If you are considering a trip to Antarctica or are even remotely interested in the 7th continent, there are some excellent books and documentaries that will immerse you into the history of the region, focusing on some of the admirable expeditions that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. Names like Shackleton, Ross, and Amundsen are scattered throughout the continent with islands, bays, and ice shelves having been named after the famed explorers. Learning a bit more about the hardships they faced while sailing on tiny wooden boats with canvas gear and sleeping bags made from reindeer skins will give you a whole new appreciation for your Patagonia puffy jacket and technical merino wool base layers. It will also give you some context for the places you will visit and things you will see along your journey.
1. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing - A brilliantly narrated account of Shackleton's harrowing journey, surviving nearly 2 years stuck on the ice, culminating in an epic 830-mile journey through some of the roughest seas in the world to seek help from the nearest outpost of civilization.
2. A Short History of Polar Exploration by Nick Rennison - An excellent overview of the exploration of both poles, revisiting some of the most famed stories and the hardships encountered as the bravest of men attempted to explore and map out these unknown and unpredictable parts of the globe.
3. Erebus by Michael Palin - Monty Python's very own depicts the life of the long lost ship and its two epic voyages: James Clark Ross's Antarctic expedition and John Franklin's attempt at the Northwest Passage during which the ship and its seamen seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.
4. "Chasing Shackleton" (documentary mini-series): Found on PBS, this three-part mini series follows a group of modern day explorers who set out to recreate Shackleton's epic rescue mission from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a replica of the small, wooden lifeboat, the James Caird, using period-specific equipment and gear.
This last suggestion, "Chasing Shackleton," is especially poignant for me as the passengers on my ship were lucky enough to have Sebastian Coulthard as our on-board historian. "Seb," accomplished sailor and engineer, is one of the explorers who participated in the re-enactment above! His storytelling skills are second to none.