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PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY

Two years later, we built the first ever luxury camp in the interior of Antarctica. The camp was designed to be more in keeping with an African safari than a polar expedition, with spacious tents, three-course dinners and a place to relax near the stove each night with a gin and tonic in hand. For the client sleeping pods, we fused old-world style with cutting-edge technology as the pods are made from specialist fibreglass sheets that lock together like an armadillo shell. Inside are proper beds, fur rugs and blackout blinds (an important way of preventing insomina in the 24-hour continuous sunshine). Our business plan was more a case of ‘build it and they shall come’, as opposed to any astute awareness of a gap in the market. But there was a gap and people came. Jaded from having travelled to every other bit of the globe, or simply bored with the latest offering of a seven-star resort, clients looked for a new kind of adventure. It had to be genuine, and it had to be unique – but it also had to be accessible. Basically, polar exploration without the hardship. We seemed to attract a wonderfully eclectic mix of clients. They were from all different nationalities, varied in culture and appearance, yet all sharing this common thread of adventure. Antarctica is a great leveller like that. Social standing and wealth become rather meaningless when you’re staring across a landscape that’s as close to being ‘off planet’ as you can get without passing the stratosphere. We’d watch them step off the private jet, crunching across the hardpack snow while wearing their entire wardrobe of polar clothing as if expecting to be whisked off by a blizzard at any given moment. In fact it was a balmy -5° C and some of them were already starting to sweat. I’d watch as their eyes widened behind their sunglasses, taking in the endless horizons of ice glinting in the sunshine. Their lungs seemed to catch on the frozen, pristine air as if truly breathing for the first time. The air is so pure that even from the runway, you can see the smudge of icebergs on the coast over 120km away.

[Above] After a five-hour flight across the mighty Southern Ocean, a private jet lands on the ice runway at Novo and clients disembark to begin their trip with White Desert. [Right] On the way to the emperor penguin colony, the DC3 Basler cruises over a line of spectacular peaks, many of which remain unclimbed

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IMAGE: ALEXEY NAGAEV

I’m often asked what Antarctica is like and the only way to contextualise it is to ask

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Private Edition is a provocative and intelligent read, aimed at a niche audience of highly exclusive luxury brand consumers. Features includ...

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Private Edition is a provocative and intelligent read, aimed at a niche audience of highly exclusive luxury brand consumers. Features includ...