Speculation over the existence of a “southern land” was not confirmed until the early 1820s when British and American commercial operators and British and Russian national expeditions began exploring the Antarctic Peninsula region and other areas south of the Antarctic Circle. Not until 1840 was it established that Antarctica was indeed a continent and not just a group of islands. Several exploration “firsts” were achieved in the early 20th century. Following World War II, there was an upsurge in scientific research on the continent. A number of countries have set up year-round research stations on Antarctica. Seven have made territorial claims, but not all countries recognize these claims. In order to form a legal framework for the activities of nations on the continent, an Antarctic Treaty was negotiated that neither denies nor gives recognition to existing territorial claims; signed in 1959, it entered into force in 1961.
2500 km’s from the nearest civilisation, Mount Vinson stands isolated in a frozen landscape. It is Antarctica’s highest mountain with a summit unlike any other in the world. For as far as the eye can see, thousands of square kilometers of ice caps and glaciers fade into a distinctly curved horizon. Set amidst this tremendous icecap are hundreds of unknown and unexplored mountains awaiting the adventurous. Mt Vinson at 4897m is 1200km from the South Pole and is the highest of these. Vinson is part of the Elsworth range, which rises from the Ronne Ice Shelf.
The climate on Vinson is generally controlled by the polar pressure system, creating predominantly, stable but cold conditions. During summer months there is 24 hours of sunlight and the annual snow fall on Vinson is minimal. Since Mt Vinson’s discovery in 1957, it has seen relatively few ascents, attesting to its reputation as the world’s most inaccessible mountain. Getting there is an adventure! An ascent of Mt Vinson is not technical, but clients must have a working knowledge of ice and snow gear. Difficulties are associated more with the cold and the wind and experiencing minus 40 degrees Celsius should be expected.