Photos: incredible polar exploration

Polar photographer Martin Hartley shares some of his most dramatic images from a decade on the ice.
By Tarquin Cooper

As a British team of explorers set off for the frozen continent of Antarctica on a challenging expedition to the south pole and back, we asked polar photographer Martin Hartley to open his archive.

With temperatures down to -40 Celcius, the polar regions are an unforgiving and brutal place. But for the few adventurers who manage to journey to these remote outposts of our planet, the reward is a place of unimaginable beauty.

Once voted a 'hero of the environment' for taking part in a scientific mission to the North Pole, Hartley has been documenting Arctic, Antarctic and mountaineering expeditions for over 10 years. Check out more of his work at


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Self portrait
Self portrait This photo was taken after spending 76 days skiing into a headwind across the Arctic Ocean in 2010. “I made the mistake of pulling the fur off my hood as it was blocking my view. But the windburn healed up quickly.” ©
Route finder
Route finder Scientist Adrian McCallum stands atop a grounded iceberg off Cornwallis Island in the early Spring of 2011 to survey the route back to base, after a kit testing day out. ©
The white desert
The white desert A team of adventurers haul their sledges across Antarctica, the most southerly of white deserts, during a Trans Antarctic Expedition 2004. ©
Are we nearly there yet?
Are we nearly there yet? A team of British adventurers led by Mark Davey re-trace the steps of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 expedition to discover a route through the North West Passage in the Canadian high Arctic. ©
To the bottom of the earth
To the bottom of the earth Pen Hadow and Simon Murray set off from Hercules Inlet, Antarctica on a successful unsupported South Pole Expedition. At 63, Murray would become the oldest man to ski unsupported to the South Pole. ©
It's a dog's life
It's a dog's life David de Rothschild takes his dogs across a thin snow bridge over open water during the 2004 TransArctic Adventure Ecology Expedition, just behind Polar legend Paul Landry and Sarah McNair-Landry. ©
Doggie battle
Doggie battle “Hey, I don't want to go home!” Bert shows a lack of enthusiasm for getting in the plane during the 2004 Trans Arctic Adventure Ecology expedition. David de Rothschild passes him up to Sarah McNair-Landry during a re-supply where the team swopped dogs for sledges. ©
No pressure
No pressure Polar explorers Pen Hadow (top) and Ann Daniels get some pressure ridge practice in during a route finding recce off the coast of Qikiqtarjuaq in 2009. Pressure ridges are formed when planes of sea-ice collide like tectonic plates. ©
On thin ice
On thin ice Ann Daniels crawls across some very thin ice, only a few kilometres from the North Geographic Pole during a scientific survey expedition in 2010. Sea-ice needs be just 4cm thick to ski across. A Hercules aircraft can land on sea ice just 90cm thick. Average Arctic ice thickness? A mere 1.77m. ©
Smokin' across Kamchatka
Smokin' across Kamchatka Richard Hartley (no relation) picks his way across freshly fallen volcanic ash on the lower slopes of Kluchevskay Sopka, one of the most active and highest volcanoes in the Northern Hemisphere. ©
I'm just going outside
I'm just going outside Expedition Doctor Martin Rhodes recreates one of the most famous moments in polar history when Capt Oates staggered out of his tent to his death in 1912 after uttering the immortal line: “I'm just going outside and may be some time.” ©
Polar wasteland
Polar wasteland Ann Daniels picks her way through a patch of floating sea ice in the Canadian high Arctic. Pulling a sledge across Arctic sea ice can be an unnerving experience as the ice flexes like a trampoline. ©
Winter sun
Winter sun During a polar winter the sun does not appear at all. This shot was taken during a winter expedition to Little Cornwallis Island, Canada in November 2008. It was taken around midday, the brightest part of the day, when the only light was just a glimmer on the horizon. ©
Lead the way
Lead the way Ann Daniels hops across floating ice chunks as she nears the Geographic North Pole during The Catlin Arctic Survey, a scientific mission to measure sea ice thickness in 2010. ©
Touching the white void
Touching the white void Where does the mountain end and the sky begin? Elliot Forge leads the way along the summit ridge of a previously unclimbed mountain in the Zaalayski Khrebet during an expedition to the Eastern Pamirs in 1999. ©