by Joe Phelan

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Following 40 years working in the Irish Health Service, Joe Phelan retired. With his family grown it was time for adventure. Colleagues and friends wished him well, enthusing about all the golf he would enjoy. Joe had a different plan, he was going to sail to Antarctica…

This is the story of the journey that brought him to the cold Southern Continent, on the first yacht to ever complete such a voyage from Ireland.

In 2004, with a crew of retired friends, the yacht Pure Magic, owned and skippered by Peter Killen, set sail for Antarctica.

Over eight months it called in to Spain, Portugal, the Canaries and the Cape Verdes, to Brazil and Argentina, before heading down south to the land of ice. In the Beagle Channel, originally explored by Captain Fitzroy and Charles Darwin, the crew prepared for crossing the notorious Drake Passage, a journey fraught with danger. Navigating through stormy weather and iceberg-laden seas, this 600-mile voyage took them to Deception Island in the Bransfield Strait – named for the Corkman who discovered Antarctica in 1820 – through the Gerlache Strait, and onto the Bismarck Strait – heading west past the American Antarctic Base on Anvers Island in the Bellingshausen Sea. Along the way they stopped at South Georgia to visit the grave of Shackleton, that extraordinary leader of men, before finally heading back to Dublin via Cape Town.

Sailing to Antarctica tells the inspiring story of how a bunch of retirees could confidently sail from Dublin to the Antarctic Peninsula on the adventure of a lifetime.

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