Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™

Our remarkable Inspiring Explorers safely returned home to New Zealand, after an awe-inspiring expedition in South Georgia.

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

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Inspiring Explorers with ‘Magellan Explorer’ crew at St Andrews Bay. © AHT/Charlie Thomas

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Inspiring Explorer Perry Hyde recording sounds at Drygalski Fjord. © AHT

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Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ climbing team ascending Mount Hodges © AHT/Sam West

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Inspiring Explorers at Shackleton’s grave in Grytviken cemetery. © AHT

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The Trust’s ninth Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ team at St Andrews Bay, South Georgia. © Antarctica21/Rodrigo Moraga

Now, you can read the first series of expedition blogs from some of our Inspiring Explorers™.

Immerse yourself in captivating stories, breathtaking photographs, and profound insights from the team as they recount their remarkable journey:

To see more stunning images from the South Georgia Inspiring Explorers Expedition™, visit the gallery on our digital image archive Icy Heritage:

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

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.

The expedition 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.

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King Penguins gather on the shores of South Georgia. © iStock.com

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Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia. © iStock.com

What does the expedition involve?

Presented by respected operator Antarctica21 and booking agent Wild Earth Travel, the 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™ have been selected to join Trust Emeritus Executive Director, Nigel Watson and two professional mountaineering guides for an attempt at the first New Zealand ascent of Mount Worsley, named after Shackleton’s captain, Frank Worsley.

To ensure that the Inspiring Explorers™ get the most out of this exciting trip, a weekend of team building took place Saturday 17–Sunday 18 June 2023. The weekend involved practical activities that brought the Inspiring Explorers™ team together.

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A springtime view from above of Grytviken and the remains of the whaling station including the church, soccer field, storage tanks and other historic buildings in the town on South Georgia. ©iStock.com

Connect with others

As young change-makers of tomorrow, Inspiring Explorers™ connect with and are inspired by the qualities of heroic Antarctic leaders, like Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Worsley. They will get to know likeminded young Kiwis and together form an Inspiring Explorers™ team during this once in a lifetime experience.

While on board Antarctica21’s ship the ‘Magellan Explorer’, they will also meet supporters of the Trust – passionate and interesting people from the Trust’s global network and be inspired by our special guests, explorers Nigel Watson (Trust Emeritus Executive Director) and James Blake (2015 Inspiring Explorer alumnus).

Our Inspiring Explorers™ Expeditions provide life-changing perspectives through challenge and exploration in the world’s most wild and extreme environments.

Develop an explorer mindset

Developing the explorer qualities of curiosity, resilience, leadership, innovation, positive risk taking and team work, we encourage young people to engage with the spirit of exploration to have the confidence to head into the unknown – to grow an explorer mindset.

One of the guiding principles in our strategic plan is: “Ka mua, ka muri a whakatauki” which means “walking backwards into the future”.

Drawing on the great legacies of the polar heroes we believe this explorer mindset enables us to grow, to discover more about ourselves, and ultimately, to drive change and instigate new perspectives for tomorrow’s world. Inspiring Explorers™ will be challenged to step out of their comfort zone, develop their explorer mindset, and join an incredible team of people on this expedition.

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Alexander Hillary © AHT

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Sadra Sultani © AHT

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An albatross soars over South Georgia at sunset ©iStock.com

Why are we undertaking this expedition?

Antarctic Heritage Trust is a New Zealand-based charity with a vision of inspiring explorers.

Through its mission to conserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration the Trust cares for the remarkable expedition bases of early Antarctic explorers including, Carsten Borchgrevink, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Edmund Hillary.

We share the legacy of exploration through outreach programmes and encourage the spirit of exploration through expeditions to engage and inspire a new generation.

The Trust’s Inspiring Explorers™ programme changes participants’ lives for the better. It creates a platform for participants to share inspiring stories and experiences with their communities and to a global audience through the Trust’s channels and their own community outreach. The ripple effect goes deep into Inspiring Explorers’ communities, encouraging others to explore.

The Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ South Georgia 2023, commemorating Shackleton’s centenary year, will take 22 young people on a two-week ship-based expedition to South Georgia Island, along with paying passengers who are supporters of the Trust. (The expedition was originally planned to take place in 2022, 100 years after Shackleton’s death on 5 January 1922, however was deferred to 2023 due to the COVID–19 pandemic.)

A two-day expedition to attempt to climb Mount Worsley will also be completed by four Inspiring Explorers™ with Trust Emeritus Executive Director, Nigel Watson and qualified guides.

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.

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Crossing South Georgia Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ 2015  ©Tom MacTavish / AHT

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A small group of king penguins in St Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia Island. ©iStock.com

What are Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™?

Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™ provide opportunities for young people to experience and challenge themselves in Antarctica and the polar regions. These expeditions connect young people with the legacy the Trust cares for and encourage them to embrace that same spirit of exploration. It is a spirit as critical in the 21st century as it was over a century ago.

By making the legacy the Trust cares for relevant, we hope young people will identify with it, value it, and in the future be motivated to protect it.

The expeditions not only change participants’ lives, they create a platform to share inspiring stories and experiences with participants’ communities and a wide audience.

Building a Leadership Legacy

The iconic Antarctic explorers Shackleton, Scott and Hillary embodied the qualities of truly exceptional leadership. Their remarkable stories of leadership in the face of adversity have resonated around the world for over 100 years.

Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™ create opportunities for the young change-makers of tomorrow to connect with and be inspired by the qualities of those heroic Antarctic leaders.

The expeditions provide life-changing perspectives through challenge and exploration in the world’s most pristine and unforgiving environments. Antarctica is crucially important in today’s cutting edge research into climate change, biology and meteorology.

Just as crucial is fostering the Shackletons and Hillarys of the future—the young people who will draw on the great legacies of the polar heroes to drive change and instigate new perspectives for tomorrow’s world.

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Climbing Mount Scott Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ 2017 © William Pike / AHT

Previous Inspiring Explorers Expeditions™

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South Pole 2022

To celebrate 150 years since the birth of legendary polar explorer Roald Amundsen, in November 2022–January 2023 three Inspiring Explorers™ completed a 1000km guided traverse from the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole.

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In the Footsteps of Hillary 2022

In February 2022, three young people from South Auckland, New Zealand summited their first mountain on the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ In the Footsteps of Hillary.

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Mahu Whenua Traverse 2022

In partnership with the Mountain Turk Club, this expedition team completed the new and unique alpine ski traverse in the Queenstown Lakes District of New Zealand, the Mahu Whenua Traverse.

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Antarctic Peninsula 2020

Our biggest group of Inspiring Explorers™ so far journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula with a focus on kayaking.

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Antarctic Peninsula 2019

Our Inspiring Explorers™ journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula with a focus on kayaking with our students from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate from Otara South Auckland joining us for the first time.

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Greenland Ice Cap 2018

A 560km ski expedition across the Greenland Ice Cap in honour of the 130th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen’s original crossing.

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Mount Scott 2018

The Inspiring Explorers™ ascended Mount Scott on the Antarctic Peninsula, named after iconic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

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South Georgia Island 2015

This first Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ followed in the footsteps of Shackleton, Worsley and Crean’s epic journey across South Georgia Island, honouring the centenary of that crossing following the loss of Endurance and the epic journey in the James Caird to South Georgia Island.

South Georgia Gallery