One hundred years ago, on January 8, 1912, a team of scientists from Australian and New Zealand Universities led by Australian geologist Douglas Mawson landed in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, directly south of Australia, and set up camp. A gruelling, history-making two-year scientific exploration of this cold, uncharted and decidedly unforgiving region of Antarctica had begun.
Three months later, in the early morning of April 15, 1912 the largest luxury liner of its time, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg south of Newfoundland, Canada and sank into a watery grave. Of the 2,228 passengers and crew on board only 705 survived, a tragedy that has gone down as one of the world’s most notorious maritime disasters.
Now, a hundred years on, lovers of leisurely nautical exploration have been given the opportunity to revisit the locations of these historic events in the style and comfort afforded by contemporary cruise ships.
Last week, on January 10, 2012, after braving days of blizzard conditions, Aurora Expeditions’ Akademik Shokalskiy sailed into Commonwealth Bay, 100 years and two days after Mawson’s historic landing. While passage all the way to Mawson’s Hut was unfortunately blocked by fast ice (ice still attached to the land), according to expedition leader Roger Kirkwood the 48 passengers on board were nonetheless treated to an experience of a lifetime.
“Our landing in Commonwealth Bay was simply magical,” he said. “Our passengers went trekking over the ice [that was] scattered with Adelie penguins, under a clear blue sky and no wind. The Antarctic Plateau and Cape Denison, the home of Mawson’s Huts, were both within sight. Certainly an experience of a lifetime!”
And while the recent Titanic-like sinking of Costa Concordia may have dampened the excitement of superstitious cruisers, a number of cruise ships will be retracing all or part of the doomed Titanic voyage in April this year.
Fred.Olsen Cruise Line’s 1,350-passenger Balmoral will closely replicate the Titanic’s voyage, departing Southampton on April 8, 2012 (the Titanic departed April 10, 1912). Guests are welcome to dress in apparel of the times and will be served meals based on the food served on the voyage. Balmoral will first visit Liverpool and Belfast before crossing the Atlantic to float above the Titanic’s wreck at the exact time of her sinking.
Unfortunately Balmoral is fully booked but Azamara Journey will be making an eight-night return voyage from New York, via Halifax to the same site, departing April 10, 2012.
And while not actually visiting the site of the ship’s wreckage, Saga Pearl II will be making a special centenary cruise to all the places associated with the Titanic and her fateful cruise. She departs Southampton April 12 and will visit Belfast, before moving on to the Titanic’s only ports of call: Cherbourg in France and Queenstown in Ireland.
Building on all this nostalgia is P&O Cruises’ new search for Australia’s so-called Ten Pound Poms who migrated on cruise ships here as a part of the post-World War II assisted migration program. Ten Pound Poms are invited to share their favourite memories of their migration for a chance to be one of the 175 winners and friends to celebrate at a special lunch onboard P&O Cruises Oriana when she visits Sydney on February 23, 2012.