkable Inspiring Explorers have safely returned home to New Zealand. After an awe-inspiring expedition in South Georgia, they have arrived back in Auckland, carrying with them a treasure trove of memories and experiences.

These fearless adventurers have pushed the boundaries of exploration, dedicating themselves to inspire, discover, and conserve our planet. Now, it’s time for them to enjoy a well-deserved rest with friends and family.

But the journey doesn’t end here! Stay tuned for captivating stories, breathtaking photographs, and profound insights from the team in the coming months. Their expedition has left an indelible mark on their hearts and minds, and they can’t wait to share the wonders they’ve encountered through their outreach projects.

These 22 young people have completed their expedition in the spirit of Shackleton and the explorer pioneers of old. We hope they continue to inspire us all to embrace an explorer mindset, explore the unknown, and conserve the beauty of our world.

Map of South Georgia, with locations pinned
Locations the Inspiring Explorers™ visited on South Georgia Island © European Space Agency. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by ESA, processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Thanks to our Inspiring Explorers™ Programme Partners MetService and Royal Society Te Apārangi

Elsehul Bay,
South Georgia

Day 9 aboard Magellan Explorer

Our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team spent their last night in South Georgia in Elsehul Bay, nestled at the northwest tip of the island. Elsehul is one of South Georgia’s best bird-watching locations, with three species of albatrosses nesting together, along with colonies of macaroni and gentoo penguins, and many others. The Inspiring Explorers™ had a fantastic time cruising Elsehul Bay in zodiacs, but the macaroni penguins we hoped to see had not yet arrived.

Three sealing trypots can still be seen on the beach, evidence of the once valuable seal fur trade based here, which almost wiped out the population following the arrival of sealers in the 1780s. Antarctic fur seals have since returned in huge numbers.

Approaching Elsehul Bay South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust Inspiring Explorers Expedition
Approaching Elsehul Bay. © AHT
Inspiring Explorer Tegan Allpress waving from a zodiac while cruising Elsehul Bay Antarctic Heritage Trust South Georgia Inspiring Explorers Expedition Magellan Explorer Antarctica21
Inspiring Explorer Tegan Allpress waving from a zodiac while cruising Elsehul Bay.

The team then bid farewell to South Georgia, as our ship headed for the open ocean to begin a three day journey back to the Falkland Islands. With the swell consistently 6 to 8 metres for most of our journey, and up to 10 metres at times, the team now have a genuine appreciation of the power the South Atlantic Ocean and the conditions Shackleton would have faced on his journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the James Caird.

On arrival in the Falkland Islands, the team were sad to say goodbye to the fantastic Antarctica21 team, who have made this expedition so special. You are the best, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Passengers departing the 'Magellan Explorer' in the Falkland Islands Antarctic Heritage Trust Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia
Passengers departing the 'Magellan Explorer' in the Falkland Islands. © AHT

St Andrews Bay &
Ocean Harbour,
South Georgia

Day 8 aboard Magellan Explorer

Today we visited St Andrews Bay, a wildlife paradise! Our Inspiring Explorers were amazed by the gigantic breeding colony of 150,000 king penguins. The sights, sounds and smells(!) were at times overwhelming. From an elevated viewpoint the team had time to be still and simply watch life unfold in the rookery, how groups and individual penguins interacted, and the dangers that weak or isolated young penguins faced.

King penguin rookery at St Andrews Bay Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
King penguin rookery at St Andrews Bay. © AHT
Rose Lasham taking in the sights and sounds of the St Andrews Bay king penguin rookery Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Rose Lasham taking in the sights and sounds of the St Andrews Bay king penguin rookery. © AHT

In a moment echoing the legacy of Endurance meteorologist Leonard Hussey, the MetService meteorologists in our team, Peter Fisher and Kelly Davenport played the ukulele and led the team in quiet song, so as not to disturb the penguins surrounding us in St Andrews Bay.

Peter Fisher and Kelly Davenport leading the Inspiring Explorers in song Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Peter Fisher and Kelly Davenport leading the Inspiring Explorers in song. © AHT

To land on shore, the team also had to negotiate ‘sporty’ surf conditions getting in and out of the zodiacs as well as South Georgia’s largest elephant seal breeding beach hosting up to 6,000 seals. Our thanks go to the Antarctica21 team for keeping us safe at all times.

The weather didn’t quite hold out later in the day for our Inspiring Explorers to visit historic Ocean Harbour, which still echoes with its whaling past.

Once known as New Fortune Bay, its local moniker ‘Ocean Harbour’ eventually stuck, distinguishing it from the nearby Fortuna Bay. The wreckage of the Bayard, an iron-hulled ship, lays as a silent witness to the storms and tides of time since it wreaked in 1911. This 1000-ton coal hauler is now home to various species of nesting birds.

The oldest grave on the island, belonging to sealer Frank Cabrial who died in 1820, can be found at the Harbour Bay cemetery. Old try pots stand as silent witnesses to the rendering of seal blubber that once sustained this bustling hub. Ocean Harbour stands as a testament to the island’s journey from busy whaling hub to a haven for the resilient wildlife that makes it home today.

On shore, the team enjoyed a walk to a small waterfall, and a small way up a hill for a view overlooking the bay.

Inspiring Explorers overlooking the wildlife at St Andrew's Bay Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Inspiring Explorers overlooking the wildlife at St Andrew's Bay. © AHT
Elephant seals on St Andrews Bay beach Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Elephant seals on St Andrews Bay beach. © AHT

Climbing Team Update

Mount Hodges,
South Georgia

A combination of wind, rain, and limited visibility has prevented our Inspiring Explorers™ from attempting the first Kiwi ascent of South Georgia’s Mount Worsley. Millie Mannering, Sam West, Lily Green, and Sasha Cheng, along with world-renowned mountain guides Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples and Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson, were to attempt a history-making two-day climb.

Instead, the Trust urgently sought permission for the team to undertake a smaller, one-day ski and climb expedition to ascend Mount Hodges, in the mountain range behind Grytviken. After a successful climb the team have returned to the ship filled with stories about their experience.

Antarctic Heritage Trust climbing team on Mount Hodges Inspiring Explorers
Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ climbing team ascending Mount Hodges. © AHT/Sam West

Millie Mannering says it was incredible for the team to put their crampons on and explore some of South Georgia’s coastal mountains.

“From the summit we could see right into the interior of the island. We watched as a weather system came through and enveloped huge towering peaks with crazy sharp ridgelines. It looked foreboding, exciting and inspiring. Below us, we could see icebergs that had travelled from the Antarctic continent making the moment remarkable and special. Not many people can say they have skied to Shackleton’s grave, which is where we finished our expedition,” said Millie.

Sam West says the climb was unique in many ways, “While we were on the summit, people on the ship below could see us up on the ridgeline, which was pretty cool. We could also hear elephant seals snorting and groaning with the sound being blown up by the wind from hundreds of meters below. On the top it really sunk in how remote we are, how lucky we are to be here and be able to climb. So few people get to do this, making it very special,” says Sam.

Read more here.

Inspiring Explorers Antarctic Heritage Trust Nigel Watson Lydia Bradey South Georgia Mount Hodges
Members of the Trust's Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ Mount Hodges climb team L-R: Inspiring Explorers Lily Green and Sasha Cheng, mountain guide Lydia Bradey, Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson and Inspiring Explorer Sam West. © AHT

Gold Harbour &
Drygalski Fjord,
South Georgia

Day 7 aboard Magellan Explorer

The team spent the morning at Gold Harbour, on the south-eastern coastline of South Georgia Island. This small bay leads up to the Bertrab Glacier, with a spectacular backdrop against the snowy peaks of the Salvesen Mountains. Its stunning geological features make Gold Harbour one of the most beautiful in South Georgia, although the weather on the day we visited did not live up to the name!

The shear density of wildlife here, all jostling for position on the beach, made a landing impossible. Instead, the team cruised along the shoreline in zodiacs. It is home to a 50,000 strong king penguin colony, along with gentoo penguins, elephant seals, sooty albatross, and many other species.

Glacier front at Gold Harbour Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Wildlife lining the beach in front of a glacier at Gold Harbour. © AHT
Iceberg at the entrance to Drygalski Fjord Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Iceberg at the entrance to Drygalski Fjord. © AHT
Entering Drygalski Fjord Inspiring Explorers Expedition South Georgia Antarctic Heritage Trust
Entering Drygalski Fjord. © AHT

In the afternoon our ship was expertly navigated through a maze of icebergs to enter the jaw-dropping Drygalski Fjord at the very south-eastern tip of South Georgia! The Inspiring Explorers were spellbound by towering snow-covered peaks and huge glaciers plunging into the sea on all sides as we slowly made our way to the furthest reaches of the Fjord.

Frank Hurley, Shackleton’s photographer on the Endurance Expedition, described Drygalski as the “most beautiful and exceeding all in grandeur even that of Milford Sound [New Zealand]”.

Godthul &
South Georgia

Day 6 aboard Magellan Explorer

Godthul, meaning ‘good cove’ in Norwegian, offered the team safe harbour for the night and an interesting visit ashore, followed by a zodiac cruise to see the icebergs in the bay and a beautiful waterfall. The beach provides a window into the island’s whaling heritage, with bleached whale bones and abandoned whaling artefacts found on its shore. A whaling depot was active here from 1908–1929.

In the afternoon we visited Grytviken, the largest former whaling station on South Georgia. This historic site is where Sir Ernest Shackleton found his final resting place during the Quest expedition, overlooking the entrance to Grytviken Harbour. We have paid our respects to Shackleton and his loyal companion, Frank Wild, whose ashes were subsequently interred beside ‘The Boss’, and were reminded of their extraordinary explorations and the enduring legacy they left behind.

Inspiring Explorers Porohu Hagai Noa, Destiny Martin, Lawrence Rothwell and Kaitlyn Martin at Shackleton's grave in Grytviken cemetery. Antarctic Heritage Trust Grytviken Inspiring Explorers Expedition
L-R: Inspiring Explorers Porohu Hagai Noa, Destiny Martin, Lawrence Rothwell and Kaitlyn Martin at Shackleton's grave in Grytviken cemetery. © AHT

The beautifully restored Lutheran church and the fascinating museum made this visit even more special. A short service for Shackleton was conducted at Grytviken church, presided over by magistrate Edward Binnie. The service was attended by the managers of the five whaling stations on South Georgia and a hundred whalers and sailors who sang a Norwegian funeral hymn.

Shackleton’s coffin, draped in the Union Jack, was carried in procession to the cemetery by six Shetland Island men, preceded by two men carrying black funeral banners in the Norwegian custom. Shackleton’s body faces South, rather than the traditional East, in recognition of his lifelong Antarctic aspirations.

Frank Worsley described it as “A spot he would have chosen to lie in, looking at the scenes of his great adventures, his great triumphs, and what I might describe as his most glorious failure.”

Inspiring Explorers Rykien Amiatu and Cole Yeoman inside the South Georgia museum. Antarctic Heritage Trust Grytviken Inspiring Explorers Expedition
Inspiring Explorers Rykien Amiatu and Cole Yeoman inside the South Georgia museum. © AHT

This poignant day was completed with a walk to Hope Point, where the crew of the Quest erected a cairn and memorial cross to Shackleton, overlooking King Edward Cove. We were privileged to share this moment with Rachel Carr, whose Grandfather, Sir Charles Roderick Carr, helped build this monument as a member of the Quest expedition.

Roderick Carr, a New Zealand-born Royal Air Force pilot, was hired to fly the expedition’s aeroplane, an Avro Baby modified as a seaplane. Due to some missing parts, the aeroplane was not used during the expedition and Carr assisted with the general scientific work.

Hidden amongst the cairn is a copy of a group photo of those that built it, alongside the crew’s signatures. Inspiring Explorer Charlie Thomas had the honour of replacing this inside the cairn at the end of our visit.

Fortuna Bay &
South Georgia

Day 5 aboard Magellan Explorer

We’ve reached Fortuna Bay and Stromness, key locations in Shackleton’s Endurance expedition! It was here Shackleton, Frank Worsley, and Tom Crean reached human civilisation for the first time in two years, following their desperate mountain crossing from King Haakon Bay.

This morning the team spent time ashore at Fortuna Bay. The western side of the bay at Breakout Ridge is where Shackleton, Crean and Worsley heard the steam whistle from Stromness whaling station, emerging from the wilderness after a brutal final 36-hour haul on 20 May 1916. “Never had any one of us heard sweeter music,” said Shackleton.

In the afternoon, the Inspiring Explorers were thrilled to be walking in Shackleton’s footsteps and experiencing a small taste of his remarkable story of resilience and determination, as they hiked through the snow to the waterfall near Stromness that formed one last challenge for Shackleton, Worsley and Crean to overcome before they reached safety.

On the weather front, the cloud lifted today, finally revealing South Georgia’s magnificent mountains and glaciers, and strong gusty winds meant the spray was flying during some bumpy zodiac trips. The team are embracing each day’s challenges and opportunities and truly living up to their titles as Inspiring Explorers™.

Salisbury Plain &
Possession Bay,
South Georgia

Day 4 aboard Magellan Explorer

On our second day in South Georgia the stunning Salisbury Plain has left our Inspiring Explorers awestruck!

Against a backdrop of towering mountains, this vast coastal expanse hosts a magnificent population of around a quarter of a million king penguins, their overwhelming presence creating an unforgettable scene. As curious king penguins greeted our arrival, brown skuas keep watch, and South Georgia pipits add their melodies to the chorus.

The Salisbury Plain was formed in the wake of the retreating Grace and Lucas Glaciers. Wet and windy conditions saw the team land at a more sheltered beach, then walk 2.5km across an expansive grassy area criss-crossed by streams that provide the perfect habitat for South Georgia’s second-largest king penguin colony to thrive.

In the afternoon, our ship moved to Possession Bay, where we will be spending the night. Our shore landing here saw the team walk to the top of a small hill for a 360 degree view of this stunning bay and our first views of some of South Georgia’s glaciers.

Possession Bay is a pivotal site in South Georgia’s history. James Cook’s voyage in 1772 aboard HMS Resolution sought to confirm the existence of a southern landmass, a mission that brought him to South Georgia. On 17 January 1775, Cook and his crew made landfall here, raising the British flag to claim (and name) South Georgia for King George III.

This historical event still resonates today, with South Georgia annually commemorating ‘Possession Day’ on January 17th as a bank holiday.

Right Whale Bay,
South Georgia

Day 3 aboard Magellan Explorer

After three days at sea, excitement grew amongst our Inspiring Explorers as they began to see penguins swimming alongside the ship and saw their first iceberg! A few hours later we had our first glimpse of South Georgia’s beautiful mountains peaking their heads above a thick layer of cloud down to sea level.

Icebergs off the coast of South Georgia Island. © AHT
First glimpse of South Georgia Island. © AHT

The team made their first shore landing at Right Whale Bay this afternoon, and what an introduction we had to this magnificent place! Known for its king penguin colony and large number of Antarctic fur seals and elephant seals, the team saw 25,000 breeding pairs of king penguins spread up the surrounding hill, with albatrosses, giant petrels and brown skuas adding to the cacophony of sounds surrounding our Inspiring Explorers.

Our first visit ashore was a very special, emotional, and at times overwhelming experience for our team of young explorers.

During Gemma Wyllie’s time on shore she felt as though she could see different personalities in all the wildlife. “I watched two baby seals chasing each other along the beach, and we even had a leopard seal following us when we returned to the ship by zodiac.”

For Cole Yeoman, it was the larger inhabitants that really made an impression on him, “I was so excited to get here and I loved seeing the big fat grungy elephant seals. They were so enjoyable to watch with their disgusting grunts and burps and squeals, what wonderful creatures.”

South Atlantic Ocean,
en route to South Georgia

Day 2 aboard Magellan Explorer

Today was another day at sea for our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team as they make their way towards South Georgia Island. The team are finding their ‘sea legs’ and exploring our vessel. We start each day with a team meeting to check in on how everyone is, talk about health and safety, and go through the plan for the day, with different team members taking turns to lead this each day.

The main item on the agenda today was understanding the biosecurity requirements and protocols for our shore landings on South Georgia, and checking that our clothing and equipment does not contain any soil, seeds or other plant materials that could be transferred to the island.

Our science outreach team have started taking weather observations by historic-era means under the tutelage of MetService representative Peter Fisher, and by using modern equipment led by MetService Inspiring Explorer™ Kelly Davenport.

South Atlantic Ocean,
en route to South Georgia

Day 1 aboard Magellan Explorer

The Falkland Islands looked stunning as the team arrived at dusk. There was much excitement as they boarded the ship and found their cabins. Trust Executive Director Francesca Eathorne welcomed everyone aboard before the team took part in a safety briefing, learned how to use their life jackets and took part in a muster station drill.

L-R: Cole Yeoman, Sasha Cheng and Gemma Wyllie trying on life jackets aboard the 'Magellan Explorer'. © AHT

Punta Arenas, Chile

Travel to South Georgia, day 3

Today our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team explored Reserva Nacional Magallanes, walking snowy trails to a lookout for stunning views over Punta Arenas, followed by an epic snowball fight. In the afternoon they visited replicas of several historic ships including Shackleton’s James Caird, Ferdinand Magellan’s Victoria, which completed the first circumnavigation of the earth (1519-22), and HMS Beagle, captained by Robert FitzRoy during Charles Darwin’s five-year voyage (1831-1836).
MetService representative Kelly Davenport and Royal Society Te Apārangi representative Kaitlyn Martin were fascinated to learn that FitzRoy was elected to the Royal Society in 1851, and in 1854, on the recommendation of the President of the Royal Society, he became a pioneering meteorologist when he was appointed as chief of a new department to deal with the collection of weather data at sea. He developed strategies to make weather information more widely available for the safety of shipping and fishermen, and developed charts to allow accurate daily predictions to be made for which he coined the term ‘weather forecast’.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Travel to South Georgia, day 2

On arrival in the Antarctic Gateway City of Punta Arenas our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team went on a fascinating tour of sites with Antarctic significance led by our friends from the Antarctic Youth Coalition. Thank you for welcoming us to your wonderful home and sharing many special stories with us!
The team’s next flight to the Falkland Islands has been delayed by two days, so they will be spending a little more time exploring Punta Arenas before joining their ship in the Falklands and sailing for South Georgia.

Santiago, Chile

Travel to South Georgia, day 1

After a long flight our Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team (and all their luggage – yay!) have arrived in Santiago, Chile.

Tomorrow the next leg of our journey will take the team to the Antarctic Gateway City of Punta Arenas, Chile.

South Georgia Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team members in Santiago, Chile (L-R) Sasha Cheng, Te Aroha Devon, Rose Lasham, Jenny Sahng, Savannah de Vos, and Henry Conquer © AHT

Auckland, New Zealand

Departure day

The Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team ready to depart Auckland airport. © AHT
“It is in our nature to explore, to reach out to the unknown”  Shackleton

Today, we bid farewell and wish the best of luck to our incredible team of 22 young New Zealanders as they depart Auckland airport, embarking on a journey to honour the legacy of one of the greatest explorers, Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Their expedition will take them from New Zealand to Santiago (Chile), then to Punta Arenas in Southern Chile, and finally to the Falkland Islands. From there, they’ll board Antarctica21’s Magellan Explorer and set sail to South Georgia, a land rich in history and natural wonders.

Over the course of two to three days, our explorers will sail approximately 1525km to South Georgia. There, they’ll spend eight days exploring the island, following in Shackleton’s footsteps and visiting various locations of historical significance.

South Georgia’s breathtaking landscapes will serve as the backdrop for the team’s group outreach projects, supported by the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers™ Programme Partners MetService and Royal Society Te Apārangi. These projects will focus on science, education, history, and climate change, allowing them to make a positive impact on the environment they’re so passionate about.

We are thrilled to be able to share this expedition with you, as we honour the centenary year of Shackleton’s final expedition, the Quest.

Antarctic Heritage Trust’s ninth Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ will provide an opportunity for 22 young New Zealanders aged 18-30 to explore South Georgia Island, connect with the legacy the Trust cares for and embrace their spirit of exploration.

It will honour the centenary year of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final expedition (Quest 1921–1922) which journeyed to South Georgia and marked the end of the heroic-era of Antarctic exploration.

Antarctic Heritage Trust is the guardian of Shackleton’s only expedition base in Antarctica. On this expedition, participants will embrace the same spirit of exploration as the early polar explorers on their own remarkable journey to commemorate 100 years since the death of legendary polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Presented by respected operator Antarctica21 and booking agent Wild Earth Travel, this two-week ship-based 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.

This expedition is dedicated solely to visiting South Georgia Island and the Inspiring Explorers™ will participate together as a group. Experiences include cruising in 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 the ship 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 1921–1922 Quest expedition.

A small team of four Inspiring Explorers™ will be selected to join Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson and two professional mountaineering guides, Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples for an attempt at the first New Zealand ascent of Mount Worsley, named after Shackleton’s captain, Frank Worsley.

The Trust’s Inspiring Explorers™ will be joined on this expedition by paying passengers who are supporters of the Trust.

Two adult king penguins stand between large elephant seals on a black sand beach on South Georgia Island during breeding season. ©
Close up of turquoise colored glacier ice in Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia Island. ©
king penguins gather on the shores of south georgia

While in South Georgia four Inspiring Explorers™ will attempt at the first New Zealand ascent of Mount Worsley.

Our Inspiring Explorers™ team will be joined by Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson and professional mountaineering guides Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples.

The Trust would like to thank the following companies for their outstanding equipment support for the Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ – South Georgia 2023

Ampro Sales LTD

TrackMe NZ

Manawatu Knitting Mills

Mountain Adventure

NZ Alpine Club

Ousland Explorers

Small Planet Sports

Southern Approach NZ

Southern Lakes Helicopters

Spelean NZ Ltd