ASK Australians and New Zealanders what Antarctica means to them, and the answer will probably be that it's part of our history and unique.
A place where heroes were forged and have become part of our heritage.
Julie and Bruce Murray of Kingscliff joined an Antarctic cruise with a difference on the cruise ship Explorer.
"We'd seen a David Attenborough documentary which was unforgettable and also it's perhaps the last pristine environment on Earth, we wanted to see it while we can and whoever visits are unanimous that it must be preserved and protected," Julie said.
"Also we wanted to see Shackleton's Memorial. He died on a third visit there of a heart attack.
"My husband Bruce was a geographer and he's interested in glaciers, he wasn't disappointed."
On board were specialist lecturers on every aspect of Antarctica, among them were historians, ornithologists, marine biologists and each morning and night passengers were briefed on what to expect.
Julie remembers the icebergs. "They reminded me of Salvador Dali's sculptures with some, hundreds of feet high with colours and shapes that are constantly changing and the reflections are amazing because they are in perpetual motion, it's an ever-changing panorama of surprise and beauty."
There were elephant, weddell and leopard seals, and the endless sky with wheeling albatross...
The month of December is when the pack ice is generally navigable, and passengers embark on large rubber craft to visit wildlife ashore.
"Some highlights were the dignified and curious penguins who have no fear."
"There were elephant, weddell and leopard seals, and the endless sky with wheeling albatross and, depending on conditions, some cruises also include the historical and preserved huts and museums of the area."
The Antarctic is vast and unique and several nations have bases there. Environmental standards and protocols are strictly observed by all, such as controlled landings, the frequency and duration of time spent ashore, the number of boats in one area, and the number of people ashore at any one time.
"We also went to Ernest Shackleton's Memorial, he had joined Robert Scott's first expedition to the South Pole 1901/1902 but due to sickness was sent back to England.
"He became convinced that he had failed and returned in 1914, on the sailing ship Endurance with 28 men.
"His second attempt to reach the South Pole failed, when his ship drifted
for nine months on ice floes before being crushed by the pack ice.
"What history remembers is not his failure - but his extraordinary trek with Frank Worsley, skipper of the Endurance to save his stranded men.
"Twenty eight survived because of their heroic journey against impossible odds, and their leadership and determination to survive."
Was David Attenborough right?
"Yes, he was right, it's amazingly beautiful, and, as near to pristine as it could be, an unforgettable trip of a lifetime."
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