What It’s Like On A Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition

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When you think of the word expedition, chances are your mind conjures up pictures of men huddled together, traversing through blistering winds, snowshoes tied to their feet, and huge sacks of equipment strapped to their backs.

Those images are what the brave explorers of the Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition experienced during the height of the heroic Antarctic era of 1895-1917, however today Antarctica expeditions are far more luxurious.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an adventure to be had. It’s a chance to explore a place where not many humans have been to, or will ever go, and see the raw, unspoiled beauty of the White Continent.

Take your dream trip to Antarctica on a Antarctic Expedition.
Take your dream trip to Antarctica on a Antarctic Expedition. Image: Oceanwide Experditions

However, there are many companies that offer Ross Sea Antarctica Expeditions, and each one offers a different level of luxury, service, and itinerary, so it can be hard knowing what to expect.

If you’re considering the Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition, then this guide is for you. We interviewed our friend, Lee Abbamonte, who we met on a trip to Snowmass in Colorado and was fascinated by the life he’s lived and his experience on a Ross Sea Expedition.

Here’s what he had to say about it…

What Is The Ross Sea?

misty scene of icebergs and snow covered mountains

But before we get into the insight from Lee, let’s quickly cover what is the Ross Sea Expedition.

The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean, known to be a region of exploration and scientific research. It’s considered one of the last intact marine ecosystems on the planet, hosting a diverse range of species, including crabeater seals and marine mammals.

This infamous land is more famous for being the spot where Robert Falcon Scot began his pioneering expedition to the South Pole in 1902, but was unsuccessful.

He was followed by the equally unsuccessful Ernest Shackleton, who also braved this perilous land in 1908.

The man who did make the journey was Roald Amundsen in December 1911, followed by Robert Scott in January 1912.

Who is Lee Abbamonte?

man climbing glaciers
Lee Abbamonte ice caving

Lee is the youngest American to visit every country in the world, plus the South and North Pole. He’s also attempting to visit all 324 countries and unique destinations in the world per the Travelers Century Club list.

Lee understands that venturing on quests and expeditions involves failure, which is part of what makes them so memorable and valuable. The challenges and the failures teach us more about our own courage, power, and strength than the final outcome ever will.

We can have lots of reasons as to why we can’t do something, but I resonate strongly with Lee when he says.

“In my life, if I’ve ever wanted something, I have gone out and taken it or worked really hard to achieve it, whatever I decide I want, I make it happen one way or another.”

Lee Abbamonte

I’d say that the majority of the time, no matter your limitations, knowing you have this power and acting on it will make your dreams happen.

Lee Abbamonte ceremonial South Pole expeditition
Lee Abbamonte – ceremonial South Pole expedition

If you’ve ever dreamed of travel to Antarctica, now may be the time to make it happen.

Now, Lee shares with us a little about his expedition to the South Pole as well as an amazing Antarctica expedition deal he has for you down below!

What made you decide to go to the South Pole?

After visiting every country, visiting the South Pole seemed like the next logical step for me.

So few people have been there and I was excited by the challenge especially after failing to make it my first time trying!

And, of course, once I visited the South Pole I had to visit the North Pole as well, and I did earlier this year!

How do you even make a trip to the South Pole possible?

There’s really only one way to do it. You pay the astronomical cost to get there. The current going rate starts at around $4,000 USD per person (but they are incredibly basic) and go up from there. You can be looking to spend around $7,000 for a mid-range expedition!

The only other way I know of is if you can somehow get stationed at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station by the United States, but I have no idea how a non-scientist could pull that off.

rock climbing white desert antarctica
Rock climbing white desert, Antarctica

Can you describe the experience?

It’s worth noting again that I tried to reach the South Pole once in 2013 and failed. I had a little interference from Prince Harry of England that cost my team the opportunity! That said, when I went back in 2014, it was a real rush and a great moment.

It’s hard to describe but the weather was such that there was a day or two I didn’t think we’d make it again.

That was really disheartening. But, in the end, we made it to the South Pole by the skin of our teeth at the last possible chance.

If not, I don’t think I would’ve gone back for a third try. It’s just too costly and too time-consuming.

Standing at the bottom of the world, where so few have been before me, was perhaps the ultimate thrill of my life.

What were some of the challenges and why were they worth overcoming?

The challenge once you’re in Antarctica is the weather and the elements. Shockingly it’s really cold down there and significantly colder at the pole itself.

With the wind, it was around -60 degrees!

The weather is so important with clouds and visibility as well because the planes landing on the ice do so by eye, not instruments.

So there needs to be a contrast or it’s unsafe to land and they won’t fly.

What makes travel to Antarctica a worthy and memorable experience?

Antarctica is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen – true story. It stays with you long after you leave and you long to return. Here are some of the top highlights of Antarctica.

What were your highlights of your Antarctica trip?

Reaching the South Pole of course. Also, ice caving was amazing, mountain climbing, visiting several bases and talking to the scientists and just hiking around taking photos.

Oh yes…and the emperor penguins! They’re my favorite!

Emperor penguins and their chicks - Antarctica Expedition

What did your expedition to the South Pole and Antarctica teach you about yourself?

It taught me that sometimes failure is the biggest motivator, to never give up and that I could achieve anything including going to the ends of the Earth.

Not to mention that Antarctica truly is the most beautiful place on Earth!

“The further I go, the closer to me I get.”

Travel writer, Andrew McCarthy

How can someone prepare for an Antarctica trip?

The most important thing is to wear the proper gear because it’s really cold and the gear can be the difference between misery and enjoyment. You’re spending money to go, spend a little more for good gear.

How would you define an expedition?

I would define it as a trip that works and builds toward a goal such as getting to the South Pole, taking a boat to Antarctica would certainly count as well. Climbing a mountain to the summit, that type of thing.

An expedition is a trip that can fail.

Canada glacier in the dry valley Ross Sea - Antarctica

What type of travellers are expeditions suited for?

Those who are patient, goal oriented and willing to put in some time, effort and money. Basically a little skin in the game.

“Need to put footstep of courage into stirrup of patience.” ― Ernest Shackleton

Best kind of expeditions or locations?

In my experience, it’s the polar regions whether Antarctic or Arctic. Also, long boat trips to remote islands or climbing tall mountains. The location is up to you based on what you want to do or achieve.

icebergs in the Ross Island Antarctica
Icebergs in the Ross Island – Antarctica

Any tips for taking an expedition?

Go with a reliable company that has great and remote destinations and a track record of success with good equipment and people, meaning ships, staff and guides etc.

One of the polar companies I work with is Oceanwide Expeditions; one of the leading Antarctic expedition companies of the world.

Emporer Penguins Antarctica

Ross Sea Antarctica Expeditions

Zodiacs - Oceanwide Expeditions Ross Sea, Antarctica
Zodiacs – Oceanwide Expeditions Ross Sea, Antarctica

The Ross Sea has been nicknamed “The Last Ocean.” It’s because researchers, in their investigations to map out human impacts on the oceans globally, found this to be the most pristine piece of ocean left on Earth.

It makes you feel kinda sad but also inspired to visit the Ross Sea Antarctica.

Because it’s the closest open waterway to the South Pole, the Ross Sea has become the launching spot of many exploration expeditions that ventured inland.

The Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition goes to and from Ushuaia in Argentina and Bluff in New Zealand.

Check out this video of the Spectacular Ross Sea from Oceanwide Expeditions.

Highlights of the Ross Sea Expedition to Antarctica

Campbell Island

penguins on Campbell Island with mountains in background

Campbell Island is a sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a large and easily accessible colony of Albatrosses along with penguins and seals.

McMurdo Station, Scott Base and the Dry Valleys

Helicopter landing, Taylor Valley, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Scott Base is New Zealand’s only Antarctic research station and McMurdo Station is the US equivalent. There is the option to use the helicopters to offer landings in one or more places if ice conditions don’t allow water landings.

A 10km hike to Castle Rock with views across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole may also be done from McMurdo Station.

Oceanwide Expeditions will also helicopter into Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys with conditions said to be the closest you get to the conditions on Mars anywhere on Earth.

Ross Ice Shelf

The Ross Ice Shelf - Antarctica

Sailing along the Ross Ice Shelf is a floating mass of land-ice. At roughly the size of Spain, it is the largest such shelf on Earth and soars anywhere between 15 and 60 metres high.

In the Bay of Whales, at the eastern side of the shelf close to Roosevelt Island, Roald Amundsen gained access to the Shelf and ventured to the South Pole, where he finally arrived on 14 December 1911.

Peter I Island

Peter I Island in Antarctica - Ross Sea Oceanwide Expeditions

Peter I Island is an uninhabited volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory on its own.

It is rarely visited by passenger vessels and is considered one of the toughest places to visit in the world.

If the weather conditions allow, Oceanwide Expeditions will attempt a helicopter landing on the glaciated northern part of the island.

Amazing Antarctica Wildlife

Orcas in the Ross Sea

Wildlife flourishes despite the harsh cold of the waters. Some of the fish found in the Ross Sea have antifreeze in their veins to keep them from freezing solid.

On the different excursions onto the Antarctic continent as well as around the Ross Sea, you’re likely to see penguins, seals, whales and a wide variety of bird life.

Andrew Denton Antarctica travel quote

Final Thoughts

I can see why Lee says Antarctica is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen.

Combine that with the adventure of the journey and you have one memorable trip of a lifetime!

With helicopter and zodiac rides, stunning scenery and incredible wildlife it’s definitely something I’m more interested in experiencing in my quest to discover more of myself and what I’m capable of.

And you?

We recommend the Antarctica tours from reputable company G Adventures. Not only will the G Expedition steer you closer to some of our planet’s most amazing places, their professional and highly-skilled team of on-board experts offer keen insight, unique perspectives, and hands-on attention not found in a guidebook. See the G Expedition tours and availability here.

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4 thoughts on “What It’s Like On A Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition”

    1. I know right. This is a pretty sweet deal for anyone who wants to visit Antarctica. Since learning about this Antarctic Expedition it has definitely risen up this list on my bucket list of adventure travel goals.

    1. Lee’s stories always inspire us to explore more. After reading this, what adventurous traveler doesn’t want to visit Antarctica on a Ross Sea Antarctic Expedition?!!

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