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Geordie’s Antarctic Adventure with White Desert

Co-Founder Geordie Mackay-Lewis recently took a trip to Antarctica where he was invited as one of the first to stay at the spectacular new Echo Camp.

The southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, Antarctica is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Typically a destination only visited by explorers and scientists, Pelorus is pioneering trips to this remote locale in safety and comfort.

At Pelorus, we are leading yacht designers for Antarctic trips. Choosing a vessel to explore this continent allows you to discover new places each day and marvel at the plentiful marine life (think daily whale sightings) as well as hiking and skiing, all from the comfort of your chosen yacht. But for those looking for a true adventure, a land-based trip will give you the chance to feel like a famous explorer.

A visit to one of White Desert’s camps fully immerses you in the location. There’s an “otherworldly” feel as you spend your days hiking, ice climbing or getting up close to the wildlife (it may be limited here, but emperor penguins are a sight not to be missed).

Geordie Antarctica white desert

“For decades it’s only been explorers and scientists who have been able to see these penguins, and through great hardship. It’s normally hardcore, uncomfortable and a real challenge, but what Pelorus does is enable anyone without any training to go and see them very close. It’s a truly humbling experience, and completely respectful to these majestic creatures. And then within a very short space of time you’re back in a heated environment having a gin and tonic, whether that’s on a boat or jumping back in a plane going to a luxury camp. That’s what really sets us apart in such a hostile and remote environment: being able to have the logistics to pull that off and take people back in comfort and safety.”

Geordie Mackay-Lewis
Pelorus Co-Founder and CEO
Geordie Antarctica white desert Geordie Antarctica white desert
Geordie Antarctica white desert Geordie Antarctica white desert

Geordie travelled with White Desert, “a major logistical operation” whom Pelorus works in partnership with. Having created a clever route to Antarctica (it’s typically a long journey via South America), guests first fly into South Africa before heading to Wolf’s Fang runway in Antarctica where the adventure begins.

This is one of the driest places on earth, and White Desert are Pelorus’ access point to a deep-field non-water-based adventure. With two luxury camps as well as an expedition camp under their belt, it can be hard to know which one to choose.

Whichaway Camp was Antarctica’s first ever luxury camp, taking the model of experiential lodges and putting it in the most remote place on earth. Flying for just over 30 minutes in one of White Desert’s ski planes, guests are greeted by a 6-wheel Superjeep before embarking on a further 30-minute drive to camp.

To set the scene, the camp is surrounded by ice caps and glaciers, and the Southern Ocean is frozen as far as the eyes can see. Inside each pod it’s warm and cosy, with double beds, your own bathroom and lots of furs for added comfort. And, with each one named after an explorer, you’ll feel like you’re walking in their shoes. For the ultimate luxury in this desolate environment, Whichaway has a sauna whose huge window provides a great spot from which to enjoy the views of the frozen glacier.

The experiences that White Desert provided at Whichaway are unparalleled. After a day exploring ice caves, the team enhanced an already amazing experience: “We had an amazing time exploring these crevasses, doing some ice climbing, then followed by an incredible lunch with white tablecloths.” 

And it’s this team on the ground that really stands out. Guests are made to feel like part of the family, making you feel relaxed straight away and sharing their true passion for this remarkable place (they sleep in expedition tents for 6 weeks at a time!). And in the evenings, you’ll gather with fellow explorers to enjoy retellings from professional mountain guides who are among some of the world’s top climbers.

Echo Camp, on the other hand, is a super modern space-inspired camp that is the polar opposite of Whichaway. Built behind a nunatak – the peak of a mountain that pokes through the icecap – Geordie described it as feeling like being on another planet, as if he’d walked into a Mars base. Its “alien” atmosphere is played up to make the experience feel all the more unique, but all pods and communal areas are heated with fur rugs everywhere to keep you warm.

In contrast to Whichaway which is nestled in a bowl of rock, Echo is all about the views. And what a view it is: expansive ice stretches 47 miles all the way to Wolfsfang Peak in the distance (in good conditions, you can see this clear as day on the horizon!).

But just because the environment is sterile doesn’t mean there’s any compromising on luxury. Guests will be staying in complete comfort, with a lavish private pod providing everything they could need for their stay. But this is the middle of the ‘desert’, so there are certain quirks to be aware of. Whilst each pod has an ensuite, the showers are communal and water is carefully monitored because it’s so dry here (they melt snow and fill up tanks by hand). But this all adds to this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Getting around from pod to pod and between communal areas, it’s essential to wear crampons because the terrain is solely ice. But when you’re inside, you wouldn’t believe you were in such a remote location with fine dining and a fully stocked bar at your fingertips. And when you’re not enjoying Echo’s facilities, you can spend your time ice climbing and hiking and making the most of this extraordinary landscape.

Geordie Antarctica white desert Geordie Antarctica white desert
Geordie Antarctica white desert Geordie Antarctica white desert

When asked to recall his most memorable moment, Geordie’s answer was instantaneous: seeing emperor penguins. At 4ft tall, they’re bigger than any other penguin and can only be seen inland here in Antarctica. “They are as majestic as they come across in a David Attenborough documentary. They’re stunning and you observe them with the utmost respect because they’re incredibly hardy. They spend most of the winter just huddled together on ice in pitch darkness trying to protect their eggs and each other and their young. It’s a bleak existence being a penguin.”

For those who would like to take the adventure up a notch, White Desert also offers a two-day round trip to the South Pole from either of these camps. Spending time at research stations, you’ll overnight in the middle of nowhere in expedition tents whilst the plane refuels. This is serious adventure at its finest.

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“Pack in as much wildlife as possible, whether that’s on the peninsula and seeing all the different types of wildlife there or whether it’s further in land and seeing emperor penguins. You never know when you’re going to have a bad weather window so front-loading those wildlife experiences to make sure you see them is crucial.”

Geordie Mackay-Lewis
Pelorus Co-Founder and CEO

Travelling to Antarctica with Pelorus means you’re in safe hands. As members of IAATO with extensive experience across the continent on boats, planes, skis and foot, few companies can offer the breadth of experiences we can. Our creative approach has allowed us to pioneer new expeditions and experiences (our favourite is heli-skiing), being the first to ascend and descend mountains. So you know that when you book with us, you’ll have a truly extraordinary adventure.

Stay tuned for more updates from our team’s adventures