When I first heard about the South Pole as a child, I imagined a real pole. Soon my error was corrected and I learned that the word “pole” in this case refers to the end of the axis on which the earth rotates.
Well guess what? It turns out there really is a pole at the South Pole. It looks like a barber pole about three feet high with the red spiral stripe on it, and a blue disc and a chrome globe on top.
No, I’m not joking, and I’m not quoting a Dr. Seuss book. This is for real. I know about the pole because I’ve seen it in a photo of Geoffrey Kent, the founder of Abercrombie & Kent, standing next to the pole.
The picture was taken in December 2018 when Geoffrey Kent hosted one of A&K’s series of Inspiring Expeditions. It was 107 years after Roald Amundsen became the first person to stand at the pole.
The picture recently surfaced because A&K is planning to repeat the South Pole trip.
A Signal Achievement
In his invitation to the new departure, Geoffrey Kent calls his trip to Antarctica in 2018 “one of the most thrilling adventures of my life.”
The trip culminates with a trip to the South Pole, which Kent describes as “a signal achievement for any traveler.”
The man who founded Abercrombie & Kent as a safari operator in Kenya, in 1962, has been to practically every place anyone wants to go in the world. So, when he says a trip is “one of the most thrilling adventures of my life,” it is worthy of being taken seriously.
Kent is the consummate traveler. He was literally born on a trip and never stopped traveling.
When he was born his British-born parents, Valerie and Colonel John Kent, were on safari in Zambia (Northern Rhodesia at the time). He spent most of his youth in Africa.
In 1962, Geoffrey and his parents formed a travel company called Abercrombie & Kent. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the company offered luxurious, long-distance junkets through East and Central Africa.
In 1967, Colonel and Mrs. John Kent retired, leaving Geoffrey to run the company. He built it and expanded operations to multiple regions, eventually opening offices in Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Thailand, among many other countries.
Today A&K has more than 55 destination management offices around the world.
Not Standard Fare
Going to the South Pole is truly a mark of distinction. That is a real elite destination. I don’t know how many people have been there, but I would guess it’s not many.
Any trip to Antarctica is a mark of distinction for any traveler. But this A&K trip is not the standard Antarctica trip, as has been operated by a number of operators for decades. This is in a different category altogether.
It was Lars-Eric Lindblad who created the template for what has become the standard Antarctic expedition. He was the first person to take tourists to the continent.
Lindblad figured out that you could take an icebreaker ship from the tip of South America, usually Ushuaia, Argentina, cross the Drake Passage down to the Antarctic Peninsula, and make landings using Zodiacs, the inflatable rubber tube-style landing craft invented by Jacques Cousteau. The trips were guided by naturalists and scientists.
In the decades since, many operators of adventurous expeditions have offered trips to Antarctica based on that model. It’s a phenomenal experience in countless ways.
Just to be at that vantage point on earth, where the sun never sets on some days of the Astral summer, changes your orientation to the earth. The experience almost inevitably leaves you with a profound alteration of your view of the planet you live on.
But that trip doesn’t go to the South Pole. It travels to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Antarctic Peninsula is known by various names, reflecting all the countries that share sovereignty in Antarctica. It’s called O’Higgins Land in Chile, and Tierra de San Martin in Argentina. It was originally known as the Palmer Peninsula in the US, and Graham Land in the United Kingdom. It’s the northernmost part of Antarctica. The peninsula is a string of bedrock islands that begins about 600 miles south of Ushuaia.
When you are exploring the Antarctic Peninsula, you’re still a long way from the South Pole. Esperanza Station, the Argentinean base at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, has a sign that says the South Pole is 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) away. From that point Buenos Aires is about the same distance.
To the Pole Itself
The South Pole is something else. It’s the actual point on the planet that is the axis of rotation. Wow. That is something.
Seen from a viewpoint in outer space, the earth is spinning on its axis so that when you are standing at the equator you are moving at a thousand miles an hour.
Standing at the South Pole however, you would just be turning in a circle. That makes the barber pole with the spiral stripe seem quite appropriate.
The new A&K trip departs from Cape Town, South Africa, which is about 4,000 miles east of Ushuaia and about 1500 miles farther north. But keep in mind, the closer you get to the pole, the less meaning the terms “east” and “west” have. When you are at the South Pole, every direction is north.
But those distances are more or less irrelevant, because the A&K trip travels by air. And when it comes to the South Pole, you don’t want to travel any other way. The flight from the Antarctic base camp to the pole is a seven-hour flight.
The 12-day trip starts in Cape Town on Dec. 11, with a reception at the Silo Hotel with Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey and Otavia Kent.
The next day, Dec. 12, is a day of touring around Cape Town, including an adventure driving along the coast in a fleet of classic Cobra sports cars, and a visit to the wine district of Stellenbosch.
After the Cape Town segment, the group will part company with Geoffrey and Otavia Kent, and fly to Antarctica on a 5.5-hour flight over the Southern Ocean, landing on an air strip called Wolf’s Fang, though there is not a wolf on the entire continent.
After landing the group will board a small plane for a 25-minute flight to Whichaway Camp. The camp has seven separate sleeping pods 20 feet in diameter, luxuriously furnished. It’s the base for explorations Dec.13 and 14.
Dec.15 is the big day, the trip to the Pole. After a day experiencing the South Pole, there’s a flight back to Whichaway Camp.
Dec.17 will include explorations near the camp, including a 4×4 ride to a rock cliff for other adventures, such as hiking, a rope walk, or snowmobiling
On Dec.18 there’s a 2.5 hour flight to Atka Bay to see a colony of Emperor Penguins. On Dec.19, the group takes a 45-minute flight to Drygalski mountain for more adventures.
On Dec. 20, after a day of hiking and exploring, the group flies back to the Wolf’s Fang air strip for take off back to Cape Town, for another night at the Silo Hotel before departure on Dec. 21 the winter solstice.
The trip will take place in December 2022. The cost is $250,000 per person.
David Cogswell is a freelance writer working remotely, from wherever he is at the moment. Born at the dead center of the United States during the last century, he has been incessantly moving and exploring for decades. His articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Fox News, Luxury Travel magazine, Travel Weekly, Travel Market Report, Travel Agent Magazine, TravelPulse.com, Quirkycruise.com and other publications. He is the author of four books and a contributor to several others. He was last seen somewhere in the Northeast U.S.