Antarctica Expedition

The following is a quick edit and write up on my recent photographic expedition to Antarctica. There are a ton of images that I still need to edit through so this is simply a first blush look.

Buenos Aires Airport, November 30th, 2005 12:30pm

Left: Expedition Leaders Michael Reichmann and Christopher Sanderson finally arrive at the Buenos Aires Airport (their flight from Toronto, Canada took about 12 hours longer than planned-about 24 hours total). Right: Michael checks his computer for a list of expedition members-2 people whose luggage was lost didn’t make the Ushuaia flight.

Left: Considering that 42 photographers, most with DryZone camera bags were lined up in a cue for check-in, we sort of stood out from the crowd. Right: Can you say “Lot’s of luggage”?

Left: after waiting for about an hour to go through security, we were informed our plane was delayed (again) so we hung out in a local coffee shop waiting for permission to go through security. Right: Ever see security agents have to deal with 42 photographers’ carry-on luggage packed with cameras and computers? We actually sailed through security.

Left: Since Aerolineas Argentinas was on strike, our original flight 2896 was combined with a special 747 sent down to Ushuaia to pick up 6 ships’ worth of returning passengers. Needless to say, our flight was sparse–we had lot’s of room. Right: I tested out Seth Resnick’s lap for size-I figured my “bunkmate” and I might need the practice.

Left: What do 42 photographers do on a 3.5 hour flight? Work on our Photoshop skills of course. Here, John Paul Caponigro goes over the finer points of “Curves”. Right: A view out the window on approach to Ushuaia.

Landing at Ushuaia, Argentina

Left: After waiting for our group’s considerable luggage to come out, we cued up for taxis to the hotel-2 people to a taxi. Right: Stephen Johnson and JP share a taxi with about 8 bags of luggage-a wonder we all got to the hotel.

Left: Ruth Knoll knits while waiting for the rooms to be sorted out. I think she finished at least one pair of socks on the trip. Right: After dinner we sat in the hotel lobby sucking on what would be the last of the highspeed (sort of) wireless internet access for the trip.

Left: One of many pictures of Seth sleeping…(sorry Seth). Right: Early the next morning, Seth points out the Ushuaia landscape.

Left: Waiting for the bus to arrive for a tour of Tierra del Fuego. Left: The local hotel’s dog waits with us.

Seth tries to push the busses apart-didn’t work.

Left: At the Tierra del Fuego National Park we encountered a group of motorcycle riders who had started their trip in Alaska–3 months and about 20,000 miles ago! See Right: I pose with some of the riders. And we thought OUR trip was special!

1 Dec. – Ushuaia – 6.20 pm – 54˚15′S 68˚19′W

Left: Seth carries some of the wine we purchased in Ushuaia for the voyage. Right: The Akademik Shokalskiy, our home for the next ten days. It sure SEEMED bigger in the pictures…

Left: Michael holds court on our first group meeting in the lecture room outlining the activities. The two last minute passengers whose bags had been lost arrived on-board with 20 minutes to spare. Right: after the meeting we visited our primary meeting place-the BAR-deck 4, aft.

Left: Michael tries to use his GPS to figure our where we were (it wasn’t hard, just look out the porthole Michael). Right: Michael and Kirsten LeMar, Expedition Leader & Zoologist go over our itinerary-which was always subject to change.

Our first ship board meal-the food was rather good and of course, we consumed a LOT of wine on the trip!

After dinner it was back to the bar. Left: Stephen Johnson does a print review. Right: Seth makes metadata templates for his shots from Buenos Aires. Seth made a LOT of metadata templates.

After several hours of cruising we were in the Beagle Channel. The harbor pilot left the ship and we were officially on our own heading into the Drake Passage.

Left: Cabin 411 at about 12:30 am. Right: Cabin 411 at about 5:30 am after a night spent on the Drake Passage. We could have had the “Drake Lake” (calm) or the “Drake Rock & Roll” – we had the rock & roll.

Seth actually getting some sleep-with clothing on-we finally learned how to turn the heater on during the passage home.

2 Dec. – At sea – Drake Passage

Port side at 5:45 am.

Seth and I went out shooting at 5:30 am. When Kirsten found out we were on deck up to deck 7 (Seth actually went up the crow’s nest) she knew she had a ship of fools.

On deck 6 this shot of the stern shows a tilt measuring 26.8 degrees. That means we were rolling a total of 53.6 degrees. The crew actually called it “mildly rough”.

The view from the bridge.

Tilt to the left…tilt to the right…back and forth, rock and roll!

JP caught this shot of me.

The ubiquitous Albatross…in profile.

Albatross front view. We had birds following the wake of the ship the entire passage. But I never actually saw an albatross catch a fish. I also never saw any actually have to flap their wings-they just sailed on the wind, back and forth behind the ship.

3 Dec. – At sea – Drake Passage

Left: The 24 hour coffee machine-always a hot cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate). Right: Here JP goes through some of his shots in the bar.

Left: We spent a LOT of time in the bar. Yutta was in charge and chief bartender. Seth catches some rays through the port hole.

Micheal (left) and crew pose for pictures-there were a lot of pictures of people taking pictures of each other.

Dinner (with wine) offered the “Ocean” (fish) the “Explorer” (meat) or the vegetarian entree. Soup available at every meal (except breakfast). Lots of fruit, cheese and breads.

Left: Some of us ate with great gusto…Right: Some suffered sea-sickness. Neither Seth nor I had any symtoms-we were heavily medicated using the “patch” as well as a tablet. The downside to the patch was dry mouth-which was why we spent so much time in the bar.

Aitcho Island – Activity: beach landing – 8.15-10.30 pm – 62˚24′S 59˚47′W

Left: The mandatory landing briefing in the bar. Right: First landing looking back at the ship.

Thomas Knoll sprung back from seasickness to carry his camera with tripod.

Left: A Zodiac full of photographers. Right: First of many, many penguins-this time a Gentoo penguin pair.

4 Dec. – Half Moon Island – Activity: Beach Landing – 8.15-10.30 am – 62˚36′S 59˚55′W

5:55 am at Half Moon island. An eerie landscape with the sun barely showing produced a real antarctic feeling to the location.

Seth wanders out on a point.

Steve sets up his BetterLight panorama scanning back digital camera. Click here to read more about Steve’s Digital Panoramic Photographs

Left: Steve watches a scan using his Cambo Wide DS camera. Right: He checks out the scan on his hooded laptop.

Left: The Three Amigos; Left to right, John Paul Caponigro, Jeff Schewe & Seth Resnick. Right: Thomas Knoll-perhaps he’s thinking about features in the next version of Camera Raw?

Chinstrap penguin on a ridge.

We were warned to stay at least 5 meters away from all wildlife-but it was ok if the wildlife approached us. They usually did approach us, often walking right up to us.

Gerlache Strait

Leaving Half Moon Island and entering the Gerlache Strait we saw lots of icebergs of many sizes and shapes. The tiny black dots are penguins-who seem to love to hang around lounging on icebergs.

More iceberg penguins.

Left: Seth calls Jamie on a satelite phone-the time difference was 2 hours ahead of the US Eastern Time Zone.

More penguins on icebergs-they often felt threatened when our ship went by…sometimes for good reason (see later in the story).

Errera Channel

Left: Looking out of the bridge on iceberg watch at 9:43 pm – a couple of hours before actual sunset.

Low light in the Errera Channel.

Just after sunset at 11:09 pm.

Shot at midnight.

5 Dec. – Paradise Bay: Almirante Brown* – Activity: Beach Landing – 8.00-11.30am – 64˚54′S 62˚52′W

5 Dec. – Paradise Bay: Skontrop Cove – Activity: Zodiac cruise- 8.15-11.30 am – 64˚54′S 62˚52′W

A “Beach Landing” (actually an old dock was used) for a trip up a “hill”.

Actually, the Zodiac Cruises provided a great shooting platform (assuming not everybody was standing) and allowed us close approaches to icebergs and relatively close approaches to glacier walls.

Left: Seth shooting with his favorite lens–a 300mm F2.8, handheld of course-he has a special technique of two-shooting, meaning clicking the shutter twice in rapid succession, that seems to produce a sharp image with the second shot almost every time. Right: Seth “Chimping”.

Neko Habour* – Beach Landing – 2.15-4.45 pm – 64˚50′S 62˚33′W

This beach landing at Neko Harbour was my first official Antarctic Continent landing-see the certificate at the end of the story.

Gentoo penguins hooting.

Gerlache Strait

We re-entered the Gerlache Strait to sail down to the Lemaire Channel at sunset. Here the time was 9:30 pm.

Left: Seth climbed the crow’s nest to see the channel. Right: Michael looks forward while entering the channel.

10:00 pm and Michael has his three cameras ready– a Canon 1Ds, a D5 and a Cambo SW.

Lemaire Channel – 9.30-12.30pm – 65˚04′S 63˚57′W

10:10 pm, entering the Lemaire Channel.

During the entire voyage, we were constantly told not to “harrass the wildlife” (and we were very good about that) but it was ironic that the ship itself, while breaking through thin ice, disturbed this pair of penguins who were using the sheet ice as a refuge for the night.

The poor penguins were in quite a tizzy-so much so that it’s fair to say we scared the crap out of them…before they took off into the water. Chris actually has a very funny video of this entire scenario with music…it’s a hoot but Kristen wasn’t amuzed.

11:38 pm and the sun is just setting. The light was fantastic, but even though it was beautiful, it seemed that sunset took forever…total golden hour light lasted about 2.5 hours.

Most Southerly Point – 12 pm – 65˚07′S 64˚02′W

The south end of the Lemaire Channel marked our most southern point. We were just about 90 miles from the Arctic Circle. We went back north through the channel to travel back up to the Antarctic Sound and go into the Weddell Sea-which was actually perhaps a mistake, as I’ll explain later.

12:10 pm…finally we had seen the last of the sun but the post sunset glow lasted…

Seth and I kept running from the stern to the bow-shooting. This was our longest shooting day and gave rise to a newly coined term–”Gigage” meaning lots and lots of gigs of images. Starting at Paradise Bay at about 7:00 am and going south to the Lemaire Channel and ending at 12:45 am I shot a little over 27 gigs of images-about equally split between a 16MP Canon 1Ds MII and an 8MP Digital Rebel XT. That’s major GIGAGE! Michael estimated that during the entire trip we shot over one terabyte of images-I disagree, I think we shot more…gigage!

Last shot of the day: 12:28 am. By the time I downloaded all my Lexar cards to my dual FireWire drives it was 1:30 am and sunrise was beginning to happen.

6 Dec. – Cierva Cove – Activity: Zodiac cruise – 10.30-12.30am – 64˚090′S 61˚07′W

Typical cueing up for a Zodiac Cruise. We had to de-contaminate our boots for each beach landing by scrubbing our boots and tripods with a decontamination solvent kept on the bow. Cleaning before and after each landing. Right: Ruth and Thomas Knoll. Aside from being the co-author of Photoshop (with brother John–see the PSN profile on Thomas and John Knoll) and the primary author of Adobe Camera Raw (see: Photoshop Widows Club – Parte Due) Thomas is also a pretty darn good photographer. This was his second trip to Antarctica.

Stephen Johnson carried along a mini ColorChecker for people to shoot for white balance.

Three Amigos #2…Seth started looking awfully cute after five days onboard the ship. You know what they say about sailors…note my stylish “Mad Bomber” hat–which proved to be a very useful and warm article of clothing.

JP actually stayed onboard for this landing taking notes and making sketches and shooting landscape elements.

Left: Michael cues up. Right: Kirsten leads a Zodiac tour.

Cierva Cove was a remarkable place where captured icebergs (they entered the cove and then wandered around rarely leaving) and calm water produced remarkable landscapes.

An iceberg only shows 1/9th of it’s total mass above the waterline. Here an iceberg whose erosion produced a convoluted opening has upended itself many many times. When the top becomes heavy enough, the iceberg will flip in the water bringing the bottom up until such time as seawater has erroded the base until it flips again. Due to its erosion this is a rather old iceberg–it could be several years old and many times smaller than its original size.

Bransfield Strait/Antarctic Peninsula – Outdoor BBQ on the bow

A BBQ cookout on the bow? Yes, it’s a Quark Expeditions tradition.

Left: Corn on the cob and meat! Right: Eating on benches set up on the bow.

Left: Thomas brought his favorite sauce–TABASCO Habanero Pepper Sauce. He uses ALOT of TABASCO! See this PSN article about his addiction Photoshop Widows Club – The Extremist

Left: I’m not sure what Stephen Johnson, our resident vegetarian ate but he didn’t starve. Right: Hot spiced wine helped keep the cold away (or at least kept you uncaring about the cold). The temperature was about 30 degrees F.

Beagle Beer brewed in Ushuaia. It was the most consumed drink (other than coffee) on the trip. We actually drank all the Beagle Beer they had onboard-the first time that’s happened I’m told. Must be something about 20 hour days and photographers shooting major gigage…

Left: Seth shooting some of his gigage. Right: Michael and I with our hats.

7 Dec. Tabarin Peninsula (pack-ice) – 6.30-7.30 am – 63˚32′S 56˚55′W

When we rounded the Tabarin Peninsula we were met with major pack ice. We had intended to round the peninsula and travel into “Iceberg Alley” in the Weddell Sea. However, the pack ice would have slowed us to a crawl. While we were on an “Ice Hardened” ship, breaking ice takes time. It was decided to bag “Iceberg Alley” and head back across the Antarctic Sound to the Shetlands.

Hope Bay* – Activity: Beach Landing – 1.30-2.45 pm – 63˚23′S 57˚01′W

Hope Bay was a “protected” harbor? Yeah right…the wind was whipping up to about 40 mph and the temps were in the low twenties. But this landing was one of the most photographic of the trip with regards to wildlife-so it was worth it.

A Weddell seal. This one got REAL CLOSE to me. Seems I wasn’t paying attention to it while looking the other way shooting penguins.

Cute, but needed a Kleenex…

Really, he was just yawning-or so I’m told.

Eric asked me, in a calm voice: “Jeff, can you move a little bit to the right?” Seems I was between the seal and the waterline. When I looked around he was about 2 feet from me.

We got a very tiny taste of Antarctic weather. Blowing snow and wind. Of course we were in our official Quark Expedition Parkas with a nice warm ship to return to.

Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) going out to feed. We didn’t see any leapord seals in the area but the penguins were still nervous getting into the water. There is safety in numbers so it seems they go right up to the edge of the water and then wait until one of them decides to go, then they all rush into the water.

Adelie penguins along with Emperor penguins are the only penguins who actually live only on the Antarctic Continent.

While they can look magestic…

…on land they are rather, uh, comical. Not always a graceful landing.

Bransfield Strait

Back into the Bransfield Straits with literally hundreds of icebergs ranging from small to large to REALLY HUGE.

This particular iceberg, a tabular iceberg was huge. It’s hard to judge the size and distance. About 100 feet tall, the iceberg was easily several (many) city blocks long. At first it appeared to be long and skinny.

Here is the leading edge of the iceberg.

However, after continuing around the end, it was clear that the width of the iceberg was deceptively bigger than at first glance. Iceberg B-15 A was a 100 mile long 1,200 square mile monster that broke off and approached the McMurdo Research Station earlier this year. Ok, so this one was smaller…but to my eyes it was huge. Remember, only 1/9th of an iceberg is visible…remember the Titanic?

8 Dec. – Deception Island – Telefon Bay – Beach Landing – 7.30-10.45 am – 62˚56′S 60˚40′W

Deception Island has a storied past from whaler days when thousands of whale killings turned the water red to 1967 when a volcanic eruption almost killed research scientists and did wipe out bases. The island is actually a caldera of a volcano which last erupted in 1968.

Deception Island – Whaler’s Bay – Beach Landing – 1.00-3.30 pm – 62˚59′S 60˚34′W

Two graves and the whaling station remain as historic landmarks.

Great Britain has cleaned the area of any toxic substances in an expensive cleanup in 1990-92. The remains of the Norwegian whaling station were designated as Historic Site No. 71 under the Antarctic Treaty, 19 May 1995.

Deception Island – Whaler’s Bay – Polar Plunge – 1.00-3.30 pm – 62˚59′S 60˚34′W

Whaler’s Bay is also noted for tourists partaking in what is called a “Polar Plunge”. Here Seth is getting himself pysched up to go into the water and swim to the iceberg (which just happened to be there).

Left: Seth comes out of the water while on the right, Thomas comes to shore.

The crew had dug a small hole which filled with geo-thermal heated water. Since I was not inclined to go into the water, I have no idea just how cold it was. At the shoreline, it seemed rather warm-perhaps in the 50′s? But 10-15 feet from shore I’m assured the water was VERY cold.

The Polar Plungers…Seth and several others actually went into the water and out to the iceberg twice. Once wasn’t enough?

In a true testament to grit, even Art, our oldest expedition member in his early 70′s went out to the iceberg. Ok, I was fine with not going in till Art did…

But at least I got the shots…

We loaded up the Zodiacs for what we thought was the last time…and headed back to sea.

Leaving South Shetland Islands

The last iceberg as we entered the Drake Passage for the sail back to Ushuaia, Argentina.

The group shot done by Scott, the ship’s doctor.

Photo by Stephen Starkman
The instructor and special guest group shot. From Left to right: Kevin Raber of Phase One, Stephen Johnson, Jeff Schewe, Thomas Knoll of Adobe, Seth Resnick of D-65, Michael Reichmann, Expedition Leader and publisher of The Luminous Landscape, Christopher Sanderson of Terra Luma, Inc and The Luminous Landscape Video Journal, John Paul Caponigro. After the initial problems with the flights into Argentina and down to Ushuaia, the entire trip was one of real comraderie (particularly since the converted Russian research vessel–code word for spy ship) was remarkable. The entire group of expeditioners truly shared a common bond-photography and the appreciation of the landscape of the Antarctic. Ok, Seth and I had our moments…

9 Dec. At sea – Drake Passage

10 Dec. At sea – Drake Passage We actually arrived at the Beagle Channel about 12 hours early and had to anchor out while waiting for the harbor pilot. As a result, one final Zodiac cruise was scheduled to a small island inhabited by a lot of sea lions. Which I didn’t go on. But Seth tells the story of approaching the island too close to the shoreline and having the sea lions charge the Zodiac-Costas, the Russian driver kept saying “No tell Kristen!”. Oops, I guess Kristen will find out :~).

11 Dec. – Ushuaia – 7 am – 54˚15′S 68˚19′W

Total Distance Traveled: 1874 nautical miles

Click on the image to see a larger version of the map in a new window.
Map of voyage

Click on the image to see a larger version of the certificate in a new window.
Antarctic Continental Landing Certificate

Personal Equipment List:
Canon EOS 1Ds MII Camera
17-40mm zoom
24-70mm zoom
70-300 DO/IS zoom

Canon Digital Rebel XT
10-22mm zoom
28-135mm IS zoom

LowePro DryZone 200 camera bag
LowePro Slingbag 200 AW
(the one I actually used the most!)

2 4gig Lexar cards
6 2gig Lexar cards
2 Lexar FireWire card readers

17″ Apple G4 Laptop
2 100 gig FireLite firewire hard drives
10 DVD’s burned for backup
Epson P2000 for emergency in-field downloads (used a couple of times)

Adobe Photoshop CS2
Adobe Bridge version 1.03
Camera Raw version 3.3 beta

Epson America, Inc. made a variety of printers available for the expedition, an Epson Stylus Photo R1800, an Epson Stylus Photo R2400 and a pair of Epson PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition 4×6 printers. I have to tell you, while the R1800 and R2400 printers got a workout, the PictureMates were the hit of the trip. People were making snapshots to trade with other people and a lot of prints were made for the Russian crew and the Expedition Team. We finished off all the ink & media that Epson provided-which was ALOT!