(eTN) – South Pole, anyone? The British travel company Discover the World is to become the first tour operator to offer trips to the geographic South Pole, as part of an eight-day trip to the Antarctic.
The company is working with Adventure Network International (ANI), which has a base camp in the Patriot Hills – roughly halfway between McMurdo Sound and the South Pole itself —and has been taking people to the Pole since 1987.
“Until now Patriot Hills has really only been visited by scientists, explorers, film crews and very wealthy individuals en route to the Pole,” explained Discover the World’s Georgina Hancock. “This is the first year that ANI has worked with a tour operator, and they will take a maximum of 44 people.”
The trip will cost almost £18,000 and involve flying to Punta Arenas in southern Chile to connect with a four-and-a-half-hour flight on to Patriot Hills, where accommodation is in double-lined tents and washing facilities comprise a bowl of hot water and a sponge.
The flight to the Pole itself takes six hours, affording views of the Polar plateau, dramatic crevasses and the wind-whipped snow effect called sastrugi. Passengers will spend up to four hours at the geographic South Pole – 90º south, 0º west – and visit the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
They will be able to take photographs at the Pole, visit the station shop and stamp postcards with a special South Pole postmark. The only wildlife may be the odd off-course skua seabird. They can expect almost no humidity, high winds, a temperature as low as -28C (-20F) and a pressure altitude of about 3,230m (10,600ft).
A total of four flights, carrying a maximum of 11 passengers each, will leave Patriot Hills in December 2008 and January 2009.
The “South Pole Adventure” costs £17,944 per person from Discover the World (01737 218800, www.discover-the-world.co.uk/antarctica). It includes return flights between Punta Arenas and Patriot Hills, and Patriot Hills and the South Pole and full-board accommodation for seven nights in expedition tents in Antarctica. Excludes international flights.