Ice man: An interview with polar explorer Nick Cox
Polar explorer Nick Cox tells of his enduring love for these extreme environments – and his special affection for Weddell seals
Antarctica and the Arctic are an important part of my life. Aged six, I already had an ambition to go to the polar regions, inspired by a book my parents gave me; The Puffin Book of Polar Exploration, which I still have at home.
At 21, I joined the British Antarctic Survey for two winters, returned home and went straight to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to work as a boat skipper. Then I went back to the Antarctic for another season that lasted 20 months. I’ve now worked in the Antarctic, Arctic or both every year for 47 years.
Read as much as you can about Antarctica before you go. My top recommendation is Shackleton’s Boat Journey by Frank Worsley. He was the captain of HMS Endurance, the ship used by the legendary explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton on his 1914 – 16 expedition to the Antarctic. His account is marvellously written but modest – you will never feel cold again after reading it.
Antarctica constantly surprises me. Many people don’t realise the vast size of the White Continent – it’s twice the size of Australia, but it’s the only continent with no indigenous population. We are insignificant in that vast landscape, just a vulnerable dot on a mighty white canvas. It is humbling and awe inspiring to realise that.
I have a mountain named after me in Antarctica.
Mount Cox is a 9,700ft peak in the Rouen Mountains, between Mt Hankey and Mt Hall. I feel very grateful that the British Antarctic Survey made this dedication to me for my services to polar work.
Antarctic wildlife is remarkable.
Penguins are always a joy to watch, and the sight of a whale is special too. But top of my list are Weddell seals. They’re beautiful, unobtrusive creatures and their pups make an endearing ‘mwar’ noise.
Layers are essential if you’re visiting Antarctica.I find that natural materials tend to be the best. Cotton, wool and silk all stay fresher for longer, and they’re also the warmest type of clothing you can have. I would avoid fleece jackets, as they carry a lot of micro-plastics, and I always suggest to people to bring a spare hat because they tend to blow away in the wind.
I have a soft spot for Ireland.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some spectacular places but one that will always be close to my heart is Ireland. I love the rugged coastline and wild open spaces, and it’s somewhere I want to return to on repeat.
An 11-night Antarctic Explorer roundtrip cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina via an Antarctic expedition aboard Viking Octantis, departs November 24, 2024. Prices start from £9,995 per person, including flights.
A 17-night Antarctica & South Georgia Island roundtrip cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina via West Point Island, Port Stanley, South Georgia Island and an Antarctic expedition aboard Viking Octantis, departs November 11, 2025. Prices start from £15,995 per person, including flights.
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